Erev Shabbos Kodesh Devarim-Chazon Inspiration 5775

As we slowly head into Shabbos and a possible Tisha B’Av, it is worth examining the parallel between this mournful day and the name of this week’s parasha. The parasha is called Devarim, literally translated as “words.” The Gemara (Bava Basra 16b) states that a mourner does not have a mouth. Literally, this means that a mourner is restricted from engaging in excessive talk for the first three days of the mourning period. However, we will see that there is a deeper meaning to this statement.

The last letters of every Chumash are ם,ם,י,ו,ל, whose sum total equals the word ענו, the humble one. The fact that the letters are at the end of the Chumash hints to the idea that one should be humble, i.e. at the bottom.

The Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 30:3) states that wherever the Torah uses the word ואלה, “and these,” the Torah is adding on to what was previously said. However, when the Torah uses the word אלה, without the letter ו, the Torah is indicating that only these (items or words) are to be reckoned with and not the previously mentioned items or words. The commentators wonder, then, how this Medrash can be reconciled with the beginning of our parasha which states אלה הדברים, these are the words? What words are being rendered obsolete or irrelevant that the Torah found it necessary to state that “these” are the words?

To answer this question we can apply the previously mentioned gematria. The Torah begins the last Chumash, Devarim, with the words אלה הדבריםת these are the words, to demonstrate that one should never rely on his previous achievements. The Sar Shalom from Belz would instruct his chassidim to cast the candle used for searching chametz into the fire, proclaiming, “even the feel-good of having fulfilled the mitzvah of searching for and burning the chametz must be consumed.” Thus, the Torah in our parasha is teaching us a lesson in humility, that one should render irrelevant and obsolete his previous words and deeds so that he can continue to strive in his service of HaShem.

Returning to the mourner who “doesn’t have a mouth,” we can suggest that the Gemara means that now that one has lost a loved one, the past is seemingly irrelevant and obsolete, never to return. While this may be true  regarding the loss of a human life, we are taught that the mourning over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash is not irrelevant and removed from our consciousness. Rather, the mourning that we experience is akin one whose relative has departed on a long and indefinite journey, where one waits anxiously for the relative’s return.

HaShem should comfort us with the words of the prophet of yore (Yeshaya 51:3) כִּי נִחַם יְ-ה-וָ-ה צִיּוֹן נִחַם כָּל חָרְבֹתֶיהָ וַיָּשֶׂם מִדְבָּרָהּ כְּעֵדֶן וְעַרְבָתָהּ כְּגַן יְ-ה-וָ-ה שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה יִמָּצֵא בָהּ תּוֹדָה וְקוֹל זִמְרָה, for HaShem shall console Zion, He shall console all its ruins, and He shall make its desert like a paradise and its wasteland like the garden of HaShem; joy and happiness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and a voice of song, and may we witness the consolation of Yerushalayim and the return of the entire Jewish People to our Promised Land, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Have an inspirational, comforting, humble, and redemption filled Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Devarim-Chazon 5775

Devarim-Chazon 5775

New Stories Devarim-Chazon 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Devarim-Chazon 5775

Mourning and Joy


Today is Shabbos, and the next day is Tisha Baav. How are we to understand the concept of going from Shabbos, a day of complete joy, to Tisha Baav, a day of complete sadness and mourning? Furthermore, how are we to comprehend the idea of mourning for a building that was destroyed two thousand years ago?

Why do we mourn for the Bais HaMikdash?

The act of mourning is normally understood as someone, Heaven forbid, losing a close relative, and he or she mourns for the person who will not come back. Yet, we pray every day numerous times for the arrival of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Third Bais HaMikdash. Why, then, are we mourning over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash, if it will soon be built?

Defiance of HaShem is Darkness

In order to answer these questions, we must focus on what appears to be an unrelated incident recorded in the Torah. When the spies returned from Eretz Yisroel and delivered a slanderous report, it is said (Bamidbar 14:1) vatisa kol haeidah vaytinu es kolam vayivku haam balayala hahu, the entire assembly raised up and issued its voice; the people wept that night. The Gemara (Taanis 29a) states that HaShem proclaimed, “You have wept a weeping for nothing. By your life I will give you something to weep about for future generations.” That night was Tisha Baav and the Bais HaMikdash would be destroyed in the future on Tisha Baav. Further on it is said that the ten spies died by plague and Moshe informed the Jewish People that they would die out in the Wilderness over a forty year period. It is said (Ibid verse 39) vayidabeir Moshe es hadevarim haeileh el kol binei Yisroel vaysiablu haam meod, Moshe spoke these words to all the Children of Israel, and the people mourned exceedingly. It is then said that that the next morning they awoke and they declared that that they would ascend to Eretz Yisroel for they had sinned. Moshe responded that they should not ascend as HaShem would not be with them. They defied Moshe’s command and they ascended anyway, and they were killed by the Amalekites and the Canaanites. It is said (Ibid verse 44) vayapilu laalos el rosh hahar vaaron bris HaShem uMoshe lo mashu mikerev hamachaneh, but they defiantly ascended to the mountaintop, while the Ark of HaShem’s covenant and Moshe did not move from the midst of the camp. What is the definition of the word vayapilu? Rashi writes that one explanation of the word ofel is strong, i.e., they forced their way up the mountain. Rashi then quotes the Medrash Tanchumah that interprets the word ofel written with an ayin to be akin to the word ofel written with an aleph (the letters ayin and aleph are interchangeable) and the Torah is teaching us that these people went in darkness without permission.

Mourning for the Bais HaMikdash begins with Disobeying HaShem

This statement of the Medrash offers us an amazing insight into the meaning of destruction and mourning. Although in the general sense one mourns over the loss of a loved one, regarding the state of the Jewish People there is a different dimension to the meaning of mourning. When the Jewish People do not follow the will of HaShem, and we rebel against Him, we are already subjecting ourselves to a state of mourning. Thus, on Tisha Baav we are not merely mourning the destruction of a building. Rather, we are distressed over the lack of light in our lives, as our insubordination causes HaShem, so to speak, to hide Himself from us.

The Shabbos Connection

There can be no greater tragedy than a lack of closeness to HaShem, the Life of the world. On Shabbos and on the festivals, HaShem grants us the opportunity to bask in that light, which is akin to the light of creation. We are prohibited from forcing the redemption to come (see Kesubos 111a) but we can hasten the redemption by observing the Shabbos and performing HaShem’s will. Rather than viewing this Shabbos as a temporary state of bliss which will be interrupted by Tisha Baav, we should maximize our efforts this Shabbos to heed HaShem’s will, with intense Torah study, prayer, and praising HaShem, and then we will not have to enter into Tisha Baav, which is a day of darkness and distress. Through the observance of Shabbos we will merit the light of Moshiach, and the light of the Third Bais HaMikdash, may it happen now, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.

אַקְרִיב שַׁי לַמּוֹרָא, מִנְחָה מֶרְקָחָה, שַׁבָּת מְנוּחָה, I shall bring an offering to the Fearsome One, a perfumed-meal-offering – Shabbos of contentment. What is the meaning here of a “perfumed” meal-offering? Perhaps the explanation is that while one can bring an offering to Hashem to fulfill his obligation of a sacrifice, the ideal offering is when one entertains pure and untainted thoughts while bringing the offering. This, then is the meaning of the words “a perfumed-meal-offering.” One who brings an offering with the purest of intentions is deemed to have brought a perfumed-offering.

Shabbos Stories

Nothing Fishy Around Here

Once, on Erev Shabbos, when Rebbe Hirsh Leib of Alik was still a young man living in his father-in-law’s house, there arrived in town an agent of the Ministry of Taxation to investigate if the father-in-law was paying proper taxes on liquor. The man was terrified, and he called for his son-in-law and said, “Now let’s see the power of a Chasid,” meaning Hirsh Leib, because his father-in-law was an opponent of the Chasidic movement. Could Hirsh Leib help him? Could Hirsh Leib protect him? He was desperate. Hirsh Leib asked his father-in-law if they had already cooked the fish in honor of the holy Shabbos. When he was told: Yes, he went and took the pot with the fish and put it behind the door that led to the liquor cellar. When the tax agent came and opened the door to the cellar, he smelled the fish and asked the householder, “What is this delicious odor I smell?” The man answered, “It’s the odor of the fish cooked to honor the holy Shabbos,” but the agent wouldn’t believe him, saying that he had never smelled anything so extraordinary from fish! It was like the fragrance of paradise! The householder gave the agent a taste of the fish and he was so overcome and thrilled that he said to the householder, “A Jew who cooks fish like this for the Sabbath can’t be lying about his taxes!” And he did not even bother to investigate further. (Kuntres L’Sapair Yosher Kedoshei Alik, page 37) 

Greeting Moshiach is like Preparing for Shabbos

Reb Menachem Mendel of Rimanov once spent Shabbos in Levov, and he sent his attendant on Erev Shabbos after midday to ascertain if the people of the town were prepared to greet the Shabbos. The attendant returned with the response that people were still busy going out about their daily affairs. The Rebbe kept on sending his attendant to see if the people were preparing for Shabbos, and the attendant continued to return with the same answer. Suddenly, immediately prior to the onset of Shabbos, the people closed the doors and the shutters of their shops and they rushed to prepare for Shabbos. Reb Menachem Mendel told his attendant, “see, as the receiving of the Shabbos is in Levov, so too will be the arrival of Moshiach. People will be preoccupied with their livelihood, completely unprepared to greet Moshiach. Suddenly, however, Moshiach will arrive, and the people will close their stores and disregard their monetary affairs, in light of the announcement that Moshiach has arrived.” (Yalkut Menachem page 219 citing Sifrei Haleket Visippurim)

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Applying the Shinuim to Loose and Thick Mixtures
  1. Thick Mixtures

The rules regarding the preparation of thick mixtures are more stringent than those for loose mixtures. The reason for this is because preparing a thick mixture involves a melacha dioraysa (Torah prohibition), whereas preparing a loose mixture is only prohibited miderabanan (by Rabbinic Decree). Accordingly, the requirements for shinui for thick mixtures are more stringent. Specifically, many Halachic Authorities rule that the shinui in the order of combining the ingredients is not valid for thick mixtures. Thus, where one uses a liquid binder, there is no permissible way to add together the ingredients. Any recipe that requires that the liquid to bind particles may only be made as a loose mixture.

One can prepare a thick mixture on Shabbos by using a coagulated substance, i.e. mayonnaise as the binder, because since in such a case one is not required to employ a shinui to add together the ingredients, as no binding occurs prior to the stirring of the mixture, as expa1liend earlier. Even in the case of a liquid, if one added the ingredients together prior to Shabbos, one is permitted to stir them (with a valid shinui) on Shabbos.

In the second stage of the kneading process – the mixing stage – not all shinuim are valid of thick mixtures. One may stir thick mixtures only by means of crisscross strokes or the bare hand. One is not permitted to stir (in the usual manner) with a knife or with the handle of a utensil, because this shinui is not deemed to be significant enough modification for a thick mixture.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Devarim-Chazon 5775

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New Stories Devarim-Chazon 5775

The Goering Brothers: Heredity is Not Destiny

While Herman Goering was killing Jews, his brother worked tirelessly to save them.

by Salvador Litvak        

Hermann Goering was Hitler’s right-hand man and the founder of the Gestapo – may that monster suffer true justice for his deeds.

Albert Goering was Hermann’s younger brother. While his maniacal sibling was killing Jews, Albert worked tirelessly to save them.

The Goering brothers, only two years apart, grew up in a Bavarian castle. From an early age, the two were obviously different. Hermann was bold, confident and obsessed with war games; Albert was shy and thoughtful.

Later, Hermann would tell a psychiatrist from his Nuremberg cell, “Albert was always the antithesis of myself.”

In the 1930’s, ruthless Hermann rose in the ranks of the Nazi party to become Hitler’s top military commander.

Albert was strongly opposed to Nazism and left Germany in protest. He moved to Vienna, where he worked in the film industry and counted Jews among his closest friends.

As Hermann’s campaign against the Jews intensified, so did Albert’s determination to help them.

In Vienna, Albert once came upon a group of Nazi thugs, who had put a sign around an old woman’s neck proclaiming, “I am a Jewish sow.” A crowd gathered to mock the woman.

Albert pushed through the mob, and punched two Gestapo officers to save the woman. His life might have ended right there, as the crowd turned on him. The SS men demanded to see his papers.

When they saw his name, they escorted him to safety in deference to Hermann.

When Albert’s Jewish friends in Vienna were arrested by the Nazis, Albert again used his unique position to save them.

He forged documents, using his brother’s name, to help longtime pal Jacques Benbassat escape to Switzerland, and used his influence to get his former boss Oskar Pilzer, and Pilzer’s entire family, freed. Again and again, he saved Jewish lives.

Whole families owe their present existence to Albert. He saved many Jews by sending trucks to Nazi concentration camps with requests for workers. Once aboard, the trucks would take them into a forest and allow them to escape.

After the war, Albert was imprisoned at Nuremberg and interrogated for 15 months. Nobody believed his story until 34 Jews he’d rescued submitted sworn statements on his behalf.

He was freed, but soon found that his name made him an unemployable pariah. Albert sank into depression and alcoholism, surviving on a small government pension and food packages sent by Jews he had saved.

He died in obscurity in 1966.

Albert’s wartime heroism was unknown until documents were recently unearthed in British archives showing that he saved hundreds of Jews. His life demonstrates that it is our choices that define us, not our relatives.

Reprinted with permission from the Accidental Talmudist.

Hope to the Homeless

How one small act can set off a chain of kindness.

by Eliana Cline

Pam Green was having a hard week. As she drove through one of Johannesburg’s busiest sections, she was surrounded by the dozens of beggars. With an estimated 30% unemployment rate, begging at busy intersections is how many South Africans eke out their existence. And many people have become hardened to their plight after constantly being asked for money.

But one beggar named Joseph Phukubje stood out to Pam. He was holding up two pieces of paper – his high school diploma and his resume, and instead of asking for small change, he was asking for help in finding a job. As she peered in her rear view mirror something made Pam turn back, get out of her car and talk to him.

After hearing his story, Pam asked permission to post his information on her Facebook page. She shared the post with 20 friends hoping that one or two of them would be able to offer Joseph employment. Within hours the post had gone viral. Over a few days the post was shared over 20,000 times and Pam’s inbox was flooded with over a thousand job offers for Joseph, including offers for scholarships, training and clothing.

Yet the story does not end there. After helping Joseph to select the most suitable employer, Pam chose not forget about the plight of the homeless. Her social movement #SecondChances now aims to match each job offered with a homeless person looking for employment. Her email is already swamped with thousands of homeless people asking for jobs.

In a poverty-stricken South Africa rife with crime and corruption, the story about Joseph made headline news, momentarily piercing the class divide. Here are five inspiring lessons we can learn from Pam and Joseph.

  1. Every person is a human being.

Joseph has a mother, sister and grandmother, even though he lost touch with them. Pam was able to see beyond the homeless man with drugged out eyes to see someone who wanted to create a better future for himself. She ignored the internal judgments that can cloud compassion.

  1. Believing in someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Joseph’s spirit was broken. When Pam asked him what his dream job was, he didn’t have one. His existence was one of survival; all he wanted was enough money to move from sleeping on the streets to renting a room and getting food for the day. Yet when someone offered him employment, treating him as a valuable person, his buried dreams came to the surface. He now plans on furthering his education.

Often people around us have suffered so much that they stop dreaming. They don’t believe there could be something better for their lives. They have no aspirations or goals. More than advice and money the most meaningful thing you can give them is to believe in the greatness of their soul and help them uncover their dormant dreams.

  1. Don’t underestimate the ripple effect of our choices.

Pam had no idea how far her simple act would go. Every choice to do good – big or small –is valuable. It is easy to give up and think, what can I do? I’m just one person, I can’t change anything. Today it is clearer than ever that each of us is a link in the chain of humanity where kindness can take on a whole life of its own. Pam demonstrated how kindness perpetuates kindness.

  1. All it takes is one person to care.

There is so much suffering around us. It is easy to get overwhelmed and think that nothing you do will have an impact. Yet if we each choose to reach out and be compassionate to the people we encounter, the world will be different. Just ask Joseph. One person can set off the wheels of change in motion and can inspire others to do their share.

  1. Giving an opportunity to be self-sufficient is the highest form of giving.

Maimonides teaches that the highest form of charity is offering someone employment. Nobody likes being dependent on other people. We are all born with an innate desire to be productive, independent and creative. By enabling someone to find employment – with education, an actual job or skills – one can alter the future path of that individual. A job gives not only financial stability, it gives a sense of meaning and self-esteem as well. (


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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Matos-Masei Inspiration 5775

What’s the connection between Nedarim, vows, and the request of Bnei Reuven and Bnei Gad to settle in Ever HaYarden, TransJordan?

It is said (Shemos 31:16) וְשָׁמְרוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת לְדֹרֹתָם בְּרִית עוֹלָם, the Children of Israel shall observe the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos an eternal covenant for their generations, and the Zohar states that the word לְדֹרֹתָם can be interpreted as לדירתם, for their dwelling places. The Imrei Emes writes that the word נֶדֶר, a vow, is similar to the word דירה, a dwelling. This reflects the idea that one’s word has to be as solid as a wall.

We can suggest that the Bnei Reuven and Bnei Gad were seeking a dwelling place and they gave their word that they would first cross the Jordan River and fight the enemies so that the rest of the Jewish People could settle the land. The Medrash (see Bamidbar Rabbah 22:8), however, tells us that that their actions were flawed, as they acted hastily and, ultimately, the tribes of Reuven and Gad went into exile before all the other tribes. We see that although they committed to a good cause, their words were incomplete, because they should have committed to settling in Eretz Yisroel themselves.

Why was it wrong for the Tribes of Reuven and Gad to request land outside of Eretz Yisroel? It is noteworthy that when Gad was born, Leah proclaimed בָּא גָד, which, according to one interpretation cited by Rashi, means that Leah was declaring that Yaakov had betrayed her by taking her maidservant as a wife. Apparently, the tribe of Gad perpetuated this character trait by betraying HaShem’s promise to the Jewish People that they would inherit Eretz Yisroel. Similarly, Reuven acted hastily when he switched the beds, and the tribe of Reuven followed this path of impetuosity by requesting land before the rest of the tribes.

There are many reasons offered for why we still are in exile, and one of them is that people do not keep their word and commitments.

HaShem should allow us to stick to our commitments and not, Heaven forbid, betray HaShem and others, and then we will merit the fulfillment of our daily prayers, where we recite the words וְלִירוּשָׁלַיִם עִירְךָ בְּרַחֲמִים תָּשׁוּב וְתִּשְׁכֹּן בְּתוֹכָהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ, and to Jerusalem, Your city, may You return  in compassion, and may You rest within it, as You have spoken.

Have a Committed and Redeeming Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Matos-Masei 5775

Matos-Masei 5775

New Stories Matos-Masei 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Matos-Masei 5775

A Glimpse of Redemption


In this week’s parashah, Masei, we learn about the journey of the Jewish People’s journey in the Wilderness. Let us draw a parallel between the journey in the Wilderness to the journey of the Jewish People throughout our current exile. We were exiled from Eretz Yisroel because of our sins, and we still have not merited the final redemption when the entire Jewish People will reside in Eretz Yisroel, with Moshiach as our king and when the Third Bais HaMikdash will be built.

Desecration of the Shabbos is often overlooked as a catalyst for the Exile

What is the goal of our journey in exile? According to kabalistic teachings, our mission is to draw out the Holy Sparks in every land where we sojourn. In this sense, one would think that we have fulfilled our mission successfully, as the Jewish People have settled in and subsequently been exiled from so many lands. Yet, we constantly hear about the sins that we must still rectify, such as sinas chinam (baseless hatred), Lashon hara (slander) and numerous other sins. One area which does not seem to earn the spotlight is Shabbos observance. The Gemara (Shabbos 119b) states that Jerusalem was destroyed because they desecrated the Shabbos. The Medrash (Esther Rabbah 1:9) states that when Achashveirosh made his grand party, the angels upon high protested before HaShem, claiming, “The Bais HaMikdash is destroyed and this wicked man sits and conducts parties!” HaShem responded, “place ‘days’ corresponding to ‘days,’ as here [in Esther] it is said, bayamim haheim, in those days, and regarding the Jews who ascended to Jerusalem subsequent to the Babylonian exile, it is said, (Nechemiah 13:15) bayamim haheimah raisi viYehudah dorchim gitos baShabbos, in those days I observed in Judah people treading on winepresses on the Shabbos…. Thus, we see that one of the essential reasons for the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash and Jerusalem and for our current exile is because of the desecration of Shabbos. What is it, then, that makes Shabbos so unique that our redemption from this bitter exile is predicted on its observance?

The Shabbos Connection

The Shem MiShmuel writes that one can reside in the Diaspora in a Torah environment and be insulated from all foreign influences, yet, if the atmosphere in one’s proximity is polluted, then one cannot spiritually survive. Shabbos, however, is the atonement for the spiritual deficit that one may experience during the week. Thus, Shabbos is the equivalent of Eretz Yisroel while we are in exile. The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states in stark terms that were the Jewish People to observe the Shabbos, the Jewish People would be redeemed. True, it is hard for the individual to expect the entire Jewish People to fully observe Shabbos. Yet, it is incumbent upon every individual to observe the Shabbos to the best of his or her ability, and then we will all merit observing the Shabbos collectively. When the entire Jewish People will observe the Shabbos, HaShem will have compassion upon His Chosen Nation and redeem us with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.

אֶזְכֶּה הוֹד מְלוּכָה, אִם שַׁבָּת אֶשְׁמרָה, I shall merit kingly glory if I safeguard the Shabbos. In the Kabalistic Sefiros, הוֹד, glory, is two steps before מַלְכוּת, kingship. Here we refer to kingly glory without mention of יְסוֹד, foundation, which precedes מַלְכוּת. Perhaps we can suggests that the Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 27:10) states that an animal is required to experience Shabbos prior to its being offered as a sacrifice, and similarly a Jewish baby boy is required to experience Shabbos prior to his circumcision, similar to one who must see the empress before seeing the queen. The Taz (Yoreh Deah 265) suggests that this is the source for a Shalom Zachor taking place on Shabbos before the circumcision. Thus, here we refer to Shabbos as the kingly glory, because the attribute of יְסוֹד, foundation, which reflects circumcision, is not apparent until after passing through Shabbos.

Shabbos Stories

The Devotion of the Jews to Each Other

Reb Aryeh Levine took it upon himself to visit Jewish inmates, mostly members of the Irgun, held under British rule prior to Israel’s statehood. He became like a father to those prisoners, bringing them food, clothes and love. For years, despite sweltering heat and frigid rains, he never missed a Shabbos visit, save one.

Once, in the midst of a Shabbos service, a very excited messenger called him out of the prison. Reb Aryeh’s daughter had become paralyzed and the doctors were helpless. He was needed for support at home, immediately. After the Shabbos, an Arab messenger was sent by the concerned inmates to inquire what tragedy interrupted the weekly visit.

The next Shabbos, despite the enduring tragedy at home, the Rabbi went to the prison as usual. Normally during the Torah reading, prisoners would pledge a few coins to charity. This week the donations were far different.

“I will give up a week of my life for the sake of Reb Aryeh’s daughter,” the first convict pledged. Another prisoner announced that he would give a month from his. Each one called to the Torah upped the previous pledge until the last prisoner cried out, “what is our life compared to Reb Aryeh’s anguish? I will give all my remaining days for the sake of the Rabbi’s daughter.”

At this unbelievable display of love and affection, Reb Aryeh broke down and wept.

Miraculous as it may sound, that Saturday night Reb Aryeh’s daughter began to move and within days was fully recovered.

Diving into Shabbos

David was driving to the Catskills for Shabbos but set out from his Manhattan office with hardly enough time to make the trip and arrive before sundown. Traffic was backed up on the Major Deegan and crossing the Hudson via the George Washington Bridge seemed an almost impossible task. Mid-span, after sitting nearly an hour in stop-and-go traffic, he realized that the red orb in the sky was about to sink below the horizon. He had never desecrated the Shabbos before and traffic on the George Washington Bridge was not going to make him violate the Sabbath now. In a panic, he pulled his car as close as he could to the guard rail, left the keys on the visor, removed his wallet and hid it together his personal effects and hoped for the best. At worst, the car would be stolen. Maybe the police would get to it first and tow it.

Feeling a little guilty about adding to the traffic delays on the bridge, David left his car, flashers blinking, and walked back toward New York City where he decided to spend the Shabbos at a friend who lived in nearby Washington Heights.

Saturday night he returned to the bridge and his car was nowhere to be seen. He went straight to the police station and asked for the desk officer. “Did anyone see the gray Honda that was on the George Washington Bridge on Friday night?”

The officer’s eyes widened. “You mean the car with the keys on the visor?”

David nodded.

“Franky, get over here,” the cop yelled to his friend,” listened to this!” By now a couple of officers moved closer to David.

The sergeant raised his voice. “You mean the Honda with the flashers on?” Again David nodded, this time more nervously. You mean the Honda with the wallet with close to $500 dollars left under the front seat!” he shouted. “Was that your car!?” David shook his head meekly. “Yes, officer, that’s my car. Where is it?”

“Where is it??” mocked the officer, “Where is it? Do you know how many divers we have looking for your body in the Hudson!?” (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Applying the Shinuim to Loose and Thick Mixtures

 Loose Mixtures

The shinui procedures described earlier area all effective for loose mixtures: The ingredients may be added together in the reverse order and the mixture may be stirred in an irregular manner (crisscross, bare handed or with the handle of a utensil) to complete the mixing. However, when combining the ingredients for a loose mixture, one should be sure to pour all the liquid in at once. Mixing the food with liquid gradually will initially result in the formation of a thick mixture which, as we shall see now, is usually not permitted.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Matos-Masei 5775

Sponsorships $180.00

Have a Wonderful Shabbos!

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler

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New Stories Matos-Masei 5775

Who Got the Better Deal?

An incredible true tale of two siblings.

by Sara Yoheved Rigler        

Had I been in the hospital in Salem, Illinois, on October 1, 1987, when a baby girl was born without legs, my heart would have clenched in pity for this poor child, and my mind would have railed at the unfairness of her fate. So grotesque was her deformity that her parents chose to leave her in the hospital.

Three months later, Sharon and Gerald Bricker decided to adopt the baby. The Brickers already had three sons, ranging in age from 10 to 14. “It bothered me,” Sharon later explained, “that there was a little girl who was left at the hospital, and she had no legs. So I thought she needed a family who would love her and take care of her.” They named the baby Jennifer, and brought her home to rural Hardinville, Illinois, a town so small that it had not a single traffic light.

Gerald was a carpenter. Sharon had worked in a bakery, but was a full-time mother by the time they adopted Jen. What kind of couple adopts a legless baby? A couple who wants to give, love, and nurture. And that’s what they did.

If you’re never given limits, then you think, “I can do anything.” And she did.

Jennifer grew up in a home thick with love and laughter. Her older brothers adored her. But neither her parents nor her brothers coddled her. “Can’t” was not part of the Bricker vocabulary. As Jen would later declare: “If you put your mind to it, you can do it. If you were never given limits, then you think, ‘I can do anything.’”

And she did. Alongside her three big brothers, she would climb trees, do handstands and flips, and jump from high places. Using her strong arms, she played softball, basketball, and volleyball, and became proficient in gymnastics and tumbling. Her parents constantly encouraged her, sometimes having to adapt equipment for Jen to play a particular sport. When Jen wanted to roller skate, her parents devised skates that she could attach to her hands.

When Jen was in second grade, she announced to her parents that she wanted to become a gymnast. Her idol was Dominique Moceanu, a petite gymnast whom Jen avidly watched on television. In 1995, at the age of 13, Dominique Moceanu became the youngest gymnast to win the senior all-around title at the U.S. National Championships. And at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Dominique, 14, won a gold medal with the other members of the “Magnificent Seven,” the U.S. gymnastics team. Jen was inspired watching Dominique, the youngest and the smallest on the team, a true champion.

Sharon and Gerald enrolled Jen in a gymnastics class, then a class in tumbling. Over the next four years, Jen won several tumbling competitions. When she was 12, Jen became the Illinois State Champion in tumbling. She also competed in three national meets and one Junior Olympic meet.

I’m not handicapped. That wheelchair is just to keep me from getting dirty.

With her positive, upbeat attitude and strong self-esteem, Jen was always accepted by her schoolmates. In the early grades, whenever a child stared or asked where her legs were, Jen answered matter-of-factly, “This is the way God made me.”

Once a child in her class referred to her as “handicapped.”

Astonished, Jen replied, “I’m not handicapped.”

“But you use a wheelchair,” the boy declared, to prove his point.

With the umbrage of an insulted adolescent, Jen countered, “That’s just to keep me from getting dirty.”

Enter Her Biological Family

Jen had always known that she was adopted. When she was 16, she asked her mother if she had any information about her biological parents. Sharon took out the official adoption papers. It was supposed to have been a closed adoption, but by a clerical error the name of her biological parents appeared at the top of one page. The name was “Moceanu.”

Jen’s biological sister was the Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu.

“You had been my idol my whole life,” Jen wrote to Dominique four years later, “and you turned out to be my sister! I was in extreme disbelief… My uncle is a retired private investigator, and he got in contact with Dumitru, your father. He talked to your father, and he did not deny that I was their biological child, but he would not return my uncle’s phone calls after that. So we stopped trying to contact you for a while because I did not want to seem pushy, and I wanted to do this right.”

Worried that Dominique would think she was crazy or trying to cash in on the fame of a celebrity, Jen took four years “to do this right.” She copied all the relevant documents. She assembled pictures of herself, which eerily resembled pictures of Dominique’s younger sister Christine. And she wrote a long, heartfelt letter. Finally, as Dominique would later write, Jen “put her heart in a package and shipped it off to a complete stranger.”

Dominique’s reaction was shock – and anger at her parents for keeping this secret from her for 20 years. As a child, Dominique had longed to have siblings. She had no idea that, when she was six, her parents had abandoned their baby in the hospital. When she was eight years old, her sister Christina was born. “I treasured her from the day she was born,” Dominique wrote in her autobiography, Off Balance. “Christina was my everything, and I was so happy to have her.”

After getting Jen’s package, when Dominique confronted her father, he stated flatly that they were impoverished immigrants without money or health insurance, and a Romanian doctor at the birth told them that raising a handicapped child would involve large medical expenses. So he decided they could not afford it, and put the child up for adoption. And that was that.

As for Dominique’s mother, she painfully related what had happened:

Your father said that our little girl was born with no legs. I never saw my baby. I never held her, never touched her, never even smelled her. I desperately wanted to, but your father told me we had to give her up and that was that. … You know your father – once a decision is made, that’s the end of it. (Off Balance: A Memoir, page 23)

Two Very Different Childhoods

Indeed, Dominique knew her father. Born and raised in Romania during the oppressive, Communist Ceausescu era, Dumitru Moceanu was an abusive, controlling husband and father. Immediately after marrying 19-year-old Camelia, he, with his bride, immigrated to the United States. Nine months later, Dominique was born.

Behind the limelight lurked a dark, menacing shadow. Dominique’s father was an abuser.

By 1996, having won a series of gymnastic championships, 14-year-old Dominique had become America’s darling. She was featured in Vanity Fair and her first autobiography, Dominique Moceanu: An American Champion, hit #7 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

But behind the limelight lurked a dark, menacing shadow. Dominique’s father was a classic abuser: controlling, violent, and given to bursts of rage. As Dominique would describe him in her memoirs:

As a father and husband, he ruled our house with an iron fist. Decisions were made by him, obeyed by us, and explained by nobody… My home life throughout my childhood was turbulent, at best. Tata’s rage and temper tantrums took a toll on my family. We [she, her mother, and sister] often found ourselves hiding in separate rooms. I can barely recall a single holiday when my father didn’t make a scene or create some kind of chaos. We were always walking on eggshells. (Off Balance: A Memoir, page 21)

At the age of 17, Dominique ran away from home and filed for “emancipation” – to be legally and financially independent of her parents. It turned out that her father had taken almost all of her post-Olympic earnings from shows and endorsements – almost a million dollars. The high-profile court proceedings left Dominique free, but feeling guilty, pained, and humiliated, as she was denounced by the media, which blazoned the headline: SPOILED BRAT DIVORCES PARENTS.

Then, at the age of 26, married and expecting her first child, Dominique discovered that she had a sister she never knew. The most poignant parts of her memoir are her comparisons between the traumatic childhood she suffered and the golden, happy childhood Jen enjoyed:

As Jennifer describes it, her home life was stable and full of love and support. She says her parents had minor arguments and bickered here and there like any other family, but they always “talked out” their problems, so there was never lingering tension in their home.

Jennifer’s words, “talked out,” stuck in my mind. How I had wished my parents did more talking when I was young. I mostly remember Mama and Tata either arguing when they disagreed or not talking at all. And the tense moments in our home were far more common than the peaceful ones. Many of Christina’s and my childhood memories were plagued with fear, sadness, and occasional threats of violence. When I think about these painful times, I am happy for Jennifer that she had such a positive home life – and I can’t help but think that the Bricker home was a better place for Jennifer to grow up than mine was. …

During our first conversation, I found myself thinking, Thank God someone was watching over her, so she didn’t have to suffer like Christina and I did. (pp. 102-103)

On October 1, 1987, in a hospital in Salem, Illinois, a baby girl was born without legs. Her sister, born intact, became a champion Olympic gymnast, showered with fame and wealth. Whose life was blessed? Whose life was cursed? (

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Pinchas Inspiration 5775

It has been said that if one wants to remain alive, one should prove one’s self indispensable to the community. How does this rule apply in  practical manner?

Tosfos (Brachos 7a) writes that in the mere moment that Balaam could have cursed the Jewish People, the only word that he could have uttered was כלם, destroy them. In the past we have written how HaShem transformed the word כלם to מלך, King, and how this is reflected in the verse that states .

We can suggest another interpretation which connects to Parashas Pinchas. It is said (Bamidbar 25:11) פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן הֵשִׁיב אֶת חֲמָתִי מֵעַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקַנְאוֹ אֶת קִנְאָתִי בְּתוֹכָם וְלֹא כִלִּיתִי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִי, Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aharon the Kohen has turned My anger away from the children of Israel by his zealously avenging Me among them, so that I did not destroy the Children of Israel because of My zeal. The Sfas Emes writes that Pinchas incorporated his action into the entire Jewish People. When a person senses a need to act on behalf of HaShem’s honor, there is always the temptation to take credit for one’s achievements. For this reason one must subjugate any thoughts of grandeur and self-aggrandizement to the benefit of the nation. The word that the Torah uses for destruction is כִלִּיתִי, which can be converted into the word כולם, referring to the collective.

Similarly, Balaam’s ambition of destroying the Jewish People was reverted to כלם, the collective.

Additionally, further on in the parasha we encounter the daughters of Tzelafchad, who apparently seek their own portion in Eretz Yisroel, when in reality, their goal was to be incorporated into the entire Jewish People.

Thus, we see that if one seeks to avoid destruction, of the individual and of the community, one should prove one’s self to be indispensable, i.e incorporating one’s self into the entire Jewish People.

HaShem should allow us to act for His honor and incorporate all our actions towards the benefit of the Jewish People.

Have a Magnificent and Simultaneously Humbling Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler


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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Pinchas 5775

Pinchas 5775

New Stories Pinchas 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Pinchas 5775

A Glimpse of Redemption


The period referred to as Bain Hametzarim, the Three Weeks, is upon us, and it is worth our while to reflect on our current situation. (This paragraph is from year 5768, but unfortunately, still applicable today) This week we heard about the Israeli and terrorist group prisoner swap, where the Israelis received the bodies of two soldiers who were killed al Kiddush HaShem, sanctifying G-d’s Name, while the terrorists received in exchange live murderers with Jewish blood on their hands. Although I normally refrain from using current events and politics as a springboard for insights in the weekly Torah portion, it is noteworthy what the terrorist declared when he reached his safe haven in Lebanon. According to news reports, the terrorist announced, “I return today from Palestine, but believe me, I return to Lebanon only in order to return to Palestine.”

Yearning to Return to Our Land

Leaving aside the intent of this murderer’s words, let us focus on how this statement can be applied to us. We have been in exile for almost two thousand years. Every day in our prayers we declare that we wish to return to Eretz Yisroel. What does it mean to return to Eretz Yisroel? Are we saying that we wish to live a life completely according to the Torah, or are we merely engaging in some form of nostalgia? Every individual must decide for themselves what returning to Eretz Yisroel means, but there is one thing that we can all agree upon. The idea that we are all still in exile is a fact that no one can dispute. The Gemara (Kesubos 111a) states that the Jewish People are cautioned from ascending to Eretz Yisroel in a forceful manner. Nonetheless, it is incumbent upon every Jew to anticipate the arrival of Moshiach and yearn for the day when we will all return to the Land that HaShem promised to our forefathers. Thus, we should also declare, “we have left Eretz Yisroel to reside in the exile, against our will, but believe me, I am only in the exile in order to return to Eretz Yisroel.”

Seeking out the Rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash

The Ramban (Parashas Korach) is of the opinion that there is a biblical commandment to seek out the construction of the Bais HaMikdash. Are we seeking to reach the point where we can be confident that the Bais HaMikdash will be rebuilt? Fortunately, we have an opportunity every week to tastes a semblance of the redemption and this occurs on the Holy Day of Shabbos.

The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 12:4) writes that the sages and the prophets did not desire the Messianic Era for the purpose of dominating the nations of the world or for the purpose of eating and drinking and being merry. Rather, they desired the Messianic Era so that we should be free from oppression and thus we will be able to study HaShem’s Torah and thereby merit a portion in the World to Come.

The Shabbos Connection

Shabbos is a day when we rest from our labor and toil of the week, and we have the opportunity to engage in praying to HaShem and studying His Holy Torah. The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states that were the Jewish People to observe two Shabbosos properly, they would be redeemed immediately. We have the opportunity, this Shabbos, to observe the Shabbos as an entire nation. If we will all observe the Shabbos properly, we will not need the reminder of the Three Weeks and Tisha Baav to remind us that we are still in exile, longing to return to Eretz Yisroel. May we see today the fulfillment of the verse that states (Yeshaya 52:8) kol tzofayich nasu kol yachdav yiraneinu ki ayin biayin yiru bishuv HaShem Tziyon, the voice of your lookouts, they raise their voice, they sing glad song in unison; with their own eyes they will see that HaShem returns to Tziyon.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.

לְאִסּוּר מְלָאכָה, צִוִּיתָנוּ נוֹרָא, concerning the ban of labor, the Awesome One commanded us. The association between the prohibition of performing labor on Shabbos and referring to HaShem as the Awesome One can be found in this Medrash. The Medrash (Koheles Rabbah 9:3) states: In his continuing dialogue with the great Rabbi Yehoshua, the Roman emperor enjoyed challenging the scholar with questions or other puzzling things. Rabbi Yehoshua would invariably answer him and turn back his challenges, much to the admiration of the intellectual Roman.

One day, as the two were sitting together in the garden, the Caesar turned to Rabbi Yehoshua and said, “You know, when you consider it carefully, I am greater than your greatest prophet, Moshe, the son of Amram.

Rabbi Yehoshua looked at him in surprise. “Why do you say such a thing, Caesar?”

“Very simple. After all, Moshe is dead all these years and I am alive. And did not your Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of men, say, a live dog is better than a dead lion’?”

Rabbi Yehoshua heard Caesar’s words and said, “I understand what you are saying. Nevertheless, I will show you how wrong you are when you think that you – merely because you are alive – are greater than the great Moshe, our teacher, merely because he is dead.”

“Very well,” exclaimed the Roman. “I am willing to be shown that I am wrong.”

“If this is so,” said Rabbi Yehoshua, “and you are really so great, then surely your servants will listen to you.”

“Naturally,” laughed the emperor. “I am the Roman Caesar and my word is law. Whatever I command will be done without the slightest question.”

“That is good,” responded Rabbi Yehoshua, “because I desire you to order them to do something and see if they will obey your commandment to the letter.”

The Roman smiled tolerantly. “I just told you that they will do anything that I ask of them. What shall I command them to do?”

“Command them that for three days they shall not light fires in all their dwelling places. If you have this order sent to them and, if they indeed listen to you, then I will admit, also, that you are greater than Moshe, the son of Amram, who was our greatest prophet.”

The Roman emperor laughed aloud when he heard Rabi Yehoshua’s words.

“Surely, you are joking. Is this a difficult thing you are asking me to command? Please, give me something truly hard and I will show you that even that will be observed to the letter by my faithful servants.”

Rabbi Yehoshua shook his head and said, “No, I believe that this is quite enough for you to do. After all, I would not like you to decree things which are too difficult for your people to obey.”

“Very well,” said the Roman. “If you insist, I will command my people to observe this ridiculously simple thing.”

And calling in his secretary, he dictated to him a royal proclamation forbidding all the people of the city to light fires for three days.

“Have copies of the proclamation made up,” he said, “and have it announced in all the marketplaces of the city.”

The emperor’s servants made haste to do his bidding and within a matter of hours the entire city was made aware of the emperor’s decree.

“The deed has been done, Rabbi Yehoshua,” the Roman said, “and in three days you will have to admit that I was right and am greater than Moshe your teacher.”

“We shall see what we shall see,” was all Rabbi Yehoshua answered.

That evening, the Roman emperor and Rabbi Yehoshua went up to the roof of the palace from where they could observe the entire city stretched out before them.

As the emperor looked out toward the horizon his face suddenly darkened. There, in the western part of the city, he could see smoke rising from a chimney.

“What is the meaning of this?” he muttered. Calling to his minister, he said, “Send soldiers to that house this very moment and find out who has dared to disobey the order of the emperor and light a fire.”

Within moments, horsemen had ridden off in the direction of the smoke. When they returned to the palace some time later, they went immediately to the emperor.

“Well, what was the matter? Who dared disobey my orders and lit the fire?”

“O, great Caesar,” said the soldiers, “we came to the house from where the smoke was rising and we made inquiries. It seems that one of the residents of the house had a slight illness and he called for a doctor.

“The physician assured him that it was nothing serious but advised him to drink hot broth. The man lit the fire in order to follow the doctor’s orders.”

When Rabbi Yehoshua heard this he turned to the emperor and said, “Behold now the difference between you and the great Moshe, our teacher. You gave orders that no one light a fire and, the very same day, while you were alive, one of your servants violated your commandment because of a trifling matter.

“Moshe, our teacher, on the other hand, commanded us, ‘You shall not light fires in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.’

‘All the days that the great Moses lived no Jew violated this commandment and it still stands after all the many years since he passed on.

“Let me ask you now: Who is really greater? You, who decreed a thing and whose decree was violated the very same day or Moshe, the son of Amram, who has been gone from this earth all these years and whose law still stands?”

“You are right, Rabbi Yehoshua,” admitted the Roman Caesar. “I made a great error in thinking that I was greater than your prophet Moshe, merely because he was dead and I am alive.”

Thus, we see HaShem’s Awesomeness in that thousands of years ago, He decreed that we not perform certain labors on the Holy Shabbos, and until this day, Jews worldwide continue to obey these laws.

Shabbos Stories

The Prayer before the Prayers

The Sabba Kaddisha of Radoshitz, in his sefer, Niflaos (vol. 1, pp. 21– 22), recorded an amazing story about the formulation of this “Prayer before Praying.” The story goes like this: When he was a child, the Sabba Kaddisha was once visiting Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk. He was conversing with chassidim from the Rebbe’s inner circle in front of the Rebbe’s home when several extremely tall men came and hurried into the house. When they reached the doorway, they had to stoop down to enter since they were so unusually tall.

The holy Rebbe closed the door behind them before the chassidim could catch a glimpse of their faces. They waited outside until the visitors left to see if they could recognize them. Again the chassidim were astonished when the men left. They did so in such a hurry that they could not make out the men’s features and just saw their backs; they left so fast they almost vanished. The chassidim realized that something unusual had just taken place, and they decided to investigate and find out what had occurred. The elder chassidim among them approached the Rebbe and asked him to explain the strange incident.

This is what the Rebbe told them: “When I realized that most people cannot concentrate properly on their prayers anymore due to the awesome burdens of earning a livelihood, and they lack the time and the understanding to concentrate fully, I decided to rewrite the standard formula for the prayers. I would write a new, short and concise version that would be equally understood and grasped by everyone. The holy Members of the Great Assembly, the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah (the original authors of the standard prayers from the time of the Talmud), realized what I intended. They came here to ask me not to change even one prayer from their established formula. I took their counsel and discussed the matter with them. They advised me to establish a prayer to pray before the formal prayer service. This would help anyone who lacks the concentration and proper devotions that are necessary for all formal prayers.” This “prayer before prayers” is the Yehi Ratzon prayer printed in many siddurim in the name of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk. [Reprinted from a Free Download from the book “Mipeninei Noam Elimelech” translated and compiled by Tal Moshe Zwecker by permission from Targum Press, Inc.]

No Need for another Rebbe

There is a story told of the Rebbe’s brother the Rebbe Reb Zisha of Hanipoli. After Rebbe Elimelech passed away he was approached by his brother’s students to be their new leader. Rabbi Zisha declined and explained his reason with a parable. “The possuk in Bereishis 2:10 states “And a river went forth from Eden to water the garden and from there it split into four paths.” The Torah is eternal and alludes to all events above and below for all generations. Eden alludes to our holy master the Baal Shem Tov. The river was his student the holy Mezritcher Maggid. The garden refers to my brother the Rebbe Elimelech. This then is the meaning: a river flows from Eden to water the garden, the Torah flows as water from the Baal Shem Tov by way of the Mezritcher Maggid to the Rebbe Elimelech. From there it separates into four paths: they are 1. The Holy Rebbe the Chozeh or Seer of Lublin. 2. The Holy Rebbe Avodas Yisrael the Koznitzer Maggid. 3. The Holy Rebbe Mendel Rimanover and 4. The Holy Ohev Yisrael the Apta Rav. You need no Rebbe other than them.”

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Permitted Methods of  Kneading 


Kneading is permitted when done through a shinui, i.e. in an unorthodox fashion.

One must employ a shinui for each step of the kneading process:

  1. When adding a liquid to the solids, one is required to reverse the common order of combining the ingredients. This is valid, however, only for loose mixtures and not for thick ones. Nonetheless, when a coagulated substance, i.e. mayonnaise, is used in place of a liquid, this shinui is not necessary.
  2. To mix the ingredients, one may use crisscross strokes to mix with a fork or spoon, or mix normally with one’s bare hand. It is also permitted (for loose mixtures only) to stir with the handle of a spoon or fork, or with a knife.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Pinchas 5775

Sponsorships $180.00

Have a Wonderful Shabbos!

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler

For sponsorships please call 248-506-0363

To subscribe weekly by email, please email View Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim and other Divrei Torah on

New Stories Pinchas 5775

The Unfinished Diary: A Chronicle of Tears

A rare Holocaust diary appears 70 years after being written by its doomed author.

by Chaim Yitzchok Wolgelernter, Hy”d    

As he sat crouched in a foul-smelling cowshed and hayloft for months on end, with nothing but his own bleak thoughts to keep himself occupied, Chaim Yitzchok Wolgelernter turned to his pen as a means of endurance. An unusually gifted writer, this young husband and father of two made it his goal to chronicle his Holocaust experiences as they were occurring. And so, as he wandered the countryside from hideout to hideout, worrying about the fate of his family members who were also on the run, Chaim Yitzchok wrote. And as he hid in a dilapidated mikveh building together with his terrified younger brothers, Chaim Yitzchok wrote some more. And as he sought refuge in the barn of a Polish woman, who would eventually turn her back on him, Chaim Yitzchok continued to write.

The result: a personal Holocaust journal with a rare level skill apparent in each chapter chronicled by the author.

Chaim Yitzchok did not survive the inferno of the Holocaust, but his diary made its way to North America, where it lay in a drawer, untouched, for many years.

Unfortunately Chaim Yitzchok did not survive the inferno of the Holocaust; he was brutally murdered just a few months before liberation. His diary, though, did survive. It was rescued by his brother and eventually made its way to North America, where it lay in a drawer, untouched, for many years.

In the meantime, Chaim Yitzchok’s surviving child, Feivel, grew up, married, and had children of his own. His son, Nafti Wolgelernter, was the one who pushed for his grandfather’s diary to be deciphered and translated so that the family could connect with Chaim Yitzchok’s writings.

What followed were many years of meticulous work and effort, and now, 70 years after being written, this fascinating diary is finally being brought to light, released in English to the public.

This rare, historic work can be appreciated at many levels. Each page reveals an astounding depth of emotion, coupled with a cynical, witty – at times, even humorous – literary style. The diary is breathtaking in its eloquence and scope, heartbreaking in its descriptive account of the travails suffered by the author and his family. It reveals shocking details on the reaction of the local Polish populace to the unfolding disaster. Given its unique perspective, this compelling account lends an entirely new dimension to the world of Holocaust literature.

The following excerpt from The Unfinished Diary illustrates just one of Chaim Yitzchok’s brushes with death during his time spent in hiding and on the run.

(l-r) Meir, Yitta, Chaim Yitzchok (l-r) Meir, Yitta, Chaim Yitzchok

My Miraculous Escape

At midday, I continue on. In order to avoid the main road where wagons travel, I walk through the village of Drozejowice. I am almost at the far end of the village when I hear a vehicle approaching at high speed. Turning around, I see two German army wagons. They must be the same ones that were in Szyszczyce last night, heading back from Dzialoszyce for a second round.

In a flash, I am in the fields looking for a place to hide. But no more than twenty meters behind me, one of the soldiers chases me on foot.

“Halt!” he shouts.

When I do not stop, a shot rings out.

As I continue running, I notice a peasant woman coming out of a little farmhouse with a burnt roof, closing the door behind her and bolting it with a chain – a sure sign that no one remained at home.

I stretch out flat on the floor, quickly cover myself with the straw and lie there holding my breath, fearing the worst.

Without a moment to lose, I race over to the house, silently remove the chain and enter the front room. Seeing a ladder standing there, I climb up, ducking down to make sure no one can spot me from the outside through the exposed roof.

There is a thick layer of straw in the attic, protecting the house from rain. I stretch out flat on the floor, quickly cover myself with the straw and lie there holding my breath, fearing the worst. Barely do I finish throwing the last piece of straw on myself when the door of the house is thrown open.

Chaim Yitzchok and Chayele Wolgelernter in Krakow, late 1930s

The German soldier enters, looks around for a few minutes, then leaves. A moment later, he comes back in and starts climbing up the ladder. This is it… I am doomed. He stands in the attic for a short while, scanning it carefully, then goes back down.

I hear many loud voices outside. It seems all the soldiers are looking for me. Straining my senses, I peek out from beneath the straw and see the peasant woman being led by the arm.

“Where is the fellow who escaped from us?” they interrogate her. “Where is he hiding?”

She has no idea what they are talking about.

“Kreuz-Donnerwetter!” they shout, slapping her. “If you don’t tell us, we’ll burn down your house!”

Chaim Yitzchok and Chayele with their firstborn child, autumn 1940; note white armband on sleeve Chaim Yitzchok and Chayele with their firstborn child, autumn 1940; note white armband on sleeve

I am in grave danger. O Merciful God! I pray. It is not yet three months since I was orphaned of my parents. Shall my two-year-old son, my one remaining child, now become orphaned, too, of a father whom he hardly knows? If I perish here in the fields of Drozejowice, there will be no witness to my death, and my dear Chayele will remain a tormented agunah for the rest of her life. Tomorrow night is our seventh anniversary. Shall our happy married life come to such a tragic end?

Today, the eighth of Adar, is the yahrzeit of my grandfather Rav Yechiel Issamar. Zeide! For whom have I undertaken this dangerous trip if not for my brothers, the children of our exalted father, your son Yeshayah! Shall your yahrzeit, a day when the soul rises to a loftier realm, be stained by the blood of your murdered son’s child?

After all, I am only living for my wife Chayele, for our one and only innocent little child, and for my rescued brothers who have not yet experienced happiness. Shall the hands of the murderers succeed in destroying all these lives at once? I want to live to avenge the blood of my parents and sister…!

At that moment, I made a decision: I would not fall into their hands alive! Taking out the razor blade I carried on me, I held it close to my throat and observed the ensuing events.

Feivel Wolgelernter, about one year old, beginning of 1942

The peasant woman crossed herself and swore by all her saints that she knew nothing. I saw one soldier hold her to make sure she did not escape, while the others tossed straw and grain out of the adjacent barn. “He’s got to be hiding right around here!” I heard one German shout.

I am still in great danger…they may decide to come up here again.

I watch as several soldiers move on to search the neighboring houses. A few continue to stand outside, holding onto the woman. I feel like my eyes are popping out of their sockets. How long the search lasts, I cannot determine.

The soldiers return, unsuccessful.

“It can’t be!” I hear one of them insist. “He must be here somewhere!”

Not only do I see death before me but I already feel it; every one of my limbs has gone numb.

Again, they begin to flog the peasant woman, threatening to demolish her house. By now, not only do I see death before me but I already feel it; every one of my limbs has gone numb.

Suddenly, it grows quiet: one minute, two, three…

I peek out again from under the straw. I do not see a soul. My heart slowly resumes beating. I wait a bit more…I do not hear a thing. I wait for what I estimate to be half an hour…still quiet. Then, I hear the crack of a whip. The wagons must be leaving. With God’s help, the danger has passed.

I lie motionless in the attic until it becomes pitch dark; I cannot be sure they haven’t left one of their men behind. Then I climb down the ladder, approach the woman and ask her what happened.

With tears in her eyes, she tells me the whole story.

“Are you sure they are gone?” I ask her.

“They did not leave anyone behind,” she assures me.

“I am the one they were looking for,” I inform her, offering her some money. After all, it was because of me that she received a beating.

She declines. “Thank the good Lord, I am glad that I truly did not know you were up there!” she says. “This way a person was saved through me. I do not want a reward for that.” She would not even tell me her name.

The next morning, back in the loft in Skalbmierz, Magda relayed the conclusion of the previous day’s events, which she had heard from a Drozejowice villager.

The Germans barged into a house where some young peasant boys were playing cards. Identifying one of the boys as the supposed escapee they were searching for, they beat him savagely, forcing him to confess why he had run away.

The fellow remained unconscious for four straight weeks. (





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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Balak Inspiration 5775

The Medrash states that the elders of Moav asked the elders of Midian to describe to them the nature of the Jewish People’s leader. The Midian items elders responded, “his strength is in his mouth. The Moabite elders declared,” then we will also bring someone whose strength is with his mouth.” The Moabites them summoned Balaam, and the rest is history.

For those familiar with superheroes, Superman and the like were always the strongest and fastest, until the villain would come with krypton or some other tactic to subdue the superhero. Is that what happened here with Moshe and Balaam? Was Balaam really more powerful with his mouth than Moshe?

The answer to this question is that if we study the Torah chronologically, we see that the incident of Balaam was preceded by the events of Mei Merivah, where HaShem informed Moshe that because he hit the rock and didn’t speak to the rock, he would not be granted entry into Eretz Yisroel. On some level Moshe was deficient in the use of his speech. To counter this deficiency, the Moabites brought in Balaam to “work his magic” and curse the Jewish People. Ultimately, however, HaShem rendered Balaam powerless, and he had to resort to underhanded moves of counseling Balak to entice the Jewish People to act immorally. The Jewish People committed a heinous sin with the daughters of Moav and they were severely punished. Nonetheless, the Medrash (Tosfos Sota 14a)  states that every year Peor, the Moabite idol which was the catalyst for the Jews’ sin,  rises up from the ground to inflict damage on the Jewish People. Yet, HaShem prepared “the healing before the blow” and purposely had Moshe buried opposite Peor. When Peor sees the burial place of Moshe, he is defeated.

This lesson of Moshe vs. Balaam teaches us the power of our speech, not only for the moment, but for eternity. Perhaps we can suggest that although Moshe failed at Mei Merivah, the rest of his life was spent perfecting his power of speech and defending the Jewish People from enemies and all foreign influences.

As we enter the sad days of the Three Weeks of mourning and reflection over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash, let us pray to HaShem that He grant us the power of speech for the good, and then He will return to Yerushalayim, His Holy City, as He spoke, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily in our days.

Have a Powerful Speech Shabbos

Rabbi Adler

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