Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Pinchas 5776

Pinchas 5776

New Stories Pinchas 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Pinchas 5776

A Glimpse of Redemption


(This was written in 5768.) The period referred to as Bain Hametzarim, the Three Weeks, is almost upon us, and it is worth our while to reflect on our current situation. 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.”

Returning to Eretz Yisroel

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.”

The Mitzvah of Seeking out 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 Messianic Era is to Study Torah

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

Shimru Shabsosai

The composer of this zemer is Shlomo, a name formed by the acrostic of the first four stanzas. Nothing definite is known about him, although some speculate that he was the famous Shlomo ben Yehudah ibn Gabriol. The zemer concentrates on the requirement to honor the Shabbos with culinary delights and closes with the assurance that the observance of the Shabbos will herald the final Redemption.

יְשׁוֹרְרוּ שָׁם רְנָנַי, לְוִיַּי וְכֹהֲנַי, וְאָז תִּתְעַנַּג עַל י-ְה-ֹוָ-ה, there my singers will exult, my Levites and Priests, and then you shall take pleasure with HaShem. The Sages constantly exhort us to refrain from construction of the Bais HaMikdash on Shabbos. We learn from this that the holiness of the Bais HaMikdash is akin to the holiness of Shabbos. Perhaps this is the message of this passage, that when the Bais HaMikdash is rebuilt, there we will take pleasure with HaShem, similar to what it said regarding Shabbos (Yeshaya 58:14) אָז תִּתְעַנַּג עַל יְ-ה-ו-ָה, then you will delight in HaShem.

Shabbos Stories

The Heilege Rebbe, The Rebbe Reb Meilech from Lizhensk

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.]

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

Opening Food Packages

 II Practical Applications

As we mentioned previously, it is preferable that one opens all containers and packages prior to Shabbos. The following procedures should be followed in the event that one inadvertently did not open the container prior to Shabbos.

  1. Paper and Plastic Bags

 Bags also fall under the prohibitions of tearing and forming an opening, and one may only tear bags in a destructive manner (without tearing any words or pictures.)

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Pinchas 5776

Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה                 ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.

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New Stories Pinchas 5776

The Nazi Doctor Who Saved a Jewish G.I.

Robert Levine was captured by the Nazis. As his life hung in balance, his dog tags revealed that he was Jewish.

by Menucha Chana Levin

Approximately 500,000 Jews served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II. Jewish G.I.s constantly faced the specter of anti-Semitism in the army and they were forced to consider how open they should be about their religion. They had deep emotions about facing an enemy who was methodically capturing and murdering Jews. Jewish G.I.s feared the consequences if caught by the Nazis. Their last name, physical appearance, or the “H” (for Hebrew) on their dog tags could mean being shipped to a concentration camp.

Robert Levine, aged 19, from Bronx, NY, was one of the young Jewish American soldiers who landed in England prior to the Allies’ D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. Together with his crew he arrived on the French coast behind the 90th Infantry.

Levine’s first assignment, after stepping off the boat at Utah Beach, was to carry 81mm mortar shells forward to positions shelling the Germans to force a retreat from Hill 122, a German defensive position near the landing zone.

After a fierce battle, the Americans succeeded in forcing the Germans off the hill, but getting back down the other side was a problem.

“The Germans retreated, but they set up traps,” explained Levine. “We got caught at the bottom of the hill, where the Germans were waiting for us. Suddenly a grenade came over and caught me in my leg, above the knee. And I looked up and I saw this German paratrooper. He looked about 10 feet tall, and pointed his submachine gun at me. The kid next to me got up and took off, and the German wheeled around and shot him. I put up my hands and surrendered.”

Levine found himself a Nazi prisoner of war.

Marching with a dozen other American prisoners under the control of German forces, they raised clouds of dust, a target for incoming mortar shells from the American 90th Infantry Division. Ironically these were the same type of shells Levine had carried from Utah Beach. Suddenly one of these ‘friendly fire’ shells exploded. The soldier beside Levine, who absorbed most of the blast’s deadly force, died instantly.

“A guy named Mike and me – we both went flying. My leg was really damaged, and Mike was killed. To this day, I believe he took the bullet for me, he died so I could live,” Levine maintains. Of the dozen American POWs captured that day, he was the only survivor.

With his leg injured far more seriously this time, Levine’s chances of survival appeared precarious at best. His salvation was to come in the unlikely guise of a dark-haired German doctor named Dr. Edgar Woll.

Levine recalled finding himself on the ‘operating table’ in a German field hospital – the kitchen table in a French farmhouse. The military doctor looked at him and told him in accented English, “For you, the war is over.” Then the doctor noticed his dog tags and asked in German, “What is ‘H’?”

The H for ‘Hebrew’ identified me as Jewish. I had just turned 19 and I thought that was the end.

At that time all GIs wore stamped metal tags on chains around their necks, containing identifying information including their religion: C for Catholic, P for Protestant or H for Hebrew.

“I knew the H for ‘Hebrew’ identified me as Jewish,” Levine said. “I had just turned 19, and I thought that was the end for me. I said to myself – and I can still hear myself saying it – ‘There goes my 20th birthday.’ I really did not think I would make it.”

Levine was probably too petrified to say anything at that point. He thought his life was over. The doctor must have suspected what the H stood for.

Yet on that summer day in July, 1944, Levine awoke from the operation. He discovered that although his leg was gone, he was still alive. Emerging from the anesthesia, his relief at being alive was greater than the loss of his lower right leg.

Dr. Woll’s surgery saved the Jewish soldier’s life. The compassionate doctor also removed Levine’s incriminating dog tags, insuring his Nazi captors would not kill the young GI because he was a Jew.

“He took the dog tags knowing full well that I would have got in trouble somewhere down the line,” recounted Levine. “I believe he saved me.”

Inside his shirt pocket he found a note written by Dr. Woll in German on the reverse side of a Nazi propaganda card with quotations from Adolf Hitler. Though Levine could not read a word of German, he kept the card for months. Then he was rescued by Allied troops and a ship took him home to the United States. When Levine had the note translated, he discovered why the doctor had chosen amputation, including details of the post-surgical treatment: “Crushed right foot. Fracture of lower leg. Foreign body in upper right leg’s tissue. Opening of the ankle joint. Amputation at place of fracture. Bandage with sulfa. Vaccinated against gas gangrene.”

The removal of his dog tags likely saved Levine from being sent to an infamous camp for Jewish POWs where 350 American soldiers were worked to death.

The removal of his dog tags likely saved Levine from being sent to an infamous camp for Jewish POWs where 350 American soldiers were worked to death. Levine’s wife Edith believes her husband would have died if not for Dr. Woll’s exceptional act of kindness towards an injured enemy soldier.

Upon his return home, Levine became a businessman and owned several fast-food restaurants. He led a full life as a husband, father and grandfather. Yet he could not forget the sympathetic German doctor who had inexplicably saved his life, though he never had the chance to thank him or see him again.

It took Robert Levin nearly 40 years to track down Doctor Woll but the mystery started to unravel during an emotional visit back to Normandy Beach in 1981. There, through a network of connections implemented by the curator of the Utah Beach Museum, Levine was able to meet Dr. Woll’s family in Saarbrucken, Germany.

Although Dr. Woll had died of cancer in 1954, his widow and their three children were deeply moved that the veteran, after all these years, was willing to travel to Germany to acknowledge the doctor’s humane treatment.

“The family wanted to meet this American Jewish soldier. It was an amazing connection,” said Levine.

Bob and Edith Levine, who have two daughters of their own, spent the weekend with the doctor’s family. They presented Mrs. Woll with her late husband’s old handwritten note.

There was a Saturday night party, with a few drinks and a few toasts. One of the German guests raised a glass and turned to Levine. “Bob,” he declared, “without you, we’d all be saying Heil Hitler. You lost your leg, others lost their lives, but now we can say what we think.”

The Levines returned the hospitality. When the Wolls’ granddaughter attended Fairleigh Dickinson University, she stayed at the home of the New Jersey couple.

A second Woll granddaughter was a frequent dinner guest while her husband studied for a law degree at NYU.

The Levines received a family portrait from the Wolls when the doctor’s wife turned 100. The Woll great-granddaughters went home with souvenir T-shirts after a recent U.S. visit.

“They became our extended family,” Levine said. “It’s special. How many guys came out of the war with this kind of connection?”

At a time of unspeakable brutality, the life of one young Jewish soldier had been saved by one Nazi doctor with a compassionate heart. (

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Balak Inspiration 5776

Parashas Balak is somewhat peculiar as Balak seeks a strategy to deflect the might of the Jews. The Torah states that Balak saw what the Jewish People had one to the Emorites, i.e. Sichon and Og. These two giants were supposed to protect Moav from enemy nations and they were defeated by the Jewish People. Moav turned to Balaam as their savior, with the thought that Balaam’s powerful curses would defeat the Jewish People without having to engage them in a physical battle. Yet, HaShem stymied Balaam’s efforts and despite Balk’s pleading and cajoling, Balaam was unable to curse the Jewish People.

What was Balak’s and Balaam’s strategy to weaken or even decimate the Jewish People. In essence, they sought to exploit the vulnerabilities of the Jewish People. Balak, seeing that Balaam’s curses weren’t bearing fruit, would encourage him to “come with me to another location, perhaps you will see something that you didn’t see until now.” All these grand plans of visions were for naught, as the Jewish People were ensconced in the Clouds of Glory, living a modest life, in contrast to Balaam’s immoral character and depraved lifestyle. Balaam went so far as to question the morality of HaShem Himself, as the Gemara (Niddah 31a) states that Balaam said, “is it possible that HaShem, who is pure and His Ministering angels are pure, can gaze at such acts, i.e. the Jewish People cohabiting together?” Balaam was punished for this vulgar utterance, and he was blinded in one eye. Why did HaShem not blind Balaam in both eyes? The answer to this question is that Balaam was a man of vision, but his vision was skewed. True, on the surface, marital relations appears coarse and vulgar, but when one has a Torah perspective, one will understand that this the loftiest act that one can engage in on earth, as cohabitation is akin to connecting with the Divine Presence. Balaam’s failure to recognize this was the catalyst for his blindness. Balak too was gifted with great vision, but he could not even see that with the merit of his sacrifices, he would merit a descendant like Rus, the mother of the Davidic dynasty. In summation, how one uses one’s visions is what will determine his success in life. Balaam’s ability to curse, his unbridled desire for fame and wealth, all served as a deterrent to growth and ultimately led to his downfall, as the Jewish People killed him by the sword. Instead of using his mouth and his many talents to bless the Jewish People and find favor in HaShem’s eyes, he squandered the opportunity and is being punished in Gehinnom for eternity.

HaShem should open our eyes to gain a healthy perspective  on life and we should merit “seeing” Mosaic Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Have a VISIONARY Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Balak 5776
Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.
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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Balak 5776

Balak 5776

New Stories Balak 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Balak 5776

Integral to Creation


In this week’s parashah the Torah records the dialogue that the donkey had with Balaam. It is noteworthy that the Mishna in Avos (5:8) states: asarah devarim nivriu bierev Shabbos bain hashemashos vieilu hein pi haaretz upi habieir pi haason vihakeshes vihaman vihamateh vihashamir hakesav vihamichtav vihaluchos viyeish omrim af hamazikin ukivuraso shel Moshe vieilo shel Avraham Avinu viyeish omrim af tzevas bitzevas asuyah, ten things were created on Shabbos eve, at twilight. They are: The mouth of the earth; the mouth of the well; the mouth of the donkey; the rainbow [which was Noach’s sign that there would be no future floods] the manna; the staff, the shamir worm; the script, the inscription; and the Tablets. Some say also destructive spirits, Moshe’s grave, and the ram of our forefather Avraham. And some say also tongs, which are made with tongs.

Creations Erev Shabbos are associated with Shabbos

One must wonder why these items were specifically created immediately prior to the onset of Shabbos. Perhaps we can suggest that these items are associated with Shabbos in some manner. The mouth of the earth was created to swallow up Korach and his assembly. The Zohar (Korach) states that Korach disputed the concept of Shabbos, so it is fitting that the mouth of the earth be created immediately prior to the onset of Shabbos to swallow up Korach and his assembly in the future. Regarding the mouth of the well, it is noteworthy that the Rema writes (Orach Chaim 299:10) that one should drink water from a well on Motzai Shabbos as the well of Miriam circles on Motzai Shabbos and all the water that is in wells is healed at that time. The mouth of the donkey, as we all know, functioned as a vehicle for putting Balaam in his place. The Halacha (see Mishna Berurah Orach Chaim 307:5) is that one should minimize his speech on Shabbos, so the mouth of the donkey teaches us that one should only speak what is necessary. The rainbow symbolized that HaShem would not destroy the world.

The manna, the staff, the shamir worm, the script, the inscription, and the Tablets are associated with Shabbos

In the prayer of Kegavna recited by those who pray Nusach Sefard, we recite that with the onset of Shabbos, all harsh judgments are removed from her. The manna is clearly associated with Shabbos, as it is said (Bereishis 2:3) Vayivarech Elokim es yom hashevii vayikadeish oso, Hashem blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 11:2) states that HaShem blessed the seventh day by providing a double portion of manna on Friday, and HaShem sanctified the seventh day by not allowing manna to fall on Shabbos. The staff, which belonged to Moshe, reflected the supremacy of Moshe and his prophecy. The Gemara (Shabbos 88a) states that the Jewish People forfeited the crowns that they received when they accepted the Torah. The Zohar states that Moshe returns the crowns to the Jewish People on Shabbos. The shamir worm was used to hew the stone for the construction of the Bais HaMikdash, as the Torah forbids the use of sword or iron to be used in the construction of the Bais HaMikdash. The reason for this prohibition (see Rashi Shemos 20:22) is because the Bais HaMikdash and the Mizbeiach are symbols of peace and it is improper to use weapons that symbolize war and strife. Similarly, Shabbos is referred to as shalom, peace. The script refers to the form of the Hebrew alphabet and the inscription and the Tablets refer to the inscription on the Luchos, the tablets which had the Ten Commandments inscribed upon them.

Destructive spirits, Moshe’s grave, the ram of our forefather Avraham, and tongs which are made with tongs, are associated with Shabbos

In the Shabbos Shacharis prayers we recite the words yismach Moshe bematnas chelko ki eved neeman karasa lo kelil tiferes birosho nasata lo biamado lifanecho al har Sinai ushnei luchos avanim horid beyado vichasuv bahem shemiras Shabbos vichein kasuv bisorasecho, Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion: that You called him a faithful servant. A crown of splendor You placed on his head when he stood before You on Mount Sinai. He brought down two stone tablets in his hand, on which is inscribed the observance of the Shabbos. So it is written in Your Torah… Destructive spirits alludes to the idea mentioned previously, that with the onset of Shabbos all harsh judgments depart from her. Moshe’s grave alludes to the idea that Moshe passed away on Shabbos (see Tur Orach Chaim 292 and commentators ad loc). The ram of our forefather Avraham alludes to the devotion that Avraham displayed for HaShem, as he was ready to slaughter his only son for the sake of HaShem’s will. This is akin to the statement of the Gemara (Yoma 28b) that Avraham fulfilled the entire Torah before it was given to the Jewish People at Sinai. Regarding tongs which are made with tongs, perhaps we can suggest that this alludes to the idea that everything in creation has a counterpart. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 11:8) states that every day had a mate except for Shabbos and HaShem told Shabbos that the Jewish People will be its mate.

The Shabbos Connection

HaShem should allow us to merit preparing for Shabbos properly and deriving benefit from all of the wonders that He created for us.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Shimru Shabsosai

The composer of this zemer is Shlomo, a name formed by the acrostic of the first four stanzas. Nothing definite is known about him, although some speculate that he was the famous Shlomo ben Yehudah ibn Gabriol. The zemer concentrates on the requirement to honor the Shabbos with culinary delights and closes with the assurance that the observance of the Shabbos will herald the final Redemption.

וְהָשֵׁב אֶת נְוָתִי, בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְהִגָּיוֹן, and replace my Temple with gladness and words of song. Even in exile, Jews celebrate weddings and other events and people are constantly smiling and laughing. Nonetheless, the true joy and happiness will only come when HaShem restores the Bais HaMikdash and we once again merit the Kohanim and Leviim performing the service.

Shabbos Stories

I don’t know why I’m crying

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: On one of the final days of the Six Day War the Israeli troops pierced through enemy fortifications and forged their way through the ancient passageways of Jerusalem. As if Divine gravitational force was pulling them, one group of soldiers dodged the Jordanian bullets and proceeded until there was no reason to continue. They had reached the Kotel HaMaravi, the Western Wall, the holiest place in Judaism, the site of both the First and Second Temples. The young men, some of whom had yeshiva education, others who came from traditional backgrounds, stood in awe and began to cry in unison. The Kotel had been liberated! One young soldier, who grew up on a totally secular kibbutz in the northern portion of the state gazed at the sight of his comrades crying like children as they stared up at the ancient stones. Suddenly, he too began to wail. One of the religious soldiers, who had engaged in countless debates with him, put his arm around him and asked, “I don’t understand. To us the Kotel means so much. It is our link with the Temple and the holy service. This is the most moving experience of our lives. But why are you crying?” The young soldier looked at his friend, and amidst the tears simply stated, “I am crying because I am not crying.”

I’m “the animals’ butcher”

Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: A pious and very talented Jewish scholar was placed on trial in a small Polish town outside of Lvov. The charges, brought by a local miscreant, were based on some trumped-up complaint. The young scholar was beloved to his townsfolk as he served in the capacity of the town’s shochet (ritual slaughterer), chazzan (cantor), and cheder rebbe. Thus, many people in town were worried as he appeared before a notoriously anti-Semitic judge. As he presented the charges, the judge mockingly referred to him as Mr. Butcher. In fact, all through the preliminary portion of the kangaroo court, the judge kept referring to the beloved teacher and cantor as a butcher, meat vendor or slaughterer. Finally, the young scholar asked permission to speak. “Your honor,” he began, “before I begin my defense, I’d like to clarify one point. I serve in many capacities in this shtetl. The people at the synagogue know me as the cantor. The children at the school and all of their parents know me as the teacher. It is only the animals that know me as the butcher!”

Shabbos in Halacha

Opening Food Packages

 II Practical Applications

As we mentioned previously, it is preferable that one opens all containers and packages prior to Shabbos. The following procedures should be followed in the event that one inadvertently did not open the container prior to Shabbos.

  1. Cardboard Boxes

 One who opens sealed boxes violates the prohibitions of קורע, tearing, and עשיית פתח, forming an opening. One is allowed to tear or cut open the box (without tearing any printed words or pictures) only in a manner which damages the package.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Balak 5776

Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה                 ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.

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 Balak 5776

Elie Wiesel and the Radicalization of a Hassidic Girl

Elie Wiesel took me to Auschwitz and in a certain way, I never came back.

by Yitta Halberstam

If my mother (daughter of the revered Pittsburgher Rebbe) hadn’t made her way to the back of a bus in Florida in 1946 and defiantly plunked herself down in the “colored section” causing a brouhaha of epic proportions; and if my father (great-grandson of the holy Sanzer Rebbe) hadn’t stolen across Europe during the War and boarded a rickety vessel to Palestine, where, immediately upon disembarking he had sought out the nearest Irgun enclave and signed up as a member; if my parents hadn’t been such dissonant outliers to begin with (but still clinging to the Hassidic dress of their forebears), well maybe then I could blame my complete radicalization upon Elie Wiesel.

But the truth is, long before I even knew his name, there were seeds.

Before I read Elie Wiesel at the age of 15 – first “Jews of Silence” and then “Night,” – I was largely unaware of the tremendous suffering of our people. It was still a time when people could not or would not speak. Despite my father’s heart-rending screams during his frequent nightmares, by day a thick silence reigned in our home. “Night” was the first book to actually transport me to Auschwitz, where invisible numbers were tattooed on my arm and permanent scars were branded into my essence in a way that no prior book had ever achieved. When I would close the covers of the other books that I read about the Holocaust, I quickly – and safely – returned to Brooklyn. But Elie Wiesel took me to Auschwitz and left me there, a permanent prisoner of the “kingdom of the night.” In a certain way, I never came back.

Three million Jews were being held captive in the Soviet Union, stripped of all religious rights. Why was no one doing anything about it?

“Jews of Silence” stunned me with its revelations. There were three million Jews held captive in the Soviet Union – stripped of all religious rights? How could it be? How was it possible that no one was doing anything about it? When I asked my principal if I could start a Soviet Jewry club in our high school, he waved me away with a dismissive gesture. “Let the adults take care of this,” he replied. “What could you possibly achieve?”

I may very well have remained a typical, mainstream hassidic girl were it not for this principal’s cavalier response and the searing message of “Night”: that of the trinity that comprised the Holocaust construct – the victim, the victimizer, and the silent spectator – it was the apathetic onlooker who was the most contemptible of all. Silence and indifference as a response to any atrocity was a heinous sin – a message that galvanized my two friends and me to hop a subway to Manhattan and, with beating hearts, wend our way to the offices of The SSSJ (Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry). There, the specter of three long-skirted Bais Yaakov girls was an incongruous sight to be sure (the movement largely attracted more “modern orthodox” types, as well as secular idealists) but we were warmly welcomed.

For us, joining SSSJ was a momentous act; we had stood at a crossroads trembling and taken the path less traveled by (at least for girls of our background). Few of our cohorts in Boro Park participated in demonstrations then; silent diplomacy was considered the better course. But after reading Wiesel, we could not be silent. That would put us in the league of those who had watched babies being torn from their mother’s arms and said nothing; those who witnessed their Jewish neighbors being herded into cattle cars and said nothing; those who observed Jews being beaten, mauled by dogs, shot in cold blood and said nothing. We did not want Elie Wiesel’s blistering indictment, or God’s, or our own.

While my classmates dedicated themselves to visiting the sick, tutoring the disabled, grocery shopping for inbound seniors and myriad other philanthropic acts (no one performs as much chesed – acts of kindness – as ultra-Orthodox Jews), I continued my involvement with Soviet Jewry (never once speaking to the boys as that was strictly forbidden, and continuing to be adhere to halacha stringently).

I became labeled “an activist” (not a compliment). But my parents supported me completely and were proud.

I did not keep my views to myself and soon I became labeled “an activist” (not a compliment). My parents, however, supported me completely, and were proud. I participated in myriad Soviet Jewry rallies which at that time drew throngs, and later on I enlisted in the JDL in its early halcyon years before it turned aggressive. One night, I joined 800 others in sitting down in front of the Soviet Mission (considered a legal offense) and was carted away by a paddy wagon to a police station where I was photographed and fingerprinted (I was 19). When I called my father and told him that I had been arrested, he paused for a heartbeat and then said, “Did they give you something to eat at least?”

The next day, the judge offered to rip up the records of those under 21, if we promised never to participate in these types of protests again. Seven hundred eighty kids stepped forward and made their vows. I was one of 20 who said, “No, we could not promise that.” I guess we had all read Elie Wiesel.

Now that I am a doddering grandmother, I look back upon those years of activism with only pride, no regrets. And being a true wimp at heart, I know that much of my uncharacteristic bold determination to speak up for oppressed Jews and other minorities was galvanized by the power of Elie Wiesel’s unforgettable words. The flame he ignited within me was for many decades strong and resolute; now age has made it more feeble and at the last anti-CNN rally I attended I actually had to bring along a beach chair (I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand so long). The fact that my fire burned for so long was due to the tremendous influence he wielded upon me.

Reading Elie Wiesel made me more religious than ever before. I felt a deep sense of responsibility to the millions who had evaporated into smoke to continue their legacy. How could I allow their apocalyptic suffering to be in vain? Resurrecting the Jewish sparks was the only sane response to the insanity that had robbed us of them. The more I read Elie Wiesel, the deeper I wished to go with my Judaism.

When Rebbetzin Sara Freifeld told me that I was accepted to her seminary in Far Rockaway, I felt I had to come clean to this pure, noble woman. “Rebbetzin Freifeld, maybe you won’t want to accept me once you hear my background?”

“Yes?” she said with a bright smile that never wavered.

“I was a member of the SSSJ and participated in rallies.”

“Yes?” she continued to smile encouragingly, as if I had performed an inconsequential act, when both of us knew how anomalous it was.

“I also joined the JDL in its early years, and was arrested for sitting down in front of the Soviet Mission.” I lowered my head, waiting for the ax to fall.

Instead she stepped forward and gave me a huge embrace. “What a zechut (merit),” she said, “to have such an Ohev Yisroel (lover of Jews) in my class! Please start tomorrow.”

“I must have been allowed to survive for some reason,” Elie Wiesel often told reporters. “What I must do is witness and speak out like no one spoke for us.”

Thank you for giving me the strength to fight my own apathy and for giving me the impetus to leave my comfort zone.

Mr. Wiesel, you were a veritable Jewish Atlas, constantly blowing the shofar for peace and justice, champion of Jewish and non-Jewish causes alike, ever vigilant in heeding the call of the suffering and still, the gentlest of warriors. How deeply you cared, and how much moral weight you carried! There must have been times when you felt so irrevocably alone, but know that some of us were swept up in your tidal wave and you carried us along with you. You endowed an entire generation with the gift of their own authentic voice in the aftermath of an era when no voices were raised. But let me not speak for others, let me speak for myself: I thank you for giving me the strength to fight my own apathy and for giving me the impetus to leave my comfort zone while holding onto my yiddishkeit. You changed my world, as you most assuredly did for countless others.

Mr. Wiesel, I know that there were many lessons you taught your readers, and the urgent need to stand up and speak out was only one them. But for me, this was the quintessence of what I came away with from your books: Own your voice, and never be afraid. (

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Chukas Inspiration 5776

This week’s parasha tells us of the sin of Moshe Rabbeinu, where HaShem commanded him to speak to the rock and instead he hit the rock. HaShem was displeased with this contradiction of His instructions and HaShem informed Moshe and Aharon that they would not be allowed entry into Eretz Yisroel.

It is noteworthy that when Yaakov fled from his brother Esav, after fourteen years of studying in the Beis Medrash of Ever, he lay down to sleep. Prior to laying down to sleep, Yaakov gathered twelve stones and during the night, the stones began quarrelling with each other, as each stone wanted the honor to have the Tzaddik lay his head on him. HaShem performed a miracle and all the stones united. The Mesilas Yesharim derives from this incident that when one is righteous, he can elevate the entire world , even the inanimate.

HaShem desired that Moshe, the most exalted human being, who reflected purity of speech and whose mouth presented a danger to the surrounding nations (see Rashi Bamidbar 22:4) elevate even the inanimate stone that would allow it to pour forth water. Moshe mistakenly hit the stone and this caused the מי מריבה, water of strife. Yaakov, on the other hand, broke up the discord amongst the stones with his righteousness. Moshe, unfortunately, caused strife by not following HaShem’s instructions regarding the stone.

It is said (Bereishis 49:24) וַיֵּשֶׁב בְּאֵיתָן קַשְׁתּוֹ וַיָּפֹזּוּ זְרֹעֵי יָדָיו מִידֵי אֲבִיר יַעֲקֹב מִשָּׁם רֹעֶה אֶבֶן יִשְׂרָאֵל, but his bow was firmly emplaced and his arms were gilded, from the hands of the Mighty Power of Yaakov – from there, he shepherded the stone of Israel. The Targum renders the words מִשָּׁם רֹעֶה אֶבֶן יִשְׂרָאֵל to mean דִּי בְמֵימְרֵהּ זַן אֲבָהָן וּבְנִין זַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל, with his (Yosef’s) word he sustained a father and his sons, the progeny of Israel. Thus, we see that the stone reflects unity, a passing of the torch from one generation to the next. The Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 1:32) states that Yaakov and Moshe were similar in that they both found their mate by the well. Yaakov met Rachel and with her and his three other wives, he built up the Jewish Nation for eternity. Moshe met his wife Tzipporah but ultimately separated from her. Moshe was not fortunate to have the Jewish People send from him. While Moshe was certainly the greatest man who ever lived, there was something in his psyche that did not allow for him to perpetuate the continuity of the Jewish People.

We have been learning in the past few weeks the power of discord and strife, from the Jewish People’s complaints about the lack of food to Korach’s struggle for power and this week’s unfortunate incident at Mei Merivah.

Let us strengthen ourselves in marital harmony, peace between brothers and sisters, and most importantly, peace between us and our Father in Heaven, and then we will merit the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, and the time of which it is said (Zachariah 2:15) וְנִלְווּ גוֹיִם רַבִּים אֶל יְ-ה-וָ-ה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא וְהָיוּ לִי לְעָם, many nations will join themselves to HaShem on that day, and they will become a people unto Me.

Have a PEACEFUL Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Chukas 5776
Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.
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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Chukas 5776

Chukas 5776

New Stories Chukas 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Chukas 5776

The Tribe of Levi, A Higher Standard


ויאמר ה’ אל משה ואל אהרן יען לא האמנתם בי להקדישני לעיני בני ישראל לכן לא תביאו את הקבל השה אל הארץ אשר נתתי להם, HaShem said to Moshe and Aharon, “Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel, therefore you will not bring this congregation to the Land that I had given them.” (Bamidbar 20:12)

In this week’s parasha we learn about how the Jewish People complained about the lack of water and HaShem instructed Moshe to take his stick and speak to the rock to draw forth water for the people. Moshe instead hit the rock, thus causing a desecration of HaShem’s Name and forfeiting his privilege of entering into Eretz Yisroel. The Ibn Ezra and the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh cite many opinions regarding Moshe’s sin. Some commentators posit that Moshe’s sin was that he became angered with the Jewish People and for this reason HaShem punished him by not granting him entry into Eretz Yisroel. Other commentaries write that Moshe sinned because he disobeyed HaShem’s commandment of speaking to the rock and instead he struck the rock and this was not the correct method for producing water. There are also opinions that maintain that Moshe should only have hit the rock once and not twice. Many of the commentators cite the verse in Tehillim (106:32-33) where it is said vayakitzifu al mei merivah vayeira liMoshe baavuram ki himru es rucho vayivatei bisfasav, they provoked at the Waters of Strife and Moshe suffered because of them, because they acted contrary to His spirit, and He pronounced with His lips, as proof for their opinions. The Medrash (Shemos Rabbah) states that matters that Moshe did not explain fully were elaborated on by Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim. What message is Dovid HaMelech conveying to us with these words?

Are Miriam and Aharon different than Moshe?

Surprisingly, most of the commentaries seem to ignore an explicit verse in the Torah that sheds much light on the incident of Moshe deviating from HaShem’s instructions. It is said (Devarim 33:8) uliLevi amar tumecha viurecha liish chasidecha asher nisiso bimassah tiriveihu al mei merivah, of Levi he said: Your Tumim and Your Urim befit Your devout one, whom You tested at Massah, and whom You challenged at the waters of Merivah. Rashi writes something that at first appears to be very puzzling. Citing the Sifri, Rashi writes that HaShem, so to speak, came upon Moshe with a libel. If Moshe uttered the words (Bamidbar 20:10) shimu na hamorim, listen now, O rebels, what did Aharon and Miriam do? The Sifri is perplexing, because it appears to be asking a rhetorical question. The explanation of the question at first glance seems to be as follows: “we understand what Moshe did wrong, and thus was deserving of a punishment, but Aharon and Miriam did not do anything, so why were they also punished?” This, however, is difficult to understand, because in this verse Moshe is blessing the tribe of Levi, so why would he publicly reprimand himself? Furthermore, how can it be that there is a libel against members of the tribe of Levi? Aharon was faulted for his involvement in the fashioning of the Golden Calf, and Miriam sinned by gossiping about Moshe. Why does the Sifri deem Moshe’s act at Mei merivah to be different?

The tribe of Levi is held to a higher standard

In order to gain a better understanding to what occurred at Mei merivah, we need to focus on the uniqueness of the tribe of Levi. The Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 5:16) states that Moshe told Pharaoh that every nation has spiritual leaders that guide the nation, and the Jewish People are no different. Pharaoh therefore allowed for one tribe to be exempt from the slavery, and that tribe was the tribe of Levi. Thus, while the entire Jewish People was enslaved to the Egyptians and were bitterly persecuted, the tribe of Levi was free to do as they pleased. When Moshe was on his way to Egypt, he was required to circumcise his son, and his delay almost cost him his life. The reason for Moshe being liable the death penalty was not because he had delayed in the circumcision, as a father is not liable the death penalty for not circumcising his son. Rather, it would appear that Moshe was being held to a higher standard than other Jews, and HaShem deemed his delay to be a desecration of His name, which was only atoned for through death. Similarly, when Aharon abetted the fashioning of the Golden Calf, he may have violated a negative commandment of fashioning an idol, but the consequences could have been more severe, if Moshe had not interceded on his behalf. HaShem wished to punish Aharon by killing all of his sons, and Moshe’s prayers were effective to save two of them from death. Aharon, as a member of the tribe of Levi, was held accountable because his tribe was placed on a pedestal, and he did not conform to the high standard that his tribe exemplified. Similarly, Miriam gossiped about Moshe and was punished. What was it that was so serious about Miriam’s act? The Medrash states that Miriam questioned why Moshe was able to separate from his wife and other prophets were not required to do this. In truth, however, Moshe was from the tribe of Levi, and the tribe of Levi always went beyond the letter of the law. An example of their transcending the normal laws is from the Gemara (Yevamos 72a) that states that while sojourning in the Wilderness, the Jewish People did not circumcise their children because they required the northern wind to blow to heal the wound. HaShem did not allow the northern wind to blow because the wind would have dispersed the Clouds of Glory. The tribe of Levi, however, put their lives at risk by leaving the clouds and circumcising their children. Thus, we see that the tribe of Levi went beyond the letter of the law to fulfill HaShem’s will. Similarly, Moshe separated from his wife so he could always be connected to HaShem. This conduct was in line with the tribe of Levi always beings separated for spiritual pursuits.

When Moshe deviated from his calling he was punished

We can now better understand what occurred regarding the Jewish People’s complaint for water and why Moshe was punished so severely. The fact that the Jewish People requested water was not unique, as the Torah records other instances where they asked for water and HaShem provided for them. The uniqueness of this incident was that Miriam had just died, and the Gemara (Taanis 9a) states that it was in her merit that the Jewish People had the water source. When the Jewish People complained about the lack of water, HaShem decided to test Moshe and Aharon to see if they would go beyond the call of duty. Whereas in the past Moshe had used his staff to produce the water, here HaShem desired that he should talk to the rock, thus transcending the laws of nature. Moshe did not fulfill HaShem’s instructions to the letter, and it was for this reason that he was punished by not being granted entry into Eretz Yisroel. In truth there is a pattern to this action and reaction, as we see that when Moshe complained to HaShem that by going to Pharaoh he had only made matters worse for the Jewish People. HaShem informed Moshe that he would see what He did to Pharaoh but he would not witness what HaShem would do to the gentile kings when the Jewish People entered Eretz Yisroel. Furthermore, in the Song of the Sea it is said (Shemos 15:16-17) ad yaavor amchah HaShem am zu kanisa tivieimo visitaeimo bihar nachalascho, until Your people passes through, HaShem – until this people You have acquired passes through. You will bring them and implant them…. Rashi writes that in this verse Moshe was prophesying that he would not enter Eretz Yisroel. Why did Moshe mention this prophecy in middle of the Song? The answer to this question is that after describing the Jewish People as the nation that HaShem acquired, Moshe alluded to his own future, as he was required as a member of the tribe of Levi to set the standard for everyone else. By failing to adhere to this standard, Moshe was punished. Thus, in his blessing for the tribe of Levi, Moshe was praising the tribe for their steadfastness in fulfilling HaShem’s will. The subsequent verses testify to the tribe of Levi going beyond the call of duty by punishing the sinners who were involved in worshipping the Golden Calf. The passage further alludes to the battle that the Chashmonaim waged against the Greeks. Similarly, Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim depicts a nation that provoked HaShem at Mei merivah, and Moshe suffered on their account. The words ki himru es rucho, because they acted contrary to his spirit, is interpreted by some of the commentators (see Radak and Ibn Ezra Ibid) to be referring to Moshe. We can therefore suggest that the verse is alluding to the idea that the Jewish People caused Moshe to act contrary to his calling as a member of the tribe of Levi. This deviation resulted in Moshe being punished for his sin.

The praises of Levi allude to the higher standard

We can now understand the words of the Sifri mentioned earlier. The Sifri is not asking a rhetorical question. Rather, the Sifri is noting that Moshe sinned, and the Torah records his punishment. Regarding Aharon and Miriam, however, one would be led to think that their actions did not warrant a severe punishment of not being granted entry into Eretz Yisroel. The Torah therefore continues to describe the praise of the tribe of Levi, thus hinting to the idea that Aharon and Miriam, as members of that tribe, were also held to a higher standard.

 The Shabbos connection

The role of the tribe of Levi is to serve as spiritual guides for the Jewish People, and as the Rambam writes (end of laws of Shemitah and Yovel) every Jew is capable of aspiring to the level of the Levites. Throughout the week we may not be able to rise to these heights, as the burden of earning a livelihood weighs us down and we struggle to transcend the world of physicality. With the arrival of Shabbos, however, we are all given the opportunity to become connected to HaShem and His Torah. The word Levi means to become attached, and HaShem should allow us to attach ourselves to His Torah and to those who study it.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Shimru Shabsosai

The composer of this zemer is Shlomo, a name formed by the acrostic of the first four stanzas. Nothing definite is known about him, although some speculate that he was the famous Shlomo ben Yehudah ibn Gabriol. The zemer concentrates on the requirement to honor the Shabbos with culinary delights and closes with the assurance that the observance of the Shabbos will herald the final Redemption.

חַזֵּק קִרְיָתִי, אֵ-ל אֱ-לֹהִים עֶלְיוֹן, strengthen my City, O exalted G-d. The City that is referred to here is Yerushalayim. Why are we asking HaShem to strengthen the City when for all practical purposes, the City lies in ruins, awaiting to be rebuilt with the Ultimate Redemption? The answer to this question is that it said (Yirmiah 49:25) אֵיךְ לֹא עֻזְּבָה עִיר (תהלה) תְּהִלָּת קִרְיַת מְשׂוֹשִׂי, how was the city of glory not spared, the city of my delight. The word עֻזְּבָה, while normally translated as forsaken, can also mean strengthened (see Rashi Devarim 32:36). Thus, we are beseeching HaShem here to strengthen the City that has been forsaken for so many centuries and rebuild it, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos Stories

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach the Husband

“Although it is customary to ask forgiveness from one who has died,” R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach said at his wife’s funeral, “I shall not do so. Throughout our entire marriage we never offended or hurt one another. We conducted our lives according to the Shulchan Aruch, and I have no reason to ask her forgiveness.”

The following is an example of R’ Auerbach’s exquisite sensitivity towards his wife combined with his exactitude in fulfilling the Shulchan Aruch. R’ Yitzchak Yeruchem Borodiansky told this story in one of the eulogies during the shivah week.

Once, R’ Shlomo Zalman’s sister came to his house to ask about a certain bachur who was suggested as prospective match for her daughter. When she first entered the house, there were a few people waiting to speak to R’ Shlomo Zalman. She waited until they left, and finally she was alone with R’ Shlomo Zalman and his Rebbitzen. She asked him about the bachur, and he answered, “He’s a fine boy.”

When R’ Shlomo Zalman’ sister was about to leave, he asked her if she was planning on visiting their sister in Sharei Chessed before she went home and she answered in the affirmative. Later, when she left the house of their sister, she found R’ Shlomo Zalman waiting outside. He approached her and said, |”Regarding the bachur, you should know that you should only ask about others in privacy.” “But who was there?” she said. “The Rebbitzen was there,” he said, “and she doesn’t need to hear lashon hara.” Then he told her, “Don’t follow through with this shidduch. He’s not for your daughter.”

R’ Shlomo Zalman felt responsible to convey the proper information to his sister, but he was so sensitive to his Rebbitzen’s feelings that he didn’t even want to ask her to leave the room. Instead, he used his precious time to meet his sister in another location, saving his wife from hearing lashon hara and from being insulted! (Source: The Man of Truth and Peace)

A Lawyer Meets His Match

A Rav in England had a friend who was a lawyer, and who knew very little about Yiddishkeit. Once, this lawyer approached the Rav with a very serious dilemma. He was currently defending a non-Jew who had become involved in criminal activities. This man was extremely cunning and deceitful, and the judge who saw right through his lies, decided to prosecute his lawyer as well, since he was a partner to the criminal’s deceit. It is common practice in England that the judges can implicate the lawyers, to ensure that they do not become tainted by their clients’ wrongdoings. This lawyer was in great danger of not only of losing his right to practice his profession, but of also of receiving a heavy punishment and fine. The lawyer was anguished and worried, and at a loss of what to do.

The Rav said to him, “Listen, my friend, the best advice I can give you is to do what all of Klal Yisrael does. Simply daven to the Ribbono shel Olam, and He’ll save you from this tzara.” The lawyer replied, “What! I should ask HaShem? It’s not possible, and I’ll tell you why. Once I already asked for help from Him, and I promised that I wouldn’t ask for anything else.”

The lawyer explained that few years prior, he traveled to Australia for work, and stayed there for six months. While in Australia, his only daughter, who was then seven years old, suddenly became critically ill. After many tests, it was determined that it was cancer, and she began treatment. Unfortunately, she did not respond well, and she grew sicker. One day, which happened to be Shabbos, the doctor told the lawyer that her situation is critical, and she has only a few hours to live.

The distraught father decided immediately to find a shul. Despite his ignorance of Yiddishkeit, he remembered that when he became Bar Mitzvah, his father took him to shul. He searched for a shul, and eventually found one, which was unlocked. It was the middle of the day, and the shul was empty. He burst out crying and continued crying without a stop for two hours. Amidst his tears he said, “HaShem, I need to ask You something, and I promise You that I’ll never ask for anything else. I ask of You that my beloved daughter remain alive.” Eventually, the lawyer felt a sense of relief, and returned to the hospital.

He was greeted at the hospital with miraculous news – his daughter had opened her eyes. She began improving little by little, and eventually fully recovered. In fact, her new X-rays showed no sign of a cancerous growth at all, and even the doctors admitted that it was a complete miracle.

The lawyer finished speaking, “So, didn’t you hear that I promised HaShem never to ask for anything else? How can I break my promise?”

The Rav said, “Your promise is not valid! HaShem is not a person. You can continue to request whatever you need from Him.”

The lawyer followed his advice, and was declared innocent. (Shaal Avicha Veyegadcha) (

 Shabbos in Halacha

Opening Food Packages

 II Practical Applications

As we mentioned previously, it is preferable that one opens all containers and packages prior to Shabbos. The following procedures should be followed in the event that one inadvertently did not open the container prior to Shabbos.

  1. Bottle Caps

 One is permitted to remove on Shabbos a bottle cap which lifts off or screws off without breaking. However, one is forbidden from opening a bottle cap that will break when unscrewed, as this violates the prohibition of מכה בפטיש, completing the formulation of a utensil. One who needs to open such a container should first puncture the cap (without cutting any printed words). One may then unscrew the punctured cap as it is no longer fit for use and cannot be deemed a ‘complete utensil.’

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Chukas 5776

Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה                 ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.

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Have a Wonderful Shabbos!

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New Stories Chukas 5776

A Story Stressing the Reward for Meticulous Kashrus Observance

Rabbi Yissachar Frand writes: The pasuk at the conclusion of the section of forbidden foods listed at the end of the parsha says: “For I am Hashem Who brings you up from the land of Egypt to be a G-d unto you; you shall be holy for I am holy.” [Vayikra 11:45] Rashi cites the teaching of the House of Rav Yishmael that the pasuk means to say, had I not brought Israel out of Egypt for any reason other than that they do not make themselves impure through eating of the forbidden foods as do the other nations, it would have been sufficient cause for them to have been redeemed.

It is difficult to OVERSTATE the importance of the laws of Kashrus. It is likewise difficult to UNDERSTATE the great harm done to a Jewish soul by the consumption of forbidden foods. I once heard Rabbi Berel Wein quote a statistic published by the Jewish National Fund that today 80% of their money comes from only 10% of the Jewish population. Despite the fact that Jews have a reputation for being generous, that may have been the case 40, 50, 60, or 80 years ago. Today, the eating of pig, shellfish, crab, and improperly slaughtered meat that the Jewish people have been consuming over the past 50 years has taken a toll on the Jewish soul. The “Yiddishe neshama” is not what it used to be because of the corrosive effect of forbidden food entities.

That having been said, I read the following story that was written by Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, a disciple of the Kesav Sofer. The Kesav Sofer, in turn, was the son of the Chasam Sofer who told this story in the name of his teacher, Rav Nosson Adler. The story took place in the late 1700s or the early 1800s.

There were two successful Jewish merchants who lived in Pressburg, the city of the Chasam Sofer. They had their own fleet of boats in which they used to travel the world in pursuit of their import/export business. These merchants were once arrested by Spanish authorities off the coast of Spain with their ship full of merchandise. At that particular point in time, piracy was rampant in the Mediterranean Sea and therefore smuggling and piracy was common. The Jews and their merchandise were detained because of the (false) suspicion that their goods were pirated or smuggled.

They were brought into the port of Barcelona to be held in custody while the investigation proceeded as to whether their cargo was legitimate. They were lucky, however, in that at that time, the Spanish Government had very good relations with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its Emperor, Franz-Yosef. Based on the good diplomatic relations, the Jews were not thrown into jail. They were treated very respectfully while they were being detained. They were assigned to two customs officials, who would take care of them while the investigation proceeded. Each was taken home by one of the customs officials to relax and be served lunch.

There was only one problem. Despite the fact that this story took place between two and three hundred years after the Inquisition, the Inquisition was still alive and well in Spain. Under terms of the Inquisition, any person in Spain suspected of being Jewish was given the choice of either converting to Catholicism or being burned in the town square. The merchants realized that if their Jewish identities would be revealed, they would face this horrible choice.

Therefore, the Jews disguised themselves so that they would look like Gentiles. As mentioned before, each merchant was assigned to a different customs agent. The customs agent had his servant serve them lunch – consisting of chicken and wine. The customs agent noticed that his guest turned white as a ghost. He then told his guest to follow him to the attic. When they got to the attic he told him, “I know that something is wrong. You turned white as a ghost when my servant brought you your food. You are Jewish, aren’t you?” Before the guest had a chance to answer, the customs agent told him, “So am I.” It just so happened that this customs agent was a descendant of the Marranos, who outwardly converted to avoid expulsion from Spain, but secretly tried to maintain their Jewish identity and Jewish traditions. To prove his point, he closed the door of the attic, pulled up a floor board and took out a shiny and sharp knife used in ritual slaughter (‘chalif’). He told his guest, “The chicken we are about to eat, I personally slaughtered it!” Kosher L’Mehadrin!

The Jewish merchant was flabbergasted at the personal Divine Providence (Hashgocha Pratis) that sent him specifically to this man’s house! He ate his meal, the investigation concluded that there was no problem with their merchandise, and both merchants were released. The Jew met up with his partner and asked him about his experiences. The second Jew was very distraught. He admitted that he had to eat non-Kosher meat to preserve his appearance as a non-Jew. He had ruled for himself that this was a matter of life and death and in such situations one is not required to be a martyr to eat only kosher food. The first Jew told his friend, “The same thing happened to me, but I had the unbelievable fortune of being hosted by a secret Jew who was a Shochet, and I was able to eat kosher.”

The man who had to eat the non-Kosher meat was beside himself when he heard this story. “What was my sin, what was my iniquity that caused G-d to lead my partner to a secret observant Jew and I was forced to eat nevilah?” When he got back to Pressburg, he went to his holy Rebbi, the Chasam Sofer and told him the story. “What”, he asked his teacher, “did I do wrong in my life that I was put into a situation that I had to eat non-Kosher?”

The Chasam Sofer responded, “I have a tradition from my teacher, the holy Gaon Rav Nosson Adler, that any person who never put anything in his mouth that had the slightest question of being forbidden, the Almighty guarantees that this person will never come into a situation which would force him to eat something that is prohibited. If you are so careful that you never ever put anything questionable into your mouth the ‘measure for measure’ reward is that the Almighty will see to it that you in fact never have to eat anything prohibited.”

The Chasam Sofer concluded, “It must be that some time in your past, you must have eaten something forbidden or something about which there was at least a doubt that it might be forbidden.” The merchant responded, “Rebbi, it cannot be. It is not true!” The Chasam Sofer insisted: “Think hard.” Finally, the merchant admitted: “There was one incident. When I was first married, my wife made chicken for us. She brought me the chicken after she got it from the slaughterer and showed me a ‘shaylah’

she had about the chicken. I was a young newlywed. I was ashamed to tell my wife that I did not know and she should ask the Rabbi. I did have Semicha. I learned the laws of Shechita and of Tereifos. I looked at the chicken. I saw the shaylah. I said ‘kosher.’”

Being a newlywed, his wife did not trust him. She took the chicken to a Rav. She told the Rav, “My husband has Semicha, he learned the laws of Tereifa, and he says the chicken is Kosher. Is he right about that?” The Rav looked at the chicken and it was not such a simple question, but he did not want to second guess the newlywed husband so he said, “Okay, your husband says it is kosher, you can rely on his opinion.” The merchant told the Chasam Sofer, “I ate that chicken.”

The Chasam Sofer exclaimed, “That is it! You put in your mouth something that had a possibility of being prohibited. That is why you forfeited the guarantee mentioned by Rav Noson Adler. The other merchant must have never put anything with a doubt of prohibition in his mouth. He had the guarantee from the Almighty that he would be protected from ever eating non-kosher food.”

I tell this story in the context of the entire shiur we said earlier this evening (regarding the question of “bugs” in the water supply in New York City). It is not for us to decide whether the water is Kosher or Treife. There are already great poskim who have expressed their opinions on the matter. But this is just an example of how careful we must be regarding putting something non-kosher into our mouths. Meticulous care in this matter yields fulfillment of the promise of the Almighty that we will never come to put something forbidden into our mouths. (

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Korach Inspiration 5776

What was Korach’s mistake? The Mishna (Avos 5:17) states כָּל מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, אֵין סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. אֵיזוֹ הִיא מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת קֹרַח וְכָל עֲדָתוֹ, any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven will endure. A dispute that is not for the sake of Heaven, however, will not endure. What is an example of a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven? This is the dispute between Hillel and Shammai. A dispute that is not for the sake of Heaven is the dispute of Korach and his congregation. The words לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, for the sake of Heaven, imply that one’s focus is upwards, towards Heaven. What is the contrast between the dispute of Hillel and Shammai and the dispute of Korach and his congregation?

The commentators write that the Mishna does not say that Korach disputed Moshe, but that Korach and his congregation had a dispute, a disparity of views. Korach sought to negate Moshe and Aharon, Dasan and Aviram continued engaging in their insolent behavior towards Moshe, and the 250 men had their own agenda. Nonetheless, we still must understand Korach’s own philosophy on life.

In Parashas Beha’aloscha the Torah states (Bamidbar 8:2) בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ אֶת הַנֵּרֹת, when you kindle the lamps. Yet, in Parashas Emor it is said (Vayikra 24:2) לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד, to kindle a continual lamp. In one instance the Torah refers to the candles in the plural form and in the other instance the Torah uses the singular from. The reason for this discrepancy, writes the Baal HaTurim (Bamidbar 8:2), is because this alludes to the opinion of Bais Hillel who maintain that one lights on the first night of Chanukah one candle and then he increases the candles that he lights on successive nights. Bais Hillel rationale is because we say מעלין בקדש, we ascend in matters of holiness. The Baal HaTurim concludes that the last letters of the words לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד forms an acrostic for the word תרד, you will descend, and this reflects the opinion of Bais Shammai, who maintains that on the first night of Chanukah one lights eight candles, and on subsequent nights he lights seven and then six etc. One must wonder why The Baal HaTurim would bring a support for the opinion of Bais Shammai which is not according to the final halacha.

The answer to this question is that the Baal HaTurim is teaching us that a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven is deemed to be a dispute that has an עלייה, an ascent, and even though Bais Shammai maintain that one should light Chanukah candles in “descending” order, it is a ירידה לצורך עלייה a descent for the sake of an ascent. Proof to this idea is because it is said לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד, to elevate the candle, and the last letters of these words form the acrostic for the word תרד, descend. Korach, however, was the antithesis of this precept. Korach claimed that the entire nation was equally holy, and he taunted Moshe with the preposterous idea that a  garment whose entire fabric was composed of techeiles should be exempt from the mitzvah of tzitzis. Korach was apparently not interested in ascending the spiritual ladder. Korach saw his existence as a fait accompli, evidenced in his vision of the great prophet Shmuel descending from him, a clear indication that he had already scaled the necessary spiritual mountain. The consequence for such thinking was that he and all that he owned descended alive into the earth, and the Gemara (Sanhedrin 109b) maintains that Korach and his entire congregation forfeited their portion in the World to Come. Yet, a dissenting opinion maintains that Korach and his followers earned a portion in the World to Come, as it is said (Shmuel I 2:6) יְ-ה-וָ-ה מֵמִית וּמְחַיֶּה מוֹרִיד שְׁאוֹל וַיָּעַל , Hashem brings death and gives life, He lowers to the grave and raises up. This verse is difficult to understand, as we know that life precedes death, so why did Chana mention death before life? The answer to this question is that one is justified in occasionally having a spiritual fall, as long as one realizes that the fall is for the sake of ascending. This is figuratively akin to “death before life.” Thus, even Korach’s “fall” was ultimately for an ascent, as HaShem does not allow any person to be completely cast away.

The commentators (Arizal and Tosfos Chodoshim to Avos) state that in the future, the halacha will follow Bais Shammai. Indeed, the commentators write that the last letters of the words (Tehillim 92:13) צַדִּיק כַּתָּמָר יִפְרָח, a righteous man will flourish like a date palm, form an acrostic for the word קרח, as in the future Korach will be rehabilitated and according to some, Korach will be the Kohen Gadol (or he will at least share characteristics of the Kohen Gadol).

The message from Korach’s dispute is that we do not lead stagnant lives. Rather, one is always either ascending or descending, and even the descents are for the purpose of ascending.

HaShem should grant us the ability to keep on ascending spiritual heights and then we will merit the days of which it is said (Ovadiah 1:21) וְעָלוּ מוֹשִׁעִים בְּהַר צִיּוֹן, לִשְׁפֹּט אֶת הַר עֵשָׂו; וְהָיְתָה לַי-ה-וָ-ה, הַמְּלוּכָה, and saviors shall ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esav, and to HaShem will be the kingdom. May we witness HaShem’s salvation, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.


Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Korach 5776
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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Korach 5776

Korach 5776

New Stories Korach 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Korach 5776

It’s All a Matter of Perspective


In this week’s parashah the Torah records the rebellion that Korach staged against Moshe. Every year we are confounded by the audacity of Korach and his entourage as they attempt to persuade the Jewish People that Korach is the correct person for the job, i.e. leading the Jewish People and Moshe and Aharon should step down. One may be led to draw a parallel of this scenario to the current Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, where there have been suggestions in the past that the Arab people could actually govern themselves without requiring any assistance from the Israeli government. Anyone who is logical would realize that this situation would be untenable and the civilized land would instantly be transformed to chaos and anarchy. Similarly, had Korach assumed the leadership position, it is possible that he would have undermined the basic tenets of the Torah and lead the entire nation towards apostasy. How, then, can we understand what Korach had intended and what the Jewish People were hoping to gain from this revolt?

Korach Was a Great Man

It is well-known that any person who is mentioned in Scripture was of a high spiritual level. This is despite the appearance of an apparently glaring deficiency that this person may have had in his character. Regarding Korach Rashi quotes the Medrash that states that Korach was a piekeiach, literally translated as a smart person. The word piekeiach, however, has another meaning, as we recite in the morning blessings that HaShem is pokeiach ivrim, He opens the eyes of those who cannot see. Thus, Korach had far-reaching vision, to the point where he saw in a vision that the great prophet Shmuel would be one of his descendants, and this led Korach to believe that this greatness should descend from him. It is noteworthy that at Sinai, it is said (Shemos 20:15) vichol haam roim es hakolos vies halapidim vies hahar ashein vayar haam vayanuu vayaamdu meirachok, the entire people saw the thunder and the flames, the sound of the shofar and the smoking mountain; the people saw and trembled and stood from afar. The Jewish People all saw sounds, which is ordinarily impossible for a human being to perceive. Korach claimed that the entire nation is holy, and as Rashi comments, Korach declared that the entire Jewish People had heard the commandments at Sinai. Yet, Korach, by pursuing his dreams of grandeur, demonstrated that his perception of holy matters had become distorted.

Korach Squandered Opportunities for Greatness

At the end of last week’s parashah, Shelach, it is said (Bamidbar 15:39) vihayah lachem litzitzis urisem oso uzchartem es kol mitzvos HaShem vaasisem osam vilo sasuru acharei livavchem viacharei eineichem asher atem zonim achareihem, it shall constitute tzitzis for you, that you may see it and remember all the commandments of HaShem and perform them; and not explore after your heart and after your eyes which you stray. The Medrash states that the color of techeiles, blue-dyed wool that is used on the tzitzis, is similar in color to the sea. The Sea is akin to the firmament, and the firmament is similar to the Heavenly Throne. Thus, by gazing at the tzitzis, or more specifically, at the significance of the mitzvah of tzitzis, one can reach a level where he is aware of HaShem’s Presence in his life. The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:3) states that the juxtaposition of the parashah of tzitzis to the parashah of Korach is that Korach scorned the mitzvah of tzitzis. Korach accomplished this when he and two hundred and fifty men from his entourage donned clothing that was comprised completely of techeiles and approached Moshe. They asked Moshe, “do these garments require that tzitzis be hung on them?” Moshe responded in the affirmative, whereby Korach mockingly declared, “if a garment that is completely comprised of techeiles is required to have tzitzis, can four strings absolve one’s obligation of tzitzis?’ Here again is an example of how Korach’s perception was distorted. Instead of utilizing techeiles as an opportunity to be cognizant of HaShem’s Presence in his life, Korach chose to scorn HaShem and His Torah. Thus, Korach wished to prove to the Jewish People that everything was a matter of perspective. This is similar to the claims that we hear in our times that the Torah is, Heaven forbid, open to interpretation. Nothing could be further from the truth. HaShem gave us the Torah and the mitzvos contained within as a vehicle to come closer to Him and not as a pretense to scorn Him and the Torah.

The Shabbos Connection

Similarly, HaShem bestowed upon His Chosen Nation His Holy Shabbos, a day when we can perceive far more than we are capable of perceiving during the week. It is said (Shemos 16:29) riu ki HaShem nasan lachem haShabbos al kein hu nosein lachem bayom hashishi lechem yomayim shevu ish tachtav al yeitzei ish mimekomo bayom hashevii, see that HaShem has given you the Shabbos; that is why He gives you on the sixth day a two-day portion of bread. Let every man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day. The Medrash (Medrash Tehillim §92) states that Shlomo HaMelech contemplated all seven days of the week and he was able to find fault with the creation of six days but he could not find fault with the Shabbos, as it is a day of complete holiness and rest. Nonetheless, one who violates the Shabbos is punished with death, so even regarding Shabbos, Shlomo HaMelech declared that it is haveil havalim, futility of futilities (Koheles 1:2). This teaches us that we must have the correct perspective of everything holy, and when we observe the Shabbos properly, HaShem will reward us beyond our expectations.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Shimru Shabsosai

The composer of this zemer is Shlomo, a name formed by the acrostic of the first four stanzas. Nothing definite is known about him, although some speculate that he was the famous Shlomo ben Yehudah ibn Gabriol. The zemer concentrates on the requirement to honor the Shabbos with culinary delights and closes with the assurance that the observance of the Shabbos will herald the final Redemption.

וְאָז תִּחְיוּ לְפָנַי, וּתְמַלְאוּ צְפוּנַי, then to thrive before Me and be filled with My hidden bounty. It is said (Tehillim 31:20) מָה רַב טוּבְךָ אֲשֶׁר צָפַנְתָּ לִּירֵאֶיךָ, how abundant is Your goodness that You have stored away for those who fear You. The words   רַב אֲשֶׁר equal in gematria the word שַׁבָּת. This alludes to the idea that the Gemara (Shabbos 10b) states that HaShem told Moshe, “I have a beautiful treasure in My treasure house and it is called Shabbos. Go and inform them.” The hidden bounty mentioned our passage here can allude to the Shabbos itself.

Shabbos Stories

Know Your Place!

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: In the mid 1800’s, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel of Aishishok served as the Rav of the town of Rassein, a small village near Kownus, Lithuania. A brilliant scholar and the author of the Amudei Aish, the community revered him and afforded him the utmost respect. Unfortunately, the Czar government of that era had different visions for a rabbi and appointed their own lackey, a puppet of the state known as a Rav Mitaam. The Rav Mitaam served as the official liaison to the Russian Government, and any official dictate or transaction having to do with Judaism went only through the Rav Mitaam. Unfortunately for that Rabbi, the townsfolk knew of his very limited capabilities, and relegated him to a seat in the middle of the congregation near the Bimah as opposed to the traditional place up front near the Holy Ark. But one week the young designate decided that he had enough. He wanted to be afforded the same dignity as Rabbi Avraham Shmuel. He woke up early that Shabbos and came to shul before anyone arrived. He sat himself down in the seat designated for Rabbi Avraham Shmuel next to the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark). No one had the nerve to say anything to him for fear of government reprisal. During that era, immediately before Musaf, all congregations throughout Russia said a special prayer on behalf of the Government and Czar Nikolai. That week the chazzan, it is not known whether it was an orchestrated ploy or a lapse in memory, forgot to say the prayer. He was about to continue with the Musaf service when suddenly an elderly Jew, a former cantonist soldier who was captured as a youngster and forced to serve in the Czar’s army for many years, jumped up from his seat and charged toward the front of the synagogue. He began raining blows on the official designated rabbi, the Rav Mitaam. “What kind of Rabbi are you!” he shouted. “How dare you allow the chazzan to forget the prayer on behalf of our benevolent leader? I served the Czar faithfully for twenty years and you forget to bless him?!” The congregants joined the fray, some trying to separate the older soldier from the bedazzled rabbi, others getting in the blows they always longed to afford the government appointed rabbi. It was not long before the police arrived, and arrested the soldier, who was dragged out of the synagogue, yelling and hollering about the lack of honor afforded his Majesty. “After all the years I worked for the czar, I will not allow this poor excuse for a rabbi, to belittle the dignity of His Majesty!” The local policeman could not decide the fate of the soldier who struck a government official, to defend the honor of the Czar. Finally, the case was brought to the Governor General of the region who asked the “rabbi” to defend his inaction. “You see,” stammered the Rabbi, “I was sitting very far from the Bimah and I truly did not hear the chazzan skip, the prayer. After all, I was sitting next to the Holy Ark all the way up front!” The decision came down from the governor’s office. No more would the official Rabbi be allowed to sit up front. From now on, he must sit amongst the people to make sure that all the prayers are said correctly. (

Shabbos in Halacha

Opening Food Packages

 II Practical Applications

As we mentioned previously, it is preferable that one opens all containers and packages prior to Shabbos. The following procedures should be followed in the event that one inadvertently did not open the container prior to Shabbos.

  1. Milk Cartons

One who opens the spout of a milk or orange juice carton violates the prohibition of קןרע, tearing, and עשיית פתח, fashioning an opening. However, one is allowed to puncture the bottom of the container, rendering it unfit for further use, and to open the spout afterward, to pour the contents into another vessel.


Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Korach 5776

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New Stories Korach 5776

Stories of Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l

Rabbi Tzvi Pruzansky

Giving Shalom

First, let me preface my remarks by saying that when I was a young bochur in Philadelphia, bochurim would frequently go to Lakewood.  And whenever a bochur returned, the question was: “Did you give shalom to Reb Aharon?”

It was a whole shailah of how to go about it.  Did you try and bump into him, or did you let him bump into you?  It was poshut a moirah – it was awesome to give him shalom.

So when the bochur would come back, he’d tell his friends, “Yes, Reb Aharon was waiting by the tea room,” or “Reb Aharon was waiting outside, and then I gave him shalom.”

He was such a malach Elokim that you were simply afraid to go and give him shalom.

I used to come to Lakewood for Simchas Torah.  For the first few years, I would never give shalom.  I would walk by and say “Gut Yom Tov” like everyone else because I followed the crowd, but to give him shalom was frightening.  I can’t ever recall feeling that with any other Gadol.

Summer in Lakewood

Before I actually became a talmid, I spent the summers of ’58 and ’59 in Lakewood.  I originally came to learn a little extra, and I ended up in a day camp here run by a Lakewood yungerman, Avraham Shachne Zucker.

What struck me then was that when Reb Aharon would come into the dining room Friday night, before he’d make kiddush, he’d stop into the kitchen to say “Gut Shabbos” to the cook.  Her name was Mrs. Shoenig, a widow.  In anticipation of Reb Aharon’s coming, she would straighten out her apron and would pull down her tichel to make sure that not a hair stuck out.  It was a hachana for the gadol hador.  You could see that for her, it was worth her whole week’s work just to get that personal “Gut Shabbos” from Reb Aharon.  Only after that would he come and say kiddush for everyone.

At the Shabbos tish, everyone spoke in learning the whole time.  After we grew up, one of the older boys told me, “‘Es chatoi ani mazker ha yom.’ We couldn’t understand why Reb Aharon wouldn’t let us just eat a little bit and enjoy the seudah.”  The reason was, for Reb Aharon, life was learning.  There was no division between time for learning and time for enjoyment.  The oneg Shabbos was learning.  Noch a chiddush.  Noch a chiddush.  Noch a vort.  Noch a vort.

Simchas Torah

Later, when I used to go to Lakewood for Simchas Torah, I would watch Reb Aharon.  He would stand in his place, but by “Moshe Emes v’Toraso Emes,” he would jump up a little bit.  That minhag is brought down in seforim, but really, we followed Reb Aharon.  He was an elderly man, and didn’t jump high, but the olam exaggerated it and we all jumped up as high as we could.

There was also a minhag that the Rosh Yeshiva would carry the Sefer Torah from the dining room to the Bais Medrash.  In those years, the Bais Medrash was on 7th Street and Forest Avenue.  The dining room was on 6th Street and Private Way, so when everyone left the dining room on leyl Simchas Torah to daven Maariv, they would dance and sing “Si’u She’arim Rosheichem.” Reb Aharon, in his humility, didn’t feel they should do all this for him, so they brought along the Sefer Torah, and it was as if they were dancing in front of the Sefer Torah, [and not him.]  That’s where this minhag started with dancing.

Later on, it was no longer relevant because those buildings were closed, but such a minhag once existed.  I know that Rav Schneur wanted to continue that minhag of “Si’u She’arim Rosheichem.”  It was actually one of the biggest things in town on Simchas Torah.  The whole town came out to see it – women and children – and it was a big simcha.

The Dedication of a New Yeshiva Building

In 1960, when I was a talmid in Philadelphia, they dedicated the new building and Reb Aharon came to give a shiur.  It was on Kesuba, whether it’s d’oraisa or not.  There were mareh mekomos put up, and we’d try to follow along, but how could we follow such a genius?  He spoke with lightning speed.  I couldn’t even mimic the words at the speed at which he would talk, let alone follow along with my mind.  I remember that once there was a senator sitting in the front of the Bais Medrash.  I’m sure he didn’t understand a word Reb Aharon was saying, but he was transfixed.  And as Reb Aharon gave the shiur, his face mamesh turned red.  It was red from the fire of the Torah.

At that particular shiur, Reb Elya asked a kashe nobody knew.  He asked it quickly, and Reb Aharon answered it instantly, without pausing for a second.  Later that day, we asked one of the older bochurim asked, “What was Reb Elya’s comment?” He explained, “Reb Elya said, ‘Rabbi Akiva Eiger zugt fakert.” Reb Aharon immediately understood which comment of Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s Reb Elya had meant and answered that this apparent contradiction was not so difficult to understand.

A Shidduch and a Bris

My mother was close to Reb Aharon and the Rebbetzin because she was the shadchanta for Rav Yankev Katz and Gruneh.  Rav Yankev Katz didn’t show up on the first date.  There they were waiting.  The Rosh Yeshiva was waiting and the kallah was waiting, but he never came, and he didn’t even call.  But he did call the next day, and my mother said, “Ersht, muz ich dir unshrayen, then you’ll tell me your excuse.”

His excuse was that there was snow and he couldn’t even get to a telephone.  But the shidduch went through, and because my mother was the shadchanta, she became close with the Rosh Yeshiva and the Rebbetzin. As a result, she heard some of the Rosh Yeshiva’s stories.

One story was in the town of Kletzk.  There was going to be a bris, but the father of the baby was on a trip, so they gave the honor of sandek to Reb Aharon.  While sitting there in the sandek’s chair, the father walked into shul.  So Reb Aharon got up from the seat and said, “Es belongt tzu dir.”

A Big Gevir

Another story I remember about Reb Aharon took place one year when I was in Lakewood for Simchas Torah.  There was a big gevir – I think his name was Morgenstern – who pledged a lot of money. First, he pledged $5,000 to the yeshiva that the olam should learn Shas.  And I remember Yankel Schiff said, “The olam should get the money.”

Then he pledged $5,000 more to the yeshiva if Reb Aharon would learn 25 blatt. Reb Aharon, who was learning by the shtender, learned the 25 blatt right there on the spot.  Those were the years when Irving Bunim was still alive.  The Simchas Torah celebration was big back then. All the baalei batim came.  They would sell “Atah Horaisa” and many different honors, but in the year that this gevir made all those pledges, he passed away.  It was a gevaldige zchus for him. (


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