Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Eikev 5776

Eikev 5776

New Stories Eikev 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim


Eikev 5776

On Shabbos One Indulges in the Physical on a Higher Plane


At the end of last week’s parashah it is said (Devarim 7:11) vishamarta es hamitzvah vies hachukim vies hamishpatim asher anochi mitzvavcha hayom laasosam, you shall observe the commandment, and the decrees and the ordinances that I command you today, to perform them. Rashi writes that that the inference of the words hayom laasosam, today to perform them, is that today, i.e. in this world, one is obligated to perform the mitzvos, whereas the reward is only in the World to Come. The Baal HaTurim in this week’s parashah, Eikev, notes the juxtaposition of the words hayom laasosam to the words vehayah eikev tishmiun, this shall be the reward when you hearken… This teaches us that the reward for the mitzvos that we perform is eikev, loosely translated as the end, i.e. in the World to Come. The Gemara (Brachos 57b) states that Shabbos is a semblance of the World to Come. One must wonder that if Shabbos is truly a semblance of the World to Come, then why is it that all of our actions on Shabbos revolve around the physical, such as eating and drinking, and according to some, sleeping? Is not the World to Come a place where there is no physical indulgence, as the Gemara (Ibid 17a) states: in the World to Come there is no eating and no drinking? Rather, the righteous sit with their crowns on their heads and delight in the radiance of the Divine Presence. This being the case, it would seem that there is no need to indulge in physical pleasures on Shabbos, as one should seek to maximize this ether-worldly experience.

Walking on Shabbos is Different Than the Week

Perhaps the resolution of this enigma can be found in the word eikev. Rashi quotes the Sifri that states that the word eikev means heel, and thus the verse can be interpreted as follows: vehayah eikev tishmiun, if you perform the mitzvos that are normally trampled on by ones eikev, heel, then you will receive all the blessings that I have promised to your forefathers. There are various opinions regarding the nature of these mitzvos that one tramples with his heel. Some opinions maintain that the mitzvos referred to here are the mitzvos that one literally performs with his feet, such as plowing and threshing and other mitzvos which relate to tilling the land. Other opinions maintain that Rashi is referring to mitzvos that people may consider routine, such as reciting blessings and donning tzitzis and Tefillin. I would like to suggest in the context of these verses that the Torah is alluding to Shabbos, as regarding Shabbos it is said (Yeshaya 58:13) im tashiv miShabbos raglecho, if you restrain your foot because it is the Shabbos. The Gemara (Shabbos 113a) derives from this verse that one should not walk on Shabbos in the same manner as he walks during the week. Furthermore, the commentators write that the word regel, literally defined as leg, can also allude to hergel, that which one is accustomed to. On Shabbos one is supposed to indulge in physical actions, albeit in a different manner than during the week.

The Shabbos Connection

This can be the explanation of the statement that Shabbos is a semblance of the World to Come. On Shabbos one may eat, drink and sleep, but by declaring that his actions are lekavod Shabbos Kodesh, for the sake of the Holy Shabbos, he has deviated from his normal routine, and thus he is akin to one who resides in the World to Come. The reason for this is because essentially, the World to Come is a reflection of how one elevated the physical in this world to a spiritual plane. When one acts in a different manner on Shabbos than during the week, he is elevating the physical to the realm of the spiritual, and this is akin to the World to Come. May we all merit the day that will be completely Shabbos and rest day for eternal life.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Dror Yikra

The composer was Dunash ben Librat, the famed medieval grammarian and paytan who lived from 4680-4750 (920990 C.E.). He was born in Baghdad and, except for twenty years in Fez, lived there his entire life. He was a nephew and disciple of Rabbeinu Saadiah Gaon and was acquainted with many of the Sages of his time. Rashi and Ibn Ezra quote him extensively. His name appears four times as the acrostic of the stiches in stanzas 1,2,3, and 6. This zemer is a prayer to HaShem to protect the Jewish People, destroy its tormentors, and bring the Nation peace and redemption.

נְטַע שׂוֹרֵק בְּתוֹךְ כַּרְמִי. שְׁעֵה שַׁוְעַת בְּנֵי עַמִּי, plant a branch within my vineyard, turn to the outcry of my people! What is the association between planting a branch in a vineyard and listening to the plea of the Jewish People? I believe I found the answer to this question while reading the Book INCREDIBLE! By Rabbi Nachman Seltzer. The narrative is about the life of the CEO of Arachim, Rabbi Yossi Wallis, and the INCREDIBLE events in his forebear’s history. I strongly recommend that you read the book, and you will see how powerful it is for a Jew to “plant a branch” in the vineyard of Judaism, i.e. to adhere to the Torah’s principles and to faith in HaShem, so that one’s progeny will flourish. When one plants that branch in the vineyard, one can then expect HaShem to listen to the outcry of His people.

Shabbos Stories

Fish for Shabbos

It was Sivan of 5567/1807, and thousands of joyous Chasidim were anticipating the wedding that would unite two illustrious dynasties. The chassan, Reb Yekusiel Zalman, was the son of Reb Yosef Bunim Wallis, who was the son-in-law of the great Jewish defender, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. Reb Yekusiel was soon to be wed to Baila, who was the daughter of Reb Dov Ber, later known as the Mittler Rebbe, who was the son of the Baal HaTanya, Reb Schneur Zalman of Liadi. The town of Zhlobin was chosen as the setting for the wedding, as many of the Baal HaTanya’s Chasidim resided in Zhlobin, which was also equidistant from the towns of Berditchev and Liadi. The Chupah was going to take place on Friday afternoon, as was the custom in those times, and the festive meal would follow on Friday night. On the morning of the wedding day, the Rebbetzen of the Baal HaTanya had a complaint. While the Rebbetzen was willing to prepare the entire Friday night meal, as the custom was that the meal would be prepared by the kallah’s side, there was one slight problem. There was no fish available, and what would a Shabbos wedding meal be without fish? Furthermore, the Rebbetzen had heard that Reb Levi Yitzchak had a custom to always eat fish at a Seudas mitzvah, a festive meal, and if there was no fish, he would recite Kiddush and HaMotzi and not partake in the remainder of the meal. This would surely be unfitting for such a joyous occasion. When Reb Schneur Zalman heard of the dilemma, he declared that Reb Levi Yitzchak himself should be consulted. When Reb Levi Yitzchak heard about the problem, he asked in wonder, “Could it be that there will not be fish for Shabbos? Are there no rivers in this town?” The messenger of the Rebbetzen responded, “the Dnieper River flows nearby, but the river does not have fish.” The Heilegeh Berditchever summoned a horse and buggy and he then sent a message inviting his mechutan, The Baal HaTanya, to join him at the banks of the river. When they arrived at the river, Reb Levi Yitzchak removed a handkerchief and waved it over the river, all the while murmuring verses from the zemer Azamer b’Shvuchin, the famous zemer of the Arizal that is sung Friday night. Reb Levi Yitzchak then called out the words “vinunin urachashin,” which is Aramaic for fish and meat. Suddenly, schools of fish cane swimming towards them from all directions. People ran to get their nets, and soon their buckets were filled with fish, in honor of the Holy Shabbos.

Shabbos in Halacha

קושר ומתיר, – Tying and Untying Knots

 Tying and untying knots are forbidden under the Avos Melachos of קושר, tying, and מתיר, untying. The halachos of tying and untying involve many details, including what is deemed a knot and differences between permanent and temporary knots. Such a discussion is beyond the scope of this work; we will merely point out several common applications of these prohibitions in the modern kitchen.

Untying Knots

 One is prohibited to untie a plastic bag that has been tied with one of the forbidden knots mentioned above. Rather, to remove the contents of such a bag, one must tear open the bag. (One must avoid tearing any letters or pictures that are printed on the bag).

One may not untie a string that is tied around a parcel. One should, if possible, slide the string off the parcel without tearing it. If this cannot be done, one may tear the string or cut the string in a destructive manner.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Eikev 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 Eikev 5776

Rebbetzin Jungreis and My Greatness Meter

As the Jewish world mourns her death, I’ll never forget my encounter with this truly great woman.

by Sara Yoheved Rigler

One of the greatest lights of the Jewish people in our age has been extinguished. With the passing of Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis yesterday, our world has become dimmer.

Several years ago I was asked to be the emcee at a charity event for women. Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis had agreed to be the main speaker–at no charge to the organization. Her name was a huge draw, and they expected hundreds of women to attend the event, to be held at a major Jerusalem hotel.

I had never met Rebbetzin Jungreis. The day before the event, she allowed me to interview her for at Jerusalem’s Hineni headquarters. I had written a bestselling book about a great woman, so I knew how to gage real greatness. When you’re in the presence of a truly great person, she gives you her full attention as if you’re the only person in the world for her at that moment. Sitting across from Rebbetzin Jungreis during the interview, the metaphorical “needle of my greatness meter” was jumping so far to the right that I felt like we were the only two people on the planet.

The tzedaka organization holding the event had no professional staff. It was run by two women volunteers who had founded this organization and were eager to see it grow. They were idealistic and kind, but they had had no experience organizing such a large event.

They planned a program and apprised me of what they expected me to do as the emcee. I was to speak for fifteen minutes, explaining what the organization does. Then there would be a ten-minute video with testimonials of people who had been helped by the organization. Then they wanted me to launch a new project. I was to explain the need for this project and then designated women would circulate through the tables getting volunteers to sign up to work on it. Then I was to give a five-minute introduction of Rebbetzin Jungreis.

The chance to hear Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis drew many more women than expected. They ran out of seats. They ran out of refreshments. With all the chaos, the event started late.

When I was finally given the signal to start, I walked up to the podium on the stage. I gave my 15-minute speech about the organization. The video, after a couple false starts, played. Then I introduced the new project. While the volunteers were circulating through the tables trying to get women to sign up, the crowd started to get restless. They had come only to hear Rebbetzin Jungreis. With no food to eat and the program stretching on endlessly, some people started to shout, “We want to hear Rebbetzin Jungreis! We want Rebbetzin Jungreis!”

I stood helplessly at the podium. They didn’t boo me and they didn’t throw rotten tomatoes, but I felt like they did. I looked at the organization heads, but they were determined to wait until the process of signing up volunteers for the new project was completed. The jeering and catcalls got louder. When they finally gave me the nod, I announced that Rebbetzin Jungreis needs no introduction, and I fled, humiliated, from the stage.

As I walked to my seat, Rebbetzin Jungreis approached me. She clasped my hands in both of her hands, looked me in the eye, smiled at me, and started telling me, in her melodious, Hungarian-accented voice, what a good job I had done. As if there weren’t a thousand restless women waiting for her, as if there was no one in the hall except her and me, she went on encouraging me and praising me. I felt like a popped balloon suddenly re-inflated and rising into the air.

My greatness meter simply exploded. (

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Vaeschanan-Nachamu Inspiration 5776

This week’s parasha, Vaeschanan, is referred to as Shabbos Nachamu because of the Haftorah that we read which begins with the words (Yeshaya 40:1) נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ עַמִּי יֹאמַר א-ֱלֹהֵיכֶם, comfort, comfort My people, says your G-d.  We must wonder, however, if the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed on account of our sins, why does HaShem offer us comfort? In a simple sense we can suggest that because we are in a state of mourning over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash, we require comfort. On a deeper level, however, we can suggest that the first time the expression נחמה is mentioned in the Torah regarding a person who suffered bereavement is by יצחק. It is said (Bereishis 24:67) וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ וַיִּנָּחֵם יִצְחָק אַחֲרֵי אִמּוֹ, and Yitzchak brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother; he married Rivka, she became his wife, and he loved her; and thus was Yitzchak consoled after his mother. It is noteworthy that the words נחמו נחמו equal in gematria the word יצחק. It would seem that Yitzchak is the symbol of comfort. Indeed, the Gemara (Shabbos 89b) states that in the future only Yitzchok will be able to properly defend the Jewish People. Thus, here we are invoking the merit of Yitzchak before HaShem to comfort us and bring us redemption. What still needs to be understood is why Yitzchok is the paradigm of comfort and redemption. The answer to this question is that Yitzchak was almost sacrificed at the עקידה, and this was a portent for the massacres and persecutions that the Jewish People would undergo throughout history. It is further noteworthy that the first letters of the words נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ עַמִּי יֹאמַר equal in gematria 180, the years of Yitzchak’s life.

HaShem should truly comfort us and we should merit the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu speedily, in our days.

Have a COMFORTING Shabbos

Rabbi Adler

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Vaeschanan-Nachamu 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 773.236.1761
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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vaeschanan-Nachamu 5776

Vaeschanan-Nachamu 5776

New Stories Vaeschanan-Nachamu 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vaeschanan-Nachamu 5776

Only HaShem can Truly Comfort us


This week is referred to as Shabbos Nachamu, the Shabbos of Consolation. One must wonder where the consolation is. We just finished mourning the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash and our long and bitter exile, and now we are accepting consolation? How can we understand this apparent paradox? Let us take a closer look at destruction and exile and then we can begin to better understand comfort and consolation. When one witnesses destruction and devastation, what is the initial reaction? Certainly one feels that if he has reached this point, there is no hope left for him. Yet, it is obvious that such thinking is not rational, because if something was truly destroyed, there would really be no point in mourning its loss. We are accustomed to mourning and grieving as if there is no return, but those who acknowledge the truth of this transient world know that nothing is ever really lost, and one cannot mourn something forever. One is commanded to mourn and grieve over the loss of a loved one, but as the Ramban writes in Toras HaAdam, we all know that it has been decreed that every man who enters this world must die. This being the case, why do we cry when someone passes away? The Ramban offers us a brilliant insight into the purpose of creation. If Adam HaRishon, the first man, had not sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, he would have lived for eternity. Once HaShem decreed that man had to die, we cry for the lost potential of every person.

Only HaShem can Truly Comfort us

Let us apply this idea to the mourning that we experience for the Bais HaMikdash and the exile. When we sit down on the floor on Tisha Ba’Av and mourn for our loss, we are in essence mourning for the lost potential of the Jewish People. We lament the fact that we cannot experience closeness to HaShem, offer sacrifices to Him, and be in a constant state of awareness that HaShem controls everything in the world. How can we be consoled in this state of mourning? We must draw a parallel to the person who is in mourning for a loved one. The one closest to him has just passed on and immediately people come and console him. Do we deem this sort of consolation to be odd? We know that not only is this behavior acceptable, it is actually required by the Shulchan Aruch, the Jewish Code of Law. Similarly, after lamenting our current state of affairs in the exile, we are required to be comforted. Who, however, can comfort us? Scripture itself provides the answer to this question. It is said (Eicha 2:13) mah aideich mah adameh loch habas Yerushalayim mah ashveh loch vanachmeich besulas bas Tziyon ki gadol kayam shivreich mi yirpah loch, with what shall I bear witness for you? To what can I compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? To what can I liken you that I may comfort you, O maiden daughter of Zion? Your ruin is as vast as the sea. The Medrash (Eicha Rabbah 2:17) states: The One Who will in the future heal the ruin of the sea will heal you. Thus, the words “who can heal you?” refers to Hashem. The Only One Who can truly offer us consolation is HaShem.

The Shabbos Connection

In Bircas HaMazon on Shabbos we recite the words uvirtzoncha haniach lanu HaShem Elokeinu shelo sihay tzarah yagon vanacha beyom menuchaseinu, may it be Your will, HaShem, our G-d, that there be no distress, grief, or lament on this day of our contentment. One may wonder how it is possible that there should not be distress and grief on Shabbos if we are still in exile and we still mourn the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. The answer to this question can be found in the next passage, where we recite the words vihareinu HaShem Elokeinu binechemas Tziyon irecho uvivinyan Yerushalayim ir kadshecho ki atah baal hayeshuos uvaal hanechamos, and show us, HaShem, our G-d, the consolation of Zion, Your city, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, City of Your holiness, for You are the Master of salvations and Master of consolations. Thus, we see that HaShem is the Only One Who can truly console us, and this fact warrants our request that we not experience any distress or grief on the Holy Shabbos. With this thought in mind we can better understand why we refer to this Shabbos as Shabbos Nachamu, the Shabbos of Consolation, because Shabbos is beyond exile and destruction, and in the merit of Shabbos observance we will witness the Ultimate Redemption, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Dror Yikra

The composer was Dunash ben Librat, the famed medieval grammarian and paytan who lived from 4680-4750 (920990 C.E.). He was born in Baghdad and, except for twenty years in Fez, lived there his entire life. He was a nephew and disciple of Rabbeinu Saadiah Gaon and was acquainted with many of the Sages of his time. Rashi and Ibn Ezra quote him extensively. His name appears four times as the acrostic of the stiches in stanzas 1,2,3, and 6. This zemer is a prayer to HaShem to protect the Jewish People, destroy its tormentors, and bring the Nation peace and redemption.

דְּרוֹשׁ נָוִי וְאוּלַמִּי. וְאוֹת יֶשַׁע עֲשֵׂה עִמִּי, seek my Temple and my hall, and show me a sign of salvation. This passage appears to be puzzling. Is it not the other way around, that we beseech HaShem for a sign of salvation which will culminate in the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash? The answer to this question is that here we are focusing on the goal, which is that we have the Bais HaMikdash which is a site of דרישה, seeking out HaShem, as it is said (Devarim 12:5) לְשִׁכְנוֹ תִדְרְשׁוּ וּבָאתָ שָּׁמָּה, there shall you seek out His presence and come there. For this reason, we first request that HaShem seek out the Bais HaMikdash, and in that manner we will witness our salvation through prayer and the offering of sacrifices.

Shabbos Stories

Studying Torah and reviewing one’s studies

Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: In his preface to Peas Shulchan, R’ Yisrael Shklover writes of his master and teacher, the Gaon of Vilna, “He reviewed all of Talmud Bavli every month. His toil in the study of the holy Torah defies description. He would review each chapter and masechta (tractate) hundreds, and even thousands of times. Out of immense love for the holy Torah, he once spent a long winter night reviewing over and over a single Mishna in Seder Taharos.” (Quoted in For Love of Torah p. 76)

Sefer Toldos HaAdam (by R’ Yechezkel Feivel of Vilna, Dyhrenfurth 1801) writes: R’ Leib, son of R’ Ber of Vilna, related to me: Once his father R’ Ber watched as the tzaddik R’ Zalman (of Volozhin, brother of R’ Chaim) paced back and forth in a room, as was his way, studying and reviewing a Torah thought with wondrous desire and powerful love, in a clear sweet voice that was music to one’s ear. The soul of the listener was aroused to love of Hashem and a desire for wisdom and spiritual guidance. He reviewed the thought once, twice, three times, fifty times, one hundred times… until one lost count! All this was with a joyous heart and boundless love, which mere words cannot describe.

R’ Ber observed in silent wonder. In his heart, he thought, “Torah, Torah, how great is the love in ‘’ Zalman’s heart for you! It is a consuming fire!” He then grabbed hold of R’ Zalman and said, “My brother, whose soul and flesh is part of me, by the love that exists between us, I demand you tell me how many times you reviewed this matter!”

When R’ Zalman saw the way that R’ Ber was imploring him to reveal the absolute truth, he told him, “In truth, I have reviewed the matter two-hundred and fifty times.” [Ibid]

It was not a light matter, as far as R’ Zalman was concerned, to review his studies four or five hundred times. He would remind himself of Chazal’s allegory (Eiruvin 54b), “Just as a hunter who captures birds, if he breaks their wings [so that they will not fly away], then they are secure with him. If not, they will fly away from him… [so too a student must review his studies as soon as he learns them, or else he will forget them].” He used to say that this allegory can arouse one’s soul from its laziness in reviewing one’s studies. [Ibid]

Sefer Menuchah U-Kedushah writes: “I have heard that the Gaon of Vilna would submit a prospective disciple to the following test (to determine if his soul had been sufficiently purified to taste the sweetness of the Torah): He would instruct him to review a given matter many times. If the more he reviewed, the more its love grew in his heart, inspiring him to continue to review without interruption – with this he found favor in the Gaon’s eyes to be accepted as his disciple.” [Ibid]

This Friday is the fifteenth of Av. Chazal say (Taanis 31a), “From now on (from the 15th of Av through the winter) he who increases (his hours of Torah study as the nights grow longer) adds (days to his life). But he who does not increase (the hours of his Torah study) decreases (the days of his life).” As our hours for Torah study increase, we must be sure to set aside ample time for proper chazarah/review.

Meriting giving charity

Rabbi Hoffman writes further: The holy Rebbe, R’ Zisha of Anipoli zt”l would, as a young man, study Torah for hours and days on end without ever breaking for a meal. Only when he felt so weakened by his fasting that he could no longer learn, would he allow himself to ask one of the local baalei batim to be so gracious as to give him a meal. At some stage, R’ Zisha came to feel that asking someone for a meal was in some small way a breech in his faith, and that if he truly believed Hashem takes care of all his needs, then Hashem knows when he needs to eat, and could take care of him without his needing to ask for it. He decided that he would no longer ask anyone for a meal, but would rely that when the need arose, someone surely would offer him on their own accord. For a time this is exactly what transpired: Whenever R’ Zisha felt extreme pangs of hunger, someone would inevitably offer him a meal.

After a few months, however, a problem arose. There was no one around that in the Almighty’s eyes deserved to perform such a holy and exceptional mitzvah as to sustain the very life of a great and holy tzaddik! You don’t just give away such mitzvos for nothing. Lacking the right “agent,” Hashem implanted two spigots within the tzaddik’s mouth; from one he would suckle milk, and from the other honey. Thus he was sustained for three full months, until someone (evidently a very worthy individual) came up to him, threw him a few coins, and said, “Zisha, take these – you look like you need a good meal!” This unbelievable story was related by R’ Zisha himself to R’ Avraham Mordechai of Pintshov zt”l, and recorded by his son-in-law R’ Yitzchak Isaac of Kamarna zt”l in his Heichal Beracha.

Equally fascinating is the lesson R’ Yitzchak Isaac derives from the story. Imagine, he says, that given the choice, Hashem would “rather” perform an extraordinary miracle, than to allow someone the merit of performing an exceptional mitzvah he doesn’t deserve! Although there were many Jews through whom the Almighty could easily have sustained R’ Zisha, He chose to take care of the matters Himself, until such a time as someone truly worthy of this great mitzvah arose.

Having made this point, R’ Yitzchak Isaac beseeches the wealthy and magnanimous Jews of his time to realize that simply having money – and even giving generously to charity – is not enough. He encourages them to “get up early in the mornings, say Tehillim, examine their deeds, and implore the Almighty” to lead them on a path of charity and righteousness, that they may indeed merit giving generously and wholeheartedly, and that their money finds its way to worthy and virtuous recipients. (

Shabbos in Halacha

קושר ומתיר, – Tying and Untying Knots

 Tying and untying knots are forbidden under the Avos Melachos of קושר, tying, and מתיר, untying. The halachos of tying and untying involve many details, including what is deemed a knot and differences between permanent and temporary knots. Such a discussion is beyond the scope of this work; we will merely point out several common applications of these prohibitions in the modern kitchen.

Tying Knots

When one stores food in a plastic bag or when filling a garbage bag, one is forbidden to gather the top of the bag and tie it onto itself in a single knot. One is permitted to gather two parts of a bag and tie them to each other in a single knot, but not in a double knot. One is also forbidden to tie something with a single knot that has a bow on top. [Although one is permitted to tie shoes with a single knot and bow, one is prohibited from tying bags in such a manner. One is allowed to use a plastic twist-tie on Shabbos to securely close a bag.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Vaeschanan-Nachamu 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 Vaeschanan-Nachamu 5776

God Winking

Showing up to the imperfect unpredictable mess of life.

by Ilana Rubenstein

There’s a saying “Man plans and God laughs”. I don’t agree. I think it’s more “Man plans and God winks,” only sometimes the wink feels a bit more like an eye twitch. The way your lid flutters when you’re overtired. So it makes it a little harder to see the wink. I had one of those moments last week.

It really started months ago when we began to plan our annual family trip to the cottage. And by family I mean me and my daughter, who would be visiting my sisters, brother-in-law and nieces. As a shared custody co-parent, my planning is a bit on steroids. The timing needs to fit with many people’s needs, wants and agreements. And not only that, there’s a lot of pressure to “make it count”. One of the ways I’ve been able to swallow the (unexpected) reality of days on and days off, is vowing to “make every moment count”. If there were going to be times I wasn’t going to be there, then I wasn’t going to miss a second when I could be present. There was even a day I turned to God and said, “Okay, mission accepted: no parenting opportunity will be missed on my watch”.

Right. So, like, no pressure.

So the summer vacation stakes were high. As in, this was going to be the cottage week of the summer. Pinterest would be put to shame with the crafting we had in store. Menus were mapped out. If planning is the way we try to guarantee success, I was on my A-game. You can see where this is going.

The morning of our departure my daughter complained of a “slightly sore throat”. No big deal. This is the stuff of almost every other week over the past 10 years of her life. It’s rarely strep. Besides, we had a plan. I checked out walk-in clinics in the cottage area (parental due diligence done) and set out with a car packed to the roof.

Here comes the wink. Picture it, the first night, 2 AM: “Mommy, I don’t feel well, my head hurts.”

I limp half asleep to find the Tylenol. No fever. Just in pain. “Mommy, I can’t sleep.”

It was the truth. She couldn’t and didn’t. Therefore, neither did I. And so cottage dreams and perfectly-planned moments instantly dissolve. To every “Mommy” uttered, an internal dialogue went something like this: “Really? Now? Of all weeks? All days? Come on!”

The next few days were spent shuttling between the beach, the pharmacy and confirming that it was viral. No quick fix. We’ve all heard the “plenty of rest and fluids” prescription (aka “Mom, you’ve just got to ride this out with your kid”). Sigh.  So the only thing for me to do was be there. Show up.

This wasn’t about me deciding how to make the most of the moment. It was about the moment making the most of me.

In all the chaos of cottage plans gone south, the only plans we had consisted of my daughter’s basic fluid-rest-and-get-to-bed-needs for the next couple of hours. All the energy we expend to “make it count” is never really the job. This wasn’t about me deciding how to make the most of the moment. It was about the moment making the most of me. It is no small privilege to be present. We spend so much time worrying–thinking–analyzing our kids, our parenting, that we forget to simply be. Sometimes it’s not about saying the right thing or finding the proper approach, it’s simply about being the one who is there.

I’m not backing down from my “make-it-count-commitment”. Somewhere between giving birth and signing that separation agreement, I made that promise. But maybe part of it is also to let go so we can simply be. With ourselves. With our kids. With God. The endless stream of shoulds and coulds, the tally of plans and try-to-get-it-right agendas can be blinding. When we are busy remembering the “10 tips” of the day, it’s hard to see the winks. When we try so hard to get it right, we get one thing wrong: it’s not about getting it right. Or planning. It’s about showing up with all the imperfect unpredictable mess of life.

And that includes missed moments, unexpected sore throats, and certainly hard-to-swallow life events. This is not unique to shared-custody parenting. We all have realities we try to manage; challenges we attempt to contain. And, yet, when we plan, well, things rarely go as we expect. And if we are willing to show up, we will see God winking. (

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Devarim-Chazon Inspiration 5776

This Shabbos is referred to as Shabbos Chazon, the Shabbos of vision. The simple explanation for this appellation is that on the Shabbos prior to Tisha Ba’Av we read the Haftorah that begins with the words (Yeshaya 1:1) חֲזוֹן יְשַׁעְיָהוּ בֶן אָמוֹץ, the vision of Yeshaya, the son of Amotz. A deeper explanation, however, can be associated with Parashas Devarim. It is noteworthy that even if Tisha Ba’Av falls on Shabbos, the reading of the Haftorah Chazon will  be read in conjunction with Parashas Devarim. What is the association between Devarim and Chazon?

Balaam, the prophet of the nations, merited many visions. Yet, not only do Balaam’s visions not enable him to grow spiritually, but his visions had the opposite effect on him. Balaam attributed his prescient abilities to himself, never humbling himself before HaShem, the One Who bestows all prophecy and wisdom. This is one sort of vision. Similarly, Korach had a vision where he foresaw his progeny accomplishing great things in the future, with Shmuel’s prophecy being akin to Moshe and Aharon, and the Leviim singing in the Bais HaMikdash. Yet, Korach’s view of himself was flawed, and due to his chasing illusions of grandeur, he and his followers were swallowed alive by the earth.

Our visions must be different than those of charlatans and rabble-rousers. We must have a vision that promotes kindness and truth, and encourages others to come close to Torah and study its teachings. The Medrash (Eicha Rabbah Pesichta) states that HaShem proclaimed, “even if they forsake Me, I hope that they observe My Torah, as the light of the Torah will bring them back to good ways. The Gemara (Megillah 14a) states that all the prophets of the Jewish People were incapable of catalyzing their repentance, until Achashveirosh handed over his signet ring to Haman, and this led to a nation-wide repentance. It is said (Esther 8:16) לַיְּהוּדִים הָיְתָה אוֹרָה וְשִׂמְחָה וְשָׂשׂן וִיקָר, the Jews had light and joy, and gladness and honor, and the Gemara (Ibid 16b) states that אוֹרָה is תּוֹרָה. This teaches us that the true light and the correct vision come from a Torah perspective, not from a jaded perspective of self-aggrandizement.

In the beginning of our parasha it is said (Devarim 1:1) אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל, these are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel, and the Medrash (Devarim Rabbah 1:1) states that prior to receiving the Torah Moshe declared that he was not a man of words, but once Moshe merited receiving the Torah, he was able to speak clearly.  This Medrash teaches us that Torah is the cure to all ailments, and can remove impediments of speech, hearing and vision. When one studies Torah correctly, he can see things that others cannot see.

Moshe commenced his discourse to the Jewish People after he annihilated Sichon and Og. When HaShem removes our enemies, the Evil Inclination and the nations who torment the Jewish People, then we can merit a clear vision. Yeshaya foresaw the calamities that would occur to the Jewish People, and these were caused due to the bad character traits and corruption that existed amongst the people. Nonetheless, it was a vision of prophecy, because through repentance the Jewish people can transform a  bad prophecy to good tidings. (See Rambam Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 10:4). We read this prophecy every year, but this should not cause us to become depressed or despair due to the ominous undertones of the prophecy. Rather, the prophecy should inspire us to repent quickly and then we can merit the vision of which it is said (Yeshaya 52:8)  קוֹל צֹפַיִךְ נָשְׂאוּ קוֹל יַחְדָּו יְרַנֵּנוּ כִּי עַיִן בְּעַיִן יִרְאוּ בְּשׁוּב יְ-ה-ו-ָה צִיּוֹן, The voice of your lookouts, they have raised a voice, together shal they  sing glad song, for every eye shall see, when HaShem retuns to Jerusalem.

Have a CLEAR VISION Shabbos (and if we do not merit the Redemption, meaningful fast)!

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Devarim-Chazon 5776

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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Devarim-Chazon 5776

Devarim-Chazon 5776

New Stories Devarim-Chazon 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Devarim-Chazon 5776

Eicha: A Time to Give, not to Receive


איכה אשא לבדי טרחכם ומשאכם וריבכם, how can I alone carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels? (Devarim 1:12)

In this week’s parasha it is said (Devarim 1:12) eicha esa livadi tarchachem umasachem virivchem, how can I alone carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels? The Medrash (Eicha Rabbah 1:1) notes that there are three instances in Scripture where the word eicha appears. One instance is here in Devarim. The second instance is when Yeshaya (1:21) declares eicha haysah lizonah kiryah nemanah, how the faithful city has become a harlot! The third instance is in the beginning of the Book of Eicha (1:1) which we read on Tisha Ba’Av, where the prophet Yirmiah laments eicha yashvah vadad, alas – she sits in solitude! The Medrash draws a distinction between these three instances of eicha. Moshe witnessed the Jewish People in their glory. Yeshaya knew the Jewish People when they were in a state of rebellion, and Yirmiah observed the people when they were in a state of degradation. This Medrash poses a number of difficulties. First, if Moshe saw the Jewish People in their glory, why did he bemoan the fact that they were contentious and quarrelsome? Second, what is the significance of the word eicha that warrants the Medrash to highlight these three time periods in Jewish history?

The difference between eich and eicha

In order to understand the significance of the word eicha, it is worthwhile to examine the meaning of the word itself. The word eicha is similar to the word eich, with one notable difference. The word eich is in the masculine form, whereas the word eicha appears in the feminine form. The reasons for this difference is beyond the scope of this essay. Nonetheless, the fact that one is in the masculine form and the other is in the feminine form is reflective of a profound insight into the conduct of the Jewish People. When Moshe wondered how he could bear the burden of the Jewish People alone, he was expressing his disappointment in the people’s inability to rise above the pettiness and struggles of one who is always needy. Thus, Moshe was bemoaning the fact that the Jewish People had everything delivered to them on a silver platter, but they could not resist quarrelling with each other and provoking HaShem to anger. Yeshaya, however, saw the Jewish People in a state of rebellion, where they had already fallen from their glory and were wallowing in the gutter. Yirmiah witnessed the Jewish People in their state of degradation, when there was apparently no more hope. Thus, while all three leaders saw the Jewish People in different states of existence, they essentially observed the people when they were on the receiving end and not on the giving end.

Being satisfied with what we have will help us avoid baseless hatred

What message is the Medrash conveying to us? Do we not know that the Jewish People sinned and this brought about the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash and the Land? The answer to this question is that we are being taught a powerful lesson in human nature. When HaShem bestows us with wealth and comforts, it behooves us to appreciate what we have and to be satisfied with our lot. While we always look to HaShem as the Source of all blessings, we cannot become weakened like one who is in constant need of fame and riches. Desiring more than what we have only leads to contentiousness and quarrels with one another. The Gemara (Yoma 9b) states explicitly that the second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred, and one of the catalysts for this hatred is desiring more than what we have.

The Shabbos connection

This Shabbos is referred to as Shabbos Chazon, the Shabbos of vision. We are required to gaze inwards and contemplate the luxuries that HaShem has provided us with and to appreciate those comforts. We can then use our possessions to help others in need, thus fulfilling the verse that states (Yeshaya 1:27) Tziyon bimishpat tipadeh vishaveha bitzedakah, Zion will be redeemed through justice, and those who return to her through righteousness. When we realize that we have everything that we need in the physical realm, we will begin to crave higher levels of spirituality. HaShem will then hear our pleas to restore the glory of Yerushalayim to the days of old, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu and the rebuilding of the Third Bais HaMikdash, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Dror Yikra

The composer was Dunash ben Librat, the famed medieval grammarian and paytan who lived from 4680-4750 (920990 C.E.). He was born in Baghdad and, except for twenty years in Fez, lived there his entire life. He was a nephew and disciple of Rabbeinu Saadiah Gaon and was acquainted with many of the Sages of his time. Rashi and Ibn Ezra quote him extensively. His name appears four times as the acrsostic of the stiches in stanzas 1,2,3, and 6. This zemer is a prayer to HaShem to protect the Jewish People, destroy its tormentors, and bring the Nation peace and redemption.

נְעִים שִׁמְכֶם וְלֹא יֻשְׁבַּת. שְׁבוּ נוּחוּ בְּיוֹם שַׁבָּת, pleasant will be your reputation, never to cease. Rest and be content on the Shabbos day. It is said (Yeshaya 58:14) אָז תִּתְעַנַּג עַל יְ-ה-ו-ָה וְהִרְכַּבְתִּיךָ עַל (במותי) בָּמֳתֵי אָרֶץ וְהַאֲכַלְתִּיךָ נַחֲלַת יַעֲקֹב אָבִיךָ כִּי פִּי יְ-ה-וָ-ה דִּבֵּר, then you will delight in HaShem, and I will mount you astride the heights of the world; I will provide you the heritage of your forefather Yaakov, for the mouth of HaShem has spoken. The Gemara (Shabbos 118a) interprets this verse to mean that one who delights in the Shabbos will receive a boundless heritage. Unlike Avraham and Yitzchak who received from HaShem a limited heritage, Yaakov received a boundless heritage, as regarding Yaakov it is said (Bereishis 14:28) וּפָרַצְתָּ יָמָּה וָקֵדְמָה וְצָפֹנָה וָנֶגְבָּה, you shall spread out powerfully westward, eastward, northward and southward. Perhaps we can suggest that in this passage we declare that one who rests on Shabbos will be נְעִים שִׁמְכֶם, literally translated as “your name will be pleasant.” The name of the Jewish People is יִשְׂרָאֵל, the name that HaShem conferred upon Yaakov, and Yaakov is the one whose reputation spreads far and wide, without limitations.

Shabbos Stories

I’m Eating on Tisha Ba’Av and That’s the Truth!

The Talmud records that the Jewish people went into exile 2,000 years ago because they lacked love one for another. The road of return, therefore, is paved with gentle caring and compassion for each other.

I know that it is Tisha Ba’Av today and I am eating anyway

One of the outstanding mitzvos is “Love of others,” love for another person. The Baal Shem Tov said that inasmuch as God is abstract and in tangible, it may be difficult to develop love for Him. The royal road love to God, said the Baal Shem Tov, is Love of others. Many righteous people excelled in love of others. Perhaps most prominent in Chassidic folklore is Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who was constantly interceding with God on behalf of His people.

For example, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak once encountered a man who was eating on Tisha Ba’Av. “My child,” he said, “you must have forgotten that day is Tisha Ba’Av.”

“No, I know it is Tisha Ba’Av,” the man replied.

“Ah, then you have been instructed by your doctor that you may not fast because of poor health.”

“I am perfectly healthy,” the man said.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak raised his eyes toward heaven. “Master of the universe,” he said. “I have given this man two opportunities to exonerate himself for eating on Tisha Ba’Av, but he is so dedicated to truth that he rejected my offer, even at the risk of incriminating himself…”

Better to be bitten by insects now

The “Tzaddik of Stitchin” would welcome wayfarers into his home and provide them with a place to sleep, even if they were dressed in tattered clothes and covered with the dust of the road. When it was pointed out to him that they might be carrying insects that would infest his bedclothes, the tzaddik said, “The Talmud states that the dead body actually feels the pain of being worm eaten. At that time I will not be able to do anything to the insects that will be irritating me. Is it not better that I take the risk of being bitten by insects in this world, where I can at least brush the insects away, and hope that by merit of the mitzvah of hosting guests, I will be spared the misery after death?”

The Ten Thousand Fund

It started one afternoon when the Rottenbaum family sat down to lunch and they heard a tremendous crash of something heavy falling. They ran to the window, looked out onto the garden below them, and heard a rough voice call from above: “Don’t stick your heads out the window or you’ll be sorry!”

They closed the window and in front of their very noses saw a metal trellis fall heavily to the ground. They recognized it as one of the porch trellises of the Gutman family who lived on the floor above them. Eli Rottenbaum explained excitedly, “Srulie Gutman told me at school that his family are starting to enlarge their apartment. Today the workers came, and from now on they’re sleeping in another apartment.” True, the Gutmans were seen leaving with their suitcases, but they did not say to where or for how long.

Another trellis fell heavily to the ground, on the beautiful garden the Rottenbaums had so lovingly cultivated. Then the thud of heavy equipment shook the entire building, and ear-splitting drilling made everyone cover their ears. The roof shook, and the acrid smell of dust soon filled the air. The apartment building contained only a few families, and the neighbors had always gotten along well. But Mrs. Rottenbaum felt that some part of her neighborly feeling was being torn to bits, together with the clotheslines that were lying on the ground under the weight of the trellises.

“They’re building, they’re building!” exulted the children. But the parents furrowed their brows. The Gutmans had nine children and lived in cramped quarters; it was wonderful that they were finally enlarging their narrow living space. Everyone knew that both Mr. and Mrs. Gutman worked long hours and that making a livelihood was not easy for them. But still, couldn’t they have given advance warning to their neighbors? “If we had known, we could have asked them to tell the workers to take the trellises down safely and put them near the garbage bins… we could have come to an agreement about a break in the work during afternoon rest hours…

The Rottenbaums had no midday rest, neither that day nor the next. Mr. Binyamin Rottenbaum, a teacher, really needed his afternoon rest, as his teaching hours continued late into the evening. He went upstairs and tried to talk to the workmen, but encountered total obduracy on their part… Two more days passed, two very difficult days: construction work lasted from 11 A.M. until 6 P.M., and already their decorative living-room window had cracked deeply and shattered. “Who knows how much the Gutman construction is going to cost us!” someone muttered.

That night, Binyamin Rottenbaum ran into Yankele Gutman. Yankele poured out his heart: he had made the decision to start construction at the last minute because he’d found a contractor who gave him a really good price, but the catch was that they’d have to begin immediately or the price would go up. That’s why they’d left in such a rush and didn’t have the chance to talk to their neighbors. He’d signed a contract with a shrewd contractor who promised to complete the work as soon as possible, maximum three months.

“Friends told me,” said Yankele, “that the contractor is liable to take advantage of the fact that I don’t have certification and all the proper papers yet, by taking on inexperienced workers, since I won’t be able to lodge a complaint against him. But so far, everything seems to be going smoothly.”

Going smoothly! Maybe for the Gutmans, but certainly not for the Rottenbaums. Binyamin bit his lip, but Yankele continued with his list of woes, mainly money problems. He looked terribly haggard and troubled, and Binyamin felt sorry for him. A few days later when the two ran into each other, Binyamin did try to talk to his neighbor and explain how the unbearable noise and dirt were affecting the other tenants. He even told him that the work was slovenly, negligent and careless ― in short, much worse than the norm. But Yankele’s eyes were darting from side to side; it was clear that the man was distracted and in over his head. He told Binyamin he’d see what he could do.

This same scenario repeated itself a few more times, and Binyamin became resigned to the fact that Yankele did not seem able to deal with the situation. “That’s the way it is,” Binyamin understood. “Yankele is wrapped up in his own troubles and money issues with his contractor, and just can’t seem to deal with this.”

One evening, Binyamin was called to the neighbor who lived upstairs… “We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” said the upstairs neighbor grimly. “We have to declare war against the chutzpah going on under our very noses. Yes, I gave Gutman the go-ahead to build, but not like this! I saw your shattered window, and I’ve also had some breakage. We have to file a lawsuit before this gets even more out of hand.”

This tone did not suit Binyamin at all, and he cut the conversation short. Later that night, he opted to walk home from his nephew’s wedding instead of taking the bus so that he could think. War? Confrontation? What kinds of words were those? He, Binyamin Rottenbaum the teacher, was he going to get involved in such shady business? All his life he had avoided gossip and slander, conflict and strife. Among his wide circle of friends and acquaintances, there was not even one that he “didn’t talk to.” When one of his children came home with a story of anyone being criticized for doing such-and-such, he would firmly cut off the discussion by saying, “We don’t discuss such things in the Rottenbaum household…”

But, still: the racket every day, the shattered window, rest hours, drilling, rudeness. Wasn’t there a limit?

But how could he continue to tell his children, “We don’t discuss such things in the Rottenbaum household,” if the Rottenbaum household was full of resentment and anger? Furthermore, what kind of relationship would they have with the neighbors once construction was finished and the Gutmans returned? Binyamin was not naive. He knew full well what transpired in many apartment buildings after someone started renovating and there were problems ― grievances before rabbinical courts, evacuation orders, neighbors who did not speak to one another. Even if the work continued for months, Binyamin reasoned, with the drilling and dust and whatnot, there would be many more years afterward when they would need to live in peace and harmony with the neighbors. Was it worth spoiling all that?

After all the years of working on their character traits, now they were being put to the test. It’s no problem getting along with others when things are pleasant. It’s only under difficult circumstances that we are really tested, and this is precisely when we must restrain ourselves, understand the other person’s actions, and maintain our inner balance. As Binyamin neared home and the end of his walk, he arrived at his decision.

Later, Binyamin sat down with his wife and discussed everything with her. “But what about the monetary damage? Only ten days have gone by, and look how much this has already cost us,” she said.

Binyamin had already anticipated his wife’s question, and had prepared an answer. “We will take it out of the ‘ten thousand’,” he said.

After Binyamin’s father passed away, they had received an inheritance of ten thousand dollars. Binyamin decided immediately to put the money away; they would need it in a few years for the bar mitzvah of their twin boys, and then for their daughter’s wedding. His monthly salary was not enough for serious savings, and the inheritance would provide the seed money…

As time went on, the Rottenbaums were able to add several thousand dollars more to their savings, but it always retained its original code name: the “ten thousand.” This was a subconscious source of peace of mind, as whenever the Rottenbaums talked about future expenses, they knew that the “ten thousand” would help them out…

And so the Rottenbaum parents talked to their older children and explained their course of action: to maintain their silence, keep the peace, and never let the Gutmans know how much they suffered. They would cover all the damage with their savings, and that was that. Binyamin took out a plastic bag with some earplugs. “These are available any time you need some peace and quiet; or if you really need to, you can go to Grandma’s house to do your homework. And the garden? When this is over, we’ll take from the “ten thousand” to buy new flowers.”

And so it was. Binyamin made it clear to his upstairs neighbor that he would not take part in any actions against the Gutmans, and explained his rationale. Time passed. The Rottenbaum’s solar water heater was ruined by the construction work and needed to be replaced; a careless worker bashed in their front door with his machinery and that too needed to be replaced. There were some very difficult moments, such as the “spritz” episode. One Friday, the workers sprayed the outside of the building with white “spritz” ― spackle material ― right through the Rottenbaums’ open window! It took the entire family hours of work on Shabbat eve to scrub the stuff off the furniture. “If worst comes to worst,” Binyamin reassured his wife, “we’ll pay someone to remove it professionally. After all, we have the means to cover the expense.”

Four thousand dollars. Yes, four thousand dollars of the money that had been set aside for bar mitzvahs and weddings was spent to cover the damages caused to the Rottenbaum family by Gutman’s construction work.

And they never let on to the Gutmans. “Of course, Mrs. Gutman, it was no problem at all with the construction work. We look forward to your return as our dear neighbors when it’s all over. And after it was all over ― thank God! ― the Rottenbaums organized a welcome-home celebration for the Gutmans, with cakes, signs, hugs and kisses.

After the construction was completed, the four thousand dollars that Mr. Rottenbaum had spent was returned to him in amazing ways so that, in effect, he never “lost” that money. That, too, is a wonderful story, but it is really “beside the point.”

Once in a Yovel

A wealthy wood merchant once came to Rav Chaim of Volozhin for advice, explaining that all his wealth was in danger of being lost. He had sent a huge ship laden with wood to a foreign country, but the authorities were not allowing the wood to enter the country. In fact, they were threatening to sink the ship if it didn’t leave the border of the country.

Rav Chaim reassured the man, “Don’t worry, you’ll see. The salvation of Hashem is like the blink of an eye!”

On that day, the price of wood rose dramatically, and later that day, the authorities finally allowed the merchant’s ship to enter the country.

The wealthy man returned to Rav Chaim, beaming with happiness. He said, “Rebbi, today I experienced hashgachas pratis! If the authorities hadn’t delayed me, I would have received the original price for the wood. The delay actually turned out to be beneficial; I ended up earning significantly more money because of it.”

Rav Chaim sighed, “This is the difference between a rich man and a poor man. The poor man sees the hashgachas pratis of HaKadosh Boruch Hu every day. The rich man sees hashgacha only once every few years.” (Ukarasa LaShabbos Oneg)

Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer’s Sad Goodbye

R’ Shneur Kotler, the Rosh Yeshiva of Lakewood, escaped Europe and managed to survived the Holocaust after experiencing great miracles. Eventually, he arrived in Eretz Yisrael, joining his grandfather R’ Isser Zalman Meltzer with whom he shared a very close relationship. Once he was in Eretz Yisrael, news reached him that his kallah who he was engaged to before the war was still alive. However, she was unable to join him in Eretz Yisrael so R’ Shneur made plans to travel to her to finally get married.

On the day of his departure R’ Shneur went to his grandfather’s house to part from him. R’ Isser Zalman expressed his great joy on his grandson’s upcoming marriage and began accompanying him down the stairs. Surprisingly, after descending only two steps from his second floor apartment he turned around and went home. Everybody present was shocked and puzzled by his behavior. Was this a fitting way for R’ Isser Zalman to part from his dear grandson who he would probably never see again?

One of his students dared to ask him why he had not accompanied his grandson all the way down the stairs. R’ Isser Zalman said, “As I was walking down the steps, I saw a vision of the thousands of Yidden who did not merit living long enough to marry. I returned home to join in their pain.” (Source: Stories My Grandfather Told Me) (

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.


One can only tear paper or a plastic wrapper in such a manner that it is spoiled. One must also ensure not to tear through any printed letters or pictures.

Protective Seals

One may remove in the normal manner protective plastic seals that cover the lid of a container i.e. yogurt containers and wine bottles. Nonetheless, one must be careful not to tear through any printed letters or pictures.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Devarim-Chazon 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 Devarim-Chazon 5776

The Funeral Director

When the unbearable becomes the norm.

by Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

Last Thursday, I was informed of the death of a woman who I did not know. She was relatively young, only 64 years old. She left behind three sons and grandchildren.

It was a steamy, stifling, hot and humid day; the temperature was hovering over ninety degrees. The funeral was held in Far Rockaway. I drove from New Jersey to New York to officiate at the funeral of a woman I never knew.

At the conclusion of the funeral, I asked the funeral director, who was Jewish and was also driving the hearse containing the deceased, if he (as they usually do) has a knife for the kriah (ripping of the garments). He handed me the knife, and I helped the mourners with the kriah and returned the knife to the funeral director.

We continued to the cemetery in Elmont, New York for the burial. When we arrived at the cemetery we proceeded to carry the coffin to the grave, and we commenced the burial. Everyone took turns with the shovels and we all assisted each other in the burial.

The day was stifling hot and most of the men removed their jackets. Their brows were filled with sweat and their pants became dirtied as the hot dust swirled all around. The sons and the sisters of the deceased were overcome with grief.

All of us were exhausted and spent. We were drained both emotionally and physically.

We all felt the heat of the sun and the pain and grief of the mourners. It was an emotionally laden experience.

The funeral came to a conclusion and we all proceeded back to our cars. As I sat down in my car I felt drained and weary from the events of the day.

Every funeral is filled with grief and pain. However, perhaps because of the heat and because of the relative young age of the deceased, I was very tired and wasted.

All of the sudden, I looked up and saw the funeral director standing over me by my car window. He asked, “Did you give me back my knife? It is the only one I have and I cannot find it.” I felt terrible at the thought of not returning his knife and began to search my pockets. I said to the fellow, “I cannot find the knife, I am so sorry. I will replace it for you.”

About ten minutes later, after everyone had returned to their cars and we were about to exit the cemetery, I realized that I better get the address of the funeral director to send him a new knife. I approached his car and said, “I am really sorry for losing your knife.” He looked at me and said in what appeared to me to be in complete seriousness, “Don’t worry, I have a whole list of things about you which I have a problem with!”

I was stunned and taken aback.

I had just met this man about two hours ago. Our interactions seemed to me to be limited to my borrowing his knife. Was there something I had said or done during the funeral which had offended him? My mind was racing in its attempt to figure out what I could have possibly done to offend this man who now has a list of things about me which he has a problem with.

I looked at him and said with total supplication, “I am so sorry, please tell what I have done to offend you?”

His face broke into a broad smile as he said, “Oh, I am just kidding around with you. You have done nothing to offend me and don’t worry, I found my knife – you did give it back to me. I like to joke around with people. By the way here is my card and I am licensed in New Jersey as well.”

I smiled meekly, took his card and returned to my car. As I sat down, I realized I was shaking.

“What’s wrong with this picture?” I asked myself.

We have just completed burying a 64-year-old mother of three. This was not a time to laugh.

We have just completed burying a 64-year-old mother of three. It’s about 100 degrees outside. We are all exhausted and our clothes and shoes are filled with the dust of the earth after burying a Jewish mother and this man informs me that he likes to joke around with people!

I also like to joke around. However, as King Solomon teaches: “[There is…] A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time of wailing and a time of dancing” (Ecclesiastes, 3:4). This was not a time to laugh!

Thinking about this on the drive home, I realized that because this man is always involved in death and burial he has become hardened and no longer is touched by the tragedy of death. To him it is a regular part of his life.

Death has become the norm in his life.

As I drove on, I thought of the fact that we are now in the midst of the Three Weeks (and now the Nine Days), the time of national mourning for the Beis HaMikdash, the holy Temple of Jerusalem.

How do I find it possible to joke around today? How can I crack a smile and a laugh when I am supposed to be in the midst of mourning for the destruction of both Temples? Am I not exhibiting the exact same callous and cavalier behavior which I found so distasteful in the funeral director? How can I smile and kid around when at this time of the year, thousands and thousands of Jews were being killed and ultimately the Beis HaMikdash would be destroyed?

Have I become as casual and cavalier in my reactions to death as the funeral director?

The more I thought about it, the less smug I felt about myself and the less scornful of the funeral director. I started feeling more and more ashamed of myself for my lack of feeling for this time of the year.

Have I become unmoved because of the fact that I have lived every day of my life without a Beis HaMikdash? Is my skin no longer responsive to the pain of the nation?

As I drove, I felt sadder and sadder; not so much for the nation but rather, for myself. I was saddened by the realization that the destruction had become routine in my life; something standard and unexceptional and – most troubling – almost natural.

As the realization hit home, I pulled over to the shoulder of the highway and I cried.

I cried not for the Beis HaMikdash, and not for the destruction of Jerusalem. I cried for me, and for the realization that I too had become a funeral director.

Excerpted from Rabbi Eisenman’s new book, For Everything a Time. (

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Matos-Masei Inspiration 5776

One may consider the reading of the journeys of the Jewish People in the Wilderness irrelevant to our daily lives, but I am always fascinated by the number of journeys, which is 42. The Malbim and others point out that there is a Name of HaShem that has 42 letters, and the journeyer of the Jewish People in the Wilderness correspond to this Name. What relevance does this have to our lives?

It is noteworthy that the Gemara (Sota 13a) states that while journeying in the Wilderness, the nations of the world would observe that the Jewish People were carrying two boxes, one that contained the bones of Yosef and the other that contained the Luchos. The nations wondered, “what is the significance of these two arks? The Jewish People responded, “this one, i.e. Yosef, fulfilled what is said in this one, i.e. the Torah.” This entire episode is cryptic. Why were the nations questioning the need for these two boxes, and what was the response?

Perhaps we can suggest that it is said regarding Yosef (Bereishis 37:2) וְהוּא נַעַר אֶת בְּנֵי בִלְהָה וְאֶת בְּנֵי זִלְפָּה נְשֵׁי אָבִיו, but he was a youth with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. When rearranging the letters of the word בִלְהָה, the word לֶהָבָה, flame, which is what Yosef is compared to (Ovadiah 1:18). We can suggest that although the simple translation of the verse is that Yosef was “playing around” with his half-brothers, in a deeper sense, Yosef was experimenting with the forty-two letter Name of HaShem. We can now better understand the Gemara that stares that the Jewish People responded to the Nations that “the one inside this box has fulfilled what is in this box, i.e. Yosef knew and actualized the Names of HaShem. Throughout history, righteous Jews have utilized the Names of HaShem for various reasons. It would follow that in the Wilderness, the Jewish People knew and utilized the Names of HaShem to their advantage, both in attaining lofty spiritual heights and in warding off their enemies. With a cursory perusal of this week’s parasha we find many hints to the forty-two letter Name of HaShem. Here are a few examples:

(The hints are contained in the bolded letters)

  1. אֵלֶּה מַסְעֵי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יָצְאוּ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְצִבְאֹתָם בְּיַד מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן
  2. וַיִּסְעוּ מֵרַעְמְסֵס בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן

Furthermore, after the sin of the spies, the Jewish People were determined to ascend to Eretz Yisroel, and Moshe attempted to dissuade them, saying (Bamidbar 14:42) אַל תַּעֲלוּ כִּי אֵין יְ-הֹ-וָ-ה בְּקִרְבְּכֶם, “Do not ascend, for HaShem is not in your midst!” The first and last letters of the word בְּקִרְבְּכֶם  are the letters מ”ב, and the remaining letters spell out the word קרבך, in your midst. Moshe was alluding to these rebels that HaShem’s forty-two letter Name was not in them and they would not be successful in their journey.

While we do not profess knowledge of HaShem’s Holy Names, we do know that HaShem’s Name is within every single one of us, and HaShem has given the Jewish People power unlike any other nation. Throughout the long exile we have been fortified by HaShem’s Name, protecting us and uplifting us to ever greater heights. With the onset of the Nine Days, when HaShem is close to us, we should capitalize on the opportunity to cleave to HaShem and His Torah, and then we will merit the fulfillment of the verse that 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 HaShem shall have the kingdom.


Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Matos-Masei 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
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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Matos-Masei 5776

Matos-Masei 5776

New Stories Matos-Masei 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Matos-Masei 5776

Shabbos Observance Will Bring the 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. 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 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.

Shabbos Observance as a Catalyst for Redemption

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?

Shabbos is akin to Living in Eretz Yisroel

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 Shabbos Connection

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

Dror Yikra

The composer was Dunash ben Librat, the famed medieval grammarian and paytan who lived from 4680-4750 (920990 C.E.). He was born in Baghdad and, except for twenty years in Fez, lived there his entire life. He was a nephew and disciple of Rabbeinu Saadiah Gaon and was acquainted with many of the Sages of his time. Rashi and Ibn Ezra quote him extensively. His name appears four times as the acrsostic of the stiches in stanzas 1,2,3, and 6. This zemer is a prayer to HaShem to protect the Jewish People, destroy its tormentors, and bring the Nation peace and redemption.

דְּרוֹר יִקְרָא לְבֵן עִם בַּת. וְיִנְצָרְכֶם כְּמוֹ בָבַת, He shall proclaim freedom for man and woman, and protect you like the apple of the eye. The connection of freedom to protection is based on what it is said (Vayikra 26:6) וְנָתַתִּי שָׁלוֹם בָּאָרֶץ, I will provide peace in the land, and Rashi writes that even after all the blessings of prosperity, we still require peace to preserve our gains. Here, too, we declare that HaShem will provide freedom for all, and He will protect us to ensure our freedom.

Shabbos Stories

They Live, or I die with Them

The son of the Rizhiner Rebbe, Reb Avraham Yaakov of Sadigora, once told this story. One Erev Shabbos the Baal Shem Tov appeared in a town unexpectedly. Declining invitations from all the locals, he elected to remain alone in the Shul after Shabbos evening davening. The wonder of the residents turned to alarm when they saw his fervent Tefilla and Tehillim continue the whole night long. Something was surely the matter. In the morning, however, the Baal Shem Tov was relaxed and joyful, and he accepted the invitation of one of the locals for the morning Shabbos meal. Naturally, all of the townspeople crowded into the house of the host to see the Holy Baal Shem Tov. As they were sitting at the table, a local peasant came around looking for a drink of vodka. They were about to drive him away when the Baal Shem Tov called out that he should be brought in, and provided with a generous glass of vodka. He asked him to tell what he had seen in the mansion of the Poritz (wealthy Polish estate owner) the previous night. The peasant’s tongue, loosened by the vodka, related that the Poritz, believing that he had been cheated in a business deal by a Jewish merchant, assembled his peasants and armed them with knives and hatchets telling them to be on the ready to avenge themselves on the Jews at his command. They would then all be able to liberate their stolen riches from the Jews. “The whole night we waited for the command,” he continued, “but the Poritz had closeted himself in his office with an unexpected visitor, an old friend that he had not seen for forty years! Finally, he emerged and told us all to go home, that the Jews were upright and honest people and nobody should dare lay a hand on them. We all went home and that is the whole story!” “This old friend,” explained the Sadigerer Rebbe, “had been dead for decades. The Baal Shem Tov had dragged him from the grave to influence his friend the Poritz.” “I always wondered, though,” queried the Rebbe, “why did the Baal Shem Tov have to travel all the way to that town for Shabbos to avert the decree? Could he not just as well have remained in his hometown of Mezdibuz?” “Now, however, I understand. The Baal Shem Tov said to himself, “if I can succeed in saving the town, fine…but if not, then I will perish together with 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. Metal Cans

 One can open metal cans, i.e. tuna, tomato juice, canned fruits, only in the following manner:

  1. One should only open the can halfway
  2. One should remove the contents immediately and discard the container.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Matos-Masei 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 Matos-Masei 5776

Frederick Weller’s Last Call

Jeff Jacoby’s tribute to his father-in-law, a volunteer fireman for over 60 years, who recently passed away.

by Jeff Jacoby

For more than six decades, Frederick Weller belonged to the Plessis Volunteer Fire Department in northern New York State. He had joined in 1955, as soon as he and his young wife and their infant daughter had moved into the little house on County Route 3. Since the house was literally next to the fire station, he was invariably the first to respond when the siren went off.

He was the first once again on the evening of July 19, when the wail of the siren woke him from a catnap in his kitchen. At 85, Fred no longer had the strength and speed of a young man; it had been at least a dozen years since he could suit up to actively battle fires. But he could still pull on his boots, which were always waiting by the kitchen door; he could still reach the fire hall before anyone else; and he could still make sure the station bay doors were unlocked and the exits cleared so that as firefighters arrived, they could get the trucks and equipment moving without a moment’s loss.

He didn’t make it.

As he reached the steps leading from his porch down to the driveway, he momentarily blacked out – a new medicine had been giving him vertigo – and fell heavily, face first, onto the pavement. The damage was massive. Fred lapsed into a coma as an ambulance, operated by first responders he’d known and worked with for years, rushed him to a helicopter so he could be airlifted to the Syracuse Medical Center. But there was no hope of saving him. He never recovered consciousness and died the next day.

Fred Weller was my father-in-law. That infant daughter, the oldest of seven children, grew up to become my wife. She and I and hundreds of others said good-bye to Fred a few days ago, as friends and loved ones gathered in Alexandria Township to celebrate a life that was modest, hardworking, down-to-earth, and honest. It was lost on no one that his last purposeful act in this life had been an effort to serve others. At an age when some might be content to doze, he still regarded the fire whistle as a personal summons to act.

My father-in-law earned his living as a school custodian and a handyman-for-hire. He shoveled snow, raked leaves, and cut lawns. He grew vast quantities of vegetables and fruit in a garden behind the house, and gathered fallen timber that could be cut and stacked for firewood. With little formal education and a large family to feed and clothe, he never turned up his nose at a job. And he taught his kids both by example and by instruction that hard work wasn’t optional and thrift wasn’t a choice.

Yet in all his 61 years as a volunteer firefighter, he was never paid a penny. Again and again he answered the whistle, often risking his life to protect the lives and property of others. When he wasn’t responding to emergencies, he was devoting hours to training and maintenance, to fire commission meetings, even, in the old, pre-automation days, to manually turning the siren on when alarms were phoned in. Not for a salary, or a bonus, or a pension, or glory – there were none – but from a commitment to service, and from a responsibility to a community that relied upon him.

In my line of work, I normally can’t get away from the perpetual-motion machine of political dissection and prediction, but the sweaty spectacles in Cleveland and Philadelphia seemed a million miles away from the gratitude and dignity with which my father-in-law was remembered. They seemed not merely distant, but trivial. I found myself thinking that Fred Weller’s conscientious life and eloquent death had more to say about the essential goodness and integrity of American character at its simplest than all the high-flown speeches and promises by all the politicians in the presidential campaign circus.

In a famous essay, Edmund Burke wrote long ago that “to love the little platoon we belong to in society is the first principle (the germ, as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind.”

What would American society and culture amount to without the institutions and relationships that make our communities work – without countless “little platoons” like the Plessis Volunteer Fire Department, and the innumerable other associations on which our national health depends? This country would survive – it would probably thrive – without the political poobahs and media mahatmas who consume such obscene amounts of oxygen. But it would sicken and die without a steady supply of women and men like my father-in-law, who take real pride in filling their days with diligence and useful service, and don’t expect more.

The big-screen razzmatazz for the presidential nominees was undeniably flashy. But it was nothing compared with the sight on Wednesday of a giant American flag, hoisted between two ladder trucks high above Church Street in Alexandria Bay, N.Y., where Fred Weller’s memorial service took place. With mourners and firefighters lining the sidewalk in tribute, and with traffic stopped in both directions, the Jefferson County police, fire, and emergency dispatcher transmitted a “last call” over the staticky radio channel to which my father-in-law had never failed to respond.

“Plessis firefighter Frederick Weller, last call,” came the dispatcher’s no-nonsense voice on the scanner, broadcast on this occasion over a public sound system. “This is the last call for firefighter and commissioner Frederick J. Weller. Until we meet again, old friend. We’ll take it from here.

“Jefferson clear. 12:23.”

This article originally appeared in The Boston Globe. (

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