Erev Shabbos Kodesh Tetzaveh-Zachor Inspiration 5775

This week we read Parashas Tetzaveh and Parashas Zachor. What is the association between these two parshiyos, and why do we read Parashas Tetzaveh in most years before Purim?

The answer to these questions is that Zachor is about remembering the evil that Amalek perpetrated against the Jewish People and Parashas Tetzaveh discusses the Priestly Vestments, whose essential function was to be a זכרון , a remembrance before HaShem. It is noteworthy that the Gemara (Megillah 12a) states that Achashverosh donned the Priestly Vestments at his elaborate banquet. On the surface it would seem that Achashverosh did this to declare that the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed and, according to his erroneous calculations, it would not be rebuilt.

On a deeper level, however, we can suggest that Achashverosh was demonstrating that the function of the Priestly Vestments as to serve as a reminder to HaShem, so to speak, that He loved the Jewish People. By Achashverosh repossessing the Priestly Vestments, he was showing that HaShem would not be remembering the Jewish People. Amalek, the forerunner of Haman and his descendants, also sought to sever the endearment between HaShem and the Jewish People. It is for this reason that we read Zachor and in most years, Tetzaveh, prior to Purim, as this reflects on how HaShem will never forget His Beloved Nation, and we have to make every effort to remember HaShem and his Holy Torah.

This Shabbos we should merit once again developing that closeness with HaShem and then we will see the downfall of Amalek and all of our enemies with the return to Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Have a Remembered Shabbos and a Freilichen  and Lichtige Purim!

Rabbi Adler

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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

New Stories Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

(From the archives)

Shabbos: Protection from Foreign Thoughts


In this week’s parashah the Torah records the instruction that HaShem gave to Moshe regarding the holy vestments to be worn by the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, and his sons. One of the eight garments worn by the Kohen Gadol was the Ephod, which was like an apron. It is said (Shemos 28:6) vicheishev afudaso asher alav kimaaseihu mimenu yihyeh zahav techeiles veargaman visolaas shani visheishes mashzar, the belt with which it is emplaced, which is on it, shall be of the same workmanship, it shall be made of it, of gold; turquoise, purple, and scarlet wool, and twisted linen. The Meshech Chochmah writes that the Gemara (Erchin 16a) states that the Ephod served to atone for the sin of idolatry. The Gemara elsewhere (Kiddushin 40a) states that regarding idolatry, even if one has an idolatrous thought, it is akin to having actually worshipped idols. Thus, our verse alludes to this idea, as the word vicheishev can be interpreted to mean thoughts, and the words kimaaseihu mimenu yihyeh alludes to the idea that the thoughts are considered like a maaseh, an action.

HaElokim, Malach and Sukkah are all the same Gematria

Perhaps we can expound further on this idea. Why is this idea hinted to specifically regarding the ephod? It is noteworthy that there are a few words that equal the same number in gematria, numerical value. These words are ephod, malach, haElokim, and Sukkah. All these words equal 91 in gematria. What is the association between these words? A Sukkah symbolizes protection from foreign influences. When the Kohen Gadol would enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, he was required to be completely focused on his role of gaining atonement for the Jewish People. Were the Kohen Gadol to entertain one deviant thought, he would die inside the Holy of Holies. Thus, the Kohen Gadol was required to be akin to a malach, an angel. Elokim means G-d, and this Name is also used to depict one who has ascended to great spiritual heights. The manner in which one gains spiritual perfection is by not allowing foreign influences to penetrate one’s inner domain. Thus, it is fitting that the ephod served to atone for idolatry. The ephod was worn over the tunic and the robe, thus symbolizing protection from all external influences.

The Shabbos Connection

We do not currently have the Bais HaMikdash and the Kohen Gadol serving within, but HaShem has bestowed upon us His precious gift of the Holy Shabbos every week. Shabbos is the opportunity that we need to be shielded from foreign influences so that we can ascend the spiritual ladder. On Shabbos one is prohibited from performing meleches machasheves, intended labor. On Shabbos one should focus on avoiding the performance of any prohibited act. Furthermore, one should focus on delighting in the Shabbos, and he will then be spared from any negative influences.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Gott fun Avraham

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who lived from 1740-1809, recommended that this prayer be recited by men, women and children three times and that the recitation would help ensure success in the upcoming week.

אַז דִי וָואךְ אוּן דֶער חוֹדֶשׁ, אוּן דֶער יָאר זָאל אוּנְז צוּא קוּמֶען… מַאֲמִין צוּ זַיין וּבִגְאוּלָה שלימה וקְרוֹבָה בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵינוּ, to have faith in… the complete and close Redemption. What does it mean to have faith in the Redemption? Can one just declare every morning that he has complete faith in the Redemption and then go about his daily activities without another thought? The Sfas Emes teaches us that when we recite by the Pesach Seder that every single Jew has to feel as if he himself was liberated from Egypt, this refers to the faith that one must have in having left Egypt.

While this also seems to be a mere declaration, we must understand that faith is something that is cultivated. Indeed, the word אמונה is derived from the word אומן, raised. Thus, just like someone who lovingly tends his garden pays his utmost attention to the growth of the fruits and vegetation, similarly, one must “cultivate” the growth (צמח) of the Redemption, and then he will certainly merit seeing with his own eyes the Ultimate Redemption, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos Stories

Sacrifice for Torah

Chacham Ezra Attiah, zt”l, venerable Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef, one of the greatest Torah personalities of his time and mentor to generations of great Sephardic leaders, came from very humble beginnings. His parents had been blessed with a son and daughter, and they prayed for another child. They took the long trek by donkey to Tedef, a small town in the Ottoman Empire, where the remains of Ezra HaSofer were interred. Yitzchak and Leah Attiah poured out their hearts, entreating Hashem for a son. Leah vowed that if Hashem granted her wish, she would name him Ezra and dedicate him to a life of Torah. She was blessed one year later, when she gave birth to Ezra. Twenty years later, Leah was left alone with Ezra when her husband passed away. Her older son and daughter had already married. It was now just the two of them with no source of material support. The normal thing would have been for able-bodied Ezra to go to work in order to support his mother. Leah would hear nothing of it. She had dedicated her son to Torah learning. She left no room for discussion. She did anything and everything to bring in a meager living to sustain the two of them. The end of the week found Leah both emotionally and physically drained. On Friday nights they would eat their meager meal, and Leah would exert superhuman effort as she sat in her chair and listened to the sweet sound of Torah emanating from her son. As her weary body relaxed and her bones cried out for sleep, she would begin to doze. Seeing his mother fall asleep, Ezra would quickly close his sefer. The Halacha was clear: One may study by the light of a kerosene lamp only so long as someone else was there. Otherwise, he might accidentally adjust the wick. Leah’s body may have been spent, but her senses were sharp, as she would quickly awaken. The sweet hum of Torah had stopped. “Do not worry, my child. I am awake. You can return to your Torah learning,” she assured him. The tears and devotion of this woman were rewarded when her son became the great rosh yeshivah.


Unyielding Faith in a Rebbe

The Machnovke Rebbe, HaRav Avrohom Twerski, zt”l, was an individual of unusual intensity, a genuine tzaddik, whose diligence in Torah study and warmth and sensitivity to every human were evidenced in his life. He never uttered an inessential word. He feared nothing that was part of this world. His shul was home to Jews of all walks of life who came to experience the presence of a truly holy man. One Yom Kippur evening, his shul was filled to capacity. Among the throng of worshippers was a man in his late sixties who had walked several miles to attend the services in the Machnovke Bais Medrash. This individual was not religious. Why was he there? Certainly, he could have found a shul that was closer to his home. When questioned why he had come, he gave the following reply. “As a young man in Russia, my father told me about the Machnovke/Moscow Rebbe. He was a great and holy individual to whom I should turn when necessary. I emigrated to Eretz Yisrael and raised my family there, regrettably distancing myself from religion. During the Yom Kippur war, my only son was called to naval duty. I remembered my father’s instructions to go to the Machnovke Rebbe when I needed a blessing. That night, I, with my young soldier son in hand, entered the spiritual realm of the tzaddik. We presented the son’s military orders to the Rebbe and asked for his blessing for a safe return. “‘Do not join your company until tomorrow morning,’ the Rebbe said. “’But I will be court-martialed if I am late,’ my son protested. The Rebbe would not yield. Under no circumstances was the young soldier to join that night. Later that night, in the midst of our anxious ferment, we were informed that the entire unit which he was to have joined had been decimated by an Egyptian warship. There were no survivors. “At first, I neither understood nor agreed with the Rebbe, but my father taught me to listen to a tzaddik. I, therefore, sided with the Rebbe and denied my son from joining his unit. This action saved his life. This is why I always come here in Yom Kippur – to appreciate, to pay gratitude, to be in the Rebbe’s presence.” [Reprinted with permission from the Shema Yisrael Torah Network. For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Shema Yisroel classes, send email to]

Shabbos in Halacha

Cutting Food

Until now we discussed the melacha of tochen, grinding, under which it is prohibited to cut food into very small pieces. We will now discuss other restrictions that apply to cutting food.

  1. Breaking Apart Shapes or Words

One is prohibited from cutting apart lettering or destroying a picture under then melacha of מוחק, erasing. Thus, if a cake is decorated with frosting in the form of words, letters or any distinct object, one is prohibited to cut the cake in a way that deforms the letters or ruins the picture. However, one may cut between the words, and even between the letters, of the frosting.

Once the cake is cut, one is allowed to bite into it even though this destroys the remaining letters. Similarly, one is allowed to bite into a biscuit that is decorated with a figure even though the figure will break apart.

Nowadays, this Halacha also applies to fruits. When one is cutting fruit that has a word stamped on it, i.e. an orange, or a sticker attached, i.e., a banana, one must avoid cutting through and letters or figures.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

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New Stories Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

Jerusalem Mayor a Hero

He ran out of his car and apprehended a terrorist. A timely Purim lesson.

by Yvette Alt Miller         

Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat, his office chief, and a bodyguard were sitting in traffic in central Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon, February 22, when they noticed a commotion outside their car.

In nearby Tzahal Square, 27-year-old Avraham Goldschmidt had just been stabbed in the stomach by a terrorist. The terrorist tried to stab him again. Goldschmidt, fighting for his life, fended off his attacker with the only object to hand, his tefillin bag, and hit his assailant. While struggling, Goldschmidt shouted “Stabbing!” – he later explained “so everybody could get away.”

Nir Barkat leapt from his car and, along with his bodyguard, raced towards the armed terrorist who had by then left a bloody Goldschmidt and was now running through the street still holding his knife. Grainy CCTV footage shows the mayor, along with his guard, wrestling with the attacker. As terrified onlookers watched, the mayor and his bodyguard fought with the knifeman, staggering as they struggled across the pavement through a downtown crosswalk and into the street.

At last the terrorist was subdued and Mayor Barkat raced towards Goldschmidt lying in the road. Barkat placed his coat over Goldschmidt and waited with him until an ambulance and police arrived.

Barkat was hailed as a hero throughout Israel – and beyond. Israelis started jokingly referring to him as Batman, and putting pictures of the mayor dressed as comic book heroes on social media. Behind the joking, though, were real questions: what made the mayor forget his exalted position and ignore his own safety? What propelled him to leave the safety of his car and race out into the icy streets to confront a would-be killer?

Mayor Barkat’s courageous actions took place in the run-up to Purim, which celebrates another act of heroism performed by an earlier exalted official—Queen Esther, who put her life on the line to save her fellow Jews from murder and annihilation. Her actions give us a guide to what courage looks like today.

After a decree of genocide sentenced all Jews in the vast Persian Empire to death, the Jewish leader Mordechai asked Esther to intercede. The only problem was that Esther faced a real risk of being killed if she appeared before the king uninvited. For one agonizing moment Esther hesitated, fearing for her own safety until Mordechai helped her regain her courage. “If you keep silent in this crisis,” he declared, “relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained your royal position for just such a crisis” (Esther 4:14).

In a flash, Esther knew her purpose in life. She was in the right place at the right time to help, and suddenly understood this was no mere coincidence; her whole life’s circumstances had been carefully leading up to this moment. Realizing this erased all doubt and gave her extraordinary courage to act.

It’s easy to over-think situations, to come up with complicated reasons why it’s too difficult to take action. Recognizing that the Almighty puts us unique situations that beckon us to rise to the challenge can inspire us to act decisively and to seize those moments.

This seems to be what Jerusalem’s hero mayor intuitively knows. Subduing an armed terrorist wasn’t the only time Nir Barkat has rushed to the aid of a fellow Jew. In 2004, when he was then a member of Jerusalem’s Municipal Council, Barkat was driving behind a bus that was blown up in a terrorist bombing. Then, too, Barkat rushed to the scene, in that case helping evacuate the surviving passengers, performing first aid, even saving a woman’s life.

“I saw the bus explode in front of me.” Barkat said at the time. “I parked on the side of the road and was among the first to enter the bus. We began evacuating the injured and performed first aid. At the same moment we didn’t think, but only focused on helping the people and rescuing them.”

In both times of crisis, Mayor Barkat “didn’t think” before acting. Perhaps, like Esther, he’s already done this thinking – he recognized that finding himself in a position to help others is a gift that’s too precious ever to waste. (

Vasikin at the Kosel

“מודה ר”ש בפסיק רישיה ולא ימות…”

Rav Avigdor Neventzahl, shlit”a, goes regularly to the Kosel to daven k’vasikin on Shabbos. Once, he noticed that as someone went through the metal detector on Shabbos, it beeped. Since the light was disabled the Rav had always assumed that the machine was off, which is what the guards always claimed. Now it was clear that the machine was operating as usual even on Shabbos, and only the lights were disabled. After Shabbos, the Rav made further inquiries and found out that the guards left the security camera on as well, which captured video of all the passersby. Rav Neventzahl had serious doubts as to whether he could continue to daven at the Kosel with his regular minyan on Shabbos under such circumstances. He reasoned, “On the one hand, Tosafos in Shabbos and Kesuvos 6a permits performing a melachah where one has no interest or gains no benefit from its outcome —a פסיק רישיה דלא איכפת ליה. On the other hand, the Ri zt”l and others hold that this is Rabinically forbidden. However, there are cases in which this is permitted, such as a makom mitzvah.” For this reason, Rav Neventzahl remained in doubt about this issue. Someone suggested that they ask Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a, and Rav Neventzahl agreed. “I am perfectly willing to abide by Rav Chaim’s conclusions,” he said. An emissary brought the question before Rav Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, and the gadol responded, “Tell Rav Neventzahl that there is room to be lenient since this is similar to an emergency situation, a שעת הדחק, where we permit “פסיק רישיה דלא איכפת ליה. When the response reached Rav Neventzahl, it raised a further question. “It is obvious that Rav Chaim reasons that my prayer is a tzorech mitzvah with the same halachic validity as a sha’as hadechak. However, did you tell him that there is another vasikin minyan in the Jewish quarter of the Old City that would not necessitate my passing the guard station? Perhaps Rav Chaim believes that I don’t have another minyan available for vasikin.” The emissary went right back to Rav Kanievsky and presented this new point. Rav Chaim clarified, “Davening at the kosel at any time is enough of a tzorech mitzvah to permit this!” (


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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Terumah Inspiration 5775

Often the name of the parashah gives us an indication of what the parasha will be discussing. This week’s parasha is called Terumah, which is normally translated as portion or donation. The word תרומה, however, is from the root word רום, meaning uplifted. When the Jewish People donated towards the Mishkan, they were uplifted. Indeed, the Gemara (Bava Basra 10b) states אמר משה לפני הקב”ה רבש”ע במה תרום קרן ישראל אמר לו בכי תשא, Moshe said before HaShem, “with what will the horn of the Jewish People be elevated?” HaShem responded, “with Ki Sisa,” i.e. with the donations to the Mishkan.

We can take this concept of elevation further, as Shlomo HaMelech, upon completing the construction of the first Bais HaMikdash, declared, (Melachim I 8:27) כִּי הַאֻמְנָם יֵשֵׁב אֱלֹהִים עַל הָאָרֶץ הִנֵּה הַשָּׁמַיִם וּשְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם לֹא יְכַלְכְּלוּךָ אַף כִּי הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר בָּנִיתִי, “would G-d truly dwell on earth? Behold, the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain You, and surely not this Temple that I have built.” Why does Shlomo HaMelech mention the highest heavens? Perhaps the idea is that the simple function of the Mishkan was to allow for a resting place for the Divine Presence. However, the goal of a Jew in this world is to elevate his surroundings and become elevated himself.

The Gemara (Shabbos 88b) uses the expression בשעה שעלה משה למרום, when Moshe ascended on high. Where did Moshe go? The Gemara elsewhere (Sukkah 5a) states that man never ascended higher than ten tefachim. Perhaps the Gemara in Shabbos is teaching us that while Moshe may not have gotten too far “off the ground,” in his pursuit of spirituality he indeed did ascend upon high. Thus, while the Mishkan appears to be a repository for the Divine Presence here on earth, in the words of Shlomo HaMelech, “would G-d truly dwell on earth? Behold, the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain You, and surely not this Temple that I have built.” HaShem dwells on earth, so to speak, to allow us to ascend heavenward, and even the sky is not the limit. it is said (Tehillim 115:16) הַשָּׁמַיִם שָׁמַיִם לַה וְהָאָרֶץ נָתַן לִבְנֵי אָדָם, as for the heavens, the heavens are HaShem’s; but the earth He has given to mankind. The Kotzker Rebbe interpreted this to mean that the job of man is to turn earth into heaven. Thus, the function of the Mishkan, and everything “on this earth” is to transcend the physicality and ascend heavenward.

HaShem should allow us in this new month of Adar to transcend our physical limitations and soar upward, elevating ourselves and our surroundings, and then the horn of the Jewish People will be elevated with the arrival of Moshiach Tzikdeinu, speedily, in our days.

Have an Elevated Shabbos and an Uplifting Chodesh Adar!

Rabbi Adler

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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Terumah 5775

Terumah 5775

New Stories Terumah 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Terumah 5775

(From the archives)

Shabbos: Light, Rest, and Change


In this week’s parashah the Torah records the instruction that HaShem gave to Moshe regarding the construction of the Mishkan. The primary vessels in the Mishkan were the Aron (ark) the Shulchan (table) and the Menorah (the candelabra). What was the significance of these vessels? It is noteworthy that in the Friday night zemiros recited in many households, we declare כִּי הִדְלַקְתִּי נֵרוֹתַי וְהִצַּעְתִּי מִטָּתִי וְהֶחֱלַפְתִּי שִׂמְלוֹתַי לִכְבוֹד יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת, I have kindled my lamps, spread my bed and changed my clothes in honor of the Shabbos day. It would appear from this declaration that there are three components to the holiness of Shabbos. One aspect of Shabbos is the lighting of candles, the second aspect is having a bed made, and the third aspect is fresh clothing. The lighting of the candles corresponds to the lighting of the Menorah in the Mishkan and in the Bais HaMikdash. The prepared bed corresponds to the Aron, the ark, as it is said (Shir HaShirim 1:13) צְרוֹר הַמֹּר דּוֹדִי לִי בֵּין שָׁדַי יָלִין, but my Beloved responded with a bundle of myrrh, the fragrant atonement of erecting a Tabernacle where His Presence would dwell between the Holy Ark’s staves. Thus, we see that the Aron reflects the idea of rest. This is also evidenced by the fact that it is said (Bamidbar 10:35) וַיִּסְעוּ מֵהַר ה דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים וַאֲרוֹן בְּרִית ה נֹסֵעַ לִפְנֵיהֶם דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים לָתוּר לָהֶם מְנוּחָה, they journeyed from the Mountain of HaShem a three-day distance, and the Ark of the covenant of HaShem journeyed before them a three-day distance to search out for them a resting place. The idea of changing ones clothes corresponds to the Shulchan, where the Lechem HaPanim, the Showbread, was placed. The Lechem HaPanim was placed on the Shulchan every Shabbos and was removed the subsequent Shabbos when new loaves replaced the old ones, and the bread was eaten by the Kohanim. Thus, the Lechem HaPanim reflected renewal and this renewal occurred on Shabbos.

The Shabbos Connection

Similarly, prior to the onset of Shabbos one should change his clothing, as this external action reflects the transformation that one undergoes internally upon the arrival of Shabbos. HaShem should allow us to sanctify our homes to be akin to the Mishkan, and we should merit the building of the Third Bais HaMikdash, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Gott fun Avraham

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who lived from 1740-1809, recommended that this prayer be recited by men, women and children three times and that the recitation would help ensure success in the upcoming week.

אַז דִי וָואךְ אוּן דֶער חוֹדֶשׁ, אוּן דֶער יָאר זָאל אוּנְז צוּא קוּמֶען… מַאֲמִין צוּ זַיין בִּשְׁלוֹשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה עִקְרִים שֶׁלָךְ, to have faith in Your Thirteen Principles. This refers to the Thirteen Principles of faith set out by the Rambam in his introduction to the commentary on Mishnayos of the last Perek of Sanhedrin. The Mishna (Avos 3:8) states הַשּׁוֹכֵחַ דָּבָר אֶחָד מִמִּשְׁנָתוֹ, מַעֲלֶה עָלָיו הַכָּתוּב כְּאִלּוּ מִתְחַיֵּב בְּנַפְשׁוֹ, whoever forgets anything of his Torah learning, Scripture considers it as if he bears guilt for his soul. The Baal Shem Tov interpreted the word אֶחָד, one, to be referring to HaShem, Who is the Only One, and one must always remember HaShem when engaged in Torah study. We can suggest that the word אֶחָד equals in gematria 1thirteen, alluding to the Thirteen Principles of Faith. Thus, one must always be cognizant of these principles of faith so that his Torah learning will remain intact.

 Shabbos Stories

The “rings” of the “Aaron”

One day about two-hundred years ago, for reasons unknown, the son of a wealthy, Egyptian magnate disappeared from his lavish abode, leaving behind his father, mother, and two brothers. There was some speculation that he had been kidnapped, but no ransom note was ever delivered. Others were sure he had been murdered, yet his body was never found. Still others thought he felt cramped by his family’s lifestyle, and had gone to seek his own fortune, but he was never sighted by anyone anywhere. The story was popular conversation for many years, but as is often the case, eventually grew old, and was more-or-less forgotten. At least until the father died, leaving behind a substantial inheritance for his remaining sons. It was not long after his death that a youngish man appeared, claiming to be the man’s long-lost son. Of course, he felt he was entitled to his portion of the inheritance. Astonishingly, he was able to answer exceptionally detailed questions about the appearance of his childhood home, his ‘parents’ and ‘siblings’, and his upbringing. Try as they might, they were simply unable to stump him. He claimed to have been wandering for the past thirty years, which he said explained why he no longer looked even remotely similar to what everyone remembered, including his ‘brothers.’ Hearing that his parents had passed away, it was natural that he would come to claim his part of the family riches.

Despite his inexplicably intimate knowledge about the minutest details of their family life and history, the other two brothers were adamant in their protestations—this man was not their brother! They offered him a tidy sum of money just to be rid of him, but he stubbornly refused. He was their brother, he said, and he wanted no less than his portion of the inheritance. Eventually, word of their feud reached the Sultan of Egypt. Seeing as they could not reach an agreement, the Sultan himself consented to listen to both side’s claims in his private court, and render judgment. The two brothers and the claimant agreed that the Sultan’s word would be binding and final.

“Tell me something,” the Sultan asked, “where were you for thirty years that you never even sent a letter to your parents telling them of your whereabouts?” He was not ill-prepared. He claimed to have been taken captive in India. His captors did not allow him to have any communication with the outside world, and thus it was not possible for him to make contact. For many days, the Sultan tried to get to the bottom of things—to find a hole either in the claim of the brothers, or in the testimony and memories of the ‘long-lost brother.’ In the end, he threw up his arms in frustration, unable to render a ruling.

“Most exalted master,” the vice-Sultan chimed in, “far be it from me to intercede, but in the annals of our history, in such circumstances, it has been the way of your predecessors to engage the services of a Jew. The Jews are a wise nation, and have often been instrumental in helping to bring some of the most difficult cases to a satisfactory conclusion.”

The Sultan was intrigued. “Which Jew do you suggest I use?” “That’s the strange thing. Protocol says you just send out a clerk to bring the first Jew he finds on the street, no matter who it is. If precedent is to be trusted, he will somehow help the Sultan to render judgment.” “If that’s so,” ordered the Sultan, “go find me a Jew!”

Aaron Perdo was a quiet, Jewish, Egyptian goldsmith. For half-a-day he would practice his trade; the rest of his day was spent studying Torah in the local Beis HaMidrash. This morning, he had awoken remembering the strangest dream. In his dream, he found himself in the most spectacular shul, the likes of which he had never seen. It was furnished as richly and as lavishly as a king would a palace. The shul was packed with people, and the Torah was being read. Aaron was called to the Torah, and ascended the bimah. He found the sefer Torah open to parshas Terumah. The chazzan began reading: “Be-tab’os aharon yi’hiyu ha-badim, the sticks must be in the rings of the Ark,” but instead of reading ha-aron/the Ark, the chazzan read aaron, which sounds like the name Aaron. R’ Aaron (Perdo) corrected the chazzan. He read the verse again, but again he read it, Aaron. This was the end of R’ Aaron’s enigmatic dream; he had no idea what it meant. His dream gave him no rest: he thought about his dream during prayer, and was still thinking about it as he arrived at his jeweler’s shop, where an old woman sat impatiently waiting for him to open. Her tattered clothing bespoke poverty—not the type of woman that usually frequented his place. When it became clear she was eyeing the most expensive rings, R’ Aaron felt he had to ask: “The rings you are looking at are very expensive,” he said. “Are you sure you have the money to pay for them?” “I don’t today,” she confessed, “but tomorrow I will. Tomorrow I will become a wealthy woman. Right now, my dear son is in the midst of a very important court case. Tomorrow, he promised me, the case will be decided in his favor. And he said that to celebrate, I can buy myself any ring I want!”

R’ Aaron was less than enchanted with her tall tale. He was glad when she finished browsing and left. Soon after, a wealthy man came in the store and asked if R’ Aaron could bring some rings to his home for his wife to choose from. It was on the way to the rich man’s home that R’ Aaron was stopped by the court clerk, and ordered in the name of the Sultan to appear in the Sultan’s palace. As R’ Aaron ascended the polished marble stairs and got his first glimpse of the palace, it hit him: this had been the spectacular building that was the shul in his dream. It was just that in the place where the bimah had been, the Sultan sat on his magnificent throne. In measured words, the Sultan conveyed the main arguments of both sides, and why he was having an impossible time bringing the case to resolution.

“So, R’ Aaron—can you solve the mystery?” Though he trembled inside, R’ Aaron knew he could. He turned to the claimed ‘missing son.’ “Tell me—you claim to be the missing son, but isn’t your last name really such-and-such? Isn’t your mother still alive? In fact, I’ll even describe how she looks…” R’ Aaron began describing the pauper woman who had come to his store than morning. His shock at R’ Aaron’s words, and the confidence with which they were spoken, caused the man to collapse on the spot. It was obvious to the Sultan, and to everyone present, that he had just been caught at his ruse. He was dealt with accordingly, after which everyone’s attention turned to R’ Aaron and his brilliant and instantaneous resolution which caught them all so off-guard. How did he know that woman was his mother, they asked? R’ Aaron told them about the dream he had that night. “As soon as you told me about the man’s claims,” he said, “I understood the meaning of the misread verse. Be-tab’os Aaron—in Aaron’s rings, that’s me, yi’hiyu ha- badim—the badim, or liars (badim in Hebrew can mean poles but it can also mean liars) will be found. I thought about the woman who came into my store looking for a ring—a gift from her soon-to-be-rich son, and realized right away who the liar was!” “With a Torah like that,” the Sultan was heard to remark as R’ Aaron too his leave, “it’s no wonder the Jews are so smart!”

Shabbos in Halacha

Cutting Food

Until now we discussed the melacha of tochen, grinding, under which it is prohibited to cut food into very small pieces. We will now discuss other restrictions that apply to cutting food.

  1. Shaping Foods

One is allowed to cut food into a specific shape or form. As an example of this, one is permitted to cut a watermelon into squares, triangles or balls. To this end, one is allowed to use a scooper or similar utensil that creates a particular shape.

However, this rule applies only to simple shapes and forms. One would be forbidden, however, to cut food into a meaningful shape, such as a letter or number. The reason for this prohibition is because it falls into the category of כותב, writing, which is one of the Avos Melachos. Similarly, shaping food into any distinct figure, such as a person, animal, plant or flower, is deemed to be a form of writing and is prohibited.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim Terumah 5775

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New Stories Terumah 5775

Michael Jackson and My Yarmulke

I told the King of Pop that he wasn’t the King of the universe.

by Rabbi Mayer Fuchs, as told to Rochel Leah Fuchs        

It was a warm spring day in 1993, in Hollywood, California. I was 14 years old, headed to one of my favorite haunts, the Golden Apple Comic Shop on Melrose. Back then I was an avid comic book collector and I needed a fix every couple of weeks. As I walked through the door, something was different. There was a charge in the air. I looked around unsure what was going on. The place was mostly empty, except for several men in dark glasses who were positioned throughout the store. Everyone was focused on someone in the back.

I craned my neck and could not believe who I saw. I was actually in the store with Michael Jackson! I quickly glanced at the guy behind the counter who nodded his head at me to confirm. I wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip past.

I tried to play it cool. Here I was, this lanky Jewish kid in high tops and a yarmulke, standing before the king of pop. I took in his famously eccentric attire, the fedora and the bodyguards. “Are you Michael Jackson?” (I figured it was a good opener.) When he responded that he was, I went straight for the gold, asking him for his autograph. He politely obliged, scribbling his moniker on a cardboard comic book protector I had hastily grabbed off a nearby table.

“Why do you wear a yarmulke?” Michael asked.

I thought the encounter was over but then he caught me off guard. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Uh, sure,” I responded.

“Are you Jewish?”

“Yes,” I answered, wondering where this was going.

“Why do you wear a yarmulke?” Michael asked.

We shared a shy, sort of sheepish smile together at his knowledge of this insiders-only word, and I tried to think of an appropriate response. I drew on my 14 years of Jewish upbringing and education to muster up the best response I could think of. “We put a yarmulke on our heads to remind us always that there is One above us, and no matter how great we are, He is greater.”

He nodded, accepting the answer, and said it was very nice, but it was hard to tell what he really thought behind those impenetrable sunglasses. After some small talk and a handshake, I left the store, excited about my newly acquired autograph.

The next day in school, all I could talk about was meeting Michael Jackson, and my awesome new autograph got passed around among all my friends.

Years later, a friend pointed out the powerful symbolism: I advised Michael Jackson, who was one of the most famous and successful people in the world, at the height of his career, to be humble and to remember that there was One above him Who was greater than he. Without really meaning to, I told the King of Pop that he wasn’t the King of the universe.

Looking back on the story, I realize that the concept goes even deeper. The yarmulke sits on the head, above the brain. It’s there to remind us that even the things we’ve accomplished with our brains, things we should rightfully be proud of, should not cause us to be haughty because our Creator above is the One who made it all possible. Our brains are responsible for our creativity, our PhDs and Nobel Prizes, our works of art and our literary masterpieces, and yes, our musical hits. But without the Almighty’s help, none of it would be possible.

In fact, the very word “yarmulke” is a combination of the Hebrew words “Yarei Malka,” which translates to “Awe of the King.” Yes, I have a good mind and I’ve accomplished much in my life, but I must remember that it’s all a gift from Above.

Michael Jackson’s question got me thinking and all these years later it’s still on my mind. So M.J., thanks for asking. (

Never ever engage in idle chatter!

Our Gemara adjures us to refrain from speaking idle, purposeless words. “A person should never let his ears hear empty speech, because they burn first.” Our gedolei Yisroel were always exceedingly careful to refrain from speaking or listening to empty chatter. It is such a pity to waste time that could otherwise be utilized to increase one’s connection to Hashem by studying the holy Torah.

One student of Rav Elchonon Wasserman, Hy”d, recounted that for the three and a half years that he learned in Baranovitch, he never heard Rav Elchonon speak one word that was not Torah. Even when Rav Elchonon’s son returned from Mir after many months studying there, Rav Elchonon only said, “Shalom Aleichem! Vos machst du?” After his son responded that things were well, Rav Elchonon said, “Nu, mir darfen lernen!” “Time to learn!” And he went straight back to the Gemara.

Rav Elchonon’s practice of never speaking idle chatter was not only acquired after he became a Rosh Yeshiva; but even when he still learned in the Kollel Kodshim of the Chofetz Chaim zt”l in Radin, he never wasted a word. When reminiscing about the years he learned there, the Ponevizher Rav, zt”l, Rav Kahanaman, later recounted, “About those years I can give an exact accounting regarding bittul Torah for every instant that Rav Elchonon and I studied together!”

When the Steipler Gaon, zt”l, went to Rav Menachem Zeimba, Hy”d, to receive an approbation for his first published work, there was a big line. Although many of the people waiting to see the Rav were conversing, when the Steipler joined the line he opened Maseches Kesuvos and started learning. By the time he went in to see Rav Zeimba, he had learned twenty-two blatt Gemara!

Someone once asked the Chasam Sofer, zt”l, “What’s the secret to the Rav’s tremendous erudition in Torah?” The Chasam Sofer replied with a wry smile, “I became such a great talmid chacham in five minutes!” The questioner appeared completely flummoxed. The Chasam Sofer continued, “I mean during the many five minutes that people waste in the course of their lives. I used them all to learn and never wasted a second!” (








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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Mishpatim Inspiration 5775

The Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 30:3) states that prior to Sinai and subsequent to Sinai the Torah discusses משפט,  judgments.

How do we define משפט? One translations in judgments. Alternatively, the word משפט means justice, specifically harsh justice. Yet, we must wonder why the basic laws of the Torah are referred to as harsh judgments?

I once heard someone say that דין, also defined as justice, and particularly harsh justice, is the biggest רחמים, mercy, that HaShem can offer us. We beseech HaShem every day in the blessings of Shema to have mercy upon us and to place in our hearts the understanding of His Holy Torah. Clearly to study and understand HaShem’s Torah we require mercy, but how can we ask for mercy to engage Torah if the study of Torah itself is a matter of justice?

I believe the answer to this question is similar to the Gemara (Shabbos 88a) that states that at Sinai HaShem held the mountain over the Jewish People’s heads and said, “if you accept the Torah, fine. Otherwise, here you will find your burial spot.” Tosfos wonders why this was necessary if the Jewish People had already declared נעשה ונשמע, we will do and we will listen. The Maharal answers that HaShem was demonstrating to the Jewish People that even if they chose not to accept the Torah, they really had no choice, as Torah study and mitzvah observance is the reality of this world. Thus, we can suggest that while HaShem certainly sweetens our Torah study by granting us a personal sense of accomplishment, we are forced to study Torah because that is our life. Indeed, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai declared (Avos 2:8) if you have studied a lot of Torah, do not pride yourself on this, because it was for this that you were created.

Now we have a new understanding of the terms justice and mercy. Justice means our purpose in this world, whereas mercy is a temporary respite from the apparent harshness of that pursuit. The ultimate goal, however, is to be constantly engaged in Torah and to remain in what is euphemistically termed the ארבע אמות של הלכה, the four cubits of halacha.

HaShem should allow us to understand our purpose in life, which is total preoccupation in Torah study and mitzvah observance, and then we will merit what the prophet declares (Yeshaya 1:27) ציון במשפט תפדה ושביה בצדקה, Tziyon will be redeemed through justice, and those who return to her through righteousness.

Have a Merciful and Purposeful Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Mishpatim 5775

Mishpatim 5775

New Stories Mishpatim 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim

Mishpatim 5775

(From the archives)

Shabbos is a Spiritual Day Accompanied by Physical Indulgences


In this week’s parasha we learn about the precursor to the Jewish People fashioning the Golden Calf. It is said (Shemos 24:9-11) vayaal Moshe viAharon Nadav viAvihu vishivim miziknei Yisroel vayiru es Elokei Yisroel visachas raglav kimaasei livnas hasapir uchietzem hashamayim latohar viel atzilei binei Yisroel lo shalach yado vayechezu es HaElokim vayochlu vayishtu, Moshe, Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel ascended. They saw the G-d of Israel, and under his feet was the likeness of sapphire brickwork, and it was like the essence of the heaven in purity. Against the great men of the Children of Israel, He did not stretch out His hand – they gazed at G-d, yet they ate and drank. Rashi (Bamidbar 11:16) writes that this eating and drinking is comparable to a commoner who bites into a piece of bread while talking to a king. One must wonder, though, how it was possible that the great men of Israel could witness the greatest revelation ever experienced by mankind and then engage in such mundane acts like eating and drinking. How are we to understand this apparent paradox?

Attaining spiritual heights on Shabbos requires physical indulgence

There is a well known statement from the Holy Baal Shem Tov of blessed memory who said that on Shabbos, we are instructed by the Torah and the prophets to indulge in eating, drinking and other physical actions and this is deemed to be oneg Shabbos, delighting in the Shabbos. The Zohar refers to Shabbos as yoma dinishmasa, the day of the souls. How is it, then, that one can view Shabbos as a spiritual day when he is involved in such physical acts? The Baal Shem Tov would say that the Satan, i.e. the Evil Inclination, does not wish that a Jew attain such great spiritual heights on Shabbos. If a Jew would not eat and drink and indulge himself on Shabbos, the Satan would thwart the Jew’s attempt to ascend the spiritual ladder. Thus, HaShem instructed us to eat and drink on Shabbos, and this would satisfy the Satan.

The great leaders of Israel sought to attain a high level of spirituality while their souls were separated from their bodies.

In a similar vein, we can suggest that the great leaders of Israel witnessed the revelation at Sinai, and this experience literally took the souls out of the bodies of the Jewish people. While the soul leaving the body is an indication of great spiritual heights, the Rambam (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 7:6) posits that HaShem did not desire that the Jewish People remain at this level. Thus, HaShem instructed Moshe (Devarim 5:27) lech emor lahem shuvu lachem liahaleichem, “go say to them, ‘return to your tents.’” The Rambam interprets this to mean that HaShem desired that the souls of the Jewish People should return to their bodies. The great leaders, however, wished to retain this level of spirituality. While HaShem desires that a person live on a high spiritual level, and this normally requires the attachment of the body to the soul, the great leaders felt that by eating and drinking at the time of the great spiritual revelation, they would somehow be able to maintain the status of their souls being outside their bodies. This concept, that one can be totally spiritual and yet indulge in physical matters, is beyond our comprehension. Yet, according to the words of the Holy Baal Shem Tov, this is exactly the dichotomy that we experience every Shabbos. The great leaders at Sinai, however, did not follow HaShem’s instructions, and by attempting to retain the level of their souls outside their bodies, they were punished later with the death penalty.

 The Shabbos Connection

This fresh perspective of what we are experiencing on Shabbos should inspire us to prepare even more for the Holy Day of Shabbos, when HaShem allows us to physically indulge to thwart the schemes of the Satan. By following HaShem’s will, we should merit a day that is completely Shabbos and a day of rest for eternal life.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Gott fun Avraham

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who lived from 1740-1809, recommended that this prayer be recited by men, women and children three times and that the recitation would help ensure success in the upcoming week.

אַז דִי וָואךְ אוּן דֶער חוֹדֶשׁ, אוּן דֶער יָאר זָאל אוּנְז צוּא קוּמֶען… צוּ דְבֵיקַת הַבּוֹרֵא בָּרוּךְ הוּא, attachment to the Creator, Blessed be He. How does one attach himself to the Creator? The Gemara (Kesubos 111b) answers that one should cleave to Torah scholars and in this was he is deemed to be close to HaShem. It is noteworthy that the Zohar states that a Torah scholar is sin the category of Shabbos, so when one cleaves to a Torah scholar during the eek, he is connecting to the Holy Shabbos.

Shabbos Stories

Seeing the angels on Friday night

The Baal Shem Tov once visited Lemberg and stayed with his relative, the Gaon, Rabbi Chaim HaKohen Rappaport, the rabbi of the city. It was the custom of Reb Chaim to pray in the town synagogue. Reb Chaim was a great and famous rabbi and he was not a follower of the Baal Shem Tov and did not appreciate his new Chasidic movement.

The Baal Shem Tov asked for permission to pray with a separate minyan of the town’s Chasidim. Reb Chaim agreed, but with the condition that his guest, the Baal Shem Tov, not pray a long Friday night service – as he usually did – as this would delay the Sabbath meal if they had to wait for him.

The Baal Shem Tov agreed to this request. In actuality, however, he Baal Shem Tov could not control his ecstatic davening, so the Baal Shem Tov prayed for a long time, and thus arrived late at the rabbi’s house. Reb Chaim was waiting for his guest to arrive. When the Baal Shem Tov finally arrived, the rabbi began with Shabbos Zemiros, and he continued the meal without saying anything about the Baal Shem Tov’s lateness, which contradicted their agreement.

When the meal was over, the Rebbetzin asked her husband, “Why didn’t you rebuke the Baal Shem Tov regarding his tardiness?” “How could I rebuke him?” the rabbi responded. “The Talmud states that on Friday night two angels accompany a person back home from the synagogue. When the Baal Shem Tov entered, I actually saw the two angels entering with him! I certainly always believed what the Talmud said regarding the angels. Now, however, I actually saw them! That shows what my level is compared to the level of the Baal Shem Tov. Tell me, then, how could I say anything to him?”

Shabbos in Halacha

טוחן – Grinding

  1. Practical Applications
  2. Fruits and Vegetables

Foods that grow from the earth may not be chopped, mashed, grated or otherwise cut into very small pieces. Even if already chopped, they may not be reduced to yet smaller pieces. However, one may cut, chop or mash them with the handle of a utensil. Thus, one may mash bananas or potatoes using the handle of a utensil.

In a case of necessity, i.e. for a baby, one may cut or chop (but not mash) them with an ordinary utensil, for immediate use.

When cutting onions or other vegetables into small pieces for a salad, one should do so immediately prior to the meal in which they will be eaten and cut the vegetables into larger pieces than usual.


Cereals, i.e. cornflakes should not be crushed into small pieces unless it is known that the ingredients had initially been reduced to powder form.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim Mishpatim 5775

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Have a Wonderful Shabbos!

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New Stories Mishpatim 5775

YWN regrets to inform, you of the Petira of HaRav Yaakov Moshe Magid ZAZTAL of Montreal.

Rav Magid was one of the few remaining “Alter Mirrer”, the title given to those who studied in the Mirrer Yeshiva in Poland, and who survived the hands of the Nazis YM”S by fleeing with the entire Yeshiva through Siberia to Kobe, Japan, and on to Shanghai, China.

He lived until recently in Montreal. He passed away in Toronto at the home of his son Rev Hershel.

The Levaya took place on Sunday at Yeshiva Gedolah Zichron Shmayahu in Toronto.

The following first appeared in Mishpacha Magazine, and is being posted with their permission:

I enter his home and see that the definitive work on the history of the Mirrer Yeshiva and their miraculous escape, Hazericha B’pa’asei Kedem, is open on the table. The well-thumbed book is open to the page that lists the talmidim according to their places of birth, and Rav Magid indicates the page that lists the yelidei Breinsk, his own hometown. His voice is a gentle, sad sing-song as he reads the names of his childhood friends- Hashem yinkom damam.

He indicates a picture. ‘This is Avraham Arbus, an exceptional bochur. He was niftar in Shanghai from an illness.’ He pauses, and it’s clear that sixty-five years haven’t dulled the pain. ‘And here, in the middle of the picture, is Rav Shmuel Charkover, later a Rosh Yeshiva in Beis Hatalmud in Bensonhurst. What does this picture tell you?’

Rav Magid answers his own question with another question. ‘What was there to smile about in Shanghai? Each and every one of us had lost loved ones, parents, siblings, and lived with a constant uncertainty about our own futures, if we would ever see a new world. It was brutally hot and there was nothing to eat. How could we smile?’

‘The answer is that there were older bochurim like Reb Shmuel, who was so accomplished in his learning and mussar that even then, we knew he was a gadol. He would gather all of us, the younger bochurim, around him and would give us chizuk. He laughed with us and cried with us, chatted about this and that and gave us hope that things would, one day, return to normal.’

‘That’s what you see in this picture!’

I ask Rav Magid about an extraordinary historical fact; those difficult, lonely years in Shanghai were also years of spiritual abundance, with unparalleled hasmada and growth among the talmidim. How could that be?

‘It was the people, the leaders, the gedolei olam that we had at our head, who inspired us to such great heights.’

Rav Magid shares some history with me. ‘The Yeshiva was divided in to two groups, the older bochurim and the younger bochurim, which I referred to as the ‘bayis rishon’ and the ‘bayis shaini’. The difference between the two chaburos was that the older group had learned by the Mashgiach, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz, and lived with the memory of his shmuessen. When Rav Yeruchom passed away, the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Leizer Yudel Finkel, implored Rav Chatzkel Levenstein, who had moved to Eretz Yisroel, to return to serve as Mashgiach. The older group, Rav Yeruchom’s talmidim, respected the new Mashgiach, but we, the newcomers, were completely in awe of him. He was a malach and we revered him. The older talmidim gathered around Rav Leib Malin at that time, the prime disciple of Rav Yerucham. In Shanghai, however, even they, the bayis rishon, were witness to the open miracles that surrounded Rav Chatzkel, and they too learned to revere him.’

I ask Rav Magid what sort of miracles. He shares a story. ‘There was a group of talmidim in the Yeshiva from Germany, and for these bochurim to learn in the Mir, which represented different ideals and values than that of German Jewry, represented a form of mesiras nefesh. One of the lions of that group was Binyamin Zeilberger, who learned with tremendous diligence and passion and was well-respected in the Yeshiva.’

‘One Yom Kippur he took ill, and as the day progressed, his condition worsened, to the point that we feared for his life. Shortly before neilah, someone returned to the Beis Medrash from a visit to Binyamin with the news that his life was in danger.’

‘Now you have to understand what Rav Chatzkel was like on Yom Kippur; his shacharis Shemoneh Esrei would continue until krias haTorah, when he would receive the aliyah of Levi. His amida of mussaf would last until mincha and his mincha until neilah. Thus, by the time the holy tefillah of neilah arrived, the Mashgiach would have been on his feet, in silent prayer, the entire day.

As our friend, Binyomin Zeilberger, hovered near death, our thoughts were with him. We prepared to daven neilah with renewed concentration, ready to storm heavens for this budding talmid chacham.

At that holy hour, the climax of the holy day, rays of a setting sun filtering in through the windows, the angelic figure of the Mashgiach suddenly headed towards the Aron Kodesh. He ascended the steps and opened the paroches, then he burst into weeping- the simple, trusting cries of a child entreating his father.

‘Tatte zisse’ we heard him say in a tone that made it clear that he felt the Ribbono shel Olam’s presence acutely. ‘The Gemara says that one defending angel, one z’chus, is sufficient to have You tear up a judgment. Binyomin came here from Germany to learn and persevered despite many obstacles to toil in learning.’

‘Ribbono shel Olam! Does Binyomin not have one malach to judge him favorably? He who invested such energy and heart to becoming what he is, does he not have one z’chus to counter the evil decree?’

The Mashgiach descended from the Aron Kodesh and, in the waning minutes of the day, we lost ourselves in prayer, charged and invigorated by the conversation we had just overheard.’

‘On Motzoei Yom Kippur we were greeted by the joyous sight of our friend’s face slowly regaining its color. Within days he had returned to full strength and took his place at the top of the Yeshiva…’


I am anxious to take Rav Magid back to the prewar years, his own youth. As a child, just before Bar Mitzvah, his father, Reb Elchanan Dovid, sent him to learn in Grodno, the Yeshiva of Rav Shimon Shkop. ‘My father was a tremendous person, a talmid chacham and tzaddik.’ Rav Magid shows me a sefer, Chonoh Dovid, that his father authored on Mesechta Chulin. ‘He wrote this without any readily available sefarim, just a Gemara; I wasn’t privileged to know him, since he sent me off at such a young age. During the five years that I was in Grodno, I visited my parents only three times, and then I went to Mir.’

‘This sefer, Chonoh Dovid, was really a manuscript on the whole Mesechta, but the last time I visited him, I really wanted something tangible to stay connected. I ‘borrowed’ the notes on the first perek…and that’s why we have this sefer. The rest is lost forever. I carried this manuscript with me for years, and when I arrived here- in Montreal- and got married, I took the first money I could get my hands on and used it to print this.’

I ask Rav Magid why his father had to send him away at such a young age; were there no Yeshivos in Breinsk? ‘There were, but in addition to Yeshivos, there was also something else; constant hunger and poverty. It was that grinding poverty that ultimately led to a revolution on traditional Yiddishkeit; communism, socialism, Yiddishism. My father understood that the nisayon of aniyus is such that it makes every other option seem more enticing, and the various parties and events held by the various different factions in town- none of them faithful to Torah living- worried my father and he knew that a real Yeshiva environment, with no distractions, was necessary for me. There was a bochur in Breinsk named Sholom Levin, and he learned in Grodno, so my father sent me with him; he struggled to find money for travelling expenses, and he certainly had no money for me to take along. I arrived there penniless and very frightened.’

‘It was Cheshvan of 1934, and I was very young, not yet bar mitzvah.’

I ask Rav Magid how he celebrated his bar mitzvah in Yeshiva. He laughs heartily. ‘Celebrate? I got an aliyah and that was it.’

I ask about the personalities of Grodno, if he had an encounters with Grodno’s famed Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Shimon Shkop. ‘Rav Shimon was Rosh Yeshiva of the older bochurim, I had little connection with him. I did once have a nice experience with his son, Rav Moshe Mordechai, the Rov of the town. I used to like to learn in a small shul- an ancient building, maybe four hundred years old- by myself. One day I was learning there and there was another Jew learning there as well. It was just the two of us.’

‘When he finished learning, he closed his Gemara, and suddenly he jumped up. ‘My watch, my watch!’ he shouted, ‘you stole my watch’ It turned out that he had removed his watch while he was learning, and it was missing. He immediately assumed that I- the only other person in the room- was the culprit, and despite my protests, he insisted on taking me to a din Torah. We went to the home of the Rov who listened to his charges. The Rov pulled out one sefer, then another. He looked into the Shulchan Aruch, and then into the nosei keilim. Only after a few minutes of research, did he turn to the litigant.’

‘There is nothing you can do,’ the Rov told him. ‘I feel badly, but you have no ta’aneh.’

‘The fellow left; he may have lost his watch, but at least he felt like the Rov had tried to help him.’

‘I always retell that story to poskim and morei hora’ah; it’s important to make the questioner feel like his question is a good one, otherwise he will refrain from asking the next time.’

‘There was a Rov in Grodno that noticed me, a cute little boy, and would look out for me. When I was particularly hungry, or in need of a kind word, I would go daven in the large shul- Chevra Sha’s- where he was Rov. He would always slip me a few coins and arrange suitable meals for me. His name was Rav Michel Dovid Rozovsky, father of the Ponevezher Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Shmuel, and until today, I remember his kindness.’

‘I was in Grodno for Pesach- lacking the funds to go home- and entered the large shul on the Leil Haseder, feeling homesick and sad. I couldn’t help but think of Pesach back in Breinsk and the warmth of my dear family, where I’d felt like a little prince. Here I was, alone, on Yom Tov, in a strange city.

‘Suddenly, the Rov looked at me from the front of the room and called me outside. He reached in to his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. From within it, he withdrew a large piece of egg matzah. He stroked my cheek. ‘Yankele,’ he said, ‘go and eat something quickly before davening, in order that you may have strength to get through the seder tonight.’ He took me back in and arranged an invitation for me at the home of a prominent local- Reb Yisroel Dunski was his name- and I went back in to daven with a joyous heart.’

Rav Magid pauses, and as usual, has a mussar lesson to share. ‘I always say, that was a Jew vos tracht vegen yenem, who thought about others!’

‘Many years later, in 1966, I went to Eretz Yisroel for the first time in my life, and I visited Rav Shmuel Rozovsky. I shared this story with him and he grew very emotional. ’If you came all the way to Eretz Yisroel just to share that with me, it’s already worth it,’ he said.


From Grodno, Rav Magid went to learn in Mir, and he arrived there on the eve of the war, in 1938. Winds of upheaval were already blowing, but inside the beis medrash, the atmosphere was one of diligence and intensity.

I ask Rav Magid about the figures of those years, the illustrious Gedolim that distinguished themselves during those trying times. Of course, he mentions Rav Chaim Ozer. ‘It was Rav Chaim Ozer who emerged as the central figure in our lives, the father of the Yeshivos in every sense. He sacrificed his time, his learning, his energy; everything, to help b’nei Torah. Sometimes it was with money, sometimes with documents, and sometimes with words of chizuk, but his door was always open.’

‘In a sense, when he was niftar, we knew that it was the end, it was as if the last remaining shield was removed from in front of us.’

Rav Magid shares a poignant memory. ‘Rav Chaim Ozer was niftar on a Friday, the 5th day of Av, and we were inconsolable. We felt that the hands that had been carrying us all were no longer there.’

‘That night, Leil Shabbos, a group of us Yeshiva bochurim, decided to go to the tish of the Modzitzer Rebbe, who had also escaped to Vilna. The loss of the gadol hador was on everyone’s minds, and the Rebbe referred to it by the tish.’

‘It was Parshas Va’eschanan, and the Rebbe quoted the first passuk in the parsha; ‘Va’eschanan el Hashem bo’eiss hahi.’

He mentioned the perpetual disagreement between Klal Yisroel and Hakadosh Boruch Hu. The Yidden say ‘Hashiveinu Hashem elecha venashuva, return us to You, Hashem, and then we will do teshuva, meaning that Hashem should make the first move. Hashem, in turn, says ‘shuva elai v’ashuva aleichem, return to Me, and then I will return to you, that we should make the first move.’

Rav Magid recalls. ‘The Rebbe, in a pained voice, cried out ‘Moshe Rabbeinu saw far into the future that there would be terrible times for the Yidden, periods of darkness and pain, and he prayed for the Yidden that would struggle to maintain their faith in those trying times; Va’eschanan el Hashem bo’eiss hahi- I davened to Hashem for ‘that time’- Moshe davened for us- and what did he ask?’

The Rebbe continued with the end of the passuk. ‘Hashem Elokim, Ata hachilosa, – Hashem, please, You be the one to start the process of teshuva and draw the Yidden close.’

‘That was the Rebbe’s Torah on that bitter Friday night!’

I jokingly comment that, as impressed as the bochurim were by the Rebbe’s powerful message, it obviously wasn’t enough to turn them in to chassidim.

Rav Magid looks at me in shock. ‘You think that was our only connection with chassidus? Throughout the years in Shanghai, the Amshinover Rebbe was a central figure in our lives. We would attend his tish and speak with him frequently.’

Rav Magid smiles at a memory. ‘He took one of our best bochurim, Reb Chaim Milikovsky (father of the present Amshinover Rebbe of Bayit Vegan) as a son-in-law.’

Rav Magid shares a great story. ‘When the Rebbe took a ‘litvishe’ bochur as a son-in-law, some of his chassidishe friends ‘tcheppet’ him about it. ‘A bochur without a beard?’

‘The Rebbe replied, ‘for the others to get what my Chaim’l has would take them twenty years- for him to get what they have (a beard), will take him a few months!”

‘Do you remember the chasunah?’ I ask.

‘Remember? I held one of the poles at the chuppah. Of course I remember! The Rebbe was mesader kiddushin, and just before he performed the ceremony, he called out ‘Chaim’l, gib a kuk oiff di kallah, take a look at the kallah.’ (A reference to the halacha that one cannot marry a woman he has not yet seen).

Rav Magid shares a humorous story with me. ‘Just a few years back, my friend Rav Shmuel Birnbaum, the Rosh Yeshiva of Mir- Brooklyn, was here, in Montreal, for a chasunah, and was mesader kiddushin. Under the chuppah, just before making the bracha, he instructed the chassan to take a look at the kallah. After the chuppah, I asked Rav Shmuel ‘do you think that you’re the Amshinover Rebbe?’ How he laughed!”


What makes the conversation with Rav Magid so enjoyable? Perhaps the answer lies in a story he himself shares.

It was that Elul of 1939- the last vestige of calm before the storm. War had broken out, and everywhere, parents reached out their arms wide to pull their children close. Young Yankel Magid, the boy who had been away from home since before his bar mitzvah and barely knew his own father, was actually home. What good fortune!

But, no, his father decided otherwise. He called in his teenage son and told him that, as much as he yearned to have him close by, ‘dein platz iz mit di Yeshiva -vos vet zein mit de Yeshiva vet zein mit eich. Your place is with the Yeshiva. Whatever fate will meet the Yeshiva, will be yours as well.’

With tears in their eyes, his parents bade him farewell, encouraging him to leave them and return to his place- the Yeshiva- realizing full well that they might never see him again.

They didn’t, in fact, but they did save his life with that remarkable act of self-sacrifice.

For his Yeshiva- the Mirrer Yeshiva- was lifted on eagle’s wings and carried to safety, a fate unique in the world of Yeshivos, and Yankel, whose place was with that Yeshiva, merited that exceptional salvation.

So even now, when he speaks- though well over half- a century has passed, a new world has arisen- one in which his own children have taken a prominent role as Roshei Yeshiva and marbitzei Torah in the olam haYeshivos- Rav Magid hasn’t forgotten those instructions; he speaks not of history, not of times and places gone by, but rather of his place, the Yeshiva. Just like his father said. See more at:



The One Who Learns and the One Who Doesn’t

“תלי תניא בדלא תניא…”

Despite crushing poverty, many Chassidim in pre-war Poland would support their sons-in-law in learning as long as possible. It was hoped this would enable them to continue learning even when they were finally forced to engage in business to support their families. One Gerrer chassid was supported for a time by his father-in-law. After a few years, the father-in-law experienced some setbacks in his business and had a harder time paying his son-in-law’s way. He explained his to his son in law as gently as he could. “Unless my business picks up, I am afraid you’ll have to find a means to support yourself.” Since this was a major life decision, the chassid decided to consult with his Rebbe, the Sefas Emes, zt”l. He asked, “Could it be that Hashem really want me to leave my beloved shtiebele and go into business so soon?” It was obvious that the young man was unhappy to lose such important years of spiritual growth. “Does your shver learn?” asked the Rebbe. “He is an upright person but he doesn’t really know how to learn,” answered the young man. “In that case it’s up to you!” the Sefas Emes exclaimed. “If you are careful not to waste time, Hashem will enable your shver to support you. This is can be understood from the Gemara in Kesuvos 2a: ‘תלי תניא בדלא תניא.’ Literally, this statement means: ‘Why does he hinge a Mishnah which was taught on one which was not taught?’ However this statement can also be understood to refer to your situation. ‘תניא’ means one who learns and ‘לא תניא’ means one who doesn’t learnתניא’  בדלא תלי תניא’, thus means ‘one who learns, one who really learns the way he should, will be supported by the one who doesn’t learn!’” (




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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Yisro Inspiration 5775

Someone said to me this week that in Torah there’s not much new. (I don’t think he really meant what he said, but that’s what he said).

So it got me thinking, “let’s take a look at the first passuk in this week’s parasha and see if we can find something new!” It is said (Shemos 18:1)וַיִּשְׁמַע יִתְרוֹ כֹהֵן מִדְיָן חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֱלֹהִים לְמֹשֶׁה וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַמּוֹ כִּי הוֹצִיא יְ-ה-ו-ָה אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם, Yisro the minister of Midian, the father-in-law of Moshe, heard everything that G-d did to Moshe and to Israel, His people – that HaShem had taken Israel out of Egypt. Immediately the word וַיִּשְׁמַע  stands out. Why does the Torah focus on Yisro’s hearing whatever he heard?

In order to answer this question, we have to delve a little deeper into what Yisro actually heard. Some opinions maintain that Yisro heard about the Splitting of the Sea and the battle with Amalek. Yet, others posit that he heard about the Giving of the Torah. There is a major debate whether Yisro came prior to the Giving of the Torah or afterwards. I wonder, then, according to the opinion that Yisro came after the Giving of the Torah. Can we speculate that he arrived after the Jewish People crafted and worshipped the Golden Calf? If that was true, then we have a beautiful understanding into why the Torah states that Yisro heard about the Giving of the Torah. The Sfas Emes cites the Zohar that states that even though the Jewish People negated their acceptance of the Torah when they said נַעֲשֶׂה, “we will do,” they should still be careful of their utterance of וְנִשְׁמָע, and we will (obey) hear. Thus, Yisro was coming after the Jewish People had received the Torah AND after they had sinned with the Golden Calf. Nonetheless, he was able to grasp on to the נִשְׁמָע, the acceptance of hearing. This teaches us that despite committing grievous sins, one still has hope that he can once again exert himself to hear the word of HaShem. When we begin to truly hear the word of HaShem, we can be assured that HaShem will hear our pleas and our prayers to return to Him, with complete faith.

Have a Well Attuned Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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