Erev Shabbos Kodesh Ki Seitzei Inspiration 5775

Attending a wedding this week helped put this week’s parasha in proper perspective. So much discussion regarding marriage and the importance of the first year together as husband and wife. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of the words of the Baal HaTurim, who writes that the essential reward of “length of days” that the Torah promises regarding various commandments refers to the building of the Bais HaMikdash. This means that the focus of our lives is the Bais HaMikdash. A marriage is a reflection of the Bais HaMikdash, as one must always act in a respectful manner to one’s spouse, children and guests. There is no such thing as an off moment in the Bais HaMikdash, and the same applies in a married life. HaShem should give us the wisdom to understand the importance of all our relationships and with that we will merit long life and the Rebuilding of the third Bais HaMikdash, speedily, in our days!

Have an Understanding Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Ki Seitzei 5775

Ki Seitzei 5775

New Stories Ki Seitzei 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Ki Seitzei 5775

Modesty is the Key to Salvation


In this week’s parashah the Torah discusses the laws of going out to battle. One of the laws of battle is that the Jewish People retain a state of sanctity in the camp. It is said (Devarim 23:10) ki seitzei machaneh al oyvecho vinishmarta mikol davar ra, when a camp goes out against your enemies, you shall guard against anything evil. Further on it is said (Ibid verse 15) ki HaShem Elokecha mishaleich bikerev machanecho lihatzilcho vilaseis oyvecho lifaenecho vihayah machanecho kadosh vilo yireh vicho ervas davar vishav meiacharecho, for HaShem, your G-d, walks in the midst of your camp to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you; so your camp shall be holy, so that he will not see a shameful thing among you and turn away from behind you. The Torah is telling us that the key to salvation is through modesty. When the Jewish People act in a modest fashion, their camp is deemed to be holy and HaShem allows His Presence to reside amongst them. This idea is reflected in the following teaching from the Gerrer Rebbe, the Lev Simcha. It is said (Ibid 24:15) biyomo sitein sicharo, on that day shall you pay his hire. The first letters of the words biyomo sitein sicharo spell out the word Shabbos. The Lev Simcha writes that it is said (Ibid 21:10) ki seitzei lamilchama al oyvecho unsano HaShem Elokecha biyadecha vishavisa shivyo, when you will go out to war against your enemies, and HaShem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hand, and you will capture his captivity.

The Shabbos Connection

The Lev Simcha cites a Medrash that interprets the verse as follows: ki seitzei lamilchama al oyvecho refers to the days of the week, and unsano HaShem Elokecha biyadecha refers to Shabbos. The Lev Simcha writes that this is the meaning of the verse that states biyomo sitein sicharo, on that day shall you pay his hire. On the day of HaShem, which is Shabbos, as that is when HaShem rested, you shall pay his hire, i.e. HaShem will give you a reward. Based on the words of the Lev Simcha we can interpret the verses said regarding being modest when going out to battle in the same manner. When one goes out to battle, he is warring with the Evil Inclination, who tempts a person with desires that he is not accustomed to confronting when he is at home. Nonetheless, when one acts in a modest fashion, he captures his captivity, i.e. he subdues the Evil Inclination. The weekday is the battle ground with the Evil Inclination. When a Jew battles his Evil Inclination during the week and succeeds in overwhelming the Evil Inclination, then vishavisa shivyo, he will earn the reward of Shabbos. It is noteworthy that in the word vishavisa is the word Shabbos. HaShem should allow us to serve him in a modest fashion, and make our camps holy, and then we will merit the holiness of Shabbos and the day that will be completely Shabbos and rest day for eternal life.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

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

וְיוֹם מְנוּחָתִי בְּרִנָּה וּבְשָׂשׁוֹן, חָבִיב כְּבַת אִישׁוֹן, and my day of contentment with glad song and joy. As beloved as the apple of the eye. The apple of ones eye is a metaphor to describe someone’s love for another. Here we ask HaShem to view favorably the Shabbos observance of His Beloved nation who are the apple of His eye. Alternatively, we are asking HaShem to appreciate our Shabbos observance as if the observance itself is the apple of His eye. Furthermore, we are now in the month of Elul, and the first letters of the words אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי, I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me, spell out the word אלול. It is noteworthy that the words ְּבַת אִישׁוֹן equals in gematria the words שבת אלול.

Shabbos Stories

No Revenge in the Next World

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: One of the most poignant episodes in the fascinating life of the Ger Tzedek of Vilna, Avraham ben Avraham, came in the last moments of his life. Avraham ben Avraham was born as Count Potocki, and converted after taking an interest to Judaism while studying in the University of Paris. He eventually returned to Vilna and joined the ranks of the perushim, those who separated themselves for a life of total Torah immersion. His family had conducted a massive search for him and when he was found he was turned over to the inquisitorial board of the church that could not persuade him to forego Judaism. He was sentenced to the auto-de- fé death by fire. An old friend of the Count from the days before his conversion was the one who was appointed to light the bonfire. As the pyre was being formed and the flames about to be set, the man approached the ger. Fearful of the terrible crime he was about to perpetrate, he asked the holy convert, “When you come to heaven are you going to ask your G-d to enact Heavenly retribution against me?” Ignoring the commotion that surrounded him, Avraham ben Avraham smiled. “Let me tell you a story,” he began. “When I was a young child, my father gave me a beautiful toy soldier which I cherished. One day you came to play with me and because your soldier was nowhere as nice as mine, you were obviously jealous. So when you thought I was not looking, you broke my soldier. I was enraged, and I swore to take revenge. “Of course when I grew older, the whole incident was a joke to me. I realized that compared to all the accomplishments I had in my life and the wealth I was to inherit, the silly soldier meant nothing to me! It never again crossed my mind.” The ger tzedek emitted a slight laugh. “I am about to enter the world of Olam HaBah. In my religion, one who sanctifies his life for the sake of Judaism is considered the greatest of all the righteous. Believe me, when I receive my awaited award, your fate will be as irrelevant to me as the fate of my toy soldier! Do not fear. I will not have the need or even desire to think of taking revenge for your inane acts of this petty world.”

Rules are Rules But….

Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: A brilliant young student entered the portals of Yeshiva Torah Voda’ath in the 1940s. Hailing from a distinguished rabbinic family which instilled within him a creative mind, he questioned some of the arcane dormitory rules and restrictions that were imposed with boys of less character in mind. But rules, said the dormitory counselor, are rules and he wanted to have the young student temporarily expelled until he would agree to conform. An expulsion of that sort would have left the young man (who lived out of town) no alternative but to leave the Yeshiva. They brought the matter before the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky. “True,” he said, “rules are rules, but I owe this young man something.” The dorm counselor looked stunned. “In the 1800s this boy’s great-grandfather helped establish the kollel (fellowship program for married Torah scholars) at which I would study some decades later. I owe his family a debt of gratitude. If the rules disallow his stay in the dormitory, then he will sleep in my home.” (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Improving Upon an Existing Mixture
  1. Adding Solids to a Mixture

Thickening a Loose Mixture

If the original mixture is of a loose consistency, one must reverse the order in which the ingredients are added together, and change the manner of stirring.

For example, to thicken the consistency of a bowl of loose baby cereal, one may not add cereal to the bowl as always, but must reverse the order by placing the dry cereal in a bowl and then pouring the original mixture onto it. The cereal must then be stirred with a valid shinui.

Realistically, though, when a loose mixture is thickened it usually turns into a thick mixture, which may be prepared with a liquid binder only when necessary. Therefore, one should thicken a loose mixture only in cases of necessity, as explained above. If the original mixture is so liquid that it will remain loose even after the solids are added, one is permitted to thicken the mixture (with the proper shinuim) in all circumstances.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Ki Seitzei 5775

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New Stories Ki Seitzei 5775

My Resilient Jewish Soul

In a dysfunctional home in the Bible Belt, a young woman discovers she’s Jewish.

by Rachel Krol

I was born the eldest of five children and raised in the Bible Belt. My mother was Jewish and my father was a gentile. During my adolescent years, I became aware that Jews were not well received in the Deep South. I learned that if you were Jewish, it was best not to draw attention to the fact.

My mother could trace her roots back to a Northern province of Prussia called Bromberg. Her family later immigrated to Germany, where tragically she lost most of them in the death camps of Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. Those who escaped the Holocaust would later sail to America and make landfall in Galveston, Texas. They chose the Gulf Coast of Texas hoping to draw as little attention as possible as they became full-fledged Americans. They achieved their goal of assimilation to the point that, by the time my mother was born, little of her Jewish tradition remained intact. That lack of connection to her Jewish roots pre-empted any doubts she might have about marrying a gentile. But things took a curious turn when she decided to marry a Catholic.

In order for her to marry my father, my mother had to sign a contract with the Roman Catholic Church stating that any children born of their union would be raised Catholic. Nothing Jewish was to be allowed or spoken of in the family. She signed the agreement.

Our own familial brand of anti-Semitism was always prevalent. By the age of four, I began associating my maternal grandfather’s visits with breakfasts of bacon, ham and sausage. It was the only time my father would cook all three for breakfast. My grandfather would come in, kiss us all and excuse himself to go for a walk. Sometimes, I was lucky enough to join him. Those walks were full of conversations about Judaism. At the time, I couldn’t fathom what he was sharing with me. I just thought he was getting old and confused.

Despite my mother’s enthusiasm, I openly questioned the tenets of Catholicism.

My mother was committed to keeping her agreement with the Catholic Church. She made sure we learned Catechism on Wednesday afternoons, went to confession on Saturdays and church on Sundays. Despite my mother’s enthusiasm, I openly questioned the tenets of Catholicism and spent more time sitting in the hallway than in Catechism class.

My Murderous Father

My restless Jewish soul cost me dearly. But it cost my mother her life. In the South at that time people thought all the Jews were filthy rich. My father was insistent that my mother get some of that wealth from her parents. But there was no money to get. In anger, my father lashed out physically, hitting her in the head with an object. At age 36, she died at the hands of my father.

My eleven-year old mind reeled. It was too incomprehensible. I couldn’t understand why God would allow five young children to remain with a man who was able to commit such an act. My father should have been locked up, but the attending physician warned my maternal grandmother that if the death certificate showed the actual cause—a fatal blow to the head—her five grandchildren would be placed in foster care and, more than likely, sent to separate homes. Oddly, she agreed, somehow believing that splitting up the family was worse than staying with a man who had brutally taken the life of her daughter. He wrote that the cause of death was essential hypertension.

My father went from being a social drinker to a full-fledged alcoholic and prescription drug abuser after my mother’s death.  The adults in my life pretended that everything was okay. My mother was never spoken of and my father’s issues were never discussed. It was easier for them to ignore the problems but it left me, an eleven year old, completely in charge of four younger siblings.

Though I bore most of the burden, my father’s frustration with his plight caused him to consider extreme options. One day as I stepped off the school bus, I heard someone say loudly to me, “Don’t go to sleep tonight!” I looked back at the bus driver but he was speaking to another student. As the bus pulled away, I looked for someone who might have said this to me but no one was around. As I entered my house, I felt something eerily wrong.

At dinner that night, my father pulled out a bottle of pills and demanded that we each take one. As he made each child swallow a pill, I got up and went to the kitchen so that I would be last. He was checking each child’s mouth to make sure they had swallowed the pill. When my turn came I was able to get the pill far enough under my tongue that it was not visible.

My father stumbled toward my bed brandishing a pistol.

I rushed the kids off to bed spitting out the pill on the way. The five of us slept in one room, my bed was closest to the door. As I lay awake fighting exhaustion, I asked God to help me not fall asleep. About three a.m. I heard shuffling outside our bedroom door. My father entered stumbling toward my bed. Through the blinds was a glint of moon light that shone on the pistol in my father’s hand. Without even thinking, I jumped straight up to a standing position on my bed and screamed, “What do you think you’re doing?!” He was so surprised that he dropped the gun on the floor and stumbled out of the room. Grabbing the gun, I locked the door, hid the bullets in one place and the pistol in another. I did not close my eyes the rest of the night.

This was to be one of two incidents where I was warned not to sleep because of danger to my siblings and I. The second incident played out similar to the first, but this time he used a hunter’s knife. He didn’t bother with pills, just waited until we all were asleep. When I heard him at the door, I jumped up and turned on the light. As he entered I pushed him as hard as I could out of the room, locking the door and pushing furniture in front of it. The other kids woke up crying and I told them I had just been afraid but everything was okay. They went back to sleep and I sat on the floor in front of the furniture blocking our door until morning.

As dire our as our situation seemed, the thought of asking for help outside the family was never a consideration. Fifty years ago, it was taboo to let the outside world know what went on behind closed doors.

The next seven years, I became mother, housekeeper, teacher, babysitter and protector to my four siblings. No one told me this was to be my responsibility; there just wasn’t anyone else to lean on.

Leaving the Catholic Church

By the time I turned eighteen, I was still considered a Catholic by the family. That proved to be a problem when I decided to marry my high school sweetheart who was a Baptist and had no desire to convert. Because I was ready to leave the church to marry him, the church decided to leave me. I was excommunicated. My new status brought disgrace upon my father and his family.

The marriage brought a sense of relief and I was warmly welcomed into my husband’s family. Years before the marriage, my mother-in-law had become my surrogate mother. She was a very religious woman whose everyday life truly reflected her beliefs.

My mother-in-law convinced me I wasn’t going to hell for reading a Protestant Bible.

Though it took nearly a year and half, she finally convinced me I wasn’t going to hell for reading a Protestant Bible. I was brought up to believe that you did not read the Bible. If you had questions you went to the priest for your answers. I still remember the big Bible on our coffee table and how it served only one purpose: to record births, deaths and marriages in the back of the book.

When I finally agreed to read the Bible, she bought me my own copy. I opened the book at the beginning and discovered that the first half of the Protestant Bible are the Jewish Scriptures. Those pages spoke to me so deeply that I re-read them again before starting on the last half. When I finally finished the last half of their bible, I didn’t respond to its text like the first half. The result was that I simply saw the text in its plain, ordinary, meaning.  This created a bit of a problem when I attended church with my new family. The church taught that God had “set the Jews on a shelf somewhere” because they rejected the Christian messiah and replaced them with the Christians as the chosen people. As the congregants shouted, “Amen” to the preaching, I sat in silence wondering why the minister was teaching concepts that were nowhere on the pages of their own bible. My confusion led me to wonder if the problem was with me. I was determined to muddle through and became a card-carrying member of the Southern Baptists.

Teaching the Bible

In the years that followed, I taught Sunday school for our church’s divorced and separated women. No one wanted to teach them. They were regarded as tarnished souls who might as well have had ‘The Scarlet Letter’ stamped on their chest. I didn’t care. I loved them and they were looking for answers.

The task of teaching Sunday school didn’t require lesson plans. We were handed a manual containing instructions on how to teach the course. I noticed a problem with the teacher’s manual on the Book of Romans from New Testament. Three chapters from Romans were inexplicably left out. I located those chapters and studied them with a Greek and Hebrew Interlinear. The more I studied, the angrier I got.

Those three chapters were twisted to demonstrate the Jews lack of belief in the messiah and that they did not choose God. The church used this to justify Replacement Theology – God set aside the Jews and raised up the Christians to take their place as the Chosen People.

I confronted our pastor, tossing the manual on his desk and asking him why three chapters of Romans were missing from the study guide. He squirmed, telling me that a theological degree was needed to explain those chapters and that he was going to teach them. I responded that no degree was needed and it had become clear to me that the church deceptively used these chapters to teach Replacement Theology.

His threat didn’t hold any meaning for me. I had already been thrown out of the Catholic Church.

The pastor sat back in his chair and quietly looked at me as I told him that come Sunday morning I would be teaching those three chapters to my class in the way I understood them, with no hint of Replacement Theology. He said I couldn’t and if I insisted, I would not only lose my class, but be asked to leave the church.

His threat didn’t hold any meaning for me. I had already been thrown out of the Catholic Church. I told him that I would be teaching my class one way or another. I was shown the door.

But I kept my promise. That Sunday, the ladies joined me in my home for class and we studied those three chapters from the book of Romans.

Vendyl Jones & Righteous Gentiles

I learned throughout the years that God never leaves us out on a limb. My yearning for answers and my search for the truth came from an unexpected place. I was offered a job as the personal assistant to a Biblical archaeologist from Texas by the name of Vendyl Jones.

Vendyl was a maverick and as controversial as he was colorful. He toiled over Greek texts hoping to understand the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures, only to be handed more books after graduation. These additional volumes were full of explanations of how the Bible states one thing while it really means another. They were distorting scriptures to serve an agenda. He tossed the books and moved his family to Israel in the late 1950s. He wanted to learn Hebrew in order to comprehend the original Jewish text.

I went to work for Vendyl in the early ’80s and witnessed his metamorphosis from a Southern Baptist preacher to a Righteous Gentile. During those years with him, I experienced phenomenal things; however two events are most close to my heart. I will never forget working with Vendyl and Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi of Israel at the time, in the drafting and signing of a declaration reinstating the validity of B’nai Noah. The other memorable experience involved archaeological digs with Vendyl at Qumran, near the shores of the Dead Sea.

B’nai Noah seemed like a logical place for me. Vendyl had already knocked on many an Orthodox Rabbis’ door, asking that Gentiles be allowed to learn Torah. He saw a lot of doors shut in his face. It was the genuine respect for Torah, expressed by many gentiles like Vendyl, as well as a sincere search for truth that eventually caused some rabbis to change their thinking. They saw people who weren’t trying to convert but only wanted the truth about monotheism.

Vendyl announced one day that he was making a trip up to Crown Heights. “What on earth for?” I said in shock. “To get a dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe!” he admitted. By then, I knew not to argue and just book his travel arrangements.

Like hundreds of people that day at 770 Eastern Parkway, Vendyl waited in line to see Rabbi Schneerson. When his turn finally came, Vendyl silently reached out to accept a dollar bill.

But the Rebbe held on to the dollar. Unblinking, he looked directly into Vendyl’s eyes, “You are doing a very important work; it won’t be easy but don’t give up.”

Vendyl, too shocked to speak, simply nodded and walked out. When he returned from New York, Vendyl was still basking in the glow of his memorable meeting with the Rebbe. For him it was a confirmation that the B’nai Noah movement should become a modern-day reality.

Working with Vendyl and witnessing the re-emergence of B’nai Noah was a good starting place for a Jewish girl who didn’t know much about being Jewish. Little did I know that God had other plans for me.

“You’re Jewish!”

The archaeological excavations we conducted at Qumran were a direct result of Vendyl’s extensive research into a little-known, but very unique item, found among the Dead Sea Scroll caves: an eight foot long scroll made of copper. Aiding Vendyl in his translation of the Hebrew inscription on the Copper Scroll was a linguist, who was also an Orthodox Rabbi. I spent many hours, with the rabbi assisting in the Copper Scroll project.

One day, sitting in his crowded study, surrounded by stacks of books, the rabbi eyed me curiously, “Nu, what about your family? Were they Christians?”

“What about my family?” I said.

“Well, I’m half and half.” I responded

“What does that mean?” he asked.

“You’re not half anything! You’re Jewish!”

I told him that my mother was Jewish and my father was a Roman Catholic, so I was half and half.

The rabbi stood up, proclaiming dramatically, “You’re not half anything! You’re Jewish!”

I didn’t understand. After 45 minutes of explanation, he got through to me. I finally understood that my Jewishness was not an ethnic thing. I had a Jewish soul because my mother had a Jewish soul. He retrieved books from a shelf and instructed me on what order I should read each book, “And after you finish these, come back for more!” he demanded.

That weekend, I read non-stop, day and night. Then, I started to cry.

All my life I was convinced there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t fit into any of the boxes shoved at me. Finally, I understood. As this new realization took hold, I welcomed the knowledge that G-d had truly given me a Jewish soul. But a soul has to experience change and challenge to grow. And the changes came. My eighteen year marriage, already failing from other stresses, fell apart. My new awareness couldn’t save it.  Around that same time, my association with Vendyl came to an end as I pursued a path to recapture my Jewishness.

I became a member of an Orthodox baal teshuva synagogue, Ohev Shalom of North Dallas in 1997. Rabbi Roden and his wife Henny were the only members who were frum (Orthodox) from birth. It was a wonderful place, full of excitement. We were too busy discovering the riches of Torah to care about gossip, or who was wearing what.

My stay with the synagogue was short lived. I went on to marry a Jewish man in 1998 and lived a Torah life. We would make aliyah to Israel in 2005. I have been an Israeli now for over ten years and continue to live a Torah life.

As I reflect back on where I began and look at the life I have ended up with, it is evident that I am not the same person. It took everything I had to endure to become the person I am today and I am thankful that God has allowed me the privilege of living out my years in the Holy Land. (

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Shoftim Inspiration 5775

In this week’s parasha the Torah teaches us the rules of the battlefield. The Torah states (Devarim 20:8) וְיָסְפוּ הַשֹּׁטְרִים לְדַבֵּר אֶל הָעָם וְאָמְרוּ מִי הָאִישׁ הַיָּרֵא וְרַךְ הַלֵּבָב יֵלֵךְ וְיָשֹׁב לְבֵיתוֹ וְלֹא יִמַּס אֶת לְבַב אֶחָיו כִּלְבָבוֹ, and the officers shall continue to speak to the people and say, “What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, that he should not cause the heart of his brothers to melt, as his heart.” The Gemara states that this refers to הירא מעבירות שבידו, one who fears the sins in his possession. In the simple sense this means that one who is fearful of his sins is liable to dishearten his fellow soldiers, and for this reason the Torah instructs him to return from the battlefield. The Yerushalmi, however, states that the sin referred to here is that of one who interrupts with speech between placing the Tefillin Shel Yad and Tefillin Shel Rosh. What is the nature of this sin that is cause for a soldier you return from the battlefield?

I believe I once saw a commentator on the Torah write that the words עבירות שבידו alludes to the sin of talking between the placement of the Tefillin Shel Yad and the placement of the Tefillin Shel Rosh. Perhaps we can suggest an alternative explanation. The Gemara (Brachos 30b) states that various Amoraim allowed themselves a light moment with the justification of אנא תפילין מנחנא, I am wearing Tefillin. Apparently, the mitzvah of Tefillin tempers one’s nature and even if one has a lighter moment, he can depend on the counterbalance of the Tefillin to keep him in line. Interrupting between the placement of the Tefillin Shel Yad and the placement of the Tefillin Shel Rosh reflects a lack of fearing heaven. The Torah states,  and the Gemara interprets this to be referring to Tefillin Shel Rosh. Until one places the Tefillin Shel Rosh, he has not achieved true fear of heaven, and he cannot conduct himself in a lighter manner. This explains the Yerushalmi cited previously regarding the sin of talking between the placement of the Tefillin Shel Yad and the Tefillin Shel Rosh. Furthermore, the Gemara refers to this sin as ירא מן העבירות שבידו, because he has embarked on a journey to achieving fear of HaShem but he has not yet arrived.

With this interpretation we can understand why the Gemara states that one who is afraid of his sins returns from the battlefield under cover of not having married his betrothed, dedicating his house, or redeeming his vineyard. All these situations describe one who is in the process of performing a noble act but not having completed it. This is akin to one who interrupts between the placement of the Tefillin Shel Yad and the Tefillin Shel Rosh. Such a person is not suitable for the battlefield, where one is required to start the task of fighting the enemy and destroying him.

As we have begun the special days of Elul, we should bear in mind that we have commenced the battle against our Evil Inclination and HaShem should allow us to fight the Evil Inclination until the finish.

Have a Victorious Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler



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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Shoftim 5775

Shoftim 5775

New Stories Shoftim 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shoftim 5775

Appointing a King for Eternity


In this week’s parashah the Torah discusses the laws of appointing a king over the Jewish People. It is difficult for us to imagine in our times what it means to have a Jewish king, as the Jewish monarchy has been defunct for some two thousand years. Yet, in some sense we are required to fulfill this mitzvah of appointing a king, as every Jew must attempt to perform the mitzvos that are within his abilities. The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 497) raises an obvious question. We know that once Dovid HaMelech was anointed as king of the Jewish People, there was no longer a mitzvah to appoint a king. This being the case, how could there be a mitzvah for future generations to anoint a king? The Chinuch answers that the mitzvah is not limited to appointing a king. Rather, included in the mitzvah is to appoint a new king when necessary, to establish the kingship of an heir to the previous king, to fear the king and to conduct oneself with the king according to the Torah’s instructions. These facets of the mitzvah are certainly prevalent forever.

The Shabbos Connection

This idea described by the Chinuch also has its applications in our daily lives. In our current exile we are under the yoke of the local government, and the Gemara (Brachos 17a) states that it is our will to perform HaShem’s will. However, we are held back because of the seor shebiisah, the yeast in the dough, i.e. the Evil Inclination, and the subjugation of the gentile kings. On Shabbos, however, we recite in Kegavna the words kad ayil Shabbsa ihi isyachadas viisparashas misitra achara vichol dinin misabrin minah, when the Shabbos arrives, she unified herself in Oneness and divests herself of the Other Side, [any trace of evil] all harsh judgments are removed from her. Thus, the Evil Inclination and the rule of the nations of the world cease to dominate us on the Holy Shabbos. Furthermore, the theme of Shabbos, which is reflected in the prayer of Kabbalas Shabbos which we recite at the onset of Shabbos, is the reign of HaShem, Who is the King of all kings. Thus, every week we are given the opportunity to, so to speak, appoint HaShem as our king, and no force in the world can prevent us from that wonderful opportunity. We are now in the month of Elul and we are preparing ourselves for the upcoming Days of Awe, when we will once again proclaim HaShem as our King and King of the whole world. It is worthwhile to reflect on the meaning of kingship and to realize that our true aspiration should be to have HaShem as our king, as we recite daily in Shemone Esrei hashivah shofteinu kivarishona viyoatzeinu kivatchila vihaseir mimenu yagon vaanacha umloch aleinu miheira atah HaShem livadcho bichesed uvirachamim, restore our judges as in earliest times and our counselors as at first; remove from us sorrow and groan; and speedily reign over us – You, HaShem, alone – with kindness and compassion.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

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

רְצֵה תְפִלָּתִי, כְּמוֹ קָרְבַּן נַחְשׁוֹן, desire my prayer like Nachshon’s offering. The simple meaning of this passage is that we ask HaShem accept our prayer like the offering of Nachshon, the leader of the tribe of Yehudah. Nachshon was the first tribal leader to offer a sacrifice to inaugurate the Mishkan. On a deeper level, however, prayer is the first manner in which man recognizes that he is dependent upon HaShem. When one is in a situation where he requires assistance, which essentially is every moment of one’s life, he can turn to prayer as a solace.

Shabbos Stories

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Often the readers of Faxhomily and Drasha send in stories from anthologies or personal reminiscences that I might be able to use in future faxes. Here is one that I received not long ago, though, unfortunately, I do not have the name of the author. He related the following revealing story: I remember my wife’s grandfather of blessed memory. He was a shochet (butcher), a Litvishe Yid (Lithuanian Jew). He was a very sincere and honest Jew. He lived in Kentucky, and later in life he moved to Cincinnati. In his old age he came to New York, and that is where he saw Chassidim for the first time. There were not too many Chasidim in Kentucky and Cincinnati. Once he went to a heart doctor in New York. While he was waiting, the door opened and a distinguished Chasidic Rebbe walked in accompanied by his gabbai (personal assistant). It seems that the Rebbe had a very urgent matter to discuss with the doctor, who probably told him to come straight into the office. The gabbai walked straight to the door and ushered the Rebbe in to see the doctor. Before going in, the Rebbe saw my grandfather waiting there. The Rebbe went over to my grandfather and said, “I want to ask you a favor. I am going to be with the doctor just one minute, if it’s okay with you. If it’s not okay with you, I won’t go in. One minute is all I need.” My wife’s grandfather said okay, and the Rebbe went inside. He was in there for a minute or so, and then he came back out. The gabbai was ready to march straight out the door, but the Rebbe walked over to him again, and said, “Was it okay with you? I tried hard to make it short. I think it was just a minute or two that I was there. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.” Later my wife’s grandfather said to me, “I don’t know much about Chassidim and Rebbes, but there’s one Rebbe that I could tell you is okay.”

Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: Rav Yosef Poesner, was the son-in-law of the Nodeh B’Yehuda, the esteemed Rav of Prague. He was a brilliant scholar and an amazingly righteous individual. During his entire life, he seemed to be plagued by a nagging wife who would belittle him at every opportunity. After a brilliant lecture, she would come into the room, and belittle him. During meetings at which his opinion was prominently sought, she would serve the company food, but at the same time she made sure to deride him. During all these outbursts, he never said a word. He never defended himself. In fact, he hung his head low, as if to agree with her words of derision. Then, suddenly, he passed away. Hundreds came to the funeral. All of the gathered contrasted his greatness to the difficult life he had led, by being married to a shrew of a wife who was about to bury him. After the eulogies, his wife suddenly appeared before the coffin, crying uncontrollably. She begged his permission to speak and then burst into tears. “All these years,” she cried, “I fulfilled the adage that a loyal wife fulfills the wishes of her husband. And due to my loyalty and respect to you and your greatness, I did whatever you had asked me to. But now that you are in the world of the truth, I can finally say the truth.” She began to declare her respect for his greatness and humility, his piety and patience, his kindness and compassion. The people near the coffin were shocked to see this woman transformed into a loving, grieving widow. And then the true shock came. She continued her soliloquy. “Despite how difficult it was for me, I kept the promise and commitment you had asked me to make. Any time you were treated honorably, or were asked to fulfill a prestigious role, you told me to come in and belittle you as strongly as possible. You were afraid that the honor they afforded you would make you haughty. I only complied because that was your will!” “But now I can finally say the truth!” But that was only in front of people! “You know how much I appreciated and cherished you!” She continued to cry over the great tzaddik and lifelong companion she lost. The stunned grievers were shocked at the tremendous devotion of the Rebbetzin, who deemed herself a harrying nag all for the sake of her husband’s wishes. (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Improving Upon an Existing Mixture

 Thick Mixtures

 The melacha of kneading is not limited to making new mixtures, but also applies to improving upon existing mixtures, in the following manner:

  1. Adding Solids to a Mixture

 Adding solids to an existing mixtures is deemed to be kneading since one works the added particles into the rest of the mixture. Thus, it is forbidden to add cereal grain to a previously mixed bowl of cereal, or to add mashed eggs or tuna to a prepared salad. This is permitted only by employing the same type of shinui employed to permit the original mixture. Thus, the form of shinui required depends on the type of mixture being improved.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Shoftim 5775

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New Stories Shoftim 5775

Intensive Care

Heading the ICU, Prof. Sorkin treated PM Menachem Begin, was with PM Yitzhak Rabin on the day of his assassination, and cried with victims of terror.

by Meital Yasour Beit-Or, Israel Hayom and

 When Professor Patrick Sorkin, 67, walks the halls of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, he gets asked questions mainly having to do with religion. He is asked about the kashrut of the food at the hospital, where the synagogue is, about circumcision procedures, and so on. The veteran doctor’s physical features are impressive – he has a long beard and wears a black kippah. His appearance makes it difficult for most people to comprehend that he is actually the head of the intensive care unit at the Tel Aviv hospital – a secular institution if ever there was one.

“One patient’s wife asked for the head of the department. I arrived, and she took one look at me and said, ‘I didn’t ask to speak to the rabbi.’ I explained to her that I was in fact the head of the department, so she said, ‘Never mind. Give me a blessing,'” he provides one example of the confusion that he elicits among his patients. “It doesn’t make sense for people that a haredi person can be a doctor, not to mention the head of a department.”

This month, Sorkin will retire from his demanding job, but he is not going to rest. He plans to establish an intensive care unit at the Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak. He refuses to rest. “The Lubavitcher rebbe said that a Jew is never allowed to retire. As long as a person is alive, he has to work. I don’t really see myself going fishing in Acre.”

Alongside treating victims of car accidents, violence and drugs, he also treated victims of terrorist attacks, and those stick out in his memory most. Especially the young victims of the 2001 attack outside the Dolphinarium nightclub in Tel Aviv, in which 21 teenagers and four adults were killed.

“When a person is ill, it is easier to accept than when you see a person get hurt while simply going to work, or going to get money from an ATM. It’s very hard, because you put your emotions aside,” he explains. “We treated seven or eight girls from the Dolphinarium attack, which involved mostly young people. You see the parents carrying pictures of their daughters, to show you how pretty they were, and you cry with them. You can’t stand it.

“I remember going up to the roof of the hospital one time, raising my hands up and asking, ‘What do you want from me? You can’t see these things either.’ Those were difficult years.”

Q: What does it do to you?

“I live other people’s hell. I hope I get a discount for that when I get upstairs,” he laughs. “The job here is to see the most difficult things there can possibly be in life, but you get used to it, at the surface level.

“At first, when I was 18 and I saw someone seriously hurt I almost fainted. With time you get used to it, ostensibly. But even if you forget a little, it still stays inside you.”

Q: How do you stay sane in this hell?

“Who says I’m sane?” he asks, laughing. “To work in this kind of environment for so many years you don’t need to be sane. Many people who work in intensive care in Europe or the U.S. take a lot of breaks. When you live in the reality of the Holy Land, you don’t get breaks, not even for a minute or two. You’re in it all the time, and it affects your personality.”

Q: How much does it affect you?

“Your attitude toward things that are important to other people is different. If someone complains that they are distressed over a financial problem or a personal problem you look at them and smile and think to yourself, ‘What are they even talking about? That’s a crisis? There is no reason to complain about that.’ That is why I say that the most important thing is not your health, it’s your life.”

To counterbalance the heavy psychological toll, Sorkin has had quite a few success stories throughout his career – patients who pulled through against the odds and got on with their lives. Sometimes the tiniest light at the end of the tunnel makes all the difference.

I removed three quarters of her leg, her kidney, her spleen, part of her liver, part of her intestine. Today she’s married with kids.

“One of the first terrorist attacks was at Dizengoff Center,” Sorkin recalls the 1990s. “A suicide bomber killed a soldier, and his sister was seriously hurt. When I saw her in the emergency room, I saw only eyes. She had burns over 80% of her body. I didn’t know what to do. She was placed in a medically induced coma and I removed three quarters of her leg, her kidney, her spleen, part of her liver, part of her intestine – there wasn’t much left.”

But the girl survived. “She was with us for a long time,” he recalls. “She regained consciousness, and now we had to go and tell her that her brother was killed. It is impossible.

“When she was out of the woods, with only half of her left, she said, ‘I thank you for not telling me that my brother died. I knew, but I didn’t want to hear it.’ From here she was transferred to Tel Hashomer, then she had all kinds of surgeries in the U.S., and today she is married with children,” he says.

A glimmer of hope

Even after 34 years in Israel, Sorkin’s accent gives away his French origins. He is the son of Holocaust survivors who raised him without any religious affiliation, far from the Jewish traditions. They even wanted to avoid circumcising him. Only when he was 12 years old and wanted to join a neighbor who was preparing for a Christian ritual, did his parents explain why he couldn’t.

“My grandfather, who survived Nazi labor camps and a death march, revealed my Jewish identity to me. He told me about his experiences in the camp. I didn’t hear bedtime stories about princesses marrying princes, I heard stories about people who saw a dead dog on a train track and asked the SS officers if they could eat it. That is how I was brought up, not belonging to the French people or to France, and when Israel is so far away you shut yourself off.”

After he began studying medicine, he started becoming religious. “I was a senior physician at a very young age, and all options were open to me. I lived a simple life – a restaurant meal here, a vacation there, spent time with friends, and suddenly I woke up and asked myself, ‘Is this life?’ There was no value. Then the question marks came. You are Jewish, what does it mean to be Jewish? If you want to understand, you have to go to the scriptures.”

And thus, his challenging job and his religion became intertwined. He went to Friday prayer services with his phone always on him, ready to ring in the middle of a prayer and send him rushing back to the hospital. Sorkin does not let the minor clashes between religion and medicine undermine his decisions. For example, he refuses to declare brain death – he leaves that up to the other doctors. Unlike other doctors, he asks the families of patients to pray.

“The doctors and nurses treat the body, so I say that the family needs to treat the spiritual aspects. They have to pray for the well-being of the patient, and if they want I even tell them what to say. If they don’t, each person says their own prayer,” he says, and concedes that not everyone takes kindly to this suggestion. “I was told once by a relative, ‘You are a doctor. I don’t need you as a rabbi.'”

But religion only plays a part in the coping mechanism. The main aspect is, of course, the results of his lifesaving efforts. He has fought to save the lives of athletes hurt in the 1997 Maccabiah bridge collapse and has flown all the way to New Zealand to treat Israeli billionaire Ted Arison. He fondly mentions Arison’s daughter, Shari Arison, who has since become one of the hospital’s biggest donors.

He also remembers one of his most famous patients, former Prime Minister Menachem Begin. “He was astonishingly modest. He was hospitalized several times in our unit and he told me one time, ‘Doctor, don’t waste your precious time on me. I’m fine. Go treat other people.’ Where do you see that sort of thing? His family – that is the kind of Israel I want to see. Just because you are who you are doesn’t mean that you have to look down your nose at everybody.”

And of course there is the most traumatic case, the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Sorkin was spending time with friends when he received the call on November 4, 1995. “A nurse named Mohammed called me from the intensive care unit and said, ‘There was an attack on the prime minister.’ I told him to stop with the nonsense. Then I took the car and drove at 140 kph [87 mph].”

When he arrived at the hospital, it was chaos. “I was interrogated by security personnel. And me, with my gall, I told one of them, ‘Listen, if you had done your job I wouldn’t be here.’ And then I went into the operating room. I had never seen such gunshot wounds. All my surgeon friends were trying to save him, but I said, ‘Listen, there is nothing we can do. There is simply nothing that can be done.’ At that moment I didn’t see him as a prime minister, but as a patient, and only the next day did it sink in that this was the prime minister. If you acknowledge that sort of thing while you are treating someone, you’re in serious trouble.”

His chosen field, intensive care, is considered an undesirable specialty in medicine. The intensity of the demands, coupled with the absence of the private practice option, have prompted the Health Ministry to declare crisis mode. But Sorkin is optimistic.

“The people who come here enjoy their work a lot, because intensive care medicine is fascinating. You look at a patient whose life is in danger, and you treat them, and thank God they get better. It’s fascinating.

“On the other hand, very few doctors come back [to the field], because they understand the challenges – how hard it is in terms of the family and financially. But those who do come back, don’t come back because they want a flashy career, but because they want to be real doctors treating patients, and as time goes by there are more and more of those.”

Ahead of his retirement he posted a status on the hospital’s Facebook page that elicited thousands of likes and enthusiastic responses: “In my job I have seen patients that everyone was sure were already gone, but they managed to get back up on their feet and get well. Therefore, take a page out of my life experience and please, never give up, never relinquish hope, keep believing in the good and in the light even in the toughest situations. And above all, remember: Life is a gift.” (

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Re’eh Inspiration 5775

This week’s parasha begins with the words ראה אנכי See I… The Baal HaTurim writes that one interpretation of these words is ראה אנכי, see the Ten Commandments that commence with the word אנכי and fulfill them, as all the commandments are contained within the Ten Commandments. Alternatively, the Baal HaTurim writes that Moshe was telling the Jewish People, “observe me, i.e. my conduct, and follow suit.”

Perhaps we can suggest an alternative explanation for these words. The word אנכי equals in gematria the word כסא, My Throne. The Gemara (Shabbos 89b) states that in the future, only Yitzchak will be able to vindicate the Jewish people from their sins. It is said (Tehillim 2:4) יוֹשֵׁב בַּשָּׁמַיִם יִשְׂחָק , He Who sits in heaven will laugh. It is noteworthy that the name יצחק is also spelled (Tehillim 105:9)יִשְׂחָק . While the name יצחק means laughter, Yitzchak is known for the attribute of fear and strict justice. Perhaps the way to reconcile this dichotomy is through the two words ראה אנכי. We are enjoined to see אנכי, i.e. Hashem’s Throne, where He sits upon high and laughs. Yet, we know from the theme of Rosh HaShanah that HaShem sits on a Throne of Justice, and only when we blow the Shofar does He move from the Throne of Justice to the Throne of Mercy. Similarly, Yitzchak embodies justice, but he still has the capability to invoke HaShem’s mercy.

A careful reading of the portion regarding the Akeidah, where Avraham brings a ram in lieu of Yitzchak on the mizbeiach, bears out this message. It is said (Bereishis 22:14) וַיִּקְרָא אַבְרָהָם שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא יְ-ה-ֹו-ָה יִרְאֶה אֲשֶׁר יֵאָמֵר הַיּוֹם בְּהַר י-ְה-ֹו-ָה יֵרָאֶה, and Avraham called the name of that site “HaShem Yireh,” as it is said this day, on the mountain HaShem will be seen. The word יִרְאֶה, meaning see, can also be interpreted to mean fear. Thus, through the binding of Yitzchak, the epitome of fear, the Jewish People would merit in the future (on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur) HaShem’s mercy (See Rashi Ibid).

As we enter the holy month of Elul, HaShem should allow us to invoke His mercy and turn the harsh justice that we have experienced of late in sweet mercy, and He should bring us the Ultimate Redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Have a Seeing Yourself Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Re’eh 5775

Re’eh 5775

New Stories Re’eh 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Re’eh 5775

The need to be vigilant throughout the month of Elul


The month of Elul is approaching. What is required of us in this month of awe? The Medrash (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer §46) states that on the first Rosh Chodesh Elul that the Jewish People were in the Wilderness, Moshe blew a Shofar, signifying to the Jewish People that they should be on guard when Moshe ascended upon high. This sounding of the Shofar would ensure that they would not succumb to the temptation of sinning through idolatry as they had a mere few months earlier. This Medrash reflects on the essence of Teshuva, repentance. The Jewish People had committed a grievous sin by worshipping the Golden Calf. Moshe entreated HaShem that He should not destroy the Jewish People and that He should grant them forgiveness. Yet, prior to ascending to Heaven to receive the second Luchos, Moshe still felt it necessary to warn the Jewish People not to sin again. Was Moshe really concerned that after experiencing severe repercussions upon worshipping the Golden Calf, the Jewish People would actually have the audacity to commit the same sin again?

Constant state of repentance

The answer to this question is that although there may not have been a serious concern that the Jewish People would sin again, Moshe sought to demonstrate to the Jewish people that one must always be cognizant of the possible temptations to sin. Teshuva is not merely a once a year obligation. Rather, one must constantly aware that the temptation to sin lurks just around the corner. In a similar vein, it is well known that Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon said that he felt the need to repent daily for his lack of recognition on the previous day of HaShem’s greatness. This form of repentance is also an indication of vigilance, in that one does not rest on his laurels. Rather, he constantly seeks to improve his relationship with HaShem.

The sounding of the Shofar reminds us to be vigilant

The sounding of the Shofar, in addition to arousing us to repentance, is also a signal of vigilance. It is said (Amos 3:6) im yitaka shofar bair viam lo yecheradu, is the shofar ever sounded in a city and the people not tremble? This refers to the initial arousal that one experiences with the sounding of the shofar. Yet, there is another dimension to the sounding of the shofar, and that is the cognizance of being vigilant from the attack of the Evil Inclination. It is said (Bamidbar 10:9) vichi savou milchama biartzichem al hatzar hatzoreir eschem vahareiosem bachatzotzros, when you go to wage war in your Land against an enemy who oppresses you, you shall sound short blasts of the trumpets. In the simple sense, the purpose of these trumpet blasts is to arouse the nation to battle against their enemies. On a deeper level, however, the Torah is teaching us that when one is vulnerable to the enemy, he must be vigilant so that the enemy cannot attack. Perhaps this is why the Torah states al hatzar hatzoreir eschem, against an enemy who oppresses you. It would have been sufficient to state against your enemy, as it is obvious that the enemy oppresses. The reason that the Torah states that the enemy “oppresses” alludes to the Evil Inclination, who is constantly seeking ways to destroy his opponent. When one is vigilant, he will not allow his Evil Inclination to gain a foothold in his territory. Evidence to this idea can be found in the words of the Lev Simcha (Ki Savo) who writes that when the Torah instructs a person regarding building a fence around his roof, it is said (Devarim 22:8) ki sivneh bayis chadash viasisa maakeh ligagecho, if you build an new house, you shall make a fence for your roof. The words a new house allude to Rosh HaShanah and the words you shall make a fence allude to the month of Elul. Thus, we see that the month of Elul is a time for one to be extra vigilant so that he does not become tempted by sin.

The Shabbos connection

HaShem, in His infinite kindness, granted His beloved children one day a week, and that is the Holy Shabbos, when we do not have to be concerned for the overtures of the Evil Inclination. On Shabbos we are engaged in spiritual pursuits, and sin should be the last thing that is on the mind of a Jew. Hashem should allow us to enter into the month of Elul with recognition of the seriousness and awe that these days entail, and we should merit repenting completely before HaShem, Who desires our repentance.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

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

לִסְגֻלָּה תְּמִימָה, קַיֵּם הַבְטָחָה, שַׁבָּת מְנוּחָה, for the wholesome treasure, uphold the pledge –Shabbos of contentment. We entreat HaShem to uphold His pledge of redeeming us, His treasured nation, from exile. By referring to ourselves as the wholesome treasure, we are declaring that despite all the travails that we have undergone in exile, we remain committed to HaShem in our faith and trust in him.

Shabbos Stories

R’ Eliyahu Shlomo Raanan z”l Hy”d

Shlomo Katz writes: This Shabbos is the tenth yahrzeit of R’ Eliyahu Shlomo Raanan, who was murdered by an Arab terrorist in his home in Chevron. R’ Raanan was born in Yerushalayim on 12 Tishrei 5694 (1934). His mother, Batya Miriam, was a daughter of Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook. His father, R’ Shalom Natan Raanan, was a teacher in, and director of, R’ Kook’s yeshiva (now known as Merkaz HaRav). The child was named “Eliyahu” for the Vilna Gaon and “Shlomo” for his great-grandfather, R’ Shlomo Zalman Kook.

R’ Kook passed away before his grandson’s first birthday, but the future R’ Raanan grew up in his illustrious grandfather’s house, which also housed the yeshiva. When he was old enough, R’ Raanan himself enrolled in the yeshiva.

While he was still single, R’ Raanan began teaching in several yeshivos ketanos/ schools for pre-teenage and teenage boys. He also worked with new olim. In 1978, R’ Raanan joined the staff of the Halacha Berurah institute, which publishes Torah works designed to bring to fruition one of R’ Kook’s educational goals – to tie together the advanced study of Gemara as practiced in mainstream yeshivos with the study of the practical halachic/legal conclusions that flow from each Gemara passage.

In 1963, R’ Raanan married Chaya Weisfish. After living in Yerushalayim for more than 20 years, in 1985, they joined the tiny settlement which is now the city of Beitar. For six years, the Raanans lived in a caravan (trailer) in Beitar under very difficult conditions. In 1992, they moved to Chevron, settling in the Admot Yishai / Tel Rumeida neighborhood believed to be the site of the Biblical city. Here again, their home was a caravan, an inconvenience which they gladly accepted for the sake of settling the Land of Israel.

Those who knew R’ Raanan used to say that he had a “soul of Shabbos,” which in chassidic and kabalistic literature refers to a certain purity of the soul and calmness of manner that characterize Shabbos. Indeed, Rebbetzin Chaya Raanan related that on their first date, she had absent- mindedly pulled a leaf from a branch as they walked and she was momentarily horrified at having violated a Shabbos prohibition. Suddenly she realized, however, that it was not Shabbos, but rather a weekday. Such was the aura that surrounded R’ Raanan and affected those who knew him!

The caravan where R’ Raanan was murdered today houses a kollel named Ohr Shlomo in his memory. (Source: Neshamah Shel Shabbos)

You are HaShem’s children

Shlomo Katz writes further: The legendary chassidic master, Reb Zusia, once heard an itinerant maggid/preacher deliver a fire-and-brimstone speech to a large group. When he finished, no one seemed to have been moved by his words. Then R’ Zusia rose and said, “Dear brothers! Doesn’t HaShem love you and care for you? How is it possible to transgress His will?” Immediately, heart-rending cries filled the synagogue.

Afterward, the maggid asked R’ Zusia, “Did I not portray in vivid detail the terrifying punishments of Gehinom? Why did that have no impact on them, while your words, which were not frightening at all, had an immediate effect on them?”

R’ Zusia answered: “Your words had the effect of closing their hearts, scaring them until they could no longer feel. My words had the opposite effect.”

Jewish until the very end

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Velvel was infamous in his native Tarnogrod. A notorious gangster, he not only transgressed the mitzvos, but mocked those who observed them. He really did not have much to do with the members of the community, if not to lure someone into a promising business deal, only to rob him of his ill-invested monies.

Velvel rarely visited the inside of the shul, save every few years on the yahrzeit of his pious father when the cobwebs of time were dusted off by the winds of guilt. Yes, Velvel was different than most of the villagers.

Except for early 1940, when he was no different than anyone else. The Nazis had overrun the town. They herded the community into the shul, and unfurled the Torah scrolls on the floor. Then they lined the people up and told them to march on the Torah, forcing them to spit on it as they past. And Velvel was right there amongst them. Velvel was a Jew and no different from anyone else.

Everyone lined up to obey and Velvel pushed to be first on line. And then he showed how special, how different he was. As he approached the Torah he stopped short, not even letting the tips of his soles touch the sacred parchment. Then he turned to the SS officer. “I don’t tread on my Torah and I will never spit on it.” They shot him on the spot, and like the rest of the villagers who followed suit, Velvel became a holy martyr. (

Collecting charity on condition

Reb Yechezkel of Shinova the son of Reb Chaim of Sanz wanted to collect money for a worthy cause. Before doing so, though, he asked his father’s permission. “I agree,” said Reb Chaim, provided that it doesn’t result in animosity against Jews.”

“What do you mean, Father?” asked Reb Yechezkel.

“What I mean,” said Reb Chaim, “is that as you go from one person to another and seek a donation, you may feel inwardly that this one person should have given more, that another person should not have turned you down, and so on.”

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

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


A loose mixture may be made on Shabbos so long as a shinui (modification) is employed for each step of the combinations.

For thick mixtures there is no valid shinui for the first step (adding together the ingredients); thick mixtures may be made only if the ingredients are combined before Shabbos or if a coagulated substance is used as the binder. The stirring must then be done in a crisscross fashion or with the bare hand – but not with a knife or the handle of a utensil.

In cases of necessity one may rely on the shinui in the order [of combining the ingredients] to prepare a thick mixture with a liquid binder. However, thick mixtures which bond spontaneously without stirring may never be made, even in cases of necessity.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Re’eh 5775

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New Stories Re’eh 5775

Judaism in the Eyes of a Non-Jew

A non-Jew accidentally discovers the meaning and wisdom of Torah.

by Bernice Go        

It all started as mild curiosity two and a half years ago, a few months after my 22nd birthday. I had made an Orthodox Jewish friend online (in a Harry Potter fan community, of all places) who one Friday had offhandedly said to me, “I can’t chat with you tomorrow because it’s Shabbos.”

“What’s Shabbos?” I asked.

Little did I know that that one question would be the first of thousands. My questions at first were all basic things: questions about holidays, keeping kosher and other traditions. I thought it was phenomenally interesting, learning about a whole different culture and belief system that I had never encountered before, the Philippines being home only to a handful of Jews.

None of this will mean anything to me until I try them out for myself.

Everything was going nice and smoothly until one day I thought to myself: None of this will mean anything to me until I try them out for myself.

So I started with a “small” thing. What would it feel like to say brachos, blessings? I picked one to experiment with: Asher yatzar, the blessing one says after going to the bathroom. I promised myself that from this day on, every time I left the bathroom and washed my hands, I would say this blessing. It felt silly at first. But slowly, it began to sink in and eventually I started reciting the blessing with a smile on my face. Hey, my body is working! Thank you, God!

I started to learn more blessings, sticking to the simpler, more “general” ones and those that I felt comfortable saying as a non-Jew. I said Modeh Ani first thing in the morning as I opened my eyes, and delighted saying each of the morning blessings that were applicable to me. I recited the bedtime Shema with as much intention as I could muster. Eventually I just started thanking God for everything, including every time my car would start properly. The Jewish blessings were – ARE amazing. I was suddenly noticing all the little things I was doing throughout the day. They made me realize just how many blessings I received every single moment – let alone every single day! And it just drove home the fact that all of this came from the Almighty. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you, Hashem.

Then I thought that maybe I was just lucky that I happened to pick blessings to start to put into practice. It was time to select another mitzvah to try out. I experimented and had my own “pseudo Shabbos” which simply consisted of me shutting my cellphone off for one night a week. After several weeks, I couldn’t believe how much those few disconnected hours affected me psychologically and emotionally. I actually began to look forward to that one night of mine.

It also taught me focus. It became easier to be productive during the week, knowing I had a set time later on that I could spend focusing solely on recharging, reconnecting with myself and God, and enjoying my family.

That same thinking eventually spread to other parts of my life also. For example, I became less impatient with my little niece and instead of counting down the time until I could send her back to her mom, I began being more present and enjoying our time together.

I began to appreciate the amazing impact these simple actions were having on my life. It was crazy and intense and I wanted more. So I began squeezing in learning Torah every spare moment of the day and sometimes stayed up an extra hour or two into the night. I read reams of articles on and I listened to Torah classes from Torah Anytime in the car while driving and managed to listen to two to three classes a week. I actually started hoping to get stuck in traffic.

I learned about the concept of tikkun olam, gained a deeper understanding of free will, and studied lashon hara (gossip) and its effects on the world. I slowly adjusted my attitude towards happiness, deciding to be happy right now instead of “when so and so happens.” I decided I should start wearing skirts more often and to make sure I didn’t back out on my promise, I picked out nearly all of my jeans out of my closet and donated them away. I started hanging out at the local Chabad house where I’d have conversations with the rebbetzin about Noahide laws.

I was reading Psalms, giving tzedakah, and actively looking out for daily opportunities to do chessed (acts of kindness). I started to understand that I live in God’s world; He makes the rules, not me. And I continued experimenting: I tried my best not to listen to music during the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av, I did some soul searching during Elul and drew up a list of resolutions for Rosh Hashanah. I also began exercising more regularly, being more careful about what I ate. By this time I knew that as important as it was to grow spiritually, it was also important to stay physically healthy. In short, I began doing things purposefully.

I began to understand that I am my choices, that I am whatever cannot be taken away from me. As one speaker put it, “The only thing that is truly mine is that which I gave away.” That concept turned my priorities upside down and over time, I went from looking for what I could get to looking for what I could give. I learned that God controls absolutely everything, and every single encounter and experience I have every single day is a message from Him. Related to that is the fact that all I can control are my reactions to these events.

These lessons made me a much calmer person and I spent more time studying and analyzing what God could possibly be trying to tell me, my reactions, and what I could improve within myself – rather than dwelling on how annoying that other person was. I learned that if it’s not painful, you aren’t growing. So I began to push myself more frequently out of my comfort zone, looking for people who could give me constructive criticism and solid advice as opposed to people who would simply compliment me. I slowly began going for the harder choice because I knew they would pay off more in the long run.

Sometimes I can’t believe that I discovered the power of Torah by playing an online Harry Potter game. I am constantly thanking Hashem for giving me the opportunity to go through this journey.

The Torah isn’t only meant to be learned, it is meant to be lived. And the absolute best part about it is that it works.

My journey has been made up of hundreds of baby steps spread out over weeks, months, and years. It isn’t as black and white as this narrative makes it sound. There were countless times I took one step forward and two steps back. But I have learned that the most important thing in a spiritual journey is not strength or intelligence, but persistence.

I do not know where I am headed or where all this will end. I am currently opting to still remain a non-Jew. All I am truly certain of is that my life has become so much more meaningful since I began taking Torah seriously and that I don’t ever want to stop learning it. Torah has taught me to open my eyes and see what’s really important, to stop wasting my time, money, and energy on things that simply do not and will not ever matter because they are only fleeting. The Torah isn’t only meant to be learned, it is meant to be lived. And the absolute best part about it is that it works. Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many Rabbis and Rebbetzins at,, the Accidental Talmudist page on Facebook, and Chabad Manila. May the Almighty continue to bless you all! (





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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Eikev Inspiration 5775

Parashas Eiekv is deceptively simple. Follow the Torah and you will be greatly rewarded. Disobey the laws and you will be severely punished. Yet, Hashem, in His infinite mercy, offers us hope, even after we have sinned and been exiled from the Land. The Torah states (Devarim 11:18) וְשַׂמְתֶּם אֶת דְּבָרַי אֵלֶּה עַל לְבַבְכֶם וְעַל נַפְשְׁכֶם וּקְשַׁרְתֶּם אֹתָם לְאוֹת עַל יֶדְכֶם וְהָיוּ לְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֵיכֶם, you shall place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul; you shall bind them for a sign upon your arm and let them be an ornament between your eyes. Rashi writes that that even after you will be exiled, you should be outstanding in the commandments. Place Tefillin, make Mezuzos, so that the mitvzos should not be new to you when you return to the Land. This statement begs a question. Do the Jews really need to be reminded to keep the mitzvos while in exile? True, we perform the mitzvos in a more ideal state while in Eretz Yisroel, but for most of history we have been in exile, so why does the Torah need to remind us of our obligations? Furthermore, why does the Torah specifically mention this exhortation regarding the mitzvah of Tefillin?

The answer to these questions is that while we certainly need no reminders that HaShem is our Creator and that we are His children, we need to remember our connection to Eretz Yisroel. The commentators (based on Rashi Bereishis 30:8) write that the word  תפילין is associated with the word נַפְתּוּלֵי, which means to be connected. We bind Tefillin on our arms and on our heads to remind us of our connection to HaShem. The Baal HaTurim (Devarim 6:10) writes that the Torah juxtaposes the mitzvos of Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzah to the idea of entering Eretz Yisroel to teach us that in the merit of those mitzvos we will enter the Land. It is noteworthy that the Sefarim write that Sichon and Og correspond to Tefillin Shel Yad and Tefillin Shel Rosh and I once heard from Rav Yisroel Dovid Schlesinger, Shlita, of Monsey, NY, that Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven, who inherited land in Transjordan, symbolize the Mezuzos of Eretz Yisroel. It is profound that specifically these tribes symbolized this strength of the Jewish People, as it is said regarding the tribe of Gad (Devarim 33:20) וְטָרַף זְרוֹעַ אַף קָדְקֹד, tearing off arm and even head. This alludes to the connection that we have to the Land through Tefillin Shel Yad and Tefillin Shel Rosh.

Thus, we see that it is specifically the mitzvah of Tefillin that facilitates our entry into and our tenure in Eretz Yisroel. While we are required to fulfill all of HaShem’s cherished mitzvos, the mitzvah of Tefillin specifically is a constant reminder of our connection to HaShem, His Torah and His Holy Land.

In the merit of fulfilling all of HaShem’s mitzvos we should merit a strong connection to Him  and to His Torah, and then HaShem will have compassion on His Beloved Nation and send us Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days!

Have a Strongly Connected Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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