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Jun 29

In modern society, the proverb "blood is thicker than water" implies that family relationships are always more important than relationships with friends. Perhaps more important needs to be rephrased to mean that the strength of the bonds of family withstand time.

I grew up in what we could call the American shtetle of Borough Park where three out of four sets of first cousins all lived within a half-mile walk. We davened in a small Shul where one uncle was the Rabbi, the other the gabbai, and the family made up half of the Shul. We were a very close-knit family and were together every Shabbos. Our other cousins would come for Yom Tov and celebrated some of the national holidays together as well. Both my parents and then a generation later I, too, were the youngest among the siblings of my family. Eventually, as my older cousins married, this homogeneous group started to break apart as they moved away. We all attended our first cousin’s weddings. I, as second to youngest and getting married last, had the next generation of cousins at my wedding.

A few weeks ago I flew to New York to attend a wedding of my first cousin’s child, only the third such wedding out of fifty-seven to take place within the last thirty years. As we moved around earlier in our married life and then moved out West, we rarely had the time, money, or opportunity to attend these family simchos. I felt I needed to be a part of this simcha for a few reasons. My cousin was marrying off his first child at an older age; my mother was like a second mother to this cousin; and I felt that I needed to represent my mother at this wedding which she surely would have loved to have attended. Those reasons are what drove me to go in the first place, but it was only when I arrived at the wedding itself that I truly appreciated being together with many, but not all, of my first cousins. Many of them are able to see each other regularly or from time to time get together for simchos, but this was my first opportunity to be part of that strong family bond that I knew and enjoyed in my boyhood.

Even though I am now a middle-aged man with my own family (ba”h), I sat at the table during the wedding feast, surrounded by my older cousins, feeling small and young again. There was a sense of innocence and attention I received as the youngest at the table within the family that was present. Even though we are not all the same religiously, economically, philosophically, in gender or age, there was no judging of one another. As far apart as the family is physically, we have remained close. The Torah states in Devarm 12:23 “Ki HaDam Hu HaNefesh” - It is blood that is the soul of a person. Similarly, it is the blood connection of relatives that keep us alive and connected as though we’ve never been apart. It is a vibrant lifeline to come to acknowledge that no matter where your family members may be and no matter how long it has been since you last communicated with them, they will always be there for you! Although the scenario I posed deals specifically with my family and me, I think this phenomenon applies most acutely to the Jewish nation as a whole, to the exclusion of all other nations. We are not like the other nations of the world; our greatest characterization is our eternal connection to each other – one people, one Torah, one nation unique in the world. We clearly see this concept in daily life and it is planted in the Torah itself.

In this week’s Torah portion Balak, the Torah states in Bamidbar 23:9: “Ki MeiRosh Tzurim Er’en UMigvaos Ashurenu, Hain Am L’Vadad Yishkone U’VaGoyim Lo Yischashav” : “I see this nation from mountain tops, and gaze on it from the heights. It is a nation dwelling alone at peace, not counting itself among other nations”. As we know, Balak hired Bilaam the wicked to curse the Jewish people, who ended up blessing them according to the will of Hashem. The first of three attempts, Bilaam tries to attack and accuse or label the Jews as a nation that does not get along with everyone else, nor do they want to. Bilaam’s words sound a familiar, but yet quite the opposite of another villain the Jews were to contend with in the future. *Reb Shlomo Ganzfried, in his sefer Apiryon on the Torah, explains that Bilaam’s attacks and accusations against B’Nei Yisrael were the opposite of Haman the wicked. Haman proclaimed to Achashveirosh “There is one nation scattered and separated from all the other nations in your kingdom.” Haman’s intent was to show a lack of unity and harmony amongst the Jews. Furthermore, despite the Jewish people being spread out, one would think that those who are closer together would get along better, clinging to their kin. Nevertheless, even those few who were together, hoping to grow stronger, were actually “M’Forad” - separated from each other. Each Jew distanced himself from his fellow Jew. Therefore, Haman argued that it would not be a big deal to get rid of them.

Bilaam’s words are very similar but with a different twist. Bilaam argued “Hain” - ‘yes’, the Jews have unity and peace, even when they are dwelling within themselves and not with their fellow Jews. It’s a wonder how they get along so well even though they all live separately and have nothing to do with each other. Even though they are living as loners, they get along as if they are living together. The key word of Bilaam’s eventual blessing is in the first word “Hain” –‘yes’. These letters, the ‘hey’ and ‘nun’, represent the sociological underpinning of the Jewish people’s unity. The sequential numbers from one to nine match the ends of the spectrum adding up to ten. Take the first and last numbers one and nine, two and eight, three and seven, and so forth, and you get ten. If you do the same for the two-digit numbers from ten to ninety, you will add each combination to reach one hundred. Each number in the sequence of single and double digits has a partner that connects them with two exceptions. In the single digit sequence, number five (‘hey’) has no partner; in the two-digit sequence, the number fifty (‘nun’), has no partner, but they find each other, coming together as the word ‘Hain’ – ‘Yes’!

The dominance of each Jew is that even when we are alone, we are still connected to someone else. This is the strength of the individual family and the extended family of Klal Yisrael. As we begin the three weeks, we should bring our families closer together and reunite with our Father in Heaven back to the Place that we ALL call HOME!

*Shlomo Ganzfried was born 1804 in Ungvar and died 30 July 1886 in Ungvar. He was an Orthodox rabbi and posek best known as author of the work of Halakha (Jewish law), the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch - "The Abbreviated Shulchan Aruch", by which title he is also known.

Ganzfried was born in the Ung County of the Kingdom of Hungary, present-day Ukraine. His father Joseph died when he was eight years old. Ganzfried was considered to be a child prodigy. Ungvar's chief rabbi and Rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Heller, assumed legal guardianship. Heller later moved to the city of Bonyhád, and Ganzfried, then fifteen, followed him. He remained in Heller's yeshiva for almost a decade until his ordination and marriage. After his marriage, Ganzfried worked briefly as a wine merchant.

In 1830, Ganzfried abandoned commerce, accepting the position of Rabbi of Brezovica. In 1849 he returned to Ungvar as a dayan, a judge in the religious court. At that time Ungvar's spiritual head, Rabbi Meir Ash, was active in the Orthodox camp, in opposition to the Neologs. Through serving with Ash, Ganzfried realized that in order to remain committed to Orthodoxy, "the average Jew required an underpinning of a knowledge of practical halakha (Jewish law)". It was to this end that Ganzfried composed the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. This work became very popular and was frequently reprinted in Hebrew and in Yiddish. Rabbi Ganzfried remained in the office of Dayan until his death on July 30, 1886.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Rabbi Bogopulsky’s book “Developing A Torah Personality” is available for purchase directly from him or on Amazon

Jun 22

German autobahns have no federally mandated speed limit for some classes of vehicles. However, limits are posted (and enforced) in areas that are urbanized, substandard, accident-prone, or under construction. On speed-unrestricted stretches, an advisory speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph) applies. While, in the absence of a speed limit, going faster is not illegal, doing so can cause an increased liability in the case of an accident; courts have ruled that an "ideal driver" who is exempt from absolute liability for "inevitable" tort under the law should not exceed Richtgeschwindigkeit, the advisory speed. Everyone agrees that just because there is no speed limit, does not mean it is safe to drive at exceedingly high speeds. Although there is no speed limit that will incur a penalty if caught, nevertheless it is agreed upon that it is dangerous.

One of my many rules in life is “just because it is permissible, do you necessarily have to do it”. Just because there may not be a speed limit posted, you still should not drive at high speeds. Most rules and laws do have parameters and exceptions to the rule. Today in America, medical marijuana is legal in twenty-nine states, provided it is used to help those individuals who need it to combat a host of medical and psychological illness. Unfortunately, we have opened a pandora’s box. To date, nine states and the District of Columbia allow recreational use of marijuana. According to a recent Pew Research Center Survey, sixty-one percent of Americans say they believe the drug should be legal. In my humble opinion the greatest challenge to the greatest country on earth, the United States of America, is the legalizing of ‘recreational marijuana’. This drug to date has the potential to dismantle and destroy family structure, commerce productivity and a rise in fatal drug addiction. Let me reiterate: this is about recreational - not medical – marijuana prescribed to be used under the care of a licensed medical professional. I am blown away by comments supporting the usage of cannabis in food production, and other forms of intake because “it is legal”. Again, just because something is ‘legal’ does not make it something good, nor does it imply that we should use or “do” it. Someone recently asked me about using cannabis as an ingredient for something. I responded to them, “Let’s wait three years to see the effects and damage it causes before jumping on the bandwagon of users.” Truth be told, we don’t need to wait three years because this is not a new drug at all. Over five years ago Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski spoke about the differences and dangers of marijuana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Xe3TNmsxCIt=285s . Surely, anyone can try to argue, but are we willing to take the risk? Not I! The fight to keep marijuana legal is driven by the potential for massive financial gains. Last year alone, the states that have legalized the drug raked in an estimated one billion dollars in taxes. If legal throughout the country, taxes collected are projected to be forty-six billion dollars annually. There are many arguments on both sides, but studies have shown the toxic effect on the brain when used by children in their adolescent years – a period when their brain cells are rapidly developing.

These are only a few reasons why we must take the time to recognize the danger and, despite being legal or because it is legal, we should have concerns regarding use of the drug. In addition, the ‘jury is still out’, meaning we don’t have all the facts yet, and we may never have all the other negatives about using it. We must recognize that we don’t necessarily have all the facts and reasons to any and every situation life presents us. Some argue that if a reason no longer applies to a situation, the status should change. That, in it of itself, may or may not be true. The notion that certain reasons something is good or bad is only that which is revealed to us. There may very well be other reasons that we are not aware of that would keep the status quo despite some earlier reasons which no longer apply. We find this idea throughout the observance of Mitzvos and the following of Halacha. The epitome of this concept originates in the name of the Parsha.

This week’s Parsha Chukas discusses the “chok” or statute that we do not have the logical reasoning to understand why we do a particular Mitzva. It is interesting to note that the Rambam, in Hilchos Meilah chapter 8, says, “It is worthy for every person to be insightful in the ways of the Torah and with all of his strength to know the reasons behind the Mitzvos. In fact, the Rambam wrote a sefer about the Taamei HaMitzvos, the reasons of the commandments. The Ra’ah, Reb Aharon HaLevi, is attributed with writing the sefer HaChinuch, a work which systematically discusses the 613 commandments of the Torah - both Mishpatim, the mitzvos which reasons we can understand, and the Chukim, those mitzvos which we don’t understand, but he does offer suggestions. The Radva”z and other leading Torah giants authored seforim on the reasons for the Mitzvos. Only the Tur in Yoreh Deah Siman 181 challenges the Rambam’s approach and feels we should not seek out the reasons for the Mitzvos. Reb Yakov Ben Asher, the Tur, states that these are the commandments from the King upon us. If we have already accepted the word of God upon us, then we must fulfill every command, even if we do not know the reasons behind them. The Tur further explains that if we start to contemplate, we sometimes feel justified to do or not do a Mitzva, based upon what logic dictates to us. As far as the Rambam is concerned, he feels it is like a small opening, as Dovid HaMelech says in Tehilim 119:130: “The commencement of Your words enlightens; and You make the simple understand”. A small taste (reason) of the Torah sheds a little light to the ones who are not exposed to its beauty. The Rambam indicates that by giving a reason to the unexplained Mitzvos, we are given a way to tempt the uninterested one in Torah. Even according to Rambam, we are not entitled to the reasons for the majority of the statutes. Those are hidden away, only for Hashem to know.

The lesson is critical in today’s day and age, when the culture and society within which we live, constantly looks for reasons to either do or not do something instead of looking at reasons, whether they apply directly to us or not. Let us use our Seichel - our intellect - and basic common sense to guide us through our decision-making process, even if something is mutar/permissible according to Halacha or the Constitution of the United States. By using discretion, a little seichel mixed in with basic common sense, we may come to understand that it still may not be a good idea to go through with it one way or another.

Jun 8

Throughout our lifetime we witness the coming and going of people, events, and technology. Somethings are here today and gone tomorrow. Yet there are some things that were here before we were born and will still be here after we are gone. Then there are those other categories such as the birth of new venues of entertainment and sporting events, amazing inventions and time-saving contraptions which we attended or make use of, expecting them to last far beyond our life times. It is this last category, things which were created during our lives or beautiful memories, “happenings”, of childhood which we assumed would be around for generations to come that sadden or dismay us when they close or simply cease to be. We are dismayed at the closing or ending of something that predated our arrival, assuming that and just as they were here from time immemorial, they will still be here till the end of time. Not true!

I am sure there are dozens of examples that highlight this notion. I will share three of them with you. All of us alive today were around when the circus came to town. Ringling Brothers Barnum Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth ran for one hundred forty-six years, reinventing itself over time. When the show closed in January 2017, I wondered how that could be?! The circus was here and will always be here. Who could imagine that it has ceased to exist! The circus, especially Ringling Brothers’, was an American icon for decades and decades, entertaining generations and generations of children and their happy parents. Yet it closed.

Last week, the general manager of a successful national basketball team, Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors, spoke to reporters on the eve of Game 1, said, “This is going to end soon. I definitely know this is ending.” “I don’t need any reminders. The narrative is, ‘This will go on forever.’ On the record, it can’t. Nothing does, especially in a sport where the competition is so great.” Myers was referring to the incredible and great success that his basketball team has shown over the last few years. It takes a lot of money, hard work, and Mazal to make a championship team, but it is much harder to maintain it forever. Every fan thinks, feels, and wants the success to continue, but it just doesn’t. It can’t. Every fan thinks team will be different. It is not. The GM is realistic, honest and a person who understands the nature of the beast, but this was all to the dismay of the fans, and even individuals within the organization itself.

The third illustration is not an organization or a company but rather the human being. In every generation there are great leaders, outstanding academics, scientists, teachers, and, yes, Rabbis! Older congregants particularly feel this (the Rabbi will be here forever) when it comes to pulpit Rabbis who have been with a congregation for decades. When a Rabbi feels the need to retire, congregants may react and say, “Who could possibly take over and be like our Rabbi?!” The Rabbi himself may have some reservations leaving the flock sheperdless or without an adequate replacement. As we look at history through our rear-view mirrors, we know Rabbis will leave and congregants will move on, just as this has happened previously and will continue to happen in the future. But in order to process the potential loss, I am reminded by the insightful words of my rebbe, Rabbi Wein YB”L, who once told me, “No matter how good and dear a Rabbi is to his congregation, no matter how essential a leader may be for any organization, it is not and cannot be forever. Even things which are wonderful and positive have limitations. The notion that all good things must come to an end is seen clearly in the Torah.

In this week’s Parshas B’Shalach the Torah states in Bamidbar 14:20-22: “Vayomer Hashem Salchti idvarecha. V’Ulam Chai Ani V’Yimalei K’Vod Hashem Es Kal HaAretz. Ki Kal Ha’Anashim HaRoeem Es mKvodi V’Es Ososai Asher Asisi B’Mitzrayim UVaMidbar, Vay’nasu osi zeh Eser P’Amim, V’Lo Shamu B’Koli”. “God said, ‘I will grant forgiveness as you have requested. But as I am Life, and as God’s glory fills all the world, I will punish all the people who saw my glory and the miracles that I did in Egypt and the desert, but still tried to by not obeying Me”. What are these ten tests with which the Jews tested God in the desert? Rashi explains and lists a few of the tests: two by crossing the Sea of Reeds, two by the manna, and two by the quail. Rashi does not finish the list but informs us the source to be the Gemara Erchin 15a. It is interesting to consider the open question why Rashi either didn’t complete the list or just use the reference and not list any of the ten tests, but that discussion is outside the milieu of this writing. Nevertheless, the remaining tests listed in the Gemara are two tests with water, one with the golden calf and the tenth in the Paran Desert, referring to the spies. We see in general the incredible miracles Hashem performed, sustaining the Jewish people for forty years in the desert, particularly the manna that nourished us throughout the entire time.

Traditionally, Am Yisrael was punished and wandered in the desert for forty years due to the sin of the spies. It was decreed that this generation would not enter the Land of Israel. This generation, according to some, was the greatest generation of Jews. They lived on an extremely high spiritual level, living an almost complete spiritual life in a physical world. Of course it was the miracles which continuously sustained them, allowing them spiritual pursuits. True, Hashem created the scenario, but was this the life the Jews were intended to have forever? From Am Yisroel’s perspective, this incredible life should go on forever. Manna came down every day (double portion on Friday for Shabbos) for a lifetime. Who would have thought that it couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t continue forever? Life in the desert was unbelievably difficult, lacking all the modern conveniences. It was inconceivable that it should end. With all the miracles of protection, water, and daily food raining down from Shamayim, the Jews would be able to dwell and bask in Hashem’s Shechina forever! Despite this amazing life, that was not the world Hashem had in mind for His people. Rather we were destined to settle and build Eretz Yisrael, with the help of many miracles as well.

Jun 1

Within the parameters of the Torah, whether it be Halacha/Jewish law or proper middos, character is viewed from two perspectives: the doer and the viewer. The classic example is Maris Ayin (how things appear to the eye) and being Dan Lekaf Zechus (judging another favorably). A man must take steps when doing something so that others should not think that he is committing an Aveira/sin. At the same time, someone witnessing tan apparent violation by a Jew must give the benefit of the doubt and conjure up reasons why the person had to do what looked like something which was forbidden. Another example I would like to share is a different situation which, in my humble opinion, underscores many of the issues we confront in the Jewish world today: the lack of Kavod/honor HaTorah.

Chazal in Pirkei Avos teach us that a man should run away from honor, yet there still exists the obligation for everyone else to shower that honor upon the person fleeing from it. There are three major figures in Jewish life where there is a requisite to give honor: a father, the King, and a Torah scholar. The Gemara in Kiddushin 32a states: “Rav Chisda is quoted as saying that whereas a father has the right to forego his honor, a Rav does not. Rav Yosef says that a Rav also has the right to forego his honor. Rav Yosef learned this from the Pasuk in Beshalach "va'Hashem Holech Lifneihem Yomam ... ". Rava initially objected to Rav Yosef's proof because, whereas the world belongs to Hashem, and He therefore has the right to forego His honor, the Torah that a Rav learns is not his but Hashem's. Therefore, he does not have the right to forego something that is not his in the first place. Later, the Beraisa, which clearly permits a Nasi to be Mochel (forego) his honor, forces us to amend Rav Ashi's initial statement, which now reads that even those who permit a Nasi to forego his honor, still forbid a king to do so. We learn this from the Pasuk "Som Tasim Alecha Melech", which teaches us that each person must designate the king as his ruler and fear him accordingly.

Even though we clearly see that the halacha permits a Talmid Chochom (Torah Scholar) to forego his honor, it nevertheless reduces or abolishes the obligation to honor. The Rabbi has a right to forego his honor, but his students do not! A great challenge to a teacher, Rebbi or even a pulpit Rabbi is maintaining the balance between being buddies with the guys and at the same time maintain the distance required to honor and respect both the person and the position. The greatest example of someone deserving of honor was Moshe Rabbeinu, yet even he was disrespected, as we read in this week.

In this week’s Parshas B’Haaloscha, the Torah states in Bamidbar 12:11 “VaYomer Aharon El Moshe Bi Adoni, Ahl Nah Sasheis Aleinu Chatas, Asher No’Ahlnu Va’Asher Chatanu”- “ Aharon said to Moshe, ‘Please, my lord, do not hold a grudge against us for acting foolishly and sinning.” Rabbeinu Chaim Ben Ittar, in his commentary Ohr Hachaim, explains this verse as follows. Behold we derive from Aharon’s words that Moshe was upset with him and his words, therefore deeming it necessary for Moshe to forgive. Apparently, the reason Aharon was so free with his speech is because he felt Moshe was a Talmid Chacham whose honor would be forgiven if Moshe chose to forego that honor, as is stated earlier in the Gemara Kiddushin 32b. In truth, Moshe Rabbeinu was not stringent with regard to his honor at all, which is why t the Torah records that Moshe was the humblest of all men, connecting the words of Aharon that Moshe should not hold a grudge against him because he sinned. If that’s the case, that Moshe as a great, humble man who did not hold anything against Aharon, then why was he and his sister Miriam punished? Didn’t Moshe relieve them of punishment?

Because the Torah/Hashem defends Moshe by declaring him humble, the intention is to reduce the severity of Aharon’s words. The first reason they were punished is because they should have viewed Moshe as the king, as mentioned in the Talmud Zevachim 102a and not just as a Torah scholar. The obvious difference is, unlike a Talmid Chochom, the king cannot forego his honor. In fact, this is why Hashem’s scolding of Aharon and Miriam at the time when He tells them “Madua Lo Yireisem L’Dabeir B’Avdi” - “Why are you not fearful to speak against My servants?” the Gemara in Shvuos 47b states: “To Hashem is the kingdom, and the servant of the King is a king, referring to Moshe. The second reason Aharon and Miriam were punished is because of God’s assertion that they suspected Moshe of sinning. Hashem not only didn’t rebuke Moshe for marrying his wife, He agreed to it! They were punished because they went against God’s approval regarding whom Moshe could marry. They were punished despite the fact Moshe let it go. Just because Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t stick up for his own honor does not lessen the other’s obligation to give that honor, no matter what.

A solid reason as to why Aharon and Miriam were punished is because they sinned against Hashem’s decision which agreed with Moshe’s choice for a wife. The proof that it had nothing to do with Moshe is that Moshe took the high road by davening for Miriam to heal her from the punishment of leprosy. Despite Moshe davening on his sister’s behalf, it did not spare her the Tzoraas, ultimately requiring all the people to wait the required seven days until her condition cleared up. If Aaron and Miriam’s punishment was caused by their treatment of Moshe, then Moshe would not have had to daven, he could just forgive them. Rather Moshe needed to daven on Miriam’s behalf because he was defending her from having sinned against God.

In the end we can determine that the punishment was assessed either any of the reasons given:sinning against Moshe, sinning against Hashem, or both. The Ohr HaChaim suggests that if Moshe had been demanding for his honor, then the punishment might have manifested itself differently, perhaps far harsher. Because of Moshe foregoing his honor, they were not spared from more extreme punishment. I am shocked when I hear the words “with all due respect” when spoken as a prelude to talking down to the Rabbi/Rebbi or teacher. This is a complete lack of respect at the highest degree. Many people feel it’s ok to say to the Rabbi ‘with all due respect’ and actually go on to disrespect him. We should realize when we dishonor a Talmid Chochom, we disgrace the Torah and Hashem. More importantly, those who truly honor those who are deserving of it will bring honor to the Torah and glory to the King of Kings.

May 25

On a recent trip I experienced three different aspects of today’s society. The first is based upon a situation in which we could all find ourselves but might deal with differently than the choice chosen by someone on my flight. Is it better to be delayed an hour on the tarmac before takeoff or wait an hour on the tarmac for a gate to open upon arrival? The last one of the three observances I noticed came about after we landed. As we sat on the tarmac for an hour, passengers were upset, disturbed, and at one point going berserk. With a plane full of people, including children, a passenger began to curse, yelling obscenities at the situation. There was more filth that came out of her mouth than the restrooms had after the flight! Everyone around her was embarrassed for this woman’s behavior, whom, I’m convinced, speaks this way all the time. She simply didn’t care about proper etiquette, not only in public but as human being.

The second thing I discerned mid-flight was the snacks for purchase in flight, displayed to appeal to our need to chew something since the airlines no longer serve meals. The combination of fast food and finger foods has given rise to the same poor manners I was scolded for as a child by the adults who encouraged me to use a fork and knife while eating. Here was just one more indication of how society and our generation have done away with proper manners regarding eating.

The third and final blow came via a commercial for a new brand design of shirts. A relatively new company named UNTUCKit pitches their line as follows: ‘THE IDEAL SHIRT FOR THE UNTUCKED MAN’. These are casual men's shirts designed to be worn untucked because men’s shirts are always coming untucked anyway, so might as well create a shirt that is made to be that way. The company advertises “It's a straightforward look that's often done too little justice. So, we came up with a solution – a shirt that's designed to fall at the perfect length every time. A design fit for comfort, not convention”. Throughout my years in high school, my friends and I heard teachers, principals and administrators barking at us to tuck in our shirts. Could I ever possibly think to myself that I was born a generation early and I would have fit in so happily with the trends of our current times? I believe my answer is an emphatic “NO!”. Certain classifications of clothing are designed for certain occasions; the clothing worn should respect that situation, even today.

Call me old school, old fashioned, or just a plain old stick-in-the-mud, these are just three observations I picked up in the course of one plane ride that sums up the current generation. I consider these examples as an affront to values and behaviors of being civilized that are slowly peeling away basic standards for which the world stands. In general, people are less refined when it comes to their language (foul words), food (eat with their hands) and dress (clothing which demonstrates open disregard for self-pride in personal appearance and for appropriate public attire). My observation is not a religious one – rather, its about society at-large. Kal VaChomer, how much more so does this contemporary relaxation of basic standards speaks about the deterioration of the Torah’s values and standards! The Torah’s standards on issues concerning appropriate laws of propriety and behavior in society are sometimes clear and blatant and at other times hinted to us, such as in the Biras Kohanim - the Priestly Blessings.

In this week’s Parshas Nasso the Torah relates the Kohanim’s responsibility to bless Am Yisrael in Bamidbar 6:22-6:27. The Torah states “Y’Varechecha Hashem V’Yishmirecha”. “Ya’air Hashem Panav Eilecha VeeChuneka”. “Yisa Hashem Panav Eilecha, V’Yaseim L’Cha Shalom”. “May God bless you and keep watch over you. May God make His presence enlighten you and grant you grace. May God direct His providence toward you and grant you peace”. *Rav Shalom Mashash, in his sefer V’Cham HaShemesh, explains that the three verses of the Blessings of the Kohanim correspond to the three stages of life. The first word, Y’Varechecha, is to the infant child who is just beginning to use his limbs and extremities and is just beginning to be aware of those who surround and protect him. At that age they need to eat with their fingers and hands and be watched over. Once the young child has grown through that stage, he/she graduates to using utensils, to eating with a growing awareness of manners and respect for the food which is given. If this stage is not taught, the child will revert to the infant mind-set. The next phase is when the toddler can stand and begin to walk. This is consistent with Hashem’s presence, enlightening each of us to learn to perceive the fear and respect demanded for God. The ‘seeing’ here is the light between good and evil and the accompanying development of understanding and intelligence to all mankind. This leads to VeeChuneka - like education - which begins when a child can speak. The first words we teach a child are Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe, the sweet words of the Torah. A person who curses and blasphemes destroys the beauty of the tongue and insults mastery over language. Finally, in a person’s old age, the last stage Hashem directs His providence is toward you, granting you peace. Typically, as a person grows old, he becomes more tired and weak. An older person is dignified, and the manner of his or her dress should become a symbol of the essence of the life and values he/she has lived. We respect an older person as royalty, a person who represents a lifetime of ever-deepening wisdom. We stand up for them, physically exemplifying respect for these attributes. A king walks around in his finest clothing, wearing the royal robes and the crown befitting his position. As they say, “Clothing makes the man”; being untucked is not cool.

It is critical to receive the proper blessings and perspective in each area to be a well-rounded individual. The three areas that the Torah hints to us are how we eat, how we speak, and how we dress. With this in mind, eating with derech eretz, speaking properly, and dressing suitably we all help us to merit the blessings from God through the Kohanim in our days.

*Rabbi Shalom Mashash, was Jerusalem's chief Sephardi rabbi for 25 years Rabbi Mashash died in 2003 at the age of 90. He was born in Maknes, Morocco, and for many years served as the head of the rabbinical court in Casablanca. After retiring, he immigrated to Israel to serve as chief Jerusalem rabbi, like his cousin Rabbi Yosef Mashash, who served as Haifa's chief rabbi after retiring in Morocco and moving to Israel.

In 1978, then-Israeli Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef asked Rabbi Mashash to come to Jerusalem and become its chief Sephardic rabbinic authority. When he departed for Israel, Rabbi Mashash was escorted to the airport by Morocco's King Hassan himself, who requested that the Rabbi bless him one last time before his departure, and that it be his last act on Moroccan soil.

May 17

There are pros and cons to everything in life, even holidays. The Jewish calendar contains the High Holidays, the minor festivals and the three Pilgrimages known as the Shalosh Regalim. Two out of the three - Pesach and Sukkos - are longer holidays with multiple commandments, preparation and a set of intermediate days that break up the first and second half of the Yom Tov. The third holiday, Shavuos, is not accompanied by any one specific Mitzva, and being only one day (two days outside of Israel), there is no Chol HaMoed. Pesach and Sukkos can be stressful, expensive and a lot of hard work, while Shavuos is relatively inexpensive and not too difficult. Perhaps the reason we have a chol hamoed is to unwind and stretch out a bit from the Yom Tov experience, and therefore Shavuos does not require one.

Many families go on Chol HaMoed trips, and our family is no different. This year, like most years for our family, we usually end up doing some type of bike riding. By pure chance, my son and I shared a surrey bicycle with two steering wheels and two sets of pedals. It was obvious when one of us was not peddling, even though we were still moving as one peddled and the other did not. Steering, on the other hand, was a bit different, despite having two steering wheels only the ‘driver’s side’ controlled the direction. The second steering wheel (that’s the one I got) was a ‘dummy wheel’. It did absolutely nothing, no matter how many directions I turned it. The irony, though, was that as we were riding, my instincts as the guy in control of the wheel kicked in. Whenever I felt we veered too far to the right, I turned the wheel to the left, and as I felt we were veering off to the left, I quickly turned my wheel and steered to the right! Even though I conscientiously knew that my steering wheel did absolutely nothing, I still acted upon the situation thinking that I was in control.

We go through life thinking that we are in control of our lives. There is no question that our actions can influence certain outcomes, but ultimately, we are being carried by Hashem. We try to steer the wheel in a certain direction even though we are literally just spinning the wheel. It is true that “B’Derech She’Adam Rotzeh Leilech, Hashem Molichin Oso”: “In the manner or road a person wants to travel, Hashem will lead him on that path”. That path can be for the good or the bad. As we begin Sefer Bamidbar, the desert where the Torah was given coinciding with the Yom Tov of Shavuos is no coincidence. The Torah was carried in the Aron/Ark throughout the desert while the Jews traveled on their way to Eretz Canaan.

The tribe of Levi, Gershon, Kehas and Merari were responsible to carry the disassembled parts of the Mishkan in the desert. The divvying up of the carrying of the Mishkan is split between the end of this week’s Parsha and the beginning of Nasso. In Parshas Bamidbar we read about Gershon and Merari carrying the items they were charged to carry, while Kehas is instructed in Bamidbar 4:15: “V’Chila Aharon U’Banav L’Chasos Es Haodes, V’Es Kal Klei HaKodesh Binsoa HaMachaneh, V’Acharei Chein Yavou Bnei Kehas Laseis….”: “Aharon and his sons shall thus finish covering the sacred furniture and all the sanctuary utensils, so that the camp can begin its journey.” Only after the priests are finished shall the Kehothites come to carry these items. But, Chazal teach us that the Aron ‘carried itself’ because it contained the two sets of Luchos and the original Sefer Torah that Moshe wrote. This means that we don’t carry the Torah, the Torah carries us.

In Shmos 25:15 On the Pasuk "In the rings of the Aron the poles shall be, they shall not be moved", Chazal comment that anyone who removes them at any time, receives Malkos/Lashes. Both in connection with the Mizbei'ach ho'Olah and the Shulchan, the Torah confines the poles to remain in place to when the Vessels are being transported. It is only the Aron whose poles have to remain in place permanently.

The Meshech Chochmah ascribes this to the Medrash which states that the Aron represents the Crown of Torah, available to whoever wishes to wear it. The Talmid Chacham, he explains, requires constant support as Chazal say in Pirkei Avos: 'If there is no flour, there is no Torah'. That is why the Gemara in Pesachim 53b praises those who help Talmidei Chachamim by means of lending them money with which to do business. It explains why the Yerushalmi in Sotah 7:4 praises someone who, while he is unable to learn, teach, or to observe Mitzvos, regardless of his poor financial situation, still supports those who do learn Torah. All of this is hinted through the poles, which permanently support the Aron. The poles represent all the supporters of Torah whose physical, emotional and philosophical assistance is constantly required.

The Meshech Chochmah also discusses another explanation which he bases on the Rambam, who obligates the Kohanim to kindle the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash not only at night, but also by day as the Hatovas ha'Neiros, preparing the lights he maintains, incorporates lighting them. The Meshech Chochmah explains that since Chazal have pointed out that God, in whose House the Menorah is lit, does not require human lights by which to see, rather it is to emphasize that God commanded the Mitzvah of Hadlokas Neiros in the day, when lamps are unnecessary, indicating that the Mitzvah of kindling the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash is not to supply His needs. By the same token, now that Chazal have taught us that the Aron carried itself and did not need the B'nei Kehos to carry it, the Torah commanded that the poles should not be removed. This serves as an ongoing reminder that just as the poles are not required when the Aron is lying in its place in the Kodesh Ha'Kadashim, so too, they were not required when K'lal Yisrael was traveling in the Desert, since the Aron was perfectly capable of carrying itself.

Perhaps we can take the message from the Meshech Chochmah's second explanation and adapt it to elaborate on the first one. If the Aron was able to lift up the Kohanim who were seemingly carrying it and fly them over the River Yardein in the time of Yehoshua, then it was certainly able to carry itself. And so too with Torah. It is well able to look after itself and provide the Talmidei Chachamim who study it diligently, with all their needs. Then why does the Torah expect the wealthy to support them, as we explained? Because the truth of the matter is that it is not they who support the Torah, but the Torah which supports them! And the prohibition of removing the poles from the Aron is not because the Talmidei Chachamim need them constantly, but rather because they constantly need the Torah learning of the Talmidei Chachamim, not only for the spiritual inspiration and guidance that it affords them, but for their continued success in their financial endeavors. For who knows whether their material blessing is not conditional to their sharing it with Talmidei Chachamim, and that the moment they withdraw their support that blessing will come to an end?

The Yom Tov of Shavuos not only focuses on learning Torah, but also centers all of us on what Torah represents. We should be Zocheh and merit to have a Kabbolas HaTorah that is consistent with Torah values and show the respect of what Torah does for us in our lives.

Ah Gut Shabbos Ah Gut Yom Tov

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

May 11

I heard a story from my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Wein YB”L, about the Chofetz Chaim. There was a man who owned a dry goods store in Radun. This individual made a decent to above average living for the time. One day, someone opened a store across the street from his store which caused him deep concern. (There was absolutely no issue of Hasagas Gevul – economic competition - in this case). Every day after opening his store, he would peek out of his window to see who was going into the competitor’s store. Were any of his regular patrons going to shop there? As the weeks went by, he felt that the support he had received from many of his long-time customers was slowly ebbing away. At one point he felt that he was making only half the profit he had been accustomed to earning before the other individual opened his store. As his paranoia grew, he stood outside his store watching, staring down anyone who entered the store across the street. He would even stop people walking past his own store, questioning them about what they were buying across the street and what were the prices compared to his own?

Finally,he decided to visit the saintly Chofetz Chaim and ask what he could possibly do in this situation because it was driving him crazy. Rav Yisroel Meir Kagan listened carefully and intently to the man’s issue. After a few minutes the Chofetz Chaim told this person what the problem was and what the solution is to be. The Chofetz Chaim said, “Before the other store opened, you made a living because you only had to mind one store or business. Now you are constantly worrying and watching over the other store as well. Since you are now watching and ‘working’ two businesses, your store is only producing half the amount!” The moral of the story is to mind your own business. The reflection of someone minding his own business and not looking elsewhere demonstrates faith and emunah in Hashem. Deep down, we know we are to receive exactly what we need to live on for the year. We waste so much time and effort trying to control the ‘other’ and neglect our basic work ethic. On top of the monetary loss, a person loses years of life due to self-inflicted anxiety. God can make both businesses not only survive but thrive. In order to develop the understanding and acceptance that Hashem controls everything, we must learn mussar to train our thinking.

The first parsha of this week is replete with Mitzvos that completely rely on having emumah and bitachon - faith and security in Hashem. The challenge to many of the following Mitzvos is that they go against nature and our normal way of thinking. Here are just a few Mitzvos which emphasize that we totally rely on HaShem so that we will be rewarded in greater ways not only in the next world but even immediately in this world: 1. Not to perform work on the land during Shemita; 2. Not to perform work on the vineyard during Shemita; 3. Not to harvest the products during Shemita as normally done in other years. 4. Not to harvest the grapes of one’s vineyard as normally done in other years, but rather to treat the vineyard like Hefker – as though it is ownerless; 5. Not to work the land during Yovel – the Jubilee; 6. Not to harvest the products during Yovel, as normally done in other years, but rather to treat like Hefker, as though it were ownerless; 7. Not to harvest the fruits of one’s orchard during Yovel as normally done in other years; 8. Not to cheat someone in business; 9. Not to sell a field in Eretz Yisrael forever; 10. Not to change the zones/allotments of the outskirts of the Levite cities; and 11. Not to lend money with interest. The common thread among all these Mitzvos is that a person feels he worked for it, he earned it, and he shouldn’t have to give it away. Towards the end of the section the Torah warns in 25:18: ‘Keep my decrees and safeguard My laws. If you keep these decrees, you will live in the land securely.’ But as Rashi clearly indicates because of transgressing the laws of the rest of year Israel is exiled. As it states later in Vayikra 26:34: ‘Then shall the land be paid her Sabbaths….and repay her Sabbaths.’ The seventy years of the Babylonian exile correspond to the seventy rest years which were not observed. But no matter how bad God’s children may act, our Father in Heaven figures out a way to rejoin His children and never abandon them, as can be realized from the following elucidation.

In the first of this week’s two parshios Behar/Bechukosai, the Torah states in Vayikra 25:29 “V’Ish Ki Yimkor Beis Moshav Ir Chomah, V’Haysa Geulaso Ad Tome Shnas Mimaro, Yamim T’hiyeh Geulaso”: “When a man sells a residential house in a walled city, he shall be able to redeem it until the end of one year after he has sold it. He has one full year to the day to redeem it”. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains this verse, referring to the ultimate redemption and not merely the redemption of an individual’s home. Through Remez/hint of the words the passuk is broken up into three parts. The word ‘V’Ish/the Man means God as He is referred in Az Yashir: ‘Hashem Ish Milchama. The next section of selling a house denotes the place where Hashem dwells speaks of the Beis HaMikdash. The Ir Chomah, a walled city, signifies Yerushalayim, which according to the Midrash was already walled when Yehoshua first conquered the land. Why or what is the significance of this interpretation? The reason is so that later in history it can be redeemed. As Chazal explained, God took out His fury on the wood and the stones of the Temple for if He took His fury out against the people, no Jew would have survived. Logically, if there are no Jews left then there is no need for a Beis HaMikdash or the city of Jerusalem. Therefore, this was the redemption of Am Yisrael - the Jewish people - and as a result the need for the rebuilding of the second Beis HaMikdash and resettling of Yerushalayim.

This all took place after the first Beis HaMikdash and for almost two thousand years we are still waiting for the rebuilding of the Third Temple. However, nineteen years after HKB”H returned the Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people, we had access to half the city of Jerusalem. Only nineteen years later the entire city was unified under Jewish sovereignty. Now, fifty-one years since the reunification of the city of Jerusalem it once again sparkling as the city of Gold. As we recognize Yom Yerushalayim, we should thank Hashem and pray for the last piece of the trio: to rebuild the Bayis Shlishi speedily in our day, Amen!

May 3

Although I am not naïve, there are times I like to live in a bubble or at least in my own little world. Nobody wants to admit that they have problems or issues. Nevertheless, to survive troubles and difficulties one must remember the number one lesson in life: if something can happen to someone else, it can also happen to me. No one person, institution, or community is immune to the challenges of society. As insular as we try to make ourselves, or as we believe we may be, troubles find their ways to enter our lives.

I’ve said several times that any Rabbi or lay leader, no matter his position as Rosh Yeshiva of a Shul, school, Yeshiva, or community who claims that there is no issue or problem in the place(s) under his jurisdiction, is either in complete denial or is outright lying. This may not make me very popular because it sounds accusatory. Perhaps, to soften up my tone I can explain the feelings of others through my own sense with regard to the state of affairs of abuse today. Personally, I like to bury my head in the sand, making believe that there are no abuse issues in our community, but the reality is that I know better. We are not immune. Abuse does exist.

The purpose of the following discussion is not to discuss the legal and/or moral side to any substance that is abused. My purpose today is to give everyone a reality check, to make sure that we and our loved ones do not fall victim to this scourge of society. Although the Jewish community jokes around and downplays the use of alcohol consumption, alcoholism can and is affecting both the individual and family. It has allowed the pursuit of under-age children to consume alcohol. I want to be clear: we are not talking about a sip of wine during Kiddush; we are talking about under-age alcohol consumption encouraged by ready availability of wine and other alcoholic beverages. It is a known fact supported by a growing number of studies that people who drink alcohol to provide some type of time out or reprieve from society tend to fall victim to progressively worse things unless they get help. As an adjunct to this discussion, it’s important to note that the increasingly accepted use of recreational marijuana – now viewed as a gateway drug, was legalized in California this year. The opioid crisis is on the rise in the general population, and, by force of sheer existence, this crisis has crept into Jewish - including religious - circles as well. In general, as we confront a challenge in life, it’s not only the issue of admitting to the potential addiction or the specific illness that is the problem. The other major obstacle is finding the right source for help and, most importantly, knowing that you are not alone. Understanding that the person dealing with this problem is not the only person who has to come face-to-face with this challenge is a major key to seeking and accepting help in order to address the problem.

Lou Abrams, a social worker specializing in drug addiction in the Orthodox community, said the gratuitous presence of alcohol at Jewish celebrations — bar mitzvahs, “kiddush clubs,” Purim parties — and a general lack of adult supervision increases the risk of addiction, particularly for young people. “Alcohol is still a big gateway. Rarely does someone start taking opiates before first experimenting with alcohol or marijuana.” Still, for individuals, the problem is deeper than one too many drinks, or one too many joints. “Drug use is a response to a lot of pain,” Lou Abrams states. “If you leave religion, you are branded as an outcast and a rebel … you become a ‘bad person’ and so frequently will ask yourself, ‘Why shouldn’t I do drugs if people already assume there’s something wrong with me?’”

In 2015 a man stood up when everyone else was silent and began the taboo discussion of substance abuse in the ‘frum orthodox world’. Rabbi Tzvi Gluck started an organization called “Amudim” which means pillars. The following is a synopsis of the Amudim mission. “When people are faced with crisis, their world begins to crumble. In addition to managing the crisis itself, otherwise manageable daily responsibilities become overwhelming. This additional pressure compounds the crisis, creating a crushing, seemingly insurmountable physical, psychological, and emotional strain. Our holistic approach to crisis-- providing the skills and tools necessary to effectively manage both the crisis and everyday life-- is necessary for clients to reach optimal positive outcomes.” Another major goal is to bring about an awareness in two areas: that someone fighting substance abuse, whether the victim or the family, should know that help is available 24/7. The second is to teach and create an awareness of prevention, thereby averting further decline to more difficult and more dangerous abuses.

An obvious question is asked: ‘If wine is so dangerous, why do we have it for kiddush and other holy ceremonies?” A hint to this is NOT found in this week’s parshas Emor. The beginning of the parsha outlines the laws of the Kohein Gadol and an ordinary Kohein. The laws of marriage, defilement due to a family member’s death, and the Temple service are not permitted to be performed by a Kohein with a blemish. The Mitzva for a Kohein to drink wine or an intoxicating beverage is found earlier in Parshas Shmini. Drinking wine in and of itself is not prohibited for a Kohein; the prohibition is that he is not allowed to perform the Avoda after drinking wine, or at least until its effect dissipates. We are concerned that drinking wine will interfere with his or her Avodas Hashem. Alternatively, when used exclusively for a Mitzva performance, it will not get out of hand. Social drinking not for a Mitzva will be the cause of getting used to drink when not necessary.

Shlomo HaMelech in Mishlei warns the human being of the destructive force of wine and alcohol. As it states in 23:29 “L’Mi Oy, L’Mi Avoy, L’Mi Midyanim, L’Mi Siach, L’Mi Petza’eem Chinam, L’Mi Chachlilus Einayim”. “Who cries, Alas, Who cries Woe? Who is contentious? Who Prattles? Who is wounded for naught? Whose eyes are red? 23:30 “LaM’Acharim Al HaYayin, LaBaim Lachkor Mimsach”. “Those who linger over wine; those who come to inquire over mixed drinks.” Rabbeinu Bachya makes clear that Shlomo HaMelech is not limiting his warning only to wine, but rather to desire a person chases. Such need – addiction - will ruin his life in this world and the next. Unfortunately, there are many easily accessible “gateways” in our society which can lead to personal misery and ruin. Prescription drugs and marijuana are common viaducts to serious additions, however it’s important to note that results of many current studies indicate that most teenage addictions get started with drinking. Rabbeinu Bachya emphasizes that wine/alcohol is the major culprit that leads to other more aggressive addictions. Wine and alcohol is the gateway to all vices. It is what causes the body and the soul to be lost.

As King Solomon aptly writes in Koheles 2:25: “For who should eat and who should make haste except me? That too, is futility and a vexation of the spirit.”

This article is not intended to alarm anyone, but rather to create the awareness that in every Jewish community there are individuals and families battling different kinds of abuse. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and think our community is immune. We are not. It is an opportunity for anyone who feels alone and isolated, thinking they are the only ones suffering from such pain, believing there is no help available, no one to whom they can reliably turn to learn that this is not true. Rabbis are ready and available to listen, to help, and to guide people in need, including their families, to resources that are available today. Together we can fight the scourge of addiction. But first we must recognize that we are not immune. Help is available. As Chazal teach, “Whoever saves one soul, it’s as if he saved an entire world.” Let’s get to work!

Apr 27

Research shows that in 2017 the number of smart phones in the world was 2.5 billion; in the United States there were approximately 280 million smart phones - roughly four out of five Americans are using a smart phone. I know two people who only use a conventional cell phone, known as a “dumb” phone. There many adjectives we use to describe people in general. Judaism is no exception. Often, we refer to a person as a ‘tzadik,’ a righteous person, but rarely do we call an individual ‘Kadosh’ - a holy one. The two people I know along with others who choose not to have a smart phone are not only Tzadikim; they are Kedoshim. Chazal explain that the way a person becomes a ‘kadosh’ is by sanctifying himself with items that are permissible: ‘Kadesh Atzmecha B’Mutar Lach’. Jewish life recognizes and uses technology to help us grow in Torah, but, unfortunately, many advances in medicine and science could be used be used for good or bad.

We think and are taught that technology helps us to be more efficient and helpful. While it is true that the cell phone has made life more convenient, it has not necessarily made us into more efficient people. When the vacuum cleaner came on the scene, people no longer had to take their rugs outside, hang them over a fence and smack the dust off with a pole for fifteen minutes every other week. Fast forward…now we only need to vacuum for ten minutes…every day! With any invention, we need to not only look at the benefits;, we also must consider the detriments. I am not implying that we only consider using something if it benefits us and has zero negatives. There will always be a negative side to everything, but we must control the ill consequences that can harm us and society.

Putting aside the obvious dangers of the Internet, there looms the destruction of society through social media. A few months ago, all who attended “screenagers” were educated on the hazards of the smart phone and how vulnerable we ALL are. However, I would like to focus in on one aspect of our world of instant communication: the usage of Whatspp groups and similar platforms of group chatting and sharing. Throughout the Jewish world, last Shabbos was dedicated to Shmiras HaLashon - watching our speech. Now I know what most of you reading this are thinking: “The Rabbi is going to give us mussar. He’s going to talk about how bad Loshon Hora is and will discuss the punishments that result from speaking Loshon Hora”. I hate to say it but (I include myself in this rebuke) I don’t think just we must guard our tongues works anymore. We are so immersed in gossiping, it is totally out of control. We can place partial blame on the misuse of technology. We tend to be embarrassed when chatting with a group to speak up and say to a friend or a group that the ongoing conversation harbors on Lashon Hora. The halacha ‘once was’ if a group of friends was speaking lashon hora, someone in the group would try to change the subject. z If that didn’t work, they would excuse themselves. Someone (in a different city) told me he was part of a WhatsApp group and found the content to be questionable. The person found it difficult to ‘leave the group’ which is an option because the other members would then comment on how that person thinks he is better than we are. The truth is that person better, but the social pressure is so great that it does not allow for people to do the right thing even though everyone else knows it is true.

The one successful approach Chazal suggest in combating any prohibition is not saying ‘it is forbidden’ but rather to learn about the Mitzva. One of the obstructions that exists in resisting evil speech is the lack of knowledge of the basic Mitzva. Let us all begin right here and now.

Last week’s parsha referenced Loshan Hora, but this week we clearly read about the Mitzva of Rechilus - literally a peddler - but figuratively defined as gossiping and spreading inappropriate information. In the second of this week’s double parshios, the Torah states in Vaikra 19:16 “Lo Seilech Rachil B’Amecha, Lo Sa’Amod Al Daam Rei’Echa, Ani Hashem”: “Do not go around as a gossiper among your people. Do not stand still over your neighbor’s blood (when your neighbor’s life is in danger). I am God”. It is interesting to note that this passuk and the verses that precede and follow it contain two parts. In some cases, we see a direct correlation or continuation from the first to the second half. Our verse has a strong connection as well. I will share a few commentaries that make the link.

The holy Zohar indicates that whoever violates the first part of being a gossiper has automatically violated the second one of killing someone. The Chizkuni, on the other hand, says the first causes the second to occur. A person creates an enemy through his gossiping against his friend, and that, in turn, causes the other person to rise up and kill him. Yehuda Ben Itar explains that Rechilus, which is a form of Lashon Hora, is as harsh as a sword that can kill. The Ba’al HaTurim says the word Rachil in Hebrew is spelled ‘full’ meaning with a letter ‘yud’ which is extra. The extra of Am Yisraelud (which has a value of ten) represents the Ten Commandments. If someone violates this Mitzva of being a gossiper, it is as if he violated the ten major commandments. The Shelah HaKadosh teaches that the Ten Commandments contain all six hundred thirteen Mitzvos. Therefore, by speaking Rechilus a person violates the entire Torah, thereby deserving others to stand by watching his blood and letting it be.

The Netzi”v flips the verse completely upside down. True, one is forbidden to speak and be a gossiper for something that is evil and creates bad will. On the other hand, if a person has something good and positive to say about someone, do not stand idly by and let his blood be shed. Rather, stand up and say something positive in order to save him from having his blood spilled. The Yerushalmi in Peah 1:5 rules that it is permissible to speak Lashon Hora against someone who quarrels with everyone and creates havoc for the Jewish people. This is learned out from the words “Do not gossip among your people,” but someone who acts outside of Am Yisrael does not deserve to be protected.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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Apr 20

Every week as I sit down to write a weekly message I scour my library searching for words of Torah that reflect some incident or situation that occurs. Baruch Hashem I have a decent library with many resources to pull from, but nevertheless a challenge. When we walk into a room full of seforim, holy books we are usually on our feet already and there is no need to ‘stand up’ for the Torah that is in the room. This contrasts with when we are sitting in a Shul or Beis Medrash and the Torah scroll is moving around we need to rise for the honor of the Torah. Not only do we stand when the actual Torah scroll is moved but when a Torah sage and scholar enter a room we stand, for they are considered a walking Torah scroll.

This week I had the Zechus/merit to host a Torah giant in the Jewish world. He is Bli Ayin Hara a man in his nineties who arrived at my house at 11:30pm after finishing some business that took over four hours. He left his home at 6:00am to catch a flight to San Diego, mind you he lives in the southeast portion of the U.S. After a brief bowl of cereal, I shared a dvar Torah from a new sefer that I have and within minutes of reviewing a piece on this week’s parsha he came back with some critiques and additions then gave his own understanding of this Mitzva of the Torah. Before I share his insight, the scenario in my home reminded me of a Mishna in Pirkei Avos. It was only last Shabbos that we began this summertime limmud and in the very first chapter Pirkei Avos 1:4 it mentions the following. Here I was literally waiting on this great Rov and basking in his light and breath of Torah. A walking sefer Torah knows no age, time or place, the words of Torah are on his fingertips and spew forth like a fountain.

In the second of this week’s Parshios, Metzora outlines the way to purify one self and possessions that were afflicted with Tzoraas, which I define as a spiritual leprosy (not to be confused with the medical definition of leprosy). In Vayikra 14:2 the Torah states: “Zos T’hiyeh Toras HaMetzora B’Yom Taharaso, V’Huva El HaKohain”. “This is the law concerning the leper when he is purified, and he shall be brought and placed under the jurisdiction of the priest”. Rav Nata Greenblatt YBL”C asks “once a person knows he has Tzoraas wouldn’t you think he would run to the Kohain, why does the Torah need to say, and he was ‘brought’ to the Kohain? At the outset the person sees some type of affliction or discoloration on his body. The process of purification first begins with identifying if the skin condition is in fact tzoraas, if it is leprosy the kohain will deem him a leper on the spot. If the kohain is not sure, then he will quarantine the person for a week and check again after seven days and repeat the process. Rav Nata Greenblatt explains the mindset of the leper. In the beginning the person doesn’t think anything of his skin condition and does not consider the connection between his neshama/soul and his guf/body, meaning he might have committed one of the sins that bring about leprosy. After he realizes that this skin condition appears to perhaps be leprosy he gets concerned and knows that only a Kohain can decide if it is or not. At that point a person begins to think maybe I did violate a mitzva that the punishment is Tzoraas and starts to do Teshuva, to repent. Unfortunately, he starts to doubt himself if he did something wrong, he is not sure if he is doing a proper repentance (not knowing if it is Tzoraas or not) and is afraid to even approach the Kohain. Therefore, the Torah demands that ‘he be brought’ to the kohain almost against his will. This is symptomatic of a person doubting their ability to succeed and rather than try they choose to fail. Perhaps they did do something wrong but are unsure how to go about correcting their situation. If they don’t move forward and be encouraged to work on improving and moving forward, then they risk falling further from where they began.

After reviewing the dvar Torah on Tazria for ninety seconds Rav Nata recalled the words of the Rambam as if he saw it yesterday. He quoted a piece that is out of character for Maimonidies. He writes in mussar fashion within the Mishna Torah which deals exclusively with Halacha, Jewish law. In Sefer Tahara at the end of the laws of Tumas Tzoraas 16:10 Maimonidies lays into the root cause of how a person gets to the point of speaking loshon hara. “Tzoraas is the name of a condition that includes many areas that are dissimilar to one another. Tzoraas shows up in different places and on different parts of the body depending on what the sin was. All the signs and indications of Tzoraas was a bewilderment and a wonder that was above nature, something inexplicable. If he remained steadfast in his wickedness then he began to lose everything, his house would be torn down, utensils destroyed, and clothing burned. If he repented fully at any point it would all stop, and life would resume to normal. If he still did not repent, then he will be separated and isolated from the congregation so that he will no longer be able to speak evil against anyone”. How did this all begin? Rambam continues “because he did not remember what happened to Miriam when we were on the way leaving Mitzrayim. She spoke against her brother Moshe who she was older than, and who raised him and put herself in danger to save her younger brother Moshe. She, Miriam did not necessarily speak bad against Moshe but rather just equated him to all the other prophets, and even though Moshe let it pass because he was the humblest of all men, she was punished! How much more so we the average person would be guilty speaking ill of leaders and great people. A person who scoffs and makes fun of everything will come to make fun of the leaders and even Rabbis”.

This type of behavior gives a thrill to the speaker and gains support of those around him while talking bad about the leaders of the Jewish people and even of our secular leaders in positions of authority. It is easier in the short run to doubt our own growth in Torah and Mitzvos and throw in the towel and make fun of those who are trying to lift us up. One needs to ‘bring himself’ to the kohain or leader and try to gain from their wisdom and insight and not make fun of them and what they stand for. Bring the Torah into your house, open your homes to Torah sages and scholars and bask in the delight of their Torah. Embrace who they are and what they represent, as this is the way to reverse the destruction of the Jewish homes and to build a true Bayis Neeman B’Yisrael

Apr 13

In every area of life there is more, less, and the average. Whether it is a person’s temperament, character traits, weight, height, looks, intelligence, finances, religiosity, etc. - the list goes on - there are always the extremes that make up the mean average of life. Some people do things quickly while others do them slowly. Several years ago I wrote about the law which clearly states that it is not only forbidden to drive above the speed limit; it is also forbidden to drive too slowly. There is one additional area I would like to critique concerning those who find themselves doing the wrong way, despite being asked not to do so.

There are some individuals who speak very quickly, so quickly that the listener cannot understand what the person is saying. There are differing opinions as to why some people speak quickly, including their ability to visualize the words in their minds - a condition known as ‘cluttering’. Two examples come to mind: one in a religious context, the other regarding our every day lives. On days when the Torah is read (particularly on Mondays and Thursdays) there is a custom to make a ‘Mi Shebeirach,’ a prayer for the sick. After a list of names is mentioned, some attendees will mention a name that is not on the list. They orally say the name to the gabbai. Typically, the person rattles off the name of the ill person, and his/her mother’s name along with it, at lightning speed. I remind you that the gabbai may never have heard this name before and is unable to catch the name not once or twice but sometimes even three times to fully grasp the name being called out. If the person would only say the name slowly the very first time, (which is what happens anyway by the third or fourth repetition) it would save people time, effort, and sometimes embarrassment. The person must realize the gabbai never heard this name and must repeat it verbatim so just slow down when giving over a name. The second scenario is leaving a phone number on a voice mail or answering machine. I can not tell you how many times I need to rewind the message over again to catch a phone number that someone left for me to call them back. It some cases it can take me nine times, repeatedly listening to the message because it was given so quickly that I can only catch and record one digit at a time. There is even a rare time that I just give up because it is impossible to decipher what the number is. Some recorded messages give specific instructions to avoid this issue by stating, “Please speak slowly and repeat the number.” Occasionally this may actually work – but unfortunately, not too often.

One should think about these and other situations when you are asking the other person to do something for you. Simply say it slowly. You are either asking them to return the call or mention a name for a speedy recovery and you are making it so much more difficult for them to do what is asked by speaking too quickly for the listener to understand your request. When someone speaks quickly, and the listener it is unable to accurately hear what you’re saying, the listener it placed in the awkward position of asking the speaker to repeat themselves or to say, “What?” sometimes over and over again. The onus should be on the speaker not the listener to convey a message or a thought properly.

We might all agree that the responsibility of clarity is on the speaker, but it doesn’t always happen. We don’t and can’t control the way a person speaks, and therefore we need to prepare for the inevitable. We need to take measures to listen more carefully and figure out ways to understand the speaker despite their babble. If the speaker is not going to change the way he/she speaks, then need to change the way we listen. We find a great lesson in listening from Moshe Rabbeinu. There is a great irony in the person who had some type of speech impediment who consistently recognizes the need to be patient when it comes to listening to what others are saying.

In this week’s parsha Shmini the Torah states in Vayikra 10:20 “Vayishma Moshe, VaYitav B’Einav”. “When Moshe heard this, he approved”. Rashi, on this verse, quotes the Midrash Toras Kohanim that says: Moshe admitted and was not embarrassed and did not use the excuse “I didn’t hear”. The Gemara in Zevachim 101b adds to the language of Rashi that not only did he not say “I didn’t hear that,” but to the contrary said, “I heard it and I forgot it,” which is a greater disgrace than just saying I didn’t hear. The Gemara Chagiga 1:8 in Yerushalmi writes: “I sent you a great person, and what is his greatness? That he was never embarrassed to say I didn’t hear. This means that saying I didn’t hear something is a greater disgrace, therefore, by definition, there is greatness to the person.

The commentary Tzion V’Yerushalayim goes on to elaborate this point. It is one thing to understand that the Rabbis and scholars during the times of the Talmud, who have the written and oral laws before them might be more humiliated to admit, ‘I did not hear that.’ But consider Moshe Rabbeinu, the prize student of the Almighty Himself, who learned one-on-one with Hashem and was the first ever to learn Torah and the first teacher of Torah, who would feel the greatest mortification by admitting, “I heard but I forgot.” It takes a great man to stand up and state the truth despite discomfiture to protect his pride.

The Netzi”v Rav Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin Z”L brings down a midrash that Moshe made a public announcement stating, “I, Moshe, made a mistake, and Aharon, my brother, came and taught it to me.” Why did Moshe do that? Moshe wanted to teach klal Yisrael this Midda, character trait of admitting a mistake. He taught the people that there is nothing wrong with admitting a mistake, and even he, Moshe Rabbeinu, was capable of making a mistake. By admitting a mistake, we come to correct the falsehood and bring truth to the surface. In addition, by admitting a mistake, we admit that we, too, are human and are able to learn and grow from our errors.

Therefore, we see the importance of listening with care so as to hear things properly. The utmost honor is given to someone who can recognize and admit his mistake and not hide behind some other excuse. Listen, pay close attention to the few short words Moshe said so openly and clearly. Ultimately, this admission will be viewed with goodness in Hashem’s eyes as well.

Mar 29

Throughout my Rabbinic career I have received more requests for leniency in areas of Halacha - Jewish law as compared to asking when and if it is appropriate to be Machmir/strict in Halacha. I am all in favor of using a leniency when appropriate, but we should also recognize the significance of Chumros and the role they play in our lives. It is not right to speak disparagingly about anyone in general, and this is particularly applicable with regard to those who seek out leniencies when necessary or Chumros when desired.

My son-in-law, who does not eat fruits or vegetables, has quite a challenge on Seder night when it comes to the Mitzva of marror. Since he does not eat romaine lettuce, his other option for marror is ground up horseradish root. For the Mitzva of marror, he takes a fully packed three ounces of horseradish, and in two or three heaping spoons swallows the bitter herbs, sending shock waves throughout his body as he turns red. Here is a situation where most people would look for a leniency, but he says that if people are looking for Chumros to appear more observant, let them start with this one. It’s always easy to be strict for others and on things that are not critical or important. Marror is a biblical Mitzva, therefore a person should be machmir on it!

My Rebbi, Rabbi Wein YB”L, used to tell over a story about Reb Eizel Yitzchok Charif*, a very astute and sharp Torah scholar and sage. His sharpness could only be matched by his wife, who obviously had to be his much-needed match to keep him in line. We are all very familiar and well aware of the prohibition of Chometz on Pesach and the severe punishment to those who violate it. A story is told of a Mrs. Eizel Yitzchok Charif who was extremely(strict) when it came toon Pesach. In fact, so much so that she would put mittens on the cat’s paws after Chanukah so that the cat would not trackaround the house! One year her husband, the Rabbi, said to his wife, “It is ridiculous to make the cat wear mittens. TheAruch provides different mechanisms for us to be Chometz-fee when Pesach arrives. The night before Pesach, on the fourteenth of Nissan, we doand check the entire house. In addition to that, if by chance we missed someduring the search, we do(nullification) ofbefore Pesach. On top of that, if the search does not go well, and my intentions during nullification were lacking, I still sell all theto a non-Jew.” At this the wife replied to her husband, raising and waving her hand “Ah, Feh, you and your! My father sold me to a Goy years ago!” Chumros are a real thing and should be taken seriously.

Chazal record that during the month of Elul and the ten days of repentance, a person should accept upon himself greater “chumros” – “stringencies” in his observance. Somewhat perplexing, however, is the fact that we do not find any requirement to continue with these observances after the Yomim Nora’im. There is another time of year that the Jewish people collectively rise to a level of Chumros that are not particularly observed during the year. The Rosh 3:2 states: “I did not elaborate on the laws of dough stuck on utensils as the Jewish people are holy will clean them.” The Raavan, quting the Rosh adds, “This custom of scraping down the walls and chairs has a source in the Talmud Yerushalmi.” The Radvaz 1:135 states: “The Jewish people are holy as writes the Rosh, and as we see that they keep extra Chumros, in contrast to other Issurim/prohibitions.” The Mechaber, Rav Yosef Caro in O”C 442:6 states: “Those who are Machmir have upon whom to rely.”.The Jewish people are holy and go above and beyond the letter of the requirements of the law on Pesach. The Arizal states that on Pesach one should be stringent to follow all the stringencies. Thus, we find in various areas of Halacha, that we are stringent on Pesach to follow a lone opinion, versus the accustomed leniency of the majority approach. The Be’er Hetiv 467:1 says, “Particularly on Pesach we follow all the Chumros.” Mishnas Chassidim says in Nissan 3:4, “One is to be stringent regarding all the stringencies of those who are strict, and this will benefit his soul throughout the year.”

Nevertheless, there is a right and a wrong way to do things. When it comes to Chumros, we accept them and perform them, but they should be done under the following conditions: Hide your Chumros and make sure the chumros are based upon something real. A person should act modestly and keep his Chumros to himself, in his own home, without allowing others to know. When asked a Shaila/question, one would only answer the letter of the law, not basing the answer on a Chumra that one has personally accepted. Ideally, according to Halacha, one is not allowed to be stringent regarding Rabbinical matters more than the stringencies of the Shulchan Aruch, nevertheless, regarding Pesach, the Jewish people are holy and go above and beyond the letter of the law. Nonetheless, this only applies if the custom has some basis or source. One is not supposed to innovate new Chumros that have no basis in Halacha.

Many Kulos/leniencies and Chumros/stringencies are based upon customs that families, communities and groups of Jews adopted throughout history for many reasons. In some instances the reasons for the custom - and hence the chumra - is known while at other times the only part of the custom that is remembered is the practice but not the reason. Just because the reason may have been forgotten does not justify the cessation of the custom. We, the Jewish people, follow the edict “Minhag Avoseinu B’adenu” - the custom of our fathers is still in our hands. We still follow customs because there may be other reasons that we are for these customs which have not been transmitted to us. We are not aware of the reasons behind the minhag. There is a sefer called Taamei Minhagim - The Reasons of the Customs - which gives hundreds of reasons to certain practices. Another set of seforim are called “Minhag Yisroel Torah” - the Custom of the Jewish People is Law”. The concept of a minhag is like a Din/law. It is a very powerful statement that cannot be discarded.

A Chumra does not have to be viewed as a difficulty. In fact the concept of the “chumra” should be taken on by someone who feels the need and uses this mechanism to get closer to Hashem. Taking on a chumra provides for many the internal feeling that they are holding this strictness to demonstrate to God that we take the Torah seriously and want to take on more when necessary. The Yom Tov of Pesach is full of different customs. Some are lenient and others are strict. As long as we are doing both of them L’Shem Shamayim - for Heaven’s sake, we will all become closer to Hashem and deserve the final redemption in the spirit of the Holy days of Pesach!

Ah Gut Shabbos and Ah Zeesin Pesach

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

*Rabbi YEHOSHUA ( Eizel Harif "Eizel the sharp") 1801 – 1873, was the son of Yechiel Shapira. He was born in Glubokie in 1801. His father; Yechiel, who was a deeply learned man, was the grandson of the writer of "Seder Hadorot". Already at an early age Yehoshua showed a great promise for learning. By age eight he could read complex texts. His father took it upon himself to further his son’s education. Soon, the father realized that he had no answers to some of the intricate questions that his son asked, so he enrolled his son in the big Minsk Yeshiva school "Blumka" under the R"M of R' Avraham Dboritzer who was known as a distinct prodigy. They boy grew up in the Yeshiva and became famous as “Eizel the prodigy from Globok. “ He became involved in correspondence, meeting with many Jewish sages of his time in Minsk and in other areas. He was renowned as a genius and received offers from respectful communities to become their rabbi. But his father in law, R’Ytzhak Fein, did not want him to leave his house. Finally, he took a job in the town of Kalvarija. He became known as Eizel Harif ("sharp") because he was one of the keenest intellects and most outstanding pilpulists of his day. He was av. bet din successively at Kalvarija, Kutno, Tiktin, and, finally, Slonim. He died in 1873. Rabbi Yehoshua’s keen witticism was commonly used even many years after his death. Bibliography; “Emek Yehoshua” (Warsaw 1842), “Drushim”, “Sfat Hanachal”, “Avi Hanachal” “Noam Yerushalmi’ – four volumes (Vilna 1863- 1866) ‘Ezat Yehoshua” (Vilna 1868) and a few others. Rabbi Yehovhua was survived by three prominent sons: Rabbi Berush Shapira , the rabbi of Ostrov; Rabbi Moshe Shapira, rabbi in Vilkomir and Riga and his youngest son, Mordechai Shapira, who was politically involved in Jewish causes.

Mar 22

Recently, someone shared an article with me which appeared in the March 15, 2018 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Headlined “Learning to Pray When Words Fail”, it addressed a condition called aphasia, the loss of ability to express or understand speech.. The article focused on a couple, Julie and Avi Shulman. Julie Shulman received her undergraduate degree in linguistics from Israel’s Bar- Ilan University in 2000. Following graduation, Mrs Shulman, a native of Maine, headed to Massachusetts, where she earned a master’s degree in speech therapy, fulfilling her goal of wanting to help people suffering from speech disorders. She never imagined how personal this mission would become. Her husband, Ayal Shulman, worked as a business-development manager for an Israeli startup in Brookline, MA. .The Shulmans returned to Israel in 2009,with three young children and promising careers. Two weeks after their return to Israel, Ayal suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Miraculously, his cognitive function was intact, but his speech was limited to sentences of three or four words. Mrs. Shulman explained that ”Disorders such as aphasia pose a challenge for adherents of speech-based faiths such as Judaism The underlying principle of our Jewish practices, and involvement in our religion, is the use of speech. Whatever blessing we choose, we express it verbally. The loss of speech is debilitating for family, friends, business, and especially in the way in which we practice our religion. Awareness of the preciousness of the gift of speech should deeply enhance our quality of davening and learning.

Whenever we are called to the Torah, we chant the words out loud. Prayer and Torah study is said out loud, frequently accompanied by melodies and chants which enhance and inspire us as we pray. Men learn Torah by saying the words out loud. This has been a proven method of retention of our studies throughout the millennia.

The power of prayer is the ability to verbalize the words and say them to God. The ‘ or intent, is in the heart and the mind, but it is the physical formation of the words coming from the mouth that make up the actual prayer. We are not supposed to just read the prayers with our eyes. We should silently verbalize every word, hearing each of the words being read.. The same is true in learning. It is not sufficient to learn a piece of Torah just by reading it with our eyes. Each word must be said as they are being learned. Please do not misunderstand or misinterpret my words, thinking you cannot learn that way. What I am saying is that the effect, the long-term benefit one has by sounding the words out loud, hearing every word, is immeasurable. I know that people who did not grow up with this idea of praying or learning out loud may have difficulty adjusting to this way of learning. My promise to those of you who fall into this category is that if you try it you will soon see, hear, and appreciate the difference.

In contrast to the Jewish (Orthodox) way of praying is the non-Jewish practice of praying which is not as vocal. An even greater contrast can be seen between the study of Torah and how we go about learning secular studies. There are libraries in every community, school, and college campus which typically require that you observe the rule of respecting the environment of quiet, whispering softly only when necessary. Studying is usually done independently and quietly at desks and tables, sometimes with headsets and headphones to maintain the required silence. The complete opposite is found in a where it is noisy, loud and full of the tumult that is the battle of Torah learning. The soldiers are entrenched on the battlefield known as the facing their foe (the chavrusa) with their ammunition in the form of the , and their talent in the form of their minds, and their weaponry in the form of their mouths battling for the truth of Torah!

When a person reads a book with his eyes, that is exactly what is being done: reading or scanning the page, but not necessarily learning. When a person reads the words of a he says the words aloud- he is not just reading the words; he is concentrating on each word, learning in depth. The two components of the Torah are comprised of the Torah the written Torah, and the Torah the oral law. The Oral law requires that every word is said out loud; it is not enough to just use one’s eyes, scanning across the page. This intense focusing on precise learning is deduced from a verse in this week’s Torah portion.

In this week’s parsha Tzav the Torah states in Vayikra 8:3 during the episode of the installation of the Kohanim, “V’Eis Kal Ha’Eida HakHel, El Pesach ”: “Gather the entire community at the entrance of the Communion Tent”. I saw a beautiful elucidation of this line in a new sefer, * The author quotes the Netzi” explanation of the purpose for this gathering. Berlin explains in that if the gathering day was day eight, the day after the seven-day preparation course for the Kohanim, it could be understood as giving honor to Hashem with everyone gathering there together in order to display honor to the King by having a multitude of people attending. This day of gathering was Rosh Nissan, the day the was erected. But if the gathering was the previous seven days, known as Shivas what and why was the purpose for gathering? It cannot even be compared to gathering when the were consecrated, because ‘” was involved, as stated “…and the Yisrael pressed their hands.” Even though only a few chosen men did the leaning, since it a Korban, this is similar to when a Jew offers his sacrifice. That person needs to be there. From those two cases we know the purpose and the reason for the gathering. But why here?

The answer is found in Kohanim where the Midrash teaches us that there were a few differences which were told to Moshe now and had been taught to him earlier. Because of this, it was necessary for everyone to come together again, this time to receive the tradition with its changes. Because of these changes, everyone needed to be present to hear the differences. From here we learn the power and strength of receiving Torah the Oral tradition. Even Moshe himself would listen to Hashem’s oral directive, even though Moshe had written something contrary to that which was in the written law. Now the entire congregation of Israel would understand that the manner of the Torah comes through the Torah the Oral Torah, which is comprised of the Mishna and , the Talmud.

Later on in The Netzi”v explains the words “ Moshe”- in the hands of Moshe - referring to halacha, Jewish law, which means the . This is based upon a in 13 quoting a verse, “The words that Hashem spoke into the hands of Moshe.” The halacha apparently is the halacha . The Sanhedrin 87 explains the concept of a law that was given to Moshe at Sinai represents strength of argumentation or debate that was given explicitly to Moshe. Here too, Moshe derived something on his own. He was he created an entirely new depth of understanding - totally new ideas based upon the written law. This is the potency of the Oral law, particularly during the seven-day period of inauguration. Even though it says of the , “to make for me a Tabernacle and I will dwell in it amongst you.” How is it possible that we interpret this to mean that Hashem will dwell in our midst? The answer is yes, with the it is possible to say that God will dwell among us despite the fact it does not say that precisely in the verse. Moshe learned it and Hashem gave His approbation to the learning and teaching of Moshe’s elucidation in the form of the Oral Law.

It is during the month of Nissan we look for ways to hasten the redemption, perhaps by learning and not just reading. Let us raise our voices in davening to Hashem with our in Shul, and let the (sounds of) Torah emanate from the and look forward to bringing back the Davidic dynasty in the coming of speedily in our day. Amen!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

*Authored by Reb Dovid Bogopulsky, born 1992 in San Diego, Ca. He is currently an Avreich in Yeshivas Toras Moshe located in Sanhedria Murchevet. Reb Dovid lives in Jerusalem. He authored two other publications, Malchus Beis Dovid on Horiyos and Dudaei B’ni on Shas.

Mar 16

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

There are many different pleasures which each of us look forward to throughout our lives. Pleasure is a broad class of mental states that humans and animals experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking. These include more specific mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria. The early psychological concept of pleasure, referred to as the pleasure principle, describes it as a positive feedback mechanism which motivates every living creature to recreate that particular experience which it has just found pleasurable in the future and to avoid situations that have caused pain in the past.

The experience of pleasure is subjective; different individuals will experience different kinds and amounts of pleasure in the same situation. Many pleasurable experiences are associated with satisfying basic biological drives, such as eating, exercise, hygiene, and more. The appreciation of cultural artifacts and activities such as art, music, dancing, and literature is often pleasurable.

Often, we do something for someone and that person expresses appreciation for your kindness and consideration. A typical exchange goes as follows: the recipient says, “Thank you,” while the giver replies “My pleasure”. There are a few situations where the pleasurable experience is physical but causes an internal feeling. Any professional gets satisfaction when his or her experience and skill set is used. I’ve experienced joy and a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction of what a Rabbi/teacher gets a high from. A rabbi is a teacher, and a teacher enjoys teaching. When someone asks me a question, I immediately have a good feeling in the sense that the person wants to learn, and I have the opportunity to help them, teach them, and nurture growth. Last week I had an incredible experience which gave me an enormous amount of pleasure. I received a phone call from two young siblings about eight and five years old who said they had a question for the Rabbi! I was ecstatic as I carefully listened to their question about a young fruit tree, asking me when could they derive benefit from the tree by eating its fruit. I decided to show how important it was for children to ask questions and not be intimidated by asking the Rabbi. By the way, there are other children who come over with their parents and will ask a question on Shabbos. In this case I went over to the children’s house and looked at the fruit tree and discussed the relevant laws associated with fruit trees. I get such Nachas and satisfaction when children ask questions and parents arrange to have their questions asked and taken seriously. This is a level of “Chinuch” – education - that can only be learned at home. The Rabbi of a community is a resource for everyone and is happy when his expertise is sought.

A ‘Ben Torah’ and all who truly value the Torah continuously search for growth. Every Jew must live with a Torah outlook, a perspective or Hashkafa that centers around the growth of Torah and Mitzvos for themselves and their family. There are several indicators and factors that contribute and make up a good Torah Hashkafa. The case of children asking questions is one of those gauges. Someone who does not ask is not in growth mode. That person is instead using up their original resources which will eventually dry up. The message of Torah Chinuch cannot be stated more clearly than what Chazal (Rabbis, their memory should be a blessing) have to say about Chinuch at the very outset of Sefer Vayikra.

The Torah states in Parshas Vayikra at the beginning of both this week’s parshas Vayikra and next week in Parshas Tzav. In Parshas Tzav the Torah states 6:2 “Tzav Es Aharon V’Es Banav Laymore, Zos Toras HaOlah…” - “This is the law of the burnt elevation offering…”. The Medrash Rabbah at the end of 7:3 teaches us why there is a tradition for children to begin learning Chumash from Vayikra and not from Bereishis. The reason, Reb Assi says, ‘why is it that young school children begin to learn Toras Kohanim, the book of Vayikra, and not Bereishis? It is because young children are pure and innocent, let it be the pure Tahor – wholesome - ones should come learn about Tahara, about cleanliness and purity!!!” Yet in this week’s parsha Vayikra the Torah states in Vayikra 1:1 “Vayikra El Moshe…” “And Hashem called Moshe…” The Midrash Eicha Aleph states there is a Mesorah /tradition that the Aleph of the word Vayikra is small. Rebbi Yehuda said: ‘Come and see how dear the Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban – the young school children - is to Hashem.’ God exiled the great Sanhedrin, but the Shechina, God’s essence, did not go into exile with them. God exiled the Mishmaros, the watch groups, but the Shechina did not go into exile with them. But when the school children were forced into exile, the Shechina went into exile along with them. We gather from the Midrash that the essence of Hashem’s presence was primarily there because of the young children learning Torah. In the merit that their mouths were full of Torah and empty ofnonsense, there was no sin, hence Hashem’s presence would be glad to be with them even if that meant leaving Eretz Yisrael. This resulted in the greater Jewish people benefitting from the children’s learning that kept the Shechina close to the entire Jewish people in the Golus/exile.

*Reb Yosef Zvi Salant in his sefer B’er Yosef connects this to the Ark in Shmos 25:22 “I will commune (I will meet with you at set times) with you there, speaking to you from above the ark cover, from between the two cherubs that are on the Ark of Testimony. In this manner I will give instructions to the Israelites”. The Gemara Sukkah 5 asks ‘what is a Cheruv?’Rebbi Avahu said ‘Cherebia’ is like a baby for that is how a baby was called in Babylon. This hints to the fact that it was in the merit of the young small children that Hashem shrank Himself and His Shechina, His essence, in between the Cherubs. This was done to teach Torah and Mitzvos to the nation of Israel.

Adults and parents need to recognize that it takes Torah learning -for our young children - to have the Shechina live in our midst. Now, more than ever before, we who are living in the Golus of the Golus need to see the primary importance of Torah learning at all levels. We need to re-assess our Hashkafa, the outlook we have on the primacy of Torah in our schools, shuls and community. Communities grow by bringing in more Torah personalities and families who have a proper Torah Hashkafa to help influence the proper path we need to be on.

Our Shul and community should continue to grow in Torah and Yiras Shamayim and listen to the call of Moshe in raising the bar of Torah in our midst and be a shining light so that we, too, can listen to the sweet words of Torah emanating from the cherubs running all around us.

*Yosef Zundel of Salant (1786–1866) (also known as Zundel Salant) was an Ashkenazi Rabbi and the primary teacher of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter.

Zundel was born on the first day of Rosh Hashana in 1786 in Salantai, Lithuania. Little is known of his early years. He was a descendant of Rabbi Faivush Ashkenazi of Vilna (late 17th-early 18th century) His father was Rabbi Benyamin Beinush, who was a Shochet and Chazzan in Salant.

As a young man, Zundel studied in the Volozhin under Rabbi Chaim Volozhin. Following Rabbi Chaim's death in 1821, Zundel would make trips to study with Rabbi Akiva Eiger.

Salant's wife was Rochel Rivkah. They had three children: two daughters, Tziviah and Heniah, and an only son, Aryeh Leib. Rabbi Yosef Zundel of Salant refused to accept any rabbinical positions. He ran a small business which produced only a meager living. He chose to spend much of his time immersed in Torah studies and Mussar

Zundel provided the spiritual inspiration for his most famous student, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, the founder of the Mussar movement.

During the early years of the Mussar movement, Reb Zundel was seen in the marketplaceon Fridayafternoons, reminding the merchants that the Jewish Sabbath was approaching giving the merchants time to close their stalls and avoid desecrating the Shabbos.

Ah Gutten Chodesh

Mar 7

I have just concluded the year of Aveilus/mourning for my mother, Yocheved Bas Tzvi A”H. I’m not the first person to lose a loved one and go through the mourning process, nor will I be the last. Nevertheless, people ask about the transitions regarding time and status of being a mourner. Following the initial seven day period of sitting Shiva is the thirty-day period of Shloshim, concluded after eleven months by the cessation of saying Kaddish which is then eclipsed by the twelve-month, end-of-year-long process. The answer to the transitions of time and status for the mourner is multi-dimensional. Time, for the mourner, is capable of moving very slowly yet, simultaneously and mysteriously, also very quickly. For the person going through the period of mourning, time isn’t measured daily. Time, at least from my experience seemed to pass in chunks rather than hours or days or even weeks. All of us remark during the milestones of life “Where has the time gone?” For the mourner, or at least for me, the chunks of time moving me through the year seemed to be measured privately, internally. believe I grieved as my mother grieved for her losses. She did not show a great amount of outward emotion; she internalized her grief and moved on with life. She mourned appropriately and Halachikly - no more no less.

A 2008 article articulates that “Time doesn't heal; it's what you DO with the time that causes healing.” I am not going to disagree that keeping oneself busy will distract a person from sorrow and ease the burden during this difficult period of life. Keeping that in mind, a person can keep busy at the initial stages of worry, concern and bereavement and forget their woes altogether. What is the Torah’s perspective on time as a healer - both the long and short term?

The Halacha in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 394:1 states: “One is forbidden to mourn excessively. The first three days are for weeping, the first seven days for eulogy, and the first thirty days for refraining from haircutting and laundering. One should not grieve more than this.” The Sifsei Kohain, known as the Shach, in Y”D 344:9 states: “In mourning for one’s parent, certain laws apply for an entire twelve months. This is an aspect of the Mitzvah of honoring one’s father and mother.” Mourning for thirty days is of Biblical origin, taken from the death of Yakov Avinu and later Moshe Rabbeinu. The extended eleven months for a parent is of Rabbinic nature (For reasons too detailed to list here). The Halacha in Shulchan Aruch which derived the law from the Torah mandates us to mourn for specific times, no longer, no shorter.

Another indication of the time for mourning is the time to erect the monument. The opinions range from immediately after Shiva up until after the twelve months have elapsed, but everyone agrees it should not be later than right after the year concludes. One of the major explanations given by Rebbi Akiva Eiger is that the purpose of the monument is to make sure that the person will not be forgotten. This is not necessary during the twelve months because the memory of the deceased remains fresh in people’s minds throughout the twelve months. The Rabbis taught that the memory of the deceased is forgotten, or dimmed, after twelve months. This does not mean we forget about our loved one. Rather it is stating that the pain and anguish we felt throughout the first year dissipates. This happens because of time. It matters little whether the mourner was busy or not during the time of mourning – when the year concludes, the process of mourning is over. We conclude the year by the power and significance to the yearly cycle of events. Even more noteworthy is the renewal of something a year has passed.

In a one hundred -eighty degree turn from mourning, we can value another aspect of Jewish life: the blessing of Shehecheyanu that is recited on a new creation, and other new and fresh things which follow a season or a year. There are certain Mitzvos that we are commanded to perform only once a year at a specific time, and therefore we recite a Shehecheyanu in addition to the blessing of that Mitzva. This coming Shabbos there is a Mitzva D’Oraisa, a Biblical commandment (just like Zachor) to read Parshas Parah according to Tosfos in Brachos 13. The Mechaber in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 685:7 states, “…therefore the people living in villages who don’t have a minyan need to go to a place where there is a minyan to listen to these portions which are Biblically commanded”. There is a story about the Chofetz Chaim, who prior to completing the Yeshiva building in Radun, davened with his students in a private home. On the Shabbos of ‘Zachor’ he went to the local Shul to listen to the reading because a Mitzva of such magnitude requires ‘Hiddur Mitzva” and therefore needed to read it B’Rov Am Hadras Melech - with a multitude of people and not with a small group. This principle holds true a hundred times more regarding the reading of the Megilas Esther. Some believe that they might be doing a good thing by creating more Megillah readings, by splitting into smaller groups. Not so. It is wrong to take away from the larger group to form smaller ones so that people can read privately when the alternative exists for everyone to come together.

Some people feel they can mourn a little more or a little less. They think their decision can be based upon their feelings, believing all fall within the boundaries of Halacha. I’m sorry to inform them that they are incorrect. They are wrong. The unity of the Jewish people does not depend upon the individual’s understanding of the Klal (the group); rather it is their submission to the Kehilla, to the gathering of the Jewish people, and to what we do together as a whole, not to individual parts.

This can be expounded upon through this week’s double Torah portions. The word ‘Vayakhel’ means to assemble - Moshe gathers Am Yisrael . The second Parsha, ‘Pekudei’ means the accounts or to remember. *Reb Mordechai Yosef Leiner, known as the Ishbitzer. explains the connection between the two parshios in his sefer , explaining that these are the accounts of the Mishkan, said to organize and complete the arrangement of Parshas Vayakhel. Parshas Vayakhel set up all the utensils and Kelim of the Mishkan, while Pekudei sets those items into motion, showing their actual practical use. First the Torah writes about the construction of the Ark (37:1) and later placed the Tablets in the Ark (40:20). In Vayakhel they made the Shulchan (37:10) and in Pekudei they arranged the bread on the Shulchan (40:23). In (37:13) they made the Lamp or the Menorah and later on (40:25) the lamps were lit before Hashem. In Vayakhel (37:25) the Incense Altar was made of gold and later in Pekudei (40:27) the incense was burned on it. In the beginning of Perek 38 the Sacrificial Altar was built, and in Pekudei (40:29) the offering and meal offering were burnt. The last connection in Vayakhel (38:8) the Kiyor, the washstand, was constructed and in Pekudei (40:30) it was filled with water for washing. The word ‘Pekudei’ means to fill in everything that was missing in the utensils made in Vayakhel.

Every person is a Keli/a vessel that Hashem has put into this world. That vessel needs to be filled and used for its ultimate purpose and goal - to serve Hashem with all of Klal Yisrael together. A person cannot pick and choose what goes in or what goes on top. There is a standard held across the board that unifies us all. It’s not about ME; it’s about WE.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica (1801-1854) was a Rabbinic Hasidic thinker and founder of the Ishbitza-Radzyn Chasidic dynasty. Rabbi Mordechai Yosef was born in the Polish town of Tomashov in 1801. At the age of two his father died. Rabbi Mordechai Yosef became a disciple of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa where he joined Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rabbi Yosef of Yartshev, who were also both born in Tomashov. When Rabbi Menachem Mendel became Rebbe in Kotzk, Reb Mordechai Yosef became his disciple there. In 1839 Rabbi Mordechai Yosef became a rebbe in Tomaszów, moving subsequently to Izbica. His leading disciple was Rabbi Yehuda Leib Eiger, grandson of Rabbi Aiva Eiger. Mordechai Yosef Leiner is buried beneath an ohel in the Jewish cemetery in Izbica.

Mar 2

Well, as usual, I find myself behind the eight ball again. As I get older I keep trying to stay in touch and keep current with technology, but I never seem to catch it quite right. By the time I get my act in order, a newer fad or system has already replaced the old one. I am finally getting into giving live classes on Facebook, only to learn that Facebook is for the old people already.

It took me a while to be convinced or just get over the hump of fear to just do it. Part of my hesitation was my ambivalence between using technology and certain social media that can be dangerous to the other extreme which supports many well-known, authoritative Rabbis who have sanctioned its use for Torah purposes. The far-reaching abilities technology creates are remarkable. Consider Hashem speaking on Har Sinai and the entire world able to hear it. Perhaps this is the modern mouth piece that can have such far- reaching potential, spreading Torah to the masses worldwide. Believe me, I’m not there yet and I don’t think my live classes will reach the four corners of the Earth. Nevertheless, this tool gives someone who cannot attend a class in person the opportunity to tune in to a Torah class and or simply to watch it later. I also hesitated to go online because there are so many other better Torah teachers out there. Why would someone want to listen to my Parsha or Tefilla shiur when they can easily click on one of the major leaders of today? The answer lies in the fact that a person will learn better from someone for whom they already have a connection. It feels a bit more personal when listening and watching someone you know on a live screen shot or a video recording. With today’s technology and instant video connection, we are as close as we possibly can get without physically being there. But keep in mind that with every positive substance that God gives us access to in this world also comes a downside element of negativity.

I am not going to lecture about all the dangers that lurk behind the dark side of the web and all its capabilities for someone to destroy their lives through it. But I would like to lecture on the shortcomings of the technology, particularly streaming live. The deficiency in live streaming classes is that while people feel it is just as good as actually being there in person, some even feeling it is superior to being there because anyone can take the Rabbi and his class anywhere he goes, the fact still remains that being face-to-face with someone, whether at a business meeting, class, chavrusa, bikur cholim, or even a shidduch date will have a more positive, personal effect than using skype, messenger or Facebook live. Our focus and concentration are challenged and most likely the individual will be diverted by distractions that the other person cannot see. You can ‘hide’ behind the screen, pick and choose when you want to listen, focus, pay attention or simply lose focus and even walk away without the ‘other’ knowing about it.

I’m uncertain if the benefits of having a class whenever and wherever I am outweigh the negative aspects or potential tendency to go online, replacing the ‘real’ lecture, class or Shiur. On the other hand, if we don’t offer every possible avenue for a person to learn, then they may not learn at all! To re-iterate, while I’m not convinced that that using modern technology is capable of measuring up to the effectiveness of attending a live Shiur, I am positive without a doubt that attending a class or a meeting in person far outweighs the alternative. A very famous story in the Talmud clarifies the distinction with regard to the whereabouts of a student vis-a-vis his teacher. In Gemara Eruvin 13b:Rebbi said: The reason that I am sharper than my colleagues is that I saw Rebbi Meir from behind. That is, I attended his lectures, if only to be seated behind him where I was unable to observe his face. And if I had seen him from his front, I would be even sharper. As it is written in Isaiah 30:20 ’And your eyes shall behold your teachers.’” Rav Shmuel Eidels* in his commentary on Gemara, known as Maharsha, explains the importance of seeing a teacher from the front because a teacher’s facial expressions convey meanings that are not conveyed through words alone.

There are times we see something and times when we we see something. Images play a crucial role on our psyche. Professionals suggest that people who are dealing with physical and/or emotional pain that focus on happy thoughts and memories. Unfortunately, images can play tricks on our minds, causing us to err in judgment, making mistakes - as we see in the Torah.

In this week’s portion Ki Sisa the Torah states in Shmos 32:1: “Vayar Ha’Am Ki Bo’Sheish Moshe Laredes Min HaHar, Vayikahel HaAm Al Aharon, Vayomru Eilav, Kum Asei Lanu Elohim Asher Yeilchu L’Faneinu Ki Zeh Moshe HaIsh Asher He’Elanu MeiEretz Mitzrayim Lo Yadanu Meh Haya Lo”: “Meanwhile, the people began to realize that Moshe was taking a long time to come down from the mountain. They gathered around Aharon and said to him, ‘make us an oracle to lead us. We have no idea what happened to Moshe, the man who brought us out of Egypt’. The Midrash Tanchuma teaches us regarding this verse that Moshe was delayed by six hours on the day he was to return back to the camp. When the sixth hour came, forty-thousand [of the Eirev Rav] and two magicians from Egypt who left Egypt along with the Jews approached Aharon. The two magicians, Yonos and Yombros, performed in front of Pharoah. They said to Aharon, ’Moshe is no longer coming down from the mountain as the deadline had passed.’’ Aharon and Chur said, ”He is now going to come down from the mountain.’’. They did not listen, and they showed a figure or an image of a bier with Moshe lying dead. Chur got angry and rebuked them, and they rose up and killed Chur. When Aharon saw this, he started to get busy with doing the things they wanted. All they had to do was show a fake image of Moshe dead, instilling fear into the people. After that, it would be a sure thing to convince the Bnai Yisrael of the necessity of something that would lead them as Moshe had.

Seeing is believing; something that is in front of you is the real thing and cannot be misconstrued for something else. Everyone must acknowledge that even Facebook live isn’t as good as being there in person. If it’s impossible to be there in person, then as a backup it’s certainly a better option than not learning at all. By the way, my next Facebook live will be on Shabbos, but if you can’t tune in then, show up in person!

Ah Gut Shabbos Ah Freilichin Purim

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Shmuel Eidels (1555 – 1631 ) was a renowned Rabbi and Talmudist famous for his commentary on the Talmud, . Eidels is also known as Maharsha ( מהרש"א , a Hebrew acronym for "Our Teacher, the Rabbi Shmuel Eidels")

Feb 22

With technology improving and medicine advancing, health care for all generations, including the very young and the aging positively increases as well. Over the past fifty years, average life expectancy at birth has increased globally by almost twenty years, from 46.5 years in 1950--1955 to 65.2 years in 2002. This represents a global average increase in life expectancy of four months per year across this time span. In the United States, life expectancy at birth increased by almost nine years between 1960 and 2011. To see three generations today is somewhat common, and we are now witnessing more and more four-generation families. Middle generations numbers two or three face a challenge dealing with their parents and grandchildren. There are a host of challenges which must be faced regarding caring for or attending to the needs of aging parents. We feel guilty because we cannot help enough primarily because we don’t have the time, resources or physical capacity to do the job. At the same time we struggle to allocate adequate time for our parents, we are also bombarded with the privilege and honor of raising our children while dealing with the burden of society’s challenges. This trial is common to many people in the Jewish and non-Jewish world.

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