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Parshas Bechukosai: A good study partner is nothing to sneeze at

If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and th etree of the field will give its fruit” (Leviticus 26:3,4)

The Talmud Bava Metzia 84a tells us the story of when Reish Lakish died Rabbi Yochanan missed him sorely. The rabbis sent Rabbi Elazar ben Padas to console him. On every statement that Rabbi Yochanan made Rabbi Elazar would bring a proof to it which did not console Rabbi Yochanan but made him sad. The reason is because for every statement he made, Reish Lakish would ask him twenty-four questions and he would answer them to bring about the truth to the statement he had made. Rabbi Yochanan then said that he already taught according to the halacha but it sharpened him tremendously. He then tore his clothing, cried and sreamed where are you Reish Lakish! He went crazy and the rabbis requested mercy for him and he died.

Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlit’a in Ta’am V’Da’as explains the incredible ability of learning Torah among our venerated sages. The essence of their learning was not to come up with great and novel ideas but the purpose was to learn so that they would come to the truth! Their words needed to be absolutely clear and they would think and rethink and think some more about what they learned until they had absolute clarity in the teaching.

Rabbi Yochanan thoroughly enjoyed the questions of Reish Lakish which would help clarify and bring about the truth of the matter at hand. Once Reish Laskish died Rabbi Yochanan was afraid maybe his Torah was not as clear as it could be and he could not find that clarity in his learning again until he went crazy from it and died. This is a tremendous lesson for all of us to learn.

In the last twenty-five years that I have had the merit to learn G-d’s Torah, I have had many great learning partners that pushed me, pulled me and made sure that my ideas were concrete according to the Torah’s ideals. This is certainly not an easy thing especially if someone is stubborn and has an ego. The true rabbinic scholar is not afraid to admit they have made a mistake.

Rav Sternbuch has told me many times in the name of the Brisker Rav that it is better to say “I don’t know than to give a bad answer!” This has resonated with me for many many years because I always felt if someone had a question you had an obligation if you could to give an answer straight away. He taught me that it is better to wait, think about it, speak with others about it and then give an answer (if the answer is not at the tip of your tongue).

Unfortunately there are many out there that think they have the answers or that their answers are even valid when the reality is that many times they have no clue as to what they are talking about! They could call themselvs rabbi, whatever that means, maybe even produce something to show they have semicha (rabbinic ordination) but they themselves are fakes and liars and just lead people astray.

I have seen time and time again people who want to step up to the plate but they didn’t even bring their bat with them. What is the reason these loud mouths spew their garbage? Ego.

May we all have the proper rabbinic counsel to give us the proper advice we need!

Shabbat Shalom

Parshas Behar: Do secular Jews have any true excuses as to why they don’t keep the Torah?

“Do not lend with interest of him (your brother i.e. a Jew) or increase, but fear your G-d that your brother may live with you” (Leviticus 25:36).

The Torah tells us that a Jew is not allowed to lend money to a fellow Jew and charge them interest.  This would seem to mean as long as he “is acting as a brother with you”. When he acts as a brother by keeping Torah and mitzvos this would apply but if he has strayed from the Torah and does not keep it then it would not apply. What if this Jew by no fault of their own were never taught about Torah and mitzvos, does this apply to them?

Most of the Jews today that do not practice or keep the laws of the Torah have never been properly educated in its ways. If they do not keep very many of the laws, the will still be liable but just not in a severe way. They will be punished as if they had done this transgressions by accident and not on purpose even though this is really a rebellion against G-d!

It is truly sad that many of these Jews, as well being as they may be, have never tasted the sweet taste of Torah and all it has to offer. They seemingly reject it based on its “antiquated laws” and primitive beliefs. After all, many of these Jews are highly educated in the secular world and can’t fathom what Judaism would have to offer. “Do people really believe that we are going to go back to animal sacrifices?” many have asked me. Do the laws of kashrus still apply today when there is no problem of trichinosis?

Although legitimate questions at the outset, the concepts are not often researched and it is very easy to throw these questions out there so they can exempt themselves from any type of religious observance. As another person told me, ‘if you can’t explain to me logically why we are not allowed to wear a mixture of wool and linen, then why do I have to keep it?” My answer was very simple. If I came up with a good witty answer that would satisfy their question would they in fact keep this mitzvah?

The questions in Judaism have not changed all that much in the last two thousand years. They are legitimate questions if they are really searching for answers. The sad reality is that they already have an agenda and already know the answer so it is impossible to satisfy their question when in the end you are only answering an answer. That is why in the Haggadah of Passover the evil son, who even though asks a similar question as the wise son, we don’t answer him and blunt his teeth. What is the explanation for this?

Someone who is copping an attitude and throws out a “question” when it is really an answer, is not looking for an answer to this question. The question is really an answer and therefore cannot be answered. This is why the wicked son’s teeth are blunted as Rav Chaim Brisker z”l answered the wayward student who left the yeshiva and went far away from Judaism.

The former student told Rav Chaim that he had questions and those questions weren’t answered. Rav Chaim asked him when he had those questions, when he was in yeshiva or when he left. The student answered when he left. Rav Chaim answered that those “questions” he had were not questions but really answers and it is impossible to answer an answer with a set agenda attached to it.

Many people want to justify their lifestyle as to why they are far from Torah and mitzvos based on these “questions”. The reality is after they have to give an accounting to G-d after they die, they will see quite clearly what they have done. It is unfortunate that desire and honor they search for in the secular world fulfills them to lead productive lives. The truth is many of these people are unhappy and miserable because they don’t have meaning in their lives. They continue doing many of the things they did when they were younger and never truly develop and grow up.

We are living in very interesting times and there are many signs that the messiah is right around the corner. May we all wake up and heed the call to properly return to Hashem and reach our true potential.

Shabbat Shalom

Parshas Behar: Working on our belief in G-d

Parshas Emor: Belief in G-d creating the world and running it!

“And the L-rd spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘the feasts of the L-rd which you shall proclaim to be holy gathrings, these are my feasts” (Leviticus 23:1-2).

Rashi asks what is the connection between shabbos and the festivals here? It is there to teach you that anyone that desecrates the festivals it is as if they have desecrated shabbos as well and anyone that keeps the festivals it is as if they have kept shabbos as well. What is the deeper explanation here?

Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l in Drash Moshe explains that the purpose of shabbos is to give us proper belief in G-d that He created the world and is in charge and watches over everything in it. Therefore anyone who desecrates shabbos it is as if they deny G-d created the world.  The festivals teach us that G-d runs the world Himself and He can change nature when He feels like it like when He saved the Jewish people from the Egyptians.

By taking us out of Egypt G-d strengthened us under the clouds of glory when we were in the desert by sustaining us and taking care of all our physical needs. He then gave us the Torah and mitzvos so that we would go in the proper path and live the way He wants us to! The Torah also tells us that to have belief in half a thing is worthless.

This means if a person believes that G-d created the world but He gave other forces like angels the ability to run the world it is as if he does not believe in creation at all! Man will then think that since there are  other forces that run the world there is no reason to keep the Torah or its mitzvos. This is how the Rambam explains at the beginning of the law of idolatry the mistake that Enosh and his generation made. This led them to forget about belief in G-d at all and therefore one who desecrates the festivals is as if they have desecrated shabbos.

This is the reason that shabbos is placed here with the festivals because if a person would believe that G-d created the world but placed other forces in charge of running the world, they would should realize that both go hand in hand. This means that it is crucial to believe that G-d runs every aspect of this world and nothing happens without Him because even if they believe that G-d created the world, they deny His role in it!

This will result in a person denying as well that G-d gave the Torah from heaven to Moshe and to the rest of the Jewish people. As we can see, even on a simplistic level, belief in G-d creating the world and how He runs it is such an important tenet in Judaism that without that, they will deny He gave the Torah!

May we all merit to have the proper perspective on Torah and be able to pass on its timely message to our children and family!

Shabbat Shalom

Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim: The Torah’s moral code

“You shall sanctify yourselves and you will be holy, for I am Hashem, your G-d” (Leviticus 20:7). 

Sanctifying one’s self and being holy is a common theme in parshas Kedoshim. There are many things a Jew and non-Jew are not allowed to do because they logically make sense. That being said, does the Torah have to state the obvious? After all, don’t I know one is not allowed to steal or be dishonest in business and call people names?

The reality is that things that look obvious may not be so. When the Torah says that we are not allowed to kill, does that include someone who has a deadly disease and will die shortly anyway? What about an unborn child that is not causing distress to the mother but she does not want to have the child, claiming it was a mistake? What about calling a person by an unflattering nickname where the person doesn’t care if you call them that or not?

The point is that there are many verses in the Torah that not only beg for explanation but even the so-called simple things that are obvious must be further clarified because as we can see it is not that simple! If we would keep the Torah according to the Karaites who reject Oral Law then there would be many things that a person could do that would be permitted according to the Torah but in fact would be forbidden! We have to be ever so careful in upholding the Torah and guarding it to the highest level we can.

The Torah has a very strong moral code. When it comes to character development, the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) tells us in Mesilas Yesharim (The Path of the Just) that to stay totally clean and pure one must be so careful in everything we do. We need to be squeeky clean so-to-speak spirtually that there cannot be a trace of transgression to acquire this character trait. Obviously easier said than done but the Torah has high ideals for us that we must strive for.

Even if it is hard, G-d never puts us in a situation that we cannot handle even though we may think that we can’t! The true servant of G-d goes beyond the letter of the law in their dealings with others and must have the desire and fortitude to be a light unto the nations. We all have difficulties but G-d expects us to try and work through them and be the best people we can.

Shabbat Shalom


The book of Leviticus Chapter 3: 10 – 4:2 the sin offering and its affect on the soul