61 years ago today, 5 Shevat 5708 (Jan 16, 1948), 35 Hebrew University students set out to the besieged settlers of Gush Etzion. A previous convoy had been attacked a month before, and the settlers of Ramat Rachel themselves were attacked twice in the previous week. So, at an age when most of us don’t have bigger worries than keeping our grades up or finishing the next paper these youths volunteered with the Haganah and chose to head into danger. Under the leadership of Danny Mas, they each took a 60 lb pack and headed into the Judean Hills.

We don’t know exactly what happened next, but there were enough messages intercepted by the British police to reconstruct some detail. (Not that the British tried to use this information to save lives.) The group passed an Arab shepherd outside the town of Suref, and rather than kill him to ensure his silence, they compassionately chose to simply lie about their intent. The shepherd informed an armed group, and this troop was attacked twice, involving hundred of local Arabs.

Dr Solomon Bloom tells his part of the story in an open letter to his daughter:

The settlement Ramat Rachel, slightly south of Jerusalem, was being besieged by the Arab Legion. The Haganah decided to send a small force of thirty-five soldiers, most from the Pal Mach’s best veterans, plus a few from our group of American recruits, to try to lift the terrible threat at Ramat Rachel. I was one of the Americans selected to join the thirty-five. During the final determination of who was to go, I was on my bunk listening to the officers of our battalion discussing those to be sent. One said; “Well we can’t send Shlomo Bloom, he’s married.” The other officer asked; “Why not?” The reply came back; “Well suppose Shlomo becomes a casualty and doesn’t get back here after this action. Then we have his American wife sitting, grieving alone here in Jerusalem. We can’t handle all the problems that would come up. There will be too many diplomatic and political problems if that happens; we just can’t be concerned with such a problem.” So I was struck from the list and Moshe Pearlstein, whom I had trained with but had no previous U. S. army experience, was selected in my place to join the thirty-five.

I will always remember how formidable – yes, how heroic – the “35” appeared in all their battle gear, as they assembled on the edge of Beit Hakarem. They were the Yishuv’s best and seemed invincible in my eyes. The group went out to reach Ramat Rachel, but never made it through the Judean hills. Twenty-four hours went by and no word from the “35.” Then our officers assembled a further group, I among them, to seek them out. Just before we started, the officers were listening to the news and there was this British bulletin stating that the “35” had been caught in an Arab ambush and there were no survivors. This tragedy was a terrible blow to the Haganah, the kibbutz fell to the Arab Legion a few days later and its surviving members were taken prisoner.

My dear daughter Ruth, I write this story forty-seven years after its occurrence. Being married to my first wife Helen in January of 1948 was my salvation. And what eternal gratitude I have for that Haganah officer who decided not to send me because of my marriage. That sweet soul Moshe, my good friend from training days and life together in the Haganah, became, as far as I know, one of the first Americans to fall in the war of independence for Israel. His sacrifice has given me a long eventful life – baruch Ha-shem. And it was just that twist of fate that I was luckily married at that time.

Ruth, if you should ever visit Israel again, be sure to ask the location of the “Forest of the Thirty-five.” Yes, there is today a forest planted to memorialize those “35” hero soldiers of Israel.

Moshe Pearlstein, the person who volunteered in Dr. Bloom’s place, was my grandfather’s cousin.

I recall the last time I visited my grandfather a”h, which was a few weeks before the yahrzeit. “Grandpa” expressed his frustration that he no longer healthy enough to make it to the annual gathering of family members of the Lamed Hei at the military cemetary Har Herzl. His worries that he would take with him a piece of the past were justified. I wish I had asked my grandpa when he was still alive more about Moshe Pearlstein so that I could draw for you a better portrait. (I wished I had asked him more about many things.)

What I do know is that Moshe Pearlstein made aliyah from Jersey City, NJ. He was an alumnus of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchal Elchanan (today the yeshiva affiliated with YU) who was studying Agriculture and Jewish Studies at the time of his murder. He was 23.

None of them survived. They were so brutally beaten, Rav Aryeh Levin zt”l had to rely on a Goral haGra, a lottery system attributed to the Vilna Gaon, to identify the last 12 bodies.

Danny Mas, the leader, was an amateur cartoonist. He drew the pictures on the right. We’re not talking of hardened soldiers, anonymous “troops”. We’re speaking of young people who put the lives of those at Ramat Rachel, ahead of their own. Men who risked, and ultimately gave, their own lives rather than risk killing an enemy civilian needlessly.
The names of these 35, the Lamed Hei, were:

  • Yisrael Alonai (Marzel)
  • Haim Engel
  • Benny (Sailor) Bogoslavsky
  • Yehuda Bitansky
  • Oded Binyamin
  • Ben-Tzion Ben-Meir
  • Yaakov Ben-Atar
  • Yoseph Baruch
  • Eitan Gaon
  • Sabo Goland
  • Yitzchak Gintzburg
  • Yitzchak HaLevi
  • Eliyahu Hershkovitz
  • Yitzchak Zvuluni
  • David Tash (Tur Shalom)
  • Alexander Cohen
  • Yaakov Cohen (Jordan)
  • Yechiel Kalev
  • Yaakov Kaspi
  • Yona Levine
  • Alexander (Avraham) Lusting
  • Eliyahu Mizrachi
  • Amnon (Mischel) Michaeli
  • Danniel (Danny) Mas
  • Shaul (Sully) Pnoali
  • Moshe Pearlstein
  • Binyamin (Benitzky) Persitz
  • Baruch Pat
  • David Tzabari
  • David Zwebner (Shag)
  • Yaakov Koting
  • Yoseph (Yup) Kopler
  • Tuvia Kushnir
  • Danniel (Chichu) Riech
  • Yaakov Shmueli

It’s strange to think, but they would have been, should have been, grandparents by now.

But it’s inspiring to think of the human potential. Man’s ability to place others ahead of his own very survival.

Yehi zichram barukh.

You only have 15 seconds…

From mopocket.com:

January 6th, 2009 by Justin Oberman

As the conflict in the Middle East continues rockets fired by Hamas continue to fall into the Israeli city of Sederot where countless of innocent victims have 15 seconds to find shelter and or find their children and loved ones. Mobile Technology is now being used to rally people around the world during those 15 seconds.
The city is paralyzed as Terrorist Hamas groups target children’s schools and places of public gathering like supermarkets and stores. The economy is in ruins and besides worrying for their lives teh people of Sederot are beginning to worry about their economic stability and putting food on the table.

Jews all over the world are sending aid. But there is little that they can do (physically) to help anyone in Sederot during the 15 seconds after the sirens go off.

For this reason The National Council of Young Israel has set up a service called SMS SEDEROT or (Solidarity Message For Sederot). When the Tzeva Adom (Code Red) siren in sounded in Sederot (or any Israeli City) SMSSEDEROT will send you a text message that will read:

A Kassam Rocket has just been launched at Sderot. You have: 15 seconds to read Psalm 130. 15 seconds to give to charity 15 seconds to call the UN , the WHite House, your Senetors and Congressman 15 Seconds to pause and pray for the people of Sderot.

(When you sign up you get to choose which reminder you want)

Whether you are religious or not it is not hard to imagine the power of such a text message. Wherever I am I know that at that moment people in Sederot are fearing for their lives. And I can pray with them or feel solidarity with them. Either way, I am with them.

To hear an interview with SMSederots founder click here.
Click here to sign up.

I’m moving my earlier post of suggestions of how to respond here, so as to keep them all in one place. It was written on Jan 5th, 9 Teves.

Tomorrow is Asarah beTeiveis, commemorating the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem which led the end of the First Temple.

Since the initial fast was established (some time before the prophet Zechariah, see Zec 9:19), it also became a day for mourning the victims of the tragedies of our exiles who even had the knowledge of their yahrzeit taken from them. In many communities, that includes victims of the Holocaust, their yahrzeit is observed tomorrow. (Others use the day the Nazis took the town in question or Holocaust Memorial Day as the yahrzeit.)

A fast day is a time for repentance. Fasting is “only” a way to set the mood. Therefore, one isn’t required to put in the same effort to fast on Asarah beTeiveis as one would for Yom Kippur or Tish’ah beAv, all of us, in any medical condition, are capable of commemorating the essence day.

Jews seem most unified in times of trouble. And we’re in one now.

First it was Sderot. Without letting that end, Hashem added worry by shaking our financial foundations. Then Mumbai. And then had so many of our charities and their donors more specifically hit. Meanwhile, Sderot and Ashkelon were still being hit. Now, an out-and-out war. And the antisemitism we hear around the globe looking to blame the Jews for the financial crisis can also be seen in people who protest Israel’s straightforward desire to eliminate a threat to its own people.

So, Hashem is steadily increasing our feelings of being in trouble. Of being isolated. Of needing to turn to each other, and to Him. One can choose to read this as the Almighty steadily raising the volume on a message: This is a time of trouble, unite already!

And, as I said, tomorrow is a day for repentance. It’s also a day for remembering those who were killed for being Jews. As R’ JB Soloveitchik put it, “In the crematoria, the ashes of Hassidim and Anshei Ma’aseh (pious Jews) were mixed with the ashes of radicals and freethinkers and we must fight against the enemy who does not recognize the difference between one who worships and one who does not … ” (Di Tog Morgen Journal, November 19, 1954, tr. Louis Bernstein) Repentence in the field of unity seems particularly appropriate, even if it were not the call of current events.

Personally, I plan on putting all arguments on hold for the day. I do a lot of my dialogue by email, a medium notorious for bringing out contentiousness. I intend to spend the day developing awareness of how often I disagree with others, and more importantly, how I tend to handle that disagreement.

On another note, the portion of R’ Reisman’s shiur of last motza’ei Shabbos that deals with the war and how to respond to it is being circulated publicly. You can watch it here. He speaks of the appropriateness of adding a personal request to the birkhas Ge’ulah (“… Go’eil Yisrael) in the Amidah. The need for more learning, more tefillah (which only works if the prayers are meant). The need for hakaras hatov, recognizing the good, gratitude, if we expect Hashem to do good to us. Give something up, so as to share in the communal pain. Cry out, even if it doesn’t help pragmatically… can someone who is in pain remain silent? R’ Reisman, quoting R’ Chaim Smulevitz speaks of four examples:

  • Iyov heard of our problems in Egypt, and was silent.
  • Tzidqiyahu, who didn’t see he could be the hero of Israel.
  • Esther, who fasted so as to share in the communal pain.
  • Harugei Lud, who confessed to a crime they didn’t commit, so as to take the governor’s wrath off the rest of the town. They were killed, and the gemara says none can touch their place in heaven.

Again, listen to the recording, this is only a small selection of ideas intended to be a “teaser”.

Another way you can help: pair up with a specific soldier. See this letter by the Bostoner Rebbe (Har Nof) and R’ Simcha haKohein Kook:

מכתב גלוי לכל אחינו די בכל אתר ואתר

אחינו בית ישראל באיזורים רבים של ארץ הקודש מצוים בצרה ובשביה

ולעת כזאת חובתנו לחוש את אחדות כלל ישראל בלב ובנפש להרבות בתפילה ובכל הענינים, כי עת צרה היא ליעקב וכו’ ובעהי”ת ממנה יושע.

ובאנו לעורר, ולבקש, ולהוסיף ענין של זיכוי הרבים ביותר.

תוה”ק מעידה כי במלחמת מדין נצטוו להחלץ “אלף למטה” “אלף למטה”.ואיתא במד”ר ובילקוט שמעוני ד”וימסרו” היינו עוד אלף למטה, פירוש שהיו נמסרין זוגות זוגות, כדי שיהיו מתפללים איש על רעהו.

ואכן במלחמת מדין נאמר “ולא נפקד ממנו איש”. ובודאי העובדה שניצלו כולם היתה בגלל תפילת כלל ישראל

והבאנו דבר זה לפני מרן הגאון רבי חיים קניבסקי שליט”א, שמח בדבר, והוסיף ואמר כי גם כך נהג דוד המלך ע”ה שלכל אחד שיצא להילחם, הכינו יהודי נוסף, שתפקידו היה,להתפלל עבורהיוצא, וישא”כהסכמת דוד המלך ע”ה לתפילות אלו.

לזאת, אנו פונים בזה לכל חייל החפץ שיתפללו בעדו בעהי”ת להתקשר לטלפון 02 581 1911 ולמסור את שמו ושם אמו ואין צורך בשמות המשפחה.( אי מייל [email protected] או פקס 08-9450027) ונעביר בעהי”ת את שמו למתפלל שיכון בתוספות תורתו ותפילתו לזכותו ולשמרו.

וכן קוראים אנו לכל א’ המצוי ח”ו בגלל המלחמה במצוקה או בחרדה, במקלט ובכל אתר לפנות להנ”ל ובעהי”ת נעביר גם שמו למי שקיבל על עצמו להוסיף בתפילתו ובתלמוד תורה עבור המבקש.

ובעזהשי”ת נזכה מן השמים גם אנו לנאמר “ולא נפקד ממנו איש”.

ובזה אנו קוראים גם לכל מי שרוצה לקיים דברי חכמים ולהוסיף בתורה ותפילה, להצטרף ולהיכנס לפיתקא של תפילות , להתקשר למספ’ הנ”ל ולקבל שם של חייל או אחר לכוון את תוספות תורתו ותפלתו לזכות חבירו .

גם נשים צדקניות יכולות לקבל ע”ע להתפלל עבור חברה השרויה במצוקה עקב המלחמה.

Letter signature

An open letter to all Achenu Bene Yisroel

After learning about the heart rendering appeal of the Gedolay Torah to intensify our Tefilos and Torah learning during this very trying time for Klal Yisroel, we have undertaken to join and aid them in their prayers.

The Medrash Rabah and the Yalkut relate that during the war against Midyon, for every one that went out to battle there was a designated person whose task it was to pray and learn for him.

The Great Gaon and Sage Rebbe Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a when asked about this tradition pointed out that Dovid Hemelech, as well continued and instituted the practice, that for every individual who was in combat, there was another person selected for the specific task of praying and learning for him.

Therefore in order to continue and accomplish this Minhag, we ask soldiers and/or their relatives who would want a “partner” in Torah and Tefillah to email [email protected] or fax 011 9728 9450027 and give their Hebrew name and mothers Hebrew name without any other particulars such as family name or other identifying factors, so that we may disseminate them among those who heed the call to add Torah and Tefillah for the sake of those who find themselves in jeopardy ח”ו. Anyone who finds himself or herself ח”ו in danger or in shelters because of the war may also feel free to call or email to the above.

To bond with us and receive a name of your “partner” please email or fax the above.

May Klal Yisroel in the merit of joining together, speedily see a successful end to this trial and campaign as quoted in the Parsha “without loss of life”.

HaRav Simcha Hakohen Kook HaRav Levi Yitzchok Horowitz
Chief Rabbi of Rechovot Bostoner Rebbe

And from the Agudah of America’s Moe’etzes Gedolei haTorah:


לבני ישראל היקרים, הדואגים אל אחיהם בעת צרה.

לאור המצב כעת אשר אלפי יהודים יושבי ארץ הקודש נתונים בסכנה מפרעות אויב, ראינו לנכון להדגיש ביותר החובה המוטלת על כולנו להתעורר בתפלה ולבקש רחמים על אחינו היקרים ולהרבות בצדקה וזכיות על שארית ישראל שלא יאונה להם שוד ושבר, ויש לחזק הנהוג לומר פרקי תהלים פג קל קמב בכל יום, וגם לשפוך שיח בתחנונים של “והוא רחום” שאומרים בשני וחמישי, ובברכת “השכיבנו” בערבית שמבקשים ופרוש עלינו סכת שלומך וחותמים שומר עמו ישראל לעד.

והשי”ת ברוב רחמיו וחסדיו יגן על עמו ונחלתו ויחלצם ממיצר, ויוציאנו מאפלה לאורה ומשעבוד לגאולה אכי”ר.

ח’ טבת תשס”ט

מועצת גדולי התורה בארה”ב

* * *


To all dear Jews concerned about their fellow-Jews in this time of distress:

In light of the current situation, in which thousands of Jews in the Holy Land are in danger due to the attacks of the enemy, we regard it as proper to strongly emphasize the obligation on us all to awaken ourselves in prayer, to ask for Divine mercy for our dear brethren and to increase our charity and good deeds for the protection of the remnant of Yisroel from any and all harm. We should intensify the practice of reciting chapters 83, 130 and 142 of Tehillim each day, and fervently pour out our hearts in the prayer “V’hu Rachum” said on Monday and Thursday mornings and in the blessing of “Hashkiveinu” in Ma’ariv, where we ask Hashem to “spread upon us Your tent of peace” and conclude “the Guardian of His nation Yisroel forever.”

May Hashem in His abundant mercy and kindness shield His nation and heritage, release them from all straits, and take us from darkness to light and from subjugation to redemption. Amein, may it be His will.

8 Teves, 5769

Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America

A question of tefillah is what to say.

R’ Eliyahu, the Rishon leTziyon (former Sepharadi Chief Rabbi), wrote a short “Yehi Ratzon“. I made a handout of it, available here. Perhaps that is an appropriate paragraph for birkhas Ge’ulah. For those who are uncomfortable with such things, feeling too much like a modern addition to the traditional siddur (although one can find examples in footnotes in our published siddurim that aren’t much older), there is still an obligation to add something to one’s tefillah. If one finds standardization problematic, then one’s own words, even one’s thoughts without moving one’s lips.

Among Tehillim, there are a few peraqim that deal with topics very related to this war. “LaMenatzei’ach, Mizmor leDavid” (ch. 20) is the one usually recited during wartime, being part of Shacharis and therefore known by many by heart and available in every siddur. “Hashem will answer you in the day of trouble… They with chariots, and they with horses, but we, with our mention of the name of Hashem…”

Another commonly used pereq in these too frequent times of trouble is 121, “Shir laMaalos, Esa Einai“. (Also found in most siddurim, after Shabbos Minchah.) “I lift my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come? My help will come from Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth.” Note how in that verse, David merges the visions of G-d. The Grand Maker of everything is also the One Who I can turn to as a child to parent, looking expectantly for help. “May Hashem guard your leaving and coming, from now until forever.”

On Areivim, Moshe Yehudah Gluck noted the particular appropriateness of ch. 83. Professor Yitchak Levine placed R’ Hirsch’s translation and commentary on line at his site. I wish to leave with those thoughts:

1 A poem, a song of Asaph.

א שִׁ֖יר מִזְמ֣וֹר לְאָסָֽף׃

2 G‑d! do not keep You silence; do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, G‑d.

ב אֱ‑לֹהִ֥ים אַל־דֳּמִי־לָ֑ךְ אַל־תֶּֽחֱרַ֖שׁ וְאַל־תִּשְׁקֹ֣ט אֵֽ‑ל׃

3 For here -Your enemies are in an uproar; and those hate You have lifted their head.

ג כִּֽי־הִנֵּ֣ה אֽ֭וֹיְבֶיךָ יֶֽהֱמָי֑וּן וּ֝מְשַׂנְאֶ֗יךָ נָ֣שְׂאוּ רֹֽאשׁ׃

4 They hold crafty converse against Your people, and take counsel against Your treasured ones.

ד עַֽל־עַ֭מְּךָ יַֽעֲרִ֣ימוּ ס֑וֹד וְ֝יִתְיָֽעֲצ֗וּ עַל־צְפוּנֶֽיךָ׃

5 They have said: ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.’

ה אָֽמְר֗וּ לְ֭כוּ וְנַכְחִידֵ֣ם מִגּ֑וֹי וְלֹֽא־יִזָּכֵ֖ר שֵֽׁם־יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל עֽוֹד׃

6 For they have consulted together with one consent; against You do they make a covenant;

ו כִּ֤י נֽוֹעֲצ֣וּ לֵ֣ב יַחְדָּ֑ו עָ֝לֶ֗יךָ בְּרִ֣ית יִכְרֹֽתוּ׃

7 The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites;

ז אָֽהֳלֵ֣י אֱ֭דוֹם וְיִשְׁמְעֵאלִ֗ים מוֹאָ֥ב וְהַגְרִֽים׃

8 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; Palestine with the inhabitants of Tyre;

ח גְּבָ֣ל וְ֭עַמּוֹן וַֽעֲמָלֵ֑ק פְּ֝לֶ֗שֶׁת עִם־יֹ֥שְׁבֵי צֽוֹר׃

9 Assyria also is joined with them; they have been an arm to the children of Lot. Selah!

ט גַּם־אַ֭שּׁוּר נִלְוָ֣ה עִמָּ֑ם הָ֤יֽוּ זְר֖וֹעַ לִבְנֵי־ל֣וֹט סֶֽלָה׃

10 Do You unto them as unto Midian; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook Kishon;

י עֲשֵֽׂה־לָהֶ֥ם כְּמִדְיָ֑ן כְּֽסִיסְרָ֥א כְ֝יָבִ֗ין בְּנַ֣חַל קִישֽׁוֹן׃

11 Who were destroyed at En‑dor; they became as dung for the earth.

יא נִשְׁמְד֥וּ בְֽעֵין־דֹּ֑אר הָ֥יוּ דֹּ֗֝מֶן לָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃

12 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, and like Zebah and Zalmunna all their princes;

יב שִׁיתֵ֣מוֹ נְ֭דִיבֵימוֹ כְּעֹרֵ֣ב וְכִזְאֵ֑ב וּֽכְזֶ֥בַח וּ֝כְצַלְמֻנָּ֗ע כָּל־נְסִיכֵֽימוֹ׃

13 Who said: ‘Let us take to ourselves in possession the habitations of G‑d.’

יג אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָֽ֭מְרוּ נִ֣ירְשָׁה לָּ֑נוּ אֵ֗֝ת נְא֣וֹת אֱ‑לֹהִֽים׃

14 O my G‑d, make them like the whirling dust; as stubble before the wind.

יד אֱֽ‑לֹהַ֗י שִׁיתֵ֥מוֹ כַגַּלְגַּ֑ל כְּ֝קַ֗שׁ לִפְנֵי־רֽוּחַ׃

15 As the fire that burneth the forest, and as the flame that setteth the mountains ablaze;

טו כְּאֵ֥שׁ תִּבְעַר־יָ֑עַר וּ֝כְלֶֽהָבָ֗ה תְּלַהֵ֥ט הָרִֽים׃

16 So pursue them with Your tempest, and affright them with Your storm.

טז כֵּ֭ן תִּרְדְּפֵ֣ם בְּסַֽעֲרֶ֑ךָ וּבְסוּפָֽתְךָ֥ תְבַֽהֲלֵֽם׃

17 Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek Your name, Hashem.

יז מַלֵּ֣א פְנֵיהֶ֣ם קָל֑וֹן וִֽיבַקְשׁ֖וּ שִׁמְךָ֣ יְ‑הוָֽה׃

18 Let them be ashamed and affrighted for ever; let them be abashed and perish.

יח יֵבֹ֖שׁוּ וְיִבָּֽהֲל֥וּ עֲדֵי־עַ֗ד וְֽיַחְפְּר֥וּ וְיֹאבֵֽדוּ׃

19 So that they may know that it is You alone whose name is Hashem, {New line}

the Most High over the whole world.

יט וְֽיֵדְע֗וּ כִּֽי־אַתָּ֬ה שִׁמְךָ֣ יְ‑הוָ֣ה לְבַדֶּ֑ךָ

עֶ֝לְי֗וֹן עַל־כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

The Pursuit of Happiness

Rabbi Noah Weinberger of Aish haTorah, in the summary of his 48 Ways to Wisdom (an elaboration of the 48 steps to acquiring Torah listed in Avos, beraisa 6:6) on aish.com, writes:

Did you ever begin a stimulating physical activity and then discover you somehow can’t extricate yourself? You pick up a bag of potato chips, and start eating two, three, four, five. Before you know it you’re at the bottom of the bag. You didn’t really want any more, but you couldn’t stop. You passed the point of diminishing returns and now you feel sick.

While physical pleasure is an essential part of enjoying life, at the same time, we have to know how to control it and harness it. Way #18 is b’miut ta’anug – “minimize physical pleasure.” You cannot just eat chocolate bars the whole day long. That is not living.

Human beings are pleasure-seekers. The more pleasure, the more power. Figure out how to transform raw physical sensation into the deeper pleasures of love, meaning, creativity. Don’t worry – you won’t lose the physical pleasure. You’ll actually enhance and appreciate it more.


Human beings are pleasure-seekers. Most people seek pleasure in careers, vacations, cars and homes. In our generation, many people grumble about obligations as unpleasant aggravations. Perhaps that’s why many today wait so long to get married. Imagine being tied down with responsibilities and children to support!

This is a shallow view. It may be difficult to fulfill obligations, but there’s tremendous pleasure in getting done what has to get done. You’re actualizing your potential. That’s real meaning, real pleasure. It’s energizing.

Way #33 is Ohev et ha’tzedakot — literally “love righteousness.” Once you realize the pleasure of fulfilling obligations, it’s much easier to carry them out. And if you have to do them anyway, you might as well take pleasure!

I find I can not agree with the concept that “human beings are pleasure-seekers”. Not so much that it’s wrong as that I think that if we think about what gives us pleasure and makes us happy, the statement loses content.

This ties directly into my previous post “Who is wealthy?” One’s lot in life is a process, not a particular static state. The wealthy person is one who accepts their process, their curriculum, their mission in Hashem’s plan for the universe — to give three very different sounding descriptions of the same thing.

Similarly, happiness is in the process. As creative beings, we want to constantly be heading toward something new. Valuing pleasure is fleeting, the goal is aquired and life goes on. “He who has a maneh [a coin worth 100 zuz] wants 200 [zuz].” The amount necessary to acheive ta’anug, contentment, moves ever upward because we need the pursuit in order to be happy.

It’s not that people seek pleasure, it’s that pleasure is the emotion associated with searching.  We are depressed when things didn’t go as we wished. We are worried when we reason to believe they may not. We assign pleasure with the goal of pursuit, and happiness is the feeling that our pursuit is succeeding.

Bitachon is trust that our life’s process and the events and changes in it are part of Hashem’s plan. And thus the key to happiness is aligning our pursuit with that process as He guides it to play out. For someone with bitachon, happiness is inevitable.

Sheloshah Pish’ai Azah

(This pasuq is making the rounds on the web. I believe original credit for pointing it out goes to R’ Shmuel Rosenberg, a sofer in Tzefat.)

כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְ-הוָ֔ה עַל־שְׁלֹשָׁה֙ פִּשְׁעֵ֣י עַזָּ֔ה וְעַל־אַרְבָּעָ֖ה לֹ֣א אֲשִׁיבֶ֑נּוּ עַל־הַגְלוֹתָ֛ם גָּל֥וּת שְׁלֵמָ֖ה לְהַסְגִּ֥יר לֶאֱדֽוֹם׃

וְשִׁלַּ֥חְתִּי אֵ֖שׁ בְּחוֹמַ֣ת עַזָּ֑ה וְאָכְלָ֖ה אַרְמְנֹתֶֽיהָ׃

וְהִכְרַתִּ֤י יוֹשֵׁב֙ מֵֽאַשְׁדּ֔וֹד וְתוֹמֵ֥ךְ שֵׁ֖בֶט מֵֽאַשְׁקְל֑וֹן וַהֲשִׁיב֨וֹתִי יָדִ֜י עַל־עֶקְר֗וֹן וְאָֽבְדוּ֙ שְׁאֵרִ֣ית פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים אָמַ֖ר אֲ-דֹנָ֥י יְ-הוִֽה׃

So says Hashem: “For three transgressions of Azza, even for four, I will not reverse it: because they exiled an entire exile, to turn them over to Edom.

So will I send a fire into the wall of Gaza, and it will devour its palaces.

And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and the one who holds the scepter from Ashkelon; and I will turn My hand against Eqron, and the remnant of the Philistines shall be gone”, says Hashem, G-d.

- Amos 1:6-8

A reference to Hashem losing patience with Gaza after multiple offenses, sending fire into it, destroying its “palaces” and eliminating the Philistines has eerie and obvious parallels.

According to the Mezudas David, Amos is referring to the then-future exile by Titus. Many from Yerushalayim fled south, and the residents of Azza captured them and handed the refugees over  to the enemy. Thus “to turn them over to Edom”.

As for today’s galus sheleimah, the speed at which antisemitism has accelerated the world over is frightening. Deaths in France, beatings and shul burnings in London, a Molotov cocktail thrown at a Temple outside Chicago, a Chabad menorah and Jewish-owned shops sprayed with swastikas in Belgium, a banner at an Australian rally demanding “clean the earth from dirty Zionists!”, people in Fort Lauderdale shouting that we need ovens, echoed in the Netherlands where protesters chanted “Hamas, Hamas, Joden aan het gas — Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas!”…

המתרצה ברחמים ומתפיס בתחנונים, התרצה והתפיס לדור עני כי אין עוזר!

He Who desires mercy and is appeased with pleas,

please find desire and appeasement for this impoverished generation

for we have no other helper!

יְ-הוָ֣ה לָ֭נוּ לֹ֣א נֵירָ֑א מַה־יַּעֲשֶׂ֖ה לָ֭נוּ ֣אָדָֽם!

Hasיem is with us, we shall not be afraid! What can a person to do us?

- c.f. Tehillim 118:6

Kehunah and Unity

Back on Chanukah I wrote:

Chomos migdalei, the walls of my citadel [mentioned in the poem "Ma'oz Tzur"], were not the mighty walls around the Temple Mount or the walls of a fortress. They were a see-through mechitzah, the realization that the Jew, as one of the Mamleches Kohanim, has a higher calling.

One possible reaction to assimilation is to build up the fortress walls. We can hope to stave off negative influences by reducing out exposure to the outside world. The idea that we need to stay distinct is not necessarily one that isn’t heard, but perhaps one that we are overly stressing.

I think this too is a message of the soreg. Yes, there is a separation between Jew and non-Jew, but it is only waist high and woven of slats with far more space than wood. The “walls of my fortress” are a reminder, not a solid barrier.

We are charged to be G-d’s “mamlekhes kohanim vegoy qadosh — a country of priests and a holy nation.” We need to balance the separation implied by the concept of qedushah with our role as kohanim, a priesthood providing religious leadership. We can not be priests if we do not stay to our special calling, but our special calling is self-indulgent if we do not use it to serve others. “Ki miTzion teitzei Sorah — because from Zion the Torah shall come forth.” By wallling ourselves in we not only protect ourselves, we prevent ourselves from teaching others.

I recently realize this dovetails well with an idea I posted about back in 2005 (this is only one part of a number of arguments for the beauty of and need for a plurality of Orthodoxies):

We must learn to look at other forms of Torah observance as “different parts of the same body”. Not to be tolerated despite their differences, but loved because of them. All come from the same toras imekha [and thus Jewish identity is matrilineal], the same basic worldview, values and aspirations. We differ, as did the shevatim, in mussar avikha [which is why sheivet membership is patrilineal], in the formal layer of education after that, where we learn our roles and where we fit in that greater mission.

This was the message Hashem gave Aharon in the beginning of parashas Beha’alosekha. Chazal write that when the heads of the shevatim brought their qorbanos (listed at the end of Naso), Aharon, whose role included being the head of Levi, was pained at not being able to participate. Hashem comforted him by pointing to the story of Chanukah. The chanukas habayis, the consecration of the Beis haMiqdash, by Aharon’s descendants the Chashmona’im, was greater than the offerings of the nesi’im. Why?

Each of the nesi’im brought what was physically the same offering. However, each offering was distinct in intent. The Ramban itemizes the allusions each nasi could find in the same offering that relate to his particular tribe, to his particular ancestor. The offerings were colored by mussar avikha, by each sheivet’s particularist role.

Aharon is then told, “When you cause the menorah [flames] to go up, toward the face of the menorah its lamps should burn.” The menorah has one central trunk, from which emerge six branches. The flame atop each branch must point toward the middle. Each branch is a different wisdom, a different skill-set. They all emerge from the same basic Torah, from the mother-taught values that define our Jewishness. It is Aharon’s job to remind us that they also must be channeled back toward that central core.

We all work toward a common goal. Knowing that each of us are unique, bringing unique thoughts and abilities, unique perspective and educational background, leads us not only to realize the full value of our own part in the greater whole (no man is “just another brick in the wall”) but to treasure the contributions of others because they are so different than our own, and bringing something to the whole that we can’t.

It struck me this morning that there is a common theme in the two.

Just as the shevatim had different roles in the same central goal, the various nations each have a role in humanity’s goal. That list of roles will always include the job of reminding the whole that they are a single whole that is supposed to work together for a common noble end. Whether it’s Aharon and the Chashmonaim reminding the Jewish people, or the Jewish people having the (unpopular) job of being the world’s reminder. That is called kehunah.

Mi sheBeirach…

I was just sent the following list of names of wounded soldiers. These men were wounded late Monday evening, in street clashes with Hamas gunmeny”sh in northern Azza.

  • Dvir ben Laya - seriously injured
  • Noam ben Aliza - one leg amputated; doctors fighting to save the other
  • Li’el Hoshea ben Miriam - serious head injury
  • Neriya ben Rivka - serious head injury
  • Yitzchak ben Navah - moderate shoulder injury
  • Netanel ben Navah - moderate shrapnel wounds to a lower extremity
  • Maxim ben Olga - light lower extremity injury
  • Yisrael ben Ilana - light shrapnel injury to an ear
  • Yo’ad Ido ben Frieda Rivka - light shrapnel injuries
  • Idan ben Liora - light shrapnel injuries
  • Nadav ben Miriam - light shrapnel injuries

May the One Who blessed our ancestors Avraham Yitzchaq and Yaaqov,  bless and heal all of our wounded — our soldiers, residents of the south, anyone pained and suffering in body or mind. May HaQadosh barukh Hu overflow with compassion for them, restore them, heal them, strengthen them, and give them life.

May He send them, quickly, a complete healing — healing of the mind and healing of the body — along with all the ill, among the people of Israel and all humankind, soon, speedily, without delay.