Category: Mussar

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Bil’am the Frummy

The Medrash Tankhuma (Balaq 1) says: … וְאִם תֹּאמַר מִפְּנֵי מָה הִשְׁרָה הַקָּבָּ”ה שְׁכִינָתוֹ עַל גּוֹי רָשָׁע? כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה פִתְחוֹן פֶּה לָאֻמּוֹת לוֹמַר, אִלּו הָיוּ לָנוּ נְבִיאִים, חָזַרְנוּ לְמוּטָב, הֶעֱמִיד לָהֶם נְבִיאִים וְהֵם פָּרְצוּ גֶדֶר הָעוֹלָם,… And if you ask: Why did the Holy One blessed be He, let his Shechinah rest upon so wicked a non-Jew? So that...

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Day 22 – Lev Tov

The Mussar Institute is doing an omer series based on the 48 skills necessary to acquire Torah, listed in Avos 6:6. I was given the task of writing two entries — day 5, eimah (fear) and this one for day 22 — Leiv Tov (A Good Heart). Here’s the email:   Counting the Omer with Rabbi Susie Moskowitz Day 22...

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Day 5 – Eimah

The Mussar Institute is doing an omer series based on the 48 skills necessary to acquire Torah, listed in Avos 6:6. I was given the task of writing today’s — day 5, eimah (fear). My guess is because no one else wanted to touch a middah so far from the warm fuzzies. (See here for my submission for day 22...

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A Lesson of Shushan Purim

Rabbi Meir Simchah haKohein from Dvinsk (1842-1926, Lithuania), in his Meshekh Chokhmah (on Shemos 12:16, s.v. “uveyom”), writes that Jews do not celebrate even the vanquishing of our enemies. As the verse in Mishlei (22:17) says, “בִּנְפֹל אויביך (אוֹיִבְךָ), אַל-תִּשְׂמָח — when your enemy falls, do not rejoice”. And this is why the verse he is explaining does not say...

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If I’m unconscious about it should I still apologize?

user4762 asked the above question on Mi Yodeya, and I liked how my answer turned out so I’m sharing it here. Question: If I’m unconscious about it should I still apologise? Someone else points out to me that I have hurt another person by something I’ve done or said, but any of the following apply, then how should I deal...

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The Greatness of a Person

Bereishis 1:27: וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹקים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹקים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃ And G-d created the man in his mold; in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them [on the sixth day, forming Eve from Adam’s side]. In His description of the creation of humanity, Hashem tells us of our own...

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Learning and Teaching

I Rav Meir Simchah haKohein miDevinskzt”l writes in the Meshekh Chokhmah on Devarim 28:61 a comment that goes to the heart of what learning Torah is about. The translation below opens with the verse in question understood as I think one would most naturally before seeing Rashi, to provide the initial assumption Rashi and the Meshakh Chokhmah draw our attention...

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Anavah and Anvanus

The story of Qamtza and Bar Qamtza is very well known. It is introduced by Rabbi Yochanan, who asks, “’What is the meaning of the verse in Mishlei which reads, ‘Fortunate is the one who is always fearful, but the one who is hard of heart will fall to evil?’ (28:14) It was because of Qamtza and Bar Qamtza that...

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How Tish’ah beAv will End

The last Tish’ah beAv will end with us rushing to finally get to say “Hello!” to our shul-mates the way in years past we rushed to the table in the back with the orange juice and rugelach.

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There is a Person who Craves Benefiting Others

For the past three years or so, I belonged a va’ad led by haRav Naftali Kaplan shilit”a,the mashgiach and administrator of Yeshiva Netiv haDaas in Ramot. (His sons include Rav Avraham shilit”a, the Rosh Yeshiva, and Rav Nissan shilit”a, a popular maggid shiur in the Mir.) A few months after we began, the mashgiach gave out artistic cards that contained...

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Stan Wortman a”h

I thought I should write something about my late father-in-law. In truth, I am pretty unqualified — me, a boy who grew up in the yeshiva system and never fully left the bubble, “Pop-pop” Stan Wortman, who in his heyday belonged to such biker clubs as the “Chai Riders” and “Hillel’s Angels”. Philanthropic clubs to be sure, but still… My...

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Not Good!

וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ ה’ אֱלֹקים לֹא־ט֛וֹב הֱי֥וֹת הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְבַדּ֑וֹ אֶֽעֱשֶׂה־לּ֥וֹ עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ Hashem Elokim said: It is not good for the man to be alone; I shall make for him a helper opposite him. – Bereishis 2:18 וַיֹּ֛אמֶר חֹתֵ֥ן מֹשֶׁ֖ה אֵלָ֑יו לֹא־טוֹב֙ הַדָּבָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַתָּ֖ה עֹשֶֽׂה׃ נָבֹ֣ל תִּבֹּ֔ל גַּם־אַתָּ֕ה גַּם־הָעָ֥ם הַזֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר עִמָּ֑ךְ כִּֽי־כָבֵ֤ד מִמְּךָ֙ הַדָּבָ֔ר לֹא־תוּכַ֥ל עֲשֹׂ֖הוּ לְבַדֶּֽךָ׃ Moshe’s father-in-law said...

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Irrational Emotion

Rashi quotes Bereishis Rabba on this week’s parashah (Vayeishev) but then continues beyond what is in the medrash. וַיַּעֲזֹ֣ב כׇּל־אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ֮ בְּיַד־יוֹסֵף֒ וְלֹא־יָדַ֤ע אִתּוֹ֙ מְא֔וּמָה כִּ֥י אִם־הַלֶּ֖חֶם אֲשֶׁר־ה֣וּא אוֹכֵ֑ל וַיְהִ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף יְפֵה־תֹ֖אַר וִיפֵ֥ה מַרְאֶֽה׃ [Potiphar] left all he has in Yosef’s control (lit: hand) and didn’t think about anything of his except the food he was eating; and Yoseif was well...

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The CEO

The primary metaphor of the High Holidays is the King, sitting in judgment. Hashem rules, the world will run according to His Will regardless. On Rosh haShanah we coronate Hashem as King, so that He need not impose that Will as Dictator. However, I thought of another metaphor that holds some appeal to someone living in a 21st century democracy....

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Mas’ei — the Journey as a Name of G-d

Parashas Mas’ei opens with a description of Benei Yisra’el’s trip through the desert, and lists the forty-two stops made along the way. An oft-quoted Zohar identifies the stops in the desert with each of the letters in Hashem’s forty-two letter name. What’s the particular significance of the journeys and stops in Sinai that give them such cosmic significance? Taking a...

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Materialism Addiction

I was asked the following question, and I was happy with how the reply came out. I just received permission to post the exchange, minus identifying information. Question: I learn in yeshiva kollel in Yerushalayim,  and I was bothered by something that I don’t find anyone speaks about or I can ask to help. Every Rosh haShana we want to...

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Internalizing Torah

A beraita (an early text later incorporated into the Talmud) in Avot (6:6) opens, “Torah is greater than the priesthood or sovereignty, for sovereignty is acquired with thirty virtues, the priesthood with twenty-four, and Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities. These are: …” And then the beraita truly lists virtues. Some are obviously linked to acquiring Torah, like the first...

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From Your Homeland

Most young Yeshiva children come home sometime around Shavuos with the story of how Hashem offered the Torah to all the nations of the world, but only the Jews accepted it. The medrash, as told in the Yalqut Shim’oni, tells how first Hashem went to Edom and offered them the Torah. They asked, “What is written in it?” Hashem replied,...

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Mesilas Yesharim and the Haggadah

Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto opens Mesilas Yesharim with this questionable claim: הקדמה – אמר המחבר: החיבור הזה לא חברתיו ללמד לבני האדם את אשר לא ידעו, אלא להזכירם את הידוע להם כבר ומפורסם אצלם פירסום גדול. כי לא תמצא ברוב דברי, אלא דברים שרוב בני האדם יודעים אותם ולא מסתפקים בהם כלל, אלא שכפי רוב פרסומם וכנגד מה שאמתתם גלויה...

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You too left Mitzrayim

The Mishnah (Pesachim 10:5, TB 115a-b), in a section quoted by the Hagadah, states: רבן גמליאל היה אומר, כל שלא אמר שלשה דברים אלו בפסח, לא יצא ידי חובתו. ואלו הן: פסח, מצה, ומרור…. בכל דור ודור חיב אדם לראות את עצמו כאלו הוא יצא ממצרים. שנאמר (שמות יג), “וְהִגַּדְתָּ֣ לְבִנְךָ֔ בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא לֵאמֹ֑ר בַּעֲב֣וּר זֶ֗ה עָשָׂ֤ה ה֙׳ לִ֔י בְּצֵאתִ֖י מִמִּצְרָֽיִם:” לפיכך...

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Purim in the World of Affection

There are four mitzvos one must fulfill on Purim: reading the megillah, matanos le’evyonim (gifts to poor people), mishloach manos (“shalachmones”), and the Purim se’udah. The first, reading the megillah, relates directly to the story of the day – nothing can be more connected than a mitzvah to retell it! But what do the other three mitzvos have to do...

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A Tzadiq Will Flower Like a Date-Palm

I had this thought while saying Qabbalas Shabbos this week. (Actually, part of it during Qabbalas Shabbos 7 years ago, after which I wrote an earlier version of the post. A further development was a product of this week’s davening, yeilding this version.) It’s a “Chassidishe Vort” in style, intentionally stretching the meaning of a quote in order to create a...

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Frogs and Orchestras

“And Aharon stretched out his hand over the water of Egypt, and the frog came up and covered the land of Egypt…. And Pare’oh called to Moshe and to Aharon and said, ‘Plea to Hashem, that He take away the frogs from me and my people….’”[1] Rashi on our parashah[2] notes the use of the singular, “hatzfardei’ah”, “the frog” when...

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The True Hero of Chanukah

No, the title of this post doesn’t refer to HQBH, although clearly it could. (Or can it: Can we define “heroism” with respect to One for Whom there are no risks to take?) Nor Yehudah haMakabi, nor Matisyahu, nor Chana or any of her sons, nor Yehudis… The Beis Yoseif famously asks why we celebrate the first day of Chanukah....

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Aseres Yemei Teshuvah Reader

There is a new version of my reader for Aseres Yemei Tehuvah, suitable for putting that wandering mind to work while in shul. Contents: Spiritual Planning………………………………1 9/11 and How to Effect Permanent Change…………..3 Teshuvah and Submission…………………………7 The Baal Teshuvah and the Tzadiq…………………9 A Good and Sweet New Year………………………11 Crowning Hashem My King………………………..13     Epilogue: Pragmatics……………………….16 Memories of His Dear Child Ephraim………………18...