Category: Mussar

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Yonah and Perseverance

A famous rabbi explains the intent behind establishing the book of Yonah as the haftarah for Minchah on Yom Kippur as follows: וכוונתם, כי האדם חושב כמה פעמים לייאש את עצמו שאין יכול לתקן בשום אופן ועל כן יתנהג תמיד באופן א’, ואם יגזור עליו הקב”ה למות ימות. אבל טעות הוא, שסוף דבר יהיה, כל מה שהקב”ה רוצה מנפשו שיתקן...

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HaTov Shimkha

We close Birkhas Hoda’ah (“Modim”) “‘HaTov’ shimkha, ulkha na’eh lehodos — your Name is “The Good”, and it is pleasant to praise You.” And yes, it does mean that Hashem’s name, the way we perceive Him, is “HaTov — The Good”. The more intuitive translation, that Hashem’s name is Good (good being an adjective), would have been “shimkha tov —...

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Learning and Teaching

I The pasuq (Devarim 28:61, parashas Ki Savo) reads, if we would translate it naively (ignoring the point we’re about to see in Rashi): גַּ֤ם כׇּל־חֳלִי֙ וְכׇל־מַכָּ֔ה אֲשֶׁר֙ לֹ֣א כָת֔וּב בְּסֵ֖פֶר הַתּוֹרָ֣ה הַזֹּ֑את יַעְלֵ֤ם ה֙ עָלֶ֔יךָ עַ֖ד הִשָּׁמְדָֽךְ׃ Also every sickness and every plague which is not written in this Seifer Torah, Hashem will raised against you until you are...

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Do Before Me Like This Order

After the Eigel haZahav, Moshe asked to see Hashem’s Glory, and Hashem said a human couldn’t, but to hide in a cleft in the rock of Har Sinai and Hashem would reveal something about Himself to Moshe . ” וַיַּעֲבֹ֨ר ה֥׳ ׀ עַל־פָּנָיו֮ וַיִּקְרָא֒ — Hashem “passed before” him and proclaimed the 13 Middos haRachamim — “Attributes” of how we...

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With Great Wealth

דַּבֶּר־נָ֖א בְּאׇזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וְיִשְׁאֲל֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ ׀ מֵאֵ֣ת רֵעֵ֗הוּ וְאִשָּׁה֙ מֵאֵ֣ת רְעוּתָ֔הּ כְּלֵי־כֶ֖סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָֽב׃ Please tell the people to borrow, each man from his friend and each woman from her friend, silver utensils and gold utensils. – Hashem to Moshe, Shemos 11:2 This verse raises a compelling question. Here we are, at the end of some 210 years of slavery. So now...

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Erasing Amaleiq

I heard (via YouTube) a thought in a shiur by Rabbi Yaakov Haber that I wanted to share and embellish. When we first found out in 2012 that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons against their own people, we were shocked. It was repeatedly in the news headlines. It is now 2019. They are still gassing their own people;...

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Why Do the Best of Doctors Go to Gehennom?

On Mi Yodeyah, DonielF quotes the last mishnah in Qiddushin. The mishnah first lists a set of professions that one shouldn’t teach one’s son, because it’s hard to make money in them while avoiding theft. After a couple of debates about specific jobs belonging on the list, the mishnah says: טוב שברופאים לגיהנם, והכשר שבטבחים שותפו של עמלק The best...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Bo – Thought and Emotion

Rav Meir Simchah haKohein has a lot to say about parashas Bo. I chose his comments on Shemos 12:21, which discuss the roles of intellect and emotion in Judaism — and is also quite long. (In contrast to their relative roles in paganism.) The topic both touches on hashkafah and how we relate to Divinity and on mussar and how...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Bereishis 1:26 – Free Will

A 15 minute shiur on Facebook Live on the Meshekh Chokhmah’s discussion of Bereishis 1:26 “וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹקִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ — And G-d said, ‘Let us make man in our Image.” Audio:   Video: Source sheet on Sefaria is here. If you liked this shiur and would like to subscribe to a podcast of the audios on this blog,  the...

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For He Remembered Us When We Were Low

Tehillim 136, which Chazal call Hallel haGadol, has a long list of things Hashem did for us with the refrain “כי לעולם חסדו — for His Lovingkindness is eternal.” The first three call us to thank Hashem: הוֹד֣וּ לַה֣’ כִּי־ט֑וֹב כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃ ה֭וֹדוּ לֵֽאלֹקֵ֣י הָאֱלֹקִ֑ים כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃ ה֭וֹדוּ לַאֲדֹנֵ֣י הָאֲדֹנִ֑ים כִּ֖י לְעֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃ Thank Hashem for He is...

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The Blue Does Not Hold Up the White

התכלת אינה מעכבת את הלבן והלבן אינו מעכב את התכלת תפילה של יד אינה מעכבת של ראש ושל ראש אינה מעכבת של יד הסולת והשמן אינן מעכבין את היין ולא היין מעכבן המתנות של מזבח החיצון אינן מעכבות זו את זו. [The absence of] the tekheiles [strings of a tzitzis] does not hold up [the validity of] the white [string],...

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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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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....