Shmooze News October 21, 2017

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Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan Friday-Saturday

Bar Mitzvah of Ethan Zaret

“And it came to pass when they travelled from the east they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.”

Bereishit 11:2

This valley of Shinar was where they were going to build the tower of Babel to rebel against G-d. Rav Chaim Sonnenfeld z”l asks if they were planning to build a tower that would reach up to the heavens, why start in a valley? Wouldn’t you want to get a head start and build the tower from the tallest mountain? The answer is, true they wanted to build an edifice up the heavens but they wanted to do it on their own. “Without any help from G-d.” If they would build it on a mountain that means they were availing themselves of a natural height supplied by G-d and their whole point was to show they don’t need G-d. By forfeiting the recognition that G-d is the ultimate power to whom we are beholden, one inevitably ends up pursuing his goals without any moral compunction at all. That’s why the sages tell us that the builders of the tower would get very upset when a tool or building material would break or become lost, but when a person was killed in a work accident they wouldn’t give it a second thought. In their zeal to prove they have no need for G-d, they elevate their godless ideologies to a supreme level, were human compassion and individual rights have no meaning or importance unless it functions to further their great cause. One can find many examples of this distortion and perversion in the animal rights and environmental movements, where the rights of animals and the planet many times supersede the rights of man himself. In the universe of G-d, man is the crown and glory of creation and the entire world was created to serve him. Yes, there is a delicate balance of how to deal with the environment and other issues of concern, but the answer is not to remove G-d from the picture, just the opposite – we need to embrace Him, for only through the wisdom of G-d and His Torah can man navigate the thorny issues of life.

Sefer Chochmas Chaim

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news october 14, 2017

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As we come together to celebrate Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah, the well-known question is asked: should we not be celebrating and dancing with the Torah on the Yom Tov of Shavous, when the Torah was given to the Jewish people? Why do we celebrate now at the end of Succos? One answer to this question is that achdus among Jews is an absolute pre-condition for accepting the Torah. As it states in parshas Yisro, when the Torah was given at Har Sinai, (19:2) ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר “The Jewish people encamped by the mountain.” The word ויחן (encamped) is written in the singular tense. The verse really should have said ויחנו which is plural. Therefore, Rashi explains, it is written in a singular tense to teach us that when the Jewish people stood at the foot of Mount Sinai it was איש אחד בלב אחד it was like one man one heart. Since Succos is the Yom Tov of achdus, now is the propitious time to celebrate by dancing and singing with the Torah.May we all come together this Simchas Torah in unison to celebrate G-d’s special gift to the Jewish people, and in merit of that achdus may the Al-mighty bring us the redemption of our people speedily in our days.

 

Wishing you Chag Sameach and an inspiring Yom Tov and Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze News October 5-7, 2017

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My friends, the world has gone mad. First Hurricane Harvey, then Irma, then Maria, then the earthquake in Mexico, and now 59 people murdered and hundreds wounded by a madman. What’s the message, and how do we come to grips with all these catastrophic events? We just recently concluded with the holy and awesome day of Yom Kippur. At Mincha, we read from the book of Yonah, and in that holy book I believe is the answer as to how a believing Jew looks at life. At one point in the conversation between Yonah and the sailors, Yonah the prophet says כי יודע אני כי בשלי הסער הגדול הזה “For I know that this great storm in the ocean is all because of me.” The Kuzari says כי ישראל לב העמים “The Jewish people are the heart of the world.” The heart is the lifeline of a person which pumps blood throughout the body. So, too, the lifeline of the world and the entire cosmos is the Jewish people. When the Jewish nation falls spiritually it manifests itself in all creation. The storms which are brewing in the world has a message for us כי בשלי הסער הגדול הזה: so what are we supposed to do? I am not a prophet but collectively we have to respond to what the captain said to Yonah when he found him sleeping in the bowels of the ship. ויאמר מה לך נרדם קום קרא אל אלקך Yonah!! How can you sleep in such a storm! Rise up and call out to your G-d!! The clarion call to us, the Jewish people, G-d’s chosen, is wake up, change, grow, realize life is serious business. It’s about becoming a little more spiritual, a little more concerned about our commitment and allegiance to G-d. It’s the message of Succah: leave your permanent dwelling, it’s all a mirage anyway. Life can change in an instant whether it’s through a hurricane or a bullet, G-d forbid. Come into the Succah, G-d’s shelter, and realize that He is the One Who ultimately gives us everything. Let us hope and pray as we celebrate this Yom Tov of Succos – Zman Simchasenu – that we rejoice in our renewed connection with G-d and his Torah. May we the Jewish people only share Simchas together and may the storms of the world subside as we the Jewish people take G-d’s message to heart.

Wishing you Chag Sameach and an inspiring Yom Tov and Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze News September 30, 2017

Shmooze news september 23, 2017

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Rosh Hashana, Shabbos Shuva – Haazinu

Dear Friends,

As we sit down to our Rosh Hashana table with family and friends let's remember the immortal words of the Chofetz Chaim as he imparts to us his sagacious advice in his Halachic work the Mishna Berura. He says (I am paraphrasing chapter 583-5), that although we have all these fruits and vegetables which we use on Rosh Hashana night to evoke G-d's mercy that we should have a sweet new year, still one must keep in mind that the main thing to be concerned about on Rosh Hashana is not getting angry. For besides the great transgression, anger will insure that one will G-d forbid not have a sweet new year no matter how many apples and honey one eats. So just remember, if your honey forgot to buy honey for Rosh Hashana just smile and wish her Shana Tova and you will be guaranteed to be sealed in the book of life.

Wishing all of you a Happy and Healthy New Year, and may you merit to see much Nachas and Simchas from your families.

Kesiva Vachasima Tova!

Moshe & Rena Gruenstein and Family

shmooze news september 16, 2017

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Our sages tell us (Tos. Bava Basra 88b) that the Parshos of Nitzavim-Vayelech are always read after Parshas Ki Savo which contains the Tochacha (reproof). The reason this is so is that we don’t want to end the year with Klalot (Curses). We want to have a buffer zone between the Parsha of Ki Savo and Rosh Hashana. Therefore, Nitzavim-Vayelech are always read on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashana as if to say “Tichlei Shana Ve’kileloseha” (may any curses of the previous year come to an end.) If there was ever a time that we needed a buffer from Klalos it was now. Thank Hashem right after the Shabbos of Parshas Ki Savo where all the curses are mentioned, G-d Almighty himself became the buffer to protect us from the curse of Hurricane Irma. The Ksav Sofer (Rav Binyamin Sofer Rav of Pressberg 1815-1871) mentions a beautiful insight on a verse in Parshas Nitzavim which is applicable to our situation.

והיה כי יבואו עליך כל הדברים האלה הברכה וקללה.....והשבת אל לבבך

“And there will come a time when all these things come upon you the blessings and the curse then you will take it to heart…Devarim 30:1

How does the combination of blessings and curse cause one to come closer to G-d? Says Rav Sofer, it is only through the proverbial curses of life that the blessings and chesed of G-d can be seen and felt more acutely. Through the curse of a hurricane and its after effects one can really appreciate what it means to have electricity, a hot cooked meal, a cool air-conditioned home and the ability to get gas for your car at any time. The so-called small blessings of life take on new meaning in the backdrop of the Klala of Hurricane Irma. This idea is true in all aspects of life. Light is much more appreciated when there is darkness, health is much more appreciated after one is sick, G-d forbid. One can go on and on with many examples, but the point is that the difficulties and challenges of life help us in the end to recognize its blessings. The truth is we shouldn’t have to wait for a hurricane to be grateful for the brachos we have. But rather each day we should count our manifold blessings, for the more one appreciates the more G-d gives. Let us hope and pray that this Rosh Hashana the Almighty should bless us with good health, abundant parnassa, much nachas from our children and grandchildren, and oh yes, good weather as well.

Wishing everyone a Kesiva Vachasima Tova!

 

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news september 2, 2017

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When a man marries a new wife, he shall not go out to the army, nor shall it obligate him for any matter. He shall be free from his home for one year, and he shall gladden his wife whom he has married. Devarim 24:5

Rashi explains to us that ושמח את אשתוin the verse means he shall gladden his wife, not he shall be glad with his wife. Rashi is teaching us a fundamental lesson in marriage -- that it is the man's obligation and responsibility to make his wife happy. In fact, the kesuba states that it is the man's obligation to satisfy all the emotional and physical needs of his wife. Obviously, the woman should reciprocate but it is not her halachic obligation to do so. (However, if she shows him this Shmooze News, as if to say, "see look at this, the Rabbi says you owe me”, then you are defeating the whole message of this Dvar Torah). This may place a great burden upon the men folk -- but experience shows that if the man does his best to make his wife happy by treating her with dignity and respect, she will pay him back a hundredfold in doing everything to please him. Since we are just weeks away from Rosh Hashanah, what greater merit could there be than to redouble our efforts in creating a home of shalom and simcha. The effect that it will have on the future of our children and grandchildren is incalculable, not to mention that we will be recipients of the greatest blessing of all. For our sages tell us that when there is shalom between husband and wife שכינה שרויה ביניהם , the divine presence rests between them; not a bad blessing to have before the upcoming days of judgment. May all of us be blessed with only good health, nachas and a sweet New Year.

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze news August 26, 2017

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“You shall be wholehearted with Hashem your G-d”

Rashi explains this verse to mean that one should follow G-d no matter what life brings, in other words, go with the flow. Of course, this is much easier said than done but it is the only way that one can go through life with a modicum of peace of mind. Human nature is such that we would rather ruminate and romanticize about the past or fantasize about what the future may bring. Both are exercises in futility. The past will not come back and the future is totally out of our hands. The only thing we have some control over is the present. As King Solomon so wisely said in Koheles (7:10), “Do not say, how was it that former times were better than these since this is not a question prompted by wisdom”! One should focus all his or her efforts towards investing in the present. Our sages tell us that G-d judges us based upon our present situation. (Talmud – Rosh Hashana 16B) So don’t worry about the future and don’t live in the past. Live in the here and now and make the most out of each and every day.

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

Shmooze News August 19, 2017

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Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Elul

Rosh Chodesh, Tuesday-Wednesday

"You shall open up your hand to him and provide whatever is lacking to him." Devarim 15.8

As the descendants of Abraham, the pillar of chesed, Jews are generous and kind. It's in our DNA. The myriad of tzedaka and chesed organizations abound amongst us. Jews constantly look for opportunities to help one another and ease the burdens borne by their fellow Jews. For example, there are scores of different kinds of gemachs (free lending institutions). These gemachs lend anything from money without interest to tables and chairs for a simcha. There are gemachs that lend gowns for a bride and her siblings, and bris outfits for babies. There are CD and book gemachs. There are gemachs that lend power tools for short term use. There are organizations that lend a sefer torah, siddurim and low chairs for a house of mourning. There are gemachs for expensive medical equipment, and the list goes on and on. The common denominator of all this is the ingenious ways the Jews conceive of doing acts of kindness for one another. An important act of chesed is that it not be administered in a "one size fits all" manner. Every person is unique and has their own specific needs. The Torah stresses this when it addresses the topic of tzedakah and chesed in this week's parsha: "You shall open your hand...and provide whatever is lacking to him.” The word “him” is emphasized to underline the importance of dealing with each individual as the special person he or she is. Many times, we can offer an invaluable chesed without spending money or even lifting a finger. The verse in Mishlei states "when there is worry in a man's heart, he should suppress it." The Talmud explains one of the ways to suppress your worry is to unburden yourself to someone else and just talk about it. By offering a sympathetic ear to a person who is burdened with a problem, one can perform a tremendous act of chesed. Often the only relief for certain problems is that they be verbalized. The listener sometimes cannot resolve the problem or even offer advice. All he can do is listen and many times this can be therapeutic. The ability to listen can be a great chesed and at times a lifesaver. As we begin the month of Elul, we are all looking for special merits to ensure that G-d should inscribe us in the Book of Life. The Talmud tells us that heaven responds to us vis-a-vis our relationships with people. If we perform acts of chesed for others, then the Al-mighty will reciprocate in the same way and judge us with kindness and compassion as opposed to strict justice. But it's all up to us. Therefore, as the verse says, "You shall open up your hand to him and provide whatever is lacking to him." Let us hope and pray that if we open our hands and hearts to others, then the Al-mighty will open his hand and bring us the redemption of our people and the coming of Moshiach – may he come speedily in our days.
Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!
Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze News August 12, 2017

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“This shall be the reward when you harken to these ordinances and keep and do them, that G-d will safeguard for you the covenant ...” Devarim 7:12

The Midrash says, “Wherever the Torah says Vehaya (it shall be), it refers to simcha. However, when the Torah says "Vayehi" (and it was), that refers to something unhappy.” The lesson is that Vehaya refers to the future. Happy people are future oriented. Sad people are always living and looking to the past. Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski would always refer to this as “the Baal Shem Tov’s farfel.” The significance of this dish is a play on words. In Yiddish "farfallen" means it is over and done with. When Rabbi Twerski’s mother would serve the farfel on Shabbos she would say whatever occurred until now is farfallen! Friday night is the end of the week, with all its difficult challenges having passed. Shabbos is a day of renewal, of recharging the spiritual batteries. Just as it is difficult to walk with a heavy burden on your back, so, too, it is difficult to advance spiritually when you are carrying a heavy burden of the past. Yes! When we make mistakes, we should try to correct them and make amends, but one cannot dwell too much on the past if you want to move forward and accomplish for the future. It’s that mindset – the attitude of "Vehaya" (the future; it will be) – that brings simcha into a person’s life, knowing that things from now on will be different, as I have learned from my past mistakes and look forward to a better and brighter future.
Sefer: Twerski on Chumash
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski
 
Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!
Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

Smooze News August 5, 2017

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וקשרתם לאות על ידך והיו לטוטפות בין עיניך

Bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be ornaments between your eyes. Devarim (6:8)

This verse is one of the sources in the Torah of a Jew's obligation to wear Tefillin. All four sections (parshiyot) contained in them offer praise to G-d. The Talmud (Brochos 6A) says that G-d also wears Tefillin and the verse in his Tefillin says, "And who is like you and your people, Israel, a unique nation on earth." (Samuel II 7:23). This great praise of the Jewish people shows the tremendous love our creator has for us, his chosen people. Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchiv writes in his famous work "Kedushas Levi" that just as we praise G-d, so, too, does He praise us. This explains the words in Anim Zemiros פארו עלי ופארי עליו -- His Tefillin splendor is upon me, and my Tefillin splendor is upon Him. This is also alluded to in the verse in Shir Hashirim 6:3, “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine,” which speaks about the reciprocal love between G-d and the Jewish people. It is a sign of lovers when each one constantly hears praises and complimentary remarks on the other and looks to highlight the other's attributes and achievements. And this is how we interact with the Al-mighty when we praise Him and He praises us. The Shulchan Aruch rules that when wearing Tefillin, one should not be מסיח דעת (divert one’s mind) from them; he must constantly be aware that he is wearing Tefillin which have great holiness and sanctity. The Berditchever Rebbe, who was legendary for his love for each and every Jew and was a staunch defender of his people before G-d, would comment on this halachah. If G-d, too, wears Tefillin, then He is bound by the same law of not to divert His mind (if you will) from His own Tefillin, where it's written how great the Jewish people are. This means that the Al-mighty is constantly thinking about his beloved nation Israel, and although we as a people have endured much pain and suffering over our long exile, the Al-mighty has not forsaken us. For behold, He never slumbers or sleeps, the Guardian of Israel (Pslams 121:14). Therefore, we the Jewish people should realize that although it may appear at times that G-d is hiding himself, it's not true, for the Al-mighty is never מסיח דעת (diverts His mind) from any individual Jew, let alone a whole nation. Parshas Vaeschanan is always read on Shabbos Nachamu, the Shabbos after Tisha B'Av. It is the time of the year when G-d consoles the Jewish people over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. May we see the fulfillment of the Berditchever Rebbe's words with the coming of Mashiach, may he come speedily in our days.

Sefer: A vort from Rav Pam

 

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

 

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news july 29, 2017

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Shabbos Chazon

As we approach the mournful day of Tisha B’av, there is certainly a lot to mourn about. The destruction of our temple close to 2,000 years ago was a watershed event for all future tragedies of the Jewish people. From there we have gone through many exiles, pogroms, and persecutions culminating with the tragedy of tragedies, the Holocaust. And, unfortunately, it has not abated. So, yes, we are still in mourning. We also mourn and reflect on the total lack of moral clarity that exists in the world today. A world which, shame on them, can say Israel and Hamas in the same breath and hold them both equally culpable. Has the world gone mad? Can’t they see the obvious difference between good and evil, right and wrong, aggression and self-defense, terrorism and self-preservation? This is what happens in a world where G-d’s presence is hidden. No matter how clearly obvious who the villain is, the world is blind. Unfortunately, this is nothing new, for the Jewish people have been experiencing this for the past two thousand years. But with all that, we are eternal optimists – if not, we wouldn’t be here today. We follow in the footsteps of the great sage, Rabbi Akiva. The holy Rabbi Akiva, who died a martyr’s death, always had a positive outlook on life no matter how grim it appeared. The greatest example of this is a famous story in the Talmud at the end of tractate Makkos where Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Gamliel, Rabbi Azarya and Rabbi Yehoshua were once walking towards Jerusalem. When they came to the Temple Mount they saw a fox emerging from what used to be the Holy of Holies. All the Rabbis started to weep except Rabbi Akiva, who laughed. They said to him, "Rabbi Akiva, why are you laughing?" And he responded, "why are you crying?" They said to him a fox is walking around in what was once the holiest place on earth (I am paraphrasing) and we shouldn’t cry? Said Rabbi Akiva, "this is exactly why I am smiling, for now that I see that the prophecy of destruction has been fulfilled, there is no question that the prophecy of redemption will be fulfilled." Thereupon they said to him “Akiva, Nechamtanu (you have comforted us).” So we the Jewish people echo the feeling of Rabbi Akiva, that as painful and tragic as things are today we know that one day the joy and redemption will be so great as to overshadow all the tragedies of the past 2,000 years. Please, G-d, we don’t know how much more we can take. Nachamu Nachamu Ami – may You bring comfort to your children, may You soon wipe away the tears from the faces of the Jewish people and bring us the redemption we so long for, speedily in our days.

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news july 22, 2017

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Shabbos Mevorchim Av, Rosh Chodesh is Monday

ויקצוף משה על פיקודי החיל

“Moshe was angry with the commanders of the army” Bamidbar 31:14

When the Jewish people returned from battle after defeating the Midianites, Moshe became angry with his commanders for preserving the lives of the Midianite women who had enticed the Jewish men into committing sins of idolatry and immorality. It was as a result of these sins that a plague had broken out which claimed 24,000 Jewish lives. From Moshe’s anger the Talmud (Pesachim 66B) learns, “whoever gets angry, if he is a wise man, his wisdom departs from him.” This was the 3rd instance when Moshe showed anger which led to serious repercussions (it is crucial to realize that when we refer to Moshe Rabbeinu’s “anger” the Torah is speaking about the greatest prophet that ever lived, therefore the Torah magnifies his anger in order to teach us important lessons). Many people suffer from their inability to control their temper. As a result of uncontrolled rage, marriages are ruined, families are broken, friendships are destroyed and business partnerships are dissolved. Once anger is released it is very difficult to control it or to restrain its far reaching consequences. There are people who mistakenly believe that they cannot control their anger because by nature they have tempers. This is not true. While some people may be more volatile than others, this does not preclude them from working to control and uproot this spiritual illness. If a person were diagnosed with a life threatening illness, he would go to any length and expense to obtain a cure. Why then should a person not try to heal himself from a potentially fatal sickness of the soul? It is tragic that some parents inflict lifelong emotional scars on their children by not controlling their tempers. In fits of rage, they call their children derogatory and demeaning names like “moron,” “fool,” or “idiot,” little realizing the damage they are causing them. By training oneself to suppress anger, a person will save himself much heartache and grief. Doing this is far from easy, but by realizing how much it will improve his life, a person will do whatever it takes to uproot this terrible trait.

Sefer: Ateres Avraham

By: Rav Avroham Pam z”l

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze News July 15, 2017

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אלה תעשו לה" במועדיכם

“These are (the offerings) you shall make unto G-d on your festivals.” Bamidbar 29:39

This portion of the Torah is almost always read during the mourning period of the three weeks, which is designated to remember the destruction of both temples in Jerusalem. This Parsha of Pinchas also discusses all the festivals of joy which occur during the year. Says the great Rebbe, Reb Elimelech, it is not a coincidence that as the period of mourning begins, we also read about the Yomim Tovim. It’s to teach us a lesson that we should not get carried away with sadness and depression because of the laws of mourning that we practice during this time. The festival days remind us that the period of grief will pass and we will once again rejoice. We all have periods in our life which are difficult and challenging, to say the least. Some people becomebroken and depressed by the inevitable negative circumstances that life often brings The antidote is to remember that there will be joy in the future. Our own personal histories should be sources of strength to us. Each of us has had times when we felt sad and discouraged and could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yet we emerged from these circumstances and experienced joy in life. We must remember these episodes, and if difficult days come again, we know that they too shall pass, and within time we will experience joy and happiness once again.

Sefer: Living each week

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski 

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

smooze news july 1, 2017

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זאת חוקת התורה.......

“This is the decree of the Torah…” Bamidbar 19:2

This introduction to the Mitzvah of Parah Adumah, the red calf, implies that this Mitzvah has universal meaning, and applies to the Torah as a whole. For if this section was dealing specifically with the laws of purity, the Torah would have said, “Zos Chukas Hatahara”, “These are the laws of purity” -- just as it says, “Zos Chukas Hapesach”, “These are the laws of Pesach”, when discussing the Korban Pesach. Obviously, there is something very unique to the principle of the Parah Adumah that applies to all facets of Torah. The contradiction in the law of Parah Adumah, is that it has the power to purify the unclean but it also defiles those who are clean. In a spiritual sense, we must apply this rule to every human character trait. For example, we must be humble when our interests are concerned,but we must do everything we can to honor our friends. In so doing we serve G-d with two opposites. The same applies to spending money. When it comes to giving Tzedakah we should spend money lavishly. But when our neighbor’s money is concerned we must be miserly and careful not to take even a penny that is not ours. We must be extremely sensitive not to say or do anything to hurt someone’s feelings, yet at the same time we must try to be insensitive when people make a hurtful remark towards us. This is not an easy level to aspire to, but this is part of the message of Parah Adumah. That life is filled with contradictions and our job is to navigate them properly.

Sefer: Torah Treasures

Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

SMOOZE NEWS JUNE 24,2017

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Our Sages teach us that the rebellion of Korach against the authority of Moshe and Aharon was a thinly veiled attempt to earn honor and prestige. Korach felt slighted that he had been bypassed for a position of authority and leadership and tried to overthrow Moshe and Aharon. As we see, their attempt failed and cost Korach and hundreds of his followers their lives. The desire for honor can actually degenerate to the point that a person actually demands kavod! And when one demands honor, be it at home, in the shul, or community, that is the most compelling reason why he is unworthy of it. When a person demands to have an aliya for no other reason than "I just want one"; or when a person demands to be recognized and complimented; although people might agree to his request, in truth they will look at him like a fool, and in the end, he is only receiving fake honor because behind his back people are talking about how pompous and arrogant he is.Kavod and respect has to be given not taken. It is instructive to note that in the entire war of words between Moshe and Korach about the position of Aharon as Kohen Gadol, Aharon did not utter one word in his own defense. It was Moshe and later G-d who defended Aharon's right to the position. In Mishlei it states כבוד לאיש שבת מריב [(20:3) [Staying away from quarrel is a man's honor]. The same applies to not allowing one's self to respond in anger to someone's insensitive remark. Such a display of self-control is truly deserving of honor.

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news june 17, 2017

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Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Tamuz; Shabbos/Sunday

הארץ אשר עברנו בה לתור אתה ארץ אוכלת יושביה היא

The land we crossed to scout it out is a land that devours its inhabitants; Bamidbar 13:32

G-d showed tremendous mercy to the spies. He made sure that a number of the Canaanites should die just as the meraglim were passing through the land. Instead of casting suspicious glances at the Jewish scouting party-the inhabitants would be just attending funerals. Wherever they went the spies saw huge crowds attending funerals, with hardly any traffic on the roads. These were ideal conditions for a scouting party, but the spies in their mind saw a completely different picture. They saw a terrible land where sickness prevails, a land which devours its people. They begin a slander campaign against the holy land and the rest is history. Because of the spies’ slander against the land of Israel the Jewish people had to wander in the desert for forty years. How could the spies get it so wrong? Explains the Steipler Gaon that from here we see a truism in life that people see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. Many times it’s our own personal agenda which causes us to see something a certain way. This is why you can have situations where people ask the same question to a great Rabbi for Halachic guidance and 5 people walk away with five different answers -- because we hear what we want to hear. The spies came into the land subconsciously looking for something to criticize because of their own personal interest. They feared they would lose their political status in the land and therefore interpreted the large funerals as a land which devours its inhabitants. Had they surveyed the situation objectively they would have realized this was a temporary phenomenon orchestrated by G-d for their benefit.

Sefer: Rabbi Frand on the Parasha

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news june 10, 2017

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ויהי בנסע הארון ויאמר משה קומה ה" ויפוצו אויבך

When the Ark would journey, Moshe said “arise G-d and let your foes be scattered”.

Bamidbar 10:35

 

Why it that this verse is customarily recited as the ark is opened to take out a Torah scroll for reading? Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld explains that the Zohar teaches us that "When the Torah is taken out to be read in public", the gates of mercy in heaven are opened as well. It is a time when G-d's love is aroused and a person should pray for spiritual growth and the blessings of life, which is why we say the prayer of Berich Shemeh (בריך שמיה ) at that time. It is apparent from the Zohar then, that the opening of the ark in the shul is an auspicious time to petition G-d. However, it is known that whenever a window of spiritualopportunity opens up for a person, the powers of evil ( הרע יצר) that lurk within man and from without will do everything it can to thwart us from taking advantage of these few holy minutes when the ark is open to pray our hearts out. Therefore, we say this verse "Arise Hashem and let your foes be scattered (meaning the forces of evil) and let those who hate you flee from before you". And hopefully this will give us the opportunity to pray without interference and distraction! And if G-d accepts our prayers then we will merit the fulfillment of the very next verse תורה תצאמציון כי "For out of Zion shall Torah emerge and the word of G-d from Jerusalem". May that time come speedily in our days.

 

Sefer: Chochmas Chaim

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news may 27/shavuos, 2017

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ובעז עלה השער וישב שם והנה הגאל עבר אשר דבר בעז- ויאמר סורה שבה פה פלני אלמני ויסר וישב

Boaz meanwhile had gone up to the gate and sat down there. Just then, the redeemer of whom Boaz had spoken passed by. He said, “come over, sit down here, ploni almoni…” Rus 4:1

There was a closer redeemer to Rus to perform the levirate marriage whose name was Tov. The Megillah does not record his name, but rather refers to him as ploni almoni (Mr. Anonymous). Tov had valid reasons and concerns why he didn’t want to marry Rus, so why should he be punished and his name not mentioned? The answer is maybe he didn’t do anything wrong, but he didn’t do anything right either, and therefore let an opportunity of a lifetime slip through his fingers. Tov could have been the father of the Davidic dynasty and Melech Hamashiach. Instead, he did nothing, and now he is Mr. Nobody, and Boaz grabbed the opportunity and earned eternal merit. The message we learn from here is that in life every so often opportunitiesarise that really could change our lives in a very positive way and bring us great spiritual merit. But we have excuses – I don’t have the time, I don’t think I am qualified, maybe next year, etc. The lesson is that when opportunity knocks, especially spiritual opportunity, don’t take the easy way out and just be another ploni almoni (Mr. Anonymous) but rather be a Boaz, and take advantage of the opportunity that comes your way – it may just change your life.

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news may 20, 2017

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Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Sivan – Friday

Yom Yerushalayim – Wednesday May 24

וזכרתי להם ברית ראשנים אשר הוצאתי אתם מארץ מצרים

 

"I will remember for them the covenant of the ancients, those whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt."

Vayikra 26:45

 

This verse comes after the תוכחה -- the curses and admonitions of what will, G-d forbid, befall the Jewish people if they abandon His Torah. In spite of G-d’s displeasure with Israel, He promises us that we will ultimately be redeemed. A woman once came to Rav Yisroel Kozhwitz complaining that her husband wants to divorce her because he no longer finds her attractive. Rav Yisroel said, “I wish I could help you, but what can I do if he is so foolish?" The woman cried, "But it is not fair -- why doesn’t he remember how much he loved me when I was young and beautiful? Can I help it if I lost my beauty as I aged?" Rav Yisroel arose and tearfully said, “Master of the universe, listen to this woman, she is right. It is only fair that her husband should remember what she was like when he married her. You too, Master of the universe, should remember what we were like when You first took us. We followed You into a barren desert -- a place of no food and water, with full faith in You. You loved us then and said that of all people we would be Your beloved treasure. Even if we no longer have the beauty of our youth, is it fair that You turn away from us?" We hope and pray that we never again see the fulfillment of the תוכחה and may G-d bring us the redemption that we all so eagerly pine for, and as Yom Yerushalayim approaches, yes we are so thankful that Jerusalem is ours but dear G-d we want to see Jerusalem in its full glory with our holy temple led by Moshiach Tzidkeinu, may that time come speedily in our days.

Sefer: Twersky on Chumash

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news may 13, 2017

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וספרתם לכם....מיום הביאכם את עמר התנופה....עד ממחרת השבת תספרו חמישים יום

“And you shall count for yourselves from the day that you brought the Omer as a wave offering.” Vayikra 23 15:16

Rav Meir Yechiel, the Ostrover Rabbi, once said what’s the definition of a great rabbi? It is someone who eases the burdens of the Jewish people, and to prove it he shared the following thought. The Talmud states (Makkos 22B) people are foolish, they stand up for a Sefer Torah but they do not stand for a Torah scholar. For in the Torah it says when a person is punished with malkus (lashes) he is given 40 lashes (Devarim 25:3) yet the rabbis explained that it really means 39 lashes. So, the rabbis overrule the Torah and therefore they should get more honor than a Sefer Torah. However, there is another case where the rabbis also overruled the Torah, if you will, and that is by the Omer. The Torah says you should count 50 days and the Rabbis say it means 49. So why does the Talmud cite the example of 39 lashes rather than the 49 days of the Omer to prove their point? The answer is, the counting of the Omer does not affect the next person, but to receive 39 lashes instead of 40 would save another Jew some pain, So you see, said the Ostrover Rabbi, when the Talmud wants to prove the greatness of a rabbi, it mentions the case of 39 lashes where we try to ease the pain of a Jewish brother!

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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shmooze news may 6, 2017

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“YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT A PERVERSION OF JUSTICE” Vayikra 19:15

The Rebbe Reb Simcha Bunim of P'Shis'che explains this verse homiletically to mean do not pass unjust and perverted laws. Rav Simcha Bunim's interpretation is so apropos for our generation. Our society is in danger of approaching the degeneracy of Sodom and Gomorrah. Had these cities merely been sinful, then G-d, Who is forever patient, would have given them the opportunity to mend their ways. What sealed the fate of Sodom was that they had a corrupt standard of justice. They had legalized every crime and every perversion. Once you legalize immoral and corrupt behavior there is no possibility of repentance. So, if you can't stop people from gambling, just legalize gambling. If you can't stop people from using drugs, then just have them legalized. If people are living an immoral lifestyle, just pass laws to say it's ok. If something is ethically and morally wrong, it cannot become right by an act of legislation. In prohibiting a judge from taking a bribe, the Torah says, "A bribe will blind the eyes of the wise." Rashi comments that if a judge accepts a bribe, it is impossible for him to remain objective. This is as true of society as a whole as it is for a judge. We may be bribed by the desires that we have. It is very seductive to say that times have changed, that we must be more progressive. Call it a different name and pass a law and, presto! Immoral perverted behavior is now called an alternative life style. Pornography is art. Murder is free choice, and so on. When Nazi Germany decided that the elimination of Jews was to its advantage, killing Jews became acceptable and was legalized. Morality and ethics became obsolete. But they do not change with time, place or condition. Rav Simcha Bunim was so right – we have to be vigilant not to rationalize the perversion of justice.

(Sefer- Twerski on Chumash- Rabbi. Dr. Abraham Twerski)

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news april 29, 2017

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זאת תהיה תורת המצורע ביום טהרתו והובא אל הכהן

“This shall be the law of the Metzora on the day of his purification: he shall be brought to the Kohen.”

Vayikra 14:2

 

 

The Mishna in Negaim 3:1 says a qualified person can examine the nega (skin affliction) but only a kohen can render the verdict whether the person is tamei or tahor. The Mishna in Negaim 3:5 also says that a kohen can examine anyone’s affliction except his own because אין אדם רואה נגע עצמו one does not see his own afflictions. This is also a commentary on the human condition – That some people have very sharp eyes to see the faults of others, yet they are totally blind to their own blemishes and shortcomings. However, the other side of the coin and sometimes even more damaging is אין אדם רואה מעלות עצמו sometimes a person doesn’t see or recognize his or her own positive attributes. A person can be blessed with talents and abilities, yet the Yetzer Hora talks him into this inferiority complex which brings a person to sadness, depression and a feeling of worthlessness. Rather a person must sustain a healthy attitude about themselves. That under one hand, a person should be honest enough to see their own faults and where they need improvement, and on the other hand should recognize their positive points and feel and know they are somebody. Ultimately, man is endowed with limitless potential. We just have to be aware of the great treasure that lies within ourselves.

Sefer: Noam Avraham.

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news april 22, 2017

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Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Iyar

Rosh Chodesh is Wednesday & Thursday

 

את הגמל כי מעלה גרה הוא ופרסה איננו מפריס טמא הוא לכם... ואת החזיר כי מפריס פרסה הוא ושסע שסע פרסה והוא גרה לא יגר טמא הוא לכם.

"The camel, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split, it is unclean to you...and the pig for its hoof is split and is completely separated but it does not chew its cud, it is unclean to you." Vayikra 11:4 - 11:7

The determining factor by which an animal is considered kosher is if it has two kosher signs - chewing of the cud and split hooves. If it lacks even one of these signs, it is forbidden to be eaten. The overwhelming majority of animals in existence have no kosher signs at all. There are only four animals which have one kosher sign while lacking the other one. The commentators discuss why the Torah stresses the fact that they have one kosher sign, even listing this characteristic first. What bearing does it have on their status, given that they remain non-kosher just the same? The great rabbis saw in this a lesson in the proper method of giving tochacha (reproof), which is: first say something positive, and only then mention the negative aspect that needs correction.So, when a parent must chastise a child for misbehavior or a teacher must rebuke a student, first mention something positive about the child and then present the critique. Just as the Torah first presents a positive aspect of the non-kosher animal, in that it chews its cud or has split hooves. Even though it is not kosher, the Torah will still first mention the positive aspect of the animal and then the negative, in order to teach us this ethical and practical lesson on the best way to correct and critique the people we care about.

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news april 8, 2017

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Shabbos Hagadol

רשע מה הוא אומר מה העבודה הזאת לכם ואף אתה הקהה את שיניו

 

"The wicked son - what does he say? What is this service to you! Therefore, blunt his teeth"

The four sons described in the Haggadah seem to represent four different personality types. We would expect their questions and answers to differ widely from each other. Yet, upon further examination, we notice perplexing similarities. First, the wicked son's question closely resembles that of the wise son (what are the testimonies, decrees, and ordinances which our G-d has commanded you?) Furthermore, the father's response to the wicked son is identical to that of the son who is unable to ask -- "It is because of this that G-d did so for me...” Finally, why do we respond at all to the wicked son? Doesn't answering his question lend it credibility by implying it is worthy of a response? These questions can be answered by referring to a Rambam in the Laws of Divorce (Hilchos Gerushin 2:20). The Rambam, while explaining the law of a husband who refuses to give his wife a get (גּטּ), says we force him to give it. Even though a forced גּטּ is invalid, explains the Rambam, this is called giving it willingly, because deep down every Jew wants to do what G-d wants, but his evil inclination overpowers him. Therefore, in the case of divorce, when we beat him, his evil inclination weakens and allows him to give the divorce willingly. The Rambam is revealing to us a very profound lesson: that every Jew, even while mired in depravity, still has a subconcious desire to fulfill G-d's will and lead a virtuous life. In fact, this is considered his true desire even when he outwardly rejects it, since it is the Yetzer Hara repressing his true nature. On this basic level, even the wicked son has a deep-seated drive to serve G-d. His very question, in its similarity to the wise son's query, reveals his desire to understand G-d's Torah. However, his choice of words "to you" indicates his arrogant denial is motivated by a desire to justify his self-gratification. His father is therefore obligated to rebuke him harshly ("blunt his teeth"). Now that the son is unencumbered by his evil inclination, he is not very far removed from the son who is unable to ask. This explains the similarity in our responses to them. After our rebuke, the wicked son is receptive to our words. It is now possible for the father to teach him Torah. We are required to appreciate all Jews for their potential greatness. It is forbidden to "write off" any Jew, even if his actions cause him to be labeled "wicked". The Haggadah's four sons teach us that we must care for every member of the Jewish nation and do our utmost to illuminate their lives with the light of Torah.

(Sefer - Majesty of Man ,Rebbi Umori Hagaon Rav Henach Leibowitz Z"L

 

Wishing you an inspirational Shabbos and חג כשר ושמח!!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news april 1, 2017

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He called to Moshe… Vayikra 1:1

 

The Midrash says that G-d’s calling to Moshe Rabbeinu was both an expression of love and urging to be diligent. The message is that when G-d is urging us do to something it is out of His love for us. To give an example, the lobster has a soft body and hard shell. Since the shell cannot expand as the lobster grows the lobster will eventually feel confined by the tightness of the shell. It then retreats into an underwater shelter, sheds its shell and grows a new one. As it again increases in size the process is repeated. The feeling of pain and discomfort the lobster feels is a signal for it to take steps to rectify the situation. This phenomenon has its counterpart in human nature. Sometimes the distress and discomfort one’s experiences in life is an indication that one has to grow and we must work on eliminating those factors that impede our spiritual and emotional growth. Positive change is painful because human beings like to maintain the status quo. Our culture has become so indoctrinated with psychological concepts that we are likely to interpret feelings of emotional discomfort as pathological, as a feeling of depression which requires treatment. Sometimes, that actually may be true, but many times the discomfort is a sign of healthrather than a disease, and that it indicates a need for growth rather than treatment. Every person has potential that has not been realized. Achieving maximum growth is not easy, but if we are wise we will understand that “growing pains” are a signal of divine love.

Sefer: Living each week

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

 

Wishing you an inspirational Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news march 25, 2017

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Parshas Hachodesh

Mevarchim Chodesh Nissan

Rosh Chodesh is Tuesday March 28

ראו קרא ה בשם בצלאל בן אורי בן חור

“See that G-d has called by name Betzalel

the son of Uri the son of Chur…” Shemos 35:30

 

Da’as Z’keinim explains that Moshe originally presumed that he himself would build the Tabernacle. However, G-d told Moshe Rabbeinu that no, Betzalel is more worthy of this task, for Betzalel’s grandfather Chur was killed when he tried to stop the Jewish people from making the golden calf. Therefore, it is fitting that the Mishkan (which was an atonement for the sin of the golden calf) be built by Chur’s grandson. The question arises: isn’t it counter intuitive to have Betzalel involved in building this Tabernacle which had to be an atonement for the entire Jewish nation? Would not Betzalel harbor some ill will against large segments of the Jewish people for being responsible for his grandfather’s death? Wouldn’t these feelings interfere with his ability to have the purest intentions when building the Mishkan? Nevertheless, the Midrash tells us that the Mishkan was never destroyed because it was so Holy, built without any impure motives. How was that possible? The answer is that Betzalel, with super human effort, overcame his feelings of revenge against the Jewish people for what they did to his grandfather. In fact, it was this ability to rise above his personal feelings, and, instead of animosity, to feel love for his people, that made him the perfect choice to build the Mishkan. We often feel that our emotions control us -- in actuality, we can master our emotions, and we do have the innate ability to rise above our negative feelings and create a sense of peace and harmony within ourselves and with those around us. Of course, it’s not easy, but true strength in life is conquering ourselves, not others.

 

(Sefer- Mussar Hatorah Rebbi Umori Hagoan Rav Henach Leibowitz Z”L)

Wishing you an inspirational Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news march 18, 2017

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Parshas Parah

 

וירא העם כי בשש משה לרדת מן ההר ויאמרו...עשה לנו אלוקים אשר

ילכו לפננו כי זה משה האיש...לא ידענו מה היה לו

Shemos 32:1

The Torah at this point is discussing one of the most tragic events in Jewish history: the sin of the golden calf. It’s beyond human comprehension how the Jewish people could fall so precipitously from the highest of spiritual heights -- after seeing so many miracles and hearing the voice of G-d -- to the lowest of lows and sinning with the golden calf. The answer as to how this can happen can be found in the Midrash which Rashi brings. The Midrash states that when Moshe did not return at the moment they expected, the Jewish people started to worry that something happened to their great leader. Then Satan fooled them and conjured up a vision of the body of Moshe Rabbeinu floating in the air, seemingly dead. The Jewish people panicked, became confused and depressed. In this emotional state, a person can be vulnerable to radical degeneration. This may be over-simplified but it is the answer to our question. How could the Jewish people fall from such greatness so quickly? When a person is in a state of sadness and despondency, anything can happen, and at such a time a person would be well advised not to make any important decisions until the somber mood has been lifted. The credo of living life b’simcha (joy) is not only a healthy one, but it is the only way a person can make proper life decisions, for in state of melancholy one’s perspective is so altered that it can lead to dangerous situations very quickly. It is not a coincidence that Parashas Ki Sisa follows Purim, our greatest day of simcha. For it is through joy, a positive and confident attitude in life, that we get the strength to navigate the challenges we all face. We hope and pray that the Al-mighty infuse us with this elixir of life called simcha. As we say in Havdalah every Saturday night (which is taken from Megilas Esther) ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר , "for the Jews there was light, happiness, joy and honor." So may it be for us.

Wishing you an inspirational Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news march 11, 2017

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Shabbos Zachor

Commenting on the verse “and these days of Purim should never cease among the Jews” (Esther 9:28), the Midrash states that even when all the other festivals are discontinued, Purim will always remain. The commentaries give various interpretations on what this Midrash may mean, but it is evident from this Midrash that Purim has special significance and surpasses in importance the festivals of Passover, Shavuos, and Succos. What is it that makes Purim so special and unique? Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev explains that supernatural miracles, as great as they may be, only make a temporary impression. Supernatural miracles like the ten plagues and the Jewish people crossing the sea of reeds were only witnessed by that generation and for us it is a historic event. In the story of Purim, however, no supernatural events took place. Every situation could be seen as a natural occurrence. A king becomes drunk and in his drunken stupor has the queen executed. He chooses a Jewess as his new queen and she conceals her origin. Her uncle Mordechai in the royal court uncovers an assassination plot against the king and the queen reports this to the king and saves his life. The Jew hating prime minister extracts a decree from the king to exterminate the Jews in his kingdom. The king is reminded that it was a Jew that saved his life. The queen turns the king’s wrath against the prime minister who is then executed. The queen reveals her Jewish origin. Her uncle is appointed prime minister and the Jewish people are saved. It is only when the entire sequence of events is put together that one sees that it’s impossible that these events were a coincidence and we see how the hand of G-d is what saved our people. Miracles such as these are with us today. No laws of nature are suspended but the guiding hand of G-d causes “natural” events to occur in such a way that results in our salvation. The realization that everything in the world is orchestrated by G-d is a fundamental principle of Judaism. In the end, just like in the Purim story, ישועת ה כהרף עין the salvation of G-d comes in the blink of an eye. For the Al-mighty calls all the shots and His word will be the last. May G-d reenact the Purim miracle in our days and bring us the redemption we so long for speedily in our time.

(Rabbi Dr. Abraham Tewerski)

Wishing you an inspirational Shabbos and Purim Sameach!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news march 4, 2017

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ועשית את הקרשים למשכן עצי שיטים עמדים

  1. shall make the beams of the Mishkan of shittim wood, standing effect. Shmos (26:15)

 

The verse should have stated קרשים without the derivative “ה”; why does it say הקרשים, the beams? The answer is to highlight that these were special beams that Yaakov our forefather planted in Egypt. When he was dying he told his sons that G-d would command them in the future to make tabernacle of shittim wood in the desert. The question arises: the shittim wood was not the only item needed to the Mishkan’s construction that would not be available in the desert. The sages tell us that the clouds of glory, besides protecting the Jewish people, also deposited precious stones that were needed for the special vestment of the Kohen Gadol -- so why couldn’t G-d just do another miracle and have shittim wood fall from the sky? What did G-d reveal to Yaakov, regarding the Jewish peoples’ need for shittim wood, which would require Yaakov to undertake the difficult and arduous task of planting the trees, and then have Bnei Yisroel carry them when they leave Egypt; just make a miracle!The answer is that although the Mishkan contained many sacred items, each one crucial in its own unique way, it was the Mishkan’s walls more than anything which brought down the divine presence to rest there. The walls defined the Mishkan’s parameters and made it into a special house insulated from the outside world. G-d’s presence does not come about through miracles. It requires hard work and effort. For the Mishkan to become a place worthy of G-d’s presence Yakkov and his progeny would have to plant the trees, nurture them, and eventually transport them. A herculean task indeed but a necessary one if G-d is to enter your sanctuary. A Jewish home is also a mini sanctuary, מקדש מעט, and just like the Mishkan itself, bringing the Divine presence into one’s home takes much toil and effort, but it’s well worth it because when peace and harmony exist between husband and wife G-d Almighty resides with them, and that is the greatest blessing of life we could ever hope for. Sefer: living the Parsha

 

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news february 25, 2017

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Shabbos Shekalim, Mevarchim Chodesh Adar

Rosh Chodesh is Sunday & Monday

ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם

The Ramban writes that the laws of this Parshah, which deal with monetary and social matters, were taught immediately following the giving of the Torah on Har Sinai. Why was this so? Explains Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l, the Torah is teaching us that following the Torah’s laws on money matters is a declaration of emunah/faith in G-d, and transgressing them is a form of kefirah, a denial of G-d’s existence. For if a Jew truly believes that all his money and possessions come from the Al-mighty and that same G-d who gave all this to him can take it back, he will never be tempted to take even a penny that’s not rightfully his. The Talmud teaches us (Shabbos 31A) that after 120 years when a person will stand in front of the heavenly court he is asked six questions. The first question is did you conduct your business dealings with emunah, which in this context means faithfully and with integrity. However, the word emunah also means faith in G-d. Meaning, did your behavior with money reflect the notion that you believe in a G-d who has decreed how much money you are supposed to earn and that you will not gain a pennymore than whatever G-d decreed. When a Jew lives life with this philosophy, it turns their business into a holy endeavor which will not only reap great reward in this world, but one which will shine in the world to come as well. In a generation where thievery, chicanery and shtikary (made up word) are so rampant, those who stand strong and conduct themselves with honesty and integrity create a massive kiddush Hashem, which, we hope and pray, will be the merit we need to bring the redemption and moshiach tzidkenu – speedily in our days!

(Sefer: Living the Parsha)

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

 

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news february 18, 2017

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Shabbaton with Rabbi Yitzchak Shochet

 

ויאמר חתן משה אליו לא טוב הדבר אשר אתה עשה...ואתה תחזה מכל העם אנשי חיל יראי אלוקים...ושפטו את העם בכל עת:

Moshe’s father-in-law said to him, “That which you are doing is not good. You shall discern from among all the people men of accomplishment, G-d fearing people…and they shall judge the people at all times…” Shmos 18:17-22

The Midrash states that because of the counsel Yisro gave Moshe, he was rewarded by having the judicial system of the Jewish people attributed to him. Not only that, but the Parsha itself named after him. Why is such honor and glory given to Yisro for some good advice that he gave Moshe Rabbeinu? Maybe the answer lies in the fact that at first Yisro criticized Moshe and said “it’s not good what you are doing.” It’s not hard to find fault and criticize. However, it is quite unusual for a person to criticize and then offer a cogent solution to the problem, and that was the greatness of Yisro. He did not find fault just for the sake of finding fault, rather he was truly interested in correcting the situation and improving the justice system of the Jewish people to run more efficiently. There is no particular reward for finding fault and criticizing unless one has an effective solution. Otherwise, it is just as well not to say anything.

Thoughts from Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

Shmooze News - February 11, 2017

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Shabbos Shira – Tu B’Shevat

ויאמר משה אל יהושע בחר לנו אנשים וצא הלחם בעמלק מחר אנכי נצב על ראש הגבעה

 

Moshe said to Yehoshua, “Choose people for us and go to do battle with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill." Shmos 17:9

 

The question presents itself, why is it necessary for the verse to tell us מחר (tomorrow). Who cares when the battle with Amalek will take place, whether it’s today, tomorrow or the next day? Explains Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld z”l , Amalek represents more than just a national enemy. It represents the forces of the evil (Yetzer Hora) in man’s heart. It is the function of the Yetzer Hora to tempt man to sin, and sometimes he uses the tactic of tomorrow (manyana). The Yetzer Hora will tell you, yes of course you’re going to do that mitzvah, or write that check to tzedaka, or start studying a little more Torah, but you’ll begin tomorrow. In this manner one tomorrow leads to another, and each passing day diminishes the person's resolve to do the good deed that he had intended to do. It is this facet of “Amalekism” that the Torah is telling us to eradicate. That when a Jew resolves to do a good deed he should strike while the iron is hot, and not push it off for the next day, for many times the next day never materializes. Life passes us by quicker than we think. The more resolve we have to accomplish today will bring us that much more happiness and satisfaction for the future.

(Sefer Chochmas Chaim)

 

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news - february 4, 2017

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לא ראו איש את אחיו ולא קמו איש מתחתיו שלשת ימים

ולכל בני ישראל היה אור במושבתם

 

“They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the children of Israel had light in their homes.” Shmos 10:23

 

 

If one lights a candle for oneself, the room becomes brighter for everyone else. Creating light for another person symbolizes that when we do anything for others, we are actually doing for ourselves as well. The Egyptians were people who had no light. They did not see one another nor did anyone get up from his place. If one sees only oneself and doesn’t see the light and pain of anyone else, then one does not rise oneself. This is how the Torah describes the darkness of Egypt, which represented a lack of concern for one another. However, the Jewish people had light, they saw the pain and suffering of their brethren and did whatever they could to alleviate their anguish. The Talmud tells us that the Torah begins and ends with chesed (kindness), which indicates that the essence of Torah and Mitzvos is consideration for others. Seeing the Jewish people extend themselves for one another, even under such dire circumstances, created a boomerang effect where G-d in turn saw their affliction and redeemed them from bondage. May the Al-mighty do today what he did for our people over 3000 years ago, and bring us the redemption we so long for, speedily in our days.

 

Sefer – Living each week

 

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news - january 28, 2017

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Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Shevat, Parshas Va’era

 

Pharaoh hastened to summon Moshe and Aharon and he said, “I have sinned to Hashem, your G-d, and to you. And now, please forgive my sin just this time, and entreat Hashem, your G-d, that He remove from me only this death.” Sh’mos 10:16-17

 

Pharaoh’s repentance seems to be so sincere, so powerful, yet in the end he behaves no differently than by any of the other makos and does not allow the Jewish people to leave. How foolish can one person be to deny the obvious and keep on receiving these painful plagues. Certainly, we would think none of us could identify with Pharaoh’s behavior. However, anyone who has any experience with alcoholics and drug addicts understand this behavior very well. The truth is this behavior can apply to anyone even if one is not an addict, because being in denial is a universal problem, which can lead to very destructive behavior patterns. The only way to overcome it is to be open to the truth and consider the possibility that we are wrong. We should share our feelings with someone who has wisdom and experience and be willing to be guided by competent counsel. When a person opens themselves up to the truth, only then can the healing and rehabilitation process begin.

(Sefer-Living Each Week)

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze news- january 21, 2017

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A Warm Welcome to our Scholar-in-Residence, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin

 

A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Yosef. Shemos 1:8

 

The question is how is it possible not to know who Yosef was – the man who saved all of Egypt and the world from starvation and certain death? The answer is simple – they made a conscious decision to forget the good that this noble Jew did for them. This is a classic example of a watershed event that repeats itself throughout Jewish history. Jews should not place their trust in the good will of other nations no matter how benevolent they seem to be. Pharaoh, in the beginning, was also very gracious and generous to the Jewish people, but then in the end turned against them. In the period before the destruction of the first Temple, the Jewish nation put their trust with its friend and neighbor, Egypt. The prophet Jeremiah warned his people (2:37) that this would lead to disaster, but the people didn’t listen and this eventually led to the destruction of the Temple. In the beginning of the 20th century, many years before the rise of Hitler, Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, one of the greatest Rabbis of his generation, wrote about the Jews who say that “Berlin is their Jerusalem.” They were enamored with the culture, science and poetry of their fellow Germans. They were confident that the warm reception and generous hospitality towards the Jews would last forever. Rav Meir Simcha warned that this was dangerous thinking and, unfortunately, some 20 years later his words of prophecy came true. History constantly repeats itself with only changes in the cast of characters. Although we are very thankful that we live in a country of great benevolence, we should not lose sight of this important lesson in Jewish history. For at the end of the day, it’s in G-d we trust and no one else. Today, Friday, January 20th will be a fulfillment of the verse “a new king arose…” Let us hope and pray that this “king” will have a much more favorable view of Israel and its people. May G-d give wisdom and understanding to our new President to lead with strength, compassion and a moral compass. May the Al-mighty help us that he be a king who will know Yosef.

 

Sefer Emrei Cohen

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news - january 14, 2017

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“So now, please forgive the spiteful deeds of the servants of your father’s G-d.” And Yosef wept when they spoke to him.

Breishis 50:17

 

 

When Yaakov passed away the brothers again appealed to Yosef to forgive them for their past misdeeds. Their plea stressed the word “v'ata” (so now), which meant to say that especially now after Yaakov’s death there was an added reason for Yosef to forgive them. After a father’s passing, the children should look for ways to honor his memory and bring an Aliyas Neshama to him in the world of truth. The brothers were saying to Yosef not to take revenge upon them which would tear apart the unity of the family and cause Yaakov great pain in the world to come. Because what could be a bigger disgrace to the memory of a parent then the children fighting and quarreling after he or she is gone. Yosef heard this, he burst into tears of disbelief that the brothers would accuse him of such a thing. There is a great lesson to be learned from here. When a parent passes away, the children look for ways to do things to elevate their soul, whether it is giving charity, studying mishnayos or donating Torah books to a Shul or Yeshiva. These are all expressions of honoring a parent after death. Yet the greatest merit and nachas children can give a departed father or mother is to live in peace and harmony with their siblings. That is the ultimate testimony that the parents raised their children with good character which in turn brings about a beautiful sanctification of

G-d’s name.

 

Sefer Emrei Cohen

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news - january 7, 2017

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יוסף אני

“I am Yosef.” Bereishis 45:3

 

The Chofetz Chaim notes how Yosef’s brothers could not figure out what the Egyptian viceroy wanted from them and why he acted so strangely, sometimes with undue harshness and other times benevolently. Nevertheless, once he said those words, יוסף אני, I am Yosef, everything became crystal clear. All the pieces of the “puzzle” suddenly fit perfectly and they had no more questions. So too, concludes the Chofetz Chaim, the Jewish people have endured so much personal and communal suffering in their two-thousand-year exile. Yet, when the great day will come with the coming of Moshiach, G-d will say ‘' ה" אני’, “I am Hashem”, all the questions of history will be answered and mankind will acknowledge that everything was with an exact calculation administered by a just and loving G-d. May we all merit to see this day come to fruition, speedily in our time.

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news - december 31, 2016

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Shabbos Chanukah- Dvar Torah

As we celebrate and observe this beautiful and inspiring Shabbos Chanukah together let us remind ourselves of what the Chanukah message is all about. Chanukah was a time of dangerous assimilation for the Jewish people. We were immersed in Greek culture and society and it was having a devastating effect on our people. Along came a band of a few committed Jews who were ready to fight to the death to keep Torah and Mitzvos and thank G-d they were successful. They reignited the passion of Judaism within our nation, rededicated the temple and helped stem the spiritual tsunami that threatened our people. Chanukah is an excellent time for us to reevaluate our commitment and devotion to our faith. It is a time to be introspective and reflective and ask ourselves some serious questions about our connection to Judaism. Question One - Do I truly believe that our Torah is a Toras emes? (That the Torah is absolutely true). Do I believe that the written law and oral law is G-d’s word? Question Two - Do I believe that our Torah is a Toras chaim? (A Torah of life). Meaning that living a Torah observant lifestyle is the best thing that ever happened to me. Do I feel thrilled and privileged to be an orthodox Jew? And finally Question Three - Do I believe that we are the Am Hanivchar? (The chosen people). Which means that we, the Jewish people have a special and unique relationship with G-d, more so than anyone else. That we the Jewish people have a special mission and purpose in this world, different than anyone else. It is crucial that we be able to answer yes to these three questions and also be capable to articulate our feelings and ideas to our children and grandchildren as to why these three principles are indispensable in living an orthodox way of life. We in America are reliving the Chanukah experience. It’s a time of unprecedented and rampant assimilation where pleasure and more pleasure and just having a good time is the credo of life. So, if we want to raise future generations to be committed to a Torah way of life, then we must strengthen ourselves in the aforementioned three principles of Jewish living. That we have a Toras emes, a Toras chaim and that yes, we are the chosen people, and we are proud of it and hopefully through our actions and deeds we show the world that we are worthy of that title. Let the merit of the festival of lights bring us the great light of Moshiach and the redemption of our people speedily in our days.

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos.

Chanukah Sameach

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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Shmooze News - december 24, 2016

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Mevarchim Chodesh Teves Friday

 

ויראו והנה ארחת ישמעאלים באה מגלעד

וגמליהם נשאים נכאת וצרי ולט

They saw, behold! – a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, their camels bearing spices, balsam and lotus!           Bereishis 37:25

Why does the Torah take out the time to tell me what items the caravan was carrying? Rashi explains that these merchants usually carried foul smelling substances, but   G-d wanted to protect Yosef from such offensive odors so He sent with them sweet smelling spices. The question is – Yosef is suffering tremendous trauma and agony over what his brothers had done to him. What difference would it make to Yosef whether there is sweet-smelling stuff in his wagon or not? The answer is yes, it will make a difference, because he would realize that G-d is sending him a message, that despite the fact he is going through something so difficult for reasons unfathomable to him,  still G-d is sending him a love letter that “I have not abandoned you and I will be with you during this most challenging period of your life and you will see that it will all be for the good.” Who knows, maybe it was this ability that Yosef could see a silver lining in his gloomy cloud that gave him the strength to persevere over all the trials and tribulations of Egypt. To know that G-d was still with him and still loves him – giving him the self-confidence and hope that in the end he will see salvation and G-d’s master plan revealed. In life, we don’t always get to see the end game, but a Jew has to be able to still see even during times of difficulty that G-d in other ways sends us sweet smelling gifts so that we should not lose hope and realize that he is with us not only in our time of joy but in our time of pain as well. 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos! 

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein 

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Shmooze News - December 17, 2016

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ויאמר עשו יש לי רב...ויאמר יעקב כי חנני אלוקים וכי יש לי כל

Esav said “I have a lot…

Yaakov said … G-d was gracious to me and I have everything.” Bereishis 33:9-11

 

In these verses the Torah is teaching us the fundamental difference between Yaakov and Esav. Both are very rich but Esav, although he has much, he would love to have more. He is never satisfied with the physical pleasures of life. As our sages tell us, if one has one hundred dollars, then he wants two hundred dollars, a person is never satisfied. On the other hand, Yaakov personifies what our sages tell us in Pirkei Avos, that a truly wealthy person is someone who is satisfied with their lot in life. Therefore, Yaakov said, I have all that I could ever want. For whatever it is that G-d has not given me, his attitude was, I obviously don’t need it.  However, when it came to spiritual acquisitions, Yaakov was never satisfied for he wanted more and more. The lesson we must learn from here is that when it comes to physical possessions one really should look at those who have less than they do and be thankful and satisfied with what they do have. But when it comes to spiritual matters, it should be just the opposite. One should look to those who have accomplished more and yes, be somewhat jealous in the sense that I am not satisfied where I am now and would like to raise my spiritual level. Our time in this world is rather brief. We can either spend our time pursuing a mirage, an unattainable goal of satisfying our physical desires or we can have the wisdom to be satisfied with what we do have and spend more of our time in spiritual pursuits which last for eternity.

(Thoughts of Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski)

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze News - December 10, 2016

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ותהר ותלד בן ותאמר אסף אלוקים את חרפתי

 

She [Rachel] conceived and bore a son, and said

“G-d has taken away my disgrace.”

Bereishis 30:23

 

What kind of disgrace is Rachel referring to? Rashi, the great biblical commentator, gives two interpretations. The first explanation of the “disgrace” Rachel is talking about is the fact that if she remained childless, she would eventually wind up as the wife of Esav. Then Rashi adds another interpretation based on a midrash which is hard to understand. The disgrace she will be saved from is that now that she has a child, she could blame the mishaps in the home on her son. Really! The great matriarch Rachel is overjoyed that she finally is blessed with a child so she can have someone to blame!? This seems preposterous but therein lies a fundamental principal of life which is that deep down the propensity to blame others and not take personal responsibility is a very powerful force in the human being.  Of course, Rachel’s greatness is beyond our comprehension but the Torah’s way is to magnify what might be a subconscious thought of Rachel, to teach us how much a part of the human dynamic it is to blame others for our own mistakes and how hard and difficult it is to own up to our shortcomings and say the buck stops with me.  For in the end, the only way to better oneself and start a process of self-transformation is to realize that we alone are the masters of our own destiny and blaming our problems on others is not only an exercise in futility, but it is counterproductive to any type of personal growth.

(Thoughts of Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski)

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze News December 3, 2016

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ויתן לך האלוקים מטל השמים ומשמני הארץ

הנה משמני הארץ יהיה מושבך ומטל השמים מעל

“And may G-d give you the dew of heavens and the fatness of earth…” (27:28)

“Behold, the fatness of the earth shall be your dwelling and of the dew of heavens from above.” (27:39)

Although the blessings to Yaakov and Esav appear similar, there are two major differences between them. To Yaakov, Yitzchak said “May G-d give you,” whereas in Esav’s blessings he does not mention G-d’s name. Secondly, in Yaakov’s blessing, the bracha of “the dew of the heavens” is mentioned first and then the “fatness of the earth,” whereas in Esav’s blessings the order is reversed. Although Yitzchak thought he was blessing Esav, the divine spirit motivated him to give Yaakov the blessing appropriate for him. Yaakov was to know that everything he possesses, even if it appears to be the result of his own efforts, is a gift from G-d. Moshe Rabbeinu warned the Jewish people that when they inherit the land of Israel and become wealthy and powerful, they should not think that it was their skill, prowess, and hard work that produced their success, but that it was G-d who gave them the ability to do so. Yaakov’s descendants have this faith, but to Esav’s descendants this is an alien concept. For they live by the sword and feel that it is their might and power which brings them their success.  The blessings also show that Yaakov will be the one that will understand that the purpose of life is spirituality. “The dew of the heavens.” Of course, one cannot fulfill the mitzvos without the physical means to do so, therefore, the “fatness of the earth” are a necessity, but it is only a means, not the ultimate goal. Esav, on the other hand, lives for this world, he lives for the moment. The “fatness of the land” is primary. The two nuances are related. We can live spiritual lives only if we are aware that all our physical possessions are divine gifts to be used in the service of G-d. If we lose sight of our dependence on the Al-mighty, then we can degenerate into creatures that seek only physical pleasures and we thereby lose the dignity of spirituality that elevates us above all other living things.

Sefer: Twerski on Chumash,

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news november 26, 2016

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The central theme of Parshas Chayei Sarah is the shidduch of Yitzchak & Rivka. The question arises why did Avraham not make a shidduch with his loyal followers Aner, Eshkol & Mamre? Why didn’t he consider Eliezer himself, who was one of his closest disciples? What was wrong with choosing from the many converts he had attracted to the belief in one G-d? The Malbim explains that Middos, (character traits), are in one’s DNA. They are passed down from parent to child while beliefs and philosophies are the product of one’s mind. So even though Aner, Eshkol, Mamre and Eliezer identified with Avraham in his monotheistic beliefs, they were unsuitable to marry into Avraham’s family. This was because their character traits were inherited from their forefathers, the children of the accursed Canaan, son of Cham. Avraham’s family, although non-believers, were nevertheless endowed with exceptional character traits which Avraham exemplified. First and foremost, the kallah of Yitzchak must personify these magnificent character traits because they must build a home where the divine presence resides. G-d is only comfortable in a home where peace reigns and husband and wife deal with each other in a loving, respectful and considerate matter. Only under such conditions can G-d’s manifold blessings be found.

Sefer – Darcei Noam

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news november 19, 2016

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ויאמר המלט על נפשך אל תביט אחריך

(The angel said to Lot)

“Escape with your life, do not look behind you.”

Bereishis 19:17

One of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of the Yetzer Hora is to make people depressed and sad. Because when a person is not happy, it is difficult to follow a Torah way of life and fulfill your responsibilities to G-d and to man. Many times, this sadness is caused by reflecting and harping too much on past mistakes and misdeeds. These thoughts cause a person to feel worthless and drain him or her of the energy to act constructively. This does not mean that a person does not take responsibility for their actions – but there is a fine line between taking responsibility and obsessing over one’s mistakes. Stop ruminating about the past, just concentrate on starting a new page and move forward. A great Chasidic Rebbe used to say that there is only one day a year when   G-d obligates us to think about the past, and that is Yom Kippur.  Otherwise one must always be focused on the today and tomorrow of life. This the hidden meaning of the angel’s statement to Lot. If you want to save your life, both physically and spiritually, then don’t look behind you, don’t look back, just concentrate on the future – dust yourself off from the mistakes of the past and start fresh and you will see that your efforts will be crowned with great success!

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news november 12, 2016

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Bar Mitzvah Of Benjamin Banin

ויאמר אברהם ה" אלוקים מה תתן לי ואנוכי הולך ערירי והנה בן ביתי יורש אותי. והנה דבר ה" אליו לאמור לא יירשך זה כי אם אשר יצא ממעך הוא יירשך

Avraham said “G-d, what is it that you can give me, seeing that I am going to be childless and my servant will inherit me.” The word of G-d came to him saying, “this man shall not be your heir, but one who shall be of your own issue shall inherit you.” Bereishis 15:2-4

The Hebrew word "leimor" is often translated as “saying” but actually means “to say”. It is often used when the speaker wishes his words to be repeated to someone else. Avraham had resigned himself to being childless. At the age of 100 he had no hope of fathering a child, however the divine intent was that Avraham should have a son. A person’s attitude has a great deal to do with the fulfillment of the divine decree and therefore the 2nd verse cited above should be understood as follows: The word of G-d came to him to say “this man will not be my heir.” In other words, G-d was telling Avraham that he must say to himself, this man, (meaning Eliezer), will not be my heir and I will have a child. Thinking and talking positively creates a reality which allows G-d’s divine blessing to take effect. Hopelessness and despair can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. A person must always have hope and optimism for the future for with G-d all things are possible!

Sefer – Living Each Week

            Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze News November 5, 2016

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ויקח שם ויפת את השמלה.....

And Shem & Yefes took the garment and they placed it on both of their shoulders and walked backward and covered their father’s nakedness….. Bereshis 9:23

Rashi explains that the first word in the verse, ויקח, is singular, intimating that Shem initiated the covering of his father, with Yefes later joining him. Our sages tell us that as a reward for covering their father, Shem merited that his offspring would be given the Mitzvah of ציצית (tzitzis), while the reward for Yefes was that his descendent would merit burial.  Rav Yosef B. Soloveichik z”l explains that Shem & Yefes had different motivations for what they did. Shem was motivated by ethics and Yefes was moved by etiquette. Ethics as a value obligates one to do what is right and proper even when no one is watching and appreciating what is being done. Therefore, he was given as a reward the mitzvah of tzitzis because the talis katan should be worn under one’s garment – hidden.  The mitzvah of putting on a garment that is not visible reflects Shem’s emphasis on doing the right thing even in private. Yefes, on the other hand, was motivated by outward appearance and peer pressure. Yefes only helped cover his father after Shem had taken the initiative to do so. Therefore, the reward of burial which is a concept of kavod haberiyos – human dignity – which is certainly a form of etiquette that all people understand. This difference is also reflected in the blessing they received from their father. Noach said to Yefes, יפת אלקים ליפת “may G-d expand Yefes.” The word יפת carries the connotation of beauty. Yefes is all about externals and appearances. However, the blessing to Shem was that the Divine Presence would reside in the tent of Shem. Being concerned with externals is nice but not G-dly. In order to merit the Shechina, (Divine Presence), one must act ethically and morally in public and in private. This was Shem, son of Noach, who would eventually become the progenitor of the greatest nation on earth. Am Yisrael.

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze news october 29, 2016

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ויאמר ה" אלוקים אל הנחש כי עשית זאת ארור אתה מכל הבהמה...

“And G-d said to the serpent, because you have done this, cursed are you beyond all the animals.” Bereshis 3:14

The Zohar teaches us that the snake was the personification of the Yetzer Hora, (evil inclination). The question is why was the snake punished for enticing Chava to eat from the forbidden fruit? Isn’t it the job of the Yetzer Hora to tempt people to sin? And question #2, what did G-d mean when he said “because you have done this?” The serpent didn’t do anything, he merely spoke words, and speech, according to Jewish Law (Makkos 16A), is not considered to be an action. The answer, explains Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld z”l, is that yes, the Yetzer Hora – i.e. snake’s function – is indeed to tempt man to sin and thereby bringing him great reward for resisting these temptations. However, the snake went beyond his mandate, for he actually pushed Chava into the tree to prove to her that it was harmless. This was an action, not just words. It was this over-stepping of the snake’s bounds that angered G-d and earned him his curse.  As we begin a new year and the proverbial snake of life tries to seduce us once again to transgress the will of G-d, may this year bring us the strength and inspiration to stand up to his devious plans and resist his temptations thereby bringing us much blessing and success for the coming new year.

(Sefer-Chochumas Chaim)

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

Shmooze News October 22, 2016

Shmooze news october 15, 2016

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כי חלק ה" עמו......

“For the portion of G-d is his people.” Devarim 32:9

Rav Chaim Volozhiner quotes a midrash that states, one of the attributes of G-d is that He is a “Sameiach Bechelko” (He is happy with his lot).  Asks Rav Chaim, how can this trait apply to G-d when He is master of the entire universe?  He posed this question to his great mentor, the Vilna Gaon, who answered as follows:  It means that G-d is satisfied with the Jewish people no matter what their spiritual status is.  For the Almighty will never abandon us and always rejoices with his chelek, (his portion), which is the Jewish people.  Therefore, now that we have just gone through the holy and purifying day of Yom Kippur, we are sure that G-d must be especially happy with his children.  May the nachas that G-d has from us that we are his portion translate into myriad blessings for the Jewish people collectively and individually.  May this be the year when all our troubles and misfortunes end and only simchas begin, as we prepare for the final redemption and the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

 

Wishing you a Good Shabbos & Chag Sameach!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news october 8, 2016

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 “For you know how we dwelt in the land of Egypt and how we came through the midst of the nations through which we passed. You have seen their detestable things, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold”. Devarim 29:15-16

 

In cautioning the Jewish people against attraction to idolatrous practices, Moshe Rabbeinu points out how repulsive and detestable these practices were.  If so, why does Moshe go into a lengthy discourse about the evils of idolatry! Was it not a sufficient deterrent that idolatry was so revolting?  The answer to this question is a deep psychological insight.The Talmud tells us that a person who sees the disgrace of the Sotah (a woman suspected of an adulterous relationship) should take upon himself to become a Nazir (which is a person who must abstain from wine), because intoxication with wine may loosen one’s moral inhibitions, which is what happened to this woman.  The question is: one who witnesses the public embarrassment of this woman, because of her immoral behavior, hardly needs additional deterrents.  Yet, the message appears to be that this person who sees the spectacle is especially in need of additional restrictions.  This concept has been proven by psychological research that when one is confronted by the sight of someone suffering the consequences of forbidden pleasure (e.g., drugs) the stimulation for immediate pleasure may exceed the deterrent effect.  The heathen idolatrous practices included orgies, which were abominable.  Yet Moshe knew that rather than being turned away from such practices, the very exposure to them was an attraction. The teaching of Moshe Rabbeinu is very relevant to today’s society.  Many people naively assume that the message, “crime does not pay” is enough of a deterrent for the average citizen. They do not take into account, however, that the exposure to improper behavior can arouse those animalistic drives which lead people to commit immoral or anti-social acts, and that the negative consequences may not act as sufficient deterrents.  The Torah’s insight into human nature is amazing for it is the divine book of G-d, a heavenly gift to the Jewish people to help us navigate the stormy seas of life.

Sefer: Living each week Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos and  G'mar Chasimah Tovah!!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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ובחרת בחיים

And you should choose life, Devarim (30:19)

A string of zeroes no matter how long is always worth zero unless a digit – even a digit as small as 1 is placed before it – this idea is not only true in the world of mathematics and finance, but in the spiritual world as well. A person can perform an infinite number of actions that all have zero spiritual value – but the moment you add a spiritual dimension to these actions you transform it into an act of holiness. For example, a person must eat in order to live – it’s a basic human need. But with a bracha before and after you eat, and with a two-minute Torah thought, you have taken a mundane physical act and sanctified the whole two hour meal. This is called choosing life. The Chofetz Chaim used to say that if a pharmacist has in mind that he is doing an act of kindness each time he gives out medication then he is involving himself with mitzvos all day long. If an owner of a hotel has in mind when he gives lodging and food that he is helping another person then all day long he is not only earning money but he acquires a spiritual currency which is priceless. A person with just an attitudinal shift can be doing mitzvos 24/7. This is a world of tremendous spiritual opportunities free for the taking. Whatever mitzvos we can grab before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur can be a great merit for ourselves and the entire Jewish people. Let us hope and pray that G-d takes into account all our efforts and grants us a new year of good health, nachas, bracha and the greatest blessing of all the coming of Moshiach Tzidkenu, may he come speedily in our days.

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos, Shanah Tovah!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news september 24, 2016

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ונתנך ה" לראש ולא לזנב והיית רק למעלה ולא תהיה למטה  כי תשמע אל מצות ה" אלוקך

“G-d shall place you as a head not a tail. You shall be only above and you shall not be below...” Devarim 28:13

 

This verse is not just giving the Jewish people a blessing but it’s giving a message as how one should live life. The “head” is what directs and controls the body. The Torah is teaching us that we should live a life of higher purpose. We should be a cut above the crowd. The head, which is the repository of wisdom, should be the one in control directing the body, not the tail. One of the main impediments to spiritual growth is the desire to follow the latest fads and fashions of society. There is a “must have” mentality that pervades our world. Must one blindly follow every passing trend and current popular craze knowing full well that in a short period of time they will be obsolete and there will be another new gadget? All the “must-haves” that people toil to acquire only give temporary satisfaction until the next must-have comes on the market. The need to buy and accumulate is a panacea to fill the emptiness people feel in their lives.A person who lives a life “above” – a more spiritual life whose values are eternal rather than temporal – lives on a completely different planet. He has a sense of fulfillment, satisfaction and inner happiness. It is no coincidence that we learn this concept in the last weeks of Elul as we approach Rosh Hashanah. It is a time of year when we strive to make improvements in our spiritual lives. May the realization that a Jew’s task is to live a life “above”, a life of purpose and meaning, make us worthy to be blessed with good health and many simchas for the coming new year.

(Sefer – Emrei Kohen)

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

 

shmooze news september 17, 2016

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Bar Mitzvah of Liam Senker

לא תראה את חמור אחיך או שורו נפלים בדרך והתעלמת מהם הקם תקים עמו

You shall not see the donkey of your brother or his ox falling on the road and hide yourself from them! You shall surely stand them up with him.” Devarim 22:4

 

Rashi explains that the last word of the verse עמו (with him), is a qualifier. Meaning one is required to help only if the owner of the animal participates as well. However, if he sits back and says to this fellow, “It’s your mitzvah, you do it!” then one is not obligated to assist the owner. Based on this, the Chofetz Chaim says that we can’t expect G-d to help us be more spiritual unless we first put in some effort. We can’t sit back and say, “OK, G-d, if You inspire me – fine, but if not, then it’s not my fault!” Of course, we have to take the first step, even if that first step is nothing more than an active desire to improve. Even an aspiration that I would like to grow spiritually before I take any demonstrative steps is also meaningful. As the Midrash states, “Open up for me a window of Teshuva, (repentance), as tiny as the eye of a needle, and I will open up for you a window so wide that wagons could go through.” May we all be worthy this coming new year to improve ourselves just a little bit, whether in our relationship with G-d or with our fellow man, to show the One Above we are trying. In this merit, we should all be inscribed in the book of life and good health and to see much nachas from our children and grandchildren.

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos and a Kesivah Vachasimah Tovah

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

 

shmooze news september 10, 2016

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This Shabbos is dedicated as a Shabbos of gratitude and appreciation to the men and women that keep us safe in our community, “Our Police”.

 

“You shall be wholehearted with Hashem your G-d”

 

Rashi explains this verse to mean that one should follow G-d no matter what life brings, in other words, go with the flow. Of course this is much easier said than done, but it is the only way that one can go through life with a modicum of peace of mind. Human nature is such that we would rather ruminate and romanticize about the past or fantasize about what the future may bring. Both are exercises in futility. The past will not come back and the future is totally out of our hands. The only thing we have some control over is the present. As King Solomon so wisely said in Koheles (7:10), “Do not say, how was it that former times were better than these, since this is not a question prompted by wisdom!” One should focus all his or her efforts towards investing in the present. Our sages tell us that G-d judges us based upon our present situation (Talmud – Rosh Hashana 16B). So don’t worry about the future and don’t live in the past. Live in the here and now and make the most out of each and every day.

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news september 3, 2016

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Bat Mitzvah of Bailey Spitz

Rosh Chodesh Elul Shabbos and Sunday

 

ראה אנכי נתן לכם לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה

See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse.

Devarim 11:26

 

The changes in grammar in this verse teach us an important lesson in life. The word “Re’eh” (see) is the singular form of the verb but “lifneichem” (before you) is plural. Why? Also, why was it necessary to say the word “see”? If you give someone a present, do you have to tell him “look, I am giving you a present.” Isn’t it obvious!? The answer to the 2nd question is that blessings are not always self-evident. If we don’t make an effort to “see” them, we may not ever realize that we have been blessed. If we think about it, life is full of blessings, but we take these things for granted and do not realize how fortunate we truly are. Therefore, G-d reminds us make sure you take the time to “see” (ראה) the blessings I have given you! To answer the 1st question as to why the change of singular to plural, the Kotzker Rebbe explains that blessings can be given collectively to many people but each individual will perceive it in his or her own way. Blessings can be universal but the perception of them is always up to the individual. Therefore, when G-d tell us to see, He uses the singular form, but the placement of the blessings is expressed in plural form. May we all merit not only to have many blessings in life, but the wisdom to also see them.

Sefer – Rav Frand on the Parsha

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

 

shmooze news august 26, 2-016

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Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Elul

[Rosh Chodesh is next Shabbos and Sunday]

Bat Mitzvah of Rachel Attias

ולא תביא תועבה אל ביתך

“You shall not bring an abomination into your home…”

Devarim 7:26

 

The Torah is telling us not to bring an idol into our home but rather destroy all the idols they find in the Land of Canaan.

The Sforno, one of the great commentators on the Torah, tells us that having these objects of idolatory in your domain will ultimately bring ruin to your own possessions. Although today we don’t have the idols that the Torah is talking about, but we have different idols. The Torah teaches us that when one gets angry, it is akin to idolatry. So anger is also an abomination, don’t bring it into your home! When Rav Zeira’s students asked him to what do you attribute your longevity? (Talmud Megillah 28A) He said all my life I did not express anger in my home! According to the Rambam, the reason Moshe Rabbeinu was punished and could not enter into the Land of Israel is because he got angry at the Jewish people! King Solomon tells us (Koheles 9:17) that the words of the wise are heard because they are said with calm.  One may think that the gold and silver items of idolatry will enrich you. No, says the Sforno, they will ruin you So to one may think that with anger and shouting will come obedience, people will listen to me. Just the opposite. Yes, it will produce short term compliance, but in the end, the listener will turn against the angry person. Idolatry never die, it just takes on different forms. By working on removing the idolatry of anger from our homes, we will only bring blessings and success into our lives.

(Sefer – Twerski on Chumash)

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein 

shmooze news august 20, 2016

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ואהבת את ה" אלקך בכל לבבך

You should love G-d with all your heart.”

Bamidbar 6:5

The great biblical commentator, Rashi, says an amazing insight on this verse that we have expounded upon in the past.  Rashi says that the one who serves G-d out of love has no comparison to the one who serves G-d out of fear.  For if you serve your master out of fear then once the burden gets to be too great, the servant will just get up and leave! These words of Rashi should be photocopied and placed on every refrigerator of every home with young children.  If parents are too strict with their children, if there is too much disapproval and too many no’s, then while the children are young they will listen to you but once they get older they will flee & rebel.  Of course, in educating children there must be rules and consequences but it must be tempered with a lot of love, compliments, warmth and sensitivity, (no shouting or yelling).  Then and only then will one be successful in raising children that they will have a long-lasting relationship with and hopefully be dedicated to the observance of Torah and Mitzvos.  To force children to do mitzvos, to force them to come to Shul will not work and will only further disenfranchise them from Judaism.  Rashi is teaching us love is the key.  It’s a simple, common sense, straightforward idea, but sometimes it’s the simple facts of life that we so often forget!  We of course all love our children but they have to see it and feel it.  By doing so we will, G-d willing, only see nachas from them.

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

 

shmooze news august 13, 2016

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והדבר אשר יקשה מכם תקרבון אלי ושמעתיו

“And whatever will be too difficult for you, you shall bring to me and I will hear it.” Devarim 1:17

Quite often we find a great deal of psychological wisdom contained in the words of the Torah. It is common knowledge in the practice of psychology that in the process when the client or patient is describing their particular problem they discover a solution. King Solomon tells us in Proverbs 12:25 – “if one is worried let him relieve himself of it.” The Talmud explains this to mean that if one is worried about something he should speak it over with another person, because this will bring relief. The Gerer Rebbe said that this idea can be seen in the words of Moshe Rabbeinu that if you have something difficult, bring it to me and I will listen to it. Moshe doesn’t say he will solve it – he said he will listen. Simply by asking, and allowing the other person to describe the problem, one may help the person find its solution. This is a very important point which goes a long way in fostering healthy relationships, love and comradery, because many times what people crave is just a listening, sympathetic ear. It shows that we care and we are here for you, and that can go a long way in removing worry and fear from a person’s heart. This Tisha B’Av, let’s do our part in creating an atmosphere of more love and that can be done with a little less talking and a lot more listening.

Sefer: Living each week

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos and an easy and meaningful fast!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news august 6, 2016

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Bar Mitzvah of Jacob Benveniste

 

(If someone kills a person accidentally, he must be exiled to one of the designated cities of refuge.)

“And he shall remain there until the death of the High Priest.”

(Bamidbar 35:25)

 

What does the High Priest have to do with an individual killing somebody by accident? Rashi explains that if the Kohen Gadol would have prayed more intensely, this never would have happened. By making the term of exile contingent upon the death of the High Priest, the Torah highlights his responsibility. In what other culture has the leadership ever been held to so demanding a degree of accountability. In our time, loss of life is a daily occurrence due to criminal violence, reckless drunk driving and domestic abuse. What sense of responsibility do our civil leaders feel for such events? If they would feel a fraction of the responsibility which the High Priest was made to feel, not one of them would have a single night’s sleep. They would see to it that our laws were more stringent and their enforcement more strict. The sense of responsibility the High Priest carried was due to the enormous sense of value that the Torah gives to a life. Unfortunately, the attitude about life in our culture reflects our undervaluation of life.One of the functions of the priesthood was to invoke the name of G-d for peace and tranquility; that function reached its peak with the Kohen Gadol.  The intensity of the High Priest’s devotion to peace and the protection of each individual depended upon how he valued each human life.  A loss of human life was thus not “just one of those things that can happen in society,” but something which touched the very life of the High Priest himself.  How different our society would be if our leaders shared this attitude!

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news july 30, 2016

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Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Av

Rosh Chodesh is Friday Aug 5, beginning the 9 Days

After the tragic plague that wiped out 24,000 Jews because of sin of idolatry and their relationship with the non-Jewish women of Moav and Midyan, G-d commanded Moshe and Elazar, son of Aharon, to take a new census of the Jewish people. The Torah counts the tribe of Benjamin next to the tribe of Dan. Benjamin has 45,600 men, the fifth smallest tribe. Dan had 64,400 men making it the 2nd largest tribe after Judah which had 76,500. The Chofetz Chaim explains that there is a great lesson to be learned here. Yaakov Avinu came down to Egypt with 70 descendants. His youngest son Benjamin had 10 sons. On the other hand – Yaakov’s son Dan had only one son whose name was Chushim, who also happened to be deaf. If I were to ask you which son do you think you will see more success and nachas from, you would undoubtedly say Benjamin. One can only imagine what a family gathering in the house of Yaakov looked like. Gad and Asher each brought their seven sons. Shimon had six and so on.  The sons and grandchildren would sit with Yaakov Avinu, discuss Torah, and be inspired by his wisdom and holiness. Tragically, Chushim would sit there, oblivious to what was taking place. Dan probably wondered to himself what will be with my son Chushim and with the future of my tribe in Israel. This is the significance of the contrast between the census of the tribe of Benjamin and that of Dan. From Benjamin’s ten sons came forth a below-average total of 45,600 male descendants. Yet from the tribe of Dan, who had one deaf son, came 64,400 male descendants. What we see from here is that G-d runs the world, and in life one can never predict how things will eventually work out. One can’t give up on a person no matter what the handicap or disability. Many times in life we see that the one who was considered least likely to succeed is the one who produces the greatest achievements, for when there is a G-d in the world, all things are possible.

Sefer: Darchei Noam

Rav Avroham Pam Z’L

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news july 23, 2016

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לא הביט און ביעקב ולא ראה עמל בישראל ה" אלהיו עמו

“He perceived no iniquity in Jacob, and saw no perversity in Israel, his G-d is with him…” Bamidbar 23:21

 

There are many stories about the great Chassidic Rebbe Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev who was known to always have something good to say about the Jewish people no matter how low their spiritual level may have been. In Europe, it was customary for itinerant Rabbis to travel from village to village, and deliver strong Drashos admonishing their listeners for not being sufficiently observant in performance of Mitzvos and the study of Torah. One time, the Berdicheva Rebbe attended such a sermon, and when it was over, he approached the Holy Ark, opened its doors and cried out, “Master of the universe! Do not believe what this dear man said about your children. For if the Jewish people are deficient in Mitzvos it’s because they are so oppressed. They are deprived of the means of earning a decent living and are subject to many anti-Semitic decrees and therefore have neither the time nor energy to devote themselves properly to Torah and Mitzvos. Please, G-d, bring them Moshiach to redeem them and you will see how your children will run to study Torah and perform Mitzvos.” Contemporaries of the Rebbe would often say that the above verse which says “And sees no falsehood in Israel, his G-d is with him” applies to the Berdicheva Rebbe, that because he doesn’t see the faults of the Jewish people and only accentuates the positive, that’s why his G-d is always with him in every endeavor he undertakes. 

Sefer: Twerski on Chumash

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news july 16, 2016

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על כן יאמרו המושלים באו חשבון תבנה ותכונן עיר סיחון

Regarding this the poet would say: come to heshbon let it be built and established as the city of Sihon. Bamidbar 21:27

 

The word the Torah uses for "poet" Moshel also means "ruler". The word Heshbon is the Hebrew word for "accounting". The Talmud therefore offers this interpretation of the above verse: Those who rule over themselves can make an accounting, calculating the gains and losses in life. The gain of mitzvah as opposed to its cost, and the cost of a sin as opposed to its gain.  Much of western civilization lives under the influence of seizing the pleasure of the moment. The American economy is built upon credit, with people being urged to buy now, pay later. If people would calculate the ultimate cost of credit purchases, which may be outrageous, they might delay buying things until they can afford to pay for them. But persistent and impressiveadvertising seduces people to get what they want and to get it now.  Blinded by their desires, people do not calculate. How many people who know the long term danger of smoking but ignore it, because the desire for the immediate pleasure of smoking overwhelms their rational thought?  The Talmud's statement is correct and only "those who rule over themselves, who are not enslaved by their physical desires, can be objective and make an accurate accounting of the positives and negatives in life choices. Animals do not choose. They follow their instincts and do whatever is most pleasing. They are not rulers over their lives, but merely slaves to their physical drives which they cannot resist. Human beings should take pride in being rulers. Allowing one's self to be governed by a physical drive is essentially an abdication of one's humanity. The purpose of life is to be king over our emotions and desires. Only then can we make an honest calculation, gaining the most out of life.

Sefer- Twerski on Chumash

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news july 9, 2016

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ומדוע תתנשאו על קהל ה.....כי תשתרר עלינו גם השתרר

“Why do you elevate yourselves over the congregation of G-d? ...yet you seek to dominate us and you wish to increase your dominance?” Bamidbar 16:3,13

The verse above is the complaint that Korach is voicing against Moshe Rabeinu.  This is the same “Moshe” who did not want to accept the position of leadership of the Jewish people.  This is the “Moshe” that the Torah testifies -- which means G-d testifies --  was the humblest man on the face of the earth.  How preposterous that Korach and his followers should accuse Moshe of hubris and making himself superior to all others?  This is exactly the point the Torah is teaching us.  When a person becomes involved in a personal dispute he loses all sense of logic and may advocate the most absurd arguments.  While observers can see how this individual makes an absolute fool of himself, the person involved is so blinded that he will put forth the most ridiculous accusations.  We see from here that machlokes, divisiveness and bickering, is, of course, not the way to build the Jewish people.

 Our greatest spiritual power is to keep united. Shalom is the key.  Everybody in life has his own personal red line that he does not cross.  Our collective red line should be that anything that fosters dissension, machlokes, and divisiveness amongst ourselves, families, and congregants is not acceptable.  It is a line we cannot afford to cross. For our sake and the sake of the Jewish people, we should see an end to our bitter Galus and the beginning of our redemption, may it come speedily in our days!

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news july 2, 2016

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Mevarchim Chodesh Tammuz

Rosh Chodesh is Wednesday and Thursday

וטפכם אשר אמרתם לבז יהיה והביאתי אתם וידעו את הארץ אשר מאסתם בה

“And your young children of whom you said they will be taken captive, I shall bring them; they shall know the land that you despised.” Bamidbar 14:31

 

 

The question is asked, granted the spies lacked faith in G-d’s word that He would enable the Jewish people to conquer the land, but where do you see that they despised the land of Israel!  Maybe they loved it but were just afraid they couldn’t conquer it.” Rav Avrohom Pam zt'l answers this question with the following Halachic principle. The Talmud says that you cannot give a gift to an unborn child. Such a transaction is not valid. However, the exception to that rule is that a father can transfer a gift to his unborn child.  What’s the difference between a father and someone else?  Explains Rav Pam, the reason a gift is not binding to a fetus is because the donor’s intention is not wholehearted. Not every fetus is viable, it may not survive and if it does, there is a risk of birth damage and the child will not be able to use the gift. Therefore, these doubts cause the donor’s gift to be non-binding. A father is different. He has such intense love for the child that the possibility of anything going wrong does not enter his mind. His gift to the unborn child is absolute and that makes a binding transaction. The take away lesson from here is that when there is a deep love, one does not think or see what might go wrong. If the spies truly loved the land of Israel, they would never have come back with a negative report. As King Solomon says in Proverbs 10:12, “Love covers up all defects.” This concept is especially true in inter-personal relationships. Many times the reason we find fault with people is because we don’t have a great love for them in the first place. If we truly loved people, we wouldn’t be so quick to see their faults. The sin of the spies took place on the ninth day of the month of Av. This sin is what eventually lead to the future destruction of our Holy Temple. As our sages tell us, the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed because of Sinas Chinam, (baseless hatred), which in turn causes Machlokes, (fights-arguments), which is devastating to the Jewish people. A little more Ahavas Chinam, (indiscriminate love), is the antidote we need to rectify the sin of the spies and bring the redemption of our people and the coming of Moshiach, may he come speedily in our days.

(Sefer – Twerski on Chumash)

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos.

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news june 25, 2015

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In this week’s parsha, we read about an incident with Moshe Rabbeinu which is quite puzzling, to say the least. Moshe Rabbeinu has already gone through a great deal of aggravation with the Jewish people, but he always is as strong as a rock, never wavering. Whether it’s the sin of the golden calf or any other difficulty, Moshe Rabbeinu is up to the challenge. All of a sudden in our Parsha, when the Jewish people start complaining about the fish, melons and cucumbers they ate in Egypt and they would start crying about their families, Moshe gives up and tells G-d, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s too hard to carry these people all by myself.” What ever happened to Moshe Rabbeinu the man of steel? How come he falls apart over something which in comparison to what he had dealt with before is not a big deal? I believe the answer is very telling and has great ramifications for the generation we live in today. Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest Jewish leader of all time, could deal with any situation or emergency that would arise, but there was one thing he could not tolerate, and that was dishonesty. The Jewish people were not being honest with Moshe and, more importantly, they were not being true to themselves. They were complaining about the food they ate in Egypt for free. The only thing they could eat, or I should say drink for free in Egypt was their own blood. What they meant was free from mitzvos, but they wouldn’t dare admit that to themselves. All these complaints and fantasies about how good it was in Egypt was a subterfuge to complain and cry about mitzvos and about mishpachosav (families). For they were upset about the new laws given by the Torah which forbade certain relationships which up to now were permitted. But they were hiding their true complaints behind this fantasy that what we are missing is real food even though they had the miraculous mann. It was this lack of transparency, this behavior of self-deception that Moshe could not countenance. Moshe Rabbeinu had the strength to deal with the greatest failures and sins of the Jewish people as long as they were honest to him and themselves about their wrongdoings, but when you’re not straight with yourself you’re hopeless, and that’s why Moshe Rabbeinu threw up his hands in exasperation to G-d and said I can’t cope. My friends, this is our generation. A world where nothing is wrong anymore, where every deviant behavior is winked at. A world were marijuana will soon be legal for all to become brain dead. People can physically change their gender and be hailed as a hero instead of being sent to an institution. The world has gone absolutely mad, no one can say the truth anymore without being hailed as a hatemonger or a bigot. In today’s society, you must be politically correct to the point of insanity. No one has the guts to stand up and say the emperor has no clothes. A world in which people can’t tolerate the truth is a dangerous world indeed, and if Moshe Rabbeinu gave up in his time, what can we say about our time? So we, the Jewish People, must be strong and not allow ourselves to be seduced by a culture whose philosophy is that there are no wrongs. We must be a beacon of light and inspiration of morality and honesty to the world. We must stand up for what’s right and not be afraid to speak the truth, for in the end, emes prevails above all. In this merit may the Al-mighty open up the eyes of the world to know right from wrong and have the chutzpah to say so. May this world of darkness soon be permeated with the light of Mashaich, may he come speedily in our days. 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news june 18, 2016

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וכפר עליו מאשר חטא על הנפש

“…and he shall atone for him for having sinned against the soul…” Bamidbar 6:11

When a person says, “I am hereby a Nazir,” he accepts upon himself three restrictions: he is forbidden to drink wine or consume grape products, he may not contaminate himself to a human corpse, and he is forbidden to cut his hair. After he successfully concludes his nezirus (nazirite term) he brings three sacrifices, one of which is a sin offering. The Talmud asks, “what sin did the Nazir commit that he must bring a קרבן חטאת (sin offering)? The Talmud answers that since he deprived himself from drinking wine he is considered to have sinned against his soul. We see from here a very special idea which is unique to Judaism, and that is that G-d wants us to enjoy the pleasures that life has to offer. Obviously it has to be in a permitted manner according to the guidelines of Jewish law, but nonetheless He wants us to enjoy life. The Torah, together with the great Rabbis, have placed upon us numerous restrictions. The Almighty does not want us to impose even more restrictions upon ourselves. For at the end of the day, G-d wants us to be בשמחה (happy and joyous) because when we are בשמחה we are more able to serve G-d with true gratitude and devotion. King Solomon said, “the ways of Torah are ways of pleasantness” (Proverbs 3:17). By living a normal life and enjoying G-d’s beautiful world that is the best way to be a true servant of G-d.

Sefer: Ateres Avrohom

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos

 

shmooze news june 11, 2016

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The Parsha of Bamidbar is usually read before Shavuos.  One of the reasons this is so is to underscore a key prerequisite which is necessary in the acquisition of Torah and that is shalom.  There is nothing as dear to G-d as seeing his children getting along in peace and harmony.  This is so important that without it the Torah never would have been given to the Jewish people.  As it states in Exodus 19:2 (at Mt. Sinai, just before the giving of the Torah), “vayichan Yisroel” – the Jewish people encamped near the mountain.  The Torah say vayichan, which is singular (he camped) when it should have stated vayachanu (they camped).  Rashi explains that this is to teach us that the Jewish people at the giving of the Torah were one people with one heart.  There was unity and that’s what made them worthy of receiving the Torah. Our Torah portion of Bamidbar describes how the camp of Israel was organized.  Each person and tribe knew their place.  The Kohanim, the Levites and the rest of Yisrael knew their exact positions, no squabbling or fighting, like a beautiful symphony, each playing their instrument.  Everybody knew their assignment and they worked together in one harmonious unit.  Everyone has their time and place, what creates dissention and chaos is when we want someone else’s place because we are not happy with what we have.  The message of Bamidbar is unity – shalom – which is the necessary prerequisite for the acceptance of Torah.  Let the merit of our Torah study this Shavuos coupled with the camaraderie and friendship it engenders be a merit for the Jewish people to bring us the redemption of our people and the coming of Moshiach – may he come speedily in our days.

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos and Spiritually uplifting Shavuos.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

 

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news june 4, 2016

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Mevarchim Chodesh Sivan Tuesday

עשה עשר ולא במשפט בחצי ימיו יעזבנו

  

“One who amasses wealth without justice:

in half his days it will desert him.”

(Yirmiyahu 17:11 - Haftarah of Parshas Bechukosai)

 

As with almost all Haftoras, the Haftarah of Parshas Bechukosai compliments the Parsha itself.  In it, the prophet Jeremiah speaks very harshly as to what will befall the Jewish people if they don’t follow the Torah.  This parallels the Tochacha which makes up the bulk of this week’s Parsha.  Unfortunately, many times the mess that we find ourselves in is due to our own behavior.  Much (not all) of the Tochacha of life many times is self-inflicted.  Jeremiah speaks here of someone who steals and cheats because he thinks he will become rich and prosper.  However, the prophet tells us otherwise – that one who amasses wealth unjustly will in the end not enjoy the fruit of his labors.  There is a midrash which states that when Noach was preparing to enter the ark, all types of creatures came to him for permission to enter.  Among them was Shikra (שקר) (power of falsehood).Noach asked him “but where is your mate? If you have a mate, you may enter!  So Shikra went out and met Pachsa (power of depletion) which causes deterioration of one’s monetary resources and causes one to become impoverished.  Pachsa agreed to the marriage on condition that whatever Shikra earned, Pachsa would get.  Shikra agreed and they boarded the ark.  Ever since then when Shikra would earn money (with of course Sheker). Pachsa would take it away from him and this is how it’s been since they got out of the ark.  We, many times in life, are our own worst enemy, whether it’s ill-gotten gains, an explosive temper, a meddling and gossip-oriented personality, laziness, jealousy – you name it.  As was said before, we very often create our own destiny, for, more often than not, it’s our fault, not G-d’s. 

The antidote is      אם בחוקותי תלכו

אם מצוותי תשמרו

Follow the Torah and do what’s right and your life will be a blessing!

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

 

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news may 28, 2016

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וקדשתם את שנת החמישים שנה וקראתם דרור בארץ לכל יושביה יובל היא תהיה לכם ושבתם איש אל אחזתו ואיש אל משפחתו תשבו

"You shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants…" Vayikra 25:10       

  

The Jubilee Year was a dramatic event and in many ways a social upheaval. Properties that were sold during the previous 49 years were returned to their original owners. Fields were left barren and all slaves were released. “Proclaim liberty throughout the land," but note, "each of you shall return to his family.” In our times, we have also experienced dramatic events of social upheaval: the decade of the 60’s (and the new social and moral decline of the 21st century). The 60’s was the decade in which there was also a proclamation called “freedom.” Authority was rejected and accepted social norms and morality were cast aside. The rallying cry was “do your own thing.” The “prophets of liberty” were intoxicated with breaking the yoke of discipline and restraint. Mora than 50 years later we are reaping the bitter fruits of this great emancipation. Our youth are plagued with drugs, their young developing minds poisoned by marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Thuggery and violence abound and sexual morality has disappeared. Society today is so mindless and superficial that transgender bathrooms are the headline news. This is not the Torah’s idea of freedom. Yes, the Jubilee Year indeed has some social and economic changes, but the theme was “each one of you return to his family.” The family unit was number one.  Parents were respected, grandparents were revered, and spouses were faithful to each other; there was moral responsibility. The freedom of the Jubilee Year was not the recklessness that characterized “the freedom” of the 60’s and today; rather it was one that strengthened both the individual and society.

Sefer: Twerski on Chummash

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news may 21, 2016

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The Mitzvah of counting the Omer, is observed from the 2nd day of Pesach until Shavous.  We begin by saying, “today is the first day of the Omer” and so on until the 49th day.  When we think of the Exodus and all the miracles that took place, we may lose sight of the greatest miracle of all, which was that we left Egypt on the 49th level of tumah (spiritual impurity) and in 49 days we reached the 49th level of tahara (spiritual purity) which is the greatest level a human being can attain.  How did that happen?  The answer is the secret behind the mitzvah of counting the Omer, where we count one day at a time.  We develop spirituality by addressing one’s defects and blemishes one day at a time. The Torah is telling us that greatness can be achieved one step at a time in manageable morsels.  In commanding this mitzvah, the Torah stipulates that this is a mitzvah for all generations because today, no less than it was at the time of the Exodus, the formula for success is taking it one day at a time. The yetzer hara (evil inclination) tries to discourage us from achieving spirituality by magnifying the obstacles we must overcome.  Our answer to the yetzer hara must be, “I am not concerned with the challenge of a lifetime.  I have only today to worry about and just for today I can live up to the high standards of what the Torah demands from me.”  While the mitzvah of counting the Omer is restricted to the period between Pesach and Shavous, the principle of living one day at a time is not.  Living one day at a time is a year-round success formula for confronting the challenges of life and achieving spirituality.

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!   

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news may 14, 2016

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You shall not hate your brother in your heart… Do not seek revenge nor bear a grudge against your people! (19:17-18)

 

Destructive behavior is invariably a result of faulty character traits.  If we find ways in which a person has discontinued destructive behavior, we can safely assume that some faulty character traits have been corrected.  One of the great pitfalls of life which can effect a person deeply and remain with someone for decades is resentment.  In order for a person to move on in life, a person must train himself to let go.  In fact, this concept is always mentioned in the meetings of “Alcoholics Anonymous,” where one seeks the serenity to accept that which cannot be changed, the courage to change that which can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Trying to change the unchangeable can only lead to exasperation and frustration.  Harboring resentment only brings anger, sadness and depression.  Ultimately it is acceptance and understanding that in the end brings serenity and tranquility to one’s life. This is actually conveyed in the aforementioned verses of not hating your brother in your heart and not bearing a grudge.  How foolish to allow someone you dislike to dwell within you?  Do not waste your efforts in futile behavior.  Accept people for who they are, let go – move on and realize that you can only do what’s right, because it is only your actions and words over which you have control and not their consequences.  In the final analysis it is G-d that will decide what the ramifications will be.

(Sefer- Living Each Week Rabbi Abraham Twerski M.D.)   

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!   

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news may 7th, 2016

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Mevarchim Chodesh Iyar Sun-Mon

השכן אתם בתוך טמאתם

 “(I am G-d) who rests among them even amidst their impurity”  Vayikra 16:16 

No one has the right to say, “I am too far gone to live a Torah life style.  I cannot change, and I have done too many sins to be able to repent.” For that is simply not true.  No matter how far a person may have strayed, regardless of how much a person may have sinned, G-d never rejects anyone.  Rav Nachman of Breslov wrote about the intensity of depression he once experienced, and said that at times he felt that he was in the very depths of hell, so crushed that he believed no greater pain could exist.  His only comfort was in the verse in Psalms (139:8), “If I rise to the heavens, you are there, and if I am in the depths of hell, you are there too.”  Since there is no place devoid of G-d one is never alone.  Dr. Abraham Twerski had patients with alcohol and drug addictions who wished to be diagnosed as having severe mental illness or brain damage, because that would absolve them of the responsibility of recovery.  It is not uncommon for people to consider themselves hopeless in order to avoid the responsibilities that success might bring.  There is a bizarre type of comfort in feeling hopeless; this way one does not have to do anything.  To people who say, "I am Tamei (unclean) and beyond redemption," G-d says, “I am with you even then.”  Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev said, “You can be for G-d, and you can be against G-d.  You just can’t be without G-d.”  In light of the verse cited, we can understand what the Berdicheve Rebbi is saying, because even if man abandons G-d, G-d never abandons man.  Since G-d is always with us, let us take advantage of this special relationship.

(Sefer- Living Each Week Rabbi Abraham Twerski M.D.)   

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!   

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news Pesach april 29-30

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"היום אתם יוצאים בחדש האביב"

"TODAY YOU ARE GOING FORTH IN THE MONTH OF AVIV (SPRING) (Shmos 13:4)"

The Jewish people suffered unimaginable horrors in Egypt. When the Almighty freed them from bondage, the Jewish people must have felt an overwhelming sense of ecstasy. Do you think it would make a difference to them if they left in bad weather? Imagine concentration camp inmates being liberated by Allied Forces. Would it make an iota of difference to them if the weather was less than favorable? Would they have minded walking through a snowfall to their freedom? To our Father in heaven it did make a difference. G-d wanted to show how much he loved the Jewish people and that even though he performed so many miracles for them, he wanted the Jewish people to leave when the weather was beautiful. As Rashi says, “See the kindness He has done for you, that He brought you forth in a month when it is not too hot or too cold or too rainy.” Could the Jewish people, inundated by this enormous deluge of kindness from G-d, focus on and appreciate this extra "bonus" the Almighty bestowed upon them?  From Rashi, we see the amazing capacity that man has to recognize and feel gratitude. Even in the midst of the most glorious redemption in history, every Jew possessed a measuring apparatus so delicately calibrated that it registered every detail of G-d's kindness. This amazing ability and the resultant responsibility to show gratitude is shared by every person in every generation. If we simply spend a few moments every day contemplating the unending flow of goodness bestowed upon us by G-d, our lives would be transformed. Pesach is a time of Hakoras Hatov, of recognizing the good G-d does not only for our nation as a whole, but for all of us as individuals as well.

 (Sefer - Majesty of Man, Hagaon Rav Henach Leibowitz Z"L (My Rebbe) )

 

Have a sweet and Inspiring Pesach!

 

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Pesach Shmooze News 

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החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים

“This month shall be unto you the beginning

of the months (of the year)” – Sh’mos 12:2

 

The Talmud interprets the word לכם (unto you) as meaning that the Sanhedrin (Great Rabbinical Court) has the authority to establish and regulate the calendar, to vary the length of the months or declare an extra month to make a leap year as it sees fit.  Some commentators interpret “unto you” to mean that this mitzvah gives man mastery over time.  This concept has never been as relevant as in our era: Man’s technological genius has had interesting consequences.  On the one hand, we have more time-saving devices than ever before, such as jet aircraft, instant foods, microwave cooking, email, instant messaging and smart phones, etc. But rather than man becoming master over time, he has actually become its slave.  The ability to get things done fast has resulted in the expectation that everything should have been done yesterday, and the pressure to get things done fast has greatly increased.  Many people fall into the category of “type A personality” which describes the person who is dominated by time, deadlines and exacting schedules.  This enslavement by time may well be the single greatest factor in the increase of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.  There is, obviosly, great significance in the fact that the very first mitzvah given to the Jewish people at the time of their emancipation was to be masters over time.  There are many things that we do in the interest of time rather than truly in our own best interest.  We may take risks in traffic to save seconds which are really not that important, we may stress ourselves in running to catch elevators or buses, and we may push ourselves more than our bodies can tolerate.  A person, if not careful, may be guilty of selling himself into slavery by the ring of every email.  While some constraints of time are unavoidable, we often allow ourselves to be unnecessarily dominated by time.  Therefore, the mitzvah of establishing a calendar or regulating your time should be לכם, for your own best interest.

(Sefer - Living each week Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski)

 

Have a sweet and Kosher Pesach!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news april 16, 2016

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Parshas Metzora – Shabbos HaGadol

When a person thinks they are afflicted with tzaraas it is the Kohen who must diagnose the symptoms and render a verdict as to whether the person is tamei or not. The mishna states in Nega’im 2:5 that a Kohen is permitted to examine anyone’s affliction except his own. If he gets a nega he must go to another Kohen to be evaluated. This is predicated on the verse 14:2 “He shall be brought to the Kohen”, which infers that a Kohen cannot examine his own nega. This mishna is the source for the common expression that a person never sees his own shortcomings! We have sharp eyes when it comes to seeing the faults of others. Yet, many times we are blind to our own imperfections and mistakes. However, there is another side to the coin that sometimes can be even more damaging. And that is when a person doesn’t see their strengths and talents as well. Every person is endowed by G-D with certain abilities and skills. The yetzer hara will often downplay and negate the person’s true potential and only highlight his shortcomings and sins. This will lead a person to sadness, depression and G-D forbid a sense of worthlessness. Rabbeinu Yona writes that the 1st step in a process of teshuva (repentance) is that a person must recognize his self-worth and talents. This is not a contradiction to humility. It just means that a person recognizes his G-D given capabilities which will enable him  to reach his full potential in using those skills on behalf of the Jewish people. May The Almighty bless us with the insight to realize the great treasure which resides in all of us.

Sefer- Shabbos with Rav Pam

Have a great and inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news april 9, 2016

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Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan – Parshas Hachodesh

אדם כי יהיה בעור בשרו שאת או ספחת או בהרת והיה בעור בשרו

לנגע צרעת...

“If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a S’eis or a sapachas or a baheres and it will become a tzaraas affliction on the skin of his flesh…” Vayikra 3:2

 

Rav Shlomo Ganzfried, author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, notes that the Torah usually describes a person as an “ish”.  Why over here does the Torah describe a person afflicted with a nega, (a skin disease that is a manifestation of a spiritual malady) as an Adam?  The term Adam is rarely used in the Torah.  Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai (Rashbi) once said, “You (Jewish people) are called Adam but idolaters are not called Adam.”  What did the Rashbi mean? Is he of the opinion that idol worshippers are subhuman?  It was known as the trial of the century, “Mendel Beilis was tried for killing a Christian child to use his blood for Passover.”  The lawyer for Mendel Beilis was concerned that the prosecutor might use this statement to show that Jews are supremacists, who think that members of other religions are subhuman and may be murdered.  The lawyer visited one of the great Chassidic leaders of the time, the Chortkover Rebbe, and asked him, “what should I do if the prosecution brings up this statement made in the Talmud by Rav Shimon Ben Yochai?”  “Tell the court,” said the Rebbe, “that if a Frenchman or an Italian were on trial, would all their countrymen protest with a great outcry and pray for his safety or would they go about their business as usual?”  The Jewish people are unique in this regard – one Jew is arrested and put on trial, and Jews world-wide are concerned for his safety and will not rest till he is vindicated.  This is what Rav Shimon meant.  The term Adam has no plural form, as opposed to all other words to describe a person, which can be used in plural form.  The term Adam is an apt description of the Jewish people because we are united so we can be described as one person.  Rav Ganzfried uses the same reasoning to explain the use of Adam in our Parsha of tzaraas.  Our sages teach us that people were usually afflicted with tzaraas for the sin of lashon hara.  The Torah wants a person stricken with tzaraas to realize why he was afflicted with this disease. “Adam,” the Torah tells the slanderer, “you should have realized that the Jewish people are considered one Adam, one nation, indivisible, no matter how spread out we may be.  You tried to cause divisiveness in the Jewish nation by lashon hara, so you were stricken with tzaraas. You must go outside the camp, be alone with yourself and repent and think about the seriousness of your crime and be a catalyst for shalom not machlokes.”

Sefer: Rabbi Frand on Parsha

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news april 2, 201

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Mevarchim Chodesh Nissan – Parshas Parah

 

וכל כלי חרש אשר יפול מהם אל תוכו כל אשר בתוכו יטמא ואתו תשברו

“All Earthen Vessels into which something contaminated falls, all that is within it shall be unclean, and it must be destroyed.” Vayikra (11:33)

 

The Halacha is that vessels made of wood and metal can become unclean if some contaminated item touches them externally, but an earthen vessel is considered unclean only if the contaminated item is inside the vessel but not by external contact.  The Kotzker Rebbe explained this philosophically as follows: only something of value can become contaminated.  Since wood and metal have an intrinsic value, any contact with tumah (impurity) can contaminate them.  However, earthenware has no intrinsic value, its value is solely the fact that it can be a receptacle to hold something from within.  Therefore, the state of contamination can only come from within the vessel which is its point of value.  This law contains within it a moral lesson as well.  G-d created man from the dust of the earth and as with any earthen item, man’s worth is within himself and not his externals.  The common expression of how much is he worth is antithetical to the Torah’s viewpoint of  what the true value of a person is.  Our society unfortunately values more what a person has than what he is.  A person’s true worth is dependent on his character traits and on what he achieves spiritually in life rather than on his external acquisitions, be it fame or fortune.  When the external acquisitions are used for the right purposes to enhance the values that we have developed internally, if it’s used to further the Torah’s definition of moral decency and integrity, to enhance true Jewish ideals, then you have the best of both worlds. Then the inside and the outside of a person are truly holy and worthy of G-d’s manifold blessings.

Sefer. Living Each Week

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

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If he shall offer it for a thanksgiving offering

Vayikra 7:12

 

Today, since our holy temple is not here, instead of an offering of gratitude, the person recites a special bracha of thanksgiving to G-d in the presence of a minyan which is called brachos hagomel. Expressing thank you to G-d is a central theme in Judaism. The first words we say in the morning are Modeh Ani – I thank you, G-d – in which we express our gratitude for living another day. Our prayers and brachos abound with expressions of gratitude to show our awareness of how all the blessings of life come from Him. Some people have difficulty expressing gratitude towards other people who are their benefactors. This is because acknowledging one’s gratitude is often perceived as indicating one’s dependence on others. The hesitancy toward expressing gratitude because of its relationship to dependency is based on low self-esteem. A person with a healthy sense of self-esteem is not threatened by feelings of dependence, and does not see dependence as demeaning. If anything, his ability to expressively thank people and of course G-d is a sign of humility and the realization that we are dependent on others for much of our needs.By cultivating this trait of hakoras hatov to recognize and acknowledge the acts of kindness that G-d Almighty does for us each and every day, by being effusive in our praise and thanks for what family and friends do for us. This will in the end only help to make us much happier and more beloved human beings to our family friends and community

Sefer: Twerski on Chumash

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!   

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news march 12, 2016

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אלה פקודי המשכן משכן העדת

These are the reckonings of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of Testimony 38:21

 

Why is the word “Tabernacle” stated twice? Rashi answers with a play on the word mishkan which can also mean “collateral”. This is an allusion to the temple, which was taken as collateral twice, when the two temples were destroyed because of the sins of Israel. The question arises: if the destruction of the temple is compared to the taking of collateral for our transgressions, why does G-d not return the pledge to us, especially since we long and yearn for it so much? Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld of blessed memory explains as follows. There is a law in the Torah that requires the lender to return a security taken for a loan when the borrower is poor and is in need of the pledged object. For example, if the collateral is a blanket and the borrower has no other blanket, then the lender must return the blanket each night to the borrower. However, if the poor man has another blanket, then the lender does not return the blanket till the debt is paid. You know why, says Rav Chaim,  G-d does not return our collateral (the Holy Temple) that he has taken from us? Because most Jews are very comfortable with their lives in the exile.They have wealth, comfort and prestige. They are quite satisfied with their present situation and do not feel the urgent need for the return of our Beis Hamikdash. However, when times of tragedy and pain are upon us, when Jews are indiscriminately killed and wounded in the streets of Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv and other places in Israel, then we do feel the urgency for G-d’s presence to rest upon us and rebuild His home in Yerushalayim. So the message of this Rashi with Rav Chaim’s interpretation is that we should not wait for tragedy to strike in order for us to realize that this exile is not comfortable and we are not content to be in this situation. But rather even in the “good times” to constantly yearn for the redemption and the coming of Moshiach – may he arrive speedily in our days. (Sefer: Chochmas Chaim)

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news march 5, 2016

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Mevarchim Chodesh Adar II

 Rosh Chodesh, Thursday-Friday

לא תבערו אש בכל מושבותיכם ביום השבת

You shall not kindle a fire in all your dwellings on the Shabbos Day” (35:3)

The Shelah Hakadosh, in a departure from the plain meaning of the verse says that “fire” here refers to the fire of (machlokes- heated strife) while machlokes is always destructive.  It is especially true on Shabbos, since it is such a holy and sanctified day.  On this note let me share with you some advice on how to avoid strife and acrimony.  Rav Moshe Solovetchic of Zurich, Switzerland, was one of the giants of Torah in the 20th century.  One day a couple approached him who were having difficulties with Shalom Bayis.  They were at odds over a certain issue and neither party wanted to give in.  Said, Rav Solovetchik, the Torah tells us that the name Yisroel, which was given to Yaakov following his struggle with the angel of Esau,  indicates his triumph over the divine, (i.e. the angel), and man, Rashi says man is referring to Lavan & Esav. Asks Rav Solovetchik -- true Yaakov did triumph over Lavan, but could Yaakov’s encounter with Esav be called a triumph?  He was forced to give many gifts and bow seven times in apparent submission to Esav.  How is that a triumph?  The answer is,  said the great Rav we have a misconception of the true meaning of nitzachon, “victory”.  To be victorious, one does not have to win.  The definition of victorious is to accomplish one’s goals.  Yaakov, our patriarch, had one clear goal; he wanted to devote his life to G-d, far away from evil influences, thereby insuring that his offspring be worthy of producing generations who would become G-d’s chosen people and receive the Torah. To accomplish this goal, it was necessary to placate and appease Esav and if giving him an enormous gift and bowing down to him will help Yaakov to achieve his goal, then so be it.  For in the end by giving in he was able to achieve victory.

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze new february 27, 2016

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ה" ה" קל רחום וחנון ארך אפים ורב חסד ואמת נשא עון ופשע וחטאה ונקה

Hashem, Hashem, G-d compassionate & gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in kindness and truth – Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations - Forgiver of iniquity, willful sin and error.

 

These are the 13 divine attributes of mercy that G-d revealed to Moshe Rabeinu.  The Talmud states, “whenever Israel sins, let them perform before Me this order and I shall forgive them.”  According to the commentators, this does not mean to just recite the 13 attributes, it means to live by them.  The Baal Shem Tov said that this is the meaning of the verse in Psalms 121:5, “G-d is your shadow”, just as one’s shadow mimics one’s every move, so does G-d reciprocate in kind.  If a person is magnanimous and readily forgives personal offenses, then G-d will forgive that person as well.  The Talmud states that Jerusalem was destroyed (Bav Metzia 30B), because when the people went to court they demanded the letter of the law.  The question arises, if they followed the clear letter of the law why should they be punished.  The answer is because they refuse to yield and be magnanimous.  They insisted on getting everything that the law entitles them to receiveTherefore, G-d in turn judged us measure for measure and exercised the letter of the law against us, and refused to yield.  We may think that when we forgive an offense we are being charitable to the offender, the fact is we are being kind and charitable to ourselves.

 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news february 20, 2016

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Shabbaton with Rabbi J J Schacter

Special Guest Baal Tefillah Sruli Williger

The Midrash states that the special clothing of the high priest symbolized divine forgiveness for various sins, and the tzitz (forehead plate) symbolized forgiveness for brazenness or chutzpah.  The ethical works teach us that every character trait a person possesses can have both desirable and undesirable applications, and a trait can be good or evil depending on how it is applied.  Therefore, while chutzpah is generally an undesirable trait, it can be constructive, as when a person refuses to yield his morality in the face of tremendous social and peer pressures.  For example, in the first paragraph of the Shulchan Aruch, it is stated that a person must observe the rituals of worship even if others make fun or mock him.  This is a constructive application of chutzpah.  Someone who is easily angered should direct his anger towards evil in the world.  Someone who is very proud should take pride in being the bearer of a divine soul and be too proud to do anything dishonest or amoral which is beneath his dignity.  One who is by nature stubborn and obstinate should apply this chutzpah and be stubborn when subjected to pressures that would compromise his ethical standards.  We live today in such a hostile environment of anti-Semitism it is the chutzpah of the Jew which allows him not to yield to the forces of assimilation.  The point is that every character trait we have, even the negative ones, can be used to sanctify G-d’s name. The choice is ours!

Sefer: living each week

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news february 13, 2016

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שמן למאור בשמים לשמן המשחה ולקטורת הסמים

“Spices for the anointing oil and for the spice-incense” Shmos 25:6

 

The Talmud (Yoma 38A) tells us that two items used in the holy temple were prepared by a secret method. The house of Garmu possessed the secret for the making of the lechem hapanim (showbread) and the house of Autinas made the ketores (incense). When these families refused to reveal their secrets, the rabbis hired craftsmen and bakers from Alexandria, Egypt to duplicate the secret processes. These experts were unsuccessful and the rabbis were forced to reinstate the two families. The Talmud explains that when Ben Azai heard what happened that they had to reinstate the families which they fired he said the following: “A person will be called by the name he deserves, seated in the position destined for him, and sustained with the livelihood designated for him.” The rabbis could not dislodge two families from their positions because that was the livelihood G-d had set aside for them. Why was Ben Azai so inspired by the story of these families? They possessed a trade secret that they shrewdly guarded from any outsider, and the process was complicated so that experts could notduplicate it. Where did Ben Azai see such convincing evidence of G-d’s protection of one’s livelihood? The answer is that the power exerted by the rabbis to extract the secret was a force greater than any other possessed by man. When the sages act on behalf of the Jewish people, they can even silence the Heavenly angels. A case in point is when Rosh Hashana falls out on Shabbos. The halacha is that in such a case the shofar is not blown. The Talmud tells us (Rosh Hashana 16B) that the purpose of the shofar is to confuse satan (accusing angel) and prevent him from prosecuting against the Jewish people, but if you don’t blow shofar when Rosh Hashana falls out on Shabbos, the satan will have a field day against the Jewish people! Tosafos explains that when the sages legislate a prohibition on blowing shofar on Shabbos, they have the ability to decree that the satan can not prosecute against the Jewish people. This is how powerful the sages are, yet Ben Azai saw that even the incredible force of the rabbis could not budge the two families from their position. So we see that what is destined by Heaven for a person to have, whether it’s position, honor, or livelihood, it will remain his, despite all the powers in the universe. (Sefer-Majesty of man-  My Rebbe HaGaon HaRav Henech Leibowitz z”l)

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news february 6, 2016

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Mevarchim Chodesh Adar I [Tuesday-Wednesday]

ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם

The Ramban writes that the laws of this Parshah, which deal with monetary and social matters, were taught immediately following the giving of the Torah on Har Sinai. Why was this so? Explains Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l, the Torah is teaching us that following the Torah’s laws on money matters is a declaration of Emunah-faith in G-d, and transgressing them is a form of kefirah, a denial of G-d’s existence. For if a Jew truly believes that all his money and possessions come from the Almighty and that same G-d who gave all this to him can take it back, he will never be tempted to take even a penny that’s not rightfully his. The Talmud teaches us (Shabbos 31A) that after 120 years when a person will stand in front of the heavenly court he is asked six questions. The first question is did you conduct your business dealings with Emunah, which in this context means faithfully and with integrity. However, the word Emunah also means faith in G-d. Meaning did your behavior with money reflect the notion that you believe in a G-d who has decreed how much money you are supposed to earn and that you will not gain a penny more than whatever G-d decreed. When a Jew lives life with thisphilosophy, it turns their business into a holy endeavor which will not only reap great reward in this world, but one which will shine in the world to come as well. In a generation where thievery, chicanery and shtikary (made up word) are so rampant, those who stand strong and conduct themselves with honesty and integrity create a massive Kiddush hashem, which, we hope and pray, will be the merit we need to bring the redemption and moshiach tzidkenu – speedily in our days! (Sefer: Living the Parsha)

 Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

 

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze News january 30, 2016

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One of the Ten Commandments in this week’s parasha is לא תגנוב “you shall not steal.” Rashi explains that the prohibition here is referring to kidnapping, not the general prohibition of thievery found later on in Parashas Kedoshim. However, let us take this opportunity to talk about aspects of stealing that people might not realize is a problem. For instance, the Talmud (Bava Metzia 61b) says that it is forbidden to steal even if it’s just to tease or annoy someone. For instance, Sammy forgot his wallet on the table in Shul. As he goes to get something from the coatroom, Abe sees this as an opportunity to have some fun. He picks up the wallet and puts it in his pocket and then sits down to watch the fun when Sammy returns. This would be a Torah violation of thievery. Or how about when you want to teach someone a lesson. Sammy is very careless with his belongings, so his friends take the watch or car keys that Sammy absentmindedly left lying around and hide it for a short while to teach Sammy a beneficial lesson to be more responsible. This, too, is not allowed for the ends do not justify the means. The last example we are going to give is quite common. Zaide or Grandpa is babysitting for his three-year-old grandchild who is playing with a toy. Suddenly, Zaide grabs the toy and the toddler wants to take it back but then Zaide switches it to his other

This goes on for a few more minutes until the child starts crying and Zaide gives it back to him. This, too, is considered stealing, at least rabbinically – biblically according to some. In the secular world, stealing means taking a wallet from someone. A Torah Jew, however, has a different perspective – stealing has many levels and connotations besides the literal one. This is because we are a holy nation, a people chosen to show the world what a G-dly person looks like. May we hope and pray to live up to the standards that G‑d and his Torah demand of us, and therefore be a walking sanctification to His Name.

Sefer: Noam Avraham

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news January 23, 2016

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Shabbos Shira

Shabbaton with Rabbi Elazar Muskin

מי כמוך באלים ה'

“Who is like you among the heavenly powers, G-d?” Shmos 15:11

The Talmud presents a homiletical interpretation of the verse altering the word אלים (heavenly powers) into אלם (mute-silent). Sometimes G-d shows His might through His remarkable forbearance.  Even in the face of the most vile acts of vitriolic hatred against the Jewish people, sometimes G-d remains silent.  Although this may be true, what does that have to do with the song of the sea, the drowning of the Egyptians in the red sea was an example of G-d’s fury against our enemies not his forbearance?.  The answer is that by seeing this act of unrestrained wrath against the Egyptian people they realized and understood in retrospect the full extent of G-d’s restraint, that for two hundred and ten years G-d waited and He showed the Egyptians tremendous forbearance hoping that maybe they would repent, but that was not to be.  Therefore, in the end the greatest sign of G-d’s power is in His ability to hold back, and not inflict the punishment upon a nation that it truly deserves.  This is also a great lesson for us in life,that sometimes the greatest strength lies not in what we say or do but in holding ourselves back from what we would like to say or do to someone who has caused us great pain. 

(Sefer-Chochmas Chaim)      

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news january 16, 2016

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והיה לאות על ידכה ולטוטפות בין עיניך כי 

בחוזק יד הוציאנו ה" ממצרים

“And it shall be a sign upon your arm and an ornament between your eyes, for with a strong hand G-d removed us from Egypt.” Shmos (13:16)

The great Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, once saw a simple Jew accidently drop his Teffilin on the ground.  The man immediately picked it up, carefully wiping off the dirt.  He then lovingly kissed the Teffilin and put them back in their bag.  The Berditchever Rebbi lifted his eyes to heaven and in his inimitable fashion said to G-d, “Master of the world look down from heaven and see how a simple Jew honors and cherishes your Teffilin.  Why don’t You too lift up your downtrodden Teffilin, your nation of Israel about whom it is written, 'And who is like, your people Israel, a unique nation on earth-- they have been laying on the ground in disgrace and shame for  2,000 years.  G-d why don’t You pick them up and hug them and kiss them.  Remove the mud and grime of sin that has accumulated upon them after so many centuries in exile.  Why, G-d should Your Teffillin (the Jewish people) be treated worse than the Teffillin of your people. Parshas Bo describes the exodus from Egypt, the Paschal offering and, among many other things, the Mitzvah of Teffilin. ‘” May we soon experience the great day when G-d will fulfill the request of the Berditchever Rebbi by picking up his Teffillin and redeeming His people from this long and tragic exile.  May it happen speedily in our days.

(Sefer- Emrei Kohen)      

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news january 9, 2016

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Mevarchim Chodesh Shevat – Monday

NCSY Shabbaton

Pharaoh hastened to summon Moshe and Aharon and he said, “I have sinned to Hashem, your G-d, and to you. And now, please forgive my sin just this time, and entreat Hashem, your G-d, that He remove from me only this death.” Shmos (10:16-17)

Pharaoh’s repentance seems to be so sincere, so powerful, yet in the end he behaves no differently than by any of the other makos and does not allow the Jewish people to leave.  How foolish can one person be to deny the obvious and keep on receiving these painful plagues.  Certainly, we would think none of us could identify with Pharaoh’s behavior.  However, anyone who has any experience with alcoholics and drug addicts understand this behavior very well.  The truth is this behavior can apply to anyone even if one is not an addict, because being in denial is a universal problem, which can lead to very destructive behavior patterns.  The only way to overcome it is to be open to the truth and consider the possibility that we are wrong.  We should share our feelings with someone who has wisdom and experience and be willing to be guided by competent counsel.   When a person opens themselves up to the truth, only then can the healing and rehabilitation process begin.

(Sefer-Living Each Week)   

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news january 2, 2016

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ויקם מלך חדש על מצרים אשר לא ידע את יוסף

A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Yosef Shmos (1:8)

 

The Talmud Sotah 11A mentions the disagreement between Rav and Shmuel about this verse.  One says there was actually a new Egyptian king appointed.  The other holds it was the same king who had ruled during the life time of Yosef but who now issued a new set of decrees turning his back on Yosef.  According to the opinion that it was an old administration with a new policy, this is a classic example of a lesson that expresses itself again and again throughout Jewish history.  Jews should not place their trust in the goodwill of the nations of the world.  This is clearly seen in the behavior of Pharaoh, who had been so gracious and generous to the Jewish people but then violently turned against them despite the fact that Egypt owed their entire existence to Yosef.  We also find in Jewish history during the period before the destruction of the firstTemple, the Jewish nation put their trust and hope in an alliance with its friend and neighbor at the time, Egypt.  The Prophet Yirmiyahu (2:37) warned his people that this would lead to disaster, but the people did not listen and this eventually led to destruction of the 1st Temple.  In the beginning of their 20th century years before the rise of Hitler and his Nazi party, Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsik wrote prophetically in his great commentary on Chumash, (Meshech Chochma) about “Those German Jews who say that their Berlin is Jerusalem.”  They were enamored with the culture, science and poetry of their fellow Germans and felt very comfortable in the Father- Land.  They were confident that the warm reception and generous hospitality found in Germany would last forever.  Rav Meir Simcha warned that this is dangerous thinking.  The violent backlash of the holocaust followed a few decades later.  History constantly repeats itself with variations in the cast of characters and localities.  Although we are thankful to G-d for allowing us to live in a “Medinah Shel Chessed” benevolent country like America.  We still must not lose sight of this important lesson in Jewish history.  We hope the day will come very soon that we will not have to rely on the nations of the world but rather we will stand tall and proud, as our redemption finally arrives may that time come speedily in our days. (Sefer: Emrei Kohen)

Wishing you inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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ועתה שא נא לפשע עבדי אלוקי אביך ויבך יוסף בדברם אליו

So now please forgive the spiteful deeds of the servants of your father's   G-d.  And Yosef cried when they spoke to him.”     Bereishis 50:17

 

When Yaakov passed away, the brothers appealed to Yosef to forgive them for the years of misery and suffering they had caused him.  Their plea stressed the word ועתה (so now) which meant to convey that after Yaakov’s death there was an added reason for Yosef to forgive them.  After a father’s passing, the children should look for ways to honor his memory and earn him continued merit in the world of truth.  The brothers appeared to Yosef not to take revenge on them, which would tear apart the unity of the family and cause Yaakov great pain in the world of truth.  People would say that as great as Yaakov was, He failed to educate his children to live in peace and harmony with one another.  The bitter feelings that were hidden under the surface when he was alive erupted into open hatred upon his death.  What could be a bigger disgrace to the memory of Yaakov then that?  When Yosef heard this he burst into tears that the brothers could suspect him of such a thing.  There is a great lesson here for all of us.  When a parent passes away the children look for ways to do things נשׁמתו לעלוי (to elevate the soul).  They plan a Siyum or donate Sefarim to the local Shul or Yeshiva, maybe start a Gemach (free loan fund) and so on.  All these are wonderful ways to bring a parent spiritual merit in the next world.  Yet the greatest respect and Nachas children can give a parent after they are gone is to live in peace and harmony among themselves.  That is the greatest Aliyas Neshama for them, for it is a testimony to the fact that the parents raised children who are true “Mentchin” which is the greatest accolade a person can aspire to.

 

(Sefer- Emrei Cohen, Rav Avrahom Pam Zt”L) 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news december 19, 2015

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Scholar-in-Residence, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

אני יוסף

“I am Yosef” Bereishis 45:3

The Chofetz Chaim notes how Yosef’s brothers could not figure out what the Egyptian viceroy wanted from them and why he acted so strangely, sometimes with undue harshness and other times benevolently.  Nevertheless, once he said those words, יוסף  אני,  I am Yosef, everything became crystal clear.  All the pieces of the “puzzle” suddenly fit perfectly and they had no more questions.  So too, concludes the Chofetz Chaim, the Jewish people endured so much personal and communal suffering in their two-thousand-year exile.  Yet, when the great day will come with the coming of Moshiach, G-d will say ‘'   אני ’, “I am Hashem”, all the questions of History will be answered and mankind will acknowledge that everything was with an exact calculation administered by a just and loving G-d.  May we all merit to see this day come to fruition, speedily in our time.

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news december 12, 2015

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Shabbos Chanukah / Rosh Chodesh Teves

Sunday, Second Day Rosh Chodesh

ויען יוסף את פרעה לאמר בלעדי אלקים יענה את שלום פרעה

“Yosef Answered Pharaoh saying, it is beyond me; it is G-d who will respond to Pharaoh’s welfare.” Bereishis 41:16

 The Torah is telling us that before Yosef answered Pharaoh’s question about his dream, he asserted that he deserved no credit for giving an interpretation.  “It is beyond me (said Yosef), it is G-d who will respond to Paraoh’s welfare”.  The Midrash comments that he gave credit to the true master.  It has always been the practice of righteous Jews not to attribute their accomplishments to themselves.  This behavior is found in the miracle of Chanukah itself.  The Chashmonaim are portrayed as mighty warriors who fearlessly fought the Syrian Greek armies and led the Jewish people to victory.  They displayed great courage and heroism.  Yet in the wording of the Al Hanisim prayer a different picture emerges. חלשים ביד גבורים מסרת You G-d delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak. Chashmonaim openly admitted that they were weak people, Kohanim who weren’t experienced in the ways of war.  Their great heroics are downplayed by the phrase, you delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak.  The righteous Chashmonaim honestly gave credit where it was due -- to G-d.  It was not their strength or mighty tactics that brought about victory but it was the hand of G-d that orchestrated the miracle; they were merely the players chosen to bring about the salvation of the Jewish people.  This idea is also mentioned in the words of Zechariah, the prophet in the Haftorah for Shabbos Chanukah: “Not through armies and not through might, but through my spirit, says G-d master of legions.”

(Sefer- Ateres Avraham, rav Avraham Pam ZT”L) 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos, and Happy Chanukah!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news december 5, 2015

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Shabbos Mevorchim; Rosh Chodesh Teves, Saturday-Sunday

Chanukat Habayit Celebration Sunday, Erev Chanukah, December 6, 2015; Mincha 3:45, followed by festivities

Youth Program for all ages on second floor, starting at 4 PM

תבקש מה לאמר האיש וישאלו

“The man asked him, saying, what is it that you seek?” Bereishis 37:15

The word לאמר, which is usually translated as “saying”, is more correctly translated as “to say”, meaning the person is to repeat the communication.  How does this interpretation fit into the above verse, which would then read, “A man asked him to say “what is it that you seek?” The Kotzker Rebbi cites the Midrash that the “man” whom Yosef spoke to was the Angel Gabriel.  The series of events that were to follow  -- Yosef being sold into slavery by his brothers; being tempted by a seductress; being unjustly imprisoned in a dungeon; and finally becoming viceroy of the Egyptian empire -- would be enough to bring out the absolute worst in a person.  These events could have easily elicited hatred, rebellion against G-d, lust, resentment and vanity.  Gabriel provided Yosef with a principle that would enable him to maintain his spirituality and not be corrupted by these challenges. The magic formula was for him to constantly ask himself “what is it that I seek?”  When a person has a singlemindedness of purpose, he is unlikely to be distracted or deterred from pursuing his goal  even by major upsets.  Incidents that can produce moral degeneracy are less likely to affect a person who has a clearly defined a purpose in life and is dedicated toward fulfillment of that purpose.  If we find ourselves responding to the trials of life with less than desirable character traits, we might ask ourselves, do we have a specific goal in our lives or perhaps we are drifting rather than steering.  The Angels advice to Yosef is one we should heed ourselves, again and again what is it that we seek?  The proper answer to this repetitious question should determine not only the course of our lives, but also our reactions to various challenges to our spirituality.

(Sefer: Living Each Week Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski)

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news november 28, 2015

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על כן לא יאכלו בני ישראל את גיד הנשה על כף 

הירך עד היום הזה כי נגע בכף ירך יעקב ביד הנשה

“Therefore, the children of Israel are not to eat the discarded sinew on the hip socket to this day, because he struck Yaakov’s hip-pocket on the displaced sinew.”  Bereishis 32:33

This verse is the source in the Torah for the Biblical prohibition of eating the Gid Hanasheh, the sciatic nerve, which branches out from the area of the spinal column of an animal and runs down the inner side of its leg.  The Sefer Hachinuch in Mitzvah #3 explains the rationale and lesson behind this Mitzvah.  He says at the root of this Mitzvah is the guarantee that, even though the Jewish people will suffer much persecution and anguish in exile at the hands of the descendants of Esav,  the Jewish people will not perish.  Their progeny and name will endure forever and eventually they will build themselves up despite all the adversity in becoming a great nation.  And just as G-d saved Yaakov from the angel of Esav so too  will He save us from the hands of all our oppressors till Moshiach comes and redeems us.  The words of the Sefer Hachinuch were written seven centuries ago.  They offer some small comfort to the post- Holocaust generation whose parents and grandparents unfortunately came into contact with the angel of Esav in the guise of the Nazis who snuffed out the lives of six million of our brothers and sisters. When the war ended things looked very bleak for the Jewish people.  Some people entered the gas chambers saying “Mir Vellen Zir Ibberleben” -- “We will outlive them” (the Nazis) --  and wondering indeed if that ever will happen.  But the lesson of the Gid Hanasheh has been realized and the Jewish world has built itself up in a miraculous fashion.  However, the enemies of the Jewish people never rest and Yishmael has taken over from Esav and has reared its ugly head to perpetuate terrible atrocities against the Jewish people and humanity at large.  What the future holds is difficult to foretell, but one thing is for sure in the end, Am Yisroel will not only survive but we will flourish.  Make no mistake, the day will arrive, may it come soon when Moshiach will redeem his people and bring us the ultimate shalom we so longingly wait for. אמן בימינו במהרה

(Sefer: Emrei-Kohen)

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

 

shmooze news november 21, 2015

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AIPAC Shabbos, Welcome Ed Miller, AIPAC National Deputy Director

חרנה וילך שבע מבאר יעקב ויצא

 “And Yaakov went out from Be’er Sheva and he went toward Charan”. Bereishis 28:10

Rashi notes the Torah’s emphasis upon Yaakov’s departure.  He explains that a Tzaddik’s departure from a community creates a noticeable impact, for he is the glory, splendor and crown of a community.  The question is why do we emphasize the Tzaddik’s positive influence upon a community only after he has left?  Doesn’t his stay within the community also create glory and splendor?  The answer is the Torah is telling us an unfortunate truth in life.  When the righteous person is in our midst we don’t really appreciate him, and that’s true of all the important things in life.  When our fathers, mothers, spouse, children are with us we don’t necessarily appreciate them and their wonderful qualities.  It’s only, G-d forbid, if they leave do we begin to appreciate what they meant to us.This is true of all the blessings of life; while they are with us we take them for granted, but when they are gone we realize how fortunate we truly were.  By recognizing and appreciating all the good people who are in our life now, by reveling in the blessings that we have now and not waiting till they disappear, only then will a person find real contentment and satisfaction.     

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news november 14, 2015

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וישטם עשיו את יעקב על הברכה אשר ברכו אביו

“And Eisav hated Yaakov because of the blessing with which his father blessed him.” Bereishis  (27:41)

 

This verse needs some elucidation. The verse should read that Eisav hated Yaakov because he stole the blessings from him, but it doesn’t say that.  Rather it seems Eisav hated Yaakov because of the blessings Yaakov received.  We will resolve this with another question: why is it (in days gone by) if a Rabbi would declare an animal to be treif, the butcher did not raise his voice or show contempt for the Rabbi.  He just followed the Rabbi’s decision and absorbed the loss.  By contrast if the same butcher had a business dispute and the Rabbis verdict was that the butcher owed the money (even if the sum was much less than losing an ox) he will be upset, he will accuse the Rabbi of being unfair and might not abide by the Rabbi’s ruling.  The answer is when the Rabbi says the animal is treif, the butcher loses but nobody else wins.  By contrast, in the monetary dispute, what makes him unhappy is not the fact that he lost the  case, but because the other guy won.  This same idea applies to our situation with Eisav.  Eisav hated Yaakov not so much because he took away his blessings but rather it’s because he lost and Yaakov won for he received the brachos instead.  Therefore it was the jealousy and envy that was eating up Eisav and making his life miserable.  Jealousy is a cancer which slowly robs a person of his simchas hachayim (happiness in life).  It’s a shame to allow other people to live in our minds rent free.  With faith in G-d and a change of attitude a person can free himself from the agony of envy and instead of living with the attitude of Eisav and be miserable we can choose to live like a Yaakov and revel in a life of simcha.      

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news november 5, 2015

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Mevorchim Chodesh Kislev;

Rosh Chodesh is Thursday and Friday

ותאמר שתה אדוני ותמהר ותירד כדה על ידה ותשקהו

She said “drink, my Lord and she hastened and let down her pitcher upon her hand and gave him to drink”.

          A young girl gives a thirsty man to drink and helps water his camels.  This is hardly an earth-shaking event, but it determined the course of Rebecca’s life and made her a Matriarch of Israel.  We often minimize the small things in life, but it’s the small things in life that color who we are.  Sometimes we become bored with what we perceive as trivial aspects of life but many of these so called trivial things can make a life or break a life.  A good word, a smile, can change the day of another human being; that is not a small thing – that is huge. We tend to forget that life is not filled with firework displays; very often the only that shines outdoors are street lights, rather boring but very vital if you want to walk at night.  Our job in life is to do what’s right.  How much impact any given act will have is difficult to evaluate, but that is out of our hands.  However, one thing is for sure-- little acts do count.  A young girl gives a thirsty man to drink and changes the course of history. 

Sefer: Tewersky on Chumash

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news october 31, 2015

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שהחיינו וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה

We thank G-d that he has sustained us to reach this moment in time, as we enter our new beautiful edifice. Mazel Tov to the entire congregation and community on this momentous and auspicious occasion as we begin our first Shabbos in our new Shul. We say thank you to all those who invested countless hours, together with blood, sweat and tears to bring us to this moment. First and foremost we say thank you to Jack Gluck for his tremendous Mesirus Nefesh – self-sacrifice and devotion to our Shul -- and bringing us to where we are today; our Hakaras Hatov (gratitude) to you knows no bounds. To Israel Kopel and Joey Senker, who were there day in and day out, they were and are the “hands on” go to people of this magnificent project; we cannot thank you enough. A tremendous Yasher Koach to Menno Ratzker who was constantly involved in every aspect of this project, and his advice and expertise were crucial for our success. Also, Morris Kaplan, our past president who gave so much of his expertise and time at the beginning of this project.  And, of course, our current president Aaron Weinberg, who with selfless devotion and humility has brought us to a new chapter in the life of our Young Israel. Aaron is not only a great president, he is a role model of a wonderful human being. Kudos to Max Dekelbaum for his herculean efforts in putting together our state of the art kitchen; his advice and knowledge of food management were invaluable. Most importantly, our deep sense of gratitude to all the donors who have given and continue to give with an open hand of generosity. To Seryl & Charlie Kushner and Linda & Murray Laulicht, without their initial generous gift to help build this edifice in memory of their dear parents, this amazing journey could never have gotten off the ground. Special thanks also to Yoram & Yleana Izhak and to Stanley & Ellen Wasserman for their incredible generosity. There are, of course, many more people to thank, which G-d willing we will do at a later date. My dear friends, this is a very special Shabbos, let us savor the moment. Let us begin on the right foot to enter this holy place with the proper respect and decorum, to pour out our hearts in prayer with real devotion and sincerity. Let’s once and for all leave all talking and schmoozing for the social hall and not for our Shul. In this merit may G-d shower upon us his manifold blessings and may his countenance shine upon this congregation to be a beacon of spiritual inspiration to the entire community. May the Almighty bless us all with Nachas, Simchas and Shalom for all Klal Yisroel. May this be the beginning of a new glorious future which will lead us to the redemption of our people and the coming of Moshiach, may he come speedily in our days. Mazel Tov- Mazel Tov!

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news october 24, 2015

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In this week’s Parsha, the Torah describes how four great and mighty kings came to do battle against five powerful kings. This was the “first world war” of history, for it involved the majority of the world population at the time. The Midrash comments:  why did G-d put these nine monarchs together in this valley? It was in order to make it easier for Avraham to vanquish all of them at the same time and free his nephew Lot. Had CNN and Fox networks been there they undoubtedly would have had their military and political experts give us the “real reason” for the strategies of each of the antagonists to all meet in this valley for war. But the pundits would all be wrong because it was all G-d’s plan to make it easier for Avraham. The lesson from this Midrash is meant to give us a Torah outlook on life. Don’t put too much credibility to all the so called “experts” whose insights and analysis fill the airwaves.  More often than not they are wrong, and the reason is simple -- they forgot to put G-d in the equation. It is an axiom of Jewish belief that everything that happens in the world is somehow related to the benefit or detriment of the Jewish people.The connection is not always evident.  It sometimes can take years, decades or centuries to confirm, but this is the Jewish view.  Therefore, one must look at the news with “Torah eyeglasses” and realize that G-d controls history. So, although Am Yisroel is surrounded on all sides by ruthless enemies who want her destruction, we know שומר עמו ישראל לעד that G-d Almighty, who safeguards his people Israel forever, will protect us and bring us the ultimate salvation we so desperately seek, the redemption of our people and the coming of Moshiach may he come speedily in our days.

Sefer: Emrei Kohen, Rav Avrahom Pam z”l.

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news October 17, 2015

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The attention of the entire Jewish world is now focused on what is going on in Israel. Each time we think there is a limit to what the Arabs can do to us they still find diabolical new ways to inflict harm upon our people. However, the answer to this round of terror is not to run and hide but to face the challenge head on and adjust to a new reality. This is not only true in terms of what’s going on in Israel, but this applies to life in general. When we are thrown the proverbial curve ball from the heavenly pitcher the answer is not to run away from the problems and difficulties of life, which many people do, but rather to face it head on, to accept it and with passionate faith in G-d rise to the challenge. This has always been the response of the Jewish people in the face of adversity. Throughout our over 2,000 years of exile we have gone through much pain and suffering but in the end we have always prevailed and this time will be no different. We will never bow or give in to our enemies, no matter what the circumstances. The collective Jewish will is too strong to be broken by the nation of פרא אדם (wild man) a people who resemble more animal than human being. Let world opinion say what it wants, we will do whatever it takes to overcome this new threat. May the Almighty give us the strength and inspiration to forge ahead with confidence that this enemy just as all the enemies before us will be vanquished and may G-d bring comfort as only he can to the families who have suffered so much during this new wave of terror. May G-d see the anguish of his children and resolve that enough is enough and bring us the Shalom we so desperately need. Let this be the final chapter of tragedy for the Jewish people and let us merit to see very soon the redemption of our people and the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news october 10, 2015

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Mevarchim Chodesh Cheshvan;

Rosh Chodesh,  Tues-Wed

In creation we find that after all the species were created the Torah states “Vayar Elokim ki tov” (The Lord saw that it was good). All the insects, reptiles, lions, tigers and bears all get a ki tov. Yet no such statement is made when man is created? Explains Rav Yoseph Albo in his sefer Ha’ikirm that every element of creation is a finished product whether it’s an insect, a turtle or an elephant; it is what it is and therefore it’s a finished product, which can be evaluated as good. Man on the other hand is a work in progress. He is a vast bundle of potential and we don’t know whether he will rise or fall, blossom or flourish. Will he rise and become an exalted beautiful human being and reach his full potential, or will he languish in mediocrity or worse? Therefore because man is not a finished product we can’t say ki tov. The Talmud says (Brochos 17A), when the Rabbi’s took leave of each other they would say: Olemecha tir’eh bechayecha (may you see your world during your lifetime). What does that mean? Says Rav Schwab z”l that the world “Olamecha” (your world) is cognate with he’elamecha (concealed, hidden) --  a person’s world is also the part of him that is still hidden, “his potential”.  And realizing the potential that lies  within us is the work of a lifetime. This was the blessing that the sages wished on each other: May you see your world during your lifetime. May you achieve during your sojourn in this world the full realization of all the potential G-d has invested in you.  As we are about to begin a new year in a beautiful edifice,  on the building we can say Ki tov because it is a finished product. But for we, the congregation that is entering through its holy doors, one must say that the jury is still out whether G-d can say about us Ki Tov.  For we as human beings are not  finished products. However, if we resolve to dig a little deeper into ourselves to untap the spiritual greatness that lays within all of us, then hopefully G-d can say about us as well Ki Tov. May the Almighty help us go from strength to strength and bring much nachas to him and to all of Klal Yisroel as we enter a new stage in the development of our community.

Rabbi Yissoschor Frand

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news october 3, 2015

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On Simchas Torah we conclude the annual reading of the Torah and then begin again with Bereishis. There is no break in Torah. Torah is like a circle -- there is no beginning and there is no end. Torah is the wisdom of G-d Almighty himself. The uninterrupted continuity of Torah also means that there can be no part of life that is separated from Torah. We observe Torah not only when we study it and perform its Mitzvos, but also when we eat, sleep, engage in commerce or in any other activity. Torah is the heart of a Jew and is the heart of Judaism. Without it we would have ceased being the Jewish nation a long time ago. The last letter in the Torah is Lamed. The first letter in the Torah is Beis. These two letters form the word Lev (heart) to teach us that Torah is our heart, both collectively and individually.  The heart is indispensable to life as it distributes the life giving liquid called blood throughout the body. So too, Torah distributes the spiritual nourishment that enables us to be spiritual beings and "Godly people" rather than simple homo sapiens, hominoids with some intellect. It is living a life of Torah that gives us the distinction and dignity of being human. Our sages tell us that G-d says "I created the Yetzer Hora (evil inclination) and Torah study is its only antidote". Therefore, as we conclude the glorious Yom Tov with Simchas Torah, where we dance, sing and show great honor to the Torah, let us remember that the greatest honor we can bestow upon the Torah is to study it; and by delving into the living, breathing word of   G-d himself we forge that unique and special relationship with him which allows us to be the recipients of his manifold blessings. May this coming year bring with it a new, energized commitment to Torah study and may it be a year where G-d's blessings shine upon the Jewish people. A year that we merit the ultimate blessing of the redemption and the coming of Mashiach, may he come speedily in our days.

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos and a Chag Sameach!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news september 26, 2015

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Q: Is there any problem using bamboo sechach mats for the roof of a Succah?

A: Most opinions permit it, however the threads that tie the bamboo rods together must be made from material which is for sechach. The acceptable mats are woven with unprocessed substances such as flax strands or reeds.

Q: Is it permissible to place the sechach on the frame of the Succah before its walls are erected?

A: No – the Succah walls must be up before the Sechach is placed on them. The reason being that sechach must be placed on the Succah for the sake of providing shade. If the walls are not up, there is no structure, and then the sechach does not create shade. Therefore, if sechach was placed on a frame before the walls were put up, you must remove the sechach an then put it back on, L’sheim tzeil (for the sake of shade).Q: Is anyone halachically allowed to put up the sechach on the succah?

A: Any person, male or female, Jew or non-Jew, is allowed to put up the sechach as long as it is placed on the succah for the sake of shade.

Q: Is there any problem using a succah with a metal frame?

A: Yes! Although it is permissible to use a metal frame to support the walls of the succah, placing the sechach directly on the metal frame is a problem because any object that directly supports the sechach must also be made from materials that are Kosher for sechach. Since Kosher sechach cannot be made from metal, one should not place sechach directly on top of a metal frame succah. (However, if one did so, the succah is still Kosher.)

Q: If one has a metal frame succah, but you put wood strips over the metal frame and the sechach is placed on the wood, would that take care of the previously mentioned problem?

A: Some opinions permit using a metal frame succah if the sechach is no longer touching the metal. Other opinions do not allow this leniency since the sechach is being supported by the metal frame, and the wood is merely a barrier between the metal and the sechach. According to these opinions, the only way to use a metal frame succah is to use the wood trips in a way that they become the main support for the sechach. For example, by placing heavier wooden strips diagonally across the top of the frame and putting the sechach on top of the wooden strips, the wooden strips become the support for the sechach rather than the metal frame.

Q: If a storm is coming, is it permitted to nail or tie down the sechach to the walls or the frame of the succah?

A: It is permitted to tie down the sechach to the walls or the frame of the succah with any string or rope. Although we mentioned before that optimally the sechach has to be supported from materials that are Kosher for sechach, in this case the rope or string is not considered a support since under normal weather conditions the sechach will remain intact without being tied down. However, to nail the sechach down is not permitted because a succah is supposed to be a temporary dwelling. When the sechach is nailed down, the succah takes on the character of a diras keva, a permanent structure, in which case it is not valid.                                                                                     Sefer: Halachic discussions

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos and Chag Sameach!!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news september 18, 2015

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בן מאה ועשרים שנה אנכי היום לא אוכל עוד לצאת ולבוא וה" אמר אלי לא תעבור את הירדן הזה

I am one hundred and twenty years old this day I can no longer go out and come in and G-d has said to me.. Devarim 31:2

The Gerrer Rebbe explains that at the age of 120 Moshe Rabbeinu reached the highest heights of spirituality that a human being can achieve. To Moshe, a life without growth was not worth living and when he realized the divine decree restricting him from entering the land of Israel was sealed he willingly accepted death. Without the possibility of growth, living would be merely existing and this would be intolerable. Maybe this is what the Talmud means when it says, “The wicked are considered dead even when they are living." Moshe Rabbeinu is our teacher who taught us not only by his pronouncements, but also by the way he lived and died. Moshe is imparting to us a most important lesson that that life without spiritual growth is not a life worth living. Changing and transforming oneself is not an easy task but it’s a necessary one. G-d put us on this earth that we should leave differently than when we came in. Therefore, the task at hand especially during Aseres Yemei Teshuva is to do whatever we can to rectify our blemishes as much as possible. If we think we have nothing to improve then that itself is the greatest tragedy. Rav Yisroel Salanter used to say that the loudest sound in the universe is a person breaking one of his negative traits, for there is nothing more pleasing to G-d then a person who aspires to grow. Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch points out the word Same’ach (happy) is cognate with the word Tzome’ach (growth); true simcha in life only comes from growth -- specifically spiritual growth. Moshe Rabbeinu taught us and continues to teach us that growing and changing oneself is the true source of joy. In that merit may the Almighty bless all of us with a sweet year of good health and much nachas! Sefer: Twerski on Chumash

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos, Chasima Tovah!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news september 12, 2015

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ובחרת בחיים

And you should choose life, Devarim (30:19)

 

A string of zeroes, no matter how long, is always worth zero unless a digit – even a digit as small as 1 -- is placed before it. This idea is not only true in the world of mathematics and finance, but in the spiritual world as well. A person can perform an infinite number of actions that all have zero spiritual value, but the moment you add a spiritual dimension to these actions you transform them into acts of holiness. For example, a person must eat in order to live --  it’s a basic human need; but with a brocha before and after you eat, and with a two minute Torah thought, you have taken a mundane physical act, and sanctified the whole two hour meal. This is called choosing life. The Chofetz Chaim used to say that if a pharmacist has in mind that he is doing an act of kindness each time he gives out medication, then he is involving himself with mitzvos all day long. If an owner of a hotel has in mind, when he gives lodging and food, that he is helping another person, then all day long he is not only earning money but he acquires a spiritual currency which is priceless. A person with just an attitudinal shift can be doing mitzvos 24/7. This is a world of tremendous spiritual opportunities free for the taking. Whatever mitzvos we can grab before Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur can be a great merit for ourselves and the entire Jewish people. Let us hope and pray that G-d takes into account all our efforts and grants us with a new year of good health, nachas, bracha and the greatest blessing of all, the coming of Moshiach Tzidekenu, may he come speedily in our days.

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos, Kesiva Va’chasima Tovah!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news september 5, 2015

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ובא עליך כל הברכות האלה והשיגך

“And all these blessings will come upon you, and they will reach you”. Devarim (28:2)

The blessings of the Torah seem to do two things. They come upon you and they also reach you. Isn’t this really repetitious, coming upon you and reaching you seem to be the same thing? The answer is the Torah is telling us first the blessing will come upon you, and secondly it will reach you, which means you will be satisfied with those blessings. It happens many times that G-d showers a person with many blessings -- health, family, and wealth -- and still the person is not satisfied. What good are the blessings if they are not appreciated.  So, when the verse says “they will reach you”, it’s coming to tell you that you are not truly blessed in life if you don’t appreciate the blessings that you have. Only if it penetrates, if it reaches you, then are you truly a blessed person.

Sefer- Rabbi Frand on the Parasha

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos.

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

 

shmooze news august 29, 2015

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שלח תשלח את האם ואת הבנים תקח לך למען ייטב לך והארכת ימים

“Send away the mother bird and take the fledging to you in order that it be good for you and that you will live long” Devarim (22:7)

The Midrash comments that the two Mitzvos of honoring parents and sending away the mother bird are the “easiest of the easy” and the “most difficult”. Yet they share the same reward – long life. Why is sending away the mother bird considered so easy and honoring parents so difficult? The Shemen Hatov explains it as follows: The Ramban says when it comes to sending away the mother bird before taking the baby birds, the Torah is conditioning us to become more merciful towards people. Mercy is a common human emotion. People instinctively feel a surge of mercy when they see an animal in distress (e.g., Cecil the lion). We should feel at least as much mercy when we see a human being in distress, but with people all sorts of complicated feelings and prejudices come into play. Therefore, when we develop our natural tendency to be merciful through a compassionate act towards a mother bird we will then feel a stronger desire to show mercy when we see a person suffering. This then is the easiest of the easy Mitzvos because it taps into man’s natural inclination of compassion. Honoring parents, on the other hand, if you think about it deeply goes against human nature (which is why the relationship of parents and children are so complex and the source of many a psychiatrist’s couch) because it requires the person to admit that we owe our parents everything that we have in life. The ego of a person would have us view ourselves as independent and self-sufficient. Thanking strangers and friends does not affect our egotistical self-image. But when it comes to our parents, if we admit that they did anything then we must come to admit that they did everything for us, and our egos find it hard to say I owe you for all that I have. Therefore, this is considered a most difficult Mitzvah, which requires true self negation.

Sefer: Rabbi Yissocher

Frand on Parsha

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos.

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news august 22, 2015

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“Then the officers shall speak to the people saying, who is the man who has built a new house and has not inaugurated it? Let him go and return to his house lest he die in war and another man will inaugurate it” Devarim (10:5)

The simple understanding of this verse is that we give an exemption to this individual from going to war because since he has not used his new home his mind will be preoccupied on the house, and the fact that he may die on the battlefield and never use it will affect his ability to concentrate, and it will lower the morale of the soldiers during the war. However, if this was the true reason for his exemption then why does the verse say, “Lest he die in war and another man will use it?” What does that have to do with anything? I thought the idea was that the owner of the house is afraid he might die and never use his new house, and this stresses him out and bothers him to the point that he will be a liability in the war and not an asset. The fact that somebody else might use his home if he dies is irrelevant. However, based on  Rashi I believe we see that not only is this fact relevant but it is the main reason why this individual is exempt from war. Because Rashi, on the last words of the verse, “And another man will inaugurate it”,  comments and says, “This is a great sorrow to him”, meaning that from Rashi we see that what really kills him (excuse the pun) is not the fact that he might die and never use the house  --  that he could live with (again excuse the pun). It is the fact that someone else will be using his house; it’s the envy that causes him no rest and therefore that’s why he is exempt from battle. What an insight to the destructive power of envy and jealousy. If this soldier knew that, if he died in battle, no one would be using his home, then he would be able to fight with peace of mind. But it’s the fact that someone else will be using it and he won’t that causes him no rest. Jealousy and envy destroy people’s lives. It’s allowing someone to live in our head rent free. We are the ones that create such agony for ourselves. The real antidote for this problem is emunah and bitachon (faith and trust) in G-d. For whatever we have in life is all orchestrated by The Almighty -- how much kavod, nachas, money, health etc. And each person is given what one needs and what’s good for him as a tikkun for his soul. We can never get what is coming to someone else and no one will ever take away what’s meant for us. If we can strive to live in this fashion our lives would be so much more pleasurable, happy and stress free. Yes, we can make our own Garden of Eden by removing, or at least minimizing, the envy which resides within us. May we all be blessed this coming year with a life of peace and tranquility for ourselves and all of Klal Yisroel.

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos.

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news august 15, 2015

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Rosh Chodesh Elul

"You should open up your hand to him and provide whatever is lacking to him" Bamidbar (15:18)

As the descendents of Abraham, the pillar of chesed, Jews are generous and kind.  It's in our DNA. The myriad of tzedaka and chesed organizations abound amongst us.  Jews constantly look for opportunities to help one another and ease the burdens borne by their fellow Jews.  For example, there are scores of different kinds of gemachs (free lending institutions). These gemachs lend anything from money without interest to tables and chairs for a simcha. There are gemachs that lend gowns for a bride and her siblings, and bris outfits for babies.  There are CD and book gemachs. There are gemachs that lend power tools for short term use. There are organizations that lend a sefer torah, siddurim and low chairs for a house of mourning. There are gemachs for expensive medical equipment and the list goes on and on. The common denominator of all this is the ingenious ways the Jews conceive of doing acts of kindness for one another.  An important act of chesed is that it not be administered in a "one size fits all" manner.  Every person is unique and has his/her own specific needs.  The Torah stresses this when it addresses the topic of tzedakah and chesed in this week's parsha:  "You shall open your hand...and provide whatever is lacking to him” (15:18).  The word him is emphasized to underline the importance of dealing with each individual as the special person he or she is.

Many times we can offer an invaluable chesed without spending money or even lifting a finger.  The verse in Mishlei states "when there is worry in a man's heart, he should suppress it."  The Talmud explains one of the ways to suppress your worry is to unburden yourself to someone else and just talk about it. By offering a sympathetic ear to a person who is burdened with a problem, one can perform a tremendous act of chesed. Often the only relief for certain problems is that they be verbalized.  The listener sometimes cannot resolve the problem or even offer advice.  All he can do is listen and many times this can be therapeutic.  The ability to listen can be a great chesed and at times a lifesaver.

As we begin the month of Elul we are all looking for special merits to ensure that G-d should inscribe us in the Book of Life. The Talmud tells us that heaven responds to us vis-a-vis our relationships with people.  If we perform acts of chesed for others, then the Almighty will reciprocate in the same way and judge us with kindness and compassion as opposed to strict justice.  But it's all up to us.  Therefore, as the verse says, "You shall open up your hand to him and provide whatever is lacking to him.”  Let us hope and pray that if we open our hands and hearts to others, then the Almighty will open his hand and bring us the redemption of our people and the coming of Moshiach--may he come speedily in our days.

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos.

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news august 8, 2015

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Mevarchim Chodesh Elul; Rosh Chodesh is next Shabbos-Sunday

והיה עקב תשמעון את המשפטים האלה ושמרתם ועשיתם

  אתם ושמר ה" אלוקיך לך את הברית...“This shall be the reward when you harken to these ordinances and keep and do them, that G-d will safeguard for you the covenant ... “ Devarim 7:12

The Midrash says “Wherever the Torah says Vehaya”  (it shall be),  it refers to simcha. However, when the Torah says "Vayehi" (and it was), that refers to something unhappy. The lesson is that Vehaya refers to the future. Happy people are future oriented. Sad people are always living and looking to the past. Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski would always refer to this as the “Baal Shem Tov’s farfel". The significance of this dish is a play on words. In Yiddish "farfallen" means it is over and done with. When Rabbi Twerski’s mother would serve the farfel on Shabbos she would say whatever occurred until now is farfallen!  Friday night is the end of the week, with all its difficult challenges having passed. Shabbos is a day of renewal, of recharging the spiritual batteries. Just as it is difficult to walk with a heavy burden on your back, so too it is difficult to advance spiritually when you are carrying a heavy burden of the past. Yes! When we make mistakes we should try to correct them and make amends, but one cannot dwell too much on the past if you want to move forward and accomplish for the future. It’s that mindset  -- the attitude of  "Vehaya" (the future;  it will be) -- that brings simcha into a person’s life,  knowing that things from now on will be different, as I have learned from my past mistakes and look forward to a better and brighter future.

Sefer: Twerski on Chumash

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos.

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news august 1, 2015

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וקשרתם לאות על ידך והיו לטוטפות בין עיניך

Bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be ornaments between your eyes. Devarim (6:8)

This verse is one of the sources in the Torah of a Jew's obligation to wear Teffilin. All four sections (parshiyot) contained in them offer praise to G-d The Talmud (Brochos 6A) says that G-d also wears Teffilin and the verse in his Teffilin says "And who is like you and your people Israel, a unique nation on earth" (Samuel II 7:23). This great praise of the Jewish people shows the tremendous love our creator has for us, his chosen people. Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchiv writes in his famous work "Kedushas Levi" that just as we praise G-D so too does he praise us. This explains the words in Anim Zemiros  פארו עלי ופארי עליו   -- his Teffilin splendor is upon me and my Teffilin splendor is upon him. This is also alluded to in the verse  in Shir Hashirim 6:3, “ I am my beloved and my beloved is mine”, which speaks about the reciprocal love between G-d and the Jewish people. It is a sign of lovers when each one constantly hears praises and complimentary remarks on the other and looks to highlight the other's attributes and achievements.   And this is how we interact with the Almighty when wepraise him and he praises us. The Shulchan Aruch rules that when wearing Teffilin one should not be מסיח דעת (divert one’s mind) from them; he must constantly be aware that he is wearing Teffillin which have great holiness and sanctity. The Berditcherver Rebbe who was legendary for his love for each and every Jew and was a staunch defender of his people before G-d, would comment on this halachah. If G-d too wears Teffilin then he is bound by the same law of not to divert his mind ( if you will) from his own Teffilin, where it's written how great the Jewish people are. This means that the Almighty is constantly thinking about his beloved nation Israel and although we as a people have endured much pain and suffering over our long exile, the Almighty has not forsaken us. For behold he never slumbers or sleeps, the guardian of Israel (Pslams 121:14). Therefore, we the Jewish people should realize that although it may appear at times that G-d is hiding himself, it's not true, for the Almighty  is never מסיח דעת (diverts his mind) from any individual Jew, let alone a whole nation. Parshas Va'eschanan is always read on Shabbos Nachamu, the Shabbos after Tisha B'Av. It is the time of the year when G-d consoles the Jewish people over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. May we see the fulfillment of the Berditchever Rebbe's words with the coming of Mashiach ,may he come speedily in our days.

Sefer: A vort from Rav Pam

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos.

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news july 25, 2015

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והדבר אשר יקשה מכם תקריבון אלי ושמעתיו

“And whatever will be too difficult for you, you shall bring to me and I will hear it!” Devarim 1:14

Quite often we find a great deal of psychological wisdom contained in the words of the Torah. It is common knowledge in the practice of psychology that in the process when the client or patient is describing one’s particular problem, he discovers a solution. King Solomon tells us in proverbs 12:25 “if one has worry let him relieve himself of it” The Talmud explains this to mean that if one is worried about something he should speak it over with another person, because this will bring relief. The Gerrer Rebbe said that this idea can be seen in what Moshe Rabbeinu said that if you have something difficult bring it to me and I will listen to it. Moshe doesn’t say I will solve it- he said he will listen. Simply by asking, and allowing the other person to describe the problem, one may help the person find its solution. This is a very important point which goes a long way in fostering healthy relationships, love and comradery, because many times what people crave for is just a listening, sympathetic ear. It shows that we care and we are here for you, and that can go a long way in removing worry and fearfrom a person’s heart. This Tisha B’Av let’s do our part in creating an atmosphere of more love and that can be done with little less talking and a lot more listening.

Sefer: Living each week

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos and an easy and inspiring fast!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news July 18, 2015

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וישב בה עד מות הכהן הגדול

(If someone kills a person accidentally, he must be exiled to one of the designated cities of refuge)

“And he shall remain there until the death of the high priest.”  (Bamidbar 35:25)

 

What does the High priest have to do with one individual killing somebody by accident? Rashi explains that if the Kohen Gadol would have prayed more intensely this never would have happened. By making the term of exile contingent upon the death of the high priest, the Torah highlights his responsibility. In what other culture has the leadership ever been held to so demanding a degree of accountability. In our time, loss of life is a daily occurrence, due to criminal violence, reckless drunk driving and domestic abuse. What sense of responsibility do our civil leaders feel for such events?  If, for each incident, they felt a fraction of the responsibility which the high priest was made to feel, not one of them would have a single night’s sleep. They would see to it that our laws be more stringent and their enforcement more strict. The sense of responsibility the high priest carried was due to the enormous sense of value that the Torah gives to a life.  Unfortunately, the attitude about life in our culture reflects our undervaluation of life. One of the functions of the priesthood was to invoke the name of G-d for peace and tranquility; that function reached its peak with the Kohen Gadol. The intensity of the high priest’s devotion to peace and the protection of each individual depended upon how he valued each human life. A loss of human life was thus not “just one of those things that can happen in society”, but something which touched the very life of the high priest himself. How different our society would be if our leaders shared this attitude!

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news july 11, 2015

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Shabbos Mevarchim Av; Rosh Chodesh Av is Friday

 אלה תעשו לה" במועדיכם

“These are (the offerings) you shall make unto G-d on your festivals.  Bamidbar  29:39

This portion of the Torah is almost always read during the mourning period of the three weeks, which is designated to remember the destruction of both temples in Jerusalem. This Parsha of Pinchas also discusses all the festivals of joy which occur during the year. Says the great Rebbe, Reb Elimelech, it is not a coincidence that as the period of mourning begins, we also read about the Yomim Tovim. It’s to teach us a lesson that we should not get carried away with sadness and depression because of the laws of mourning that we practice during this time. The festival days remind us that the period of grief will pass and we will once again rejoice. We all have periods in our life which are difficult and challenging, to say the least. Some people become broken and depressed by the inevitable negative circumstances that life often brings. The antidote is to remember that there will be joy in the future. Our own personal histories should be sources of strength to us. Each of us has had times when we felt sad and discouraged and could not see the light at the end of  the tunnel. Yet we emerged from these circumstances and experienced joy in life. We must remember these episodes, and if difficult days come again, we know that they too shall pass, and within time we will experience joy and happiness once again.

Sefer: Living each week

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news July 4, 2015

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לא הביט און ביעקב ולא ראה עמל בישראל ה" אלהיו עמו

“He perceived iniquity in Jacob, and saw no perversity in Israel, his G-d is with him”

 

There are many stories about the great Chassidic Rebbe Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev who was known to always have something good to say about the Jewish people no matter how low their spiritual level may have been. In Europe it was customary for itinerant Rabbis to travel from village to village, and deliver strong Droshos admonishing their listeners for not being sufficiently observant in performance of Mitzvos and the study of Torah. One time the Berdicheva Rebbe attended such a sermon, and when it was over, he approached the Holy Ark, opened its doors and cried out “Master of the universe! Do not believe what this dear man said about your children. For if the Jewish people are deficient in Mitzvos it’s because they are so oppressed. They are deprived of the means of earning a decent living and are subject to many anti-Semitic decrees and therefore have neither the time nor energy to devote themselves properly to Torah and Mitzvos. Please G-d bring them Moshiach to redeem them and you will see how your children will run to study Torah and perform Mitzvos. Contemporariesof the Rebbe would often say that the above verse which says “And sees no falsehood in Israel, his G-d is with him” applies to the Berdicheva Rebbe that because he doesn’t see the faults of the Jewish people and only accentuates the positive that’s why his G-d is always with him in every endeavor he undertakes. 

Sefer: Twerski on Chumash

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news june 27, 2015

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We welcome the Biale Rebbe from Bnei Brak, Israel

זאת חוקת התורה.......

“This is the decree of the Torah…” Bamidbar 19:2

This introduction to the Mitzvah of Parah Adumah, the red calf, implies that this Mitzvah has universal meaning, and applies to the Torah as a whole. For if this section was dealing specifically with the laws of purity, the Torah would have said, “Zos Chukas Hatahara”,  “These are the laws of purity” --  just as it says, “Zos Chukas Hapesach”, “These are the laws of Pesach”,  when discussing the Korban Pesach. Obviously, there is something very unique to the principle of the Parah Adumah that applies to all facets of Torah. The contradiction in the law of Parah Adumah, is that it has the power to purify the unclean but it also defiles those who are clean. In a spiritual sense, we must apply this rule to every human character trait. For example, we must be humble when our interests are concerned, but we must do everything we can to honor our friends. In so doing we serve G-d with two opposites. The same applies to spending money. When it comes to giving Tzedakah we should spend money lavishly. But when our neighbor’s money is concerned we must be miserly and careful not to take even a penny that is not ours. We must be extremely sensitive not to say or do anything to hurt someone’s feelings, yet at the same time we must try to be insensitive when people make a hurtful remark towards us. This is not an easy level to aspire to, but this is part of the message of Parah Adumah. That life is filled with contradictions and our job is to navigate them properly.

Sefer: Torah Treasures

Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news june 20, 2015

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We welcome Lt. Colonel Rabbi Yedidya Atlas

The Mishna states in Pirkei Avos (5:17) that any argument leshem Shamayim (for the sake of heaven) will have lasting results, and any argument not for the sake of heaven, but for self-interest, will not having lasting results. The Mishna goes on to give examples for these two types of dispute. An example of an argument that was for the sake of heaven is the academies of Shamai & Hillel who were always disagreeing with each other. An argument not for the sake of heaven is Korach and his followers. Many of the commentaries are perplexed by the phrase “Korach and his followers.” The Mishna mentions only one side of the dispute. Shouldn’t the Mishnah have said the argument of Korach and Moshe just as the Mishna mentions the academies of Hillel & Shamai who represent both sides of the dispute? Rav Shimon Schwab z”l explains that in an argument for the sake of heaven both parties are interested in hearing the opinion of the other. Their goal is to arrive at the truth, and in order to do so they have to hear both sides of the argument and then come to a truthful decision on who’s right. But in an argument that is not for the sake of heaven, such as Korach and his followers, there was no interest in discovering the truth, there was only a grab for prestige and power, so why would they want to hear what the other side had to say? Therefore their dispute did not really have two sides. There was only one - Korach and his followers. The Talmud tells us (Brachos 58A): “Just as people’s faces are not exactly alike, so are their opinions not exactly alike.” Rav Shlomo Eager gleans an important lesson from this, no one is bothered by the difference in appearance among people, so by the same token no one should feel that everyone must share his opinions exactly. If we would be more tolerant, if we would accept that others have different views and opinions, and that this is as it should be, this would go a long way towards avoiding bitter arguments and disagreements. With the attitude of tolerance and acceptance we would engender peace and tranquility. In other words, it would only bring Shalom, the greatest bracha we could ever ask for.

Sefer: Rabbi Frand on the Parasha

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news june 13, 2015

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Shabbos mevarchim chodesh Tammuz Wednesday and Thursday

ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם

“Then you shall not stray after your hearts and eyes”  Bamidbar 15:39

Our sages explain the phrase אחרי לבבכם (after your hearts) to refer to heresy. We generally would associate the heart with lust and desire. Heresy on the other hand is the product of a thinking process and its source is the brain. Why does the Torah equate heresy with the heart? The answer is associating faith with inelegance is a fallacy. The Torah expects a thirteen year old boy to believe in the basic principles of our faith, concepts that great philosophers of the past did not accept or believe in. If these concepts are beyond the understanding of mature adults, how can a young Bar Mitzvah boy be expected to believe and follow these precepts. The truth is that the fundamentals of Emunah are easy to comprehend, simple logic dictates that just as a house was constructed by a builder, and a garment was put together by a tailor, the world was created by a creator. A young boy is capable of understanding this, but people stumble because they are seduced by the desires of their heart, and their lust forpleasure blinds them in concocting specious philosophies to justify their perverted and promiscuous way of life. Therefore the Torah is correct in saying that the heart is the seat of heresy.

Sefer: Torah Treasures

Rav Elchonan Wasserman Z’l

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

shmooze news june 6, 2015

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In this week’s parsha we read about an incident with Moshe Rabbeinu which is quite puzzling to say the least. Moshe Rabbeinu has already gone through a great deal of aggravation with the Jewish people but he always is as strong as a rock, never wavering. Whether it’s the sin of the golden calf or any other difficulty Moshe Rabbeinu is up to the challenge. All of a sudden in our Parsha when the Jewish people start complaining about the fish, melons and cucumbers they ate in Egypt and they would start crying about their families, Moshe gives up and tells G-d “I can’t do this anymore it’s too hard to carry these people all by myself”. What ever happened to Moshe Rabbeinu the man of steel? How come he falls apart over something which in comparison to what he had dealt with before is not a big deal? I believe the answer is very telling and has great ramifications for the generation we live in today. Moshe Rabbeinu the greatest Jewish leader of all time could deal with any situation or emergency that would arise, but there was one thing he could not tolerate, and that was dishonesty, The Jewish people were not being honest with Moshe and more importantly they were not being true to themselves. They were complaining about the food they ate in Egypt for free the only thing they could eat, or I should say drink for free in Egypt was their own blood What they meant was free from Mitzvos but they wouldn’t dare admit that to themselves. All these complaints and fantasies about how good it was in Egypt was a subterfuge to complain and cry about mitzvos and about mishpachosav (families). Forthey were upset about the new laws given by the Torah which forbade certain relationships which up to now were permitted but they were hiding their true complaints behind this fantasy that what we are missing is real food even though they had the miraculous Mann. It was this lack of transparency, this behavior of self-deception that Moshe could not countenance. Moshe Rabbeinu had the strength to deal with the greatest failures and sins of the Jewish people as long as they were honest to him and themselves about their wrongdoings, but when you’re not straight with yourself  you’re hopeless and that’s why Moshe Rabbeinu threw up his hands in exasperation to G-d and said I can’t cope. My friends this is our generation. A world were nothing is wrong anymore, were every deviant behavior is winked at. A world were Marijuana will soon be legal for all to become brain dead. People can physically change their gender and be hailed as a hero instead of being sent to an institution. The world has gone absolutely mad, no one can say the truth anymore without being hailed as a hatemonger or a bigot. In today’s society you must be politically correct to the point of insanity. No one has the guts to stand up and say the emperor has no clothes. A world in which people can’t tolerate the truth is a dangerous world indeed, and if Moshe Rabbeinu gave up in his time what can we say about our time. So we the Jewish People must be strong and not allow ourselves to be seduced by a culture whose philosophy is that there are no wrongs. We must be a beacon of light and inspiration of morality and honesty to the world. We must stand up for what’s right and not be afraid to speak the truth for in the end “Emes” prevails above all. In this merit may the almighty open up the eyes of the world to know right from wrong and have the chutzpah to say so, May this world of darkness soon be permeated with the light of moshaich may he come speedily in our days. 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news may 30, 2015

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איש או אשה כי יפליא לנדר נדר נזיר להזיר לה

"A man or woman who shall disassociate himself or herself by taking a nazirite vow of abstinence for the sake of G-d". Bamidbar (6:1-2)

The Hebrew word for disassociate, "Yafli", can also mean " to do wonders".  Ibn Ezra uses this translation to interpret the verse as follows:  If a person takes a vow of abstinence, it is indeed a wondrous act, because most people indulge themselves.  Abstaining from pleasure is going against one's innate drives, because all living things are driven to seek pleasure.  Man was indeed created with many bodily drives, but it is his mission to become master over them rather than a slave to them.  The Vilna Gaon wrote in a letter, "It is not essential that a person engage in self-flagellation, but just that he be master over his speech and temptations". Rav Yisroel Salant said "It is not sufficient that a person serve G-d only to the extent that it causes him no discomfort.  This is serving oneself rather than serving G-d.  A person must do what is required of him even if it goes against his natural inclinations."  The Torah says of a nazirite, "For the crown of his G-d is upon his head" (6:7).  Animals cannot go against their nature and angels have no temptations to subdue.  Neither animals nor angels can make free choices. Only G-d and man can choose their actions freely and this is what is meant by man being created "In the image of G-d".  When a person accepts a vow to deny fulfilling his natural inclinations, he merits the description "For the crown of his G-d is upon his head".  It is not necessary for a person to take vows of abstinence, but it is required of us to be in conscious control of our behavior. The Kotzke Rebbe commented on the verse in Psalms (115:16), "As for the heavens -- the heavens are G-d's, but he has given the earth to man".  Said the Kotzke Rebbe, "The heavens are already heavenly.  G-d does not need man to sanctify the heavens.  He has given the earth to human beings and it is our job to make the earth heavenly!"

Sefer: Twerski on Chumash

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

 

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news may 23, 2015

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ואלא תולדות אהרן ומשה....ואלא שמות בני אהרן

“And these are the generations of Aaron and Moshe….and these are the names of the sons of Aaron." Bamidbar 3:12

 

Rashi comments that although the Torah states “these are the generations of Aaron & Moshe”, it mentions only the children of Aaron. This is because Moshe taught Aaron’s children and we see from here that whoever teaches Torah to a person's child, it’s considered as if he gave birth to him. There is a world of difference between someone who teaches secular knowledge, like a professor of Science and Mathematics, and a teacher of Torah. The professor is only responsible to disseminate his knowledge, but he does not get involved with the student's personal life. A Rebbe, however, has an obligation not only to teach him Torah knowledge but to teach him and help him with life itself. Just as a parent is concerned about a child's adjustment to life, so should a Rebbe show the same concern to a student. Having said  this, it is unfortunate to see how overworked and underpaid our Rabbeim are. Instead of paying them a salary, which befits their exalted position as inspirational role models for our children, we pay the Rabbeim a salary that forces them to have outside jobs to supplement their income. This leaves them with less preparation time for their true occupation, and with much more stress, that impacts their overall effectiveness in the classroom. It is a sad reflection on the value system of our society that those, to whom we entrust the welfare of our children, are not paid respectable salaries, which would allow them to support their families in a comfortable fashion, and relieve them from the daily stress and worry of figuring out how to pay their bills.   It is quite evident today that the survival of the Jewish people is Jewish education -- which means Torah education -- and those who teach it, should be the best, the brightest, and the most talented; because nothing is too good for the most precious commodity that we Jewish people have, “our children”!

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos and Chag Sameach!

Sefer: Twerski on Chumash

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news may 16, 2015

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Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Sivan,

Yom Yerushalayim is Sunday

Rosh Chodesh is Tuesday

וקדשתם את שנת החמישים שנה וקראתם דרור בארץ לכל יושביה יובל היא תהיה לכם ושבתם איש אל אחזתו ואיש אל משפחתו תשבו

"You shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants…" Vayikra 25:10       

The Jubilee Year was a dramatic event and in many ways a social upheaval. Properties that were sold during the previous 49 years were returned to their original owners. Fields were left barren and all slaves were released. “Proclaim liberty throughout the land," but note, "each of you shall return to his family."  In our times we too have experienced dramatic events of social upheaval:  the decade of the 60’s (and the new social and moral decline of the 21st century). The 60’s was the decade in which there was also a proclamation called “freedom”. Authority was rejected and accepted social norms and morality were cast aside. The rallying cry was “do your own thing.”  “The prophets of liberty” were intoxicated with breaking the yoke of discipline and restraint. Over 50 years later we are reaping the bitter fruits of this great emancipation. Our youth are plagued with drugs, their young developing minds poisoned  by marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Thuggery and violence abound and sexual morality has disappeared. Society today is so mindless and superficial that "deflate gate" -- and what Tom Brady did and did not do to a football -- is the news of the day and takes center stage. While the Middle East is in total chaos, while our country is witnessing tremendous social unrest and a war on police, and while the Supreme Court is deciding the definition of marriage, America is consumed with a deflated football. This is not the Torah’s idea of freedom. Yes, the Jubilee Year indeed has some social and economic changes but the theme was “each one of you return to his family.” The family unit was number one. Parents were respected, grandparents were revered, and spouses were faithful to each other; there was moral responsibility. The freedom of the Jubilee Year was not the recklessness that characterized “the freedom” of the 60’s, which has had so many negative results; rather, it was one that strengthened both the individual and society.

Sefer: Twerski on Chummash

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

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וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת ... שבע שבתות תמימת תהיינה; עד ממחרת השבת השביעת תספרו חמשים יום

“You shall count for yourselves from the morrow of this festival (Pesach)… Seven complete Shabbosos (weeks); until the morrow after the seventh Shabbos "week" you shall count fifty days.” Vayikra 23:15-16     

This is the Mitzvah of counting the Omer, which we observe beginning with the 2nd day of Pesach until Shavuos.  We begin by saying, “today is the first day of the Omer” adding to it the calculation of the weeks when we arrive at the 7th day, and so on until the 50th day.  In the Prayer that follows the counting of the Omer, we pray that by fulfilling this Mitzvah we rectify our failure to fully comply with the Mitzvos of the Torah.  What is it about the Mitzvah of counting the Omer that helps us to fix our shortcomings in the observance of Mitzvos?  The answer may be that the Mitzvah of counting the Omer each day teaches us that one grows and develops spiritually by addressing one’s defects one day at a time.  This Mitzvah teaches us that no challenge is so great that it cannot be overcome if you just break it down into manageable morsels.  The Mitzvah to count the Omer starts from Pesach and counting until Shavuos.  When the Jewish people left Egypt they were on the 49th level of tumah (impurity) and seven weeks later they stood at the foot of Mount Sinai on an extremely high spiritual level to accept the Torah.  How could such a transformation take place in only a period of seven weeks?  The answer is this idea -- taking it one day at a time.  The answer to the Yetzer Hora must be, I am not concerned what’s going to be down the road of life.  I have only today to worry about, and for just today I have the ability to comply with the Torah and do what’s right.  It is irrelevant whether I possess the strength to continue this for a lifetime, since I am only focused on this today.  This piecemeal approach to the challenges and vicissitudes of life is a game changer.  Living one day at a time is a proven success formula in confronting the difficulties of life and for achieving and attaining true spiritual growth.      

(Sefer- Living Each Week

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski)

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!  

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein 

shmooze news may 2, 2015

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השכן אתם בתוך טמאתם

“(I am G-d) who rests among them even amidst their impurity”  Vayikra 16:16 

Thursday is Lag B'Omer

 

No one has the right to say, “I am too far gone to live a Torah life style.  I cannot change, and I have done too many sins to be able to repent.” For that is simply not true.  No matter how far a person may have strayed, regardless of how much a person may have sinned, G-d never rejects anyone.  Rav Nachman of Breslov wrote about the intensity of depression he once experienced, and said that at times he felt that he was in the very depths of hell, so crushed that he believed no greater pain could exist.  His only comfort was in the verse in Psalms (139:8), “If I raise to the heavens, you are there, and if I am in the depths of hell, you are there too."  Since there is no place devoid of G-d one is never alone.  Dr. Abraham Twerski had patients with alcohol and drug addictions who wished to be diagnosed as having severe mental illness or brain damage, because that would absolve them of the responsibility of recovery.  It is not uncommon for people to consider themselves hopeless in order to avoid the responsibilities that success might bring.  There is a bizarre type of comfort in feeling hopeless; this way one does not have to do anything.  To people who say, "I am Tamei (unclean) and beyond redemption",  G-d says, “I am with you even then."  Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev said, “You can be for G-d, and you can be against G-d.  You just can’t be without G-d."  In light of the verse cited, we can understand what the Berdicheve Rebbi is saying, because even if man abandons G-d, G-d never abandons man.  Since G-d is always with us let us take advantage of this special relationship. (Sefer- Living Each Week Rabbi Abraham Twerski M.D.)    

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!   

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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Parshas Tazria tells us about the laws of a skin disease that results from a spiritual deficiency such as Lashon Hora (negative speech).  A person who discovered Tzoraas on his skin would come to the Kohen (the spiritual leader of the time) who would examine it to see whether the individual was Tamei (spiritually impure).  The Mishna states “Kol Ha’negaim Adom Roeh Chutz Minega  Atzmo” (A person sees all faults except for his own).  This refers to the Kohen who sees Tzoraas on his own skin.  Although he has the authority to inspect blemishes on other people he cannot inspect the lesion on his own body.  This Halacha teaches us a very important lesson in human nature.  People notice the faults of others, but not their own.  When it comes to other people, a person can draw up a long list of character flaws; however, regarding one’s own blemishes the person will always have some justification and rationalization that it’s ok.  This fact of human nature is spiritually very dangerous, because if a person never takes note of his own shortcomings he can never improve himself and change for the better. Constructive criticism given by someone who cares for you should be well heeded.  A story is told of a physician who informed his patient that he suffers from a serious disease.  “This is not a nice thing to say”, the patient  said.  “Why don’t you tell me something positive”?  The doctor, of course, reminded the patient that his intention is only to help him, by giving an accurate diagnosis so that his problem can be properly treated.  So too in life the job of a mentor (i.e. parent or Rabbi) is to lovingly critique the people he is responsible for.  Like a physician’s diagnosis, it will only help someone to improve the situation by telling the individual what he would never see on his own.  Only then can the individual take the steps necessary to improve one's health.  So too spiritually, we can only grow and improve when we are willing to hear the truth and open ourselves up to criticism, which will in the end immeasurably improve our lives for the better.

(Sefer: Pasach Eliyahu

Rabbi Eli Mansour)     

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!   

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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Mevorchim Chodesh Iyar; Rosh Chodesh is Sun-Mon

וכל כלי חרס אשר יפיל מהם אל תוכו כל אשר בתוכו יטמא ואתו תשברו

“All earthen vessels into which (something contaminated) falls, all that is within it shall be unclean, and it must be destroyed.”  Vayikra 11:33

The law is that vessels made of wood and metal can become unclean if some contaminated item touches them externally, whereas an earthen vessel is contaminated only if the impure item is inside the vessel, but not by external contact.  The Kotzker Rebbe z”l explains that this is due to the fact that only something of value can become ritually impure.  Since wood and metal have an intrinsic value, any contact can render them unclean.  However, earth has no intrinsic value; it’s value is that it can contain something within itself, and therefore the contamination can come only from within the vessel, which is its value.  This fact contains a life lesson for us.  G-d created man from the dust of the earth, and as with any earthen vessel, man’s worth is within himself.  How different Torah values are from secular values!  The common expression, “How much is he worth?”  betrays the criterion which society employs in assessing the value of a human being.  Economics reigns supreme, and a person is often valued for what he has rather than what he is.  The primary importance of a person is dependent on his character traits and on what he achieves spiritually in life, rather than on his external acquisitions, whether this be fame or fortune.  It is the custom at this time of year to study the Talmudic volume of “Ethics of our Fathers.”  The first Mishnah in chapter four summarizes for us what’s most important in life from a Torah perspective: “Wisdom” -Learning from everyone;  “Strength” – Subduing temptation; “Wealth” - Being content with whatever one has;  “Honor” - Respecting others.  Therefore, if we wish to inspire our children to live a life of real value, we have to make sure that our actions match our words.  Only then can we hope to inspire the next generation and beyond to live a life that is truly meaningful -- one that has real purpose, a life which will make G-d proud, the Torah proud, and the Jewish people proud.

(Sefer: Living each Week

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Tewerski)          

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!   

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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 "היום אתם יוצאים בחדש האביב"

      "TODAY YOU ARE GOING FORTH IN THE MONTH OF AVIV (SPRING) (Shmos 13:4)"

The Jewish people suffered in Egypt unimaginable horrors. When the Almighty freed them from bondage, the Jewish people must have felt an overwhelming sense of ecstasy. Do you think it would make a difference to them if they left in bad weather? Imagine concentration camp inmates being liberated by Allied Forces. Would it make an iota of difference to them if the weather was less than favorable? Would they have minded walking through a snowfall to their freedom? To our Father in heaven it did make a difference. G-d wanted to show how much he loved the Jewish people and that even though he performed so many miracles for them, he wanted the Jewish people to leave when the weather was beautiful. As Rashi says, “See the kindness he has done for you, that he brought you forth in a month when it is not too hot or too cold or too rainy.” Could the Jewish people, inundated by this enormous deluge of kindness from G-d, focus on and appreciate this extra "bonus" the Almighty bestowed upon them?  From Rashi we see the amazing capacity that man has to recognize and feel gratitude. Even in the midst of the most glorious redemption in history, every Jew possessed a measuring apparatus so delicately calibrated that it registered every detail of G-D's kindness. This amazing ability and the resultant responsibility to show gratitude is shared by every person in every generation. If we simply spend a few moments every day contemplating the unending flow of goodness bestowed upon us by G-D, our lives would be transformed. Pesach is a time of Hakoras Hatov, of recognizing the good G-D does not only for our nation as a whole, but for all of us as individuals as well.

 (Sefer - Majesty of Man, Hagaon Rav Henach Leibowitz Z"L (My Rebbe) )

Have a sweet and inspiring Pesach,

 

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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The festival of Passover has within it great spiritual prowess. Normally speaking, it requires much effort to change one’s character defects and raise oneself significantly in spirituality in a short period of time. The Jewish people in Egypt were on the lowest level of spirituality, the 49th level of tumah (spiritual contamination). Yet, even at that low state, the Jewish people saw fantastic miracles, and had divine revelation. Seven days later they crossed the reed sea with such profound and intense prophetic vision that a lowly maidservant had more divine revelation then the prophet Ezekiel. Every yom tov carries within it special spiritual qualities that are indigenous to that unique yom tov. Since on Pesach the Jewish people were able to attain such spiritual growth in a short period of time. On Pesach, we, too have this unique ability to take giant steps in correcting our personal blemishes. The time of Pesach is propitious for spiritual miracles. The commentators on the haggadah point out that the order of the seder is kadesh, urchatz, (say Kiddush and wash the hands). It really should be the opposite. First you cleanse yourself and then you sanctify yourself. On Pesach the order is reversed because on this night you can acquire holiness even if you did not cleanse yourself.  Passover is called zman cheiruseinu (time of freedom). Its not just freedom from physical slavery, but it means freedom from our bodily drives and addictive habits. Breaking loose from the tentacles of the yetzer hara is never an easy task. But on Pesach if one has a sincere desire to change and improve, then the G-dly spiritual emanations of this special yom tov will make it happen.

 

Wishing all of you a sweet and healthy Pesach,

 

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

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Shabbos Hagadol  

Mazel Tov to the entire Sterenfeld family on                      Alina becoming a Bat Mitzvah

     אם על תודה יקריבנו

If he shall offer it for a thanksgiving offering

Vayikra 7:12

Today, since our holy temple is not here, instead of an offering of gratitude, the person recites a special brocha of thanksgiving to G-d in the presence of a minyan. Expressing thank you’s to G-d is a central theme in Judaism. The first words we say in the morning are Modeh Ani – I thank you, G-d - in which we express our gratitude for living another day. Our prayers and brochas abound with expressions of gratitude to show our awareness of how all the blessings of life come from Him. Some people have difficulty expressing gratitude towards other people who are their benefactors. This is because acknowledging one’s gratitude is often perceived as indicating one’s dependence on others. The hesitancy towards expressing gratitude because of its relationship to dependency is based on low self-esteem. A person with a healthy sense of self-esteem is not threatened by feelings of dependence, and does not see dependence as  demeaning. If anything, his ability to expressively thank people and of course G-d is a sign of humility and the realization that we are dependent on others for much of our needs. Pesach, maybe more so than any other Yom Tov, carries with it the theme of gratitude. It is about how G-d took a lonely nation of slaves out of Egypt and raised them to be his special people. It is about how the Almighty chose us above all others for a unique mission, to be a light of G-dliness and spirituality to the rest of the world. We hope and pray that this Pesach we live up to His expectations and make Him proud, and by doing so hasten the redemption of our people and the coming of Moshiach! “Next year in Jerusalem”!!

Sefer: Twerski on Chumash

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!   

Shmooze news March 21, 2015

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Rosh Chodesh Nissan,  Parshas Vayikra

 Parshas Hachodesh

Mazel Tov to the entire Courtney family on                            Asher becoming a Bar Mitzvah

נפש כי תמעל מעל וחטאה בשגגה מקדשי ה"     

“If a person behaves unfaithfully and sins unintentionally against any of G-d's holy things.”  Vayikra 5:15

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch comments that the word for unfaithful behavior is "Me’ilah" which is similar to the word “Me’il” (the special robe or cloak worn by the High Priest).  Also the word "Beged" which means garment is spelled the same way as “Boged” which means deception- a violation of trust.  Says Rav Hirsch that both these words having similar double meanings is not a coincidence.  A garment is something that a person wears to represent himself to the world.  One cannot know the true essence of a person just by his outward appearance.  Some people may appear to be upright but his appearance may be misleading.  Behind the cloak of piety may lurk dishonesty and corruption.  The Me’il may be a cloak that is covering over the true essence of a person, the Me’ilah.  A Beged as well gives a superficial  appearance which disguises the underlying personality.  By use of these words Rav Hirsch shows us how the Torah cautions us not to be deceived by external appearances.  In other words don’t judge a book (or for that matter a situation) by its cover.

(Sefer – Twerski on Chumash)      

 

Wishing you an inspirational Shabbos.   

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

             

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Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Nissan

Parshas Parah

ראו קרא ה” בשם בצלאל בן אורי בן חור

“See that G-d has called by name Betzalel the son of Uri the son of Chur.” Shmos 35:30

Da’as Z’keinim explains that Moshe originally presumed that he himself would build the Tabernacle.  However, G-d told Moshe Rabbeinu, no, Betzalel is more worthy of this task,  for Betzalel’s grandfather Chur was killed when he tried to stop the Jewish people from making the golden calf.  Therefore, it is fitting that the Mishkan (which was an atonement for the sin of the golden calf) be built by Chur’s grandson.  The question arises: isn’t it counter intuitive to have Betzalel involved in building this Tabernacle which had to be an atonement for the entire Jewish nation?  Would not Betzalel harbor some ill will against large segments of the Jewish people for being responsible for his grandfather’s death?  Wouldn’t these feelings interfere with his ability to have the purest intentions when building the Mishkan?  Nevertheless, the Midrash tells us that the Mishkan was never destroyed because it was so Holy, built without any impure motives.  How was that possible?  The answer is that Betzalel, with super human effort, overcame  his feelings of revenge against the Jewish people for what they did to his grandfather.  In fact, it was this ability to rise above his personal feelings, and instead of animosity to feel love for his people, that made him the perfect choice to build the Mishkan.  We often feel that our emotions control us -- in actuality, we can master our emotions, and we do have the innate ability to rise above our negative feelings and create a sense of peace and harmony within ourselves and with those around us.  Of course, it’s not easy, but true strength in life is conquering ourselves, not others.

(Sefer- Mussar Hatorah Rebbi Umori Hagoan Rav Henach Leibowitz Z”L)        

 

Wishing you an inspirational Shabbos.   

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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וירא העם כי בשש משה לרדת מן ההר ויאמרו...עשה לנו אלוקים אשר ילכו לפננו כי זה משה האיש...לא ידענו מה היה לו

The Torah at this point is discussing one of the most tragic events in Jewish history. The sin of the golden calf. It’s beyond human comprehension how the Jewish people could fall so precipitously from the highest of spiritual heights -- after seeing so many miracles and hearing the voice of G-d  -- to the lowest of lows and sinning with the golden calf. The answer as to how this can happen can be found in the Midrash which Rashi brings. The Midrash states that when Moshe did not return at the moment they expected, the Jewish people started to worry that something happened to their great leader. Then Satan fooled them and conjured up a vision of the body of Moshe Rabbeinu floating in the air, seemingly dead. The Jewish people panicked, became confused and depressed. In this emotional state a person can be vulnerable to radical degeneration. This may be over- simplified but it is the answer to our question. How could the Jewish people fall from such greatness so quickly? When a person is in a state of sadness and despondency anything can happen, and at such a time a person would be well advised not to make any important decisions until the somber mood has been lifted. The credo of  living life b’simcha (joy) is not only a healthy one, but it is the only way a person can make proper life decisions, for in state of melancholy one’s perspective is so altered that it can lead to dangerous situations very quickly. It is not a coincidence that Parashas Ki Sisa follows Purim, our greatest day of Simcha. For it is through joy, a positive and confident attitude in life, that we get the strength to navigate the challenges we all face. We hope and pray that the Almighty infuse us with this elixir of life called Simcha. As we say in Havdalah every Saturday night (which is mostly taken from Megilas Esther) ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר כן תהיה לנו,  "for the Jews there was light, happiness, joy and honor." So may it be for us. 

Wishing you an inspirational Shabbos.   

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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Shabbos Zachor

Commenting on the verse “and these days of Purim should never cease among the Jews” (Esther 9:28), the Midrash states that even when all the other festivals are discontinued, Purim will always remain.  The commentaries give various interpretations on what this Midrash may mean, but it is evident from this Midrash that Purim has special significance and surpasses in importance the festivals of Passover, Shavuos, and Succos.   What is it that makes Purim so special and unique?  Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev explains that supernatural miracles, as great as they may be, only make a temporary impression.  Supernatural miracles like the 10 plagues and the Jewish people crossing the Sea of Reeds were only witnessed by that generation and for us it is a historic event.  In the story of Purim, however, no supernatural events took place.  Every situation could be seen as a natural occurrence.  A king becomes drunk and in his drunken stupor has the queen executed.  He chooses a Jewess as his new queen and she conceals her origin.  Her uncle Mordechai, in the royal court, uncovers an assassination plot against the king and the queen reports this to the king and saves his life.  The Jew hating prime minister extracts a decree from the king to exterminate the Jews in his kingdom. The king is reminded that it was a Jew that saves his life. The queen turns the king’s wrath against the prime minister who is then executed.  The queen reveals her Jewish origin.  Her uncle is appointed prime minister and the Jewish people are saved.  It is only when the entire sequence of events is put together that one sees that it’s impossible that this series of events was a coincidence and we see how the hand of G-d is what saved our people.  Miracles such as these are with us today.  No laws of nature are suspended but the guiding hand of G-d causes “natural” events to occur in such a way that results in our salvation.  The realization that everything in the world is orchestrated by G-d is a fundamental principle of Judaism.  So,  it may appear that the world is against us, and even those who we thought were our friends are turning their backs on us.  It may appear that Iran will have their way with America, and that very little is being done to stop the demonic terror of ISIS.  But in the end, just like in the Purim story,  ישועת ה כהרף עין   , "The salvation of G-d comes in the blink of an eye."  For the Almighty calls all the shots and His word will be the last.  May G-d reenact the Purim miracle in our days and bring us the redemption we so long for speedily in our time. 

(Rabbi Dr. Abraham Tewerski)    

Wishing you an inspirational Shabbos and Purim Sameach.   

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news february 21, 2015

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ועשית שלחן עצי שטים

And you shall make a table of acacia (Shittim) wood.      Shmos 25:23

The table, as well as the ark and the alter, was made of acacia wood.  This was undoubtedly an extremely fine wood, fitting for such a high purpose as forming the holy furnishings of  the Mishkan.  Rabbeinu Bachya finds an additional homiletic significance to the use of this wood, which is called Shittim in Hebrew.  This forms an acronym for the words, Shalom, Tovah, Yeshuah and Mechilah, which mean peace, goodness, salvation and forgiveness.  In other words, all the gifts the Jewish people enjoyed, which these four blessings encompass, came to them through the conduit of the holy furnishings and vessels of the Mishkan and the Beis Hamikdash.  But what about our own times, when we no longer have these furnishings and vessels?  How can we continue to receive these gifts? Rabbeinu Bachya answers this question by citing a famous passage from the Talmud (Chagiga 27a), “Now that the Beis Hamikdash is no longer standing, a person receives atonement through his own table.” Which “table” atones for us and brings us blessings now that we don’t have the Beis Hamikdash?  Our dining-room table!  If we feed the poor, welcome the travelers and host guests at our table, then the  for that matter, becomes our own personal altar of atonement.  Rabbeinu Bachya concludes on an awesome note, “There is a custom among pious people in France to construct their coffins from wood taken from their dining-room tables.”  Think of the imagery.  The people who have known the deceased, who have sat at his dining-room table, came to his funeral, and see him being buried in a coffin that looks exactly like his dining-room table!  The message is clear, says Rabbeinu Bachya.  A person takes nothing along with him to the world of truth except for the Torah he learned, the Mitzvos he performed, the charity he gave and the goodness that he shared with other people around his dining-room table.

 

(Sefer-Rabbi Frand on the Parsha)

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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Shabbos Parshas Shekalim, Mevorchim Chodesh Adar  Rosh Chodesh,Thursday-Friday

Scholar in Residence Shabbaton

Welcome Rabbi David Fohrman

(Please see insert for full Shabbaton schedule and acknowledgements)

  ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם 

And these are the social laws which you shall set before them” 

Rashi explains that the conjunction “and  these are the social laws” combines this portion of the Torah with the preceding one, which contains the Ten Commandments given at Sinai.  This is to indicate that all the laws that follow are of divine authorship, just as are the Ten Commandments.  The social laws of the Torah differ from the secular social laws in that the former cannot be changed or nullified.  No matter how brilliant the Torah scholars may be, neither they nor the Sanhedrin (Supreme Court), or even the king of Israel, have the power to abrogate the Torah view on  social issues. Regardless of how times and social conditions may change, and regardless of what compelling arguments may be presented, Torah laws remain eternal.  When new circumstances require application of Torah law, the latter must be fashioned within the guidelines of established Torah principles.  There is no “amending the constitution”,  neither by two-thirds vote nor even by unanimous vote.   In our time, we have witnessed the hazards of a system of laws that is totally subject to human determination. Society’s view on abortion, euthanasia, and sexual morality has changed dramatically in just the last 30 years.  That, which once upon a time was seen as immoral, or akin to murder, is totally acceptable today.  For the social conditions and attitudes radically change and alter the laws of morality.  In Torah law the concepts of life and death,  what is moral and immoral,  are immutable or unchangeable.  Laws of divine origin do not change with time, place and circumstance.  The Sefas Emes states that Moshe Rabbeinu was reluctant to explain the logical basis of social laws to the Jewish people, lest they assume that these are subject to logical manipulation.  Although he did so at the command of G-d, we must remember that observance of these laws is ultimately not because we consider them logical but because they are the divine will.

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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ויאמר חתן משה אליו לא טוב הדבר אשר 

אתה עשה

The father-in-law of Moshe said to him, “the things that you are doing are not good.” Shmos 18:17

 

When Yisro, the father-in-law of Moshe Rabbeinu, saw how he was judging the people of Israel, he first asked Moshe to explain his system of justice. Only then did he critique him by saying, it’s not good what you are doing.  The Midrash makes a fascinating comment on this verse: From here we see that Yisro was a very distinguished individual because when he criticized Moshe he didn't say to him, what you are doing is  רע (bad), but rather he used a more refined expression and said it is לא טוב   --  it is not good what you are doing.  Since this was a nicer way of expressing oneself, when criticizing another person, the Midrash takes note of it and praises Yisro for his sensitivity.  I would like to use this point as an opportunity to thank our office staff for the remarkable job they do each and every day in a very busy and hectic office.  And, if by chance, mistakes are made and mishaps occur, or we feel we have been neglected, it would be appreciated if those who call the office to express their concerns should please do so in a respectful fashion, with proper voice modulation, as befitting a beautiful congregation like ours.  As the Midrash points out, Yisro’s claim to fame was in how he spoke at a time when he was frustrated by how Moshe Rabbeinu was handling the judicial court system of the Jewish people.  Yet Yisro still criticized his famous son-in-law in a Mentchlich fashion and for this he is remembered and lauded for posterity.   

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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Shabbos Shira

Bat Mitzvah of Ella Devorah Zaret

ויאמר משה אל יהושע בחר לנו אנשים וצא הלחם בעמלק מחר  אנכי נצב על ראש הגבעה  

Moshe said to Yehoshua, “Choose people for us and go to do battle with Amalek ; tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill." Shmos 17:9

The question presents itself, why is it necessary for the verse to tell us מחר (tomorrow). Who cares when the battle with Amalek will take place, whether it’s today, tomorrow or the next day?  Explains Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld z”l , Amalek represents more than just a national enemy.  It represents the forces of the evil (Yetzer Hora) in man’s heart.  It is the function of the Yetzer Hora to tempt man to sin, and sometimes he uses the tactic of tomorrow (manyana).  The Yetzer Hora will tell you, yes of course you’re going to do that mitzvah, or write that check to tzedaka, or start studying a little more Torah, but you’ll begin tomorrow.  In this manner one tomorrow leads to another, and with each passing day diminishes the person's resolve to do the good deed that he had intended to do. It is this facet of “Amalekism” that the Torah is telling us to eradicate. That when a Jew resolves to do a good deed he should strike while  the iron is hot, and not push it off for the next day, for many times the next day never materializes.  Life passes us by quicker than we think.  The more resolve we have to accomplish today will bring us that much more happiness and satisfaction for the future.

 

(Sefer Chochmas Chaim)      

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news january 24, 2015

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החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים 

This month shall be unto you the beginning of the months (of the year) Shmos 12:12

 

The Talmud explains that the word  לכם  "to you” means, " you the rabbinical courts have the power to regulate the months of the year. ”  This really means that you, “man” have mastery over time.  Today we have more time saving devices than ever before.  Yet, rather than becoming master over time we have become its slave.  The ability to get things done fast has resulted in the expectation that everything will get done fast,  and the resulting pressure brings a lot of stress to our lives.  Many people fall into this type A personality, which describes the person who is dominated by time.  This enslavement to time may be a significant contributing factor towards heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.  Therefore it is not by accident that the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people, as they were being freed from slavery, was to be masters over their own time.  Time is life and the greatest gift we can do for ourselves and family is to use our time wisely.

(Sefer: Living each Week)    

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

 

 

shmooze news january 17, 2015

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Shabbos Mevorchim -- Rosh Chodesh Shevat, Wednesday

Mazal Tov to our Rabbi & Rebbetzin on the Bar Mitzvah of their son Avraham

Mazal Tov to Rick & Renee Moore on the upcoming marriage of their son Spencer to Eliana Balk

The Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 3:5) comments that Moshe Rabbeinu was instructed, during the servitude of Egypt, to command the Israelites, that once they are established in their land they must observe the mitzvah of emancipating slaves.  Numerous times the Torah exhorts us to remember that we were slaves in Egypt, and indeed it is incumbent upon us to recall our bondage every single day of our lives.  The Torah places great emphasis on Gemilus Chassadim (acts of kindness), considering it to be one of the greatest mitzvohs.  A prerequisite of doing chesed is sensitivity to the needs of others.  In moments of distress we might be so preoccupied with our own problems that we may not think of others.  The Talmud is teaching us that Moshe commanded the Jewish people to observe the mitzvah of emancipating their slaves, teaching us to utilize any suffering we may endure to commit ourselves to helping others in distress.  Having said this, we were so pained this past week as thousands mourned the horrific deaths of four Jews from France as they were buried in Israel.

 It’s a time for us to stop and reflect, not only on the pain and suffering of all the Jewish families that have been affected by terror, but also to take a moment to appreciate all the blessings that we have, and to use whatever opportunity that comes our way to help, assist, and comfort our fellow Jews in any way possible -- not just in moments of tragedy but in all situations where one can do chesed.  Whether it’s a person who is ill, or a person who has a simcha, there are a myriad of ways to show our brothers and sisters that we are here for them.  In this merit may the Almighty in turn perform the ultimate chesed for the Jewish people and bring us the redemption and Moshiach Tzidkeinu speedily in our days.       

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news january 10, 2015

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He (Moshe) saw and behold! The bush was burning in the fire, but the bush was no consumed.   Shmos 3:2-6 

Moses thought, "I will turn aside now look at this great sight-why will the bush not be burned? And He (G-d) said to him, I am the    G-d of your father, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac and the    G-d of Jacob." How does G-d's statement answer  Moshe's question? The following homiletical answer that's given is that the sneh, a bush that is barren of both leaves and fruit, represents a person who is devoid of Torah & Mitzvos. Yet even such a person is capable of having a burning passion for G-d. During the Spanish inquisition there were Jews who were not observant of Mitzvos at all, who went willingly to be burnt at the stake rather than renounce their faith dying with Shema Yisrael on their lips. The question Moshe raised was, if a person is capable of such devotion to G-d "Why does the barren bush not glow? Why do we not see the passion within the Jew at other times?" G-d's answer was that in every Jew there is a spark of passion to unite with G-d.    This is a heritage passed down by the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to all Jews. The nucleus of G-dliness that is within every Jew may be likened to the molten rock in the center of earth that is at an extraordinarily high temperature and is under great pressure. This molten rock slowly pushes its way through fissures and crevices  in the earth's  crust.  No one is aware of the molten rock beneath the earth's surface until one day it breaks through the surface as a volcano. So it is with the spark of G-dliness that lies deeply concealed within a person, and one may not be aware of its  existence. Like the lava, it relentlessly pushes its way to the surface. Once it makes its breakthrough, it can appear with an explosive force. What causes the breakthrough? The Baal Hatanya Rav Schneur Zalman explains that the bond that ties the nucleus of G-dliness to its source is the Torah. Violation of the Torah estranges this nucleus by setting up barriers between it and   G-d. The Yetzer Hara (Evil inclination) is cunning and deludes a person into thinking that he can maintain a closeness to G-d even when he disobeys his will. However, when a person is confronted with renouncing G-d, the Yetzer Hara can no longer delude him that he can relate to G-d while rejecting him. At this point the person is willing to give up his life rather than  be separated from G-d. This was Moshe's first lesson of the essence of a Jew  --  a lesson he will not forget because during the 40 year sojourn of the Jewish people in the desert Moshe always pleaded for the Jewish people despite their grievance sins. For he knew that in their essence they were very devoted to G-d. This is something which every Jew should bear in mind.  We cannot possibly achieve true happiness if we are distanced from our source.  There is a force within us that strives to get close to G-d. To deny that innate G-dliness its wish is to be in conflict with one's self. Strengthening the bond between ourselves and G-d by observing his will eliminates the internal conflict that robs us of peace of mind and soul. 

Sefer Twarsky on Chumash

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twarsky

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

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Scholar-in-Residence Shabbaton

Welcome Rabbi Dr.Meir Soloveichik

(Please see insert for full Shabbaton schedule and acknowledgements)

 בך יברך ישראל לאמר ישמך אלוקים כאפרים וכמנשה

Although our patriarch Yaakov was blessed with 12 righteous sons, he declared that for all time Jews would bless their children "that they should be like Yosef’s two sons, Ephraim and Menasheh."  What was so special about them?  Igra D’kalla suggests that the potential existed for the relationship between Ephraim and Menasheh to become strained. Ephraim might have grown arrogant after Yaakov bestowed the primary blessing upon him, though he was the younger brother.  Menasheh might have become jealous and resentful after having been passed over in favor of his younger brother.  Yet, there is no hint anywhere of any bad will between these two brothers and their offsprings.  To the contrary, in the midbar (desert) the tribe of Menasheh resided in the encampment led by Ephraim; they lived side by side in harmony.  Therefore, we bless our children that they too should live with their siblings in peace and harmony, in an atmosphere free of ill will or jealousy.  To parents,  there is no greater pleasure than  seeing their children getting along, and there is no greater pain then to watch them quarrel.  We hope and pray that we should only see Ahava, Achva, Nachas, and Shalom from our children, and grandchildren now, and for all future generations.

 

Sefer- Living the Parsha      

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze News december 27, 2014

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Bat Mitzvah of Alexa Joy Szafranski

וילקט יוסף את כל הכסף הנמצא בארץ מצרים .....ויבא יוסף את הכסף ביתה פרעה

“Yosef gathered all the money that was to be found in the land of Egypt…and Yosef brought the money into Pharaoh's Palace." Bereishis 47:14

It is amazing to see the honesty and integrity that Yosef displayed as viceroy of Egypt. Though the keys of the kingdom’s treasury were in his hands, he did not take anything for himself or his family that might smack of dishonesty.  On the verse 47:12,  “Yosef sustained his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food according to the children," the Sforno comments, “Although he had the ability to give them an abundance of food, he gave them only a sufficient amount.” As our Sages say (Taanis 11A) when the public is in distress a person should not say, “I am going to my house to eat and drink and peace be unto me." The Torah relates 47:11 that Yosef settled his family in the land of Egypt as “Pharaoh had commanded”. A ruler such as Yosef could have apportioned land to his father and brothers as he saw fit. Who in Egypt would have looked askance at this, especially in light of the tremendous blessings that Yaakov brought to Egypt and that in his honor the Nile River overflowed and the famine ended. Nevertheless, the commentaries point out that Yosef gave them that land, as the verse says, only on Pharaoh’s orders. This is the reason why the Torah describes at length Yosef’s actions during the famine years. To enrich us with an ethical lesson to endure for all generations and to teach us how far the obligation for integrity reaches. Yosef, during those years, turned the entire Egyptian people into Pharaoh's  servants, poured enormous amounts of money into the king's coffers and saved the whole country from famine, and yet despite all of this, he did not have more concern for himself than for any other citizen and did not line his own pockets. Success did not go to Yosef’s head. As a loyal servant of the king he cared only about Egypt’s economy and the king’s treasury. Contrast this to any other leader in world history with such power and one sees the magnificence of Yosef’s behavior. “Me K’Amcha Yisroel” who is like you the People of Israel.

 Sefer- Alenu L’Shabeach

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein 

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze news december 20, 2014

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Shabbos Chanukah, Shabbos Mevorchim

Rosh Chodesh Teves, Monday & Tuesday

Aufruf of Zachary Danowit

As we celebrate and observe this beautiful and inspiring Shabbos Chanukah together, let us remind ourselves of what the Chanukah message is all about.  Chanukah was a time of dangerous assimilation for the Jewish people.  We were immersed in Greek culture and society and it was having a devastating affect on our people.  Along came a band of a few committed Jews who were ready to fight to the death to keep Torah and Mitzvos, and thank G-d they were successful.  They reignited the passion of Judaism within our nation, rededicated the temple and helped stem the spiritual tsunami that threatened our people.  Chanukah is an excellent time for us to reevaluate our commitment and devotion to our faith.  It is a time to be introspective and reflective and ask ourselves some serious questions about our connection to Judaism.  Question one: Do I truly believe that our Torah is a Toras Emes (that the Torah is absolutely true)?  Do I believe that the written law and oral law are G-d’s word?  Question two: Do I believe that our Torah is a Toras Chaim (a Torah of life) --meaning that living a Torah-observant lifestyle is the best thing that ever happened to me? Do I feel thrilled and privileged to be an orthodox Jew?  And finally, question three:Do I believe that we are the Am Hanivchar (the chosen people) -- which means that we the Jewish people have a  special and unique relationship with G-d, more so than anyone else, and that we the Jewish people have a special mission and purpose in this world, different from anyone else? It is crucial that our answer is yes to each of these three questions,  and that we are also capable of articulating our feelings and ideas to our children and grandchildren as to why these three principles are indispensable to living an orthodox way of life.  We in America are reliving the Chanukah experience.  It’s a time of unprecedented and rampant assimilation where pleasure and more pleasure, and just having a good time is the credo of life.  So if we want to raise future generations to be committed to a Torah way of life, then we must strengthen ourselves in the aforementioned three principles of Jewish living.  That we have: a Toras Emes; a Toras Chaim; and that yes, we are the Chosen People, and we are proud of it, and hopefully through our actions and deeds we show the world that we are worthy of that title.  Let the merit of the Festival of Lights bring us the great light of Moshiach and the redemption of our people speedily in our days.   

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos and Chanukah Sameach!,

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

shmooze news december 13, 2014

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Welcome NCSY:  YIBH/NCSY Partnership Shabbaton

 ויהי ה" את יוסף ויהי איש מצליח

 “G-d was with Yosef and he became a successful man.” Bereishis 39:2

The root of the word “matzliach" (successful), which is used to describe Yosef, contains the secret of success itself. "Litzloach", which is the root word, means to successfully cross a river and move on.  Yosef Hatzaddik knew how to move from one situation to the next without “falling apart at the seams”.  He was able to cross mighty rivers of troubles and persevere over tremendous challenges.  Therefore, he was able to make the transition from his position as Yaakov’s favorite son, to a pit filled with snakes and scorpions.  Then he made his way successfully through the challenge posed by Potifar's wife.  Not everyone would have been capable of navigating from the holy home of Yaakov to the den of corruption and immorality that was Egypt.  Not everyone could have languished in prison for 12 years and then go directly to prominence in Pharaoh’s court.  All this was accomplished without changes in Yosef’s state of mind.  A person who is able to ford such difficult rivers with courage and faith is worthy of being called “an ish matzliach” (a successful man).  Only a person like Yosef Hatzadik who climbed from the lowest point to the highest – from the snake pit and prison to the throne of Egypt, then the greatest empire in the world and still remain staunch in his faith- only such a person can be called matzliach, a successful man.

Sefer: Aleinu L’shabeach

Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein (one of the greatest Halachic authorities in Israel)

Have an inspiring Shabbos,

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze news december 6, 2014

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וישאל יעקב ויאמר הגידה נא שמך ויאמר למה זה תשאל לשמי

After Yaakov wrestled with the angel Yaakov asked: “Tell me, please, your name.”.He (the angel) said, "why do you ask my name?” Bereishis 32:30
The angel that wrestled with Yaakov is the personification of the forces of evil that seek to overpower the forces of good. In asking what the angel's name was, Yaakov sought to identify this power so that he might be more capable in guarding against it. Rashi explains that the angel’s response of "why do you ask my name?" means “I am nameless, or I have no fixed name." It is of interest that in the Talmud there are two different opinions of what form the angel took in his confrontation with Yaakov. One of the Talmudic sages say that the angel appeared as a heathen, and the other states that he appeared as a learned scholar. Throughout history the forces that have been antagonistic to Torah Judaism assume various forms and shapes. The angel of Esav, the Satan, comes in many disguises. He may appear as a hostile enemy, or as a secular pundit, or even clothed as a pious scholar. Whatever his appearance his goal is the same. To undermine the ethics and values of Torah living. Corruption has many faces and may appear under the guise of noble political or social ideals which appeal to people’s sense of fairness. However, we know that some of the most idealistic movements, which purport to champion
the battlement of all humanity, may be nothing but subterfuges which carry the deadly venom of ethical and moral degeneracy. Judaism has always wrestled with such forces. Whether our adversaries are mortal or celestial, we have always been triumphant in our struggle. Like the patriarch Yaakov, we have at times been wounded and weakened but the
truth of Yaakov is never defeated, and one day it will shine like the sun at mid-day when the redemption of our people will take place speedily in our days.
 
Sefer: Living each week
Rabbi DR. Abraham Twerski
 
Have an inspiring Shabbos,
Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

Shmooze News november 29, 2014

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ותהר עוד ותלד בן ותאמר הפעם אודה את ה" על כן קרא שמו יהודה

She (Leah) conceived again and bore a son, and said: This time I shall give thanks to G-d. Therefore she called his name Yehuda.” Bereishis 29:35

 

The Talmud (Brachos 7B) comments on this verse: from the day G-d created the world, no person ever gave thanks to  G-d until Leah came along and said thank you. This insight from the Talmud is very perplexing. Did not Avraham thank the Almighty, and Noach also when he emerged from the ark (i.e, Noach brought sacrifices to G-d to give thanks)? Explains Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld in the name of the Ksav Sofer: True, others did thank G-d before Leah. However, these expressions of gratitude came about because of some miraculous event or salvation. What the Talmud means to say is that Leah was the first person to ever thank G-d for a mundane natural occurrence. There is nothing so out of the ordinary about giving birth to a child – especially after three other healthy children have already been born. Nevertheless, Leah saw fit to praise G-d for being the source of all that we call nature -- for all the things in life we take for granted, which we expect and feel are coming to us, like health, livelihood, marriage, nachas from children and grandchildren. However, the truth is we are not really entitled to any of these gifts and it is only  through the abundant mercy of the Almighty that he chooses to bestow upon us these gifts of life. Leah teaches us the simple, but often forgotten, credo of life which is don’t take anything for granted. Appreciate every moment you have. That’s why we are called Yehudim, after Yehuda.  We are not called Reuvanim or Shimonim because the Jew’s essence is to be thankful. That is why for us, every day is Thanksgiving Day.

Have an inspiring Shabbos,

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

 

Shmooze News NOvember 22, 2014

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ויתן לך האלוקים מטל השמים ומשמני הארץ

הנה משמני הארץ יהיה מושבך ומטל השמים ממעל

“And may G-d give you the dew of heavens and the fatness of earth.” Bereishis 27:28

“Behold, the fatness of the earth shall be your dwelling and of the dew of heavens from above.” Bereishis 27:39

Although the blessings to Yaakov and Esav appear similar there are two major differences between them. To Yaakov, Yitzchak said “May G-d give you”, whereas in Esav's blessing he does not mention G-d’s name. Secondly, in Yaakov’s blessing, the brocha of “the dew of the heavens” is mentioned first and then the “fatness of the earth”. Whereas in Esav’s blessing the order is reversed.  Although Yitzchak thought he was blessing Esav the divine spirit motivated him to give Yaakov the blessing appropriate for him. Yaakov was to know that everything he possesses, even if it appears to be the result of his own efforts, is a gift from G-d. Moshe Rabbeinu warned the Jewish people that when they inherit the land of Israel and become wealthy and powerful they should not think that it was their skill, prowess, and hard work that produced their success; instead, it was G-d who gave them the ability to do so. Yaakov’s descendants have this faith, but to Esav’s descendants this is an alien concept, for they live by the sword and feel that it is their might and power which brings them their success. The blessings also show that Yaakov will be the one that will understand that the purpose of life is spirituality. Of course, one cannot fulfill the mitzvos without the physical means to do so.  Therefore, “the dew of the heavens” and “the fatness of the earth” are necessities -- but they are only the means and not the ultimate goals.  Esav, on the other hand, lives for this world and lives for the moment. The “fatness of the land” is primary. The two nuances are related. We can live spiritual lives only if we are aware that all of our physical possessions are divine gifts to be used in the service of G-d. If we lose sight of our dependence on the Almighty, then we can degenerate into creatures that seek only physical pleasures, and we thereby lose the dignity of spirituality that elevates us above all other living things.

Sefer: Twerski on Chumash, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Shmooze News November 15, 2014

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ויבאה יצחק האהלה שרה אמו ויקח את רבקה ותהי לו לאשה ויאהבה

"And Yitzchak brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother - he married Rivkah and she became his wife and he loved her." Bereshis 24:67

The Targum comments, "He saw her deeds were proper, like those of his mother Sarah." This needs a little elucidation, because the previous verse states, "The servant told Yitzchak all the things he had done." Rashi explains that this refers to the miracles that had taken place, such as the journey being shortened for Eliezer and his encounters with Rivkah after praying for a sign from G-d. Of course, he also told Yitzchak how the water in the well had risen towards Rivkah, and how her father Besuel tried to thwart the shidduch by poisoning Eliezer, and through an angel's intervention it was Besuel that died. Anyone watching this episode, with its full array of miracles, would reach the simple conclusion that G-d had crowned Eliezer's efforts with success and that Rivkah was for sure the bashert of Yitzchak. Instead, says the Brisker Rav (Rav Yitzchak Zev Solovetchik), Yitzchak himself was not satisfied until he saw that her deeds were proper like those of  his mother, Sarah. So despite all the miracles that occurred, which showed that this shidduch was made in heaven, Yitzchak was not impressed until he actually saw the middos tovos, the beautiful, refined character traits of his wife to be; that and only that convinced Yitzchak that she was the right one. The lesson from all this is that when it comes to shidduchim we don't rely on signs, wonders and miracles but on good old fashioned mentchlichkeit. For at the end of the day it boils down to the fact that marriage is built on three pillars: (a) good character, (b) good character, (c) and good character.

Sefer: (in part) Aleinu L'shabeach

Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein

Wishing all of you an inspiring Shabbos!

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein

Sun, October 22 2017 2 Cheshvan 5778