Thursday, October 17, 2019

Simchas Torah: The Greatest Love Is For The Jewish People

Dedicated By Yerachmiel Jacobson 
In honor of the five holy Shluchim who help our family and run the Hurwitz Family Fund 

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The last parsha of the Torah, V'zos Habracha, is read on Simchas Torah, it concludes with telling of the greatness of Moshe, each accolade greater than the previous, culminating with the final words of the Torah "Before the eyes of all of Israel." 

Rashi explains that this refers to when Moshe broke the first set of tablets of the Ten Commandments, which he did, "Before the eyes of all of Israel." He continues to say that Hashem agreed to Moshe's action, saying, "Yasher koach sheshibarta," (i.e. Well done that you broke them). 

Rashi comes to tell us the simple meaning of the verse, but this doesn't seem like the simple meaning. Rashi was explaining how the last few verses of the Torah are telling of the greatness of Moshe. 

"Who knew Hashem face to face," Rashi says, "For he was familiar with Him, speaking with Him at any time he wanted." 

"And to all the strong hand," Rashi says, "that he received the Torah on the tablets, with his hands." 

"And all the great awe," Rashi says, "miracles and great deeds in the great and awesome desert." 

And all of a sudden, Rashi changes his tune, saying one of the worst things, on the final words of the Torah, "before the eyes of all of Israel," Rashi says, "his heart was stirred (literally: he raised his heart) to smash the tablets before their eyes, as it is said, 'and I shattered them before your eyes,' And the Holy One Blessed is He gave His approval, as Scripture states, 'which you broke,' (Hashem said to Moshe) “Well done that you broke them!” 

Other commentaries say that the last words, "Before the eyes of all of Israel," are connected to the accolades that precede. In other words, they were done "Before the eyes of all of Israel." 

However, Rashi chooses to explain these words as a separate thing, and just after the Torah tells us the amazing and positive greatness of Moshe, it turns around and concludes with what seems to be a negative thing about Moshe. Therefore, it seems not to be the simple meaning. 

The commentaries on Rashi say, that this is why Rashi adds the part about Hashem agreeing with him, to show that it is really to bring out the greatness of Moshe, that Hashem agreed to him. 

However, this is difficult to understand, because if it wants to say something positive, why would the Torah say such a negative thing to bring it out? This question becomes stronger, when you realize that Hashem agreed to him on other occasions, that were not negative. Why doesn't it say one of those? And besides, the fact that Hashem agreed to him, is only a side point to the breaking of the tablets. The words that the Torah says, "Before the eyes of all of Israel," hints to the breaking of the tablets, and not to the fact that Hashem agreed with him. 

We also have to understand the words of the verse, "Before the eyes of all of Israel," which according to Rashi means that Moshe broke the tablets. That it was done "Before the eyes of all of Israel," seems besides the point. But the fact that the Torah mentions these words, means that it is an important point. What is the significance of him breaking the tablets, "Before the eyes of all of Israel."? 

Rashi tells us, "he raised his heart to break the tablets." Why doesn't he simply say that Moshe broke the tablets? Why does he add the words, "he raised his heart"? 

Another question. We have a rule that we conclude with something good. Why would the Torah conclude with something negative, the breaking of the tablets? It's not only negative, it is not in the honor of the Torah, which we are concluding. Rashi also concludes his commentary of the Torah with the word "sheshibarta," which means, "that you broke them." Why does he end on a negative note? 

With all these questions, we are forced to conclude that according to Rashi, the breaking of the tablets was the best thing that Moshe ever did, and that it deserves greater praise than the miracles that he did, receiving the Torah and his ability to talk to Hashem whenever he wanted to. Rashi says that Hashem "gave His approval," to prove that it was a good thing. And since it is a good thing, it would make sense to end the Torah on this note. So why is Moshe's breaking of the tablets such a good thing? 

When Hashem commanded Moshe to hew new stones for the second set of tablets for the Ten Commandments. On the words, "hew for yourself," Rashi says, "This can be compared to a king who went abroad and left his betrothed with the maidservants. Because of the immoral behavior of the maidservants, she acquired a bad reputation. Her bridesman [the person appointed to defend the bride should any problems arise] arose and tore up her marriage contract. He said, “If the king decides to kill her, I will say to him, ‘She is not yet your wife.’” 

The King is Hashem, the betrothed is the Jewish people. The troublesome maidservants are the mixed multitude, which were the non Jews that came out of Egypt with the Jewish people, and were the instigators of all kinds of trouble, including the sin of the golden calf. And the bridesman, who saved the Jewish people by breaking the tablets, is Moshe Rabbeinu. 

Moshe, who was the faithful shepherd of the Jewish people, only intention was to save them. Just imagine the sacrifice he made at that moment. He was the one who received the Torah directly from Hashem, and he spoke to Him whenever he wanted to, transmitting the word of Hashem, which is Torah. He was the one who performed the miracles, the content of the Torah, and he was the one who taught the Torah to the Jewish people. The Torah was so very precious to him and he was willing to throw it away to save a relatively small number of Jews who served the golden calf. 

Moshe, who taught them to honor the Torah, broke it in front of their eyes, even though it was the greatest sacrilege, to show them the value of a Jewish person, that he or she is more precious than the Torah, even if he or she sinned a grave sin, he was teaching us how much we must love every Jew. And Hashem agreed with him, He said, "Yasher Koach sheshibarta, well done that you broke them." 

This took great strength and love on Moshe's part, he had to raise his love for the Jewish people over his love for the Torah, that is why Rashi says, "he raised his heart." That is the main point. 

And that is why the Torah ends with this and Rashi ends with this, because it's the best thing that Moshe ever did. 

However we are left with a question. This is the end of the whole Torah, shouldn't it end with the greatness of the Torah? Even though it's positive about Moshe, it seems to be negative about the Torah, the breaking of the Ten Commandments isn't honoring the Torah. 

In Tana D'vei Eliyahu Raba it says, "There are two things in the world... Torah and (the Children of) Israel, but I don't know which one was first. I said, 'My son, it's the way of people to say that Torah was first, but I say that (the Children of) Israel were first.'" 

Isn't it obvious that the Jewish people were first, the whole Torah is addressing the Jewish people, "command the Children of Israel, speak to the Children of Israel." If there were no Jews, there would be no Torah. 

The question that was posed to Eliyahu, was not: Which one was first in time? But: Which is first in importance? And to that Eliyahu said that the Children of Israel is first. The whole Torah is only for the Jewish people, because the Jewish people are more important. 

And that is what Rabbi Akiva says that loving your fellow Jew "is a great rule of the Torah," and Hillel says, that is the "whole Torah." In other words, by ending this way, the Torah is saying that the essence of the Torah is that we should love each other. 

And that is why we read parshas V'zos Habracha on Shemini Atzeres in Israel and Simchas Torah which is the second day of Shemini Atzeres outside of Israel, because while on Sukkos seventy bulls were offered for the nations of the world, on Shemini Atzeres only one bull was offered for the Jewish people. Shemini Atzeres is all about the Jewish people. And that is why we celebrate Simchas Torah on Shemini Atzeres, because the Torah is all about the Jewish people. 

And this is hinted in the words Simchas Torah. On one hand, it means that we are joyous for the Torah, as it's once again completed. On the other hand, Simchas Torah could mean the joy of the Torah, that we make the Torah joyous, we give to the Torah, showing that we are greater, the Children of Israel are first. 

By loving our fellow Jew, we complete the Torah, by loving our fellow Jew, we complete the purpose of the Torah, to make this world into a home for Hashem, which means that we bring Moshiach. May he come soon. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Sukka And The Blessing It Brings

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Two mitzvos are specific to the Yom Tov of Sukkos, the mitzvah of Sukka and the mitzvah of the "four kinds," lulov, esrog, haddasim and arravos. If so, why is the Yom Tov called Sukkos, and not after the four kinds? And what are we meant to learn from this? 

There are several reasons that it's called Sukkos. 

One reason is that the mitzvah of Sukka is connected to every moment of the holiday, from when the holiday is sanctified until it ends seven days later. On the other hand, the four kinds begins only in the morning of the first day. 

What more, the Sukka has to be built before the holiday, especially for the mitzvah of Sukka and the building of the Sukka is considered a mitzvah. Whereas it's possible to put the four kinds together on Yom Tov. 

Another reason is that once you do the mitzvah of the four kinds, there is no more obligation. But the mitzvah of Sukka is that you should live in it as you live in your home. This means that it continues all day long, until the holiday is over. 

Another way that Sukka is greater than the four kinds, is that the four kinds are like most mitzvos, they are particular to one part of the body, in this case, the hands. On the other hand, Sukka is with the whole body, the mitzvah envelopes the whole body. And all the mundane things that are regularly done in the home should be done in the Sukka, and they become a mitzvah, so it makes everything you do a mitzvah. 

You have to live in the Sukka as you live in your home. That means that your Sukka is your home for the duration of the holiday. 

Our sages say, "One who has no home, is not a mentch," he is missing a vital part of being a person, a place to call home. When a person doesn't have a place to live, he doesn't feel like a mentch. This means that when a person isn't home, he is affected by the fact that he has a place to call home. On Sukkos, when we call the Sukka home, we are affected by the Sukka even when we are not in it, every moment of Sukkos we are affected by the Sukka. 

Everything that we do in the month of Tishrei, the Holidays, the Ten Days of Teshuva, Shabbos Bereishis, and even the other days, are meant to affect the whole year. 

We are expected to do everything for Hashem, as our sages say, "know Him in all your ways." And the mitzvah of Sukka gives us the strength for this. Because even if you sleep in the Sukka, you are doing a mitzvah, even when you are not in it, you are connected to the mitzvah, connected to Hashem. We have to take the holiness and the joy of the Sukka and bring it into the home throughout the year. 

Our sages say, "a man's home is his wife," this tells us the power of the Jewish woman, that she has an effect on her husband and children, not only when they are home, but even when they are not home, as she is their stability. 

May we all have a wonderful Sukkos, and may it affect our whole year and our homes that they should be filled with nachas and shalom bayis, hope and happiness, light and joy, good health and success. 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Teshuvah Tefillah Tzedakah vs Repentance Prayer Charity

Dedicated By Dr. Ezra and Lauren Kest 
In honor of our children who teach us how to love, listen and be heard.  They should be blessed to find, see and recognize their zivuggim at the right time and always listen well, be heard and feel listened to.  

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The Ten Days of Teshuvah begin with Rosh Hashanah we ask for ourselves and our families blessing for the new year and we are certain that Hashem will grant them. It ends with Yom Kippur when our blessing is sealed in the book of life. As long as we haven't been sealed in the book of life, as long as Yom Kippur hasn't come to an end, we could still achieve more and more blessing from Hashem Who has infinite blessing. And the seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is just for that, for accumulating blessing for the new year. 

How do we gain blessing? As we read in the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is through Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedakah. 

Teshuva is usually translated as repentance, Tefila as prayer and Tzedakah as charity, but they are not the right translation and for some it is actually the opposite of the meaning of the word.

Teshuva vs Repentance 

Repentance means to regret the person who you are and change to become a new person. The person you were was no good, and you are going to go against your nature to create a new you. 

Teshuva is the diametric opposite of repentance. Teshuva means to return, which means to go back to your essential self, which was always good. It is a journey inward, not to change entirely, but  to be true to who you really are, your essence, which is truly beautiful. 

Teshuva is easier than repentance, because it isn't a complete change into a new person, which is very difficult, rather a small turn to be the person you are. 

That is why everyone can do teshuva, even the most righteous person, because our essence is infinite, and there is always a deeper level of essence to reach for.

Tefila vs Prayer 

Prayer means to make a request from Hashem. So when there is no need, when everything is just grand, there is no need for prayer. 

Tefila means to connect, it is building, maintaining and refreshing our relationship with Hashem. Therefore we do it even when we don't need anything. Since Hashem is infinite, we can always take our relationship with Him deeper. That is why even the biggest Tzadik davens with so much fervor, because he is constantly taking his relationship with Hashem higher and higher, deeper and deeper. 

Tzedaka vs Charity 

Charity means that you are a good person, and you give to a person or a cause. The person or cause haven't earned it, nor do they deserve it, it is only out of the goodness of your heart that you are moved and you give. 

Tzedaka means that it is the just thing to do, you are obligated to give it to the person for two reasons. 

First, because you know that the money is not yours, it is just that Hashem gave it to you specifically to give that person. 

Second, because you know that you have to rely on Hashem to give to you even though He surely doesn't owe you anything. Therefore you have to do the same, you have to give to the poor person, even though you don't owe him. When you act that way, you evoke in Hashem to do the same for you. And when you give more than you can, you can ask of Hashem that He gives to you more than is coming to you. 

This is especially true when you give to synagogues and Torah institutions, if you give and you give more than your ability, then you can rightfully say to Hashem, "I give more than I can to what You want, give more than what is coming to me, to what I want." Whether it be health, nachas or success. 

Through Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedakah, we will surely be granted Hashem's overflowing blessings for a year of happiness and good health, nachas and shalom bayis, abundance and success. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

How Shofar Draws The Blessings For A Sweet Year

Dedicated By Dr. Ezra and Lauren Kest 
In honor of our children who teach us how to love, listen and be heard.  They should be blessed to find, see and recognize their zivuggim at the right time and always listen well, be heard and feel listened to. 

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How Shofar Draws The Blessings For A Sweet Year 


On Rosh Hashanah, in the musaf prayer, we hear the shofar blowing three times. Once with the verses and the blessing of kingship, a second time with the verses and the blessing of remembrance, and a third time with the verses and the blessing of shofar. 

The Talmud cites a Braisa that says, "The shofar blasts and the blessings of Rosh Hashanah... Are dependant on one another. What is the reason? Raba says that Hashem says, 'Say before Me on Rosh Hashanah verses of kingship, remembrance, and shofar. Verses of kingship, so that you will make Me King over you, verses of remembrance, so that good memories of you will come to Me, and with what (will you raise the verses before Me)? With the (verses and the blasts of the) shofar.'" 

On Rosh Hashanah there are two main themes that are intertwined. First we ask Hashem to be King over us, we coronate Him as our King, second is that we are accepted as His subjects, meaning that we will do His will and He will bestow upon us His goodness, that our needs are met and more. And this all happens in the musaf prayer. 

How does this work? And why is it that shofar is what makes it happen? 

To explain this, there are two parables. 

The first parable is from the Baal Shem Tov:

There was a king who had an only son. The prince was well educated and was the apple of his father’s eye. The King decided that it was a good idea for the prince to travel to foreign countries to learn and absorb new knowledge and cultures. 

The king gave his son officers, servants and a lot of money, so that he would be able to travel to distant countries and islands, to become more than he could have ever been had he stayed in his father’s house.

Much time passed, all his wealth and supplies were used up because of the pampered lifestyle he was used to; he was accustomed to always indulging his every whim. He eventually sold everything that he had and found himself in a distant land where no one even knew who his father was at all. 

This caused him great anguish. He yearned to return to his father’s country. Because so much time had elapsed, he even forgot his native tongue; what could he do in his own country without knowing his own language?!

When he came back to his country, he began to gesture and signal that he was their king’s son. He came to the courtyard of the king and continued gesturing that he was the prince, but they didn’t recognize him at all, they ridiculed him. 

He began to cry in a loud voice, hoping that the king would recognize it. When the king heard his voice, he exclaimed “Isn’t that the voice of my son crying out in desperation?” The love for his son was evoked, and he embraced and kissed his son.

The analogy is easily understood. The Jewish people are called the sons of Hashem. Just as the prince left the palace to learn and grow, so too, the neshama accomplishes and grows by doing mitzvos down here and reaches higher heights than it did before it descended to earth. 

Alas, because of the body’s self-love and indulgences, the neshama can end up in a distant place where even his own father isn’t recognized, neither his own language. 

Until he returns and cries out in a primal, simple voice. And this is what the cry of the shofar is—a cry from the depths of the heart, deeply regretting everything that he did and resolving to listen to the voice of his father. This cry elicits from the King of Kings a deep love for his “only son” and he forgives him for all he’s done in the past.

This is what the verses and the blessing of kingship accomplishes, but it is the sound of the shofar, a primal cry from the depths of our hearts that drives it home to the essence of Hashem, He accepts and He is our King for the new year. 

The second parable is from Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev:

A King once traveled through a big forest, to the depths of the forest, where he could no longer find the route home. 

He noticed some villagers and asked them for directions. They, of course, didn’t recognize the King, and didn’t know what to answer because they never knew the route to the palace. 

He eventually found a wise man and asked him for directions. The wise man recognized that this was the king, and was shaken. He immediately fulfilled the king’s wish by pointing him in the right direction. Because of his great wisdom, he knew the correct path to the palace and was able to guide the king back to his throne. 

The man found favor in the king’s eyes.

Time passed and this same man sinned against the king and angered him. The king commanded his highest officers to judge this man as those who commit treason are judged. 

The man was extremely pained knowing that he was doomed to harsh judgment for sinning against the king. He fell before the king and pleaded for one final request. He wanted to be dressed in the original clothes that he was wearing when he guided the king from the forest and back to his palace; and the king shall, as well, wear the same clothes he wore on that day. 

The king obliged. When both the king and the man were dressed in the garments from the day they met in the forest, the king remembered the great kindness he displayed for the king by guiding him back to his palace and throne. This aroused compassion and benevolence within the king to forgive the sins of the man and return him to his post.

This is an analogy for Hashem and the Jewish people. At the time of the Giving of the Torah, Hashem approached all the nations of the world, but they didn’t accept the Torah. We, the Jewish people, accepted the Torah with happiness and deep joy to the extent that we immediately said “Naaseh V’Nishma” (we will do and then we will understand). We accepted Hashem as our King and committed to fulfilling the mitzvos and laws of the Torah. 

Now, however, we sinned and rebelled against the king. Therefore we blow the shofar, the same “clothing we wore” at the Giving of the Torah. (The sound of the shofar was heard at the Giving of the Torah, so it serves) as a reminder that we accepted the Torah and we coronate Hashem as king with this same shofar. Through this, Hashem forgives us for all our wrongdoings and immediately inscribes us for a good life. 

This is what the verses and the blessing of remembrance accomplishes, but again, it is the sound of the shofar, the reminder of how when no one would accept the Torah, we accepted the Torah and the mission. His compassion and benevolence is aroused, He accepts us as His subjects for the new year and He grants us our needs and more for the new year. 

There is a question: What is it that actually drives it home to the essence of Hashem, is it the verses or the blasts of the shofar? Therefore we do both. 

On a deeper level, there are two aspects of the shofar, one is accomplished by the verses and the other by blasts. 

The blasts of the shofar are a mitzvah and have the power of a mitzvah, which is Hashem's will, His essence, therefore they reach His essence. 

Reciting the verses is Torah study, Torah is light, which reveals and has the power to draw down the accomplishments of the shofar into reality. And there is an advantage that Torah study has over mitzvos, it reaches the highest levels. Therefore there is an advantage that the reciting of the verses of shofar has over the actual blasts of the shofar. As the Rebbe Rashab says, "The true revelation that will be in the time of Moshiach at the highest level... Is drawn down now, on Rosh Hashanah, by saying the verses of shofar." 

Therefore, on Rosh Hashanah that falls on Shabbos, when we don't blow the shofar, we suffice with reciting the verses of shofar, because it accomplishes the same thing, if not more. 

Through shofar we accomplish the essence of Rosh Hashanah, we choose Hashem, and He chooses us, and He grants us a sweet and happy year.

May we all be written and sealed in the book of life for a happy and sweet new year, with good health and happiness, nachas and shalom bayis, abundance and success. And may we merit to see the coming of Moshiach and an end to this dark and bitter exile. May he come soon. The time has come.


I would like to thank Chana Gurevitch for her help translating the two parables. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Our Trip To NY: In Love With The Jewish People

Dedicated By Dr. Ezra and Lauren Kest 
In honor of our children who teach us how to love, listen and be heard.  They should be blessed to find, see and recognize their zivuggim at the right time and always listen well, be heard and feel listened to. 

I started to write this last week, but I was too exhausted from the trip to NY to finish it. Although it is on last week's parsha, there is a timeless lesson that can be learned from it. I hope you enjoy it. 

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Parshas Ki Seitzei, tells us the laws of divorce. 

There is a debate in the Talmud as to when a husband can divorce his wife. The school of Shamai says that only in a case of infidelity, can he give her a divorce. The school of Hillel says that even if she ruined his food (on purpose). Rabbi Akiva says that even if he finds another woman prettier than her, he can give her a divorce. 

Both the school of Shamai and the school of Hillel make sense because in each of their opinions, the wife did a negative action against her husband, an act of infidelity or spitefulness. However in Rabbi Akiva's opinion, she didn't do anything inappropriate or negative. Just because he finds another woman prettier, is that a reason that he could divorce her? Is this a Jewish value? Shouldn't he look at what is on the inside? 

The love between a husband and wife is symbolic of the love between Hashem and the Jewish people. As King Shlomo wrote about the love between a husband and wife in Song of Songs, which is a metaphor for the love between Hashem and the Jewish people, Hashem being the husband and the Jewish people being the wife. 

When they were debating which books should be part of our Tanach, many were of the opinion that the Song of Songs shouldn't be included because of the intimate nature of its content. Then Rabbi Akiva spoke up and said that the whole Torah is holy, but Song of Songs is the holiest of all. And Rabbi Akiva was the one who always "found merit for (the Children of) Israel." How could he be the one who says that if he finds another woman prettier, he can give her a divorce, does he mean that if Hashem finds another nation (G-d forbid) more appealing, He would trade us in? Certainly not. 

By Rabbi Akiva saying about the Song of Songs, which describes the love between a husband and wife, that it is the holiest of all, he is telling us that his notion of the love between a husband and wife is holy and beautiful, in other words, he thinks that this love should be deep and meaningful, not just a working relationship. You can say that his view of marriage is the most romantic of all, and when he says, "pretty," he means true beauty, inner beauty, which never diminishes, it only enhances. Rabbi Akiva thinks that every husband should see his wife as the most beautiful woman in the world, and if not... 

I remember having a discussion with someone about the mechitza in shul that separates between the men and the women during davening. And I was telling him that during davening our attention has to be completely on Hashem, we are building a relationship with Hashem. Therefore we have to minimize distractions, and being that it is the nature of men to be distracted by women, we put up a mechitza. He responded to me that his wife doesn't distract him, and he wanted to sit with his wife. I remember thinking how sad it is that his wife doesn't take his attention. If she was the most beautiful to him, she would surely be a distraction. 

The same is with the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. He sees what is on the inside of every one of us, and we are truly the most beautiful to Him. No other nation can compare. 

Last week I was privy to what Hashem sees in the Jewish people, that they are the most beautiful. They came together to make the dream of a father come true. A father that is not able to do anything on his own. 

When I came up with the idea of going to New York, I saw on Dina's face that she was exhausted from all of the difficulties that we have, so I let it go. I even told her to forget about it, it was only one of my wild ideas, because I didn't want to burden her with more, but she knows me better than anybody and she knew that it was important to me. 

I guess she was thinking about it, because she said to me the next day that we should try to find a way to do it, because "We can't be so busy staying alive that we are not living." And that set the ball in motion. 

It took a whole army to make it happen, and I am grateful to every one of them. They all did it out of the goodness of their hearts, giving of their time and resources to make it happen. I don't know all of the people who were involved behind the scenes, but I am grateful to every one of them. 

There was the tireless effort of my wife and the five Rabbis of the Hurwitz family fund. Then there was Dovid Raigorodsky, my daughter Fruma and her husband Levi, who arranged supplies and so much more. There were Naftali Berkowitz, and Shalom Wilhelm who did so much, I don't know where to begin. This was all before the trip began. 

The plane ride was amazing with Eli Rowe on Hatzolo Air, it was the best flight. My son Moshe put Tefillin on me and we davened, Eli, Dr. Avishai, Moshe and I discussed Torah. It was the most wonderful flight. On the way back we were joined by Yaakov. Brian, the pilot, bought a new pair of Tefillin for the plane and Shmuly Alenik was the first one to use them. I am truly grateful to Eli Rowe, and the whole crew of Hatzolo Air, for sponsoring the flights and making them so wonderful. 

Transportation from and to the flight was provided by Hatzolo of Crown Heights. I am grateful to them, especially to Chanan Feldman and Yitzchok Rimler, who were the crew that took me, they are long time friends of mine. 

I am so grateful to my aunt Miriam and my uncle Shmuel for opening their home to us and making us feel so comfortable. We had so many visitors, minyanim and kumzitzes there, it was non stop. 

I am grateful for all of you who visited. Family and friends, grade schools and high schools. We had some special visitors, Tzadikim who were in a situation like me, unable to do for themselves and their caregivers, mothers, fathers, husbands and wives who are the real Tzadikim, because it is harder on the caregiver than on the one who is sick. 

I am so grateful to my chavrusa, Berel Gurevitch, who took care of scheduling our appointments. I don't know what we would have done without him. 

Some people made appointments and others just showed up unannounced, I apologize to those who had appointments, only to find other people there when they came. 

I am grateful to those who took my kids out and showed them New York, Yossi, Emmy and Shaiya. 

I am grateful for my incredible nurses Edgar, Joy, Jose and sometimes my daughter Mussie, who went above and beyond the call of duty.

The Highlights of The Trip 

The Bar Mitzvah 

The Bar Mitzvah was amazing, it was full of love and joy. Sababa Orchestra did the music, Eli Marcus and Baruch Shalom sang. It was wonderful. I know that there are a lot of people who we have to thank for the bar mitzvah, but they are so many and I don't know all their names. I am grateful for all of you. 

The Ohel 

The main reason for the trip was to come to the Rebbe with my family and to be with my sons as they got aliyos in the Rebbe's room. 

This was the first time our whole family was at the Ohel together, so it was very meaningful to me, but it was a little bit difficult for us to be in the moment with all the cameras in our faces. Dina and my daughter Chava prepared lists of the people who asked us to daven for them. After we said our private prayers and after I gave an account of all the work we have been doing in the capacity of Shluchim of the Rebbe, Dina took out the lists, and we started davening for them. 

After the Ohel, where the Rebbe and the previous Rebbe are, we went to daven at their Rebbetzins, and then at the Rebbe's mother. There is something special about being at the Rebbetzins, you feel like they understand your pain, like only a mother would, and I broke down in tears. 

Then I went to daven at my grandparents. 

After the Ohel, and my kids having their fill of Ohel cookies, Dina and I went to visit Ben and Devora Schochet, amazing people, she was diagnosed with ALS at the same time as I was. It was an honor to be with them. 

The Rebbe's Room 

The next day, we went to the Rebbe's room, where my family was given the opportunity to be alone for a few minutes. That was very meaningful for my kids, Dina and I. As I asked for good things for my wife and children, tears were streaming down my face. 

Davening started in the Rebbe's room and when it came time to read the Torah, my eldest son, Moshe, got the first aliyah, which was very meaningful to me, because he never had an aliyah by the Rebbe. My Bar Mitzvah boy, Shalom, got the third aliyah. 

I am grateful to Chaim Baruch Halberstam and Rabbi Meir Harlig, who run things in the Rebbe's room. 

Then we had a tour of WLCC and the Rebbe's library. 

And finally, we went to the Brooklyn Artisan Bakehouse for breakfast, just the family. Amazing food. 

This is just a small example of what the Jewish people do, if you were to count all the good that is done on a daily basis, you would be overwhelmed. Hashem sees all of the goodness and kindness that the Jewish people do, He sees how beautiful we are and He is in love with us. 

May the merit of our goodness and kindness stand with us on Rosh Hashanah, and Hashem will surely grant us a good and sweet year. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Eat Meat And Have A Sweet Year And Nachas

Dedicated By Dr. Ezra and Lauren Kest 
In honor of our children who teach us how to love, listen and be heard.  They should be blessed to find, see and recognize their zivuggim at the right time and always listen well, be heard and feel listened to. 

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This week's parsha, Re'ey, tells us that we can eat meat, "When Hashem your God, expands your boundary, as He has spoken to you, and you say, 'I will eat meat,' because your soul desires to eat meat, you may eat meat, according to every desire of your soul." 

Rashi tells us, "In the desert, however, the meat of a non-consecrated animal was forbidden to them, unless one first consecrated it and offered it up as a peace offering." 

This is the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael in the Talmud, who says that once they entered Israel they were permitted to eat meat for pleasure, however, in the desert they were only permitted to eat meat from the peace offerings that they brought to the Mishkan, otherwise they weren't permitted to eat meat for pleasure. But the Halacha (the law) is not in accordance with his opinion, it is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, who says that in the desert they were permitted to eat meat from strangers, even though it wasn't slaughtered kosherly, however when they entered Israel, they weren't permitted to eat meat from strangers any more. 

It is a debate on the words of our verse, "expands your boundary." According to Rabbi Akiva, it means an expansion in wealth, when they become wealthy and they could afford it, they may eat meat. According to Rabbi Yishmael, it means expansion in property, when they get the land, they would be permitted to eat meat for pleasure. 

And Rashi, when explaining the words, "expands your boundary," cites the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, "The Torah teaches proper conduct, that one should not desire to eat meat unless [one lives] in abundance and wealth." 

It makes sense that Rashi cites the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael even though the Halacha is not in accordance with him, because in his commentary on the Torah he gives us the simple meaning, not the Halachic ruling. And being that, "These and these are the words of the Living G-d," meaning that both the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Akiva are from Hashem, it is in his right to use the words of Rabbi Yishmael. 

But how can he cite both the opinions of Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Akiva, which seem to be opposing opinions? We must conclude that being that Rashi brings them both, it must be that in their essence, they are based on the same reasoning. As will be explained. 

We also have to ask: Why would Rashi tell us Rabbi Yishmael's opinion, when the Halacha goes according to Rabbi Akiva? 

To understand this, we have to delve into the deeper meaning of this debate. 

The reason that Hashem gave us the mitzvos, is because through the performance of mitzvos with physical objects, in a physical place, and at a physical time (as time is also a creation and only exists in the physical world), we refine the physical and infuse it with G-dliness, thereby making it into a home for Hashem. 

The question is: Did this work begin in the desert or when they entered the land? 

According to Rabbi Yishmael, they weren't able to refine the physical in the desert, they could only have dealt with holiness, therefore they were only permitted to eat meat from the peace offerings, which were holy. Once they entered Israel they were stronger, they were able to refine the physical. Because the holy service to Hashem in the desert strengthened them, it was a preparation for the essential work, refining the physical. 

According to Rabbi Akiva, the work of refining the physical began in the desert, albeit in a limited way, because you can't truly infuse non kosher meat with G-dliness, the only thing that they were able to do, is the mitzvah of not eating blood, which is the life force of the animal and it represents the enthusiasm and the passionate desire for the meat. Once they entered the land, they were no longer permitted to eat non kosher meat, because they were stronger, and were able to do the work of refining the physical, so if they wanted to have meat, it had to be kosher. 

Now we can understand why Rashi brings both opinions, because in their essence, they are the same. 

And now we will understand why Rashi brings the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael even though the Halacha goes according to Rabbi Akiva. Because Rashi is talking to us, and our service to Hashem has to follow the path of Rabbi Yishmael. And this is true for all areas in life. At first you have to shun everything that is not holy, but when you become stronger, you must work with the physical and refine it. This is a never ending process, as you do this work, you constantly get stronger and stronger, what you were able to refine yesterday, is not enough today, because now you can handle a deeper level of the physical world and refine it. 

This can be applied to our daily lives. In the morning, we have to shun the physical and envelope ourselves in prayer and Torah study, only after do we eat a proper meal and go to work, where you deal with the most physical things. 

The week also follows the same pattern. "Shabbos blesses the days (that follow)." Shabbos is like the desert, where we bask in holiness, and it is Shabbos that prepares us, blesses the week, when we do the main service working with the physical. 

The year is the same. The holidays are a great holy time that prepares us for our work all year. And the month of Elul is the desert, the preparation for the holidays. This is one of the connections between our parsha and the time of the year. Because parshas Re'ey is read on the Shabbos before the month of Elul, when we bless the new month, or on Rosh Chodesh Elul itself. 

Being that my son Shalom will be having his Bar Mitzvah party this coming week, I will connect this with the idea of a Bar Mitzvah. 

The same idea applies to life in general and to a Bar Mitzvah boy in particular. The first years of life until Bar or Bas Mitzvah is the desert, the preparation for being a Jew, that is why we insulate our children from anything unholy in those years. From the Bar and Bas Mitzvah begins the preparation for life and the time of marriage, when he or she will go into the physical world of business and making a home. This is a critical time, when one has to form the correct notion of Judaism and life, what is important and what is not important, skills for life, principles to live by. This is the time that one acquires the main skills in Torah study, basking in the holiness and light of yeshiva. And this is the most important skill, because this is the foundation, the source. It is the meaning, the purpose and the reason. It is everything. 

Through following this path in our service to Hashem, we will have good days, good weeks, good months and a happy and sweet new year. 

And may we merit to have nachas from all of our children and grandchildren.  

Thursday, August 29, 2019

I Will Be Going to New York

Dear friends,

With Hashem's help, I will be taking a trip to NY next week with my family, from Wednesday September 4th to Wednesday September 11th. If you would like to visit, please text or whatsapp (917)634-0706 or email rabbi@chabadwestvillage.com

This is a big undertaking for my wife, family, friends, Hatzolo and the Hurwitz family fund. I am grateful to them for making this trip possible, I don't know when I will be able to do it again.

If you would like to help, please give to hurwitzfamilyfund.com