Weekly Dvar Torah
frum.org 5.1


Friday, May 20, 2016 / 12 Iyar 5776
Peace, But at What Price?
By: Michael Winner

My daughter is currently in kindergarten and is born in a month which is on the border of moving to first grade vs. staying another year. The teacher wants her moved up yet the principal of the school doesn’t like taking girls that are born in that month, and wants her to stay another year. What they do to compromise is bring a psychologist to the kindergarten to see how the girls act and speak with them. There are several girls in her class that are in the same situation.

Last week my wife went to meet with the psychologist and the teacher to discuss her findings. In the end, she believes that she’s ready to move up. However, she wanted to go over some of the questions my daughter could not answer. One of them was, “Why do people go out to work?” My daughter had no clue. The teacher said that it was an unfair question: if money isn’t a value in the home, why would a child know about it? If anything, it might a bit worrisome if they know the answer. The psychologist thought about it and agreed with her. After the meeting one of them said to my wife that one of the girls answered, “TO MAKE LOTS OF MONEY!!!” and THAT worried the teacher.

I came home and asked my seven-year-old son the question. He didn’t know. I asked him in Hebrew, thinking he didn’t understand me clearly. He really didn’t know. I then asked my ten-year-old daughter. She answered, “To make money.” “And why does a person need to make money?” I asked. “To support himself," she answered.

It’s interesting how one’s values are passed on without realizing it. We teach them the importance of not wasting money, but we never discuss making or acquiring it. It’s just not what our life revolves around.

Interesting thought to ponder.

Okay, on to Torah!

“And the Almighty said to Moshe, ‘Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say to them, for a person shall not defile himself among his people’” (Vayikra 21:1).

The Chozeh of Lublin explains that Moshe was told that the kohanim need to be worthy of being descendants of Aharon. Just as Aharon’s main quality was pursuing love and kindness, so too, they should work hard in making this a priority in their lives.

However, the second part of the pasuk serves as a warning. “For a person shall not defile himself among his people.” True, the kohanim (and everybody in this regard) should strive for peace, but not when the cost is oneself. One should always distance himself from people who will defile him and bring him down. I remember when I was a lifeguard, the number one rule was: look out for yourself. If the victim was grabbing hold of you as you were trying to save them, and you could not control the situation, simply move away and let them drown. Hopefully, you can grab them immediately afterwards and save them, but to sacrifice your life as well is futile. So too with the spiritual world. Yes, go out and make peace! But, if you are going to start making friends or spending too much time with the wrong people . . . Therefore, the pasuk reminds him “not to defile himself among his people.”

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, May 06, 2016 / 28 Nissan 5776
Identical Cousins
By: Michael Winner

I hope everybody enjoyed their Pesach. Ours was relatively enjoyable. In Israel, the "in-between" days of Pesach and Sukkos are very family oriented. Everybody goes to their families for different meals or has their families come to them. So, it gets hard when you have kids and they have nowhere to go and nobody visiting them. Thankfully, we received two invitations from good friends in the same neighborhood in Yerushaliyim to visit, so we took a quick 24-hour (no shopping!) trip, where we just relaxed and enjoyed “the family.”

For the last day of Pesach, we received an invitation from our neighbor to join them for a meal. Their kids were trying to tell jokes that they knew that were based on English words that also have meanings in Hebrew. However, I didn’t catch half of them, since they were not using the English properly. At one point, my 5-year-old was bothering their 15-year-old and I didn’t see what was going on. He turned to me and asked me how to say “Oaf” in English (why he wanted English, I have no idea). So, I told him “chicken.” He turned around and said to her, “Chicken! Chicken!” I started to get confused, so the father, with food in his mouth, and who knows some words in English, said, “KOAF!” Still confused, I said “monkey” (Koaf in Hebrew), so the 15-year-old turned to her and said, “Monkey! Monkey!” I finally asked him what he was trying to say to her. He explained that he wanted her to go away and wanted to know how to say “L’Oaf” (to fly away) in English. Ahhh . . . that clarifies everything! I then told him how to say “Go away.” and all parties were happy.

Okay, on to Torah!

“He (the Kohen Gadol) shall take the two goats and stand them before Hashem, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting” (Vayikra 16:7)

One of the more well-known parts of the Yom Kippur service is where two goats, who looked identical to each other, were brought before the Kohen Gadol. Two identical lots were brought before him, and he would pick one up in each hand. Depending on which lot came out on which goat, one goat would be offered in the Beis HaMikdash as an offering, and the other would “carry the sins of the nation” and be taken to the desert to be killed.

I saw something in Lekutei Halachos and I want to add my own spin to it.

The Kohen Gadol represents the tzaddik, the righteous person. He does not decide which goat is offered in the Beis HaMikdash and which is killed in the desert. Hashem does, but does it via the Kohen Gadol who serves as a messenger of sorts.

One of the goats represents “truth” and the other represents “falsity.” Like the goats themselves, many times truth and falsity look exactly alike. Sometimes, because of the situation itself that a person is in, it’s not easy to discern the difference between the two. Many times, it’s because one’s yetzer horah deceives a person so much that he cannot see the difference between truth and falsity.

Therefore, when one is confronted with an issue where he cannot make out the difference between truth and falsity, he needs to go to the tzaddik. That tzaddik, being a messenger of Hashem, will help that person discern what is true and what is false. With a clearer picture at hand, that person is now able to make a proper and educated decision.

With that, I wish you a wonderful Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, April 22, 2016 / 14 Nissan 5776
The Tshuvah of Pesach
By: Michael Winner

My wife and I had a . . . discussion on whether or not we should clean certain toys or if checking them for chametz is good enough. I’ll let you figure out who the non-Jew was in this argument . . . I mean . . . discussion.

So, we agreed to call the rav and see what he says. I posed the question to him and he answered, “It depends on who you ask. If you ask me, checking it is fine. You won’t find enough of anything to be considered chametz. If you ask my wife however, she will tell you that OF COURSE you have to clean it, because the kids have dirty hands with chametz, chew gum, etc. etc. . . . So, in the end . . . do what you want.”

So, when I told my wife, I thought what he said was pretty clear and she held that he was in doubt on what we should do.

I’m beginning to understand how we have so many arguments in Gemara and halacha. Two different people hear the words of one person and come up with two different answers.

Needless to say . . . we locked those toys up in the end.

Women.

Okay, on to Torah!

I heard a wonderful piece from Rav Yaakov Leonard this past week. It was one of many, but this particular piece stood above.

We know that Pesach is a time of tshuvah, repentance. However, it’s missing all the elements that are associated with tshuvah. We don’t wake up early to say slichos. We don’t fast. We don’t say viduy. In fact, it’s a time of joy! We don’t say tachnun the entire month!

We can bring in the case of two different people.

The first person grew up in a very religious home. Went to the best yeshivos and has proven to be a Ben Torah. However, he made a mistake, and ended up doing a big sin. After realizing what he did, he went to his rav and spoke it over with him. The rav told him to say viduy and gave him a program to help him complete his tshuvah and to see that he doesn’t fall in that particular area again.

The second person was raised by the mafia. All he has known his whole life is stealing and swindling. One day he wakes up and realizes that he needs to change his life around. So, he goes to his local rav. What does the rav do? Does his tell him to say viduy? Does he give him some “12-step program”? No! For this particular person, he needs an entire change in his outlook in life. He requires a complete rewiring of his life and his mentality. Viduy won’t do a thing!

Everybody who grew up non-religious and changed his life completely around can understand where the second person is coming from. Things that used to be funny, now sicken him. Things that bothered him, no longer do. It’s not that he has kept his outlook in life, but now keeps Shabbos and kosher, it’s more than that. He’s a completely different person!

My wife and I once came to the conclusion that if we both remained where we were going in life, we would have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Nothing. But what we were is not who we are now.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the time for the first person. It’s a time we focus on our sins and try to clean them up, and see that they don’t happen again.

Pesach on the other hand, is the time for the second person. We’re not focusing on sins. We’re focusing on our entire essence. When we were taken out of Egypt, we went from one spiritual plane of existence, to a completely different plane of existence that we didn’t even know about. THAT is the repentance of Pesach. On Pesach, especially Seder night, we have the ability to jump from one level to another level. We need to obviously learn and focus on what we want to become in our lives, but this is the time to help change things around.

On Pesach night, we can decide and begin the process of going where we want to be in life, of changing ourselves. We then have seven weeks to Shavuous, to work on that change and ingrain that change into our souls.

Have a wonderful and meaningful Pesach!

Michael Winner
Friday, April 15, 2016 / 7 Nissan 5776
Next Year at Home!
By: Michael Winner

Do you know why women can’t become rabbis? It’s very simple. They have complete "control" over a few aspects in life, where their word is THE word. One of them is, of course, cleaning for Pesach. And we know that if the Shulcan Oruch says we should clean like this, and your wife responds, “Why is he so lenient? Is he even Jewish?” we follow the opinion of The Wife. Can you imagine if they were in charge of everything?? If people complain that rabbanim today are too stringent . . .

Okay, on to Torah!

I saw an interesting question on the Haggadah Talelei Oros, “Our current exile—the last one before the Final Redemption—is very different from the exile we endured in Egypt. Pharaoh made us into slaves. We were impoverished and severely afflicted. Looking around today, however, many countries give Jews equal rights and complete freedom, and most of us are quite comfortable and well off. One needs to wonder, 'Why has the Holy One arranged things this way for our generation, as we near the promised end?'"

Of course . . . he brings an answer (from the Malbim) and of course . . . it’s a parable . . . and of course . . . it’s about a king and his son!! What’s a Pesach story (or any Jewish story for that matter) without one of those!

Our king had a son . . . of course, an only son, who tended to not really care about the concept of good behavior. Finally, after spending thousands of dollars on therapists, psychologist, hypnotists, army drill sergeants, and the like, the father decided to send his son away where he was forced to do hard labor.

Naturally, within a short while, the father started receiving letters from his son, begging him to take him back, promising him that he will be a better person. The father, feeling his son’s pain, brought him home.

Within a short while, the son was back at it again, and the father sent him away once again. Not long after that, the father started receiving the same letters as before, with the same promises.

This time the king was doubtful: "Maybe he regrets his sinful behavior only because he is suffering. But when he will be ridded of his suffering, he probably will return to evil."

So, the king sent a messenger to free his son, but it was kept a secret that the money came from the king. If after being free he would continue to be allowed back home, it’s a sign that he really repented. However, if he continued on with his life, showing no interest in coming home . . .

The Malbim concludes, "In the same way, we say at the seder, 'This is the bread of affliction that our forefathers ate in Egypt.' These days (mid- to late-1800s when being written, but certainly applicable today), thanks to Hashem, our situation is considerably better than it was in Egypt. We are well off and comfortable, so we are even able to invite others into our homes to share our blessings. We ask, nevertheless, 'Next year in the Land of Israel,' for in our exile, we cannot fulfill the mitzvos that are dependent upon living in the Holy Land. Although we are comfortable, we want to come home! We yearn to be free to do everything that the King wants – every mitzvah of the Torah! Yes, we have been sent from the 'palace' because of our sins, but we truly want to return!'"

I’m not sure what next week will bring, so if we don’t speak then, I would like to wish you all a wonderful Pesach and a great Shabbos, and we’ll see each other in a few weeks' time!

Michael Winner
Friday, April 08, 2016 / 29 Adar II 5776
Their Faults Are Our Faults
By: Michael Winner

We just finished a six-month “semester” in the kollel and will be returning in a month. Usually it’s a bit of a weird feeling. We live in a small community, so I’m still seeing the same people, except for all those who go away to family for Pesach, but it’s still strange, as if something has ended. This particular time was extra strange. For the past two-and-a-half years, we have been learning the laws of kashrus, all day, every day. So, even when we were going on break, we knew it was merely a break. Now, it’s putting books back on the shelf that we have been using nonstop for the past several years, getting ready to start something new. I would like to go back to this subject, since you really cannot learn kashrus just once. It’s a complicated subject that needs in-depth review several times over, but I am looking forward to what’s next.

The Rosh Kollel suggested we learn something “light” until the fall, such as the laws concerning mezuzos. And in the afternoon, we’re going to start our journey through the Tractate of Shabbos. Then, hopefully, in the fall, we’ll starting learning the laws of Shabbos, in-depth, for the next few years. Shabbos is supposed to be much easier to "digest" than kashrus (excuse the pun), so I, for one, am excited.

“And (the person who has tzaaras, (a physical/spiritual skin ailment) shall call out: ‘Unclean, unclean!’” (Vayikra 13:45)

The Shaloh writes that this verse can be read as, “(the) Unclean (says): Unclean!” Being that an unclean person will often accuse others of being guilty of the exact same thing he himself is guilty of. As a result of this imperfection in himself, he has an unconscious desire to bring others down, to make himself feel better about his own issues. The Gemara (Kedushin 70a) says, “Those who try to invalidate others do so with their own blemishes.”

Rav Zelig Pliskin comments, “One means of finding out your own faults and blemishes is to see what faults you tend to notice in others. If you focus on certain negative aspects of others, it is possible that you have those same tendencies yourself.”

We see from here that when we are finding the same, constant issues in other people, we need to see if perhaps we are suffering from those same issues, and simply, in the back of our mind, attempting to "calm ourselves" at the expense of others.

And on that note: I happen to think you are all wonderful people without any blemishes whatsoever!

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, April 01, 2016 / 22 Adar II 5776
One Little Mitzvah
By: Michael Winner

My wife and I got in a very heated fight over Shabbos. The result of said fight would have had no bearing on our lives whatsoever, and it really had no point except that I thought that I was right and she thought that she was right. So, we were fighting and yelling (it was really fun), each trying to convince the other side of their rightness, until my oldest daughter actually started to get worried that we were REALLY fighting. So we had to call a truce and told her not to worry.

We got a sigh of relief and a chuckle over the fact that she started getting emotional over our "fight." Thankfully, we never fight like that. Usually, if we get into an argument, I refuse to speak to my wife and tell my daughter to tell my wife, that I’m not speaking to her and that she smells, but she’s never seen us actually raise our voices against each other and FIGHTING. On the other hand, it makes you think about all the other kids who see their parents doing that on a regular basis . . .

Always something to keep in mind . . . especially with Pesach cleaning around the corner.

“Aaron’s sons brought forth the blood, and dipping his finger in the blood, Aaron placed some on the altar’s protrusions . . .” (Vayikra 9:9)

The Gemara in Moed Katton (25b) writes that when the children of Rebbe Yishmael died, four rabbeim came to console him. Rebbe Tarfon (who the Winner family visits once a year, since he’s buried nearby) said [when Aarons two sons were killed for bringing a non-authorized offering], Moshe said to Aaron, "As far as your brothers are concerned, let the entire family of Israel mourn for the ones whom G-d burned" (Vayikra 10:6). We learn from here that Aaron’s sons were mourned by the one mitzvah that they did properly (bringing forth the blood for the legitimate offering), so much so, your children, Rebbe Yishmoel, should be mourned by all of the nation for all of the mitzvos that they did.”

We see from this Gemara the importance of even one mitzvah done properly. One of the reasons given (forgot where, sorry) for so many mitzvos given to us, is that hopefully, we will be able to do at least one 100% correctly, both in action and intent. Of course, it’s our job to try to do our best to do each mitzvah properly, but don’t get distressed if you fall short here and there.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, March 18, 2016 / 8 Adar II 5776
Miracles in Eretz Yisroel? No Big Deal.
By: Michael Winner

We received a catalog of costumes for Purim last week, which, naturally, the children pounced on immediately. As my seven-year-old son was looking at it, he was clearly getting upset at something. Finally his silence broke, “Look at this Kohen Gadol!!! This isn’t how he dressed! Look at the choshen! It’s not according to ANY opinions!! And look at this! This isn’t right either! Who made this?? A non-Jew?!?!?”

He then made up his mind: HE’S going to make the clothing of the Kohen Gadol. Not for Purim (he’ll be "working" for Hatzalah then), but just BECAUSE, gosh darn it! So, over the past week my wife bought him the supplies he needed, and he’s been working on it. He came to me asking what he should do, since there was a three-way argument over how something was made. I scratched my beard to show that maybe, perhaps, I could pretend to appear that I knew what he was talking about, and gave the sagely advice "Mmm . . . . Good question."

When I was his, age, I was out in the suburbs of Chicago in full fatigues on missions protecting the village from possible Communist paratroopers (we had constant patrols out . . . you can never be too careful with those Commies). Now, here I am, on the other side of the world, with a son making his own Kohen Gadol outfit. Strange how things work out.

I thought I might have written on this before, but I don’t see it anywhere, so I apologize if this is a repeat.

The Vilna Gaon in his commentary on Megillas Esther, quotes the Gemara (Chulin 139b) that asks, “Where do we find Esther mentioned in the Torah?” The Gemara then gives an answer: “Hester Panim," “I will surely hide My face” (Dvarim 31:18).

The Vilna Gaon then asks, why does the Gemara single out Esther? What happened to other tsaddikim? What about the miracle of Chanukkah? The Gemara doesn’t ask about where THAT is found?

He then answers, “A miracle in Eretz Yisroel isn’t 'such a big deal,' therefore, Chanukkah wasn’t as big as a miracle as Purim was. When the Torah hints to Purim, it hints to it in the pasuk of 'I will surely hide My face.' When is that? In exile, when He will do for us a great miracle such as this.”

From here we see the greatness of Eretz Yisroel, a Land of Miracles. Had Purim taken place in Eretz Yisroel, perhaps we would not be celebrating it like we do today. Why? Because a miracle in Eretz Yisroel, is closer to “natural,” then a miracle outside of Eretz Yisroel.

May we all merit to return soon and witness such a phenomenon on a personal level.

Have a wonderful Shabbos and a wonderful Purim.

See you in two weeks!

Michael Winner






Home
| Search | Contact Us