Weekly Dvar Torah
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Friday, July 25, 2014 / 27 Tamuz 5774
Open your eyes!
By: Michael Winner



It’s very hard to put feelings into words.

I guess that the best word is pachad, which is commonly translated as trepidation. It’s not so much fear of missiles raining down on us, nor the Arabs creating another intifada. Nor is it a fear for the lives of the soldiers who have been in constant engagement.

How best to put this….

My wife, yesterday, spoke with a girl she knows from Yerushaliyim. She used to be a babysitter of ours, and is now married, with a child, living in Ofakim. Okfakim is currently being used as a staging base for combat soldiers going in and out of Gaza, due to its close proximity. They are constantly under rocket attack from Gaza and are in the midst of everything. Her husband goes to Beer Sheva, which is close by, to learn in a kollel there. When the war began he decided to not go to kollel and learn locally to be closer to his wife and child. However, when he saw the soldiers in Ofakim coming from and going to combat, he thought to himself… Here we have soldiers, away from their families, risking their lives so I can live and learn Torah… how can I possibly be home, when it’s MY job to protect them! It turns out that every other member of the kollel who went, at first, to safer ground thought as well. Now, despite the danger zone that they are in, they all meet at the kollel and learn throughout the day non-stop to do their part in the war. She said that their learning and davening have been like no other time.

This girl’s brother, who is ‘partnered up’ with a soldier, started to fall asleep in his learning. As he caught himself, he thought, at this moment, “my soldier” could be in Gaza and he certainly cannot afford to fall asleep, so if I fall asleep, what will become of him? He continued to learn without a break.

She told my wife, “You have no idea what miracles we have seen here and the amount of chesed and growth we’ve experienced! WE ARE BRINGING MOSHIACH!”

When you learn Navi (Prophets), especially the ones dealing with the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, one of the common themes that is brought up is that of Hashem's telling the Jewish nation, “How many times have I sent signs to you for you to do teshuvah? And how many times have you hardened your hearts?”

Similarly, we see that Noach is criticized as being a believer and a non-believer. On one hand he believed that Hashem was going to bring the flood. But, when it actually was about to happen, he had to be "pushed" into the ark, because he thought that Hashem would change His mind last minute.

I don’t know what Americans are seeing or hearing. From what I understand, there seems to be a pretty big disconnect, which is understandable. However, we are living in very interesting times. We all know soldiers in combat or at least know their families and feel a certain level of trepidation for them. We have seen many miracles and have certainly been receiving many messages. For those who have an open eye and an open heart (even if you’re not under the rain of rockets), it’s an unbelievable experience. My wife best described it as “Yom Kippur every day.”

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch gave a talk this week and said, “The Midrash relates that during the Jewish war against Midian (Bamidbar, chapter 31), every soldier that went out to battle had another person designated to daven and study Torah for him.

"If the Almighty shows us miracles and we do not respond by strengthening ourselves spiritually… then we are handed over to the forces of natural law and the missiles inexplicably will begin to hit their targets with greater frequency. That means the lives of our fellow Jews – our brothers and sisters living in Israel – are in mortal danger.

"That is why we must raise our level of consciousness of God’s Presence, to the point where we become worthy of supernatural treatment.”

We have a choice. We can continue to keep our eyes closed and say, “G-d willing everything will turn out okay,” or we can open our eyes to the situation and DO something to reverse the situation.

My friend made an excellent point the other day. When we left Egypt, only (around) 5 percent of the Jewish population left, since 95 percent of them died during the Darkness because they did not open their eyes and see what was going on. What would happen if Moshiach would come as a result of the current situation? What would you tell your children right before you became one of those 95 percent who did not want to make something of your life?

Each day there are more and more miracles occurring. However, if we refuse to recognize them as such, and refuse to recognize that Hashem is giving us a very clear sign that we need to do teshuvah and change our ways, then, G-d forbid, things will only spiral downward at an accelerated rate, just as they did in the past. G-d forbid a person should, after 120 years, go up and be charged with suicide and murder because he did not act as a spiritual shield for himself and others as he was supposed to.

May we all merit making seeing and feeling the current times for what they are and making appropriate changes in our lives to help strengthen our soldiers, the civilians in the south, and ourselves.

Have a wonderful and meaningful Shabbos.

Michael Winner

*This Dvar Torah has been dedicated to Yishai Chaim ben Shoshana, a husband and father, who is currently in combat in Gaza. May he and all the other soldiers and civilians return to their homes safely and soon*

Friday, July 18, 2014 / 20 Tamuz 5774
We have nothing to fear, but fear itself…
By: Michael Winner

Over the last week and a half, most of the family’s discussion has revolved around teelim (rockets), kipat barzel (Iron Dome), azakot (air raid sirens), and what to do if we are fired upon.

We make it a point to discuss everything with the kids since they discuss it with their friends anyhow. It is better that they should hear it from us with a proper perspective than from local friends or other children who are here from the south. What makes it a tad difficult is that they know it could and has happened here (our street in the last Lebanon war, before we moved here, was hit several times), so it’s not something that’s happening “over there.”

Baruch Hashem, though, we have been in the small “safe zone” in the northern part of the country. Right outside of Gaza’s reach and so-far nothing from the “pot-shots” further north. Of course, all our friends in the center of the country have spent some time in their safe rooms or bomb shelters, including Frum.org’s official editor in Haifa. I have no doubt though, that by next year, if we don’t hear from Hizbollah, Hamas will have missiles powerful enough to hit us. Hopefully, we won’t have that issue.

We did get one bright spot in proper education last Shabbos. My wife asked the kids what they thought about all the davening that happened on behalf of the kidnapped boys, only to find out that they were murdered. Rochel Leah (age 8) answered, “Those tefillos (prayers) are being used right now to protect us from the rockets. It’s like when you get a present and you save it to use another time, Hashem took our tefillos and used it for something different”.

Note that she’s not in school right now and didn’t hear this from anybody.

In this week’s parsha, the tribe of Reuven and Gad ask permission to settle on the east bank of the Jordan River instead of Eretz Yisroel proper. At that request Moshe became upset and accused them of instilling fear into the rest of the Jewish nation, since perhaps they will think that Reuven and Gad were afraid.

My Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Asher Rubenstein, would yell, “ERETZ YISROEL CANNOT BE CONQUERED BY FEAR! IT CAN ONLY BE CONQUERED BY EMUNAH (faith) IN HASHEM!! A person can lose Eretz Yisroel by living their lives in fear.”

When you look at the current situation, you see living proof of how Hashem is watching over us. How many missiles and rockets have been pouring down on the population centers in Israel over the past week and a half? How many killed? One (one too many, of course, but still…). How many injured? A few; most, if not all, being minor. Is that not proof of Hashem’s hand in things?

In truth, there is NO SAFER PLACE IN THE WORLD FOR A BEN TORAH THAN IN ERETZ YISROEL! Every person has special Divine Providence over him. The closer he grows to Hashem, the more he gains. That goes up exponentially in Eretz Yisroel, “A Land which Hashem your God seeks out; the eyes of Hashem your God are on it constantly, from the beginning of the year till the end of the year.” (Devarim 11:12)

The Gemara (Taanis 10) explains that blessings flow from Heaven into Eretz Yisroel and from there spread out to the rest of the world. THIS is where the most bracha in the world is concentrated! This is where Hashem’s hand is felt most.

The Rosh Kollel was giving a lecture yesterday and took five minutes at the end to discuss the situation. He said that when the rains began to fall in the times of Noach, Hashem gave the people 40 days to repent. Had they repented during any of those forty days, it would have been “gishmei bracha,” rains of blessing. However, since they did not, it turned out to be the opposite. He continued and said that right now we are experiencing “teelim shel bracha” (missiles of blessing), but if we sit back and keep ourselves from doing teshuvah, then G-d forbid….

Rav Shlomo Aviner, one of the prominent national religious rabbis was asked by somebody how they can help Tzahal, the Israeli army, in these dangerous times. He responded, “Repent, Daven, and give Tzedakah. It is already certain, however, that Tzahal will be victorious, but you can help make the process faster and less costly.”

It wasn’t “bake cookies for the soldiers” or “send packages”… it was teshuvah, davening, and charity.

May we all see the end to this war soon, and may everybody who is in a dangerous situation, whether soldier or civilian be kept safe.

Have a great Shabbos.

Michael Winner

*Please note: I’m not advocating people making Aliyah. In fact, most of the time I’m against it, since people move here with kids and have major integration issues.
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We have nothing to fear, but fear itself…
By: Michael Winner

Over the last week and a half, most of the family’s discussion has revolved around teelim (rockets), kipat barzel (Iron Dome), azakot (air raid sirens), and what to do if we are fired upon.

We make it a point to discuss everything with the kids since they discuss it with their friends anyhow. It is better that they should hear it from us with a proper perspective than from local friends or other children who are here from the south. What makes it a tad difficult is that they know it could and has happened here (our street in the last Lebanon war, before we moved here, was hit several times), so it’s not something that’s happening “over there.”

Baruch Hashem, though, we have been in the small “safe zone” in the northern part of the country. Right outside of Gaza’s reach and so-far nothing from the “pot-shots” further north. Of course, all our friends in the center of the country have spent some time in their safe rooms or bomb shelters, including Frum.org’s official editor in Haifa. I have no doubt though, that by next year, if we don’t hear from Hizbollah, Hamas will have missiles powerful enough to hit us. Hopefully, we won’t have that issue.

We did get one bright spot in proper education last Shabbos. My wife asked the kids what they thought about all the davening that happened on behalf of the kidnapped boys, only to find out that they were murdered. Rochel Leah (age 8) answered, “Those tefillos (prayers) are being used right now to protect us from the rockets. It’s like when you get a present and you save it to use another time, Hashem took our tefillos and used it for something different”.

Note that she’s not in school right now and didn’t hear this from anybody.

In this week’s parsha, the tribe of Reuven and Gad ask permission to settle on the east bank of the Jordan River instead of Eretz Yisroel proper. At that request Moshe became upset and accused them of instilling fear into the rest of the Jewish nation, since perhaps they will think that Reuven and Gad were afraid.

My Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Asher Rubenstein, would yell, “ERETZ YISROEL CANNOT BE CONQUERED BY FEAR! IT CAN ONLY BE CONQUERED BY EMUNAH (faith) IN HASHEM!! A person can lose Eretz Yisroel by living their lives in fear.”

When you look at the current situation, you see living proof of how Hashem is watching over us. How many missiles and rockets have been pouring down on the population centers in Israel over the past week and a half? How many killed? One (one too many, of course, but still…). How many injured? A few; most, if not all, being minor. Is that not proof of Hashem’s hand in things?

In truth, there is NO SAFER PLACE IN THE WORLD FOR A BEN TORAH THAN IN ERETZ YISROEL! Every person has special Divine Providence over him. The closer he grows to Hashem, the more he gains. That goes up exponentially in Eretz Yisroel, “A Land which Hashem your God seeks out; the eyes of Hashem your God are on it constantly, from the beginning of the year till the end of the year.” (Devarim 11:12)

The Gemara (Taanis 10) explains that blessings flow from Heaven into Eretz Yisroel and from there spread out to the rest of the world. THIS is where the most bracha in the world is concentrated! This is where Hashem’s hand is felt most.

The Rosh Kollel was giving a lecture yesterday and took five minutes at the end to discuss the situation. He said that when the rains began to fall in the times of Noach, Hashem gave the people 40 days to repent. Had they repented during any of those forty days, it would have been “gishmei bracha,” rains of blessing. However, since they did not, it turned out to be the opposite. He continued and said that right now we are experiencing “teelim shel bracha” (missiles of blessing), but if we sit back and keep ourselves from doing teshuvah, then G-d forbid….

Rav Shlomo Aviner, one of the prominent national religious rabbis was asked by somebody how they can help Tzahal, the Israeli army, in these dangerous times. He responded, “Repent, Daven, and give Tzedakah. It is already certain, however, that Tzahal will be victorious, but you can help make the process faster and less costly.”

It wasn’t “bake cookies for the soldiers” or “send packages”… it was teshuvah, davening, and charity.

May we all see the end to this war soon, and may everybody who is in a dangerous situation, whether soldier or civilian be kept safe.

Have a great Shabbos.

Michael Winner

*Please note: I’m not advocating people making Aliyah. In fact, most of the time I’m against it, since people move here with kids and have major integration issues.
Friday, July 11, 2014 / 13 Tamuz 5774
Pursue Labor!
By: Michael Winner

I received an email from a friend of mine in Jerusalem with a chart on the ranges of Hamas’ weapons. I was relieved to see that we are just outside of their range. So, naturally, I responded with, “PHEW… At least WE’RE safe!” A few hours later, rockets started landing in the north… figures (though I’m sure in general the north is going to be pretty quiet).

This week’s parsha begins where last week’s left off. In response to some very immoral behavior between the women of Midian and the Jewish nation, Pincus takes a spear to one of the tribal leaders involved, and puts an end to it. As a reward, Hashem gives him a “covenant of Peace”. Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter writes that in order to understand how such a terrible thing could happen, you need to look at the beginning of the story, where the Torah writes, “And Israel sat in Shitim, and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moav” (Numbers 25:1)

The Gemara comments that “Whenever the Torah uses the phrase ‘he sat’ it always signals the beginning of a problem”

What’s wrong with “sitting”? Sitting represents a break from spiritual labor. When a person is working, he is kept busy and out of trouble. When people have too much time on their hands, and waste it away doing nothing constructive, then they turn to other things to keep them occupied.

In the non-Jewish world, the goal is to “pursue happiness.” Interesting to note: It’s to “pursue,” not to actually “reach.” His goal is to work in order to take vacations.

A Ben Torah takes vacations so they will have strength to work. When our goals are to have fun, we end up falling down a very slippery slope. However, when our goals are to work hard on a constant basis, we will naturally have more protection.

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, June 27, 2014 / 29 Sivan 5774
Killing Yourself Over It
By: Michael Winner

Earlier this week, my wife went on a “Nofesh Nashim,” which indirectly translates to “Hundreds of religious women from all over the country descending on a hotel off the Kineret, where they get to eat, sleep, swim, and who-knows-what-else for three days, while their husbands take care of the children.”

Again, a rough translation, but pretty accurate.

I told my wife before she left that she had nothing to worry about, since the second she leaves the door, Martial Law will be declared. Being that, all the children were in bed on time, were bathed in record time, were clothed, fed, and shipped off to their respective places in the morning, earlier than usual, etc… When she came home, she attempted to feed them dinner, left the house a mess, and could not get them in bed without fights.

Why?

Fear of Abbah.

The only solution to children.

Of course, singing the tune to “The British Grenadiers” when marching them to bed, certainly does help set the tone of “Get out of line, and you’ll die.”

Okay, on to Torah!

“This is the Torah, when a man dies in a tent” (Bamidbar 19:14)

While this pasuk is speaking of a different subject, the Talmud (Berachos 63b) learns from here, that a person’s Torah remains with him, only when he "kills" himself over it.

Somebody was discussing the idea of learning together with me in the kollel. I explained my reluctance, because we have a few major differences. I come on time and I learn straight through. He comes late and has bursts of learning and periods of "zoning out" or falling asleep because he was up until 2 a.m. talking on the phone with family members or chatting with his wife, etc…

He exclaimed, “No… the problem is you’re not American, you’re English and have to run on time and do everything in order, while I’m Israeli and I’m more relaxed about everything.” I wanted to point out that that was probably one of the dumbest excuses I’ve ever heard, and that I had no interest in continuing this conversation with his Yetzer Horah, and that he can come back to me when he regains control of his brain.

The fact is, a Ben Torah, comes to learn on time (barring a good excuse, obviously), and plans his day around his learning in order to maximize it, and THEN does his best to maximize it. End of story.

Is it hard? Yes. But that’s how your Torah will stay with you. If not in this world, certainly in the Next.

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner

Friday, June 20, 2014 / 22 Sivan 5774
I did that?
By: Michael Winner

My wife and her friend were able to organize a “lesson a week” given by their rav, over the phone, to a group of married women, once a week.

You have to picture a much older Englishman with a big white beard sitting in his office giving this talk over the phone. As he is speaking about being a "mentch," he says, “What is a mentch, you might ask? A mentch is me! And if you’re not me… you’re not a mentch!” and then gives off a little chuckle…

You’ve got to love the British…

Okay, on to Torah!

If we can, please learn and continue to daven for the safe return of the three teenagers kidnapped last week by Arab terrorists:

Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah
Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim
Eyal ben Iris Teshurah

“And Korach son of YItzhar son of Kehas son of Levi took…” (Bamidbar 16:1)

Rashi explains that Korach’s lineage stops at Levi and did not continue another step to Yaakov because Yaakov davened concerning Levi, “With their assembly let my honor not be united." Simply put, Yaakov did not want his name to be attached to Korach’s rebellion.

Rav Shach asks what does Yaakov care if his name is mentioned? Is he really worried about his reputation?

He answers his question by bringing the Rambam’s Hilchos Tshuvah (3:2) where he explains that a person’s judgment is determined by weighing his merits against his transgressions. Of course, only Hashem knows how to assign the weight to each mitzvah and each transgression, depending on factors in the person’s life. He also can be punished for causing others to sin.

For example, if a person who keeps Shabbos completely fails to educate his son properly about keeping Shabbos, and in turn the grandson desecrates Shabbos, the grandfather might also be punished for desecrating Shabbos.

This is why Yaakov did not want his name mentioned with Korach! He davened that the education that he gave his children should be perfect, so that any future flaws would not be on his account.

See how careful we must be when educating our children! A person who fails in educating his children properly, will not only receive punishment for his sins, but also those of future generations. Nevertheless, we should remember the opposite is also true. When we raise our children properly, their reward is also our reward.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, June 13, 2014 / 15 Sivan 5774
Setting Our Priorities
By: Michael Winner

I bought a bicycle this week.

I’ve honestly been thinking about it for a couple of months now. I sit all day in kollel and I sit all night at work. While I’m not really overweight anymore, I’m certainly not getting in the exercise I used to get in Jerusalem, since I have only a five-minute walk to the kollel.

So, I found a used one for sale for a good price and decided, “Why not?”

Now, at 12 a.m., I close down work and go for a 15-20 minute ride. Being that everything is uphill and downhill here, I get a nice work out for that amount of time, AND the streets are nice and empty.

I was discussing the purchase with my wife and I mentioned that now that I have a bike, I’ve joined the small, elite world of air-force and naval pilots, a statement only men could truly understand. Being so, I need to give a good name for the jet, I mean, bike. She suggested, “What about ‘Thunderbolt?’” I counter-suggested that she return to the kitchen and stick to doing the girly stuff that she’s so good at doing, since this is way above her intellectual level.

After some thought, I suggested, “The Widow Maker.”

She overruled it.

Oh well….

Okay, on to Torah!

“…because he scorned the word of Hashem and broke His commandment; that soul will surely be cut off, its sin is within it” (Bamidbar 15:31)

“’… he scorned the word of Hashem’, this is referring to somebody who had the ability to learn Torah and did not” (Sanhedrin 39a)

“There are three things that Hashem cries over every day: Somebody who is able to be osek (involve himself in Torah learning, compared to learning ‘here’ and ‘there’), and is not osek; somebody who it’s impossible for him to be osek in Torah and IS osek; and a community leader who abuses his powers” (Chagigah 5b)

Rav Shimshon Pincus relates that the Marshah on the above Gemara, asks the following question: I understand the first thing. If a person, who CAN be osek in Torah and is not, then Hashem cries over him. By why would Hashem cry over the person who cannot be osek in Torah and nonetheless does so?!? If anything, it should be the opposite! He answers, that if you look carefully at the words, the Gemara says that a person who cannot be osek in Torah and is osek (not mentioning Torah at all)… what does that mean? It means he’s osek in other things, like his business or hobbies. So, according to the Marshah, a person who cannot be osek in Torah because he is osek in other things in its place, THAT is who Hashem is crying over.

However, Rav Pincus continues, that is not the traditional way of learning this Gemara, which is read how it is written. But we’re still left with the same question: Why does Hashem cry over somebody who cannot be osek in Torah and yet is osek in Torah?

He answers that this is referring to somebody that finds making time to learn Torah difficult, but nonetheless does so.

So… again, why does Hashem cry over such a person? He should be happy, instead!

Rav Pincus answers and says that it is similar to a father who asks his son to get him a glass of water. The son responds, “For you, I’ll be happy to make the effort to get you the water.” He then goes and gives his father a glass of water.

This is similar to a person who sets up his life in a way where doing things for Hashem is something that was secondary on his mind, so when he had to find time for it, he had to put in extra effort. A husband who wants a good marriage, doesn’t set up everything in his life first and then try to "fit in some time" for his wife.

My rav related to me that his grandmother remembers one thing about her grandfather. While he worked during the days as craftsman, she never remembered seeing him without a sefer in his hand to learn from.

My Rosh Yeshiva once yelled at us, “This is no such thing in Judaism that a person is allowed to work for the sake of earning money and living a comfortable life!!! There is no such heter (permission) for a person to go out and work for the sake of working!!! A person is allowed to work to support himself and his family IN ORDER that he and his family can live and grow as Bnei Torah!”

As Jews, becoming Bnei Torah is our goal and drive in life. Hobbies, fun and friends…they are tools to help us become Bnei Torah, but they are certainly not the main focus in life. So, when a person has to fit in some time for Hashem, since his goals are not in line with that of the Torah, THEN Hashem cries. But when a person is osek in Torah because he MAKES HIMSELF AVAILABLE to be osek in Torah… Hashem is then happy.

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner






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