Weekly Dvar Torah
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Friday, August 12, 2016 / 8 Av 5776
What We Have Done and What We Could Have Done
By: Michael Winner

Last Shabbos was . . . full of excitement amongst the children, as alliances were made and alliances were broken.

My wife and I were discussing what in the world are we going to do over the next three weeks, with no school, no camp, and no car (only 10,000 shekels (minimum) to rent a mini-van for two weeks!).

My wife decided that we’re going to start a boot camp, and keep them moving throughout the day. Wake up is early, starting with physical training, davening, breakfast, etc. If you don’t eat during the 20 minutes, you lose out, son! I came up with the idea of buying the traditional “black hats” that drill sergeants use and marching the kids in formation up and down the street chanting:

Me: Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear!
Them: Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear!
Me: Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Them: Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Me: Sound Off!
Them: One Two!
Etc. etc.

The really annoying part about this? My wife and I have had this in our heads the whole week.

Now, it’s my gift to you. :)

Before we begin, since I’m not sure what in the world my life is going to bring over the next three weeks, Frumg.org might or might not be on vacation.

“Hashem, our G-d, spoke to us in Horeb (Mt. Sinai), saying, ‘You have had much dwelling by this mountain . . .’” (Devarim 1:6)

Rashi comments, “There is much eminence for you, and reward for your having dwelt at this mountain. You made the Mishkan, the Menorah, and the other holy vessels; you received the Torah; you appointed the Sanhedrin . . . .”

Several years ago, my Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Asher Rubenstein, spoke Erev Tisha B’Av. He noted that Tisha B’Av is the end of the “yeshivish” year, since the standard calendar for yeshivos and kollelim begins on the first day of Elul (in three weeks) and ends on Tisha B’Av. Like all end-of-years, it’s good that a person should look back and see his accomplishments.

In this week’s parsha, he said, we see a hint of this. While we were at Mt. Sinai, we received the Torah and built the Mishkan. We focused on the positives. So too, on the day before Tisha B’Av, we should look back at our accomplishments and take some pride on what we have accomplished. It’s important to do so, having this positive mentality will help push us for the upcoming year of learning.

However, Tisha B’Av comes. And on Tisha B’Av, we realize everything we didn’t accomplish that we could have.

Let us clarify that for a moment.

Let’s take people who lived a mere 100 years ago and bring them into this world. Can you imagine their shock? Cars, trucks, planes, internet, cellphones, etc., they would have no concept of how our world works. Rav Shimshon Pincus says that the opposite is true spiritually speaking. Today’s Jew is a much more different Jew than a Jew from 100 years ago. And we’re not talking religious vs. non-religious. We’re talking religious vs. religious. It’s a concept that we can barely fathom. Can you imagine a Jew from two-thousand years ago? Can you fathom what a Jew was when the Beis HaMikdash was standing? When there were korbonos? When there was a Kohen Gadol? No, you can’t, because we have no real connection to it any more. However, we do know that the Torah, and obligations that it has, is the exact same Torah and obligations that we have today.

Tisha B’Av is a time that we cry for what we are missing. Not only are the Jewish people still in exile, but so is Hashem, so to speak. When He is in exile, we are missing a major component in our lives. Our potential drops further and further as each passing generation goes by.

However, we don’t give up, because that is not a Torah concept. We continue to push ourselves, and daven that Hashem should help us and return even a small portion of that potential to us. But we cannot just daven for it, we must ACTUALIZE it. We must push ourselves 100 percent, so Hashem will add on another 10 percent.

We are told that “Moshiach is born on Tisha B’Av.” What does that mean? It means our personal “Moshiach” is born when we cry over Tisha B’Av and ask Hashem to bring Himself and us out of exile together, and to restore our spiritual potentials. Through acknowledging and crying over the fact that we are missing so much, spiritually, and promising to do our part, our “Moshiach” is being born.

And when the entire nation does this . . . Moshiach himself is being born for the community.

This Shabbos, we should look back over the year, and take some pride over what we have accomplished. Yet, after Shabbos, when Tisha B’Av begins, we should acknowledge the fact that we could have and need to push harder. We realize that we are missing so much, spiritually-speaking, than the previous generations, and that our only desire is to return to such a level. When this concept becomes a reality to us, Moshiach will arrive.

Have a wonderful Shabbos and a meaningful Tisha B’Av.

Michael Winner
Friday, August 05, 2016 / 1 Av 5776
Be Prepared!
By: Michael Winner

I learned a very important lesson this past Shabbos.

Shabbos morning while I was in shul, a great cry rang out in our house. My wife saw a large cockroach in our room. My seven-year-old son ran in with the broom, risking his life, trying to catch it and sweep it up, but alas, he was unsuccessful, and the cockroach escaped.

That afternoon my wife was contemplating whether she should take a nap upstairs since the cockroach was still on the loose. I joked that the worst that could happen is that the cockroach would walk all over her while she was asleep. She went ahead anyhow, and the cockroach did not make his appearance.

That night, around 2 a.m., as I was asleep, I felt something crawling on me. Somehow, I knew what it was, and I woke up brushing myself and my bed. I turned on the light and . . . I saw nothing! Phew! Only a dream . . . until I saw the cockroach on the floor, right where I threw him. He was executed shortly afterwards.

Lesson learned: be careful with your words!

Before we begin, I would like to welcome everybody living outside of Eretz Yisroel, back. Since Shavous, you folks have been a week behind us in the Torah reading. Finally, you decided to catch up! Which will save my proofreader and me a lot of confusion.

“And the Almighty spoke to Moshe at Arvos Moav by the Jordan at Yericho saying . . .” (Bamidbar 33:50)

For forty years, the Jewish nation wandered in the desert and now is finally receiving the command to go into Eretz Yisroel. But, before that, they are given the explicit warning that ALL forms of idol worship found in Eretz Yisroel are to be destroyed. Failure in this commandment, will ultimately lead to the Jewish nation's following such practices (as it eventually did).

Rav Zelig Pliskin writes that we learn the importance of removing temptation from one's environment as early as possible. When a family needs to move to a new community, they first check out possible communities to live in. They weigh the good and the bad, and if they decide to move, they make whatever necessary arrangements to make sure that the bad does not affect them.

When we moved up north, there were several concerns. As one rebbetzin said to my wife, “So . . . you turn your home into a spiritual fortress.” There are certain children we need to keep ours away from, and there are certain things we need to keep them away from. It’s not easy. Nor is “where is the boundary?” However, provisions must be made to keep certain influences out of their lives and to keep any taste of “idolatry” out of their systems.

By being complacent about things that will eventually lead us down the wrong path, we are already beginning down that path without even knowing it. And in the end, it will be much harder to say, “how did this happen?”

May we have the ability to see stumbling blocks down the road and the strength to take the proper actions to prevent them.

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, July 29, 2016 / 23 Tamuz 5776
By: Michael Winner

I saw an interesting question asked this past Shabbos.

We ended up parshas Balak with Pinchas killing Zimri for having relations with a woman from Midian. In parshas Pinchas, we see Hashem rewarding Pinchas for his zealotry. Yet, in Sefer Bereishis, when Shechem forcibly took Yaakov’s daughter Dina, and Shimon and Levi avenged her by killing him and his city, Yaakov grew angry at them and warned them about their "zealous" nature.

What is the difference between the two cases?

According to the Medresh, before killing Zimri, Pinchas asked Moshe for permission to do so, for the halacha states that a zealot, in this case, may do so. With that permission, Pinchas killed Zimri.

In contrast, Shimon and Levi did not asked Yaakov for permission. Rather, they decided on their own to avenge Dina. Even though it was done for the sake of Heaven, Yaakov chastises them for not following "the chain of command."

There is nothing wrong with zealotry. It comes to be problematic, however, when it is used inappropriately or by inappropriate people. That is why it is important to speak to one's mentor before doing anything close to zealotry.

We see this difference, unfortunately, in Yerushaliyim. Sometimes something happens, and a bunch of hooligans call for protests which attract 50-100 people, which causes public and private damage and throws everything off kilter for anybody travelling in the area. However, when protests are called by the acknowledged leaders of the religious world, you can have literally a half million or more people converge over a large section of the city, and the police will stand there idly with nothing to do. I remember attending one such protest, and it was truly an amazing thing to see.

Acting TRULY for the sake of Heaven is commendable. However, from our Medresh, we see it can only be done with the approval of one’s spiritual leader.

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, July 22, 2016 / 16 Tamuz 5776
Inner Mitzvos
By: Michael Winner

My wife and I were beginning to feel “the burn,” and with the summer coming into full power (both heat-wise and children-wise), we knew we had to do something about it soon, or we wouldn’t have any opportunity until at least after Sukkos. So, we found places for the kids, rented a small car, and took a day-and-a-half vacation driving in the north. We first went to Meron to pick up some healthy snacks, since you can get food with good kashrus there, and then headed north towards Kiryiat Shmoneh, which is very close to the Lebanese border. From there, we headed east and went to the Banyas in the Golan, which contains a small hike around the beginning of the Jordan river (beautiful waterfall, by the way).

From the Banyas, we travelled down the middle of the Upper Galil and returned back to the Golan and went to Katzrin. In Katzrin, they have an archeological museum and a very interesting 15-minute film about the fall of Gamla to the Romans. The “second-half” of the museum was a five-minute car drive away, which contained the remnants of a village they unearthed—complete with a shul. There was also a small film that they recommended we see there. We thought it would be a film similar to the first, something educational. Instead, it was about a story in the Gemara about Rebbe Meir and his rav, Acher. The entire thing was crazy and the whole point of the "story"? We “learn” from the Gemara, that the Ultra-Orthodox need to be more open-minded. It was said without being said, but it was VERY “not said.” Of course, if you actually KNOW the Gemara and a bit of history concerning the story, you’ll understand how they did not fully research it or they would have not been able to come up with such a conclusion. At least the kids weren’t there.

From there, we drove to the eastern side of the Kineret and found a nice place overlooking the sea for a late lunch. From there, we went to Tiveria to stay overnight and actually get a regular night’s sleep. We returned around noon and felt nice and relaxed until 3 minutes after the kids got home.

We agreed that next time we do this, it will be for two days.

Okay, on to Torah!

“And what does Hashem require of you but . . . that you walk modestly” (Haftorah, Micha 6:8)

The Gemara (Makkos 24a) learns from this pasuk that “walk modestly” refers to tending to the dead and escorting a bride to the wedding canopy. This leads us to an interesting question: These mitzvos are public mitzvos, what’s the connection with “walk modestly”?

Rav Schach answers that the modesty in this pasuk refers to the inside. It’s easy to be modest when things are done in a quick manner. But to bring simcha to a bride and groom, for example, while one is in public doing so, he must on the inside be doing it modestly. He shouldn’t be doing it to impress others or to be the center of attention, rather, he should be doing it to fulfill the mitzvah in the proper way.

By tending to the dead, one must also be modest by not just doing the necessary preparations, but to also feel the pain that the family is going through to properly console them.

By working on our sensitivity to others on our insides, we are able to able to “walk modestly” even regarding the most public of mitzvos.

This Shabbos begins the Three Weeks of mourning which ends with Tisha B'Av. But really, it doesn't end there. We are entering a period which really ends on Simchas Torah. We are now entering a "low" stage in our relationship with Hashem, when we are at our "furthest", so to speak. And from Tisha B'Av on, throughout Elul, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos, we slowly build up ourselves and our relationship with Him. By focusing and working on our inner qualities, we will be able to make the best use of such an important period

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, July 15, 2016 / 9 Tamuz 5776
Making Calculations
By: Michael Winner

When it was announced before Pesach that we would be learning the halachos of mezuzah, we were wondering “where did THAT come from”.

We figured it out.

Our Rosh Kollel is obviously working with the local mezuzah writers and is getting a cut of any future deals. It’s the only explanation.

The more you learn, the more you know. The more you know, the more you need to do. Now, people are realizing (including myself) that they have certain places where they are really obligated to put up a mezuzah.

However, I’m happy to say, I DID save myself some money. I’m overdue to get my mezuzos checked, and I just saw that you can do it yourself and don’t need to be an expert in the field, as long as you know the mezuzos were 100% to begin with.

Ha! Take THAT Rosh Kollel!!

Okay, on to Torah!

“Because of that, they who speak in parables (Moshlim) say: ‘Come to Cheshbon. Let the city of Sichon be built and established’” (Bamidbar 21:27)

The Gemara (Bava Basra 78b) says on the above verse that the “Moshlim” are those who rule over their impulses. “Come to Cheshbon” while the Torah is speaking of a place, it literally means, “come to make a calculation (cheshbon)”.

The Gemara continues, “Think about what you lose by performing a good deed and weigh that against all that you lose by performing a good deed and weigh that against all that you gain from it. Think about what you gain from transgressing and weight that against what you lose. If you do this, you will be built up in this world, and will be established in the world to come”

A person who does not regularly take time to go over his life and where he is heading, is comparable to a person who is driving without bothering to look at any signs, not knowing where exactly he is going. The important part, for him, is that he is going… which direction? That’s not so important.

However, a person who takes is constantly looking at the different signs on his drive, or in his life, will be able to reach his destination on time and in good condition.

Five minutes a day to give thought of what you did right, what you did wrong, how to improve and where are you going, can save you a lot of trouble down the road, and most importantly, deliver you to your destination.

Have a great Shabbos!
Friday, July 08, 2016 / 2 Tamuz 5776
Personal Interests
By: Michael Winner

One of the toughest things about living here in the summer is that you have nowhere to go.

After Tisha B’Av, there is a three-week break. Everybody has family to go to or to come to them. We don’t. In the past, we were able to meet up with friends and stay over and visa-versa, but since the family sizes are growing and the ages are getting older, it’s become hard to do that. Plus, not having a car in the north, makes it even more difficult. So, this week we purchased an above-ground 4.5x2.2x0.84 meter pool which fits perfectly in the back. We have to watch the kids constantly, but we’re hoping that they plan on living in it throughout the summer. I personally will have to wait until after Tisha B’Av before going in, since I don’t have the time now, but I feel, I will be banished there as well for most of each day.

I can think of worse things, I guess.

A friend of mine told me a nice piece on this week’s parsha.

As well all know and remember, during the forty years in the desert, mun fell every morning and was used as food for the entire nation. Where the mun fell for each person was dependent on who that person was. A tzaddik would have his mun ‘home-delivered’, he would just have to open up the door and it would be there. Somebody on the other hand end of the spectrum would have to walk quite a distance to get his.

So the question comes up… what happened with Korach. Korach started out pretty well for himself. He was on a high spiritual level and then sunk (literally) to a very low level. During the time that he was planning and executing his rebellion against Moshe, the mun must have slowly moved farther and farther away from his home. If that was the case, did Korach not notice this? And most importantly, why didn’t he realize the clear sign that he was in the wrong?

The answer lies with the fact that since Korach was personally involved, he interpreted these signs according to how HE wanted to understand them. He figured that since his rebellion was really a mitzvah, the fact that the mun was moving farther away from him meant that he was not applying himself fully in the execution of the mitzvah. He simply needed to work HARDER to overthrow Moshe!

Here we see the importance of pulling oneself away from having personal interest when it comes down to decisions, whether halachic or hashkafic (Torah thought). When a person has an interest in the manner he will do his best to twist things around to fit his viewpoint. That is why it is best to have somebody (rav or rebbetzin) to go to who will be able to listen and understand any questions and can guide you without that personal interest getting in the way.

Have a great Shabbos!
Friday, July 01, 2016 / 25 Sivan 5776
No Excuses!
By: Michael Winner

All the parents received a letter from the boys’ school this week asking us to put pressure on the city council. Right next to the school is another school that is attended by, literally, no more than 30 teenagers, many of whom are bused in from outside of the city. It’s not a regular school, but a school for “misfits” (tattoos, strange haircuts, etc., etc.). They are in possession of several buildings, including one that has been lying completely empty. This particular building is practically on the grounds of the boys’ school.

Currently, the boys’ school is set up to hold 95 students. However, more than 200 are attending, and the numbers will continue to grow. There are four bathroom stalls, and a trailer for the second grade (that's where my son learns), with an air-conditioner that barely works.. For years, the school has been trying to get hold of this unused building so they can expand. Instead of doing so, the city has decided to use it for dance lessons in the afternoons. I remember something exactly like this happening in our neighborhood in Yerushaliyim several years ago. The Chareidi schools are busting out of the seams, and the secular ones are lying dormant. Yet, the government does what it can to keep it out of the hands of the chareidim.

A few years ago, when they were opening up a new yeshivah, a small group came out and took it to court to try to stop it from opening. Their legal grounds? It will change the makeup of the entire city (we’re a very small minority here), and everything will go down the drain from there. The court threw that argument out. The irony was, the head of the group was selling his apartment to move to another. Whom did he sell it to? An Arab.

Thankfully, for the most part, there is very little tension between the religious and non-religious here. Everybody behaves and minds their own business, since neither side wants any trouble. But sometimes it’s the people in power who can cause the biggest troubles and open the biggest rifts.

My Rosh Yeshivah once praised the government’s decision to cut funds to yeshivos: “Now, the learning we do will be considered more lishmah (for the sake of Heaven)!” So, I guess that’s what we have to pass on to our children when they see the very apparent differences in educational facilities that they have compared to their secular counterparts.

Okay, on to Torah!

“For he has reviled the word of Hashem” (Bamidbar 13:31)

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 99a) lists a number of people whom this verse applies to. One of them is the individual who has the opportunity to engage in Torah study but neglects to do so.

I just learned a Gemara yesterday (Shabbos 15a) which was going over a few of the more famous arguments between Hillel and Shammai. One of them dealt with an issue of purity/impurities. The Gemara stated, Hillel says this opinion, Shammai says this opinion, and the Rabbis say it was neither opinion, rather than a third opinion. Then the Gemara continues that the Rabbis held this position until “two weavers from the Dung Gates came and testified that (the Rabbis) Shmiya and Avitalyon ruled in this way, and the Rabbis immediately accepted their testimony and changed their opinion.”

Rashi brings in a Tosefta (Ediyos 1) which asks, why were the jobs and where they lived specifically mentioned? It then answers that being a weaver was considered to be a very lowly job and there was no lower place in Yerushaliyim to live than that of the Dung Gate. However, this did not give any them any "excuse" to stop learning in the beis medresh. THAT is why their livelihood and residency were mentioned. Despite those two things, they were still considered learned, and not only learned, but learned enough that their testimony was accepted by those who were greater than them in learning!

No excuses!

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner

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