Weekly Dvar Torah
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Friday, August 28, 2015 / 13 Elul 5775
D-Day is Approaching
By: Michael Winner

Finally, things are starting to cool down around here.

For the past month or so, we’ve had nothing but 90+ degree weather. In fact, on one particular day, it hit 104 in the shade and over 120 in the sun (the thermometer did not go higher than that). Finally, we’re at a nice comfortable 87 degrees, and I for one, am looking forward to a nice, cool, and rainy winter.

The Rambam, when describing the Jewish soldier, writes, “’Which man is afraid or fainthearted (he should turn away)’ (Devarim 20:8) – this is to be understood literally. It refers to a person who doesn’t have the strength of heart to stand in the thick of battle. But once a person enters the thick of battle, he should rely on the One Who is the Hope and Savior of Israel in times of trouble; and he should know that he is going into battle over Hashem’s Oneness.

“He should place his life in His hands and not fear or be scared. He should not think of his wife or his children, but should wipe their memory from his heart. He should turn away from all matters and focus on the battle.

“One who starts to think about things in battle and makes himself afraid transgresses a negative commandment . . . Furthermore he will be responsible for all the blood of the Jewish people . . .”

During the war in Gaza last year, the commander of the Golani Brigade was wounded by shrapnel all over his face from a rocket attack. He was taken to the hospital, and of course, against doctors orders and protests, left the hospital to resume command before he could heal. He declared that if he had a bus, he would have taken more soldiers with him who wanted to join him back at the front. So, within a few days of being wounded, the colonel was back in action, shaved head, wounded face, looking vicious, leading his troops into danger once again.

During the months of Elul and Tishrei, we are in a midst of a vicious battle. The “D-Day” of the year, if you will. Not only our personal future, but the future of the entire Jewish nation, is at risk. If we break down, we can lose everything. If we strengthen our resolve to fight, we can be victorious and help bring the nation to victory.

We have now completed the first two weeks of Elul, and two more remain. We shouldn’t sit back and say, “Well, I wasted the first two weeks, what good is everything else going to be?”. Rather we should sit and figure out our own “order of battle” that we can do to prepare for Rosh HaShanah. By putting all distractions to the side and making a plan to really change, we can successfully swing the battle in our favor.

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael winner
Friday, August 21, 2015 / 6 Elul 5775
Let’s be Honest with Ourselves
By: Michael Winner

Every day after davening in every Elul, an older member of the minyan takes the shofar outside and gives a few good blows. I finally asked somebody what the story was behind it. He explained to me that this man grew up on a very secular-Zionist kibbutz where there were very few “Jewish survivors."

Back when the State was being created, there were several parties that were extremely anti-Jewish. (In fact, I read an interview with a religious POW from the 1948 war. He explained that the Jordanians were able to provide kosher food for them, yet the group of secular Jews refused to eat it, and demanded non-kosher food.) This particular kibbutz was one of the originals and did their best to stamp out any Jewishness from their children. (As my Rosh Yeshivah once commented, “Hitler took our bodies, they went for our souls.")

So, now, this man is religious, and while not the most educated, since his late start, he goes out every morning and blows the shofar as a sign of defiance against those who tried to take his Jewishness away.

I daven at the 6:30 a.m. minyan, which is the earliest minyan our shul has to offer. We normally don’t have the biggest turnout throughout the year (which is a shame), but during Elul, a few more people come to daven with us. They figured, since it’s Elul, they should show some seriousness and daven earlier in the morning, to show that they do care about starting out the morning right.

However, I noticed that these people have only changed what minyan they go to . . . not WHEN they show up for minyan. So instead of starting ten minutes late at the 7:30 minyan, they show up ten minutes late at the 6:30 minyan. It’s strange. Even during Elul, they are literally skipping important pieces of davening, all the while thinking that they are showing Hashem that they take davening seriously.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. Don’t fool yourself. We all do it and it’s a natural thing we are born with. However, if a person truly wishes to make changes in his life, the first step is to be honest with himself, and rely on a solid plan of change, not on what makes him feel better.

With that, I wish you a wonderful Shabbos and a meaningful Elul!
Friday, August 14, 2015 / 29 Av 5775
Being Faithful
By: Michael Winner

My apologies for the absence over the previous weeks. We’re officially on “vacation,” which is equivalent to what the Navy Seals call “Hell Week” during training. Actually, I think the Seals have it easier.

Being that Elul begins this summer, I thought we would begin preparing our ascent to Shmini Atzeres (via Elul, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos) today.

Concerning all the korbonos (offerings), the Torah writes, “You shall offer a burnt offering” (Bamidabar 28:19), yet regarding Rosh Hashanah, it is written “You shall MAKE a burnt offering.” We learn from here that a person should make himself like a burnt offering.

The focus of the work that begins in Elul is rededicating our service to Hashem. We forget about ourselves for a bit, and work for the sake of Heaven.

I saw the following from Rav Shimshon Pincus:

Concerning Moshe, the Torah writes, “In all My house, he is faithful.”

“What is faithfulness? Let’s say a patient is lying on the operating table and the surgeon starts to perform a complicated heart operation. In the middle of the operation, the assistant surgeon gets up and walks away. What happened? Assistant heart surgeons are going on strike. With no alternative, the head surgeon finishes the operation alone, and the patient is wheeled back to the department. The assistant who walked away is not faithful. You can’t rely on him.

“Faithfulness means not to move from the job, under all conditions. These days are the ones that determine the future for each and every one of us. The future of the family, the future of the Torah, of Klal Yisroel. We need to strengthen ourselves in Torah learning, in tefillah, not to let other things disturb us from the task at hand. We need to be faithful, to demonstrate reliability.”

Two women in our community were diagnosed with cancer. Somebody from one of the families, started handing out Tehilim (Psalms) to say after davening every day. The rav of the city got up within a week and said while he was certainly not opposed to saying Tehilim and that we should continue to do so, it of itself will probably not be enough. Citing places within the Gemara, the rav stressed that as a group, each individual needs to work on himself in certain aspects. Saying Tehillim is good, but doing true tshuvah is far better. (Concerning one woman, all the doctors wanted her to start chemo immediately, because they were convinced that she had a brain tumor. The couple held off until all possible tests were in, so there would be more time for more prayers. In the end, it wasn’t cancer, but rather some infection. Thankfully, she’s back in action. Concerning the second woman, the doctors have completely given up on her, but she’s hasn’t given up on herself and is still fighting the good fight. Her name is Chaya bas Orah).

By taking this month and using it to work on tshuvah, and not merely doing something without much thought, we are showing our faithfulness to Hashem, and with that we are giving Him reason to grant a good year for all of Klal Yisroel.

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Thursday, July 23, 2015 / 7 Av 5775
Mourning the Loss of Potential
By: Michael Winner

With the arrival of the baby, for the first time, we are a “boy family.” I’ve been wondering if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I happen not to like boys. They're useless, dirty, don’t listen, obnoxious, etc. However, I’ve seen that generally, when they grow older, they’re good to have around (and I’m starting to see that as well). Girls on the other hand are fine when they are young. They are cleaner, they help out, and they will listen to you. Of course, when they get older, they become emotional time-bombs, and remain that way forever. So this is part of the “back and forth” I was having in my head. That ended two days ago, when my wife told me what happened when I was in kollel. It seems there was a fly that was bothering the baby, so somehow, my six-year-old was able to swat it on the floor, where it landed on its back. Of course, he had to finish the job and squish it with his foot. Naturally, he wasn’t wearing any shoes. After “the smoosh,” he picked off the dead fly from his sock, looked at it, and proceeded to chase the girls around the room with it.

There is no longer a question in my mind: boys are better.

Rav Shimshon Pincus writes, “Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning, as reflected in its halachos. Over whom does one mourn? Not over a person who fell sick! Mourning is only over someone who died.

“Let’s try to understand who died, over whom we are mourning. Did Yerushalayim die? Did the Beis HaMikdash die? Certainly not. The Zohar says that Hashem swore He will not enter the heavenly Yerushalayim until the Jewish people enters the earthly Yerushalayim (Zohar, Naso 147b). The heavenly Yerushalayim exists; the Beis HaMikdash exists. It is being held in storage above, where it is waiting, ready to come to us.

“So perhaps we are mourning over the Jewish people? This can’t be either, because the Jewish people survived, and will live forever. And if you say we are mourning over Dovid HaMelech, over the Davidic Kingdom, this, too, is not so. ‘Dovid Melech Yisroel chai v’kayam!’ (Rosh Hashanah 25a).

“So who died? Who are we mourning for? We are forced to say that we are mourning over ourselves. Each person is mourning over his own life that perished!”

What does Rav Pincus mean “over his own life that perished”?

My Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Asher Rubenstein, used to say that after 120 years, we will all go up and they will show us two movies. One movie will be our life as we led it. The second movie will be about what our life COULD have been had we used all our potential that He gave us.

We mourn over Tisha B’Av because we mourn the loss of potential, and the continuous loss of potential that we experience in exile.

To put this into better perspective: Around a year ago, I was having trouble learning a particular halacha in the Shulchan Aruch. The Shulchan Aruch was clear, however, I was having issues with some of the commentaries. I went to a friend to help me out on it, and after pointing me in the right direction, he remarked, “It’s amazing when you think about it. Here we are learning ‘The Shach’ and ‘The Taz’ and other works. For many of them, they lived in times of turmoil and were being chased from one land to another. They experienced many troubles, yet they were able to produce important works that are being learned 400 years later. Yet, we are sitting in an air-conditioned beis medresh in relative comfort, with homes and food on our tables, and we are racking our brains trying to understand them!”

Perhaps by using the next nine days to think about where we are holding in life and what our potential really is, we can better use Tisha B’Av, and more importantly, better ourselves for the future.

Have a meaningful Tisha B'Av.
Friday, July 17, 2015 / 1 Av 5775
Mourning Our Potential
By: Michael Winner

With the arrival of the baby, for the first time, we are a “boy family.” I’ve been wondering if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I happen not to like boys. They're useless, dirty, don’t listen, obnoxious, etc. However, I’ve seen that generally, when they grow older, they’re good to have around (and I’m starting to see that as well). Girls on the other hand are fine when they are young. They are cleaner, they help out, and they will listen to you. Of course, when they get older, they become emotional time-bombs, and remain that way forever. So this is part of the “back and forth” I was having in my head. That ended two days ago, when my wife told me what happened when I was in kollel. It seems there was a fly that was bothering the baby, so somehow, my six-year-old was able to swat it on the floor, where it landed on its back. Of course, he had to finish the job and squish it with his foot. Naturally, he wasn’t wearing any shoes. After “the smoosh,” he picked off the dead fly from his sock, looked at it, and proceeded to chase the girls around the room with it.

There is no longer a question in my mind: boys are better.

There is no longer a question in my mind: boys are better.

Rav Shimshon Pincus writes, “Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning, as reflected in its halachos. Over whom does one mourn? Not over a person who fell sick! Mourning is only over someone who died.

“Let’s try to understand who died, over whom we are mourning. Did Yerushalayim die? Did the Beis HaMikdash die? Certainly not. The Zohar says that Hashem swore He will not enter the heavenly Yerushalayim until the Jewish people enters the earthly Yerushalayim (Zohar, Naso 147b). The heavenly Yerushalayim exists; the Beis HaMikdash exists. It is being held in storage above, where it is waiting, ready to come to us.

“So perhaps we are mourning over the Jewish people? This can’t be either, because the Jewish people survived, and will live forever. And if you say we are mourning over Dovid HaMelech, over the Davidic Kingdom, this, too, is not so. ‘Dovid Melech Yisroel chai v’kayam!’ (Rosh Hashanah 25a).

“So who died? Who are we mourning for? We are forced to say that we are mourning over ourselves. Each person is mourning over his own life that perished!”

What does Rav Pincus mean “over his own life that perished”?

My Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Asher Rubenstein, used to say that after 120 years, we will all go up and they will show us two movies. One movie will be our life as we led it. The second movie will be about what our life COULD have been had we used all our potential that He gave us.

We mourn over Tisha B’Av because we mourn the loss of potential, and the continuous loss of potential that we experience in exile.

To put this into better perspective: Around a year ago, I was having trouble learning a particular halacha in the Shulchan Aruch. The Shulchan Aruch was clear, however, I was having issues with some of the commentaries. I went to a friend to help me out on it, and after pointing me in the right direction, he remarked, “It’s amazing when you think about it. Here we are learning ‘The Shach’ and ‘The Taz’ and other works. For many of them, they lived in times of turmoil and were being chased from one land to another. They experienced many troubles, yet they were able to produce important works that are being learned 400 years later. Yet, we are sitting in an air-conditioned beis medresh in relative comfort, with homes and food on our tables, and we are racking our brains trying to understand them!”

Perhaps by using the next nine days to think about where we are holding in life and what our potential really is, we can better use Tisha B’Av, and more importantly, better ourselves for the future.

Have a great Shabbos!
---
Mourning Our Potential
By: Michael Winner

With the arrival of the baby, for the first time, we are a “boy family.” I’ve been wondering if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I happen not to like boys. They're useless, dirty, don’t listen, obnoxious, etc. However, I’ve seen that generally, when they grow older, they’re good to have around (and I’m starting to see that as well). Girls on the other hand are fine when they are young. They are cleaner, they help out, and they will listen to you. Of course, when they get older, they become emotional time-bombs, and remain that way forever. So this is part of the “back and forth” I was having in my head. That ended two days ago, when my wife told me what happened when I was in kollel. It seems there was a fly that was bothering the baby, so somehow, my six-year-old was able to swat it on the floor, where it landed on its back. Of course, he had to finish the job and squish it with his foot. Naturally, he wasn’t wearing any shoes. After “the smoosh,” he picked off the dead fly from his sock, looked at it, and proceeded to chase the girls around the room with it.

There is no longer a question in my mind: boys are better.

Rav Shimshon Pincus writes, “Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning, as reflected in its halachos. Over whom does one mourn? Not over a person who fell sick! Mourning is only over someone who died.

“Let’s try to understand who died, over whom we are mourning. Did Yerushalayim die? Did the Beis HaMikdash die? Certainly not. The Zohar says that Hashem swore He will not enter the heavenly Yerushalayim until the Jewish people enters the earthly Yerushalayim (Zohar, Naso 147b). The heavenly Yerushalayim exists; the Beis HaMikdash exists. It is being held in storage above, where it is waiting, ready to come to us.

“So perhaps we are mourning over the Jewish people? This can’t be either, because the Jewish people survived, and will live forever. And if you say we are mourning over Dovid HaMelech, over the Davidic Kingdom, this, too, is not so. ‘Dovid Melech Yisroel chai v’kayam!’ (Rosh Hashanah 25a).

“So who died? Who are we mourning for? We are forced to say that we are mourning over ourselves. Each person is mourning over his own life that perished!”

What does Rav Pincus mean “over his own life that perished”?

My Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Asher Rubenstein, used to say that after 120 years, we will all go up and they will show us two movies. One movie will be our life as we led it. The second movie will be about what our life COULD have been had we used all our potential that He gave us.

We mourn over Tisha B’Av because we mourn the loss of potential, and the continuous loss of potential that we experience in exile.

To put this into better perspective: Around a year ago, I was having trouble learning a particular halacha in the Shulchan Aruch. The Shulchan Aruch was clear, however, I was having issues with some of the commentaries. I went to a friend to help me out on it, and after pointing me in the right direction, he remarked, “It’s amazing when you think about it. Here we are learning ‘The Shach’ and ‘The Taz’ and other works. For many of them, they lived in times of turmoil and were being chased from one land to another. They experienced many troubles, yet they were able to produce important works that are being learned 400 years later. Yet, we are sitting in an air-conditioned beis medresh in relative comfort, with homes and food on our tables, and we are racking our brains trying to understand them!”

Perhaps by using the next nine days to think about where we are holding in life and what our potential really is, we can better use Tisha B’Av, and more importantly, better ourselves for the future.

Have a great Shabbos!
---
Mourning our Potential
By: Michael Winner

With the arrival of the baby, for the first time, we are a “boy family.” I’ve been wondering if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I happen not to like boys. They're useless, dirty, don’t listen, obnoxious, etc. However, I’ve seen that generally, when they grow older, they’re good to have around (and I’m starting to see that as well). Girls on the other hand are fine when they are young. They are cleaner, they help out, and they will listen to you. Of course, when they get older, they become emotional time-bombs, and remain that way forever. So this is part of the “back and forth” I was having in my head. That ended two days ago, when my wife told me what happened when I was in kollel. It seems there was a fly that was bothering the baby, so somehow, my six-year-old was able to swat it on the floor, where it landed on its back. Of course, he had to finish the job and squish it with his foot. Naturally, he wasn’t wearing any shoes. After “the smoosh,” he picked off the dead fly from his sock, looked at it, and proceeded to chase the girls around the room with it.

There is no longer a question in my mind: boys are better.

Rav Shimshon Pincus writes, “Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning, as reflected in its halachos. Over whom does one mourn? Not over a person who fell sick! Mourning is only over someone who died.

“Let’s try to understand who died, over whom we are mourning. Did Yerushalayim die? Did the Beis HaMikdash die? Certainly not. The Zohar says that Hashem swore He will not enter the heavenly Yerushalayim until the Jewish people enters the earthly Yerushalayim (Zohar, Naso 147b). The heavenly Yerushalayim exists; the Beis HaMikdash exists. It is being held in storage above, where it is waiting, ready to come to us.

“So perhaps we are mourning over the Jewish people? This can’t be either, because the Jewish people survived, and will live forever. And if you say we are mourning over Dovid HaMelech, over the Davidic Kingdom, this, too, is not so. ‘Dovid Melech Yisroel chai v’kayam!’ (Rosh Hashanah 25a).

“So who died? Who are we mourning for? We are forced to say that we are mourning over ourselves. Each person is mourning over his own life that perished!”

What does Rav Pincus mean “over his own life that perished”?

My Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Asher Rubenstein, used to say that after 120 years, we will all go up and they will show us two movies. One movie will be our life as we led it. The second movie will be about what our life COULD have been had we used all our potential that He gave us.

We mourn over Tisha B’Av because we mourn the loss of potential, and the continuous loss of potential that we experience in exile.

To put this into better perspective: Around a year ago, I was having trouble learning a particular halacha in the Shulchan Aruch. The Shulchan Aruch was clear, however, I was having issues with some of the commentaries. I went to a friend to help me out on it, and after pointing me in the right direction, he remarked, “It’s amazing when you think about it. Here we are learning ‘The Shach’ and ‘The Taz’ and other works. For many of them, they lived in times of turmoil and were being chased from one land to another. They experienced many troubles, yet they were able to produce important works that are being learned 400 years later. Yet, we are sitting in an air-conditioned beis medresh in relative comfort, with homes and food on our tables, and we are racking our brains trying to understand them!”

Perhaps by using the next nine days to think about where we are holding in life and what our potential really is, we can better use Tisha B’Av, and more importantly, better ourselves for the future.

Have a great Shabbos!






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