Sunday, May 25, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
These are the
recollections of HaRav Yechiel Michel Shlesinger,
founder of the yeshiva Kol Torah in Yerushalayim, of HaRav Avrohom
Elya Kaplan zt'l, head of the Berlin Rabbinerseminar and a talmid of
Slobodke yeshiva, under whom he had learned. This essay was originally
published in Haderech, on the 11th Iyar 5704, for HaRav Kaplan's
twentieth yahrtzeit.From among the many talks he gave us and his many typical
there are two that remain engraved in my memory and which I recall
every day; which have taught me and guided me.
In the course of a rancorous argument among talmidim of the
Rabbinerseminar in Berlin over certain internal issues concerning
Jewry, one student voiced his opinion that even the good which Zionism
had done -- by drawing nearer some of those who had strayed away from
Judaism -- could not justify the movement's existence if at the same
time it was preventing the multitudes from following the path to
As a case in point, the student mentioned Christianity which,
according to the Rambam at the end of his writings, also represents
one of the steps towards Moshiach, through its promulgation of
monotheism. Yet the Rambam makes it clear that for us, the religion's
founder epitomizes the Jewish renegade.
Nonetheless even the sins of the wicked are instruments in the
workings of Divine providence. Just as that sinner provided merit for
many people by spreading the belief in Hashem's unity, Zionism has
also merited us with the return of lost souls.
HaRav Kaplan zt'l, heard this discussion and called the student to
heed his rebuke. The rav first declared his enthusiastic recognition
of Agudism and its path that has been charted for us by our gedolim.
Then, he absolutely contradicted the idea that it was the crime of
Christianity that was the cause of the merit of monotheism spreading,
as mentioned by the Rambam.
It is inconceivable that a sin can bring any good to the world, just
as it is inconceivable that anything but good can result from a
mitzvah. If Christianity brought blessing to heathens it was not
because its founder was a sinner but because of the Jewish spark
Had this talmid of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachyoh not scorned the task
which Divine providence had prepared for him, who knows whether, at a
time when there was such a strong trend towards converting to Judaism
among the ruling classes of the world, faith in Judaism might not have
swept people's hearts and truly brought Moshiach close even then?
That individual's movement away from Judaism precipitated the most
terrible curse in the world: two thousand years of golus Edom. And
nevertheless, because he was a Jew, a ray of light went out to the
world from the Jewish soul that was within him, as the Rambam alludes.
We, small human beings who view the world in its present state where,
in our many sins, each day's curse is greater than that of the day
before, are liable to be misled by this. And for the sake of the
eternal truthfulness of the Perpetrator of great deeds, it should be
stated that a slightly sinful outlook that has penetrated the world
has stolen from us the infinite light that lies deep within Yisroel.
Then, with his enthusiastic and persuasive words, our great rebbe
taught us the basis of Judaism's outlook according to the Torah,
namely, that even the slightest aveiro, the smallest divergence from
the will of Hashem, must cause damage and bring a curse to the world,
just as every single mitzvo act brings blessing.
These words, accompanied by his cheerful expression and his luminous
and pure eyes, engraved themselves deeply in our hearts and are with
us every single day, whenever we express an opinion or take any
decision in life. They were a beacon of light for me, preventing me
from being drawn after a false outlook -- as though the building of
our errant brothers is the construction of Eretz Yisroel.
No! It is not happening because of the sinners but in spite of the
sinners. Even in the circles that are closest to us there is a need
for us to transmit our rebbe's teaching and to review it morning and
evening. Everything that is being built today in Eretz Yisroel is
being built because the workers are Jews, and not through their
aveiros but in spite of their aveiros. The building would be better
and greater without their sins.
From now on, when we look at what is happening, will we know and
remember the lesson of this simple outlook on life, which comes from
our holy Torah? Every slight transgression of the Torah's law, even if
in our eyes it seems to bring great blessing to Klal Yisroel for the
fulfillment of Torah, will only bring a curse to our lives and lessen
the strengthening of Torah's light in the world.
And any distance we put between ourselves and aveiro, even the
slightest one, and any small mitzvah, even if it seems at the moment
to damage Torah and its fulfillment, influences the world for the
good, increases happiness and strengthens the Torah's light.
At this opportunity our rebbe said to us, "The Torah says, `Do not
favor them,' (Devorim) and it is forbidden to say, `How beautiful this
gentile is.' We must not even praise the outward beauty of a sinner,
so as not to be attracted to them. How much greater is the obligation
to refrain from giving praise to a wicked man's good deeds lest we be
drawn after his mistaken and misleading outlook from which his deeds
drew their inspiration."
And what delicacy of recognition our rebbe had. Despite his meticulous
observance of this halocho and his deep and correct understanding of
it, he never broke off his frequent practice of maintaining mutual
relations with a number of errant souls and others whose faith was
weak. He was inspired to this by a boundless love of Jews, which will
ultimately bring these people back to the path of good.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
We are planning to be in the Banff / Canmore /
Rockies area the week after Tisha B’Av, and are looking to find any
people who might want to get together to form/find a minyan for the
Shabbos of August 15-16. We know we can go to Calgary for
Shabbos, but are hoping we might find a way not to have to do that. Our
extended family group includes 6-7 males, so we are looking for 3-4
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Can you explain why Rav Tzadok considers the 600,000 Mitzrim killed by the Bchoros to be a Kapara for Klal Yisrael, as stated in Pri Tzadik?
I am unable to get a clear answer to this question. Does it make sense to you, based on his other writings? So when huge numbers of people are killed, this means there was a threat to the Yidden, and they were chosen instead (as an atonement -or maybe a warning to us that we might be next?)
I know Rav Tzadok quotes the Gemorra in Brachos, where the Rav was about to enter a latrine and a Roman entered instead and was killed by a snake. "Edom Tachas Raglecho" Is there some principal here I don't understand? Will Edom eventually atone for us through their destruction? seems like a pretty violent philosophy...
I was asked a question by an unnamed Rav who didn't understand why the number 600,000 would apply to the Mitzrim, he thought that number applied only to Klal Yisrael. So I showed him that Rav Tzadok wrote they were a kapara for the 600,000 Yiddden who really did not deserve
to leave Mitrayim. The Rav didn't understand Rav Tzadok, and said he is not really an expert on Rav Tzadok, and I should ask someone who knows Rav Tzadok's writings much better than he does.
I think it is something along the lines of this Gemara, Chagigah 4b:
הא דרב ביבי בר אביי הוה שכיח גביה מלאך המות אמר ליה לשלוחיה זיל אייתי
לי מרים מגדלא שיער נשייא אזל אייתי ליה מרים מגדלא דרדקי אמר ליה אנא
מרים מגדלא שיער נשייא אמרי לך אמר ליה אי הכי אהדרה אמר ליה הואיל
ואייתיתה ליהוי למניינא
The Gemara later relates that the years that the person who died early lost are given to a צורבא מרבנן דמעביר במיליה.
IIRC, Rav Dessler explains that they are given specifically to a Talmid
Chochom who is kind and gracious so he will readily assign the merit he
accrues during those years to the predeceased. Here too, evidently,
there was a minyan of deaths that had to be suffered as a part of the cataclysm of the Exodus. (Likely in connection with "Halalu Ovdei Avodah Zarah v'halalu Ovdei Avodah Zarah"). R' Tzadok here (Shabbos HaGadol #1) writes that the Mitzri'im were a kofer, not a kapparah. Evidently, they were taken to fill the quota, and the resulting Kiddush Hashem (and, it would seem, the subsequent Avodas Hashem of the saved 600,000 Jews) was a zechus for the neshamos of the Egyptians.
Friday, May 09, 2008
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Does that help at all?
Dear Rabbi Bechhofer, Shalom u'vrocha,
listening to one of your lectures, and you mentioned that the sages did
not know science, and that not everything is in the Torah. You also
brought out The Gra's made a Sium when he finished learning sciences
of the world. Can you please provide references of the above, or if I
misunderstood what you were saying can you please clarify.
These are two separate issues. The former is issue is my own sevara -
but it is based on Avoda Zara 4b, where we see that Adam HaRishon was
not told such elementary concepts as the days becoming longer and
The latter is in the Hakdama to Sefer Pe'as HaShulchan, written by the Gra's talmid.