Friday, November 17, 2017

Rachmana Liba Ba'ei

A sichah I gave via Skype to a Girls High School
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parashas Toldos

Shalhevet Guest Lecturer Series
Each week at Shalhevet we are privileged to hear divrei Torah from a Rabbi in our community or a visiting guest speaker. The inspirational words they share with us will be written in this column to enhance your Shabbos.
This week Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, Rabbi in Monsey and author of various seforim, spoke to our students (via Skype!).

Rabbi Bechhofer once asked Rav Simcha Zissel Broide zt"l, the Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron Yeshiva, what Eisav looked like according to Slabodka tradition. Rav Simcha Zissel answered that if Eisav would enter a Beis Medrash (house of Torah study) today, he would look look a Rosh Yeshiva. In the days in which he lived, he looked like a talmid chacham (Torah scholar), perhaps even a tzaddik (righteous person)!

The Arizal says that the reason that Eisav's head merited to be buried in Me'aras Hamachpeila (the Cave of Machpeila) is because he had a spark of holiness in his head. The Torah describes Eisav as being a person who was "ציד בפיו - his game was in his mouth," which we generally understand to be a negative description. However, says the Arizal, he really did have the capacity in his head to be involved in serving Hashem

The Gemara, when describing the two officers of Shaul Hamelech, tells us that they have no portion in Olam Haba (the World to Come). It also describes their greatness in Torah learning: how they were able to analyze 300 laws in one aspect of halacha (Jewish law). Their knowledge was so vast, yet they had no portion! The great Sages of the Gemara were nervous; what about them?! The response given is so powerful: Rachmana liba ba'i - Hashem desires the heart...

Of course a person needs to know and learn, but in the end it's all about how much the Torah we learn affects us and changes us... 

According to the Alter of Slabodka, Eisav was a great talmid chacham. The questions he used to ask his father Yitzchok were sincere; he really wanted to know. But his questions were abstract, the answers didn't change him, didn't move him in any way. They didn't spur him to become one of our Avos (forefathers) in the way that the Torah learning that his brother Yaakov did. Eisav had the moach (the brains), but Yaakov had the lev (the heart), and that's what Hashem really desires from us in the end: to take the Torah we learn and let it mold us, change us and grow with it.

Daily Davening Discourse #12: Re'eh B'Anyainu

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Letters to the Editor of the Yated

A friend kindly scanned the following Letter to the Editor from this week's Yated Ne'eman. 

I don't think any commentary is required.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Daily Davening Discourse #7: Emails and Atah Chonen/Atah Chonantanu part 1

Podcast available at

Op-ed: Monsey Residents Speak Out About The Upcoming Election |

Op-ed: Monsey Residents Speak Out About The Upcoming Election |

Dear Ramapo Residents,
We have never been involved in politics, but for the upcoming election of a new supervisor, we feel a need to express our opinion. The Town of Ramapo establishment has Michael Specht as their candidate. He has been a town attorney under St. Lawrence for many years. Together with our whole neighborhood, we are witness to Mr. Specht’s and the town’s negligence in protecting our legal rights as tax-paying citizens of Ramapo.
A massive commercial/ residential mixed use development is going up behind our bedrooms. St. Lawrence’s administration assured us that our legal rights to a buffer with trees would be upheld. By law, that buffer is supposed to be 25 feet. On May 29, 2014 there was a zoning board meeting to decide if variances should be granted to the development. (We have the entire transcript of the meeting.)  Many variances bypassing the laws of Ramapo were granted based on a few tradeoffs for the neighbors.
Mr. Michael Specht was the attending town attorney at that meeting. The decision he wrote up for that zoning board meeting did not reflect the final instructions of the board as documented by the transcripts. Since Mr. Specht delayed for one and a half years until he finally wrote up the decision, Mrs. Weaver (chairwoman of the zoning board) must have trustingly signed his write-up without referring back to the transcripts. When we neighbors, at a requested meeting with Mr. Specht and Mr. Alan Berman (another town attorney), pointed out the discrepancies, Mr. Specht refused to correct the mistakes. He is an attorney. We neighbors are not attorneys. He knew that by that time we had no legal recourse to challenge what he wrote.
But we do have recourse in the voting booth! By publicizing how he was instrumental in devastating our neighborhood, we are doing our civic duty to protect our town and other innocent taxpayers. Our whole neighborhood is working against his being elected. The establishment is spreading lies about A New Direction candidates saying they are from Preserve Ramapo and are anti-Semites. We met with Shani Bechhofer and were assured that none of the three candidates have any Preserve Ramapo ties. They are truly motivated to save our town. Please help us spread the word to vote for Weber, Bechhofer, and Valentine to finally take the Town of Ramapo in a new, honest direction.
Please go out to vote for Weber, Bechhofer, and Valentine on November 7th as every vote counts!
Concerned Citizens of the Augusta, Treetop, Grove Neighborhood
The Ebsteins                      The Rubensteins              The Tresses
The Friedmans                  The Schwabs                      The Wengers
The Kreitmans                   The Scharfers
The Rabinowitzes            The Tillims