Friday, December 23, 2022

kneged culam

 בבא בתרא ט׳ א:י״ב

וְאָמַר רַב אַסִּי שְׁקוּלָה צְדָקָה כְּנֶגֶד כׇּל הַמִּצְוֹת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וְהֶעֱמַדְנוּ עָלֵינוּ מִצְוֹת וְגוֹ׳ מִצְוָה אֵין כְּתִיב כָּאן אֶלָּא מִצְוֹת

And Rav Asi says: Charity is equivalent to all the other mitzvot combined, as it is stated in that verse: “We also established mitzvot upon ourselves.” A mitzva is not written here, but rather mitzvot, in the plural, thereby teaching that this mitzva is equivalent to all the other mitzvot.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Jewish national survival - Rav Schwab

 וַיְהִ֤י בַבֹּ֨קֶר֙ וַתִּפָּ֣עֶם רוּח֔וֹ וַיִּשְׁלַ֗ח וַיִּקְרָ֛א אֶת־כָּל־חַרְטֻמֵּ֥י מִצְרַ֖יִם וְאֶת־כָּל־חֲכָמֶ֑יהָ וַיְסַפֵּ֨ר פַּרְעֹ֤ה לָהֶם֙ אֶת־חֲלֹמ֔וֹ וְאֵֽין־פּוֹתֵ֥ר אוֹתָ֖ם לְפַרְעֹֽה

"Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; so he sent and called all the necromancers of Egypt and all its sages, and Pharaoh related to them his dream, but no one interpreted them for Pharaoh." (Bereishis 41:8)

In commenting on these posukim from parshas Miketz, Rav Shimon Schwab z’tl asks why Pharaoh should be so troubled by a dream. He knew most dreams are just the result of daytime musings and not to be taken seriously. 

He explains that Pharaoh relied on his military might for confidence. In his mind, victory went to the powerful, so he had no need to fear his people since the army was in his command. However, his dream contradicted his way of thinking. In his first dream, emaciated cows consumed fat ones, and in his second dream withered stalks consumed healthy ones. 

This caused him to panic as he took it as a message from his gods. The dream couldn’t have emerged from his mind. On his own, he would never entertain the thought of the weak conquering the strong. He feared a rebellion and summoned his advisors to strategize. 

Rav Schwab notes that it is fitting that we read parshas Miketz during Chanukah where we thank Hashem for delivering “the mighty into the hands of the weak.” During Chanukah, the mystery of Jewish national survival is demonstrated once again. Hashem protects the nation despite the odds and against the postulations of military analysis on who appears weak and who appears strong.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Monday, December 19, 2022


Most of us generally associate Chanukah with the nisim of the military victory and the oil as well as various mitzvos and minhagim surrounding them. However, looking deeper, we see other inyanim at play, in particular tefillah, the unity of Hashem, and the identity of Klal Yisroel. It starts with tefillah. Not only do we today add special tefillos for Chanukah that commemorate the events of the past, but the Avos themselves davened for the welfare of the yidden for the events that would take place in the future. Rav Elimelech Biderman, shlita, brings Rav Menachem Nochum Twersky of Chernobyl (18th century) to explain. At the akeidah, Avraham said, וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶל־נְעָרָ֗יו שְׁבוּ־לָכֶ֥ם פֹּה֙ עִֽם־הַחֲמ֔וֹר וַאֲנִ֣י וְהַנַּ֔עַר נֵלְכָ֖ה עַד־כֹּ֑ה וְנִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶ֖ה וְנָשׁ֥וּבָה אֲלֵיכֶֽם (Bereishis 22:5). “Then Abraham said to his servants, “You stay here with the ass. The boy and I will go up there; we will worship and we will return to you.” The word כה has the numerical value of 25, hinting at the 25th of Kislev, when Chanukah begins. 

Yosef HaTzadick offered similar tefillos. We see this in the posuk וַיִּשָּׂ֣א עֵינָ֗יו וַיַּ֞רְא אֶת־בִּנְיָמִ֣ין אָחִיו֮ בֶּן־אִמּוֹ֒ וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הֲזֶה֙ אֲחִיכֶ֣ם הַקָּטֹ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲמַרְתֶּ֖ם אֵלָ֑י וַיֹּאמַ֕ר אֱלֹהִ֥ים יׇחְנְךָ֖ בְּנִֽי (Bereishis 43:29). “Looking about, he saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and asked, “Is this your youngest brother of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “May God be gracious to you, my boy.’” יחנך, be gracious, alludes to חנוכה. 

So not only do our tefillos to Hashem connect us to our ancestors who battled the Syrian Greeks, but they connect us to the Avos who davened on behalf of their descendants in their struggle against the Syrian Greeks. Our tefillos on Chanukah take us all the way back to the Avos. We all meet, with the Avos going 1,600 years into the future, and we going 2,161 years in the past. We are one nation, not only in any one era, but across eras. Hashem Echad, the unity of Hashem, is reflected in the unity of His people across time and space. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

To be a Jew is a sum of our life's mission

 "Judaism is not a mere religion, the synagogue is not a church, and the rabbi is not a clergyman (priest). Judaism is not an appurtenance to life, and to be a Jew is not part of the mission of life. Judaism encompasses life in its entirety. To be a Jew is a sum of our life's mission-in synagogue and in kitchen; in field and in counting-house; in the office and on the speaker's platform; like father, like mother, like son, like daughter; like servant, like master; as man, as citizen, in thought and in feeling, in word and in deed, in times of pleasure, in hours of abstinence; with needle as with chisel or with pen. To be a Jew--in a life which in its totality is borne on the word of the Lord and is perfected in harmony with the will of God-this is the scope and goal of Judaism. Since Judaism encompasses the whole of man and in keeping with its explicit mission, proclaims the happiness of the whole of mankind, it is improper to confine its teachings within the "four ells" of the house of study or of the home of the Jew. Insofar as the Jew is a Jew, his views and objectives become universal. He will not be a stranger to anything which is good, true and beautiful in art and in science, in civilization and in learning. He will greet with blessing and joy everything of truth, justice, peace, and the ennobling of man, wherever it be revealed He will hold firmly to this breadth of view in order to fulfill his mission as a Jew and to live up to the function of his Judaism in areas never imagined by his father. He shall dedicate himself with joy to every true advance in civilization and enlightenment. But all this on condition that he be never obliged to sacrifice his Judaism at any new level but rather fulfill it with even greater perfection." 

R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, 1854

Quoted in Guardians of Our Heritage, p. 290

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

and their performance

Akeidat Yitzchak 51:1:7

הנך רואה איך טרח ומצא אדוננו דוד עליו השלום והכין לפנינו הדרך הישר להיות לנו המצוות האלהיות והלמודים התוריים לעסק מיוחד בו נחיה תמיד עד שיהיו שמורות בלבנו ונקנות לנו לנחלה ויוכרע לבנו אליהם בנטיה טבעית אשר אי אפשר ליפול בהם השכחה כשכחת הימין או השמאל והוא הדרך עצמו שאמר החכם באותו לשון שכתבנו למעלה בעבור רוב גודל התמדת חיות בהם מאושרי'. והוא מה שאמר דוד במקום אחר (שם) לעולם לא אשכח פקודיך כי בם חייתני. אמר כי אחר שנתנם לו לעסק מיוחד אשר בו יחיה תמיד יחוייב שלא ישכחם בשום פנים כי אי אפשר לבא לידי שכחה אם לא שיסכים בלבו להבטל מהעסק ההוא ולהרחיקו מעליו שזה יהיה מאד מפורסם אשר לא יפול עליו התנצלות…

The upshot of all this (David's outpourings in Psalm 119) is that mitzvah performance must become as automatic to us as life itself. Therefore, the Mishnah in Avot 3, 10, says that "whosoever forgets part of his studies has sinned gravely," since the Torah has provided memory joggers. The word "Talmud" in that Mishnah refers to knowledge of the commandments and their performance. Unless a person has tried and failed to remember, he is guilty of a sin. If he did the latter, he is subject to the saving grace of pen yassuru mi -levavcha, lest they depart from your heart…

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

more sports wisdom

Iverson said, he wished he had listened better to Brown (Larry) in the early years of his playing career.

“I just felt if I had a slight regret to anything that has anything to do with my career, I wouldn’t have been playing tug-of-war with him early in my career,” Iverson said. “You know, like I said, I didn’t know any better. I was trying to mature as a player and as a man.”

The two had very public ups and downs at the time, but Iverson told Maxwell that the player and coach shared common goals.

“He wanted everything that I wanted for myself and for our team, and I didn’t take constructive criticism the way that I was supposed to — and that’s definitely a lesson to be learned for any young dudes out there, is that if they have a great coach, like I had, [listen],” Iverson continued.

“Once I started buying into everything that he was selling, it took me from just a talented player to obviously a Hall of Fame MVP. And our team got a lot better as I grew.”

Thursday, December 1, 2022

humble and effective

How to be humble and effective. See Barry Sanders the football player. In this interview.

And talked about here:

One commentor wrote:

"It’s weird to see a player who was so dynamic and exciting on the field, be such a low-key, mild mannered and genuinely humble dude off the field."

What he's getting at is that Mr. Sanders was an usually exciting player. He ran all over the place, cutting left and right, defenders tripping over their own feet trying to catch him. He had such an explosive style. Yet, he was a very humble man. He never spiked the ball in the end zone. He handed the ball to the referee and sat down on the sidelines. In this interview, he joked that it was because he didn't have enough 'rhythm' to put on a good dance, but we know from other comments of his that he did this out of respect for and as influenced by his father who told him to act with dignity. Act like you have been in the end zone before. Even here he doesn't boast about that or pontificate as it would be a criticism to nearly all the other players who do dance around in the end zone.

Amazingly, Sanders is only five feet and eight inches tall, which is smaller then the average man and tiny for a football player. Maybe that helped along his humility. But it could have produced a Napoleon complex as well, where the short guy acts brashly as if that would make him seem taller. But that's not what Barry did.

You can do this is a yid too, be very humble but get a lot done, even be a leader. Moshe rabbeinu did that. Avraham did too. Those would be the prime examples. But since none of us have met them, I show Barry as a kind of living example of a humble yet dynamic person in his way. The wise man learns from everything.

In a way, it's easier for a gentile to be humble. Harder and easier. It's easier because he has a simpler life. He can just work and fish. It's harder in that their souls, while still in God's image and capable of greatness, are not as lofty or connected to Divinity. So there's a challenge to middos. But a Jew is capable of such greatness, and he senses it. Arrogance can follow. Today, where yidden in general are less connected to Hashem, there are many with arrogance problems. Particularly, as the frum world is based in New York and Israel, arrogance has become a part of the style of many. So it's helpful to see good examples of humility from wherever they may come.\\

Here's another, Dale Murphy, a baseball player. He won 5 golden gloves and 2 consecutive Most Valuable Player awards. He hit just under 400 home runs. He was a tremendous player. Yet, he too was very humble. Hear it here; (note he is wearing shorts, for those who may find that immodest.)

No surprise, Dale is a religious man.


"Murphy's clean-living habits off the diamond were frequently noted in the media. A devout member of the Church of ... of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church),[11] Murphy did not drink alcoholic beverages, would not allow women to be photographed embracing him, and paid his teammates' dinner checks as long as alcoholic beverages were not on the tab. He also refused to give television interviews unless he was fully dressed. Murphy had been introduced to the LDS Church early in his career by teammate Barry Bonnell.[3]"|

For several years the Atlanta Constitution ran a weekly column, wherein Murphy responded to young fans' questions and letters. In 1987 he shared Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year" award with seven others, characterized as "Athletes Who Care", for his work with numerous charities, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Georgia March of Dimes and the American Heart Association.

One of his more memorable incidents was reminiscent of a scene from the classic black-and-white baseball film The Pride of the Yankees:

Before a home game against San Francisco on June 12, 1983, Murphy visited in the stands with Elizabeth Smith, a six-year-old girl who had lost both hands and a leg when she stepped on a live power line. After Murphy gave her a cap and a T shirt, her nurse innocently asked if he could hit a home run for Elizabeth. "I didn't know what to say, so I just sort of mumbled 'Well, O.K.,' " says Murphy. That day he hit two homers and drove in all the Braves' runs in a 3–2 victory.[12]

He was ultimately granted several honors because of his integrity, character, and sportsmanship, including the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award (1985), "Sportsman of the Year" (1987), Roberto Clemente Award (1988), Bart Giamatti Community Service Award (1991), and World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame (1991 induction). (Wikipedia)

These are exceptions of course. Many athletes are not what you'd call humble people. They brag, they throw the ball at each other's heads. In general we don't look there for role models.