Friday, November 16, 2018

Dvar Torah - Vayeitzei - Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin

This week we are privileged to read the portion of Vayeitzei. We learn that Yaakov escaped from his parents home due to the threat on his life, from his brother Eisov. Yaakov stopped to study for fourteen years and then headed toward Choron, to fulfill the command of his parents, that he marry someone from “their” family. We learn how Yaakov met Rochel, the daughter of Lovon at the well. He was impressed with her and wanted to marry her. We learn how Lovon fooled Yaakov by giving him Leah and not Rochel, and the great sacrifice Rochel made not to cause her sister embarrassment. only later Lovon agreed to grant Yaakov his second daughter, Rochel. We learn how Yaakov worked hard and Lovon kept changing his pay. We learn about the births of the holy children of Yaakov, the foundation of Klal Yisroel. After the birth of Yosef Yaakov can no longer stay with Lovon. Hashem tells him it’s time to return. A dispute erupted as Lovon expressed his dissatisfaction of his children’s departure. Hashem warned Lovon not to harm Yaakov. They set feet back to the Holy Land.

There’s so much we can learn from the dealings between Yaakov and Lovon. In general all these portions about the history of our forefathers are full of deep lessons. I want to share one important lesson from this week’s portion.

When Yaakov reached Choron he had a discussion with the Shepards as to why they were just standing at the well. They declared that they waited for a group of Shepard’s to appear in order to remove the stone covering the well. Yaakov walked over and just removed on his own like he took a cap off a bottle. We need to understand what was the reason Yaakov did this, was he trying to show then his physical strength ? If so, why ? Also why is it important for the Torah to tell us about this detail ? There’s a tremendous lesson Yaakov wanted to teach them and us as well. If one really wants to accomplish something, nothing can stand in the way, all one needs to do is try, not stand on the side and say I can’t. We find the same situation (in the portion of Shmos), when Basya removed Moshe from the water. Moshe was placed in the water far from an arm stretch, however she was determined to save the child and stuck out her arm, and the Medrash teaches us that her arm became longer until she reached the box in which Moshe lye. We need to do ours and we will see that Hashem will help, and the impossible can be achieved.

Gut Shabbos!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Dvar Torah - Vayeiro - Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin

This week we are privileged to read the portion of Vayeiro. We learn in the end of the previous portion that Avrohom performed a Bris Mila on himself at age ninety nine, and this portion begins with Hashem’s appearance to  Avrohom on the third day. Avrohom, despite being in physical pain, was more bothered by the fact that no guest showed up, due to heat waves. Hashem sends three angels, they appeared as people, to allow Avrohom the ability to fulfill the mitzva of hachnosas orchim (hosting guest). Avrohom despite his senior age and his frail body, prepared a feast for his guest. At the meal they revealed to him that they were sent by Hashem to inform him that he will be blessed with a child at this time next year, and also to heal him. They continued on to Sedom ato destroy the evil cities of Sedom and Amora and to save Lot in the merit of Avrohom. Avrohom pleaded with Hashem to spare the evil people, however their awful behavior, and the absence of pious men caused their ultimate destruction. We learn that Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt due to her curiosity to see what transpired with Sedom during their escape. Later we learn of Yitzchok’s birth and the need to get Yishmoel away from Yitzchok to avoid bad influence. We also learn of the great challenge Avrohom had gone thru, by being willing to sacrifice his holy son Yitzchok, by G-d’s command. Obviously it was only a test, from which we merit until this day. The portion concludes with the birth of Rivkah, later to be the spouse of Yitzchok and one of our holy Matriarchs.

We find in the beginning of the portion that Avrohom offered his guest a meal and their  response was kein taase kaasher dibarto - do so, as you have spoken. The Slonimer Rebbe explains, we often find people that do a lot of good deeds, but it does not elevate them. They may perform acts of kindness and do a lot for others, however they frequently remain simple people. Why is that ? Says the Slonimer Rebbe, it is because their language is not clean and that is a basic for a person to be able to be uplifted and grow spiritually. In the absence of clean language one cannot grow. This is what the angels told Avrohom your words should match your deeds. Good deeds along with good words, pure action and pure speech are the ingredients for growth. (Maybe this is why we start Yom Kippur with Kol Nidrei, so that we nullify improper speech, before we begin a new page).

I want to share another idea with you. The Medrash states , that when Hashem sent Avrohom to the Land Moriah, to bring Yitzchok for an offering, he used the term Lech Licho - go for your own good. The same term Lech Licho was used in the previous portion, when Hashem to Avrom to leave his land, his birthplace, his father’s home to an unknown land. The Medrash discusses, which one was greater, the first Lech Licho or the second ? The Medrash concludes the second one was much greater. We need to understand what was even the rational to say that leaving one’s birthplace and land would be greater than sacrificing a son born at one hundred years old ? Although the Medrash concludes that the second Lech Licho was greater, one needs to understand what was even the debate. There’s an important lesson here, to teach us the greatness of unconditional faith - emuna pshuta. Since by the first Lech Licho Avrohom did not even know to which land he was going, it was a complete act of unconditional faith, maybe it was greater than Lech Licho of the Akeido, where he knew to which land he was going and for what purpose. This is the other side of the debate.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Dvar Torah - Bireishis - from Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin

This week we are privileged to begin a new cycle of Torah reading, beginning with the portion of Bireishis. The portion teaches us what was created every day of the week and that from the beginning of creation Shabbos was sanctified. We also learn that Adam was created in the image of G-d. We learn about the sin of Adam and Chava (Eve) eating from the tree of knowledge. We learn about Kayin and Hevel and the tragic ending of Hevel's life. The portion concludes with the birth of Noach.

This Shabbos is referred to as Shabbos Bireishis (beginning). The holy Chassidic masters said that this Shabbos is a foundation for the entire year. It is the first Shabbos after the high Holidays, and it is incumbent upon us to prove that we didn’t just serve G-d externally, but that we internalized what we said, and accepted. The Chida also writes that on Shabbos Bireishis one should be particularly careful to conduct him/herself properly as it is not a good sign if immediately after the High Holy Days one falls back. At least the beginning should be strong. The Rebbe of Tzanz would refer to Shabbos Bireishis as follows: when a businessman goes to an exhibition to buy goods in his field of business, he quickly purchases everything he feels would be profitable for his business. However it is only when he comes home that he begins to go through his purchases to see what will be more productive and profitable. So too, it is with the month of Tishrei. The entire month we were busy grabbing mitzvohs, correcting what needs to be corrected and now we need to work on implementing what needs to be implemented. This is the work of Shabbos Bireishis.

When Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi (author of Tanya) was imprisoned in St Petersburg, over false allegations, the government tried sending different people to talk to him and sniff out how much he's working to topple the Zarist authority. Amongst these people, they sent a very prominent and learned minister, who entered the prison disguised as an ordinary fellow prisoner. When he entered the room the Rebbe stood up for him and he said to him that he knows he's somewhat connected to malchus (kingdom). The minister was shocked, as they never met and there was no way he could have recognized him ... He began to have an intellectual conversation with R' Shneur Zalman. Amongst the questions he asked was, it is written in the Torah that after the Adam ate from the tree of knowledge Hashem asked him AYEKO - where are you. Why did Hashem ask Adam "Ayeko" , doesn't G-d know everything ? The Rebbe responded that this a call to every individual eternally to check on himself where he is, and he continued to tell the minister, Hashem gave you this amount of years, this amount of months and this amount of days, what did you do with it ? Where are you ? He calculated exactly the age, the years, months and days of the minister sitting in front of him. The minister was shaken up, and later ended up being one of the greatest defenders of the Tzadik before the judge, who ultimately freed him.

The message to us is, after an entire elevated season where we served Hashem more than throughout the year, and now we go back to routine, remember AYEKO!

Gut Shabbos, and
A healthy winter,
Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin

Monday, September 17, 2018

Erecting Yom Kippur - Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin

The holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur is approaching and we are all preparing to be cleansed and merit an inscription and a seal in the book of Life.

On the day preceding Yom Kippur there's a special mitzvah to eat and drink more than usual. This is derived from a phrase in Torah Vayikra 23/32, you shall afflict your souls on the ninth day in the evening. The Talmud asks is the fast on the ninth ? It is on the tenth that we fast. Says the Talmud (Rosh Hashono 9a), "this is to teach us, that if one eats and drinks on the ninth it will be considered as he fasted both days". The question we still have, why is it that the Torah tells us that it is a mitzvah to eat, with this type of language (affliction), why not say, eat and drink ? I would to share with you two approaches to explain this.

The Torah wants to teach us how to fulfill this mitzvah. One can eat like a Jew with proper ethic and thought and one can eat and his whole mind and soul is in the plate. The Torah wants to tell you that when fulfilling this mitzvah, your mind should be on the mitzvah and not engulfed in the food, just as if you were fasting.

There's another approach. We know that when one does a mitzvah and he toils for it and it comes with great difficulty, the reward is much greater. This is why the Torah tells us that if one eats and drinks on the ninth it will be considered as if he fasted, so that we should know that the reward will be greater than just fulfilling an easy mitzvah, but rather it will be rewarded like a mitzvah that came with hardship.

The holy Berdichev Rebbe once walked in to Kol Nidrei (opening prayer of Yom Kippur), and began searching under the tables and benches. No one understood what he was searching for. He then lifted his head to the Heavens and said "Holy L-rd! You commanded the Jewish people to eat and drink today, I don't see even one drunk person in this synagogue. Imagine if other nations had been given this mitzvah. This was his way of defending Klal Yisroel.

In closing, I'd like to ask all, if I offended anyone, please be kind enough and forgive me, and I'm sure G-d will do the same.

May we merit to be sealed in the book of Life, for a sweet year, with spiritual and material growth in good health with nachas and happiness.

Gmar Chasima Tova,

Friday, September 7, 2018

Dvar Torah Parshas Nitzovim - from Harav Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin

We are about to usher in the Shabbos which closes 5778. We know that Shabbos is the source of all blessings. As we look forward to a better year, let us work on the preparation thru celebrating this holy Shabbos with greater observance, greater emotion and stronger commitment to utilizing every free moment of the Shabbos for Torah study and fulfilling more mitzvohs. Hopefully, we will all merit a sweet new year filled with blessing, material and spiritual.

This week we are privileged to read the portion of Nitzovim. The portion discusses the importance of everyone, regardless of education or financial background, being bound to Torah observance. The covenant between us and Hashem is meant for everyone. We are all obligated to repair what we did wrong.  Although the portion is short, it is huge in content.

The Torah states in Devorim chapter 30 verse 11: For this commandment which I command you this day, is not hidden from you, nor is it far off.
12. It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it, and do it?

13. Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it, and do it?

14. But the word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.

These verses are referring to all of us regarding Torah study. One shall not say the Torah is out of reach.

Reb Yehoshua of Dzhikov explains the verse Ki Korov eilecho hadovor meod - But the word is very near to you, the word meod also means finances. This, says the Dzhikov Rebbe, is a hint to those who are tied up and don’t have the ability to study Torah as much as they should. There’s an option for them to be rewarded just as if they were studying, that is, thru financially supporting those who learn and teach Torah. By doing so one will be rewarded as if he too studied, just as it was with the the two brothers Yisoschor and Zvulun. (That is the reference to the word Meod as in b’chol meodecha, we read daily in Shma).

There's another important lesson from these verses. When someone feels that he's struggling to keep a specific mitzvah, the Torah tells us the way to deal with it, to learn the laws of that specific mitzvah in the Torah this will bring a desire in our hearts to fulfill the mitzvah. That is the reference in "your mouth and in your heart,  that you may do it".

May we merit to properly prepare for the new year, and merit to be inscribed in the book of life.

Ksiva vchasima Tova

Gut Shabbos,

Friday, July 27, 2018

Dvar Torah - Voeschanan - From Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin

This week we are privileged to read the portion of Voeschanan. The Shabbos is also called “Shabbos Nachamu”. Nachamu means be consoled (comforted). This name comes from the words in our haftorah “Nachamu, Nachamu Ami" - console, console my nation, says Hashem. This portion begins with Moshe expressing his desire to enter the Holy Land - Eretz Yisroel, and Hashem's refusal to grant him this wish. Hashem told Moshe to go up on the highest point of the mountain and from there he will see Eretz Yisroel, but he will not enter. Hashem commands Moshe to strengthen Yehoshua, for he will bring the Jewish people into Eretz Yisroel and they will inhabit the land. We learn the importance of remembering the event at Mt Sinai. In this week's portion the ten commandments are repeated, and the first portion of Shma is also written in this portion.

The Tolna Rebbe OBM, once asked an obvious question. We find that Moshe begged Hashem to allow him to enter the Holy land and Hashem responds so sharply, "don't continue to talk to me on this topic"! Why such a sharp response ? The question is even greater, because the whole reason that Moshe wanted to go into Eretz Yisroel was only, so that he can perform the mitzvohs that one can only perform in the Holy Land, so why did he deserve such a sharp response? Says the Tolna Rebbe, Moshe was fascinated by the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel, inhabiting the land of Israel. This is a mitzvah that one can fulfill around the clock every second of the day just by living in Eretz Yisroel. Moshe had an extreme desire to be able to fulfill such a mitzvah. Hashem had other plans for Moshe, but in order not disappoint his great desire to fulfill a 24/7 mitzvah, he commanded him not to talk to him again regarding this topic. Now, by just merely refraining from talking about this topic he was fulfilling a mitzvah every second. So what seems to be a harsh response, was actually a method of rewarding Moshe with the possibility to be able to observe a 24/7 mitzvah.

May we merit to be consoled by Hashem speedily, with the rebuilding of Yerusholayim and the holy Temple.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Tefillos for Hagaon Harav Reuven Feinstein and His Rebbetzin

We regret to inform you that Harav Reuven Feinstein, Rosh Hayeshiva Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim and Chaver Hanesius of Agudas Yisroel of America, as well as his Rebbetzin, were in a car accident earlier today. The Rosh Hayeshiva is reportedly badly bruised but in stable condition. The Rebbetzin reportedly has internal bleeding and is undergoing surgery.

Please say Tehillim for Sholom Reuven ben Shima and Chava Sorah bas Ita Devora, l'refuah shleimah b'soch she'ar cholei Yisroel, and may we share besoros tovos.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel
Executive Vice President
Agudath Israel of America