Life IS Tough: How Avraham Avinu’s Nisyonos Impact Us All — Part Three

Two weeks ago, I cited from Ramchal, both from Mesilas Yesharim and at greater length from Derech Hashem, that a person’s life is filled with nisyonos; that every event, every occurrence, everything that in the normal course of events would elicit a reaction from us — any type of reaction — is a nisayon for the person, a test within his or her parameters of bechirah, testing to see if he or she will grow, stagnate, or fall. To repeat, and it bears repeating , for it is the essence of the point:

Thus, all gratification and all suffering and all annoyances and all frustrations exist as a challenge and a test — and the nature of the challenge is what Divine Wisdom has decreed to be best for — and the life task of — each and every individual.

The manner in which all this is accomplished is beyond our ability to grasp and comprehend, and we can never understand it or perceive it fully. It is done with unimaginable wisdom, with each person treated according to his or her nature and potential and role in life.

I assumed the point would best be made, and the lesson best be learned, by taking an ordinary everyday-type example, and showing how ordinary everyday-type occurrences hold within them the key to people’s true success in life: to wit, not how much money they make, how many friends they have, if they have a nice house or run a successful business — but rather if they grow, if they refine their neshamah, if they become more spiritual, holy people ; if they emulate Hashem’s ways, and study them to know what they are. If people would see that in the most seemingly innocuous encounters of life there could be refinement, perfection — or its lack — and that THAT is what determines who they are, what they are, and their essential nature, surely more attention would be paid to those annoyances, disturbances, difficulties, and even hardships, to use them as stepping stones to growth, and to the realization that they occurred for that very reason! And the more ordinary, the more likely it is to be so!

(To satisfy your curiosity — and to satisfy those who felt it a bit inappropriate [not I, but I PASSED the nisayon of akshanus — stubbornness] — my so-called reactions to the mislabeling was, and in this piece will also be, a fictional account of my reaction, created to be an exhibit of the above. Consider it a fictional-version-aid to the lesson given.)

Let us now resume our story:

I fumed, “I will not let them get away with this. They think they can treat me with this cavalier attitude of theirs, probably because it’s ‘just’ the English section, the stepchild, if that, of the paper… Well, I’ll have them regret their middos ra’os… Maybe I’ll start with handing in my article late. Maybe a few hours, maybe a day… Maybe I’ll skip a week, maybe two — after all, it would be their just desserts, a fitting ‘punishment’ for their carelessness. It’ll show them how it feels when one is on the receiving end of carelessness, and they’ll be more careful. Yes, I can even consider myself their mechanech, their teacher, their Rav, teaching them how to treat people… ”

Really? You’re their mechanech? Maybe the more operative word is netirah, and nekamah (holding a grudge and taking revenge, respectively). You are, after all reacting to a personal slight (only perceived — but that happens to be irrelevant)… You were not their mechanech yesterday, you will not be tomorrow… If you want to meachanech them, go sit down with them and explain how you feel, how they must tighten up their operations. Now, you are just lashing back, hoping to hurt them as you’ve been hurt — and that’s the essence of the prohibition of nekamah! Tell me, would you do the things you are thinking if they would have done this to someone else, not yourself? Methinks not — always a great litmus test to check for nekamah… And so…


“But it is such bad fortune! Okay, on a scale of tragedies, it’s not epic, I won’t get carried away — but still, the ramifications are pretty bad. People will think I skipped a week, that I am not consistent, maybe that I don’t keep commitments. Who knows what this could — theoretically — lead to? It’s unprofessional and puts me in a bad light!”

Have you never learned the story of Rabbi Akiva and the rooster and candle? Have you never heard of Nachum-Ish-Gamzu, who teaches us the obligation to believe, and attempt to see, that all is for the good? That Hashem is good, and everything which emanates from him, is also only good?

“But what could be good about what happened?”

I don’t know, let’s think. Maybe the article was not well-written, and it is a bracha if many people skipped over it. Maybe you’ll have a flash of inspiration, and the mishap will allow you to drag the ‘nisyonos’ series another one, two, three even four columns, giving you material to write about, taking the column into a direction you hadn’t planned, and thus having the spontaneous opportunity to wake people up about a far-reaching truth concerning their lives! I do not think you would have gone in that direction if not for that typographical mistake!

“Fat chance of THAT happening!”

Well, you never know…

“Indeed, I suspect I never will.”


“Why should I give them the benefit of the doubt? What do they do for me? What have they ever done for me? Just headaches, aggravation, and pressure and stress!”

What about hakaras hatov? They give you a voice in the community, a platform to talk, to teach, to hold forth drashos in print, yes, to pontificate! Where’s your sense of gratitude?

“But how can I wait till next week to explain what happened?”

Where’s savlanus — patience, a middah Shlomo Hamelech extols in Mishlei (16:32): One who controls himself is better (i. e. stronger) than any mighty person?

“But how can they do this to ME??”


“But it’s driving me nuts!”

Serenity, simchas hachaim, same’ach b’chelko… ?

“But it didn’t happen to, let’s see, another fine writer, Shoshana Schwartz!?”

Kinah?Ayin rah?

“But I don’t care that it’s not easy to put out a whole newpaper and thus mistakes will happen!”

Nosaiy b’ol?

“But I don’t want to have to explain!”


“I should act like nothing happened?”


Look, at the end of the day…

Whatever happened to the mitzvas assei of V’ahavtah l’rei’acha komocha? Let’s say YOU had made the mistake…?

To be continued

Rav Malinowitz is the Rav of Beis Tefillah Yonah Avraham, located in Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph, at the corner of Nachal Refaim and Nachal Luz. Many of Rav Malinowitz’s shiurim can be heard at

Life IS Tough – How Avraham Avinu’s Nisyonos Impact Us All, Part Two

So if you are like me, when you received last week’s Chadash newspaper, you immediately turned to your favorite (English) section, the article by Rav Malinowitz. You turned the page — and your eyes immediately flew to the title of that week’s scintillating column. But wait! What is this? Rain, Rain, Don’t Stay Away… Part Two — “But Rain, Part Two was the previous week,” you mumbled to yourself, “and it usually takes me ten days to forget Rav Malinowitz’s article. This is only a week later, why did they reprint it? Did Rav Malinowitz run out of things to write about? I gradeh felt like he did a while ago already, will they be reprinting his old articles now? Maybe this should have said Part Three?” You started to read, and the puzzlement grew: “This is not about rain! This is an entirely new topic, something about Avraham Avinu, nisyonos, whatever… I wonder what happened with that title, I almost skipped the article, and Rav Malinowitz would’ve asked me anxiously, as he always does, if I read it, and he’d start talking to me about it… Boy, am I happy I started reading it and saw that it was indeed a fresh topic!”

You finished reading the article (hopefully; if not, quickly, go do so now!), and, as Rav Malinowitz’s articles are not exactly the fulcrum of your existence, promptly forgot about that weird title line. (The article, as we explained, takes ten days to be consigned to oblivion. But the title, even a weird one, takes only an hour.)

Now, that’s easy for you, the reader. But someone wrote that article (okay, I own up to it, I did) And contrary to popular belief, I actually put time and effort into writing them (not always so noticeable, but hey…). And as any chef will tell you, something in the brain clicks when food gets presented to a person, and the opinion formed about that dish will, to a large degree, depend on that first impression (this actually has halachic ramifications, though I assume Maseches Uktzin is not high on your priority list of things to learn right now). Well, it’s the same with a newspaper column. The title says it all for most people; it is on that basis that they’ll decide if they will be reading it, and with a repeate title, the readers would surely assume that they already read this brilliant exposition. Someone really messed up the printing of the title, boosting the chances that a reader would simply turn to the next page, as so many of you in any event do. It really really bothered me.

It disturbed you? It bothered you to no end? Why? Aren’t you always preaching that anything that happens to a person is a gezeiras shamayim, decreed from Hashem , and that a fundamental element of trusting and relying on Hashem (bitachon) requires clarity and internalization of that basic idea? Yet here you are, irritated, distressed, and annoyed about, for goodness’ sake, a composition title!


Oh, dear reader, it gets worse. I got angry! Perhaps not enraged, but certainly indignant and fuming. Alright, even outraged and furious.

Angry? Are you serious? Anger, one of the more serious of ugly middos that we are to avoid at all costs?Anger, which is akin, Chazal tell us, to worshipping avoda zora? Anger, so detrimental to one’s spiritual (and many also insist physical) health? Anger, which all mussar sefarim rail against and advise to distance oneself from as much as possible? Anger, concerning which the Rambam writes that it is a negative trait to an extreme, and that a person should train himselfherself to be hardened against that character trait as much as possible, even if and when warranted?


And so I went over to my wife (who quickly scanned the open paper before I would realize that no, of course she had not read it [yet]) and said, “Look at what they did to my article, look how they bungled this, they are so unprofessional! No, it’s because they really have no respect at all for what I write. I’ll bet you it’s the fault of that English Editor, what’s-the — name, they don’t care, they are always careless and unthinking, irresponsible and really indifferent towards other people’s writings.”

Loshon hora? Motzi shem ra? What are you doing? What happened to all those Hilchos Loshon Hora that you learn? What happened to all the warnings of the Chofetz Chaim concerning the terrible damage wrought by speaking evil of other people?


I continued railing against the poor, overworked, hassled, frazzled, English editor: “This is inexcusable! This is indefensible! This is intolerable and unforgiveable!”

Inexcusable? Really? You cannot think of any mitigating factors that would have been the cause of this? After all, it might have been an unusually busy week for the poor editor. Maybe you were the cause of this mishap by neglecting to write the correct title in its proper place; you relegated it to the subject line of the e-mail. And anyway, it is really not the responsibility of the English editor, who does the editor job diligently and industriously, and anyway, mistakes will occur in a newspaper the size of, and with the range and scope of, Chadash. What happened to being dan l’kaf zechus, judging people favorably, giving them the benefit of the doubt, being gracious and realizing that a flesh-and-blood person will always be less than 100 percent perfect?


Well, you can be sure that I communicated my displeasure to the editor, giving said editor a piece of my mind. I remonstrated, I bickered, I hammered away at this apparently unforgiveable sin. The editor answered, I replied. It became writer vs. editor, a conceptual clash of wills and roles. This pretty innocuous oversight was actually turning into a bitter dispute (at my end).

Dispute? Machlokes? YOU, who wrote those articles about the pernicious effects of machlokes, how it affects the spiritual worlds that we create, how it is one of the very few middos that the Torah warns about virtually explicitely, how it upsets the balance and symmetry of Klal Yisrael’s multi-faceted essence? You have let a low-level fluke create dissension and disharmony?


to be continued…

Shabbos Parsha Chayei Sara Bulletin & Tefilla Halacha

Chayei Sara Bulletin (PDF)

Forgot V’sayn tal u’mottohr? (continued)

If you forgot v’sayn tal and have just concluded the shomei’a tefillah berachah, you can say the phrase there, before starting retzei. Once you have started retzei, you must return to the berachah bareich aleinu, and repeat everything from there, in order. Once you have said concluded shemoneh esraiy, and you have not said v’sayn tal, you must repeat the entire Tefillah.

What is called “concluded?

Next week, iyh

One must be as careful about the cleanliness of a Beis Kenesses or Beis Medrash as he/she is in one’s own house. This is in Shulchan Aruch O.C,151:9.

We would like volunteers to operate on a rotation system to help with the above halachah in the entire Shul building. A small bit of help (5 minutes) goes a long way in the whole tzurah (appearance ) of the Shul building.

Write back!!

Life IS Tough: How Avraham Avinu’s Nisyonos Impact Us All, Part One

I guess we all do our share of complaining. After all, life is tough.
Life is all too often stressful, aggravating, annoying…and trying. It is demanding
and strenuous, at times even onerous and troublesome. Sometimes it involves actual
suffering, anguish, and misfortune. Frequently we wonder where it is all coming
from, if Hashem is indeed actually doing this to us. Why are we victims, what is
the point, why can't the good times just roll? And even when they do, it doesn't
seem to be all that perfect, it's always disturbed or spoiled to some degree,
necessitating straightening out, and energy, to just put Humpty Dumpty back together

Whose fault is this?

It states in Pirkei Avos, 5: 3: "Avraham Avinu was tested ten times, and he passed
all of those tests; this is to inform you the endearment of Avraham Avinu [to Hashem]."

It is important that we knowthis is to inform you —
that the endearment of Avraham Avinu in the eyes of Hashem came about through
his passing of ten specific "tests." This is Avraham Avinu, and his life
— he passed ten tests!

What does that say to us? Let's delve into that statement.

In the Maharal's world of numerology, the number ten is associated with
holiness; it represents a complete set, symbolizes the full range of possibilities.
It is the many consolidated into the one; it is the symbol of the difference between
the least and the most, the maximum degree of differentiation. Thus, to say that
Hashem tested Avraham Avinu with ten tests is to say that He tested him in all
possible ways
. And indeed, in the commentary on Avos by the brother of the
Vilna Ga'on, he writes that the ten nisyonos of Avraham Avinu incorporate
within them all possible difficulties that a person may experience in life
— difficulties that a person may face physically; questions in emunah;
difficulties in ruchniyus; issues concerning one's wife and children;
difficulties involved in chinuch habanim; predicaments concerning
one's possessions; hardships determining one's role in the community; shidduchim;
you name it!

Now, we know of the time-honored rule that ma'aseh avos siman l'banim.
We know that we carry within us the spiritual DNA of our Avos, and especially
that of Avraham Avinu.

Let us now look at and study Mesilas Yesharim, chapter one: After explaining
that the goal of our lives is to attain closeness and bonding with Hashem, and that
that is the ultimate pleasure possible, and that the path that Hashem chose for
us to reach this goal is through our performance of Torah and mitzvos in this world,
and that Hashem placed a person in a world where there exist various obstacles to
that pathway — those obstacles being our physical needs, wants, and desires — he
then says that a person is thus constantly in a state of battle. For every aspect
and occurence in this world, whether good or bad, is but a nisayon, a test,
for a person to see what path he or she will choose; whether the circumstance be
wealth or poverty, serenity or tribulations or suffering — everything, no matter
where a person turns, no matter what he or she does or what he or she faces — is
a test to determine his or her mettle, to see how he or she will wage this war.

In Derech Hashem (section 2, chapter 3), Ramchal (the author of Mesilas Yesharim)
elaborates, and writes: Good and evil exist throughout the beri'ah…the
good consists of every possible good, worthy quality (e.g, patience, kindness, empathy,
generosity, civility, bitachon, judging favorably, being satisfied with
what one has, humility, happiness, zerizus, truth-seeking, Torah-study);
and its opposite consists of every bad quality (e.g, anger, impatience, arrogance,
brazenness, egocentrism, cruelty, mercilessness, worry, sadness, jealousy, laziness,
stinginess, inapprpriate desires, falsehood, lashon hora).

He continues: Hashem's wisdom has decreed that in order for every possible
quality that can be included within the limits of the nature that a man has, which
is there for him to fulfill his ultimate purpose of existence, Hashem brings together
all these qualities (the good and its opposite middah) together with their
causes (e.g, that traffic jam, your spouse being late — again!, that plea for tzedakah,
that nudnik asking you for a favor, that obnoxious neighbor, competition, not getting
the raise you wanted…just take ten situations from what happened to you — yes,
you! — yesterday — yes, yesterday!) and everything which surrounds them and accompanies

All the people in the world are placed into different stations in life, different
situations — and every station, every event, is a test for that particular individual
at that particular moment in time — an opportunity to embrace the good, or to fall
prey to the bad (e.g, Shall I yell at him? Should I get angry? Should I become frantic
with worry? Should I bend the rules? Shall I tell Reuven what Shimon did to me?
Shall I turn to Hashem or should I use my protexia?).

All these situations are made in order to create these tests, so that a person
choose: Will the wealthy person be generous or stingy? Will the poor person be satisfied
and have bitachon, or will he be bitter, angry, sullen? Will the wealthy
person be haughty? Will the gifted person be humble, sharing with and caring for

The same is true for every single event! Every person's predicaments
in life are his or her challenges. Divine Wisdom divides these challenges amongst
the human race, with every person having his or her particular ones, each in its
proper time and place. And it is within this framework that he or she must strive
for success. His or her deeds are then judged by Hashem, depending on the particular
responsibility that was given to him or her at that moment, in that situation.

Thus, all gratification and all suffering and all annoyances and all frustrations
exist as a challenge and a test — and the nature of the challenge is what Divine
Wisdom has decreed to be best for — and the life task of — each and every individual.

The manner in which all this is accomplished is beyond our ability to grasp and
comprehend, and we can never understand it or perceive it fully. It is done with
unimaginable wisdom, with each person treated according to his or her nature and
potential and role in life.

To be continued…

Rain, Rain, Don’t Stay Away, It Is For You That We All Pray, Part Two

In Ta’anis 9B there is a dispute between Rebbe Yehoshua and Rebbe Eliezer concerning
the primary source of our rain. Rebbe Yehoshua holds that the clouds (condensed
water vapor) ascend to the sky, and then, as clouds, receive the original upper
(as per Bereishis 1: 6,7) within them, and they proceed to “sprinkle”
those waters onto the earth. Rebbe Eliezer holds what is probably more familiar
to us, which is that rain is the ocean waters (lower waters) which evaporate,
ascend as vapor, undergo a certain transformation in the heavens to allow for their
use as usable, potable, water, and then descend as rain.

If we study this dispute for a few moments, we will be able perhaps to understand
why the Gemara in Ta’anis speaks of rain in such reverential terms. Scattered throughout
daf 7A through 9B in Ta’anis are the following statements: “A day of
rain is as momentous as the day on which the Torah was given…More momentous
than the day the Torah was given…A day of rain is greater than the day of the
resurrection of the dead…as momentous as the day on which Heaven and Earth were
created…On a day of rain, even salvation (apparently not associated with rain)
proliferates and grows…Rain does not fall unless Israel’s sins have been forgiven…
Rain falls for the sake of those who are trustworthy in business…As momentous
as the day of the ingathering of exiles…”and, conversely, the lack of it is considered
to have some major cosmic significance…”Rain is withheld only if there is a dire
gezeirah against the Jewish people…because the giving of tithes were
neglected…because of spoken lashon hara…because of brazen people…
because of bitul Torah…because of the sin of theft…because the
deeds of the generation are degenerate…”

The lesson all these statements are imparting to us is that we need a special
merit, some special consideration, for it to rain, for it is indicative and representative
of something notable and exceptional; and the lack of it speaks of Hashem’s extreme

This goes way betyond the obvious need for physical rain. Realize that both according
to Rebbe Yehoshua and Rebbe Eliezer, rain is reuniting, to a degree, the upper and
lower waters which were separated on the second day of Creation, when the lower
waters then complained bitterly at their being distanced from Hashem. The Maharal
explains that water has no essential tzurah, no essential form, which denotes
purpose. Rather, it is chomer, and takes on the form of whatever vessel
it is put into. Thus, in the upper spheres, mayim elyonim is Torah — the
purified, distilled, will of Hashem, bonded intimately with Him. Hashem then split
off the lower waters, which, when used improperly, are chomer incarnate,
as indeed it is so described in Kabbalistic sources. What we need to do is reunite
the lower waters with the upper ones — acknowledgement there is only one Source
for all existence, and all is but a manifestation of His will.

What accomplishes that? What helps the world reach its ultimate goal
by taking chomer and proclaiming its bond with Hashem? RAIN!
Rain is chessed Hashem, rain represents the hashpa’ah from Heaven
onto earth, rain expresses and exemplifies how Hashem — literally— showers us with
his beneficience, and it is but our acknowledgement which stands in the way of thus
reuniting this world with the upper world, the world of malachim and Heavenly
spheres. Yes, Hashem created the means of reuniting the lower world with the upper
world — through rain. Thus, we see that both Tannaim agree that this is
what is involved in the rain process: a connection between the waters separated
at Creation. (And this reuniting is actually considered a bonding of the highest
order. The Gemara says [Ta’anis 6B], “Rain penetrates the ground as the soil’s husband
[the same Hebrew verb, revi’ah, is used to describe both]. As we see in
Yesahaya 55:10, the words used are, “And the falling rain makes the ground
give birth, and produce vegetation…
A sky which clouds over and produces no rain
is compared to a woman in labor who does not give birth…Hashem is po’ked
(remembers) righteous women (And Hashem remembered [pakad] Sarah…And
it says, You remembered the earth [pakadeta aretz]) and watered it).”

We prepare for this momentous opportunity to acknowledge Hashem (and not that
cold front coming in off the Gulf of Mexico colliding with the warm front of El
Nino) on Sukkos, with nissuch hamayim, the water libation. This is the
powerful catalyst for rain (see Rosh Hashanah 16A): “Hashem says, pour the water
libation onto my Altar on Sukkos, so as to ensure a blessed water supply in the
coming winter.” And, having seen the Rashi in Vayikra cited last week (now you have
to go look it up. I told you not to throw out last week’s Chadash!) that
the water libation was Hashem’s answer to the lower waters, that you, chomer
epitomized, can and will be brought on the Altar of G-d, meaning subsuming
the lower waters to be seen as the handiwork of Hashem, as rain, which is the reuniting
of elyonim and tachtonim, as acknowledged by us as a Heaven-sent

And so nissuch hamayim on Sukkos (offering our personal lower waters
onto the Altar of Hashem) brings the blessing of rain (Hashem’s chessed
and hashpa’ah onto this world, as acknowledged by us) which itself carries
in it the reuniting of Creation’s upper and lower waters, as per Rebbe Yehoshua
or Rebbe Eliezer — and thus has the potential to embody the greatest of days, whether
it be the resurrection of the dead, the creation of Heaven and Earth, or the giving
of Torah — for this is the goal of Creation: reuniting these two entities to
spiritual growth.