Nachmu, Nachmu – Part 2

We are working on appreciating kedushas Eretz Yisroel in a deep, fundamental way, to somehow create a tikun of the sin of the lack of recognition, and worse, exhibited by the meraglim (“…and they despised the desirable Land…” Tehillim 106:24). We saw the Ramban in Vayikra (18:25) discuss how Hakadosh Baruch Hu directs and is mashgiach over Bnei Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel in a close, intimate, direct, way, while His control over the other nations of the world, and in other lands, is through the medium of various sorts of ministering angels. We asked what this means; and, no less, what it means to us in our lives in a practical, relevant, way. And what exactly is the virtue in whatever it means?

Let us take the phrase “left up to chance” – or, olom k’minhago noheg, or teva. The Ramban in Shmos (13:16) contends that it is absolutely wrong to think that Hashem left the governing of this world to a system of nature (even if you admit that He created the system). The very fact that miracles exist, and nature is overruled, forces us to come to a realization of Hashem’s hidden miracles – which means the daily governing of the world being empowered and enabled by Hashem.

We suggest that this does not mean there is no system of nature at all. Certainly Hashem created the rules which have things and events occur (in general) in a certain set way and a certain set pattern, and that this is always actively empowered by Hashem’s will that things and events occur in that way and in that pattern. And, as the Ramban points out there in Shmos, in case we run the risk of forgetting that Hashem is empowering all, every once in a while things break out of that pattern, and out of that sytem, and a miracle occurs.

However, certainly when under the influence of the “normal” system which is the will of Hashem, it is much more likely that the individuals are left to the vicissitudes of that system – it takes a more righteous individual to stand out and be saved from a general gezeirah. Chazal teach us: “Once the angel of death is given permission to kill, it does not distinguish between good (people) and bad (people)” – it would take an exemplary individual to be saved from the fate of his community. The Gemara itself speaks of a makas medinah – a national plague, and explains how that creates practical, real, ramifications in halachah. (If a person rents a field, and it got ruined due to a plague or it drying out, he cannot deduct from the agreed rental, even though this is now not the field he thought it would be. Rather, halachah views this as his own problem. If however it was a makas medinah, something affecting most fields in that locale – he can deduct!)

This shows that the Torah itself recognizes this concept of a gezeirah klali not directed “against” a particular person!

(Note: Do not extrapolate to any case you may know of – every case is different and there are tens, if not hundreds, of possible permutations which can affect the halachah.)

This would seem to mean that even if the individual as an individual does not “deserve” to have this happen to him or her, it will happen, by dint of his belonging to the general grouping which did deserve it. If there is a gezeirah that a ship will sink, an individual who might not have died otherwise might not be righteous enough to escape the gezeirah of the ship; or he may be, but he is not righteous enough for his possessions to be saved… and so on and so forth.

The Ramban in Iyov discusses this. “…to the extent that the completely pious individual clings to Hashem… to that degree he will be guarded from occurrences ,and even to the happenings of nature. According to his closeness to G-d, he will be protected with the highest levels of protection.”

So goes the tzaddik.

The Chovos Halevavos, in the beginning of Sha’ar Habitachon, writes the explanation of the posuk, “Blessed is the one who trusts in Hashem, Hashem will be his trust” (Yirmiyahu 17:7). Chovos Halevavos takes this to mean that the more one trusts and relies on Hashem, the more Hashem requites and fulfills the trust. Whereas if one trusts in other powers, in other things, Hashem removes that person from being under His Divine providence, and allows him to be that much more under the dictates of nature. Thus, people who trust in their wealth suffer the uncertainties of having wealth. In their intelligence, ditto. In democracy – well, last time I looked at the USA… A primary benefit of trusting in Hashem, says the Chovos Halevavos, is that Hashem responds in kind.

And the explanation of this is the same as the Ramban in Iyov – you actually can make choices which place you on a different level of hashgachah pratis, as explained above.

So far, we have had two manifestations of a life with a heightened hashgachah pratis – the tzaddik and the baal bitachon.

And Eretz Yisroel. That is what the Ramban is saying in Vayikra – the Jewish Nation, as a Nation, is under this intense direct guidance from Hashem, Who directly governs and operates the events affecting them. Where? Only in Eretz Yisroel, says the Ramban, the place in the world that Hashem has placed under that direct, intense, hashgachah pratis. And being under intense, specific hashgachah pratis obligates a person to enter into a closer, deeper, more inherent relationship with Hashem. That is why, Ramban writes in Vayikra, the true place for the fulfillment of all the commandments is for those who reside in Eretz Yisroel – even though the obligation of mitzvos which are personal obligations are technically not dependent on Eretz Yisroel – but there is an element lacking in their fulfillment when one is Chutz La’aretz, and their fulfillment there is considered “practice” for their “real” fulfillment in Eretz Yisroel.

And thus it is also obligatory for Jews to actually settle in, conquer, and take control of Eretz Yisroel, for in doing so we have conquered the Land; in the language of the Ramban, “Before Hashem,” on behalf of Hashem, wresting it out of the control of the intermediaries that He has arranged for Chutz La’aretz and for non-Jews, and putting it under the intense hashgachah pratis which is its due.

How much then does all this obligate us to be more exacting, more careful, more conscientious in doing mitzvos ,in devoting time to learning Torah, in tzni’us matters – when we live here, the Land where Hashem has decreed the closest bond, the most direct relationship, with His people.

Vaeschanan – Shabbos Bulletin and Tefilla Halacha


If someone is in the middle of shemoneh esrei and hears the chazzan saying “modim….” he should bow down [as per   the rules previously learned] , but of course not respond in any way.

If the Kohanim start bentching birkas kohanim, he should stop and just listen.

Someone learning in a Bais Medrash may put his head down and nap , if that becomes necessary as an aid to his learning.It is preferable to distance oneself from the Aron HaKodesh

Vaeschanan Bulletin

Shabbos Nachamu

Logo for Chadash NewspaperShabbos Nachamu

The name conjures up, at least to the English-speakers that I know, a vast sigh of relief that the mourning period over the lack of a Beis Hamikdash and the lack of Hashem’s presence among us (the Shechinah) is over, and we can go back to our more-or-less normal lives. (Not to mention Woodbourne and a Shabbos Nachamu concert.)

This column will not directly be addressing that problem (I do hope that you realize that I have just described a problem). However, it seems to me that if the churban and all of its horrendous ramifications, everything that we have undergone in this tortuous galus, stems from a very initial root of a lack of appreciation of Eretz Yisroel (as the posuk says in Tehillim 106:24, “And they despised the desirable Land…” and we know that the spies’ primary sin was that of lashon hora regarding Eretz Yisroel), some small tikun, to help along the rebuilding and the ultimate geulah, should very well be to awaken our appreciation for the Land of Israel. And especially since those reading this article have probably been moser nefesh to move to Eretz Yisroel, it is even more vital to understand what we must accomplish here, and not chas vshalom settle back into our former lifestyles and goals.

Let’s start with basics.

Ramban, in the places where he discusses his opinion that it is a technical mitzvas assei (positive commandment) for every individual Jew to live in Eretz Yisroel… in all generations… even during the exile (the Ramban brings proofs to this; the matter is one of apparent dispute among the Rishonim – it must be noted that for most of our history since the churban, the question has been almost moot, since a mitzvas assei carries guidelines as to what lengths one must go to fulfill it, as opposed to a negative commandment, to which there is virtually no limit, and there is no question that those guidelines made the mitzvah inoperative until recent history), makes the point and stresses that the Jewish people must conquer the Land as well, not just live in it… and all parts of the Land (see Ramban Bamidbar 33:53 and Ramban Sefer Hamitzvos,

in the appendix “mitzvos the Rambam left out” mitzvah 4).

(The Ramban makes clear – saying it explicitly – that he is going beyond the mitzvah of clearing out the seven nations inhabiting Eretz Yisroel at the time of the Jews’ entering the Land. He says that the mitzvah (l’shitasoh) includes reclaiming barren land, cultivating it, and settling it (in lomdeshe terms, it is not only a din in the gavra to live there, but a din in the cheftsa of the land to be populated by Jews – if you understand this, you have passed Lomdus 101).

Why? What is the reason for this “manifest destiny” attitude? Where does this come from, what is the source, the reason, the rationale?

For this we have to see the Ramban Vayikra, 18:25.

Ramban writes, “The deep innermost secret of the matter is to be found in the verse, ‘When Hashem gave the nations of the world their inheritance… but Hashem’s portion is His people'” (Devarim 32:8-9). The idea being that Hashem certainly created everything, and controls everything, but the way He controls the nations of the world is through the appointment of ministers in the upper realms, empowering them to be in charge of carrying out His will towards the lower realms, and He placed one over each and every people to rule their affairs, and ministers above those powers, to rule over them… with the only ultimate authority from which all is derived, and flows, being of course Hashem.

However, regarding Eretz Yisroel, the center of habitation of the world (probably the Ramban refers to Europe, Africa, Asia, if you look at a map), Hashem’s heritage, He did not place over it any angels or ministers. And He designated it as an inheritance to His people who affirm Him, who are the descendants of the Patriarchs…and this is the meaning of the possuk “and I will be a G-d unto you” (Yirmiyahu 11:4), meaning that Hashem controls the Jewish people in Eretz Yisroel directly. And in order to be a proper receptacle for such hashgachah, we are especially forewarned to live in Eretz Yisroel in a more sanctified way… And this is the meaning of the Sages’ statement, ‘Anyone who dwells in Chutz La’aretz it is as if he has no G-d” (Kesuvos 110B).

Ramban continues: And it states (about Yehoshua’s army going into battle), “Forty thousand armed men… passed before Hashem for the battle (as if going out to do battle on Hashem’s behalf)” (Yehoshua 4:13), and, similarly in Divrei Hayamim I 22:18, “And the Land has been conquered before Hashem. Now (Ramban asks) in what sense did Bnei Yisroel conquer the land on behalf of Hashem – is not all His? Ramban quotes a Tosefta in Maseches Avoda Zara (5:2): As long as the Jews are living on the land, it is as if it is conquered by G-d… “for Eretz Yisroel is uniquely Hashem’s in the sense that there is no underling which is governing matters… and when the nations of the world, who are under the direct authority of powers that Hashem appointed to directly govern them physically control Eretz Yisroel, those powers have their authority here, as well.”

The Ramban goes on in this vein, at length.

What does all this mean? Is there, can there be, a difference in Hashem’s hashgachah over this world? The Ramban is clearly saying that there is – that there is more direct hashgachah pratis in Eretz Yisroel, and we are enjoined to “make that happen.”

Well, if so, what is it? How do we relate to this idea, make it meaningful to us and our children, and what do we do with this knowledge? This is so crucial, for it so very fundamental and essential to living here! And if we – myself included – have taken this step – what is expected of us?

continued next week…


Hey, Whose Side Are You On? Part 4

A Tisha B’Av Primer To Avoiding Machlokes

We left last week’s article wondering about the reaction of the people at the vasikin minyan in a certain town in the U.S.A. over the partial splitting apart of their twenty-year-old minyan; the grabbing of some of their daveners by the netz-hanir’eh junkie; and the sheer chutzpah on the breakaways’ part exhibited by coming back to daven there on Shabbos.

The reaction of the people at the minyan was–

Basically, none. Not a bad word; no one yelled; no two parties formed, the anti-letting-him-daven-there-on-Shabbos and the pro-letting-him-daven– there-on-Shabbos; people smiled, perhaps not broadly, perhaps sadly, but they basically went about their business as usual. No one turned red and vowed revenge.

What gives? Does davening netz cause lobotomies?

Rabbosai, and ladies: Think back how I described this minyan — no pretensions of being a “real” shul, no members, certainly not a kehillah –they daven vasikin and go home! Now think deeply what happened on day two of Creation, the day the waters were divided, the day that machlokes was created, and Gehinnom as well. What was created was the ability for things in this world to have a sense of self, for they were (experientially) unmoored from their spiritual roots where one’s entire being is the will of Hashem in a way that one has no true existence, only a subjective one (as explained in part three ). This gives rise to machlokes, as once you are untethered from being ratzon Hashem, and you are a seemingly independent being, you do and think things which validate your sense of fulfillment of self (and although you might make a decision to perform, to do, the ratzon Hashem, it is an independent decision validating your sense of who YOU are). The problem, of course, is that so do other beings, and with all beings focused on fulfilling their own selves, inevitable machlokes ensues, for they are not all working in tandem for a common cause. (And clearly this also creates the need for a Gehinnom, for now it becomes possible to “oppose” His will, as there is in the beri’ah a being which, at least in an illusory way, can have its own agenda, and thus perhaps may decide to oppose the will of Hashem.)

And so, if you have a minyan whose whole raison d’être is really only to daven vasikin — not to have a shul, not to have a kehillah, not for the rabbi to have a career, a salary, not kavod, not to provide a chevrah… and then one of the mispallelim go off and make a different minyan, based on a different shitah of when netz is, the natural reaction, I submit to you, is to shrug and to not react at all! Someone else is doing the exact same thing, albeit in a different way — why should that affect me, why should that upset me, why should we now split into two camps? Adaraba, on the contrary, we are now working together towards the same goal, each performing a different task! This is like the Ashkenazi, the Sephardi, the Chassid,and the Misnaged looking for a lost girl together. I have lost my personal agenda-powered chassidus, misnagdus, Sephardiyus, Ashkenaziyus in this search, because it melted away, due to its clear irrelevancy! One submerges oneself into ratzon Hashem — and different mahalchim become just that: different parts which make up a whole.

If a rav is working to elevate the spiritual level of people who have decided to daven at his shul…and another rav is doing the same for people who have decided to daven by him, what machlokes, why machlokes? Machlokes is possible if they were vying for members, for kavod, for status, for bragging rights… if they are looking out for themselves. If, though, they are completely devoted, and “lost” in their mission, there would just be a sense of– kol hakovod! And the same with schools. And the same with different types of chassidus; and the same with different yeshivas, or groups within a yeshivah, or a shul, or an apartment building!

Think now please about the machlokesim you know of (and remember that machlokes does NOT MEAN a difference of opinion, it means a split into two camps), and you will see that it is because there is a “self” aspect to opposing sides. It might even be couched as a wish to excel, that we’re right — but machlokes is ossur, nonetheless. But if the sides feel they are working together, albeit differently, on a common goal, then even if they are doing things differently, there’s no machlokes.

When the governing goal is ONLY ratzon Hashem, the natural state is no machlokes, for there is no self.

And so rabbosai and ladies: Instead of haranguing people about achdus, or even achdut, and ahavas Yisroel, or ahavat Yisra-el, ask yourself about motives. Most purveyors of an ahavas Yisrael political line that I have experience with have a personalized agenda of some sort, and hope to escape detection, and even criticism, under that cover. And if you ask them about other groups, you usually get an earful about what terrible, uncouth, horrible, sonei Yisroel THEY (these-ughhh-other groups) are!

And those who act lishmah, who as much as possible endeavor to be motivated solely by ratzon Hashem, are the ones beloved by all, get along with all chugim and shitos, even and especially the ones who stand even in direct contradistinction to their shitos and opinions.

With my remaining, quickly dwindling, word count allotment, I would like to address a question those of a more analytical bent may be asking, to wit: Pirkei Avos speaks of a machlokes which is l’shem shamayim — for the sake of Heaven, with no ulterior motives. The example given is the various machlokesim between Bais Shamai and Bais Hillel. Now, if l’shem shamayim means for the sake of Heaven, and, as the Bartenurah there explains, both groups were only searching for truth, then why did it erupt into machlokes? True, the Gemarra makes the point that it never degenerated into hatred, or spiteful, angry behavior, but why is it even called a machlokes? Weren’t they all on the same team?

Good question! You’re really thinking! The answer is that early and later Acharonim talk about how it was the very basic, intrinsic, fundamental nature of the talmidim of Bais Shammai and Beis Hillel which led them to have the opinions that they had. Certainly all their opinions were Torah and a result of intense Torah study and understanding — not personal. Yet the different intellectual conclusions they each reached was indeed based on something in them that made them what they were, and led them to formulate the ideas that they formulated (e.g, din; rachamim). Thus, it was a reflection of self, and can be called machlokes.

Hey, Whose Side Are You On? Part 3

Logo for Chadash NewspaperWe saw in part one of this series that there is a prohibition — according to some an actual Torah prohibition — to be involved in, aid, or even to refrain from preventing (if one is in a position to do so), machlokes: not argument, not disputes, but division and “sides, even if you are in the right. If Moshe Rabbeinu (!) would not have gone to the tents of Dassan and Aviram (!) to try to placate them, he presumably would have been in violation of this din (we derive the din from what Moshe did).

In part two, we pointed out that at one point of our lives, we have all probably witnessed the setting aside of the most intense of differences in order to join in a common cause. We want to understand: what makes that happen, and how we can achieve that madreigah?

We cited the Medrash that states that machlokes was an actual Creation, created on the second day, when Hakadosh Baruch Hu divided the upper waters (above the sky, or firmament) from the lower waters (the waters beneath). This, the Medrash teaches, represents machlokes (and, according to another opinion there, Gehinnom). How was this division, obviously necessary for the beri’ah, to be divisive and the model for machlokes?

The upper waters represent the spiritual sources of physical matter. Before the second day, there was no division between the corporeal and its ethereal progenitor. The physical had no “selfhood” and existed only as a tool in the hands of the spiritual realm to proclaim the Glory of Hashem.

On day two, Hashem, in order to fulfill the purpose for which He was creating the world, split the two — hafrada, division. The physical now had an ego, a self, a being that existed seemingly as if it has a true self-sustaining existence (we say seemingly because in objective reality, Hashem is actually the only REAL, absolutely authentic metzi’us — everything else is subjective reality — subject to His will that it exist). Everything physical is now b’nifrad (separated) from its spiritual parent, where the only reality is ratzon Hashem, and takes on the veneer of self, where I, or the table or the chair, or the pen in my hand, exist on their own; it is here one moment, and so, we think, that is why it is here the next moment — but that’s wrong! At both moments it only exits as a product of Hashem’s will, and would, should, cease to exist the moment it stands in contradistinction to Hashem’s will. The ability to not self-destruct at that moment was enabled by the hafrada of yom sheini, where the physical (lower waters) were separated from their roots, the spiritual, k’ilu (as if) they now have a self.

And THAT is precisely the creation of machlokes. Once something exits, seemingly objectively, it has its sense of self. And a second thing that exists has its sense of self. And thus there can be, and is, machlokes. When everything everything everything is inherently just a tool to carry out, TO BE, the will of the Almighty, there will be no machlokes. Because nothing has a sense of self, and therefore all act and react as cogs in a machine, as parts of the whole. This is the normal reaction of such a state of existence. It’s when things acquire that “selfhood” that I am I and you are you and machlokes is possible.

A simple story, as a moshol: I am personally aware and am involved in a certain vasikin minyan in a certain town in the USA. The minyan has no pretensions of being a “real” shul, no “members,” certainly not a kehillah, they won’t be meeting for minchah and maariv, they barely stick around for mussaf on Shabbos (just too inconvenient not to, I guess) no speeches, no appeals — no nutthin’! They daven vasikin and go home!

After about 20 years of existence, a long-time mispallel, someone actually there from day one, proposed a change to following what is called netz hanir’eh — the actual perception of sunrise, taking into account the natural topography, and other such factors. Some people said yes, okay, that’s how many do it in Eretz Yisroel, it makes a lot of sense. Others said no way! We’re not changing, this is not the way it is mekubal here in the States, it is NOT logical…

At the end of the day, the matter was decided by the posek of the minyan — no. It is not yet mekubal in the USA, he (the posek) did not see any compelling proof that that is the way to go, and thus to change represented an inappropriate change from minhag hamikom.

The fellow who brought up the subject in the first place, clearly feeling strongly about the matter (nature books warn about trying to separate a vasikin person from his netz — it is considered very, very dangerous and should only be attempted by highly trained personnel), went and made his own minyan! Yes, “he broke away” and started a vasikin minyan according to netz hanir’eh. He drew upon the older original minyan for his new minyan, managing to get around fifteen people, and voila! Two minyanim!

I see the Reader seething. A chutzpah! How could he do such a thing! The nerve! After all these years, where’s his hakaras hatov, where’s his submission to the posek, where’s his deference to the tzibur? And the Reader can envision the verbal accusations, the lashon hora, the rechilus, the malbin p’nei chaveiro that must’ve went on. Ooooh ahhhhh!

And then that fellow had the added chutzpah and audacity and… and… words fail me! He comes back to the old minyan for Shabbos with a smattering of people who went away, because he couldn’t put together a minyan for Shabbos, so he marches back with his partners in crime to his old shul, his old place of davening, and that… that… that I don’t know what, boldly stands there in his former makom kavu’ah and davens as if nothing happened! He breaks apart the minyan and he comes back for Shabbos! Surely the Reader assumes his shtender was thrown out the window, his Siddur Hagra taken away and hidden, and there’ll be three days Rosh Chodesh before he gets an aliyah! And what makom kavu’ah, you LEFT, someone else should sit there now, you go slink away to the back, you good-for-nothing mechutzaf!

And a huge fight breaks out about if he should even be allowed to daven there on Shabbos…

Right? That’s what happened, right?

Wrong!100 percent wrong.


Continued next week. . . . . . . .

I wish to thank the tzibbur for coming and participating so strongly in the Kashrus lectures (and a special thank you to Chadash for advertising it gratis). There was a palpable feeling of a willingness to learn and be educated. Im yirtzeh Hashem this will lead to improvements in the status quo of Kashrus in BS and RBS — for ALL chugim, and ALL hechsherim.