One winter, my family and I vacationed in the state of Vermont for a few days. We stayed at a motel on the first floor. Since it was Chanukkah, we brought along a menorah. After a full day of sightseeing, we came back to the motel and I opened the curtains to light the menorah by the window as I do every year, to proclaim the miracle to others (pirsumé nisa). My wife, however, told me to close the curtains, as we hadn't asked permission and someone outside might tell the front desk who would then tell us to put it out, being a fire hazard. She told me that it's perfectly all right to light just for our family. I knew she was right, and listened to her, but was disappointed I couldn't put it in the window. Closing the curtains, I put the menorah on the dining room table and lit it. The next morning, I was in the lobby of the motel when a man came over to me and wished me a happy Channukah. He then took my hand and began shaking it repeatedly while thanking me for what I had done for him. I had never met the man before and had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked him to explain. He told me that the previous evening when he was in his motel room, he suddenly heard the words to the Chanukkah blessings being chanted in Hebrew. He had completely forgotten that it was Chanukkah! The man went out to a hardware store, bought a candle, and lit it in his room! He was thanking me for reminding him that it was Chanukkah! I thought of Avraham Avinu and the three malachim (angels) who came to visit him. Avraham wanted to fulfill the mitzvah of hachanas orchim (inviting guests) so much, that Hashem finally decided to send him some. Here too, Hashem saw my disappointment and enabled me to fulfill pirsumé nisa the optimum way, showing me His great love for every Jew. I learnt an important lesson that day. Pirsumé nisa does not necessarily have to come about through others seeing the miracle. If Hashem wants, He can cause it to come about through others "hearing" of the miracle! That Channukah, I understood the expression "the walls have ears" in a "new" light!
Once again, as I sit here writing to you I am overcome by emotion. I awoke early this morning to hear that Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the founder of Aish HaTorah International, the architect of the outreach movement and I man whom I not only greatly admired, but equally looked to for guidance, inspiration and perspective on virtually everything, had passed away.
Also, as last week, the news is so recent that my heart or mind has not sufficiently processed it. Certainly, I am saddened by our loss of a great visionary, who accomplished so much in his life. On a personal level, I am heart broken when I think of how he took me under his wing, accepted me, inspired me and added so much to my life.
I had the privilege to spend an intensive two weeks with Rabbi Weinberg just before I became the Rabbi of the TCS. Those two weeks were (actually, are) a true inspiration to me. He learned with me, he spoke with me, he explained his philosophy to me and must of all- he challenged me. He challenged me to act on my care for the Jewish people. To feel the pain of so many Jews being lost to Judaism and to accept responsibility that I can and must make a difference.
He did not accept hearing about what any of us had done; he wanted to know what we were planning to do. When we went to him with a problem, he compelled us to find the answer and to act on it.
The world is truly a much better place because of Rabbi Noah Weinberg. Not just those of us who lives he touched, but the entire world.
The truth is, even with his loss to us today, we must continue to be inspired by his memory, we must continue to be compelled by his actions and we must never allow ourselves to become complacent. If we continue to carry on and make his dream into our dream and his passion- ours, we will have him with us always. He always told us, the work is far from over, our efforts are needed more now than ever. We must have the compulsion to continue, to reach out and with the help of HaShem, to make his dream a reality- to bring every Jew home.
I did spend some time rewriting the “Shmoozin’” this week, in memory of the Rosh HaYeshiva, I felt that it was necessary to express through Torah some of my feelings about this courageous giant of a man. I hope you will find it meaningful.
Today is the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, whose life has already
impacted on generations of Torah Jewry. We would like to share a few brief
paragraphs of Rav Aharons view on the struggle between ruchniyus and
gashmius. These paragraphs are taken from the book Rav Aharon Kotler by R
Yitzchok Durshowitz, Shlita (pp. 21-23).
It should be pointed out that
materialism is a relative term. No one today can be expected to live with
furnishings like those found in the home of the Chofetz Chaim, nor did the
Rosh Yeshiva expect everyone to match his degree of bitul
hagashmius--negation of materialism. For that matter it is doubtful if a
yeshiva today could attract bochurim and command the respect due to Torah if
it were housed and furnished like the Radin Yeshiva of old. The Rosh Yeshiva
himself planned the present Bais Medrash building [in Lakewood, New Jersey]
and it is well built, large and comfortable.
Nevertheless the Rosh
Yeshiva did try hard to teach a non-materialistic life style, a life style of
histapkus b’muat--satisfaction with only the minimum, practical physical
amenities, a life style where fulfillment and satisfaction derive from
spiritual accomplishments, a life style consonant with an awareness of Hashem
V’Toroso, of Tachlis Hachayim--the real purpose of our life on earth--a life
style of a Ben Olam Habo--a World to Come Jew who lives for and connects to
netzach nitzochim--everlasting life--eternity. And in this, his home and the
Yeshiva of that era can serve as a beacon of light for future
The following is actually the translation of Mishnas Rebbe
Aharon (Volume 3, page 123), as translated in Rabbi Durshowitzs
It is well known that histapkus, being satisfied with just
the basics, is one of the greatest attributes. The Vilna Gaon writes (in
Even Shlaimah) that this quality is even more necessary than bitachon to
acquire Torah. One aspect of histapkus is to train oneself to be satisfied
with little and not run after bigger and better in food, in clothing, etc.
Nevertheless, at this level, one still feels that he is missing something.
An even higher level is Someach B’chelko--to be happy with whatever one
has, without being bothered because of what he does not possess, without
even feeling he is missing anything. The highest level of all, however, is
the attribute of Yeish Li Kol--feeling that he has everything, that there
is nothing more [materially] that he could even want. This is what [Hashem
meant when he said to Avrohom Ovinu] V’heyei tomim--be whole, perfect,
May we take this great teaching from Rav Aharon and
climb the ladder--from being satisfied, to being happy--to elevating
ourselves to the middah of Avraham Avinu himself!
Deep under the road leading to the Arab village of Silwan,
archaeologists have recently unearthed, amazingly intact,
the main thoroughfare that once connected the residential
area of Jerusalem to the Makom HaMikdash, the Temple
Mount compound. Aharon Granot and Yair Cohen visit the
newly discovered street, and relive the thrilling grandeur of
those ancient times
An Amazing Story of Hashgacha Pratis:
The following is a remarkable story of Hashgacha Pratis that happened to me just last week:
On Wednesday October 25, 2006 someone broke into my car, which was parked in a parking garage in downtown Baltimore, and stole my Tallis and Tefillin that were sitting in a black Tallis bag on the front passenger seat of my car.
Assuming the chances for recovery were minimal at best, I paid a visit to a local Sofer on Thursday evening to purchase new Tefillin. After choosing the Tefillin and having them fit to my specifications the Sofer handed me a card. He explained to me that on this card there was a Tefilla that was common to say in the hope of recovering lost objects. The Tefilla is to be accompanied by a pledge of tzedaka in the name of the great Tana, Rabbi Meir Bal Haaness. The origin of this is a Gemara in Avoda Zara (18b) that relates a story in which R’ Meir Baal Haness proves to a Roman soldier that by stating the phrase “Eloka D’Meir Anainu” – The G-D of Meir answer me, one can be saved from dangerous situations. The minhag has evolved to also say a Tefilla that includes this phrase in order to recover lost bjects.
While I had previously heard of this method of attempting to recover lost objects, I have never been one to pay much attention to these things.
After arriving home from the Sofer I said the Tefilla 3 times and pledged tzedaka to an organization in the name of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. I then went about my regular routine without placing much hope into this actually working.
Until I received a phone call the following day at around 2 pm…….
There is an orthodox person that lives in Baltimore named Meir Kleiner (name used with permission) that does some business with local pawnshops. I happen to know Meir as his in-laws live in Monsey and daven in the same shul as my in-laws. On Friday morning he received a phone call from a person named David Glazer who owns a pawnshop in downtown Baltimore named “Easy Pawn” (about 5 blocks from where my car was parked). That morning a regular customer of Mr. Glazers’ walked into his pawnshop and dropped a Tallis bag on his desk stating that he found it in an ally a few blocks away and thought it looked “Jewish.” Knowing that Mr. Glazer was Jewish he figured he may know what to do with it. Although Mr. Glazer is not Orthodox, he recognized the item as Tallis and Tefillin and decided to call the only Orthodox Jew he knows to see if he can help locate the owner. So after placing a call to Meir and explaining the story, he drove downtown to pick them up. And as they say, the rest is history. Meir recognized my name and called to say that he had my Tallis and Tefillin. B’H everything was there and intact!
Just to highlight some of the amazing hashgacha pratis involved in this story:
* After realizing that they were of no value to him, the thief decides to drop them in an ally rather than throw them in the trash.
* Of all people to find them in the ally, it was a regular customer of a Jewish owned pawnshop in downtown Baltimore (how many of those do you think exist!)
* The owner of the pawnshop does business regularly with an Orthodox Jew.
* I happen to personally know this person after meeting him in a shul in Monsey.
On a side note, when the Sofer handed me the card with the Tefilla of R’ Meir Baal Haness I sarcastically told him that if this works I’d give the new ones to Tzedaka! While I’m sure I could somehow find a heter to not follow through on that promise, I’ve decided that in light of this amazing story I will donate the new pair of Tefillin. There is now a Bal Tshuvah in Aish Hatorah's new yeshiva in Pasaic, NJ that will receive a brand new pair of Tefillin!
Amazing how things work!
Oh, one more thing…the name of the sofer that I bought the new Tefillin from …… Rabbi Sion Baal Haness!!! That is no joke!
Please feel free to disseminate as you wish.
On a recent trip to Cincinnatti I was amazed to find a life size mock up of the Mishkan in a cemetery between Detriot and Ann-Arbor. Enjoy
Baruch Hashem! I am fine! But I did have to spend most of Shabbos in a hospital emergency room. My left leg was swollen, and I was told by my doctor to go to the emergency room that it could be a blood clot. It was, but not the deep vein type that is so dangerous. It was in a blood vessel, and is not of major concern. The person who did the Doppler (really a type of sonogram) was Jewish (not yet observant). When we saw the blood clot on the screen, I immediately thought of the Asher Yotzar blessing. For some reason I had the most amazing desire to say it, but I did not. Instead I asked the man if he had every heard of the Asher Yotzar blessing, and as expected, he said 'no'. I then told him the English translation and explained that we say this each time we go to the bathroom, and that the blood vessel we were looking at was one of the 'openings and cavities" that it refers to, and if "one were to become blocked" we could not survive. Even though I know that conventional wisdom would say that I was not supposed to be happy about seeing the clot, I could not help but feel overjoyed because that little clot was testimony to the truth of this brocha. (I am not so sure I would have felt this way if it turned out to be a deep vein thrombosis – the more deadly type!) His eyes lit up like lamps and I was amazed by the size of his smile! Apparently something about this brocha hit home for him. Just a little seed planted, but it was wonderful to see.
The doctor gave me a shot of blood thinner, told me what to do, and released me. But I could not walk home from the hospital (it is much too far a walk – a gentile drove me there but I could not justify being driven back) so I went back to the emergency room and sat down in the waiting area until Shabbos was over. As I sat there, I thought about how everything Hashem does, he does for a reason. So I wondered if I would ever know why Hashem wanted me to spend Shabbos in an emergency room. (Shabbos in NJ was not going ot be over until 9:18 PM)
While I was there, a teen aged boy walked in with his parents. There did not seem to be anything obviously wrong with him, he just looked very sad. When his parents walked away (so that they could sign him in), tears rolled down his face. I asked Hashem that if there was any way for me to help him, please make it known to me. The boy was taken in, and his mother came back out. I asked her how her son was doing and if he would be OK.
She turned towards me, her eyes brimming with tears. She explained to me what was wrong, and how this was not his first time in the emergency room. She told me about his illness, how he got it, and the type of treatment he was given, all without any success.
As it turned out, an old doctor friend of mine once told me about the boy's illness, and described the treatment that the boy had been given and explained to me why it did not work on a lot of patients. He then told me the type of treatment that he gave for the same illness and why it worked. I told the mother exactly what he told me. Her eyes lit up and she began to cry. She took his name and told me that she is a very devout Catholic and believes that G-d must have sent me to her. She had been praying for so long for G-d to send her an answer.
She then asked me why I was in the waiting room for so long. (I could sense her concern - were they also going to have to wait as long as I had?) I told her that I was also religious, and that I was Jewish, and went on to explain why I was still there. She burst into tears, and then, with a glowing face and huge smile, she said that now she knows for sure that G-d sent me to her. We hugged and I thanked Hashem for letting me be privy to (at least part) of the reason why he had me there that day.