Times of Separation, Times of Closeness-Netivot Olam II #5

30 06 2011
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Times of Seperation, Times of Closeness Shalom is the key to putting the fragmented puzzle pieces of this world together again.  The Torah tells us to actively pursue peace because it completes everything including our own piece of the puzzle. A Jew’s purpose is to be mashlim (to make whole) everything he encounters.  If you are about to eat a pear, say the bracha with kavanah. If you meet someone you don’t know, realize that Hashem engineered the meeting. Get acquainted with the person. In this way you will be fitting the puzzle pieces of you and him together.

The deeper we feel that there is a lack, the more intuitively we try to fill it. The more aware we are of our incompletion, the more we will proactively pursue wholeness. Pursuing peace means giving of ourselves to others in a generous and unstinting way, so they become a part of us. Shalom requires us to look for opportunities to give of ourselves so that we can make wholeness happen. Say hello to the woman in line after you at the supermarket. Treat people who serve you with respect and dignity. Express appreciation and be generous with praise and compliments.

People are naturally drawn to completion and closure. This explains the insatiable desire people have to vicariously experience the resolution of  life-struggles through literature, drama, and film. We enjoy the experience of closure when everything finally comes together at the end.  Similarly, when we plant a seed, it develops and grows and only rests when it is fully complete. So too there’s a growth impulse inside each of us which says, “Complete yourself.”

Shalom has unifying power. If a person doesn’t return someone’s shalom greeting, he’s robbed the other person of the opportunity to feel whole and connected with him. To become part of a greater whole we have to pursue peace. However we cannot be everyone’s best friend, nor is it necessarily a desirable goal. Friends influence us greatly and we need to be selective.  There’s a difference between offering something of yourself to someone and sharing your intimate secrets. You can be discerning, yet kind and giving. When each piece of the puzzle maintains its own integrity, the puzzle is complete.

Doing chesed-tapping in to our Elokut so that it pours forth to others, is the idealized way to make peace. Pursuing shalom means wanting to make everyone more whole, by giving of ourselves. It does not mean acknowledging our integrity and the other person’s integrity to the point of having no borders. There are times to give freely, times to withdraw, and times to leave things as they are.

May we reach perfect sheleimut in our quest to become true lovers of peace.

Rebbetzin’s Perspective I Class #2

29 06 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Rebbetzin PerspectiveQuestion:

If a parent is angry and critical, sometimes to the point of cruelty, what would be the correct way to respond?


It’s not so simple. What one person might call critical and destructive, another person might call involved and committed. What one person might call harsh and cruel, another person might call persistent and dedicated. Parents don’t think of themselves as evil. They think that they must not allow problems to develop or that they must act authoritively so that the structure necessary to maintain family life doesn’t disintegrate. They want to uphold their values but they don’t have the right tools to do so.

The voice of anger is really saying, “This is not how it should be. It must be the way I want it to be.” This is true for both justifiable anger and ridiculous anger. The parent may feel that if he does not respond with verbal anger, then he is affirming the situation. He needs to learn to move his problems to solutions and to maintain a sense of proportion. He must say, “What can I do to make this better? How important is this on a one to ten scale in my life?”  Anger won’t work. It will only create passive or active dissonance. Hashem is putting the parent through a nisayon. As Jews, we trust that we are here to serve our Creator.  The parent must honestly ask himself, “Does Hashem want me to love my children or treat them like the enemy?”

If you have a close relationship with the parent in question, empathize with his inner voice. Gently steer him to look for solutions and to view problems in perspective.  If you anticipate a difficult situation, talk to Hashem. Don’t go into the lion’s den without tefilah. Ask Him. “Azrani Hashem…Help me do this right.” With Hashem on your side, you’ll surely succeed.

Jewish Names

28 06 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Michael Taubes

Jewish Names Parshat Shemot begins, “V’ele shemot bne yisrael habaim mitzrayama“-These are the names of the people of Israel who came to Egypt. The Baal Haturim notes that the first letters of this verse spell out “sheviye“-imprisonment. Even when the Jews were imprisoned in exile, they stood out. They maintained their identity by keeping their Jewish names, language, and dress.

Tosfot is bothered by a question raised by Rabbeinu Tam in Gittin. An apostate Jew wanted to give his wife a divorce. Could his gentile name be included in the get since he was no longer known by his Jewish name? Rabbeinu Tam replied, chalila to include in a get, a religious document, a non-Jewish name. Similarly the Maharam Shick writes in a teshuva in Yoreh Deiah, that it is a Torah prohibition for a Jew to use a non-Jewish name. Having Jewish names helps bring the redemption closer. How can we go the opposite way? We must be proud to identify ourselves with our Jewish names. For this reason, the custom in Poland based on Rabbeinu Tam, was not to use non-Jewish names. The Darkei Teshuva follows this opinion. The Rogachover also concurs but adds a dispensation that if the name is just a transliteration from Hebrew to English it’s permitted.

The Gemara questions whether a get signed by witnesses with non-Jewish names is kosher. The Gemara answers that it is because most Jews outside the land of Israel used non-Jewish names. Similarly, the Maharashdam writes that using a non-Jewish name is permitted and brings proof from this Gemara. Perhaps it is middat chassidut to use a Jewish name exclusively but non-Jewish names are certainly not a problem. Rav Moshe Feinstein agrees. Certainly one should use ones Jewish name, but it is permitted to use a secular name when needed. Perhaps the reason why Chazal praised the Jews for keeping their Jewish names was because before Matan Torah, Jews identified themselves with this. Therefore writes the Meshesh Chochma, this safeguard was needed.

Rav Shlomo Luria in his commentary on Gittin explains that Rabbeinu Tam forbade the use of the apostate’s gentile name because it symbolized his rejection of his Jewish roots. However an ordinary non-Jewish name should not pose a problem. The issur d’orayta perhaps only applies when the name identifies the Jew with another religion.

The Midrash Tanchuma in Haazinu makes an astounding comment on the verse, “Zechor yemot olam.” “L’olam yivdok adam..”- A person should be careful to select a name which identifies his child with a tzaddik because sometimes the name itself can influence the child positively or negatively. A name is not a simple matter. One should select a name that that child will live up to.

In secular society, names across all cultural spectrums are acceptable. Why shouldn’t we be proud to use our own Jewish names? May it be a pivotal, positive step towards the redemption.

Shavuot: The True Acceptance of Torah

5 06 2011
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Yitchak Cohen

Shavuot: True Acceptance of Torah  

The common denominator of the Shalosh Regalim is that there is a commandment to be joyous on each of the holidays. What does the Torah mean to be b’simcha? The Gemara in Pesachim notes that there is a disagreement between Rav Yehoshua and Rav Elazar in understanding the two verses, “Atzeret tehiye l’Hashem Elokecha” and “Atzeret tiyehe lachem.” One verse means that the holiday should be spiritual and the other verse tells us to rejoice with physical pleasures. Rav Eliezer says there is a choice on how to fulfill the mitzvah of simcha on Yom Tov. Either one can devote time to tefilah and limud hatorah or to physical enjoyment. Rav Yehoshua says Chetzi l’Hashem v’chetzi lachem-divide the day between the two pleasures. However the Gemara says this disagreement doesn’t apply to all the holidays.


Regarding Shavuot all opinions agree, “Chetzi l’chem v’chetzi l’Hashem.” It needs both aspects. One would think that Shavuot would be a day to devote more time to Torah and tefilah because it is the anniversary of the day when the Torah was given. Yet this day must also have “lachem,” it must be experienced physically. This teaches us that the Torah wasn’t given to us as a means of restricting, obligating, or restraining us from worldly pleasures. Rather in Birchat Hatorah, we ask Hashem, “Vaherev na..”-make it sweet, make it something that we will enjoy. The Kli Yakar writes on the verse, “Vehikravtem mincha chadasha.” Every day a person should have a tremendous desire for Torah as if he had just received it the first time. There should be a fresh newness and joy when studying Torah. “V’samchta l”hashem Elokecha“-your whole body should be b’simcha when learning Torah as if sampling a delectable new dish. This is the koach of Torah, the pleasure it can give a person.


Why is Torah called Torat Emet? Is there another Torah which is false? Torah is not about living for oneself or losing oneself in physical pleasures. It is Hashem’s instructions on how to live. If we follow its precise directions, we will perceive the world with a different perspective. Indeed it is only through Torah that we can come to see the truth of life. 

Achieving Balance Class #12

4 06 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Questions and Answers for Today's Jewish Woman, Part 12


Can you give me some guidelines on questions I should ask singles before I try to set them up?


You should try to obtain as much information as you can about their background, nature, and goals.  The more you get them to talk, the more you’ll find out about them. The way they speak about their siblings, family, and life in general will tell you a lot about who they are. Are they effusive or reticent? Are they positive or negative? How do they feel about themselves? Do they hold their Rabbi in regard or do they tend to put him down? Asking a lot of background questions will give you a sense of what the person will have in common with a prospective mate. Inquiring about their goals and what they really want in life tells you who they really are and what their values are. It is also important to find out their hashkafic views and their level of religious observance. Ask about their economic background and what standard of living they will expect, so you can look for compatibility.  It is your responsibility to find out if there are any physical or mental problems.  You can then set them up with someone who is likely to be accepting of it.


There is a lot of “trophyism” in shidduchim.  People are obsessed with inane issues such as “What will everyone say? Is he the best boy in Yeshiva? Is he at the top of his profession? Is her family wealthy? Does she look right?”  Answers to these questions don’t really tell you who the person is, where they are coming from, and where they plan on going, whichare the things that will make or break a marriage.

Shabbat Scenarios: Demonstrations of the Melachot of Koshair and Mattir

3 06 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Shimon Isaacson 

  Koshair and Matir Demonstrations One may not tie a single knot on the drawstrings of a sweatshirt on Shabbat.

One should not tie the drawstrings of a garbage bag together in a bow knot as it is meant to last. A single slip knot is permitted.

Knots that are prohibited to be made on Shabbat may not be untied on Shabbat. Therefore, one may not untie a permanent knot, such as a tzizit knot, on Shabbat.

One may untie an inadvertent knot that was formed while undoing shoelaces.

One may not undo the knot on a bakery box as it is considered permanent. It should be cut open instead.

Parshat Nasso: Fighting Evil

3 06 2011
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman   

Parshat Nasso: Fighting Evil

Parshat Nasso begins with a continuation of the great census of the Jews in the desert. It particularly focuses on the families of the tribe of Levi. The spiritual concepts of Kohen and Levi represent chessed and din, the two pillars of Hashem’s creation. Aharon Hakohen was the the epitome of peace and chessed. The Leviim represent din and were at the forefront of avenging Hashem’s honor after cheit ha’egel. The three families of Levi carried the vessels and components of the Mishkan. Kehat’s children had the most exalted task. They carried the Aron, the Menorah, and the Mizbeach. Gershon had the second most holy task, carrying the cover and skins of the Mishkan. Merori had the lowest level task, transporting the heavy staves and pillars of the Mishkan.


The Avnei Nezer explains that Shevet Levi, the tribe of justice, represents the challenge within each of us against the evil inclination. The first and most righteous level is where evil does not exist. The second level is when evil tempts us but we are able to use our powers to drive it away. The third and lowest level is when evil emerges within us, yet we continuously struggle with it and successfully control it. This represents the spiritual idea of the three families of the tribe of Levi. The Kehat family represented the epitome of purity of character.  Here evil could not even approach. The second level was Gershon from the root word garush– to drive away. Evil would enter their thoughts but they would banish it. The final level was Merori, from the root word Mar-bitter. They were tzaddikim embroiled in a bitter unending struggle between good and evil. Unfortunately many of us are in this category and we must continuously fight evil. The Baal Hatanya says that this level is very precious to Hashem, perhaps even more so than the higher levels of Kehat and Gershon.


There are three levels of spiritual energies-chessed-lovingkindness, din-justice, and rachamim-compassion. Chesed, opening up, is action, while din, retracting, is reaction. The balance is rachamim, giving with a calculated limit. R’Chaim Vital notes that Kehat is pure holiness which represents chessed, Merori is the bitter struggle of din, and Gershon is the sweet kindness of chessed and din combined. Although he is tempted by evil, he drives it away.


Life is a continuous battle of good and evil. At times the going gets rough but we must never give up.  May our efforts to do Hashem’s will help us attain the right balance within our souls.

Sefirah: Setting the Stage

2 06 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles 

Sefirah: Setting the Stage

The Sefas Emes tells us that our entire spiritual year is dependent on the days of Sefirah. Just as our physical sustenance is determined during this wheat harvesting period, so too our spiritual sustenance is set during these weeks.   If our lives are dependent on this mitzvah, shouldn’t it involve a lot more than just a minute or so of a short liturgy? Obviously there is more hidden beneath the surface .

The Torah commands us, “Usefartem lachem…,” Why does the verse include the word “lachem“-to you? Wouldn’t “Usefartem“-You shall count, have been enough?  “Usefartem” has the root word sefor, to count, but also the root word sapir, sapphire.  Our hearts resemble the luchot which were fashioned out of sapphire. The innate sapphire brightness of our soul is dimmed by the darkness of sin. Therefore Hashem tells us, “Usefartem lachem“-Make for yourselves into sapphire. Ignite your soul, remove the grime of sin through the mitzvah of counting Sefirah. Then the innate brilliance of your soul will shine through.

What is the power of sefirah that gives us the ability to make ourselves pure and whole again?  If one looks closely, one will find that Shavuot is the only holiday that has a Torah mandated period of preparation.  There is something very pivotal embedded in these weeks.

How Can I Help My Husband?

1 06 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Questions and Answers for Today's Jewish Woman, Part 10


My clever, talented, husband is stuck in a dead-end job with very little stimulation and hope for promotion.  I don’t know if Hashem wants him to leave his job, without knowing if he will find something better, or make do with feeling unfulfilled at work.  How can I help him?


If you examine the lives of some of our great leaders, you’ll find that many of them were ordinary craftsmen and shopkeepers. Rashi was a wine merchant, the Ohr Hachaim was a goldsmith, and the Chofetz Chaim ran a grocery. Do you think their work gave them fulfillment? They did it to support their families, which is a noble goal in and of itself. We do not know the end of our life stories. It could be that at this point in your husband’s life he is meant to find satisfaction, like Rashi, in activities outside of work. To make that happen, he will need to organize his day. It could be this is just a transient period in his life. His main test may be withstanding the many nisyonot prevalent in the workplace such as, integrity, judging others favorably, and guarding his eyes. A final possibility could be that he is meant to feel the discontent so that it will propel him to move on to something else. Obviously, he cannot leave his existing job without having a comparable proposition waiting for him. If you can keep your ears open for job possibilities available in his field or other opportunities in which his time could be spent productively when he is not working, that would be a great help.