Priorities in Paying Wages

6 06 2012

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg

The Chafetz Chaim writes that if you hire two workers and you only have enough money to pay one, you must pay the more impoverished worker first. This is hinted at in the Torah, which mentions the word ani (a poor person) in connection with the commandment of paying a worker on time.

If both workers are equally poor and one of them is a relative, the relative does not take precedence. If you don’t have enough money to pay both of them, you must split the money you do have between them. Then when you have the rest of the money, you can make it up to them.

If you hired a worker the day before and could not pay him on time and then you hired a second worker the next day and you now have a chance to pay him on time, which worker takes precedence? Jewish law dictates that one should pay the second one first to in order to avoid violating bal talin again.

You shouldn’t hire a worker if you know you won’t be able to pay him, unless the worker agrees to wait. If the minhag hamakom (custom) is that a worker gets paid on the pay day determined by the employer, then you can hire a worker and not pay him right away because it’s assumed that the worker has agreed to be paid later.

If you hire a worker and you know you will not be present on pay day, you should set aside money to pay him so the money’s there when the work is completed.

One who holds back the wages of a worker is considered as if he has killed him. The Alshich says that one must be very careful in this matter. If a worker who hasn’t been paid returns home to his hungry family and they cry out to Hashem, He will listen to them because He hears the prayers of those who suffer. Not only has the employer then violated bal talin and gezel (stealing) but also lifnei ivir (not placing a stumbling block), because he has caused Jews to pray to Hashem to hurt another Jew

The Arizal says that whoever fulfills the mitzvah of paying a worker on time receives great reward in this world too. This is in addition to the reward awaiting him in the world to come. This is hinted to in the verse, “B’yomo titen secharo.” On that day you shall pay his wages. The first letters are bet, taf, shin, which spell Shabbat. When a Jew keeps Shabbat he receives a neshama yeteira (an extra soul). This also occurs when a person pays his workers on time.

One should set the price before the work begins to avoid questions of gezel. It’s very common for a worker to argue over compensation. Even if he forgives you to avoid further argument, deep down he may not forgive you completely and there may be a question of dishonesty.

In the event a set price wasn’t established, the wage is calculated according to the norm. It is very hard to calculate exactly what that is, and if you pay your worker less it could be gezeila. If you want to avoid this, you’ll have to end up giving more. Therefore, one should always set the price first. A Torah scholarshould be extra careful to do this in order to avoid a chilul Hashem (profaning Hashem’s name).


Hidden Miracles in the Megillah

7 03 2012
Based on a shiur by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg 

Purim is a holiday of nes nistar (hidden miracles). A nes nistar is when Hashem intervenes and helps us, within the laws of nature. Megilat Esther does not tell of any supernatural miracles. In fact, Hashem‘s name is not found even once in the text. He is hidden in between the lines to show us that even when one cannot see Him He is there.

Both the Gra and the Malbim point out the seemingly coincidental occurrences in the megilah that were really veiled miracles.

In chapter one it says, “V’hashtiya kadat ein oness (The drinking was by law without force).” A major theme of the party was full freedom. It is therefore ironic that the king commanded Vashti to do something against her will. Hashem put into Achashevirosh’s head to do this, so Esther would become the next queen.

After Vashti disobeyed the king and Achashevirosh asked his advisors what to do, Memuchan said that she should be killed and that a new royal edict should be issued. The official law of the land was that any court case involving the king had to be decided together with his advisors. Haman said to change this so the king could decide on his own. Nine years later, when Esther told Achashveirosh, “Haman wants to kill me,” the king immediately ordered Haman executed. The Gra notes that Haman helped kill himself. If the law hadn’t been changed, Achashveirosh may have calmed down after some time or Haman could have bribed the king’s advisors.

After Achashveirosh killed Vashti, he sent out letters that every man should rule in his own home. This was another hidden miracle. It made Achashveirosh look foolish. When he sent out another letter to kill the Jews, the people waited and didn’t jump to follow his order because they already knew not to take him seriously.

Haman’s lottery fell on the 13th of Adar, eleven and a half months later. This allowed the Jews time to repent and save themselves. Haman put his faith in mikreh (coincidence) but Hashem worked it out for the good of the Jews.

The tree Haman built was 50 amot tall. It could be seen throughout Shushan. After Achashveirosh came in furious from the garden, Charvona appeared and pointed to the tree where Haman planned to hang Mordechai. This set Achashveirosh off even more and he immediately ordered Haman killed. Haman had prepared his own gallows.

The ultimate nes nistar was the night Achashveirosh couldn’t sleep. When the megilla says “Hamelech” it refers to Hashem, and at this point in the story it is read to the tune of the High Holidays services. Hashem wasn’t sleeping. He was actively saving the Jews. On that very evening, Haman planned to get Achashveirosh’s permission to kill Mordechai. The king’s servants read him the story of how Mordechai saved the king, which happened nine years previous. Had he been rewarded earlier, things wouldn’t have happened the way they did. The very second that Haman knocked to enter, the servants finished reading the tale.

Vayomer Charvona echad min hasarasim (And Charvona, one of the advisors said).” The hey in hasarasim is a hey hayediah. The simple translation is that he was one of the known advisors, but this seems odd because he was never mentioned before. The Gra and the Malbim explain. At the end of the sixth chapter, the megilah says that while Haman and his family were talking, the king’s advisors arrived. Charvona knew about the tree because he was one of the sarisim who barged in in in the middle of the discussion. Hashem timed it to the second so that Charvona would overhear.

The book of Nechemia tells how the king asked the prophet Nechemia why he looked sad. He replied that he was mourning for the ruins of Jerusalem. The king then gave permission for the Jews to rebuild the beit hamikdash. The Navi notes that the queen was sitting next to the king. Chazal say that the king was Daryavesh and the queen was his mother Esther. Daryavesh gave permission to rebuild the beit hamikdash because his mother advised him to.

The entire Purim story was part of Hashem’s hidden master-plan to bring the redemption closer.

Parshat Beshalach by Rabbi Ginsburg

3 02 2012 teacher Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg presents the following dvar Torah on this weeks Parsha.

In this week’s parsha the Torah writes (13,18) that Am Yisroel left Mitzrayimchamushim.” What exactly does this word mean? Rashi quotes several pshatim, and one pshat is that they were armed, they were carrying weapons. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l raises the following question. It seems to be a little strange that they were carrying weapons with them. Everything that has been happening to Am Yisroel has been b’derech neis, has been miraculous. Am Yisroel is in the midst of the ultimate experience of neis nigleh, miraculous events. So why should they bring weapons with them? Hashem was obviously aware that He was going to fight the battles for Am Yisroel. Hashem knew that Am Yisroel did not “need” their weapons, so why did they bring them? That is the question Rav Moshe raises.


Rav Moshe explains that this is a “chidush gadol” which carries an important message for Am Yisroel then, as well as for us nowadays. Hashem wanted to teach Am Yisroel that a neis, a miracle, is not limited only to when Am Yisroel does nothing and our enemies fall before us. Rather, Am Yisroel has to know that even when we put in the effort and we do our “hishtadlus,” still all of our accomplishments and all of our success come from Hashem. Hashem is the “Ish milchama;” Hashem fights our battles. Therefore, Hashem wanted us to take our weapons with us, so that when there would be a battle, we could make use of them, while still recognizing that our victory comes from Hashem. Even when we do fight and the victory does not appear to be overtly miraculous, we know Hashem is guiding our success[i].


We have discussed in the past the concept of neis nister, hidden miracles. Hashem sometimes governs Am Yisroel with a neis nigleh, an overt miracle where Hashem works outside the ordinary laws of nature. But most of the time Hashem governs us through neis nistar, hidden miracles, where Hashem works within the laws of nature. And one challenge we have is to recognize that the natural events we experience are really neis nistar governed by Hashem. One of the messages of neis nigleh is that Am Yisroel is supposed to learn from the neis nigleh that all of nature is really from Hashem as well. If Hashem can change nature, that means Hashem controls nature. And if Hashem controls nature, that means when events and natural phenomena run “naturally,” they are really being governed by Hashem- it is a neis nistar.[ii] For example, several times in history Hashem has caused the sun to stand still in the sky and not set normally. From these exceptional cases, we are supposed to appreciate that when the sun rises and sets normally, that is actually a direct neis nistar from Hashem.


With this yesod of neis nistar in mind, it seems to me that Rav Moshe here is developing a very deep idea. Am Yisroel is in the midst of a completely neis nigleh experience; we have just witnessed the makos, and we have just witnessed the ultimate makah- makas bechoros. We have the Clouds of Glory and the Pillar of Fire guiding us as we leave Mitzrayim. We will soon experience krias Yam Suf, the ultimate neis nigleh. And in the midst of that neis nigleh existence, Hashem begins teaching us the idea of neis nistar. As you leave Mitzrayim, take your weapons with you. That will teach that you have to do your hishtadlus, you’re going to ‘fight’. But, still you must learn and know all of the success is coming from Me. Am Yisroel recognized that their entire existence depends on Hashem. They saw that in a very clear way. So at that moment, at the beginning of the Yetziah, the leaving, from Mitzrayim, Hashem begins the education process of teaching us about neis nistar as well. I think this is a deep message which comes out of Rav Moshe’s explanation on this posuk.[iii]


We should all work on recognizing the Yad Hashem in the natural world. All of teva is really a neis nistar from Hashem.


Good Shabbos,

Beinish Ginsburg

[i] Rav Moshe then asks that according to this approach, why didn’t we bring food as well? Why didn’t we bring food in order to show our own hishtadlus, before Hashem does any sort of miracle, like sending us the man? Rav Moshe explains that it would have been impossible b’derech hatevah, in a natural way, to bring enough food for such a long trip. So, we had no choice but to rely on a miracle. We only took the leftovers of the matzos. We performed a mitzvah with the matzos, so we cherished the matzah, and therefore brought the extras with us. However, when it comes to a military battle we are able to do some sort of hishtadlus, so we were supposed to bring our weapons.

[ii] We have discussed previously that the gematria of hatevah (86) equals Elokim (Remember that in the gematria, replace the letter ‘kuf’ with the letter ‘hei’.)


[iii] This mehalech blends well with the famous Ramban in Pzarshas Bo. The Ramban develops the idea that when we experience neis nigleh, we are supposed to learn that all of teva is really a neis nistar from Hashem. Rav Moshe’s approach parallels the Ramban.

Parshat Bo: Kiddush Hachodesh and Kiddush Hazman

26 01 2012 presents this d’var Torah on Parshat Bo by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg

In this week’s parsha we have the mitzvah of “hachodesh hazeh lachem”, the mitzvah of kiddush hachodesh. This is actually the first mitzvah given to Am Yisrael as a nation. Rav Soloveichik zt”l would like to explain1 that this mitzvah represents the idea that the Jewish people have the koach, the ability, to be mekadesh the zman, to sanctify time. Bais Din has the ability to create real kedusha in the world. The Torah gives a date for the Yomim Tovim- Pesach, Succos, and Shavuos. However, Bais Din decides on which day the Yom Tov will fall, Bais Din has the authority to decide when Rosh Chodesh will be, and based on when Rosh Chodesh falls out, then the date of the month is established, and that determines when the Yom Tov will occur two weeks later. This is why in our davening we say “mekadesh Yisrael v’hazmanim”. Hashem is mekadesh Yisrael, and then Hashem, along with B’nai Yisrael are mekadesh the Yomim Tovim. We play a role in being mekadesh the Yomim Tovim. The Rav explained that it does not say “mekadesh Bais Din, v’hazmanim.,” rather mekadesh Yisroel v’hazmanim.” Why? The Bais Din Hagadol served two functions2. One is to be similar to the Supreme Court, the final arbiter of certain halachic shailas. And two, in certain areas the Bais Din Hagadol would act like the House of Representatives, as the representative of Am Yisrael. When B’nai Yisrael was mekadesh the chodesh, the Rav explained, they were acting on behalf of all of Klal Yisrael, and that is why we say “mekadesh Yisrael v’hazmanim”.

The truth is this is very important. Why is kiddush hachodesh the first mitzvah in the Torah? I have seen the following explanation. When Bais Din is mekadesh the Chodesh, they are actually creating real kedusha. As explained above, Bais Din decides when Yom Tov will occur. If for example, in a certain year, Rosh Chodesh Nissan could fall on either a Tuesday or Wednesday. And a Jew was planning on eating a bread sandwich on the third Tuesday morning of Nissan. Who decides whether that would be muttar or ossur? Not Hashem, but rather Bais Din! If Bais Din declares Rosh Chodesh on Tuesday, then it would be prohibited because the third Tuesday would be Pesach. If Bais Din, however, declares Rosh Chodesh on Wednesday, then it would be permitted. This is a powerful idea. Bais Din has the authority to create Kedushas Hayom. So too, when a Jew performs any mitzvah, he is creating real kedusha. Kedusha, ruchniyos, lasts forever. When a person performs a mitzvah, the impact, the schar, is forever. Each moment in time becomes an opportunity to generate nitzchiyus. Therefore, as opposed to time being the enemy, time is our friend. We control time. Every moment of time is a chance to produce nitzchiyus that will last forever. Therefore it is fitting that the first mitzvah given to us is the mitzvah that most powerfully expresses the idea that human beings can create kedusha in the world.

We mention zechiras yetziyas mitzrayim on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as well. L’chorah, what does Yitziyas Mitzrayim have to do with Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? The Rav explained3 this is the idea. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are yomim tovim which have dates in the Torah, but again, on which day the date falls out depends on the declaration of Bais Din regarding kiddush hachodesh. Bais Din plays a role also in the establishment of the kedusha of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and therefore, we mention zechiras yetziyas mitzrayim on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as well.

The Rav went further. Why is it that we received this mitzvah of kiddush hachodesh in conjunction with leaving Mitzrayim? The answer might be as follows4. A slave lacks time awareness. A slave has no control over his own time. The Rav explains various dimensions that are part of the time experience: retrospection, anticipation, and appreciation. Anticipation “is man’s projection of visions and aspirations for the future. Appreciation embraces the present as precious possession, as inherently worthy.” The Rav explains that a slave lacks this. Time awareness is the singular faculty of the free man, who can use or abuse it. To a slave it is a curse or a matter of indifference. It is not an instrument which he can harness to his purposes. The free man wants time to move slowly, because presumably it is being employed for his purposes. The slave wants to accelerate time because it will terminate his oppressive burdens. Not being able to control time, the slave grows insensitive to it.

The Rav explains this is why a slave is patur from mitzvos aseh she’hazman grama, because he lacks time consciousness. Therefore, it fits beautifully that as we were becoming free men and leaving Mitzrayim, and we were achieving this newfound sense of time appreciation and time consciousness, specifically at that point we were given the mitzvah of kiddush hachodesh. At that point we were given the opportunity and the obligation to be mekadesh the zman. Time becomes an instrument which we can harness for our purposes. The ability to be mekadesh the Chodesh, the ability to be mekadesh time, comes along with our freedom from slavery, and therefore, we received this mitzvah in conjunction with Yetziyas Mitzrayim.

Our challenge is to use our freedom properly. As the Rav explains, a Jew is supposed to use his time as an instrument, to harness it for mitzvos and kedusha. A person should fill his day with productive uses of his time5- Torah, avodah, chesed, productive exercise, making a parnassah, developing strong relationships with friends, etc… This is one of the lessons of Yetziyas Mitzrayim and one of the lessons of this week’s parsha. It is our obligation and our challenge to be mekadesh our time in our everyday lives just as the Bais Din Hagadol is mekadesh the Chodesh.

Good Shabbos,

B. Ginsburg


Vayetzei: A full day’s pay, a full day’s work

1 12 2011 presents this parsha shiur by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg


Yaakov Avinu worked very hard as a shepherd for Lavan. The Rambam1 refers to Yaakov when he discusses the proper way an employee should work for his employer. He writes as follows.

But a worker may not do his own work at night and hire himself out for the day or thresh with his cow in the evening and hire her out for the day. Nor may he starve himself, giving away his own food to his children because by doing so he weakens himself physically and mentally and renders himself incapable of exertion in his work, thus depriving the employer of what is due to him.

A worker is supposed to try to keep himself healthy in order to be able to produce for his employer. The Rambam continues,

Just as the employer is enjoined not to deprive the poor worker of his hire…so is the worker enjoined not to deprive the employer of the benefit of his work. By idling away his time, a little here, a little there, just wasting the whole day deceitfully, indeed the worker must be very punctual in the matter of time. Seeing that the sages, Chazal, said we’re so solicitous in this matter that they exempted workers from saying the fourth bracha of Birchas Hamazon. The worker must work with all his power, seeing that Yaakov hatzadik said ‘ki b’chol kochi avad’ti es avichem.’ And therefore, Yaakov received the reward even in Olam Hazeh “vayifrotz ha’ish m’od m’od.”

This is a famous Rambam describing that when you work for someone you have to put in a full day’s work. You are not supposed to cut corners here and cut corners there. Yaakov worked very hard for Lavan. It is actually striking, Yaakov says (Breishis 31,40), “For these years that I worked for your father, vatidad she’nasi mei’einai” – that means he barely slept. This is in contrast to what we find in Chazal, that during the fourteen years in Yeshivas Sheim V’Ever, Yaakov barely slept because he was learning. And now for these twenty years working for Lavan, he barely slept because he was working so hard.

Rav Baruch Simon shli”ta quotes2 that the Midrash says that Hashem rewarded Yaakov because of how hard he worked for Lavan. The pasuk teaches us that Hashem came to Lavan in a dream and said don’t start up with Yaakov at all. What zechus did Yaakov have that he merited this special protection from Hashem? Chazal say, “mikan anu l’meidim shezechus m’lacha omedes b’mokom she’ein zechus avos yechola la’amod.” It was the zechus of Yaakov’s working that protected him even more than the zechus avos from Yitzchak.

This is an important lesson for us. A person has a job, he has an obligation to put in a full day’s work and Jews should be known for how carefully they honor their commitments and obligations. Rav Simon points out further that this is especially true for someone who works in Klei Kodesh, someone who is involved in Chinuch or Rabbanus. The Gemara writes that a teacher of students has to be extra careful in his work. If a person is fortunate enough to have a job, he should work hard at his job. One reason is this is a form of hishtadlus to keep his job, and secondly this is a Halachic obligation, as the Rambam describes.

Rav Simon points out that the Rambam here refers to Yaakov as ‘Yaakov hatzadik’ in connection with the fact that he was yashar, was scrupulously honest in his work. We can learn form here that if a person wants to achieve the special status of being a tzadik, he has to be very careful in putting in a full day’s work, and not cutting corners at the expense of his employer.

Good Shabbos,

Beinish Ginsburg

Why is Succos in Tishrei as opposed to Nissan?

10 10 2011 presents this special post from Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg discussing why Succot in in Tishrei and not Nissan. Visit for FREE video and audio classes by Rabbi Ginsburg as well as many other esteemed Torah teachers. You can sign up for Rabbi Ginsburg’s weekly Divrei Torah by sending  an email to

Why is Succos in the fall as opposed to the spring? This is a question which many of the Rishonim[i] and Achronim[ii] have dealt with. One opinion in the Gemara (Succah 11b), is that we build succot in order to commemorate the ananei hakavod, the clouds of glory, which Hashem provided for us in the midbar. This is the more widely accepted opinion[iii]. Hashem provided us with the ananei hakavod immediately after we left Mitzrayim, in the spring. So why is the yom tov of Succos delayed until the fall?

One classic answer is offered by the Tur (siman 625). The Tur explains that Hashem wanted the mitzvah to be done in a way that it would be readily apparent that the booths were being put up for the sake of the mitzvah and not for personal convenience. In the spring it is common for people to leave their homes to go out and to live in booths in the shade. So, if the yom tov of Succos ware to be celebrated in the spring, it would not have been readily apparent that we are sitting in the booths for the sake of the mitzvah. Therefore, Hashem gave us the mitzvah in the fall, in Tishrei, at the time when people normally go back into their homes. If a Jew leaves his house to go sit outside in a booth at the beginning of the rainy season, then it is clear that he is doing so only to serve Hashem and not in response to the onset of the summer[iv]. This is the famous approach of the Tur[v].

However, there is a difficulty with this comment of the Tur. The Rambam provides a different reason why Succos is in the fall. The Rambam writes[vi], “In this season it is possible to dwell in tabernacles as there is neither great heat not troublesome rain.” In other words, Succos is in the beginning of the fall because the weather is quite pleasant now- it is not too hot, it is not too cold, and it is not raining yet. Hashem loves His people and He wants the mitzvos to be pleasant for us, therefore Succos is in the fall. Those of us who live in Eretz Yisroel or spend Succos in Eretz Yisroel know that the Rambam is right. The weather is pleasant now. At first glance it is difficult to square this Rambam with the Tur. Based on this, one can ask, what exactly does the Tur mean? How is it more readily apparent that one is sitting in the succah for the sake of the mitzvah when Succos is in the fall as opposed to in the spring?

There are two possible approaches to the Tur. One is that although the weather is pleasant, the rainy season is close and it does rain sometimes. Hashem could have worked it out the weather was even better, that Succos would have been celebated during the best time to go out to the succah. And, since sometimes it does rain and a person would not go out into the booth when it rains, therefore it shows that it is for the sake of the mitzvah. Even if the weather is pleasant at this time of year, it would still be less apparent in the spring that we are building succahs for the sake of the mitzvah.

The other possibility[vii] is that we have to take a new approach to what the Tur meant. It could be that the Tur’s focus is not that the rainy weather already has begun at the time of Succos. But rather that the rainy season is imminent. In the spring, when it is beginning to get hot, it is normal for a person to go outside and build a booth, which he will then use as his summer home, his summer bungalow, for the hot spring and summer. However, a person would not leave his home and build a bungalow in order to use it for a week or two and then run back into the house when the rain begins. That is what is strange about going out into succot now. It is not that the weather is presently unpleasant, but rather it is very close to the beginning of the rainy season. Therefore, it is clear that a person is going out for the sake of a mitzvah and not due to personal conveniences based on the weather conditions.

These are two approaches as to why Succos is in the fall, the approach of the Rambam and the approach of the Tur.

Chag Sameach,

B. Ginsburg

[i] See the Ramban in Vayikra 23, 39-43

[ii]Aruch HaShulchan siman 625

[iii] Rashi (Vayikra 23,43) quotes this view. The Shulchan Aruch (Siman 625) quotes this view as well.

[iv] The language of this paragraph is taken from the Artscroll on Succos, p. 46.

[v] The Tur’s language is, “yireh la’kol she’mitzvas Ha’Melech hi aleinu,” “it should be apparent to all that this is a commandment of Hashem upon us.” The world “la’kol” is striking. Some explain that the Tur here is saying that it should be apparent not only to the Jews, but also to the non-Jews as well. This is the approach of Rav Chanoch Karelenstein zt”l (Kuntres b’Inyanei Succos p. 22).

Rav Karelenstein explains that he thinks that this Tur is hinting to another famous theme of Succos, the connection of goyim to Succos in general. On Succos we offer seventy special korbanos mussaf, the first day thirteen, the second day twelve, going down to seven. Why? Chazal explain that these seventy korbanos correspond to the seventy nations. This reflects the connection of goyim to Succos.

We read in Zecharya (Perek 14; this is the haftorah for the 1st day of Succos) that l’asid la’voh the non-Jews will come to Yerushalayim to celebrate Succos, and if they do not, they will be punished. This is very striking. We do not find sources that l’asid la’voh the goyim will be commanded to celebrate Pesach or Shavuos. This shows a very strong connection between Succos and non-Jews. What is the explanation of this connection?

The meforshim discuss what is the connection between the goyim and Succos?  One approach is as follows. The basic theme of Pesach is that Hashem chose Am Yisroel as the special, chosen nation. On Shavuos we received the Torah. The themes of these yomim tovim are not universalistic in any way. The basic message of Succos, however, is Hashem’s hashgacha over us, over Am Yisroel. Hashem watched over us, guided us, and guarded us in the midbar. We know that the hashgacha over Am Yisroel is very special. But, Hashem governs the non-Jewish world as well. So the idea behind Succos is more universalistic, the idea of hashgacha applies to the non-Jewish world as well. This approach I heard from Rav Leff shli”ta, and Rav Karelenstein zt”l has a similar approach.

Rav Karelenstein quotes another beautiful remez for the connection of goyim to Succos. The minimum size of a wall of a succah is ten tefachim tall and at least 7 tefachim across. Ten times seven equals seventy. Rabbeinu Bachya says that this is a remez to the seventy nations (Sefer Kad Hakemach, Os Samech).

Rav Karlenstein maintains that the Tur is hinting that we want to perform the mitzvah of Succah in a way that everyone knows that it is for the sake of Hashem, including the non-Jews. Why? Because the theme of Succos has a connection with the non-Jewish world as well. A fascinating chiddush from Rav Karelenstein.

[vi] Moreh Nevuchim part 3 chapter 43

[vii]  I mentioned this approach to Rav Nevenzahl shli”ta, and he said ‘Efshar this is the correct pshat in the Tur.’

Lashon Hara In The Workplace #2

8 09 2011
Based on a shiur by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg   

Lashon Hara in the Workplace

There’s no difference whether you speak lashon hara (slanderous talk) on your own or whether someone pressures you to do so. Even if it’s someone you respect, like a parent or Rebbe, you may not speak what is forbidden. The Chofetz Chaim brings proof from the story of Doeg and King Shaul. The Torah considers Doeg a rochel (a gossiper) for informing King Shaul about David and the city of Nov that protected him.

Of course a person shouldn’t cause disagreements or ill will unnecessarily. Therefore if someone close to you is compelling you to speak lashon hara, think about the right way to say no. Very often deflecting tension and discomfort depends on your tone of voice and the way you say it.

There is a famous question in the Igros Moshe whether a teacher can ask his class to disclose which student perpetrated an offense, so that the teacher can rebuke him? Rav Moshe is against doing so because it trains students to speak lashon hara. The Rebbe may have the right intentions, but the students won’t. The Nesivas Chaim quotes Rav Hominer who takes a different approach. If the teacher asks the students to speak ill about someone for a toelet (benefit) so he can deal with the mistake properly, it’s permitted. The Rebbe must clearly state that in this context it is not lashon hara as he is doing it for the boy’s benefit.  The Nesivos Chaim concludes, that the teacher must weigh very carefully what the students will think. Will they say, “Our Rebbe is making us speak lashon hara,” or will they understand, “Yes, this is for a toelet.”

We must forfeit one fifth of our wealth for the sake of a positive commandment and all of our wealth for a negative commandment. Therefore, even if it means forfeiting ones job, one may not violate the negative prohibition of lashon hara. In the long run, if a person is careful with forbidden speech, he will gain the respect of his co-workers. He can be a walking Kiddush Hashem by living up to the image of how a Jew should speak and behave.

A person should get in the habit of asking sheilot (questions) about lashon hara just as he does for Shabbat or kashrut. If you’re sitting with a group of people who are speaking lashon hara and you can’t leave or change the subject, you must keep quiet and not join in, even if they will think you’re strange. Our Sages say, “Better to be considered a fool for ones entire life rather than to be a fool for one hour before Hashem.” If you’re riding in a van and you can’t stop the lashon hara, plug into your ipod.

The prohibition of loshon hara includes writing. Slandering in a veiled way is also forbidden. The Torah says, “Lo selech rochel b’amecha-Do not go as a gossipmonger among your people. Unkelos translates rochel as korzim-to wink with one’s eye. Using body language to convey lashon hara is a Torah prohibition. This seems to contradict a later halacha where the Chofetz Chaim mentions avak lashon hara-the dust of lashon hara.  Hinting to something uncomplimentary such as, “I don’t want to talk about this person,” is a Rabbinic prohibition. The difference is that in the first halacha, the person communicates the actual lashon hara in a roundabout way so that others shouldn’t understand. In the second case, the person doesn’t say anything negative, he just hints to it.


Parshat Ki Tetzei: Hashem Will Put the ‘Enemy’ into Your Hands by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg

8 09 2011

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Parshas Ki Tetzei begins with a discussion of going to war against our enemies, and the first section of the Parsha discusses the ‘Aishes yifas toar’, the beautiful captive. The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh has a famous approach to these Pesukim which is especially appropriate for Elul. The Ohr Hachaim says that obviously B’derech hapshat the Torah is  discussing going to an actual battle and finding a captive. B’derech haremez, however, on a deeper level, this Parsha is discussing an individual’s personal fight against the Yetzer Hara. He says that success in this world depends on the actions of Am Yisroel, and Am Yisroel acting appropriately and serving Hashem depends of course on defeating the Yetzer Hara.


Here is the Ohr Hachaim’s approach: “Ki Tetzei Lamilchama,” that the Neshama leaves the Olam Haelyon, the spiritual realms up in Shamayim and it comes down to Olam Hazeh. That’s what ‘going out to war’ means; the Neshama goes out of Shamayim and comes down here to Olam Hazeh. That Neshama has to be ready for a battle. And that battle, that Milchama, is against its enemy which is of course the Yetzer Hara. This is what the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh says.


He points out that Chazal refer to this struggle against the Yetzer Hara as a battle, as a war. In Pirkei Avos (Perek 4) the Mishna writes: Aizehu gibur? Hacovesh es yitzro, one that conquers his Yetzer Hara. The language of ‘covesh’, of conquering, is the language of war. That’s the remez in this Parsha- when the Neshama goes out to battle against the Yetzer Hara.


The Ohr Hachayim makes a beautiful diyuk along these lines. The Torah writes “Ki Tezei Lamilchama”, with a patach under the ‘lamed’. The Torah doesn’t say when you go out to ‘a war’, but rather to ‘the war’. Lamilchama implies going out to the known war. This is a Remez to the ever present war and struggle against the Yetzer Hara.


The Ohr Hachaim explains the continuation of the Posuk as well. ‘Unisano Hashem Elokecha Beyodecha’ that Hashem will put the enemy into your hands. The Ohr Hachaim explains that Hashem is promising us that no matter how strong the Yetzer Hara is, Hashem gives you the strength to conquer it. If you put in the effort, you can beat the Yetzer Hara. This is a promise that is hinted out in this Posuk.


The Pesukim continue and talk about the Eishes yifas toar, which refers to the Neshama, which is beautiful ‘ad meod’. But, sometimes a person does Aveiros, r”l, and then the Neshama becomes Mitnavelet; it becomes dirty from the Averios. However, when a person conquers his Yetzer Hara, then again it’s ‘yifas toar’ and the Neshama returns to its original beauty.


The Pesukim continue that the person will bring the captive into his home for a month. The deeper explanation is that when one does Teshuva and conquers his Yetzer Hara, he brings the Neshama into the special home of Bnei Yisroel- the Beis Midrash. And what is the remez of the ‘month’? This is a remez to the month of Elul that is set aside for Teshuva[i].


This is one of our jobs during Elul[ii], to focus on winning the battle against the Yetzer Hara. The Neshama is beautiful, it’s yifas toar; and it’s our job to keep it that way and recapture that beauty. Again, the Posuk promises us that Hashem gives us the strength to conquer the Yetzer Hara, “Unisano Hashem Elokecha Beyodecha.” We have to always remember that the Yetzer Hara can be defeated. If one stops trying, however, he definitely loses. The Ohr Hachaim is teaching us to have confidence that we can defeat the Yetzer Hara, and therefore we should never give up.


Good Shabbos

B. Ginsburg

[i] The Ohr Hachaim explains more ideas along these lines, and it’s worthwhile to look inside and see how he explains the next Pesukim as well.


[ii] Clearly, this remez which the Ohr Hachaim developed fits beautifully into Elul and doing Teshuva at this time of the year. I always find it amazing how everything fits together in Torah Judasim. In Chumash Devarim, there is a general theme as to why certain ideas are included and certain ideas are not. Rav Hirsch at the beginning of Devarim discusses this point. There is also an internal order to Chumash Devarim, each Parsha flows into the next. With those ideas in mind, Hashem also worked it out that these Parshiyos that refer to Teshuva (and fit with the theme of Elul) fall out during Elul. The Parshiyos that we read from Elul to Yom Kippur, when a Jew is particularly focused on Teshuva and Cheshbon Hanefesh, all relate directly to these themes. Our Parsha, as explained by the Ohr Hachaim, is a wonderful example. This Parsha, with a remez to Teshuva and conquering the Yetzer Hara, falls out during Elul. We have a wonderful additional example of Hashgacha, how all aspects of Torah Judaism fit together to help us in our Avodas Hashem.


Secrets of Shalom Bayit- For Women

15 08 2011

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg 

Secrets of Shalom Bayit-For Women In Sichot Mussar, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz notes that the angels emphasized Sarah’s modesty to Avraham in order to make her more beloved to him. Avraham and Sarah had been married for many years and yet the Torah tells the story to teach us the significance of shalom bayit (marital harmony).

Rav Orlowek teaches that the secret to good chinuch (child-raising) is shalom bayit. When there is a happy wholesome home atmosphere, children thrive.

The following are some of Rav Orloweck’s tips for increasing shalom bayit:

Be dan l’kaf zechut (judge favorably). It’s not because your husband doesn’t care. He grew up in another home where things were done differently. Don’t take it personally. It’s hard to change in an instant. Find a positive way to remind him what irks you. Make a big sign, discuss it, work it out so there’s a plan that fits both of you. Make it fun instead of getting upset.

Disappointment is the difference between expectation and reality. Visualize your husband coming home tired and moody. It won’t be such a letdown if he really does get angry or doesn’t respond. This is not being pessimistic, just broadening your expectations.

Smile when your husband walks through the door. It helps set the tone for the rest of the day.

Let him talk first, before you unload your complaints and grievances.

People are not robots. They have ups and downs and are affected by emotions. Give your husband a small snack to eat on the way home. Then even if dinner isn’t ready, he’ll be calm. It’s important to get enough sleep. Catch a quick nap during the day so you feel refreshed when your husband gets in.

Try to be forgiving. You are both partners trying to create a wonderful Torah home. In the big picture, he’s doing all these great things for you. Overlook the minor mistakes.

Disagreements very often arise because of lack of communication. Women are more intuitive than men. You think your husband got it when he really didn’t and then you get upset. If you didn’t say it, he didn’t hear it. The same goes for compliments. Be specific. Thank your husband for the little acts of thoughtfulness and he’ll do it again.

Men and women are very different. Women find satisfaction in raising and discussing issues. Men tend to focus on getting to the point and finding solutions. Be aware of this and don’t get frustrated if your husband doesn’t automatically think like you. It’s just the way Hashem created us.

When you need to give constructive criticism, sandwich it with praise. Start and end with positive words.

Rav Dessler says that the root word of ahava (love) is hav (to give). Giving generates love. Investing in your husband will help you feel like one unit. A practical working definition of love is-“If it matters to you, it matters to me.” Put yourself in your husband’s shoes and prioritize the things a that mean a lot to him.

Don’t interrupt your husband when he’s learning. With learning you accomplish much more if there’s continuity without breaks or stops. Wait till he finishes.

Timing is important. Don’t try to discuss difficult issues when your husband is tired, hungry, or under pressure.

Help him spend time with you. Be available when your husband frees up his schedule for you.

One of the most crucial times to practice shalom bayit is at the Shabbat table. This is when our children see us interacting. What we say and how we say it is crucial. Husband and wife must treat each other with respect. If a wife doesn’t respect her husband, the children won’t respect their father either. And that’s not healthy. It’s important that children have role models and authority figures in their life and parents should be central among them.

Mourning Over The Real Jerusalem

8 08 2011
Based on a shiur by Rabbi Beinush Ginsburg

Mourning Over the Real Jerusalem There is a well-known Gemara in Tannis which states, “Those who mourn over Jerusalem will merit to see her happiness.” The commentators ask, why does it say, “zoche” in present tense and not “zacha” in future tense?

Yaakov was never fully comforted over the supposed death of Yosef. The Midrash notes that this was because Yosef was still alive. When someone dies, Hashem give us the blessing of shikcha (forgetting), but if the person is alive, there’s no consolation. Based on this, the Acharonim note that the fact that we still mourn over Yerushalayim shows that it is existing in our hearts. We have not given up hope that one day it will be rebuilt. There’s a thread of joy in our mourning, which is why Tisha bav is called a moed and the word zoche is in present tense. There’s happiness hidden within our mourning because we still mourn. When Napolean heard the Jews weeping on Tisha B’av he remarked that if we could still mourn so many years after the destruction, there’s no doubt that we will one day see rebirth. Similarly, Rav Yaakov Emden comments that, “Rachem Na…” in bentching is also present tense. With these words we attest that the spiritual potential of Yerushalayim is alive, it is only dormant, but will eventually return.

From the very beginning, Yerushalayim had the quality of righteousness. The Beit Hamikdash stood on Har Moriah. Moriah comes from the root word moreh-to teach. It was a city of Torah learning.. When a Jew would come and eat his Maaser Sheni in Yerushalayim he would be exposed to the holiness of the Sanhedrin and the sanctity of the city and he could not help growing in Yirat Shamayim. And so when we mourn, we mourn the loss of the ruchniyut of Yerushalayim.

The Torah juxtaposes the sin of the meraglim with the story of the bnot Zelafachad. Rav Nebenzahl explains that unlike the spies, the bnot Zelafachad expressed a profound love for the land. They specifically wanted the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael. They said “Tnu lanu achuza“-Give us a portion. They came to speak to Moshe precisely when he was discussing the laws of yibum. One of the prime reasons for this mitzvah is the elevation of the soul of the deceased. They too wanted to use their father’s portion in the land for the spiritual ascension of his soul.

The Ramban says that when a Jew performs a mitzvah in Eretz Yisrael, he receives more reward than if he would have performed the same mitzvah outside the land. It is a different level of avodat Hashem. The Bnot Zelafachad said, “Lama Negara“-Why should we lose out? They wanted the essential ruchniyut of the land.

During the three weeks we mourn the beit hamikdash. We no longer have the Sanhedrin and the Kingdom of David. The central core of kedusha and ruchniyut that Yerushalayim once was, is gone now. Yet there’s a kernel of simcha in our aveilut. We haven’t forgotten or given up. The spiritual energy of Yerushalayim is alive within our hearts.

May our faith in the imminent geulah bring the redemption speedily in our days.