Friday, March 17, 2017

A Leader Who Carries the Nation in His Heart – Parashat Tetzaveh
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
This week’s parasha – Tetzaveh – deals with the clothing worn by the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, in the Temple.  These were valuable clothes meant to symbolize the Kohen’s respectable status and the fact that he was chosen to serve the nation and sacrifice its sacrifices.
One of the pieces of clothing worn by the Kohen was the “choshen”, the breastplate.  This was a square piece of material embroidered with valuable stones that had the names of the twelve tribes etched on them.  The sages of the Talmud (Tractate Yoma, page 73) teach us that the choshen was not just a piece of decorative jewelry.  It served a practical purpose for the entire nation.
When the nation faced a significant dilemma requiring a decision, they would present the problem to the Kohen Gadol and the answer would be given from G-d through the stones of the choshen and the letters etched on them.  The etched letters of the choshen would shine but not in any logical order that would signify a clear and definitive answer.  The Kohen would have to combine the letters that shone and deduce the answer to the dilemma presented to him.  This is possibly why this clothing was called “urim ve’tumim”, referring to the light.
The reason the answer was given in this unclear manner, leaving the Kohen to decipher G-d’s message from the shining letters, is hinted at in our parasha.  One of the halachot (Jewish laws) regarding wearing the choshen stipulates that the choshen must be placed over the Kohen’s heart:
…and the choshen will not move off the ephod. You shall place the Urim and the Tummim into the choshen of judgment so that they will be over Aaron's heart when he comes before the Lord, and Aaron will carry the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the Lord at all times.
(Shmot 28, 28 - 30)
This unusual law stipulating where on the Kohen Gadol’s body this clothing must be positioned does not exist with any other item of his clothing.  The other items must be worn by the Kohen when working in the Temple, but if they move slightly out of place, there is no problem.  Only with the choshen do we find a specific directive that it must not move from its designated place.
This law teaches us about the essence of a true leader.  Obviously a leader is obligated to lead his nation wisely, and make decisions after properly considering all the necessary information.  But there is another side to this coin.  A leader who only makes decisions with cold logic will ultimately end up disconnected from his nation.  Analytical considerations do not suffice in determining serious moral issues.  Room must be made for feelings as well.  Sometimes, rational decisions lead us in a certain direction, but when we listen to the sounds emanating from our hearts, other considerations arise which we did not consider when weighing pros and cons.  Listening to these feelings adds a deeper dimension to decision-making.
A leader must not ignore the feelings of his public; he must make room for the “heart”, feeling his nation’s pain and distress, feeling what they are experiencing on a day-to-day basis, and thus attempting to alleviate their hardships.  A leader whose decisions stem from awareness of his nation’s feelings is the one who will arrive at decisions that are beneficial for it.
Only the Kohen wears the choshen etched with the names of the tribes on his heart.  He is the one who can combine the shining letters and create the relevant and best answer for the given situation.  Only a leader who carries the nation in his heart, is sensitive to its troubles and needs, can find the answer, because the decision is based on a combination of factors.
This concept is true for each and every one of us.  It is only the person who carries the suffering of others in his heart, who is aware of another’s distress or pain, can help him and offer the wisest advice which will be the most beneficial. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Parshat Bo

איש מאת רעהו וגו'. לעיל ג' כ"ב כתיב ושאלה אשה משכנתה ומגרת ביתה, שאז היו הדברים שיצאו מיד, ולא היה התרועעות לישראל עם אנשי מצרים רק עם שכנות, אבל כאשר עלה כי לא נגאלו עד שהשהה י"ב חודש שהיה משפט מצרים, וממכת ערוב ואילך השיגו התרועעות הרבה, ולא עוד אלא במכת חשך שלא קמו איש מתחתיו ג' ימים והאיך התענו כולם ג' ימים, אלא ישראל שהיה אור במושבותם הושיטו להם מזון וכל ההכרחי, ולא שמחו לאידם ולא נקמו בהם, ובזה השיגו ישראל חן גדול בעיניהם:
Mind blowing Netziv, in which he says that the Jews asked for things from their friends the Egyptians because a connection had developed between them in the later plagues. Paticularly he says, they connected during darkness because the only reason the Egyptians did not starve to death and die is because the Jews helped them.
This also fits with the Ibn Ezra who ways that some of the plagues hit both the Jews and the Egyptians. And this is backed up by Moshe saying that he wanted the suffering to stop for the Jewish People.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dad not in good shape based on all physical measures.  if you see this pray for Binyamin ben Chana.  Just back from ICU, going to try to sleep.....

G-d tells Moshe, in VaEira, his mission , twice. one is phrased more per Jewish People, one more universal. 2 levels/approaches...

We all live 2 lives - Jewish and universal.....

Friday, January 20, 2017


Right before candle lighting I feel a calling to share.  Dad is in ICU.  I am sick w fever and cough and all that jazz.  Brother will be sleeping in ICU.

If you see this say a prayer for Binyamin ben Chana, a survivor over and over again, a superman, who came back again and again.

I can't read the opening words of Sefer Shemot without thinking of the closing words of Sefer Breishit.  Specifically Yosef's assurance to the brothers that he will sustain them.  And then a page turns and Yosef is gone and completely unknown to the leader of Egypt.  That's life.  We're so here and so strong one second, but then the page can so easily turn.  And in a second...

May we be blessed to humbly, kindly, joyfully, generously, embrace life while we are vibrantly still living it.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shemot - Guest Post

Please continue to have Rabbi Hoffman in mind in your prayers for a complete & speedy recovery, among the ill of the nation.
                                                                           Setting the Stage

                                             By Rabbi Joshua (dramatically known as the Hoffer) Hoffman

  The Talmud (Shabbos 12) tells us that a father should never favor one son over another, because as a result of the two measures of silk by which Yaakov favored Yosef, our ancestors ended up in Egypt. This passage is a bit difficult, because exile was already foretold at the bris ben habesarim, many years before. The Netziv explains simply that the favoritism Yaakov showed would have been enough on its own to cause the exile.

  Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt"l, however, based on a midrash cited in the Torah Shleima, took the gemara in a non-literal way. The Rabbis tell us that Yaakov sought to sit in tranquility, but the trouble with Yosef arose. What this means is that he wanted Mashiach to come, and he could have. Just as the 210 years the Jews spent in Egypt were considered as 400 years, so too, the 20 years Yaakov spent with Lavan could have been considered as 400 years. The only reason that didn't happen is that the brothers did not appreciate the principle of how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together. As representatives of G-d in the world, the nation had to be unified,reflecting the Unity of G-d. The Midrash in fact says that Yehudah went down from his brothers, Yosef went down to Mitzrayim, and Yaakov mourned. And G-d was busy sowing the seeds of Mashiach. The conflict of the brothers necessitated the preparation for the path of Mashiach.

  This conflict then had to be resolved in order for redemption to come. We find at the end of Parshas Vayechi that the brothers, speaking in the name of their departed father, asked Yosef for forgiveness. 
  Interestingly, Rabbeinu Bachya notes that we never find explicitly that Yosef did indeed forgive his brothers. Why not? Perhaps Yosef believed that the brothers first needed to forgive themselves and not become mired in a black sheep complex, thinking they could never change. As my teacher, Rav Aharon Soloveichik zt"l explained, that is why he put them in a situation in which they had to save Binyamin, to convince them that given the chance they would not repeat the same mistake as they did with Yosef. 

  I believe that the symbiotic relationship between Moshe and Aharon, as displayed in the book of Shemos, served as a further impetus to the tribes, setting up a model of brotherly love, with Aharon wholeheartedly accepting his younger brother as his successor in leading the people to redemption.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sometime I want to hide in public, post in the least likely place to be seen.  Dad is in bad shape at the moment.  It happened suddently.  I am ill, have been for days.  Anything could happen with dad.  I have to be ready, but am in denial.  And I'm sick w possible pneumonia.  Dad probably has pneumonia, with serious complications. Was there all day, needed to go home.....

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Vayechi Thought

The seventh time that Yosef cries in his serialized Torah drama is when the brothers approach him after Yaakov dies, saying (in Yaakov's name) that he should not take revenge for what they did to him.

He is, perhaps, struck by how wealth and power are a facade and that all the power in the world is no match for the strength inherent in being connected to your family. He cries, as he realizes, that while he seems to be the one who has what they lack, and that he is the one providing for them, the opposite may be more true. They have something he always wanted, each other.

(Based on words of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, in "Yosef's Tears")