Thursday, November 9, 2017

First chapter in Tehilim with its six passages - Commentary by Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn

The Book of Tehilim

Commentary by Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn

Chapter One

1A. - Happy is he [the man] who did not walk with the advice of wicked people. I do not know the perfect English translation for the Hebrew word of ASHREI אשרי . I tried “secure” and “successful” but these according to the Roget’s Super Thesaurus connote “secure from fear” and “successful defeating others”. Happiness also fails in the Thesaurus because it indicates “joy, gladness, contentment, bliss, delight, jubilation, pleasure, cheer, high spirits, peace of mind, elation, rapture, euphoria, exuberance, felicity, ecstasy.” In truth, ASHREI connotes all of these, but secure is involved with a negative “fear” and successful is involved with “defeating others”. Happiness has no negative quality so I chose it, although it fails to go beyond the good feeling one has when happiness happens. But happiness can be a fleeting thing, and who is happy in the sense of joy and rapture for long moments?
Thus, the correct translation of ASHREI must be an explanation perhaps with some words of exactly what the Psalmist intended. The Psalmist intended to convey happiness, secure and successful, but not in their transitory states and not in their relation to fear and defeating others. It is a deeper word than all three. It is a word that conveys a sense much deeper than joy and vastly superior to the kind of happiness that comes along for a ride and then leaves. It is a word much stronger than secure and much more positive than successful. When we use joy to define ASHREI but only by stretching it into a lifetime feeling; when we use “secure” not just as security from fear of failure and such negative things, but security in locking our souls to heaven and our minds to Torah; if we also combine “successful” as defeating others who are wicked, who defy the Torah, and include in successful the constant war with the Satan and defeating it, we are approaching the meaning of Ashrei. But I left it as “happy” so as not to create many words to explain one word. Precisely because the many words won’t do the job either. ASHREI is a word that conveys a Jew who has a soul linked to heaven and a mind that knows this world. It is a word that warns us about evil and encourages us to stay righteous.  Until we have a word that unites this world and the next, and G‑d with our struggles to understand Torah, we are left with ASHREI!

1B.     “who did not walk with the advice of wicked people” is a past tense. It might seem more correct and more powerful to say “who does not walk with the advice of wicked people.” If “did not walk” is a past tense, it allows an understanding that as of now he no longer refuses to walk with the advice of the wicked, which is surely not want the Psalmist meant. But the Psalmist realizes that people who believe in Torah and two worlds and good and evil are constantly struggling with the Evil Inclination.  There are times when such people who are typical Jewish people win the fight with the Satan and sometimes they fail. When a Jew fails he repents. Maybe today he is repenting about what he did yesterday but tomorrow he may go back to his old ways. This is not ASHREI. This is a sad failure that is not the glory of the book of Tehilim. The glory of the Book of Tehilim is when the old evil is completely washed away so that “who did not walk with the advice of wicked people” connotes a very long period of piety. A sin here or there that is a rarity in one’s long piety is one thing. But if the sins are frequent, that is not ASHREI.

1C. “who did not walk with the advice of wicked people.” What is this about “walking”? And what is this about “advice”? Let it just say “who did not go in the ways of wicked people’?
The Talmud says, “That which proceeds from an impure thing is impure. And that which proceeds from a pure thing is pure.” )Bechorose 5b)The advice of the wicked people does not mean that they are wicked in the sense that they want to harm the righteous. We are talking about people who are wicked but they are not intent on harming religious people nor do they want them to do sins. Their advice here can be good advice. Otherwise, the Psalmist would be talking about double trouble, walking with wicked people and getting bad advice from them. No, the advice was good advice. Even an evil person, can, if he so wishes, tell somebody good advice. Many people would say, look, he is a smart man. His advice is usually sound. Let’s do what he suggests. But the pious knows that “that which proceeds from the impure is impure.” He doesn’t want good advice form a wicked person.
Now what is this about “walking”? This means we know somebody who is not so religious, but he is very smart. He tells us how to go about something, and we have no fear that he hates us and wants to cause us harm. Probably, we assume, the advice is solid. On the other hand, he is not so religious. To go and just accept his advice may be a step away from Torah. So, the person makes a compromise with the wicked man. He will “walk” doing the advice of the wicked man. But walking doesn’t mean that he swallows the man along with his advice. No, his head, his heart, his intellect, have nothing to do with the wicked. On the other hand, he does follow the advice of the wicked men, and he convinces himself that he is far removed from the wicked and their wickedness. He is only “walking” with his feet in the advice of the wicked, but his head, his soul, his heart, his true self, is not swallowing evil and wickedness. Only the feet are walking along in the path suggested by the wicked person. And the wicked person himself did not indicate in any way that he wants to contaminate the righteous person, who may be a close relative. But that walk can be the process of “that which proceeds from the impure is impure.” Somehow, this effects the piety of the good person.
We find in the beginning of the Torah reading called AIKEV a lengthy discussion by one of the great commentators, the Or HaChaim HaKodosh. AIKEV means “heel.” The Torah reading of AIKEV begins “and it will be AIKEV” meaning according to the Or HaChaim when the person’s spirituality is so perfect that it goes from the head to the heels, a complete tsaddik whose entire essence is for Torah.
The Book of Tehilim begins with a similar idea. A righteous person who “walks” according to the “advice” of the wicked, is not completely connected to HaShem. The feet are impure and that impurity damages the entire essence of the person who otherwise is righteous. Now he is impure and damaged because the “heel” or “walking” element in him follows the advice of the wicked, even if the wicked had no intention of causing him any evil or impurity. “That which proceeds from the impure is impure.”





“and in the path of the sinners he didn’t stand”. A path is designed for traffic that is for people to go here and there. “He didn’t stand” why should he stand when everybody is moving? First he talks about



“Happy is he who did not walk in the advice of the wicked.” Now he talks about “and in the path of the sinners he didn’t stand.” First he is happy for not walking in the advice of the wicked and then he is happy for not standing in the path of the sinners. First he talks about avoiding the wicked and now he talks about avoiding the sinners. What is the difference between a person who is wicked or who is a sinner?
Wickedness means just that. Somebody defied G‑d. Sinners can mean he sinned inadvertently, or it could mean that he deliberately ignored the obligation to do something important. If somebody refuses the mitsvah of circumcising his child, that is a serious and deliberate omission. One who was too tired to wake up and pray in time is a sinner, but it is not so terrible as one who rejects a very important Torah command deliberately.
We can now understand the phrase “and in the path of the sinners he didn’t stand.” Stand but now walk. Walk means he walks deliberately there, with design. He wants the advice of the wicked. That is serious. Now, one stands and does not walk. Walking is a deliberate act and one that shows that the person definitely associates with the wicked. One who stands does not go anywhere that shows his interest in participating with wickedness. He is just standing there. The sinners walk there, but he does not walk. What then is evil about what he does? Because the sinners that are walking past him constantly are of two varieties. Some are just too tired to wake up on time in the morning. And some just don’t care if they ignore circumcising their child. One who walks somewhere knows where he is walking and why he is walking. One who just stands in the crowd as it flows with its varieties past him can absorb many types of sin, and there are quite a variety from deliberately violating of the most serious Torah commands, to one who ignores an obligation to do a mitsvah not because of wickedness but because he is terribly tired and prolongs his siesta by mistaking when he should wake up. All of them walk past him and he stands there, knowing that they are passing him constantly with various levels of sin. When he is finished standing, he has absorbed evil in its many forms from many people.
In a way, this, the second part of passage one, about one who stands among the walking sinners, has absorbed more evil than the first sinner, who walks in the path of the of the advice of the wicked. Sinners on the one hand, are not described as wicked, and perhaps they are not wicked. They are human beings who like all human beings have good and bad sides, angels of love and happiness and evil angels who teach sin. But their mixture of good and evil does not necessary brand them as evil people, or wicked people. Therefore, the first part of the passage about the advice of the wicked, is about truly wicked people whose advice has reached the person who walks where that advice is located. The second part of the passage about one who stands among the sinners, is about the rest of humanity who have good and bad moments, and are not considered basically evil. They are thus higher than the first part of the passage dealing with people called clearly wicked, on the other hand, the intense variety of sinners who may not be yet on the level of RESHOIM or really wicked people, has its own evil part. So many people with so many sins, that wash over the standing person, has its own dynamic, and its cumulative effect can perhaps be worse than the one who walks in the advice of the wicked.

 “And in the dwelling place of scorners he did not sit.” The Hebrew phrase מושב לצים usually means that the scorners dwelled there regularly and met with other scorners. One who joined this crowd and absorbed scorn is badly damaged, because scorning is a very powerful evil. Usually a passage of three evil parts builds higher and higher, beginning with small things and finally concluding with the worst things. If so, the worst of the three things is sitting along with the others who are scorners. What can the person sitting there do to avoid being swept into the evil of the scorners? Essentially, the power of scorning is such that a person in such a state is surely badly damaged by his sitting there.
In fact, we may even suggest a reason for the three parts of the passage. The first two passages were about one learning evil, just as the third part teaches. However, the first two passages had the advantage of describing a lower level of evil than the final part. The first level of evil was walking in the advice of the wicked. A wicked person can perhaps have some useful advice, it is not always about how to do sins. The person is wicked, but his advice is not necessarily wicked. But one who walks in the advice of the wicked is influenced negatively. The second level is one who stands while the sinners flow around him. Here, too, the level if not pure evil. He is different than the sinners. That is a saving factor. But the final passage is very serious. First of all, it deals with a group of scorners who can, more than anyone else, bring one to despise the righteous and respect the wicked. Second of all, the individual who wanders into their group and sits with them is acting just as they do, and this is conducive to his joining their community and becoming like them, a full-fledged scorner, one of the worst sins.
People could ask, how is it possible for a person to become a full-fledged member of a group that exists to scorn and make fun of righteous people? The answer is right in the beginning of the passage. Do a small sin, just follow the advice of the wicked, advice that may have some saving value, but it does connect you to the wicked. The next level is to stand among the flow of sinners, and it rubs off on the one who stands. This kind of influence can eventually bring a person to a level when he, just based on the relatively minor sins of the first two parts, can plunge right into the hideous evil of a house filled with scorners, and he sits with them, meaning, he is one with them.


Chapter One passage 2: “Because his desire is only with the Torah of G‑d, and he will study His Torah day and night.” This passage teaches us that fighting evil directly is a losing battle. As the Chofetz Chaim said, “We don’t fight darkness by punching it. We fight darkness by creating light.” How do we escape doing evil? By doing good deeds, meaning, by being involved with Torah learning day and night. That is the way of light. And that is the way to escape darkness and evil. Again, to fight evil directly plays into the hands of evil, because we cannot destroy evil that way. Only by creating light can we dispel darkness.
When we punch darkness we absorb darkness, despite our best intentions. When we learn Torah, we absorb holiness from heaven. We are with G‑d and evil cannot exist there.
“His desire is only with the Torah of G‑d.” Some people enjoy studying Torah for its wisdom and interesting ideas. They therefore study Torah not because it is the Torah of G‑d, but because it is interesting to them. The righteous turns to Torah because it is the Torah of G‑d and it is the venue to find G‑d.
Again, there is much in the Torah to inspire people in various ways. But the pious turn to Torah because in Torah learning we connect to G‑d.
“And he will study His Torah day and night.” This is very troubling. It seems to say that a righteous person studies Torah day and night. If so, when does he sleep and when does he eat and when does he pray? Obviously, it does not mean that his entire day and night is spent learning Torah. It means rather that within each day and each night there is an established place for Torah learning. Furthermore, ideally, this established place for Torah learning must not be altered and pushed off. This way the supremacy of Torah is assured but when the time for learning Torah can be pushed here and there the Torah learning is denigrated and weakened.
Let us return to our passage and how we have translated it. “His desire is only with the Torah of G‑d and he will study His Torah day and night.” Thus we translate “His Torah” meaning G‑d’s Torah. However, Rashi has a different translation. He translates it as and he will study his Torah day and night. That is, the passage begins “His desire is only with the Torah of G‑d, and he will study His Torah day and night.” We thus translated “and he will study His Torah” meaning what the earlier words of this passage say that it speaks of the Torah of G‑d. If so, we must translate His Torah not his Torah. But Rashi disagrees. Rashi says that the meaning of the passage is that originally the Torah is that of heaven of G‑d. However, one who studies Torah properly with full desire merits that the Torah of G‑d becomes the Torah of the learner. Thus we translate not His Torah but his Torah.
Again, Rashi translates the passage “His desire is only with the Torah of G‑d and he will study his Torah day and night.” Here “his” means the person who studies Torah properly, who merits that the Torah now belongs to the learner. This is the purpose of learning Torah which G‑d gave to people so that they will merit to “own” the Torah as their own.


Chapter One Passage 3: “And he will be as a tree planted upon flowing water, whose fruit will be given in its proper time. And its leaves will not dry up, and all that he will do will succeed.” This is an incredible statement. One devoted to Torah learning merits that “all that he will do will succeed.” Does that mean that he will never suffer in this world, but just learn Torah constantly and merit only happiness and success? What person merits such a life? We know that even great and righteous people have terrible problems. How can the Psalmist of Tehilim promise all people devoted to learn Torah that all that they will do will succeed, which seems to indicate a perfectly happy life. Who in the world merits this?
In the previous generation there were two great saints. In Europe the greatest saint was the Chofetz Chaim, and in Israel the greatest saint was Reb Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld. The Chofetz Chaim had a son-in-law who was a great saint and a major Torah personality, but he died young. When he died the Chofetz Chaim’s daughter asked her father who such a perfectly righteous person could die. The Chofetz Chaim answered, “Would you prefer that G‑d destroy half of the world?” Meaning, that in heaven a decree was made to destroy a huge number of Jews, and the death of the Chofetz Chaim’s son-in-law saved them.
Is this “all that he will do will succeed”? In this world few if any people have perfect lives with no problems. But the problems have a reason, and when people die young and go to the higher world, if they are worthy, great and happy things await them. In that world, and only there, they will merit to realize that “all that he will do will succeed.” Furthermore, even in that world, judging mortals who have evil inclinations and who are rarely perfect, there may have to be some punishment. But the righteous person suffers and accepts his punishments which is the general state of human beings who have evil inclinations and do sin. HaShem will make their arrival in the higher world a glorious thing and bring them eternal happiness. But in this world, things are rarely if ever perfect. Living here with true faith that G‑d controls the world and He thinks only of making people happy, as the great rabbis have taught, gives us the understanding we need to accept life as it is and trust in the love G‑d has for all of us.
In Israel the counterpart of the Chofetz Chaim was the Gaon and Tsadik Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld. He was the Rov of the Jerusalem Orthodox and was honored by everyone. He was a close disciple of the greatest rabbis of the time. And yet, he suffered that many of his children died. Despite this, he always felt that G‑d was loving and close to him. This is the power of Torah. G‑d is close to the righteous and those who devote themselves to Torah. But the process of living in a world of evil and punishment is a great trial. Here is much suffering. The righteous accept heaven’s will and know that in the proper time they will understand, in this world or the next.  

Chapter One passage 4 – “The wicked are not like that. But they are as the leavings of the grain that is blown away by the wind.” In what sense are the wicked different from the righteous? But the righteous are the fine fruit of the tree, and the wicked are the refuse and leavings of the grain that are not eaten and not turned into food, but rather are useless to people. It is only a mercy from heaven that causes this worthless refuse to be blow away by the wind. It has no value to people.

Chapter One passage 5 – “Therefore, the wicked will not rise up to succeed when they are judged by heaven, nor will the sinners merit to be counted among the counsel of the righteous.”

The wicked will not rise up but the righteous will rise up. Where will the righteous rise? In the next world, the righteous will find happiness and glory but in this world there are problems. But the wicked will not rise up to achieve this world or the next. The wicked will want their deeds to achieve for them merit in this world and the next, but their deeds are worthless. Their deeds are the leavings of the grain that is blow away by the wind.

Chapter One passage 6 – “Because G‑d knows the way of the righteous. And the way of the wicked will be destroyed.” G‑d knows the way of the righteous. Does He not know also the way of the wicked? He knows the wicked person’s actions. And He knows the righteous person’s actions. But the passage only makes sense if we accept the word “knows” in a different sense than plain knowing. It means not just knowing, but appreciating.
Rashi explains “because G‑d knows the way of the righteous” because He knows the way of the righteous and it is before G‑d to think of it constantly. But the way of the wicked is hateful for G‑d to look at, and He removes it from before Him.” Rashi then states that the righteous will succeed when G‑d judges them but the wicked will fail.

Briefly and basically the first chapter of Tehilim compares the righteous to the wicked. The righteous in passage one is praised not for any good deed in of itself, but because they avoid the path of the wicked. Passage two tells of the toil of the righteous in Torah constantly. It is this that enables them to escape the influence of the wicked. Passage three tells of the great glory of the righteous that all that they do succeeds, and we explained that this refers not to this world but the Future World. It refers not to the physical happiness of the righteous but to the glory of being loved and known by G‑d as other passages in this chapter teach. Passage four compares the success of the righteous with the failing of the wicked whose deeds are refuse that has no place in heaven. Passage 5 describes the failure of the wicked to survive G‑d’s Judgment. Passage 6 tells how G‑d constantly notices the good deeds of the righteous, but the path of the wicked will be destroyed and ignored by heaven.


Chapter Two passage one - 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Program of Jewish Outreach Congregation and Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn


Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn – 11/5/2017   - Student of Gedolei HaDor HaGeon Rav Aharon Kotler Lakewood Rosh Yeshiva, HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein world’s leading authority in halacha, the Israeli Posek HaGaon Reb Yosef Shalom Elyashev, all of them zt”l. 

Rabbi Eidensohn has a blog entitled www.torahhalacha.blogspot.com. It has a readership of approximately three thousand posts read each month. It deals with marriage, family, children, problems and solutions. 

Program of Study - Chayey Soro - the Life Story of Soro -greater in prophecy than her husband Abraham – Comparing Women to Men Regarding the Torah and Judaism 

 - Study of Beginning of the Talmud of Jerusalem and the Talmud of Babylonia regarding Cycles of Day and Night and Prayer Times 

 – Separate Telephone Classes for Men and for Women – We welcome  learned people and people with little or no background who want to learn Torah. We have classes for men by telephone Monday and Wednesday nights 8-8:30. We have made a separate program for ladies that meets Motsi Shabbos. Anyone interested please contact me at 845-578-1917 or email at eidensohnd@gmail.com. No charge.  The class for men is studies in Torah with a broad range, Talmud, Kabbala, history, etc. The ladies group will have a program based on the interests and needs of the members of the group after their joint meeting Motsi Shabbos.

 We are especially interested in dealing with gender issues. What exactly does the Talmud and Kabbala say about men and about women and about family?

I had intensive study programs under the greatest rabbis in the world, Gadol HaDor Rav Aharon Kotler of Lakewood Yeshiva, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rosh Yeshiva in Tiferes Yerushalim and world’s leading authority of Torah law, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashev of Israel, a mighty authority on Torah law, and others. Stories about them appear in my books and in my blog. – We are also interested in publishing my books on family, marriage, children, Problems and Solutions. Anyone interested in purchasing a share in these books please call me at 845-578-1917 or email me at eidensohnd@gmail.com. Make checks out to Jewish Outreach Congregation or deposit on Pay Pal.


Thank you. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pesak from a Great Gaon in a Bitter Divorce

Pesak from the Gaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”l in a Divorce

Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn

Some years back I was training to be a posek. I would go to various rabbis, dayanim and Gittin experts to learn from them. Once I came to a GET and I walked into the room with those getting divorced. A woman was crying bitterly and next to her sat a woman who looked at me with hate. Of course, she thought I was part of the Beth Din. But I was just a visitor who knew nothing of the people involved in the GET.
The head of the Beth Din was a friend of mine who explained that the man and women had a son. They were secular Israelis and then the husband became religious. The wife was madly in love with her husband. But although she tried her best, she could not tolerate being religious. Finally, advisors told the man to divorce his wife. The wife was crying terribly, because she loved her husband.
I was very disturbed by the decision of the advisors of the husband to counsel him to divorce his wife. Who gave the husband the right to give his son away to his wife who was not religious and would probably raise the son to be irreligious?  But I said nothing then.
Not long after this, I was visiting my rebbe in Israel, the Gaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”l, one of the greatest Torah authorities. I told him how disturbed I was that the husband gave away his son. (I didn’t tell him what I thought about the advisors who couldn’t make a compromise with the husband and wife. If the wife is madly in love with her husband, but she can’t be the supper fanatic that he became, let him behave in a way that her love will tolerate. But I knew nothing about the husband and wife and why should I talk about such things? So I told him what I did know and awaited his response.)
Rav Elyashev told me: “If the wife would tolerate yaharas hamishpocho (go to the mikva regularly), he would not advise a divorce.” That is a tremendous ruling, something only the greatest sage can utter! It meant that the wife won’t keep Shabbos and maybe not kashruse and who knows what else. But if she keeps taharas hamishpocho the marriage continues. It means that the wife will be the mother of all of his children, and all of them will be raised by a woman who is not Orthodox.
I wonder what the Rov would rule if the woman did not love her husband madly. Maybe that was critical. Maybe he believed that her love would continue if he did not divorce her, and she would very slowly but surely become more and more religious. If she truly loves her husband, and the husband could be encouraged not to be a cruel fanatic, maybe that could improve things? But I did not ask that question. Maybe it was too late to ask questions.
One thing comes out from this sad story. When somebody is faced with such a problem, ask only the greatest authority. There is a postscript to this story that has nothing to do with divorces. I used to speak regularly to the Posek HaDor Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. Furthermore, I only asked him questions that if he did not tell me the answer, I would probably never find an answer for them.
I once asked him if a person is hopelessly ill and there is no cure. He is in agony and wants to die. Is it necessary to keep him alive even if he wants to die? I am not referring to mercy killing. I am talking about basic “keep him alive” care. Reb Moshe told me that in such a case the person may be allowed to die. I later discovered that his pesak is two open gemoras, Gittin 70 and Avoda Zoro 12. A dying person should be kept alive long enough to arrange his financial affairs with his children so they don’t fight over the inheritance. Perhaps we assume that he is willing to suffer that long, but longer is not necessary.
I once told this to the Gaon Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner zt”l and he replied, “Poshut azoy” that is obvious. I wondered why he answered that way and then I realized that since Reb Moshe was the Gadol HaDor in paskening Rav Wosner felt that to say he agrees would not be appropriate, so he just said, “poshut azoy.”
I once heard from the Gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l that with a serious medical problem we may need three doctors.
Today there are many children who are not successful in schools and begin to take drugs. In Monsey two children overdosed and are buried in the Orthodox cemetery. 
For children like this, how many doctors do we need?



Wednesday, November 1, 2017

If Witnesses Testify that a Wife is Right to Hate Her Husband Can the Husband be Forced to GIve Her a GET?

Can we Force a Husband to Give a Divorce When Witnesses Agree With His Wife’s Bitter Complaints?

Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn         Monsey, NY                845-578-1917  eidensohnd@gmail.com               12 Cheshvon 5778

We know that a wife who demands a GET because her husband is disgusting to her is refused a GET.  Although the Rashbam and Rambam and many Geonim permit or require forcing a GET when this happens, the latter poskim led by Rabbeinu Tam and the Ri forbid forcing the husband to give his wife a GET when she claims that her husband disgusts her. See the Rashbo Volume 7 chapter 414 which is quoted by all of the authorities in Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer Laws of Kesubose chapter 77 paragraphs 2,3. See the Gro there #5 who comments that everyone [of the latter poskim] accepts that forcing a GET is forbidden unless there is a rare exception.
This seems to contradict the Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer about marriage chapter 154.There it says that a husband who takes a job that causes him to have a bad odor is forced to give his wife a GET.
The answer probably is that when a woman makes a claim that she wants a GET because the husband has something wrong with him that she cannot tolerate, we want to know if the woman is saying the truth or not. Perhaps she wants to get rid of this husband and marry somebody else that she likes better. This is taught in the Mishneh in Nedorim 90b. There was a time when we believed a woman to say things that would force the husband to give her a GET. For instance, she could say that she slept with somebody not her husband and this would force her husband to give her a GET. But then the Mishneh says that the laws were changed. We no longer believe women to make up a story that forces her husband to give her a GET. Maybe she is lying to leave this husband and find another husband she likes better.
However, if witnesses corroborate the story of the wife, that is usually proof that she is not lying and the husband can be forced to give her a GET. Thus, the laws stated in Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer 154 about a husband who has a bad odor that forces him to divorce his wife is not a contradiction to the law that a woman cannot force her husband to give a GET. If there is no proof that she is right, she is not believed. Maybe she just wants another husband. But if there is proof and others corroborate her statements about the husband, or if any Beth Din can tell absolutely that the husband goes around with a terrible smell all of the time, in such a case, we believe the wife, and the husband must give a GET.
We are not coming to pasken any Shaalose here, because the issues of believing a wife and believing witnesses is not a simple one. See the Tur Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer chapter 77 and the commentary of the Beis Yosef page 116. There is a great literature in these matters, and we have mentioned one facet. A woman is not believed to force a GET unless she can produce outside proof such as witnesses.
Tosfose in Kesubose 63b D”H Avol quotes the Shaaltose that if witnesses testify that a woman acted in a suspicious manner that she might have been sinning with a man not her husband, the husband is forced to divorce his wife. Again, these matters fill many pages and we are not coming to clarify the final laws. However, we do want to establish that although a woman may not force a GET from her husband, if her demands are supported by witnesses, it is quite possible that the husband will be forced to give her a GET. But her claims without support are not accepted.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Commentary on beginning of the Book of Tehilim by Dovid Eidensohn

The Book of Tehilim

Bold italic is the passage in the Book of Tehilim. Regular text is commentary of Dovid Eidensohn.

Chapter One

1A. אשרי האיש אשר לא הלך בעצת רשעים  - Happy is he [the man] who did not walk with the advice of wicked people. I do not know the perfect English translation for the Hebrew word of ASHREI אשרי . I tried “secure” and “successful” but these according to the Roget’s Super Thesaurus connote “secure from fear” and “successful defeating others”. Happiness also fails in the Thesaurus because it indicates “joy, gladness, contentment, bliss, delight, jubilation, pleasure, cheer, high spirits, peace of mind, elation, rapture, euphoria, exuberance, felicity, ecstasy.” In truth, ASHREI connotes all of these, but secure is involved with a negative “fear” and successful is involved with “defeating others”. Happiness has no negative quality so I chose it, although it fails to go beyond the good feeling one has when happiness happens. But happiness can be a fleeting thing, and who is happy in the sense of joy and rapture for long moments?
Thus, the correct translation of ASHREI must be an explanation perhaps with some words of exactly what the Psalmist intended. The Psalmist intended to convey happiness, secure and successful, but not in their transitory states and not in their relation to fear and defeating others. It is a deeper word than all three. It is a word that conveys a sense much deeper than joy and vastly superior to the kind of happiness that comes along for a ride and then leaves. It is a word much stronger than secure and much more positive than successful. When we use joy to define ASHREI but only by stretching it into a lifetime feeling; when we use “secure” not just as security from fear of failure and such negative things, but security in locking our souls to heaven and our minds to Torah; if we also combine “successful” as defeating others who are wicked, who defy the Torah, and include in successful the constant war with the Satan and defeating it, we are approaching the meaning of Ashrei. But I left it as “happy” so as not to create many words to explain one word. Precisely because the many words won’t do the job either. ASHREI is a word that conveys a Jew who has a soul linked to heaven and a mind that knows this world. It is a word that warns us about evil and encourages us to stay righteous.  Until we have a word that unites this world and the next, and G‑d with our struggles to understand Torah, we are left with ASHREI!

1B.     “who did not walk with the advice of wicked people” is a past tense. It might seem more correct and more powerful to say “who does not walk with the advice of wicked people.” If “did not walk” is a past tense, it allows an understanding that as of now he no longer refuses to walk with the advice of the wicked, which is surely not want the Psalmist meant. But the Psalmist realizes that people who believe in Torah and two worlds and good and evil are constantly struggling with the Evil Inclination.  There are times when such people who are typical Jewish people win the fight with the Satan and sometimes they fail. When a Jew fails he repents. Maybe today he is repenting about what he did yesterday but tomorrow he may go back to his old ways. This is not ASHREI. This is a sad failure that is not the glory of the book of Tehilim. The glory of the Book of Tehilim is when the old evil is completely washed away so that “who did not walk with the advice of wicked people” connotes a very long period of piety. A sin here or there that is a rarity in one’s long piety is one thing. But if the sins are frequent, that is not ASHREI.

1C. “who did not walk with the advice of wicked people.” What is this about “walking”? And what is this about “advice”? Let it just say “who did not go in the ways of wicked people’?
The Talmud says, “That which proceeds from an impure thing is impure. And that which proceeds from a pure thing is pure.” )Bechorose 5b)The advice of the wicked people does not mean that they are wicked in the sense that they want to harm the righteous. We are talking about people who are wicked but they are not intent on harming religious people nor do they want them to do sins. Their advice here can be good advice. Otherwise, the Psalmist would be talking about double trouble, walking with wicked people and getting bad advice from them. No, the advice was good advice. Even an evil person, can, if he so wishes, tell somebody good advice. Many people would say, look, he is a smart man. His advice is usually sound. Let’s do what he suggests. But the pious knows that “that which proceeds from the impure is impure.” He doesn’t want good advice form a wicked person.
Now what is this about “walking”? This means we know somebody who is not so religious, but he is very smart. He tells us how to go about something, and we have no fear that he hates us and wants to cause us harm. Probably, we assume, the advice is solid. On the other hand, he is not so religious. To go and just accept his advice may be a step away from Torah. So, the person makes a compromise with the wicked man. He will “walk” doing the advice of the wicked man. But walking doesn’t mean that he swallows the man along with his advice. No, his head, his heart, his intellect, have nothing to do with the wicked. On the other hand, he does follow the advice of the wicked men, and he convinces himself that he is far removed from the wicked and their wickedness. He is only “walking” with his feet in the advice of the wicked, but his head, his soul, his heart, his true self, is not swallowing evil and wickedness. Only the feet are walking along in the path suggested by the wicked person. And the wicked person himself did not indicate in any way that he wants to contaminate the righteous person, who may be a close relative. But that walk can be the process of “that which proceeds from the impure is impure.” Somehow, this effects the piety of the good person.
We find in the beginning of the Torah reading called AIKEV a lengthy discussion by one of the great commentators, the Or HaChaim HaKodosh. AIKEV means “heel.” The Torah reading of AIKEV begins “and it will be AIKEV” meaning according to the Or HaChaim when the person’s spirituality is so perfect that it goes from the head to the heels, a complete tsaddik whose entire essence is for Torah.
The Book of Tehilim begins with a similar idea. A righteous person who “walks” according to the “advice” of the wicked, is not completely connected to HaShem. The feet are impure and that impurity damages the entire essence of the person who otherwise is righteous. Now he is impure and damaged because the “heel” or “walking” element in him follows the advice of the wicked, even if the wicked had no intention of causing him any evil or impurity. “That which proceeds from the impure is impure.”



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Every Child a Success - Success in Torah and Success in Money, trained from childhood for both and without wasting time.


Wealth Begins with Childhood


There are two gemoras that require wealth from a Torah Jew. One is the gemora in Huriyuse 10b, where Rovo demanded from his students that they achieve wealth, so that they will not be struggling constantly to keep abreast of financial pressures. The other gemora is Sota 44A, a passage from Shlomo HaMelelch that requires one who marries to first have a house and a vineyard, in other words, wealth.
First Rovo asked his students if they achieved proper progress in Torah by learning this and that volume in the Talmud. And they had learned those volumes. Rovo then asked them if they had wealth, and they said yes.
Rovo’s disciple Rav Popo, who became himself eventually one of the greatest rabbis, told Rovo that he had wealth, and it came from purchasing land.  So, the great rabbis sometimes had wealth. How could such a thing be? People who must learn day and night, when do they make the wealth?
This question bothered me a long time, but finally I came up with an idea.
The solution is that a father trains his child in two directions. One, is to learn a lot of Torah. Two, is to earn a lot of money. We are talking about young children, so how do they make money? But the father must see that his child masters a proper amount of Torah, and a father must see that his child grows into wealth.
This idea is actually, by our present public-school standards, very strange. Our public-school system, and even our parochial schools, are designed to educate children in many things that have nothing to do directly with money. The money, in today’s educational system, does not go to young children. It does not go to teens. It does not go to people in college. It does not go to people seeking an advanced degree. At the end of the line, the person who has spent many years studying this that and the other thing, may enter the money market and use his education to achieve earnings and even wealth. But this takes place very far along the road of education. In fact, those who see money as the result of advanced college degrees may have to wait years before they see money. And before they see money after years of studying this and that without earning money, they are actually forced to pay for the college and the education that they hope will eventually produce money. And they may be right. If somebody, for instance, spends many years studying how to be a doctor, when he finally becomes a doctor, he may make good money. But the money he spent on the colleges, etc. and living for years without earning but in spending, holds his earning time back for years.
Thus, our idea does not fit in with the collegiate system. So who is right? The collegiate system or the train-the-child system?
We know that there are, in America, many people who came here as adults without knowing how to speak English. And yet, some of them make good money. How is this possible? They have no college background, but some of them make good money. An important idea emerges from this. The collegiate system is not the only way to make money. It is there because it educates American children to become good Americans, whatever that means. But if a Jewish child is trained from early age to make money and to spend even more time on learning Torah, he has learned the moral aspects of life and the next phase after Torah is money. He doesn’t need the collegiate system, which in some ways contradicts our system of morality.
Actually, the issue has reached the Supreme Court of America in Wisconsin vs Yoder, and they ruled in favor of the Amish that their religious style of training children was more important than the state’s idea of training children. Here is some of the material:
State v. Yoder 49 Wis. 2d 430 (1971) and Wisconsin v. Yoder 406 US 205, 32 L Ed 15, 92 S Ct 1526

In this case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court weighed the state’s interest in educating children against the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom. The Court held that a state law requiring children to attend school full time was unconstitutional because it infringed on the freedom of the Amish to practice their religion, reversing a Green County Circuit Court decision. In reaching this decision, the Court distinguished itself from courts around the country that had upheld compulsory education. The majority opinion was authored by Chief Justice E. Harold Hallows. Justice Connor T. Hansen concurred joined by Justices Horace W. Wilkie, Bruce F. Beilfuss, Leo B. Hanley, and Robert W. Hansen. Justice Nathan S. Heffernan dissented.

The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed the state Supreme Court’s ruling in a 6-1 decision authored by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. Justice William O. Douglas dissented in part from the majority. Justices William H. Rehnquist and Lewis F. Powell, Jr. did not take part in the case.    In this case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that Amish parents could remove their children from public schools after the 8th grade as an exercise of their right to religious freedom. The Amish separate themselves from modern society and provide their children with their own system of education structured in accord with their beliefs. The appellants were the parents of three teenagers who had attended the New Glarus public schools. The parents were fined for refusing to enroll the children in the high school in the fall of 1968. This was in violation of the compulsory school law. The respondent, the state of Wisconsin, argued that the state had a legitimate interest in compelling children to attend school and that this outweighed the interference with religious freedom. In making its decision, the Court weighed the appellants’ constitutional right to religious freedom** against the state’s interest in compulsory education. In determining how heavy a burden the statute placed on the Amish, the Court considered the beliefs of the Amish religion. Justice Hallows wrote:   The period of adolescence is critical in the religious and cultural development of the child because at this time the child enters gradually into the fullness of Amish life, is given responsibilities which would be directly interfered with if he were compelled to go to high school . . To the Amish, secondary schools. . . teach an unacceptable value system . . . We view this case as involving solely a parent’s right of religious freedom to bring up his children as he believes God dictates. End of Supreme Court ruling for the Amish.
For our purposes, raising Jewish children to master a lot of Torah and morality, and to earn large sums of money to allow them to marry and buy a house and property, is exactly what the gemora in Sota 44 teaches. It is Jewish law. It is the Jewish religion. Why should we train children to learn for many hours things that are remote from Torah and earning wealth? This seems exactly what the Supreme Court ruled when it sided with the Amish, also a nation that has its own religious style of morality that conflicts with the secular American system.
Having said that, I present here a story I invented about a Jewish child doing exactly the above, learning a lot of Torah, earning a lot of money, and when he marries, he has the funds to buy a house and property and live comfortably, exactly as the gemora teaches in Hurius 10b.
Let us talk about Shimi, a young child from a farming district, who, as our story begins, is five years old. Shimi’s father spends time with Shimi to teach him Torah, besides what Shimi learns in school. But Shimi’s father also teaches his son how to earn money. This is the crucial factor that will make Shimi an experienced businessman with wealth after a few years of training from his father. When he approaches the years of marriage, about seventeen or eighteen years of age, Shimi is prepared to buy a house and a vineyard, because of his father’s strong training in Torah and wealth. Let us follow Shimi as he advances in both Torah and wealth.
When Shimi turned five, his father gave Shimi some fruit from the farm and told him to trade it with his friends in school. The children soon began to enjoy the trading, as every father and every farm had various properties that could be sold for profit. Children who made a few pennies were thrilled, and they wanted more, and more. Thus, the young children whose fathers trained them in business besides Torah learning were becoming experienced in business. How did this happen?
One day, Shimi’s father took him to a house, owned by Shimi’s father’s good friend. The good friend answered the soft knock of Shimi and noticed who was standing a bit removed from Shimi: it was his good friend Shimi’s father. The good friend immediately realized that the purpose of this visit by Shimi as he was observed by Shimi’s father was to train Shimi, and essentially, to break him into knocking on doors and losing his fear of strangers. The good friend did his part, and Shimi was full of joy when he left the house, especially as he swished his fingers into his pocket where there were a few small coins. To Shimi it was a treasure, and he wanted more. As time went on, there were more knocking on doors, and more coins swishing in Shimi’s pocket. But he wanted more and more and more. His father spent a few months just training Shimi in basic business, to knock on doors, to feel the coins, to want more. And so things went for a few months.
One day, Shimi’s father gave him a nice piece of leather, taken from the farm. This time, the father did nothing. Shimi went out and rapped on several doors before he found someone who wanted to purchase the leather. The person paid Shimi some coins and took the leather. Shimi went back full of excitement to his father, but this time, the father was not happy. “Shimi, that piece of leather was worth $25, and he paid you one dollar!” Shimi was crushed. He burst out crying. Shimi’s father sat him down and told him about business.
“Shimi, let me tell you about a friend of mine, who married into a wealthy family, and was given a very large sum of money. This money was to support him when he went into business. But my friend was never trained in business, and had no experience with thieves. So, a clever crook managed to steal half of his large sum of money. When he realized how angry his father-in-law would be, he panicked, and in desperation, invested what money was left in something that he had no experience with. He lost that too. So you see Shimi, you lost $24 dollars, and you will never forget it. You will never lose a fortune like my friend did, because you lost $24, but he lost a huge sum of money that in all likelihood he will never recover. Again, Shimi, never in your life will you earn something as valuable as when you lost that $24 dollars. Because it teaches you how to protect every penny and not to make decisions not rooted in heavy business experience and the knowledge that some people are thieves. That knowledge will save you a great amount of money. When you grow up and marry, you will never be ashamed from your mistakes in business, because you just made the last stupid mistake.”
Not long after this, Shimi’s father took him for a walk around various properties. Shimi now was very careful and watched his father and the people he talked to carefully. Shimi listened to the back and forth as his father struggled with the owner of a property trying to lower the cost, but his father could not lower the price and turned away. Shimi asked his father if he wasn’t upset that he had not closed the deal? Shimi’s father was waiting for that question. He sat Shimi down and explained to him that in business one must never push the deal beyond a certain point. When two people begin the final haggling to transfer a property each one wants the deal, and they know how much to ask for it or pay for it, and within a certain framework, they know what will probably happen. They also know not to trust people who offer large sums for an expensive property. It is all part of doing business. Shimi listened and recorded every word.
Shimi grew and advanced in Torah learning and making money. He didn’t watch television, play baseball, hang out and do nothing for a few hours every day. He was always involved with advancing in Torah and earnings. If he was tired or needed a break he took it, but he knew the important things and was determined to succeed.
As Shimi grew older he had purchased several properties. His father had trained him carefully to await the fall of the price of a property and to bargain down the seller. So he had some good properties, some he sold and made an immediate profit, and some he used for himself, if they could develop into a property that created monetary profits. The money he earned he put away. When he was younger he simply gave his money to his father, who returned some of it so Shimi would learn the value of money.
One day a wealthy man visited Shimi’s house. He began talking to Shimi and spent some good time with him asking him all kinds of questions. Shimi by that time was a sophisticated businessman besides being an advancing Torah scholar, and he realized that the wealthy man had come to the house only to see him. He knew that this man had never, as he recalled, come to the house, surely not to visit him. But he was not the slightest bit nervous. What could the wealthy man want from him? Surely it isn’t money. And if he wanted something, Shimi would just sit there until he decided to spill the beans. But the man finally smiled broadly and said that he enjoyed talking to Shimi very much but now he had to leave. When he left, Shimi noticed that his parents were very excited, but they did not tell Shimi anything.
 A week later the wealthy man returned together with a prominent Rov. Again, they focused their attention on Shimi and again they were both pleased. This time after they left, Shimi’s parents took him into a room and told him what was happening.
The wealthy man was the son of the prominent Rov. The prominent Rov was getting along in years and was about to retire from his position at a large shull. The wealthy man also had a daughter who it seemed was exactly what Shimi’s parents were interested in for Shimi. Therefore, the wealthy man and the prominent Rov came to Shimi’s parents with the following proposal. Shimi would marry the daughter of the wealthy man. In the interim the community wanted to build another shull not far from Shimi’s parents and Shimi would be the Rov of that shull. If all worked out well and people were satisfied with Shimi for the next few years, then when the elderly Rov retired, his shull would go to Shimi.
Furthermore, the wealthy man completely put at Shimi’s disposal what he suggested as a salary for the two shulls. He also agreed to leave it to Shimi if he wanted a salary at all. He knew that Shimi did not need money from a shull, as he was known as a successful businessman. Shimi even owned a lovely house with a vineyard which was obviously being groomed for Shimi’s personal use when he married.
Shimi would go into areas with small value in houses and property, buy up a few properties and houses, and encourage people to buy there. As more people came there, prices rose. Shimi would make Torah schools for children and staff them with excellent teachers and Torah scholars. More people would then come. Gradually, the value of the houses and the land rose, which brought Shimi financial profit and also great spiritual satisfaction. Once the Yeshivas and schools became well known for providing the high level of Torah learning and Derech Erets that everyone wanted, more and more parents began to move into that district and enroll their children in the schools there. Children went there for some years and when they reached marital age there were people there who wanted such students.
My dear friend. All of this is as far as I know pure fiction. My question to you is: Why is it just fiction? Why can’t your child and my child grow up wealthy in Torah and money? Isn’t this what the gemora Huriuse 10b and Sota 44a demand and require from everyone?
So far we have made a story about a child going to a boy’s Yeshiva and succeeding in Torah and money. But what do we do about ladies? Doesn’t everybody know about the Aishess Chayil, the woman of valor, who supports her husband with her hard work and has various businesses? Yes, we believe in the written Torah, and know about “the woman of valor, who can find her?” Her many jobs bring success and wealth to her entire family while her husband learns Torah with the elders of the city.
The Torah is pointing the way for men and women to become strong in Torah and wealth. What are we waiting for?

Our previous discussion was about teaching children Torah and wealth. Teaching children Torah, ideally by a parent, achieves the maximum connection between teacher and student, a parent and his child. The mother can surely connect with her daughter. We mentioned before how the “woman of valor” had many businesses and supported her entire family comfortably while her husband sat with the Elders of the Community studying Torah. In my family, my wife supports all of us including some funds for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I think I mentioned before that several prominent teachers of children in elementary school told me that our schools have say four out of 25 students who despite government grants and efforts by family cannot succeed in our Yeshiva schools.
A dear friend has spent much time studying the tragedy of students in Yeshiva who at about the age of sixteen become involved with drugs, sometimes with fatal results, HaShem Yerachem. Another dear friend who teaches for many years in a major Yeshiva told me that in Monsey two boys are buried after they killed themselves.
This, that our children are becoming destroyed in our Yeshivas, is something that requires some thought, obviously. One person said that a problem with our students is that there is a great emphasis on producing those who learn deeply with complicated Talmudic studies. Not every child is able to do that. Do we tolerate a child who is not comfortable with the deepest lomduse?
A parent who has a problem child has a choice. Let the child be lost and nobody knows how lost. Or find a school that is special and let the child attend it. This costs a fortune. Who can afford it? Who can afford a lost or broken child?
I want to say that the system of education in America insists on adding many things to the program that are of no value to the child. This was the theme of the Supreme Court case about the Amish in Wisconsin. This set the ground for Torah Jews who want Torah and wealth for their children.
But let us think carefully what the next step is. I have ten children and I have succeeded with my own flock. But there is a whole world out there. What can we do to put our children on the right track, something that requires several tracks, as not all children are the same.
We have discussed in the previous pages problems and solutions. I want to present the problems of children growing up to threaten their lives or sometimes actually over-dosing and dying. I want to present the most prevalent problems of some children in a large class who cannot succeed properly in that learning environment. That is the problem. What is the solution?
Our final chapter here will be: Let every child succeed. Let us now begin:

Let Every Child Succeed


When those of us who keep up with the news, the good and the bad news, and come across the title of this article, Let Every Child Succeed, they may be turned away and even angry that anyone can be so ignorant as to claim that every child can succeed. So let us go slowly and steadily. Just keep  your shirt on and you may find some good ideas here. Now, if in the class with 25 students four are probably going to fail, and we save one child, we are surely doing the right thing. But I am proposing saving all of the children. Now, either I am making a ridiculous mistake, or else, I am onto something. In our work suggesting problem after problem I supplied solutions. So, I would like to have my ideas here at least listened to, and maybe, who knows?
Here is idea number one. This idea opens a door of great possibilities. If we are right about idea number one, we not only will find that there is here a treasure of ideas for many if not the majority of all students and all backgrounds. But we are suggesting that the failures of our students in schools are not the fault of the students at all. It is the fault of the educational model a school prepares for its children. The school prepares a very narrow view for the child of life, a view so narrow that some students, in order to win passing grades, will struggle to obey the teachers and their wrong ideas. And some students will just give up and take a loss on life. What we are saying is that we want to know what the underlying needs of all people are, and once we discern our first idea underlying needs of all people, we begin to sense that we are about to open a door, and nobody at this point knows what the door hides. We want to find out.
Okay, what is our first idea? Our first idea is an effort at knowing the machinery of the human being. What is the mechanism within people that causes them to think ideas that can bring them happiness, and what are the ideas that cause them to turn off?
Inevitably, these questions require us to think beyond what we have been trained to do, because our training is probably something that has no true source or it has a source that serves only a limited range. We want range.
We come to our first challenge. There are forces within us that are related to the infinite and forces that are related to the finite. If we begin to talk about the infinite, we must admit that we talk about the infinite with finite words and clarifications. Is this not a contradiction?
But we escape this trap when we realize that we are religious people created by heaven. Heaven knows how to create people who relate to heaven and earth, because we are all possessed of an infinite heavenly soul, and a mind that is geared to the finite. Heaven created us this way, so it must be central to us. Let us not forget the beginning of the bible, “In the beginning G‑d created the heaven and the earth.” The exact translation of that phrase is “In the beginning of ___ G‑d created the heaven and the earth.” “In the beginning of ____?” In the beginning of what?
That sentence is confusing and missing something. But it is the first passage in the Torah. We can take it or leave it. If we take it, we accept that we have within us heaven and earth, the infinite and the finite. And furthermore, we have within us “in the beginning of” which means nothing, but it is the most powerful statement. It says that there are infinite knowledge and finite knowledge, and there is something else, something that is beyond the infinite and the finite. But it is there and it is us.
For our purposes, we want to know what forces guide us in our earthly sojourn with a heavenly soul. And we note that we have the heavenly infinite to pray to HaShem and we have the this-world finite to deal with earthly matters. And we have a secret mechanism “beginning of ___” that is a secret. But it is advertised as being there and being real. So it must be important. How important? Maybe it means to tell us that all human beings can easily deal with heavenly infinite and worldly finite. But the missing word in the first passage of the biblical Torah is there for us to notice it, and to adjust our lives accordingly, whatever that means. But it means we have to think about it
Well, what do I think about it?
Let us say what we know and what we don’t know. We know that there is heaven and there is earth. We also know that there is a third dimension which is beyond finite and infinite knowledge per se. But the missing words in the first passage in the Torah is very important. But if we don’t have the source to understand it, of what good is it?
Perhaps it is appropriate to mention a teaching in the Zohar. The Zohar says that there are revealed teachings of the Torah and there are hidden teachings of the Torah. This is true in the pure Kabbalistic realm, that some achieve fantastic revelations, as Moshe Rabbeinu did, and some achieve lesser revelations. But HaShem created the world and the Torah for all Jews. Every Jew has a right to seek knowledge and Torah. Sometimes he struggles to understand something in his personal life that is not based on some Kabbalistic teaching. And after he struggles, he suddenly realizes the solution. This is crucial for parents, for people with businesses, and for all people who need good advice.
Heaven and earth are two separate dimensions that we read about and understand to a degree. But the missing word in the first passage of the Torah tells us nothing. But it is the first passage of the Torah, and the Torah was for all Jews to study. What missing word was put there for all Jews to realize and recognize? Because all Jews have the power to struggle to understand and merit divine help and guidance, some in the deepest levels of mysticism, and some in the ability to raise children, and some with ways to earn a living. There is heaven and there is earth. And above all of this is HaShem. He is above the Torah and is the missing letter, because He is everything for all who study the Torah and struggle to be good Jews.
Let us now turn once again to our efforts to know the secrets of the system of humanity.
The fact is, that most of it is spelled out very clearly for us to begin knowing it. The gemora in Berochose 35B discusses how people are supposed to conduct their lives. People live in this world and have to earn a living, and yet are obligated to learn Torah. The Shulchan Aruch teaches laws of the daily prayers. It then teaches laws for people who finish prayers and now go out to study Torah and to make a living. The gemora, and the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, and the rabbis in Pirkei Avoth, state clearly and emphatically that a Jewish man must devote much time to learning Torah, but if he does not have a job to earn money, he will end up a thief. Rambam mentions that a person can learn nine hours a day and work three hours a day. The problem with that is who can earn in three hours what many people earn in eight hours? But earlier we have presented our idea that a child must begin earning very early in his life, perhaps when his father trains him to make money. Such a child after years of doing business, should have saved up enough money to buy a house and make a vineyard and more. Thus, great rabbis who devoted their time to learning were also wealthy. How could that be? Because they began their lives very early, as children, taught by their fathers.
A farmer once said that to be a farmer you have to begin as a child. A doctor once said that a child is designed to sense new things and to absorb them, but a child is not designed to review and review and create new understanding of his material. A child is thus designed to succeed with new things. An adult, on the other hand, is designed to study deeply what he learned already, but is not adapt so much in learning brand new things.
An adult thus rides on the success of his childhood. What the child has absorbed and liked is continued by the adult. But the adult is not designed to readily adapt new things. But those things the adult has adapted from childhood stay with the adult and he can think again and again about what he learned earlier in his life. And something new can emerge from it. But the child is busy picking up new things and absorbing them. He is not designed to review and review new things which are becoming old things. After he enters adulthood, that is the time to think deeply about earlier thoughts.
Thus, childhood is crucial for young and old. The young can only really deal with new things as a child. An adult can only really deal with deeper things if he learned them as a child. But if he is fifty years old and studies something he learned when he was thirty, that is hard going.
What we are driving at is that life centers on children. An adult who never utilized his childhood to seek out new thoughts, will probably never obtain them in a way to really understand them and their potential. The farmer who said that only a child can be a farmer might have added, “and not just farmers.”
This brings us to another aspect of success. A child has potential an adult does not have. But a child is just that, a child. A child has a potential perhaps denied to an adult. But what child can pop out of his crib and become successful? A child achieves potential from parents. This brings us to the delicate and frightening topic of how to raise a child. The parent wants to have authority. The child is not born with the obedience to senior people, even parents. How does the father inculcate respect for himself in his child? If we assume that a child is not born with the habit of being a perfect child to a parent, and we go further that a child may behave or misbehave, isn’t it necessary to crack down and to force the child to behave? On the other hand, any attempt to force a child against his will is very dangerous. The solution is to be a father who presents his child opportunities to achieve what the child wants.
Let us go back to our earlier story of Shimi, a boy raised by father to succeed in learning Torah and in business. Shimi had a glorious future all ready for him when he was just ready to get married before he was twenty years old. The entire story is my fiction, but, why does it have to be fiction?
Shimi’s father that we invented was a farmer. He trained little Shimi from the age of five to succeed in the Torah that he learned in school, and to succeed in business trained by his father. Shimi spent more time learning Torah than doing business, but he succeeded brilliantly in both endeavors. This is taught in the Gemora Bovo Basro 35A and the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim about the laws of going to work after one prays in the morning and does some Torah studying.
What was the key, the secret to Shimi’s wonderful success? Shimi was just a little kid, five years old, and his father began teaching him business. “Shimi, here are some fruits from the farm. Take them to school and trade them with some friends for their fruits or other things.” The key is: Shimi obeyed and came home with some nice things from his friends in school. His father and mother made a big fuss about it. “Such lovely pears! Tasty looking nuts!” A child who gets that kind of a response is going to continue selling the next day.
After a while of this minor selling came a new level of selling. Shimi’s father took him to a house (the house of Shimi’s father’s good friend.) Shimi was scared, but his father was standing behind him. He went and rapped on the door. Somebody answered the door and sees a five-year-old kid. What is this? He notices a man standing there, and realizes that this is a setup from his good friend Shimi’s father. Well, he puts his hand into his pocket and takes out some money and pays for whatever Shimi brought to sell. Can we imagine how happy Shimi was when he felt those coins swishing around in his pocket? One thing for sure, he wanted more. And so it went.
The key to raising children is to find what they would like, would appreciate, with the following caveat: They must be led to do something that can bring them success, specifically, financial success. This can work well in a farming community. But all communities are not the same, and sometimes people must struggle to find a way to reach their children and train them in Torah and learning.
To bring our discussion up to date: Those of us in the ultra-Orthodox community are exploding population-wise. Property in ultra-Orthodox communities that are being torn down to build on them something much more expensive can go for at least a million dollars a house. When you realize that an ultra-Orthodox family can easily have ten plus children and some have much more, you realize that finding a place for the family to live in not a simple matter. To buy houses in an area filled with established people is prohibitive financially. So some groups of Ultra-Orthodox go searching for very cheap land, usually somewhat removed from established communities, and if very few people live there, the price is surely cheaper. If a large group of people want to buy up the land for those easy prices, go for it!
The ultra-Orthodox marry off their children very early, preferably before the age of twenty. The parents do all of the work. After they find a match for their child, they give the choice to the child. If and when it is accepted there are the ceremonies to establish a marriage. The husband then leaves town until the wedding. My nephews leave the country. The early settlers in this cheap community buy in at bargain prices. Gradually, the prices rise.
Where do people in these new communities work? People may do farming, do away with driving, and get some exercise working the farm. There are those who prefer farming or some other work without driving. A person can establish a business so people come to him to fix a car, to manufacture various things, etc.
Ideally, the purchase of a large parcel of property requires a leader, such as when a Hassidic group goes somewhere suggested by their leader. If a group of individuals finds a property and moves in, and there is no clear director, we have a situation similar to partnership. And partnership is often a problem. But in life there are many situations and many opportunities and many problems. If people have to have new land at the right price, they have to figure out a way to deal with partners. It is not perfect, but being without a house is also not perfect.
We have discussed the physical purchase of a house. But we live in a country that has laws. Some of these laws give the power of the state over children. This can clash with the religious values of deeply religious people.
Religious communities must keep in mind the Supreme Court Case about Wisconsin and the Amish, which was won handily by the Amish, but only after a lengthy battle between various courts. We wrote about it above.
For our purposes, raising Jewish children to master a lot of Torah and morality, and to earn large sums of money to allow them to marry and buy a house and property, is exactly what the gemora in Sota 44 teaches. It is Jewish law. It is the Jewish religion. Why should we train children to learn for many hours things that are remote from Torah and earning wealth? This seems exactly what the Supreme Court ruled when it sided with the Amish, also a nation that has its own religious style of morality that conflicts with the secular American system.
We repeat what we said previously, that a percentage of school children fail, and some take dangerous drugs and some die from these drugs. Finding a program that offers many avenues to prosper in life, is a matter of life and death for some children. For others it is a question of happiness or suffering. Let us be open to the idea of making programs where many types of children can find their way. Give everyone a chance. If we wish it, we can find the solutions we need.
In our fictitious story about Shimi, his father was a farmer and he was raised to sell items from the farm and then to buy properties near the farm district. Eventually, these properties once barren of people became filled with people because Shimi had the money and spiritual strength to build schools for them that taught things critical for his kind of community.
If a person is raised and taught by his father, he can become a Shimi. But some children have other needs. Some can make a living mastering electronics, or selling appliances, etc. and etc. The key is to never shut the door. Keep it wide open. And encourage every child to learn what makes them happy. Today we have huge businesses that sell everything. A child should be encouraged to find out something that can turn profitable for him, and where to get the training for it. The world is ready for this. The question is if the schools are ready for this. If the community is Amish or Jewish Orthodox, the Supreme Court will back them in their efforts to train the children in morality. I hope it won’t be an expensive court case.
The bible begins with the story of Creation. In the beginning of ___ G‑d created the heaven and the earth. We explained that there are three factors taught here. One the heaven, or the infinite. Two is the earth, or the finite. And the third level of the missing word in “the beginning of___”. This is the hidden lessons that are revealed miraculously to those who deserve to understand. This missing word is HaShem, who is always available to help a Jew struggling with a problem. We need this knowledge for ourselves, and for our children. Let us wish everyone success in understanding what life has to offer them and their children and their families. One who struggles to know, merits divine guidance.