Profile Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Tamar Epstein Leaves Her Husband for a Strange Man; a Child from Him will be a Mamzer

Profile Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Attack on Shalom Kaminetsky Encouraging Tamar to Remarry without a GET

Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn/Monsey NY 10952/845-578-1917/

Remarrying in Philadelphia Without a GET, Chas ViShalom

Question: Mrs. Friedman, maiden name Tamar Epstein, has left her husband and declared that she can remarry without a GET. Shalom Kaminetsky, the Rosh Yeshiva of Philadelphia, no doubt encouraged by his father R Shmuel Kaminetsky, has long encouraged Tamar to go her own way, to leave her husband, and now to remarry without a GET. When it became known that Tamar was actively dating and thinking of remarrying without a GET, there was some activity by some of the many rabbis who completely deny Tamar the right to remarry without a GET. But Shalom claims that he has rabbis who permit her to remarry without a GET. Because the vast majority of rabbis, including many senior rabbis, have completely forbidden Tamar’s remarriage without a GET, and Shalom claims that some rabbis permit it, what is the law we must follow in this matter? Are Tamar’s children from a new husband with no GET mamzerim?
Answer: Yes, her children from a new husband without a GET are mamzerim. It is completely forbidden for anyone to marry her until she gets a kosher GET. The reasons for this ruling are below.
1.       A married woman can only escape her marriage with a GET or the death of her husband.
See Laws of Kesubos Even Hoezer 77:3 Ramo and Gro that quote from the Rosh in teshuva 35:2: A woman was tricked by a wicked person into marrying him. He told her lies and she believed him. But once married, she realized they were lies. The Rosh says that although he does not allow coercion of a husband to force a GET in most circumstances, in such a case he permits it. However, he clearly states, that even in such a case where it is clear to all that the husband is a liar and lowly person and the woman would never have married him had she known about him, the Kiddushin remains and there must be a GET.

If so, how can we assume that Mrs. Friedman, who never said her husband was a liar or horrible, just that she had some small complaints, how can she unravel kiddushin?

2.       There is a way for a woman to make a condition in her Kiddushin, in her marriage, in case she fears that the husband has some blemish. If she makes a condition, something that requires knowledge of the laws of conditions, and the condition is valid, then if the husband has the feared blemish the Kiddushin is invalid, and the marriage never occurred. See EH chapter 38.
3.       That is, a married woman can only leave her husband with a GET or with the death of her husband. But if a woman fears a certain blemish or whatever and makes a valid condition that her kiddushin is only valid if the husband is free of that blemish, in that case, if the husband had the blemish the kiddushin is invalid.

4.        Note that in marriage there are two phases: Kiddushin and Nisuin. Kiddushin is when the wife is in her father’s house and the husband may not have intimacy with her. Nisuin is when she comes to the husband’s house and they are fully married. Conditions only help with Kiddushin, but Nisuin is different, as we will explain.

5.       See EH 38:34 “If one makes Kiddushin to a woman and he or she immediately change their mind, even if the change was immediate faster than one can utter a few words, she is married with Kiddushin.”
6.       The husband or wife who made a condition can negate the condition without witnesses, until there is Nisuin, intimacy or Chupah. EH 38:35

7.       Once there is Nisuin or Chupah we assume that the condition made at the time of Kiddushin is now negated. Otherwise, if the condition remains, the couple is together without marriage which is bias Zenuse, a disgrace. See Even Hoezer 38:35

8.       This is because to have relations without a kosher marriage is a disgrace, Bias Zenuse. See Chelkas Mechokake EH 38:48

9.       Now, in the event that a couple said clearly that they have a condition and will maintain it even after Biah, the condition holds. But this is considered a disgrace and unless we hear a clear demand for the condition after the wife goes to the husband, we assume that the previous condition was limited to Kiddushin and is no longer valid.

11    What does this mean for Tamir Epstein Friedman? She never made a condition, she never claimed to make a condition, and if she did make a condition, it would be negated when the couple had a full marriage and lived together. They had a child together. Thus, the condition, even if it did exist, is negated at Nisuin.

12    To invent a finding that Tamar can remarry without a GET the only way is to prove that she entered marriage with a clear condition and maintained it all of the way through the marriage. But this never happened.

  13   We have in recent years rabbis coming forward with inventions to free women from their husbands, such as Rackman, but these all died out and nobody respects them. But there is always somebody else claiming these things. Rabbi Gedaliah Schwartz told me that he sent away a couple who were married and lived together for thirty days and came to him for a GET. He told them they had no need of a GET because they had no Biah. They had marriage with a ring, but no Biah. If so, they are married. That is what is says in Shulchan Aruch EH 26:4: “A woman attains Kiddushin in three ways: by receiving something of monetary value [such as a ring]; by receiving a document [that spells out the marriage], or Biah.” We see clearly that Biah is only one of three ways to achieve Kiddushin. But this inventor sent a couple away with no GET after they asked for a GET because he invented a law in defiance of the Shulchan Aruch that a ring does not make marriage. Such people as him are busy inventing ways for women to leave their husbands without a GET. But all they produce are mamzerim.

14     If Tamir Epstein Friedman remarries without a GET from her husband Aharon, the child will be a mamzer diorayso. This is the opinion of all of the prominent rabbis, some who are very heavily involved with this case and know all of the facts. Nobody knows the name of a single rabbi who has permitted her to remarry. I was told two names, and called them, and they both denied it. It is common in these cases for names to be offered up of rabbis who permit these things, but usually, the rabbis when contacted strongly deny it.

15      A prominent rabbi involved in this case went to Israel to check out the halacha and everyone told him it was forbidden for her to remarry without a GET. They were shocked that in America such a ridiculous thing can be done, to allow a woman to remarry without a GET. One of the rabbis he spoke to was a Gadol HaDor  in Bnei Braq who said there is nothing to be done except a GET.

16       I spoke to senior rabbis who are shocked that Shalom Kaminentsky could help Tamir remarry without a GET. Shalom will not say what rabbis permit this. So let us assume that ten prominent rabbis permit it, which is absolutely ridiculous. But I want to make a point here. Again, ten very prominent rabbis permit something, and ten very prominent rabbis forbid it. What is the halacha?

17     This is a sofek diorayso, and the woman has hezkas aishes ish. If so, she is forbidden to remarry.
18     The Mahari Reb Yosef ben Leib, said by some to be the rebbe of the Beis Yosef, writes that in his time if the majority of the rabbis permitted a woman to remarry and a minority forbade it, that the rabbis would not permit the remarriage. See Mahari ben Leib IV:19:3.

 19     In Philadelphia, we have the opposite: the vast majority are against it, and a tiny number may be for it. Surely, we do not follow the minority.

20      Also, when great rabbis argue with lesser rabbis, we follow the greater rabbis. See  the Ramo in Choshen Mishpot 25:2, that in a machlokess about halacha if it is a question of a Torah ruling we must be stringent. This means, that if ten rabbis forbid her to remarry and ten rabbis permit it, she may not remarry. So how can Shalom Kaminetsky permit her to remarry?

21      The Ramo says there that we follow the greatest scholar over the lesser scholar, and we follow the majority against the minority. The great rabbis oppose her remarriage without  a GET, and so do the vast majority of Torah authorities. If she remarries and has a child, it is surely a mamzer. See also Rashbo 1:263.

22  The Gedolei HaDor are strongly opposing any changes to marriage law, such as this. We follow them, Reb Chaim Kanievsky, Reb Shmuel HaLevi Wosner, Rav Kupshitz and many other gedolim. Shalom Kaminetsky is not a posek, and if he gets involved in these things, with ridiculous inventions, he will produce mamzerim

Monday, July 8, 2019

Insights into Jewish History

Insights into Heaven and Earth

Dovid Eidensohn

Heaven and earth are different dimensions. HaShem is in Heaven with the angels. People in this world are not angels, have evil inclinations, and sin regularly. But HaShem created this world for people come into a world filled with sin and evil and to be strong and resist, and when they do sin, which is probable, they should repent, and HaShem will accept their penitence. A person who sins and repents merits to enter heaven and enter the heavenly throne perhaps cleansed of sin.

The world began without Jews. The first Jew was Abraham, whose father was the producer of idols in a major country. When Abraham grew older and rejected idols, he was flung into a furnace and the king and community watched the site. They were amazed to see that Abraham walked here and there in the raging fire and was accompanied by strange hosts. The king was no fool and realized that although he told everybody that he was god, this was an indication that he had competition. But he instructed Abraham and his father to leave the country, and they left. Avrohom went to Israel, but even there, the hand of HaShem struck, which happens in a world where evil is something given to people to resist and find HaShem and salvation.

A famine struck Israel and Avrohom and his wife Sara, a beautiful woman, who was also, like her husband, a holy prophet of HaShem, had to go to Egypt. Abraham had no choice because HaShem had driven him to Egypt, but he knew that if the Egyptianian would see his wife they would kill him. He therefore told her that when they came to Egypt they should declare that they are not married but brother and sister. In those days, before the Torah was given, even those who were the early Jews before the Torah was given, were lax in marrying certain relatives, so the statement was not necessarily a lie. Yaacov himself the greatest of the Avose married two sisters, which is surely forbidden by Mosaich law at Sinai. Early Jews did not have a Torah as it was finally delivered by Moshe and G‑d Himself at Sinai when the Jews left Egypt.

That is, Jews who did not suffer did not merit the Torah. The suffering in Egypt brought the Jews to the level to merit to accept the Torah with its strict rules. Moshe born in Egypt that killed male babies, became the leader of the Jews who spoke regularly to HaShem and visited heaven many times, not the previous generations of Avrohom Isaac and Yaacov. Not everybody can tolerate all of these rules. But they are the path to eternity in heaven.

Speaking of Avrohom and Sarah, another major  rule in the Torah, as taught by all of the biblical books and the Talmud in various places, is that men may be the leaders of the family and the world, but HaShem prefers women. Simply, the bible is filled with terrible sins done by men, but we don't find these stories about women. Our present story with Avrohom and Sarah going to Egypt will illustrate the beginning of this.

When Avrohom and Soro came to Egypt he concealed Sarah in a box, but it was opened and she was revealed. She was declared a woman fit for the king,  who was called Pharoah. Pharoah embraced both Abraham and Sarah, Sara as his wife, and Abraham as her brother. Abraham was seated at the seat of honor of Pharoah and lavished with great honor and gifts. Sarah to her doom. Pharoah came to her and after the basic greetings, got down to business.

Sarah cried out to HaShem and an angel came from heaven and struck Pharoah. Pharoah jumped away, not knowing what happened, but ashamed to tell Sarah. He gathered his energy and returned to her and this time he got such a smack that he knew that he was not dealing with a woman, and probably was dealing with something much more formidable. He didn't want any more beatings, so he thought things over, and realized, that Sarah was the wife, not the sister of Abraham.

He therefore turned away and went to Abraham, telling him that he now knows that Sarah is his wife, so why did Abraham lie to him and get him such a beating. Abraham answered honestly that he knew that the Egyptians would kill him if they knew he was married to Sarah.

Pharoah accepted this and told Avrohom. Come to me with your wife, and I will send you out of Egypt. A woman like this is not safe in Egypt. I will give you and your children a wonderful land, the place of Goshen, as well as great gifts. But you must leave Egypt immediately. I personally and my senior servants will escort and protect you until you leave.

From Avrohom and Sarah, after many years, came a son Yitschok.  Yitschok married Rivka. From this came Yaacov and Aisov. Yaacov was the primal member of the Avose, and Aisov was wicked, although his love for his father was greater than even a Jew displays. These three are the Avoth, the fathers of the Jewish nation. We have much more to discuss, but for now, we conclude.


Dovid Eidensohn

The Coming of Moshiach Soon - Dovid Eidensohn

The Coming of Moshiach

Dovid Eidensohn

Jews await daily for the arrival of Moshiach. In recent times, much ado has taken place over remarks made by the greatest of the Kabbalists. Rav Yitschok Kaduri zt”l. He departed the world a few years ago at the age of 108. Rav Kaduri had a photographic memory. He would glance at any book and memorize it immediately. He made miracles. He was also the rebbe of great rabbis and rebbes. One of these was my rebbe, the Jerusalem Kabbalist Rav Shmuel Toledano zt”l. Rav Kaduri wrote an approbation for my rebbe who wrote eighty Kabbala books, that he wrote them Biruach HaKodesh, with heavenly inspiration. Throughout the world his words have been quoted that he spoke to Moshiach and knows when Moshich will arrive.

Now Rambam tells us in Mishneh Torah that the prophets and sages did not know exactly what will happen when Moshiach arrives. It is true that the prophet Eliyohu HaNovi declared in his work Tono Divei Eliyohu at the end in his discussion of Moshiach that Moshiaich's name will be Ephraim. And we want to discuss how this meshes with the teaching of Rav Yitchok Kaduri that he wrote the name of Moshiach. That name as I saw  people quoting it was Hebrew, the first letters of six words. The words forming the name of Moshiach are YUD HAY VOV SAMCEH VOV SAMECH in Hebrew יודסוס. The Hebrew name written by Rav Kaduri I interpret to mean that Moshiach will come to the Jews with heavenly light.

The first three letters are the classical Name of HaShem, YUD HAY VOV. The second letters, SAMECH and VOV, have a numerical value of 65, which in Hebrew can become GAL GAL, meaning, “revelation, revelation.” This means, that Moshiach, boosted by divine lights from heaven, will reveal, deeper and deeper, to elevate the human race to become very close to heaven.

It is sad that some people took this to mean that the name YUD HAY VOV indicates the Christian deity. But the following letters SAMECH HAY VOV have nothing to do with that. If they stretch Yud Hay Vov to be the first letters of YEHOSHUA they ignore the last three letters SAMECH HAY VOV which have nothing to do with Yehoshua.

Rav Yitschok Kaduri also mentioned something else about Moshiach. He will come soon, at a time when the Israeli government will have no government. And also, will come after the death of Ariel Sharon, a senior general of Israel and a Premier.

We know that now, June 24, 2019, Israel has no government, which is a very rare thing. We also know that Arial Sharon lived a long life, then suffered for at least seven years with loss of his faculties in a hospital, and died recently. We can surely arouse ourselves to pray for a speedily arrival of Moshiach.

I wish to add something to this.

The sages believed that the arrival would go in three stages. The first two revelations of Torah and Messianic forces, seem to be around the Second World War and the destruction of the Jews in Europe. At that time, a very saintly rabbi in Europe warned the Yeshiva students to go to Vilna, a city which was surely right in the line of the Nazi advance on Poland and elsewhere. Nobody understand what the logic in going to Vilna had in saving Jews. Because the only hope was running somewhere in Poland or Russia which no Jew wanted to do and stay alive. But a rabbi and a young Jewish man, Shmuel Shain, saved many Jews.

This was the miracle of the train from Vilna through Russia to Japan, known to posterity as the Shanghai express. At that point, Japan and Germany were at war with America. The rabbi, Avrohom Kalminowitz, couldn't get any wealthy people to give money for the train that was ready to leave Vilna and go to Japan. They felt that  the Japanese were at war with America, the Russians hated Jews, and if the Jews did land in Japan, Hitler would demand them back so he could kill them. But a young man, Shmuel Shain, contributed his and his wife's marriage money from his father-in-law, which paid the Russians to run the Shanghai express.

The rabbi who announced that Jews should come to Vilna was Rav Chaim Ozer. He died soon after he did this, as did another great, Reb Baruch Ber Levovitz. The one who actually saved the Jews was a Japanese official who had the book with permission to come to Japan. When his superiors heard about it, they told him to immediately return to Japan. He did, but not before he flung his book of tickets to the crowd of desperate rabbis outside his office. They boarded the train and were saved.

On to Israel1 - Dovid Eidensohn

On to Israel1 – Dovid Eidensohn

On to Israel is the great effort of many Jews to go to Israel. One reason is that those of us who live in America are beginning to realize that America is crumbling spiritually, especially in New York State which has established a GET law that permits all women to force a GET from their husband, something which produces mamzerim when this woman with no kosher GET remarries and has a child. Another law passed in January of this year is that a husband or boyfriend who poisons the baby in a woman and kills it, has not committed a crime, and the police can do nothing. These laws and worse are spreading in other states in America, even in New Jersey where Lakewood Yeshiva is located. But in America, very few people protest about the GET laws and other problems.

Onto Israel got a major push in 1948 when the United Nations following a vote from the world community, gave a small section of Israel to the Jews and the rest to the Arabs. The Arabs then demanded that all Arabs leave that section of Israel given to the Jews, because the Arabs were determined to kill out the Jews. David Ben-Gurion, then the Premier of Israel, allowed the Yeshiva students not to join the army, because although he was not religious, and probably didn't keep Shabbos or maybe even kashruse, he did recognize that for Jews to survive among the huge armies of Arabs, supported by the British army, there was no hope for Jews in Israel, unless one believed clearly in HaShem. His idea was supported by General Moshe Dayan who replied to those who wanted to draft Yeshiva students, "They do their share." Thus two people who were not religious were forced to accept that their only hope was trusting HaShem. And the battles begun in 1948 showed the world that the Jews were a mighty force that won its battles.

When Arab countries eventually wanted to solve the Jewish problem by making Atomic weapons to be exploded in Tel Aviv and elsewhere in Israel, the faith in HaShem by non-Orthodox Jews was aroused and Menachem Begin sent six jets heavily loaded with powerful bombs to destroy the places building Atom bombs to destroy Israel. The planes all returned with no problems their mission completed. Then a powerful general began assembling Atomic bombs and he was constantly surrounded by protection and weapons that could take down a jet. Now a new tactic was released by the Israel military. It was a secret command of people who knew how to kill people. They knew that in general this general was surrounded by his troops that protected him and that there were weapons to destroy jet planes, but the command of killers succeeded in discovering that this General once a year went near a sea and had company over on his balcony. They sailed a sailboat some distance from the house and dived into the water with their weapons. They took careful pictures at night of the balcony and the people with the general. At the proper time, they both fired. One bullet went into the general's heart, and the other into his neck. The two returned safely to Israel. Yes, this sounds like a miracle, but HaShem in Israel is busy with miracles.

Recently poverty in Israel has been relieved when Premier Netanyohu hired an American company to dig oil out of the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. When it created a gush of good oil near Tel Aviv Israelites realized that times were changing in their favor. This was followed by the Chinese purchasing the largest dairy company in Israel for a billion dollars. Now many companies around the world are pouring money into Israel, turning Israel into a modern place where people can live with thriving businesses and flows of money.

Moshiach everyone knows is on his way. Let us pray for his speedy arrival, and meanwhile pray that our faith in HaShem and trust in His kindness will sustain us despite any difficulty, that we all, gentiles included, will welcome Moshiach and pray to HaShem.


Dovid Eidensohn

On to Israel2 – Dovid Eidensohn

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Prominent Torah Families in Monsey and Spring Valley, NY

A Prominent Monsey, NY Family Loses Senior Members to a Higher World

By Dovid Eidensohn

Even in a city of noted Torah personalities, Monsey, NY is special. I was in Israel recently for a few weeks and did not know of the recent passing of a very prominent member of our community, Emil Tauber. He was devoted to promoting Torah scholars and for a long time established funds to support the most promising youth to become leaders of the Jewish people. One of his most promising products was his brother Yechiel Tauber, who eventually established a large and beautiful building housing many prominent Torah scholars. Emil Tauber passed away when I was in Israel and Yechiel Tauber passed away before then, but not before he established the beautiful building for Torah scholars and Beth Din.

When we mention the great who have passed on, it is appropriate to turn to Monsey, NY, itself, and its history. Going back a few generations, we find that Monsey, at least where many lived, was essentially a farming village with here and there a shull or Yeshiva. Even in the past generation when I came to Monsey, across the street from me was an apple orchard, and I once killed a snake in front of my house a short distance from a major shull.

About this time a prominent Torah personality from New York came to Monsey and recognized its potential. He had a major Yeshiva of his own in New York City, but saw that Monsey could eventually challenge in Torah terms even New York’s Torah community. He came to what was the Spring Valley Yeshiva and joined the board of directors. He advised them to go to the center of the business community in Spring Valley. Route 59 stretched along major communities including Monsey and Spring Valley. This New York rabbi saw that precisely in Spring Valley and Monsey, the potential for fantastic money existed for those who would buy now, when things were yet very much like a tiny place nobody would spend much money to purchase. But the Board of Directors dismissed him completely. Somebody commented, “What a dreamer.” The property at that point had little commercial value. But today its value is incredible. And those few, such as somebody I know personally for many years, who realized that the rabbi from New York was right on target, began immediately buying up properties. These people are today quite wealthy.

At the time of the expansion of Monsey, at least at its early phases, I had left Lakewood where I learned for the last two years of the life of the Gaon Reb Aharon Kotler zt”l, and had moved to Monsey. I had, at this time, begun to teach in a Monsey school, and my subject was Tanach. But I could not find good sources for Tanach. As the Gaon Reb Yaacov Kaminetsky zt”l once said, “Nach does not have strong commentators other than the Malbim, and his style is unique.” I did find various comments on Nach but they were strange to me. I read them carefully and came to the conclusion that these sources were Kabbala, something I had never studied. I bought a beginner’s Kabbala book, and found it was studying a biblical teaching, but what it wanted to teach was beyond me. I stuck at it, and finally came up with a proper explanation. I subsequently became strongly interested in Kabbala, but I needed a rebbe. And that I could not find anywhere.

One day, my wife wanted to visit a friend and I went along. As we left, the hostess handed me a booklet. I thanked her for it and we left. I read it when I got home, and realized that this book was Kabbala, and it had a lot that could teach me. I noted who the author of this book was, someone from Israel, and contacted him. He responded, and I began writing to him to the point that I was writing him very often lengthy Kabbalistic ideas. But at that point he felt I was too much into Kabbala, and should emphasize paskening Torah law. He challenged me on this and asked me why I don’t just join a Kollel that teaches how to interpret the Talmud. I told him that I wanted very much to find the right Kollel, but the only one I really wanted to join had a style where everyone had to learn exactly what the master of the school wanted them to master. I could not do such a thing, because I had my own style and liked to dig deep into things on my own. Eventually, the great rabbis of Israel Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Reb Yaacov Kaminetsky both complimented me for my ability in this. If I had any brains, which at that point were obviously lacking, I would know that my rebbe in this world and the next was right, and I would behave. But it seemed so remote that I just went my merry way.

Later on, I did begin learning halocho seriously. My style was to go to a senior rabbi who had mastered the Talmud and its commentators, and ask a question on the Torah. While he was thinking about my question, I would interject with my own understanding. He would accept or reject it. One day I came to such a rabbi and asked a question. His phone rang and he was off to answer somebody’s question. You may or may not do such and such. So I waited. But this time the conversation was going into a different sphere, and I was amazed. There was obviously some major problem there, and I had no way to listening to it. So, I just sat there. Finally, the rabbi concludes the conversation, and told me that he would not answer this particular question. But he did advise me to go to the Strassberger Rov, the senior Rabbi in Israel on Gittin, who was visiting his son-in-law Rabbi Eichenstein zt”l, who lived right down the block from where I was with that Rov.

I came to see this rabbi and was let into the house. He soon appeared and I asked him the question. He did not answer it. He sat silently. This happened even after I repeated my question three times. I was not going to repeat it again. Then he said, “Rav Eidensohn…” When I heard that, I knew I was going to get a real beating. And I was right. He continued, “A Rov never says what you just said.” Well, I thought, the next thing is for him to throw me out of the house, and awaited that, even though I had no idea why he felt that way. But he suddenly got up and went into the next room, where I could see him clearly. He was obviously involved in an important decision, and went back and forth. Then he came back to me and said, “I have a serious shaalo.” When I heard that I didn’t know what world I was in. First he tells me that I don’t know how to talk. And now he tells me, of all  people, that he has a serious Torah question.

He said to me that he must ask Reb Moshe Feinstein zt”l a question, but does not know how to reach him. I realized that I was in a very strange world now. Here is the person who is the expert on Gittin in all of Israel, who is desperate to ask a question of Reb Moshe Feinstein, somebody he surely had spoken to many times, and he asks me, somebody who doesn’t know how to talk, how he gets to Reb Moshe? But my policy always was and is, if a great rabbi will talk to you,  strike. And I did. “Rabbi,” I said. “I am a close disciple of Reb Moshe, and will gladly bring your question, after it is written by you, to Reb Moshe. I will leave for Reb Moshe first thing in the morning.” The next morning, bright and early, I was on the bus and soon was racing up the steps to the house of Reb Moshe.

Suddenly, an arm of steel seized me and demanded, “Where are you going?” I answered, “I am going to Reb Moshe.” He replied, “Reb Moshe is not feeling well. You can’t go today.” I replied, “I have a letter from the Aido HaCharedis in Israel.” He immediately passed me on and I went flying up the steps. Yes, Reb Moshe wasn’t feeling well, and his rebbetsin was not thrilled that I had come to deliver something to him, but the gabbai of Reb Moshe, who was a friend of mine, welcomed me warmly, read the letter, and assured me that I would be issued an answer by Reb Moshe who would respond shortly.

Every day I called and every day the gabei told me the same answer. “Reb Moshe permits what he was asked, and I would soon receive an answer. But I never did. Finally, I was going to Israel to visit my rebbe, and I wrote to the gabei that I was going to Israel to visit my rebbe, and that once I am there, I would surely visit the Strassberger Rov, and I left his address.” I stayed by my rebbe a few days, and then, on Friday, I went to visit the Strassberger Rov. He welcomed me warmly, and told me that he would soon be going to the Mikva of the Rabbis, but that I would go to the regular Mikvah. Thus, he would be home earlier than I would be there. And so it was.

I came into the house and the Strassberger Rov was reading the reply from Reb Moshe. He asked me, “Did you speak nicely to Reb Moshe?” I was stunned and replied in a manner that left no question about that. It was only much later than all of this became perfectly clear to me. The Strassberger then explained to me what was puzzling him when I visited him in his house and added to it an additional problem that was created by Reb Moshe’s letter. It seems that his problem was about a young man who came from a country with few rabbis if any. And nobody knew if this boy was born a Jew or something else, and maybe, he was a mamzer or a doubtful mamzer who could not marry a Jewish woman. If the person was a gentile it was easy to convert him to Judaism. If he was a mamzer it was easy to marry him to a mamzeres, and there were organizations that did this. But if he is a doubtful mamzer, it is much harder, and the only hope is to find a gentile woman, and to convert her to Judaism, and even this is only permitted because the child had no hope basically in his situation and some loophole had to be found for him which was this.

At this point I visited my rebbe Reb Fishel Hershkowitz zt”l, and told him the entire story. He was furious at the Israeli rabbis who were considering marrying this boy, who was extremely religious, to a gentile woman with no Jewish experience or roots, something which could not last. He told me that the only hope for this boy is to ask Reb Moshe Feinstein the shaalo, and he it is expected would permit the boy to marry a Jewish woman. There was, however, a problem in this. The senior rabbi in Israel was completely opposed to marrying this boy to a Jewish woman. And he demanded that he marry a gentile woman who would go through the proper process. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, it was Friday before Shabbos, and the Strassberger told me that the letter from Reb Moshe permitted the Israeli rabbis to marry the boy to a gentile woman who would do what the Shulchan Aruch advises for a doubtful mamzer. The only question now was to clarify if the boy must make a berocho at the wedding or not. He told me to go to the senior rov was controlled the rabbis of Israel and ask the question to him. I went, found the rabbi, and told him that the Strassberger Rov asked the above question. The Rov answered that they should take a gemora that has a similar question, read the words, and that would take care of the question.

Something began to bother me. So, they are going full blast, with Reb Moshe’s permission, to make this marriage. But Reb Moshe is not in charge at all. I suddenly said, “Rebbe, this is an Agunah shaaloh.” Meaning, perhaps we could ask Reb Moshe the shaalo as my rebbe Reb Fishel had demanded. The Israeli rabbi exploded at me and said, “Somebody wanted to say that and we wanted to put him Cherem.” When I heard that, it just blew me away. The next thing I knew was that two hands reached into my head, parted my skull, and threw a paper into my head. It shot out of my mouth and I heard myself saying, “The Rov should pasken, not suggest, that the boy ask Reb Moshe the shaalo.”  But the Israeli Rov wasn’t even looking at me. He was looking away from me, towards somebody who was very prominent, and talking to him. I saw nobody. So I repeated myself again about the Rov paskening that the boy go to Reb Moshe to ask his shaaloh.

The Rov suddenly swerved back to me and said strongly, “I heard you the first time. Yes, I pasken that the boy ask Reb Moshe the Shaaloh.” Obviously, the two hands in my head that shot out the paper were the hands of Reb Fishel, who flew in seconds from America to Israel to save me from being put in Cherem.

When I heard what the Israeli rabbi had said, that the boy should ask Reb Moshe the shaalo, I reverted to style, to bother every Gadol without mercy until they hinted to me that my time was up. I sat with him Erev Shabbos about half and hour and returned to the Strassberger Rov with the pleasant news. Obviously, when he was searching for Reb Moshe, he had the same idea in mind. But he could not rule against the major Rov in Israel. Now that this Rov has reversed course, the Strassberger was happy to add his agreement that the boy should ask his shaaloh from Reb Moshe. I then found a major Rov who agreed that the boy should ask Reb Moshe his shaaloh.

I now prepared to return to America and present my treasure to the boy himself. The boy, however, immediately demanded that Reb Moshe is an American and he only wants Israeli rabbis to rule on this. I went to a prominent American rabbi who spoke to the boy who agreed to go to Reb Moshe as all of the Israeli rabbis had demanded. I never saw him again.

Now, of course, it is surely time to return to the beginning of our discussion here, the departed Tauber brothers who build such mighty Torah structures. The two were Emil and Yechiel Tauber in a family filled with special rabbis who served others with heart and soul. I was in Israel for Pesach this year and did not hear that Emil passed away just before Pesach. I called his son Akiva Tauber who had showed the greatest kindness to me when I had to borrow money for my wife, that he would drive to me not that I came to him. Emil was also very considerate about helping me in such situations, despite the terrible problems he personally was suffering. But the large family were all very kind and helpful people. And surely the great souls of Emil and Yechiel will rejoice in heaven when people on this world voice their appreciation for the wonderful Torah community that they and their relatives established.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Pesach a time of joy in English and Hebrew by Dovid Eidensohn

Pesach is Coming!  English and Hebrew

Dovid Eidensohn

Pesach is coming! Don’t eat bread! Prepare a luscious meal for the holidays! But what does Pesach really mean to us?

Pesach translated in English means “to jump.” The Jews were slaves in Egypt and were now, in Pesach time, about to be released from slavery and brought to the Holy Land. There were delays, but ultimately, the Jews did enter Israel and until this day have had thousands of years in Israel.

We will now enter into the word Pesach on a deeper level, one that benefits from the exact translation from the Torah and the teaching of Elijah the Prophet in Melochim 1. In English Elijah the Prophet lived at a time when the king and his pagan wife worshipped idols and his wife had hundreds of pagan worshippers who ate at her table. Elijah the  Prophet summoned the king Achavav and urged him to bring all of the pagan worshippers to a debate with Elijah, to see if the G‑d of Israel is to be worshipped, or the pagan gods. The king accepted this and summoned the pagan worshippers to confront the Jewish prophet Elijah. We turn now for benefit of pure translation to the Hebrew, which for me, a person who plans soon to move to Israel, finds an opportunity to brush up on my Hebrew which will surely come in handy!

Again, we quote the book of Melochim as Elijah the Prophets accepts the challenge of the pagans and the pagan King of Israel and his wife a full fledged pagan who murdered the prophets of HaShem. Now the Hebrew from the Book of Melochim 1:21.

ויגש אליהו אל כל העם ויאמר עד מתי אתם פסחים על שתי הסעיפים. אם השם האלקים לכו אחריו ואם הבעל לכו אחריו ולא ענו העם אתו דבר. ויאמר אליהו אל העם אני נותרתי נביא להשם לבדי ונביאי הבעל ארבע מאות וחמשים איש. ויתנו לנו שנים פרים ויבחרו להם הפרה האחד וינתחהו וישימו על העצים ואש לא ישימו ואני אעשה את הפר האחד ונתתי על העצים ואש לא אשים.  וקראתם בשם אלהיכם ואני אקרא בשם השם והיה האלקים אשר יהנה באש הוא האלקים ויען כל העם ויאמרו טוב הדבר. ויאמר אליהו לנביאי הבעל בחרו לכם הפר האחד ועשו ראשונה כי אתם הרבים וקראו בשם אלהיכם ואש לא תשימו. ויקחו את הפר אשר נתן להם ויעשו ויקראו בשם הבעל מן הבקר עד הצהרים לאמר הבעל אננו ואין קול ואין ענה ויפסח על המזבח אשר עשה.

ויהי בצהרים ויהתל בהם אליהו ויאמר קראו בקול גדול כי אלקים הוא כי שיח וכי שיג לו וכי דרך לו אולי ישן הוא ויקץ. ויקראו בקול גדול ויתגדדו כמפשטם בחרבות וברמחים עד שפך דם עליהם. ויהי כעבר הצהרים  ויתנבאו עד לעלות המנחה ואין קול ואין ענה ואין קשב. ויאמר אליהו לכל העם. גשו אלי. ויגשו כל העם אליו. וירפא את מזבח השם ההרוס. ויקח אליהו שתים עשרה אבנים כמספר שבטי בני יעקב אשר היה דבר השם אליו לאמר ישראל יהיה שמך. ויבנה את האבנים מזבח בשם השם ויעש תעלה כבית סאתים זרע סביב למזבח. ויערך את העצים וינתח את הפר וישם על העצים. ויאמר מלאו ארבעה כדים מים ויצקו על העלה ועל העצים. ויאמר שנו וישנו. ויאמר שלשו וישלשו. וילכו המים סביב למזבח וגם את התעלה מלא מים. ויהי בעלות המנחה ויגש אליהו הנביא ויאמר השם אלקי אברהם יצחק  וישראל היום יודע כי אתה אלקים בישראל ואני עבדך ובדברך עשיתי את כל הדברים האלה.  ענני השם אנני וידעו העם הזה כי אתה השם אלקים ואתה הסבת את לבם אחרונית.  ותפל השם השם ותאכל את העלה ואת העצים ואת האבנים ואת העפר. ואת המים אשר בתעלה לחכה. וירא כל העם  ויפלו על פניהם ויאמרו השם הוא האלקים השם הוא האלקים. ויאמר אליהו להם תפשו את נביאי הבעל איש אל ימלט מהם ויחפשום וירדם אליהו אל נחל קישון וישחתם שם. ויאמר אליהו לאחאב עלה אכל ושתה כי קול המון הגשם. ויעלה אחאב לאכל ולשתות ואליהו עלה אל ראש הרמל ויגהר ארצה וישם פיו בין ברכו. ויאמר אל נערו עלה נא הבט דרך ים ויעל ויבט ויאמר אין מאומה ויאמר שב שבע פעמים, ויהיה בשביעית ויאמר הנה עב קטנה ככף איש עלה מים ויאמר עלה אמר אל אחאב אסר ורד ולא יעצרכה הגשם.  

ויהי עד כה ועד כה והשמים התקדרו עבים ורוח ויהי גש גדול וירכב אחאב  וילך יזרעלה. ויד השם היתה אל אליהו וישנס את מתניו וירץ לפני אחאב עד באכה יזרעלה. ויגד אחאב ליאזבל את כל אשר עשה אליהו ואת כל אשר הרג את כל הנביאים בחרב. ותשלח איזבל מלאך אל אליהו לאמר כל יעשון אלקים וכי יוספון כי כעת מחר אשים את נפשך כנפש אחד מהם. וירא ויקם וילך את נפשו ויבא באר שבע אשר ליהודה וינח את נערו שם. והוא הלך במדבר דרך יום ויבא וישב תחת רתם אחד וישאל את נפשו למות ויאמר רב עתה השם קח נפשי כי לא טוב אנכי מאבתי.  

We return now to the end of the story in English. Eliyohu is taken to heaven, and HaShem tells him to appoint a successor the prophet Elisha.

For our purposes, we see that Pesach means jumping, here and there. There are good times and bad times. Few Jews are perfect, and most of us sin. But when we repent Hashem forgives us. Ultimately, great peace will come into the world, and all people, even gentiles, will worship HaShem. But until we merit that in the Messianic times, the world will have it moods, its “jumping” and we must maintain our ability to serve HaShem in the thick and thin of life. May we merit to have a happy Pesach and a life for ourselves and our families and all people of more and more happiness and blessings and the ability to tolerate and rise above the problems until we will merit the end of testing and the permanent joy of the Future World.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Hebrew parsha of Shemini - English stories of Chofetz Chaim

ויהי ביום השמיני

דוד אליהו אידנסון

פרשה זו ויהי ביום השמיני כולל כמה ענינים שקשה מאוד לעמוד עליהם. וע' בכלי יקר על התורה שם בסוף שמיני שמאריך בזה ואומר שהעולם הזה יש בו ז' ימים והם נגמרים עם שבת יום הז'. וכל זה המספר של ז' הוא של העולם הזה. שמיני הוא בחינה למעלה מן העולם הזה. והוא הבחינה שמוסיפים על הז' ימים אחד לעשותו ח' דהיינו שמיני. ובזה מתקדש היום יותר מן הבחינה של ז' של העולם הזה וכבר נכנס קצת למעלה לקבל אור גדול שהוא שופע להראויים אליו בבחינת יום השמיני. וכן הברית מילה שהוא ביום השמיני להלידה של הילד הוא מתקדש יותר מן היום הז' לבד. ודוחה את השבת.

עוד מוסיף הכלי יקר שיש עוד בחינה למעלה מן הח' והוא כאשר עולים עוד יותר להוסיף עד י' שהוא האות היותר קודש כבר נכנסים לרשות של מעלה ממש יותר מח' ע"ש באריכות.

והנה בפרשה  סוף פרק ט' וז"ל ויבא משה ואהרן אל אהל מועד ויצאו ויברכו את העם וירא כבוד השם אל כל העם. ותצא אש מלפני השם ותאכל על המזבח את העולה ואת השלמים. וירא כל העם וירנו ויפלו על פניהם עכ"ל

פרק י' וז"ל ויקחו בני אהרן נדב ואביהוא איש מחתתו ויתנו בהן אש וישימו עליה קטרת ויקריבו לפני השם אש זרה אשר לא צוה אותם. ותצא אש מלפני השם ותאכל אותם וימתו לפני השם עכ"ל ע' בכלי יקר על זה אריכות גדול ואומר שיש סוברים שהיו חוטאים נדב יאביהו שהיו הולכים אחרי משה ואהרן ואומרים זה לזה מתי ימותו זקנים הללו ונעשה אנו המנהיגים ע"ש שדוחה כל הפירושים הללו שמוכח שלא חטאו נדב ואביהוא אלא במה שמפורש בתורה שהביאו מה שלא צוה אותם השם. ובאמת מה שדחה הכלי יקר כמה פירושים גדולים ונוראים על ידי הדיוק שלו צ"ע שהלא מצאנו בתורה ובנביאים והכתובים כמה קושיות על תיבות או לשונות, ולא מצאנו עליהם ביאור מספיק.  ועל זה אמר הגר"א שכן הוא דרך התורה להניח קושיא גדולה באמצע הפסוקים של התורה או הגמרא, ומי שמצער עצמו לעסוק בהם להבינם זוכה לסודות התורה גדולים. וידוע שהגר"א היה ראשון ביחד עם השאגת אריה, שהשאגת אריה הוא שנתן להגר"א התואר "גאון" שנשאר עליו יותר משאר הגאונים. והגאון אמר על השאגת אריה "אני והוא בקבלה הוא ואני בנגלה." אבל סתם שיש קושיא מן הפסוקים כן הוא בכל התורה. והעיקר לעסוק להבינם והקב"ה מאיר בהעוסק באמונה שיזכה סודות התורה או אפילו ענינים גשמיים שהוא צריך אליו, כגון שצריך לעשות עסק גשמי או שידוך, אם עוסק בכל כוחו להבין המצב שלו יזכה מן השמים להבינו. וכן רבי אהרן קטלר זצ"ל שהיה מסופק אם ללכת לארץ ישראל או לארצות הברית ועשה גורל הגר"א והיה התירוץ שילך למשה שהוא הבין הכונה רבי משה פיינשטיין זצ"ל בארצות הברית וכן עשה, ושם קבע ישיבת לייבוואד כמה כוללים וגם פשט את ידיו גם בארץ ישראל לעשות כמה כסף לצרכי היהודים בארץ ישראל שהעניות גבר מהם בהם. וכמה יהודים וילדיהם נשארו בני תורה ולולא זה היו הילדים נאבדים מן התורה כמו בילדי טעראן ר"ל שהציונים  השמידו אותם.

ואביא על זה ביאור על הפסוק הראשון שבתורה בראשית ברא אלקים. ופרש"י שבראשית תמיד צריך לתיבה אחרת עמו כגון בראשית ממלכת פלוני אבל לומר סתם בראשית אינו מספיק. והוא קושיא גדולה על הפסוק והתיבה הראשונה שבתורה. אבל להגר"א יש לישב זה שמי שעוסק באיזה ענין להבינו משמע אפילו ענין גשמי יזכה לאור של מעלה ויבין הענין. ובזה י"ל הכונה בראשית שבאמת בדיוק נשאר ריקם בלי שום תיבה אחריו לגלות מהו הבראשית מה. והכונה שמי שעוסק להבינו אפילו אם הוא ענין גשמי כגון להשיג סברא בעסק גשמי או שידוך  מגלים למי שעוסק להבינו ויודע מה לעשות. וכן פה בראשית אין לו סיום והאדם חושב עליו ומתפלל להשם לגלות דעתו ולבסוף יצליח אם מכוין לשם שמים. ובראשית הוא תחלת התורה והוא שורש לכל התורה שמלא קושיות כאלה מהו הכונה ומה חסר פה ושם. ומי שעוסק להבין לשם שמים לבסוף יזכה להבין גשמיות או רוחניות בס"ד.

והנה מצאנו קושיא גדולה בתחלת התורה. בתחלה אומר בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים והארץ. ולבסוף איזה  פסוקים מתחיל בדרך אחרת לגמרי ביום עשות השם אלקים ארץ ושמים. והוא מן ההיפוך אל ההיפוך. בתחלה אומר בראשית ברא אלקים שהוא מדת הדין הקשה. את השמים תחלה ואח"כ הארץ. ולבסוף איזה פסוקים לבד משנה כל הדרך ואומר ביום עשות השם אלקים ארץ ושמים. לא ברא אלקים שהוא מדן הדין אלא עשות השם שהוא מדת הרחמים. השם אלקים הוא רחמים בעיקר ואלקים דין בטפל. שלולא השינוי היו צריכים להחריב כל העולם שהוא מלא חוטאים כדאיתא בחומש ובכל הספרים. שלכן קבע התורה הב' דרכים, הראשון מה שיש לעשות לכתחלה, שאם יתקיימו הרשעים בעולם אחרי שחוטאים יהיה חילול השם שהוא היפוך התורה. שלכן שינה הקב"ה לגלות שהעיקר שלא להחריב העולם שרק באצל נח מצאנו שהחריב הקב"ה העולם ושוב הבטיח שלא לעשות כן עוד הפעם. והבטחה זו הוא תלוי שלא להחריב העולם עוד הפעם אלא להניח הרשעים כמו שהם בעיקר ולמעט בדין.

ובזה אתי שפיר שהקב"ה לחם עם הלבנה שהיא מלאך שהבינה הפסוק הראשון שצריכים דינים קשים למעט חילול השם. והקב"ה הבטיח לנח שלא להוסיף על החרבן של נח עוד. א"כ בהכרח שצריך שלא להחריב העולם דלא כהלבנה. עד שהקב"ה ראש שאי אפשר לפייס הלבנה שהיא תובעת ותובעה שלא יהיה חילול השם של הרשעים בעולם עד שהקב"ה אמר על עצמו, הביאה עלי כפרה שמעטתי את הירח והוא תמוה ביותר ממש. הקב"ה בעצמו צריך לעשות תשובה ר"ל? אוי לאזנים שכן שומעות! אלא הגמרא אומר בע"ז דף ד' שהקב"ה הבין באחרת מן הלבנה, בזה, שהאעיקר לא שיהיו כולם צדיקים אלא שיש הרבה חוטאים ורשעים בעולם, אבל כל מי שיעשה תשובה כראוי יתקבל. והקב"ה גילה הכח הגדול של תשובה במה שהוא עצמו קיבל על עצמו לעשות תשובה בכדי לפייס הלבנה. אבל בעיקר לא חזר הקב"ה אלא לגלות שהעיקר בעולם לא להמית הבריות שחוטאים שכמעט כולם חוטאים. אלא שמי שיחטא יעשה תשובה ויתקבל.

וכן מצאנו שקין הרג אחיו הבל. ופעם פגע אדם בקין שהיה הולך ככה כאילו לא פוחד מאחד. ושאלו אדם והלא הרגת את אחיך ואתה הולך ככה בלי שום דאגה? אמר לו קין דיברתי עם הקב"ה והוא שאל אותי היתכן שהרגת את אחיך, והקב"ה אמר לו הלא דמי אחיך צועקים אלי מן האדמה. ואמר קין להקב"ה שרוצה לעשות תשובה.  וקיבלו הקב"ה והבטיח לו שיחיה הרבה שנים בלי שיזיקנו אנוש וכן היה . ומיד הבין אדם הראשון הכח של תשובה ורץ לאשתו לפייסה לעשות שלום ביניהם ואמר לה שהיא אם כל חי. ובכל זאת אנו אומרים בתפלות בזמן קידוש הלבנה שנזכה שהלבנה תחזור להגדולה שהיא רוצה. שהעיקר אצלנו הוא השלימות שיהיה העולם בלי חוטאים, והגם שהבטיח הקב"ה לנח שלא להחריב עוד את העולם, עדיין מתפללים להחזיר העולם להשלימות שרצתה הלבנה, למעט חילול השם. וזה יהיה לעתיד לבא. וכן הרמב"ם אומר בסוף מלכים שלעתיד יהיה מצב שהגוים עצמם יתפללו להשם.

And now we will begin the English section of our material, which is simply about stories of the Chofets Chaim. But these stories are very important, and reflect on the entire system of living in a world filled with evil and how to deal with it.

First story: A close relative of the Chofetz Chaim knew that he was accustomed to go when nobody was around to a certain shull, and to pray strongly to HaShem about something. He was determined to find out what this was about. He came and stood behind the Chofetz Chaim, who was crying out to HaShem, “Master of the Universe! I am a Cohen. And a Cohen has a tendency to anger. Please, spare me from anger?”

Second story: The Chofetz Chaim was accustomed to go upstairs in his attic and cry for long times to HaShem. The Mashgiach of Mirrer Yeshiva, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz, heard about this, and decided to listen in. He climbed up a few steps and heard some of the Chofetz Chaim’s crying to HaShem for his sins, and Rav Yeruchom fainted and fell down the steps.

Third Story: the Chofetz Chaim once announced that in the middle of the night in Radin, he would reveal a secret of the Torah. The entire community came to hear it. He said, “Elokei neshomo shnosato bee tehovra he……..etc.” He concluded with “And in the future You will remove it from me and restore it to me in the Future World.” The Chofetz Chaim noted that “restore it to me” is with a mapik hay and he asked why. He replied, “When HaShem will restore our souls to us in the future world, he will restore our souls exactly as they were in this world, with all of the sins.” That was the secret.

To conclude our English situation with a happier note, our above remark about Rav Yeruchom Levovitz the Mashgiach of Mirrer Yeshiva, can continue with when he passed away around the same time as the Chofetz Chaim, in the thirties. At about the same time that he and the Chofetz Chaim passed on, Hitler yemach shemo began slaughtering six million Jews. Suddenly, a very senior rabbis, also, close to his death bed, issued a ruling. The Yeshiva world should gather in Vilna. Reb Aharon Kotler obeyed, and one way or the other, thousands of Torah Jews assembled in Vilna. But what to do next? Shortly, either Hitler or Stalin would be in Vilna. A miracle  happened. Although Japan was then at war with America because it bombed Pearl Harbor, and America was bombing Japan, the Russians allowed a train to drive from Vilna to Japan. The one who took responsibility was a Japanese in charge of giving people permission to come to Japan. When his superiors discovered that he was giving out permission to all of the Jews assembled in  Vilna, they rebuked him. He took his book of passes and flew it out the window where hundreds of people took their sheets and were saved when they reached Japan. He lived until after the war and for a long time Jews praised him to the sky. And other Japanese were also friendly with Jews.

Let  us return now to our comments about Reb Yerucham Levovitz, who at this time had died. Now the leader of the trainload of Jews was Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein the Mashgiach of Mirrer Yeshiva. The Jews landed in Japan which was being bombed by the Americans for their attack on Pearl Harbor. No Jews were bombed. Each night Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz came to Reb Yechezkel Levenstein and told him where the bombs would fall the next day. The Jews were not bombed. Eventually Reb Aharon Kotler left Japan and came to America and the other Jews decided to leave all at once or none at all, and they eventually all left. Reb Yechezkel then taught in several places and finally in Israel.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Contrast between Purim and Chanukah

Dovid Eidensohn

At first glance, Purim and Chanukah are very similar holidays. Both are rabbinical holidays. The heroes of both periods put their stamp on Jewish life for generations. A close study of the two holidays, however, and the inside stories of the heroes involved, paints a different picture. Both periods had their terror and their triumph. Both periods had their heroes and their villains. But the actual outcome for the heroes of the two holidays was much different.

Let us begin with Purim. The Purim story is about the Persian King Achashverush, a man of enormous wealth, who, originally, as taught by a commentator there, hated Jews more than Haman! He was changed when Mordechai, who knew the Seventy Languages, overheard officers of the king plotting to murder him. The king investigated and killed them. He wrote down that Mordechai the Jew saved him, but did nothing to honor him. And so it was for a long time. Then Mordechai had a falling out with Haman, who decided to kill him. It seems that at one time Mordechai was traveling somewhere with Haman when Haman ran out of money. He asked Mordechai for money and Mordechai replied that only if he would become Mordechai’s slave would he give him the money. Haman having no choice, agreed. Now Mordechai noticed that Haman walked around with royal clothes bedecked with pagan images. Mordechai refused to rise for Haman and his pagan images and when Haman objected, Mordechai showed Haman the paper signed by Haman that Haman was the slave of Mordechai. The Jews were terrified at the act of Mordechai to torment such a powerful person as Haman, and they protested to Mordechai, but he was obstinate.

Ultimately, we know what happened, that Queen Esther came to the king uninvited in his special palace, an act which could result in her being killed by the king, but he accepted her and proffered to her his royal specter, a sign of respect. She told him she came to him to invite him to a banquet to honor her, the king and Haman. The king accepted and ordered Haman to come. The king asked her during the banquet why she had invited him and she said she would tell him tomorrow at the next banquet. He agreed and they parted and came together the next day.

Until now Esther told the king nothing about her background. He only knew that she was a great beauty, which sufficed for him. He also suspected that her refusal to divulge her past was negative, probably indicating a lower level of birth, which would make it impossible to have a child from her, unless she was from royal blood. Thus, although they were married, the king limited himself to making sure he would have no children from her.

Now, at the second banquet, the king again asked Esther what her request from him was. She replied that she was requesting that the plan of Haman to wipe out the Jews would be reversed. The king was startled and went outside of the royal room to the place where his beautiful trees were planted. He noticed, in great dismay, that people were chopping down these trees. He asked why this was being done, and they, who were actually heavenly angels, sent to implicate Haman, told the king that Haman had instructed them to chop down the trees. Now the king was doubly furious. First of all because Haman wanted to kill his wife the queen, and secondly because Haman had told people to chop down the royal trees. He came back to where Haman and Esther were and noticed that Haman was actually on the royal recliner where the queen was sitting. The king exploded and roared at Haman, “Do you force yourself on the queen in my castle?”

Somebody told the king that Haman had constructed a huge tree to hang Mordechai on it. The king ordered, “Hang him on it.”

Haman was immediately draped so he could not talk or object to anything and was prepared for his death. The king then turned to Esther who, for the first time, told the king about her royal birth, as a descendent of the Jewish king Saul. Now the king, for the first time, spoke to her as a royal person to a royal person and treated her with great honor. For Esther, this was a great tragedy. For when she discussed with Mordechai about her attempt to reach the king she added, “And if I will be destroyed, I will be destroyed.” This could have meant that the king might be upset by her visit to him and kill her. But it could also mean that until now when the king forced himself upon her, she was not a sinner, and could continue relations with her husband Mordechai. But now that she had come to the king on her own, and he for the first time wanted to have a child from her, she could no longer relate to Mordechai. One reason was that if the baby emerged with the appearance of Mordechai the king could not use him as the next king. Also, Esther feared that her willingly going to the king without being forced would itself make her forbidden to ever be with Mordechai. Thus, Purim was a tragedy for both Esther and Mordechai, who deeply loved each other, and now were permanently separated.

 All of this is in contrast to the Chanukah story. There the group of Cohanim priests who fought successfully to drive the Greeks from Israel did not suffer in any way like this. True, some of them died in the battles, but they died as heroes in war, without the pain and the shame of being forbidden to their dear husband and wife. Furthermore, in the Chanukah story, the most prominent person was not a man at all, but a woman. She was a great beauty, the daughter of the High Priest, who was selected by a Greek as was their style, to be with him against her will. She came, and agreed to his wishes, but suggested that they begin with some delicious food she had prepared. He ate some, and drank some, and eventually, simply fell down unconscious. She then killed him, and took his head to the Greek general. When he saw the decapitated head, he became terrorized, and he and the entire Greek army fled Israel.

Thus, the heroine of the Chanukah story was a woman, who completely retained her honor. But the heroine of the Purim story lived the rest of her life in great shame and pain, although she gave birth to children of Achashverush who became beneficiaries of the Jewish people. And Mordechai, who lived without our knowing any more children from him, achieved great honor from the king, the Jews and Persians, but the pain of the loss of his beloved wife remained.

So, until we know the entire story, we are missing important details, which to us may not seem crucial, but for Mordechai and Esther they were crucial. May their memory be honored for all time, in this world and the next.

Yes, the Jews never had such easy lives. But there are various times and various problems. Purim and Chanukah are, in this sense, instructive. Whatever the Jews suffer from, their pain lasts in this world, and the hope is that that when they go to a higher world, they find the full glory they truly deserve.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Learning Torah and earning money. How much of each?

How much learning? How much earning?

Dovid Eidensohn

See Berochose 35b an argument between Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochoi. Rabbi Yishmael maintains that a Jew must work a full day to sustain a livelihood. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochoi disagrees, because if so, nobody will master the Torah. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochoi counters that a Jew should study Torah essentially and not work, but that others will work for him. The problem with this is that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochoi was running away from the Romans who wanted to kill him, and the Romans would surely not feed him. So it makes sense to accept the gemora there that “many did as Rabbi Yishmael and succeeded” meaning that others did not succeed. Okay, we seem to be getting somewhere. But wait. There are two gemoras that blow everything to pieces.

Sota 44A says that Derech Erets teaches us that a man should build his house, plant a vineyard, and only then marry. In other words, he should not marry until he is wealthy and has enough money to be comfortable and supply the needs of his wife and children. The Zohar adds that one who marries without a house and vineyard is a Tipashe, a fool. Also, the gemora in Hurius 10b says that Rabbi Yochanan decreed that Torah scholars need the money to be comfortable or some wealth.

This brings us to a terrible question. If a person has to spend most of his life learning Torah and only a small portion to earn a living, when does he become wealthy? Indeed, the gemora Berochose 35b rules that people do have to work hard during the day, meaning, not so much learning. This contradicts the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 156.1 that every Jew must learn most of the day and only a small part of the time for his earnings. This is not the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael, the dominant opinion and is not the opinion of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochoi, who says that strangers will support the learners, at a time when the Romans were searching for Rabbi Shimon to kill him. Surely they did not support him. Indeed, Rabbi Yochanan says in gemora Shabbos 11a that the law is not like Rabbi Shimon bar Yochoi but like Rabbi Yishmael. If so, how can we manage enough money to marry? Something has to give? Either Rabbi Yishmael is wrong, or Rabbi Shomon bar Yochoi is wrong, or no Jew gets married other than a few rich ones. This is surely wrong. This bothered me for a long time, especially as I didn’t find anyone else who asked these questions.

But the rule is, that when somebody gets stuck when he studies Torah, and he gives all he could to understand, HaShem helps him. The Vilna Gaon even suggests that there are questions on the Torah that seem to block all logic. But within these questions are the secrets of the Torah. I believe that this idea is the first word in the Torah, Beraishis, which, as Rashi says there, is a word missing a key word. In the beginning of what did HaShem create the heaven and the earth? Whatever we do, that word is missing. I believe the missing word is that there are things about heaven and earth that are beyond human understanding, but can only be revealed by HaShem to those who study Torah. And that is the key to all of the Torah and all of the gemoras. They are all riddled with questions. But if we struggle and ask HaShem’s help, we will find answers.

My answer is that children must be trained by the father to learn Torah most of the day but to also spend some time of the day to earn money. I actually wrote a treatise about a fictional boy, Shimi, who, at the age of five, was approached by his father. “Shimi,” he said, “you are a smart little boy, and you are learning nicely in Hebrew school. Yes, it is crucial for a Jew to study Torah. But we need money also. Yes, most of the day you will study Torah, and yet, a Jew needs money also. Would you like to earn some money even now?” Shimi was very interested in what his father was saying, and earning money, why not, sure!

Shimi’s father said, “Next time you go to Hebrew school, bring along some nice fruit from our farm, and trade it with your friends, who surely bring their own fruit to school.” Shimi did it, and he returned with some of his friends’ fruit. “Fine” said his father. “Let’s keep this up for a while, okay? You’re doing so well, that I think  you are a real business person!” Shimi puffed up his small cheek, and just swallowed in the compliments. The main thing, however, was the hope that more was to come. His father had talked about him earning money. Now, that was something special.

The time came when Shimi’s father told him, “Come with me.” They went a few blocks, and Shimi knew exactly where they were. This was the home of Shimi’s father’s best friend. “Here,” said his father. “Take these nice fruits, rap on the door, and sell them to my friend.” Shimi was a little nervous. But he did what he was told. He rapped on the door. The man of the house answered, and saw a tiny five year old child rapping on his door. What was this about? Then, he looked up, and saw his friend, Shimi’s father, watching the door. Aha. So that was the game. “Yes, my dear friend, and what can I do for you today?” asked the father’s friend of Shimi. Shimi replied, “Would you like to buy any of these delicious fruits?” Well, thought the father. I have a choice in the matter? My best friend won’t talk to me if I refuse. He reached in his pocket, and pulled out some nice change. Shimi was ecstatic. He, a five year old child, had a nice chunk of change!

The father was careful to go steadily up the ladder. Now he took Shimi to strangers. But the child was catching on. The coins were rattling in his pocket, and he was thrilled. What does a child with money want? He wants more money, a lot of it. And the father played this to the hilt. Next came a new level of training, and it would hurt. “Shimi, I know you have been selling various nice fruits and food, and you have made some nice change. Now, I want to graduate you to more expensive items. Are you ready to proceed?” Shimi responded, “If you want me to do something, I am ready to try it.” Well, said his father, this is an expensive leather piece from the farm. Find somebody, on your own, to sell it to, and tell me what they pay you for it.”

Shimi was paid, which was for him, an enormous amount of money. Much more than he got for selling an apple. Now he was given good money, not nickels and dimes, but solid dollars. With great pride, he showed his money to his father. His father was disappointed. “Shimi, you took twenty dollars for that leather piece, but it was worth fifty dollars.” Shimi was crushed, and he started to cry. His father was ready for this. He sat Shimi down and explained to him the entire situation and why Shimi should greatly rejoice in the very mistake his father knew he would make.

“Shimi, I have a dear friend, who married a rich girl. His father-in-law gave him a fortune as a nedan, a gift to the husband from the wife’s family, to encourage him to enter business and make a lot of money. Alas, my friend never lost a penny in his life, and had no idea how to proceed. He lost everything, and the money was so much, he could never pay it back. So I took you, a five year old boy, who sold an expensive piece of leather for less than its value. You lost about thirty dollars, and you know what, it is the smartest thing you ever did. Because I am training you to be a businessman, somebody who will one day not do what my friend did when he lost a fortune and could never recoup it. You will recoup the thirty dollars you lost a thousand times. You will have farms, fields, houses, and your wife and children will never have to worry about money. Now, wipe your tears, smile, and get ready for stage two. Now we are going to train you to buy property. Remember the mistake you made today. And be sure that you never make a mistake like that again.” Shimi resolved that he would be very careful next time he sold or bought anything.

“Tomorrow,” said Shimi’s father, “we are going to look at a property I am interested in. Pay close attention how I deal with the owner. Are  you ready?” Shimi was ready. The day came when Shimi followed his father to see him purchase a field from this person. They began to haggle about the price. Finally, the seller said, “I won’t sell for less than such and such.” Shimi’s father said, “Okay, let me think about it,” and left.

Shimi felt very bad for his father. He thought his father had lost out on the property. But his father was doing exactly what he wanted Shimi to see. Never buy property unless  you get a real good deal. If it is worth ten thousand dollars, make sure you don’t pay ten thousand dollars.

My original story of Shimi went on much longer, but suffice here to sum up that Shimi began buying property at economical rates. People realized that he was rich and they rushed to buy his properties and have their children begin Hebrew school on his terms. He insisted that the new people raise their children as his father had raised him, to begin earning money at a tender age. By the time he came of marital age, his parents found for him exactly what they wanted, and here was one growing and happy family.

What a happy world it would be if all children were raised to be happy and wealthy!