Yeshivat Lev HaTorah

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Post-America Trip/Motzei Shabbos thoughts on Vayeitzei 5775 : Reb Azriel Kuschnir

After a long, wild week and a half of traveling, when I was sitting in the shul of my hometown Bal Harbour, Florida, listening to the baal korei read parshas Vayeitzei, I finally had some time to think over the events of the parsha and see the parallels in the conversations of this past week.

Parashas Vayeitzei shows a sort of coming of age of Yaakov Avinu, we see this beginning with last weeks parsha, where Yaakov is an ish tam yoshei ohalim, the yeshiva bochur, who’s all of a sudden thrust into a whole intrigue and drama with his brother Esav, then spends 14 years in yeshivas Shem and Ever, then again is taken out of that Torah environment and faced with the struggles of living in the home of Lavan the rasha for all those years. The mefarshim point out a very interesting contrast in terms of the content of his dreams throughout the course of the parsha. Psychology tells us that dreams are the manifestation of a whats occupying a person’s (sub)consciousness. At the beginning of the story, after the time he spent learning for a few years, he experiences a prophetic dream and visions of Hashem and the angels, whereas later on in the story, we see his dream consists of different types of sheep which is directly connected to his business dealings with Lavan. At first, his dream in Beit El is spiritual in nature, but as he spends more time in chutz laaretz in the home of the materialistic and deceptive Lavan, his dreams and thoughts shift to a focus on olam-hazeh-dik matters. At that point Yaakov realizes its time for change.

While theres no question that Yaakov did indeed work and was heavily involved in his monetary dealings during that time period, (and its important to note that never do we blame him for doing so,) however Yaakov sees the red flag when he’s reached the point that he realizes he’s so overly-involved with his wordily affairs that even in his sleeping hours he’s thinking and dreaming about his merchandise. That’s when he decides to re-evaluate the course of his life

Throughout my trip through America this past week, I was fortunate and zoche to speak and reconnect to a lot of close friends. A common complaint I heard from people was that as time goes by, people feel more and more caught up in the rut of school or jobs, work, schedules, and slowly but surely the initial passion and ideals of yeshiva and Israel fall to the wayside, at best, until you look at yourself a few years down the line, and you find that you’re very distant from what you had originally envisioned for yourself, the goals and direction of your life have diverged considerably from what you had before. The learning goals, the minyanim, the passion, the Zionism, the long tzitzis, the connection, the goal of being a ben Torah first and foremost, have seem to have been placed on the back-burner in terms of priorities. The problem isn’t that you have to spend the majority of your day doing school work, or at a job, or doing papers or reports, in fact, its a mitzvah to get an education and to make a living, ashreicha. Its not just good to do well in your job and school, its a chiyuv! And of course, to do so takes time and effort, thought, planning and a serious investment of time. Thats not the issue at hand. The problem is when your work  takes the front and center role in your thoughts even in your free time,  or during leisure hours, or in davening during your shmonah esreh, or in your conversations with close friends, or at a kiddish with your shul-friends, or when it fills the talk at your shabbos table. When you reach a point when even your personal dreams are bereft of any higher aspirations or content, that’s when you know you’ve started to dry up spiritually, thats when you know Lavans got a hold of you. When the dreams you have for yourself no longer include goals of growth in Torah and tefilah, and middos and yiddishkeit, thats when you have to follow in Yaakov’s footsteps and reevaluate and ask yourself, what do I need to change, what do I need to do, or not do to, in order regain that initial level, how can I, whilst living in my current condition and environment,with my current schedule and workload, still maintain that original spark and drive? Maaseh avos siman lebonim, lets use the example of Yaakov avinu, wake ourselves up, look at ourselves and see where we are now in terms of the people we once envisioned ourselves becoming, as the Jews we once saw ourselves becoming. Let’s make some time in our day for our spiritual aspirations, for rekindling that connection we may once have had, to start remaking ourselves and becoming who we were meant to be. Set up the chavrusas, make a few minutes for a small sefer, commit to tefilin daily, find out minyan times near you, let yourself have a focused, meaningful davening to Hashem without the distraction of a ringing cellphone and texting, dedicate a few minutes of your day for a hisbodedus, or cheshbon hanefesh, and become the highest levels of who we could be.Through our hishtadlus in shmiras hamitzvos, simchas hamitzvos  and cultivating and working on our neshama, it should be a merit for the soldiers and people of eretz yisrael, and a merit for the rest  of us to lead the most meaningful, enriched, spiritual lives that we possibly can.


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Reaching Independent Joy

נפשי בשאלתי
Based on Sheelot V’Tshuvot from “Karov Elecha” 

Questions and Answers in Avodas Hahem
w/ Rav Yehoshua Shapira shlit”a
Rosh Yeshivat, Ramat Gan


Question: How is it possible to reach true natural Joy, that isn’t dependent on something?

Answer: For the word you chose in your question, “to reach” we can understand that there is a certain goal to reach, a certain place that “locks” us into true Joy.  However the question is contradictory.  On one hand, we are talking about reaching true Simcha without it being dependent on anything, yet it seems from the question that only when we reach “that place” we will experience true Simcha (which of course will not be true, because it is dependent on reaching that place). 

Let us understand Simcha from inwards to outwards and not the opposite. Authentic Simcha is the natural state of the soul, we need not to reach some “goal” to achieve Simcha, if we simply tap into the soul we will uncover a Simcha that knows no boundary or time limit.

Simcha is part of ourselves.  It is for this reason Hashem gave us Torah and Mitzvot that “bring gladness to the heart.”  The final point and depth of Torah and Mitzvot is Emunah and Deveikut to Hashem which is the source of all Joy in the world.  The more deveikut and Daat we strive for the more the Natural Simcha inside our Soul is brought up to the outside.   

 


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The Power to Live On: Reflections of a Shabbat in Sderot- Alumnus Dz Newman (05′-06′)

I was born and raised in Toronto and am used to quiet and relative peace, people helping one another and looking to help one another, not cause harm. Now I live in Tel Aviv and with everything going on throughout the country, people here are freaking out. When rockets fall in the south people often don’t make a big deal of it because unfortunately we have become accustomed to it and we take for granted that people are trying to kill us.

Alumnus and former Madrich DZ Newman (pictured here, 3 from right, in 2006) spent a Shabbat in Sderot in the middle of Operation: Protective Edge

Alumnus and former Madrich, DZ Newman (pictured here, 3 from right, in 2006), spent a Shabbat in Sderot in the middle of “Operation: Protective Edge”

We sometimes think “Well sure, that’s the south of Israel, this could never happen in Jerusalem or other areas, and they’d never be so dumb as to send rockets toward Tel Aviv”. Well, we were wrong.

Every time a siren goes off people run and panic, not sure where to run to or if it’s better to curl up on the ground where they are. In short, siren goes off, you run to a shelter. So I decided to experience things from the other side, the side of our brothers and sisters in the south who deal with this on a constant basis. So I posted on Facebook looking for a family to spend Shabbat with down south, and got tens of private messages of people offering to set me up at their cousins, friend from camp, or mother’s best friend’s sister’s nephew.

I got down to Sderot and boy was I shocked. Expecting to be up all night hearing sirens of incoming rocket attacks, I instead was up all night hearing the IDF stand up for themselves and protect the citizens of the south and Israel at large. Every time the weak walls of this old Sderot apartment shook and I jumped from bed, a little smile came across my face with pride knowing that we are finally saying “enough”. With some international support but definitely lots of it lacking, we are going to do what is good for the people of Israel in the land of Israel.

I met with so many Sderot kids (giving out gummies is always a good in to the heart of a child) who told me that in middle of their day at camp they have gyms filled with kids huddling on the floor because they only have 15 seconds from siren to hit. When I asked them how they view it all, they said that it’s the way they live and an up side is how much support they are getting from different musicians and artists who come to perform for them all the time.

That’s what Jews do. We survive, don’t let anyone knock us down and always remember to see the light side, even in a dark situation.

 

I asked this savta, who moved from Morocco at age 33 to Sderot and never left, if she ever debated leaving. She seemed confused and said “Of course I haven’t considered leaving. This is our home and always will be!”

Bless these kids of Sderot and the south. And bless the IDF who kept me up all night filling me with Jewish and Israeli pride. May we see the day when these kids can go to camp like we had the chance to and these soldiers spend Shabbatot peacefully with friends and family and no need for war.


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My Soul’s Questions: How Do I Know That Hashem Forgives My Sins?

נפשי בשאלתי

Based on Sheelot V’Tshuvot of Rav Yehoshua Shapir, Rosh Yeshivat Hesder Ramat Gan

Adapted from “Karov Elecha” by Rav Mo Kaplan


 

Question:  How do I know that Hashem forgives my sins that I performed? Sometimes I feel that everything that happens to me is because of “That sin”!

Answer: The Baal HaTanya states in Igrot HaTeshuva (Chapter 11) that we have a halachik rule of, “When in doubt in the area of Berachot be lenient” (ie if we are not sure we said a bracha better not repeat it).  We say the Bracha in Shmona Esreh, “Baruch Ata Hashem…. Who is abundant in his Forgiveness” if we truly had a safek that Hashem were to really forgive us, we would apply the principle of “Safek Brachot L’hakel!”  The fact that we say this bracha shows that Hashem is indeed “Vadai” forgives us for our sins.

Who has put this doubt in your head whether Hashem forgives you or not? The Yetzer Hara or the Yetzer HaTov? If these doubts lead you to great Deveikut to Hashem, and increases your Simcha, then it is apparent that it is the Yetzer HaTov.  However, we know in truth that most times, these doubts lead us to feelings of distance from Hashem and sadness, which leads us to more Sins……Apparently these “doubts” are coming from the Yetzer HaRa.

“ותן בנו יצר טוב לעבדיך באמת וביראה”

!ברוך המרבה לסלוח


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A Rabbi’s Dilemma: Wanting to Fight but Needing To Pray-Rav Aryeh Kirshblum

 

kirsh

Rav Aryeh Kirshblum, Rebbe at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah, is pictured here (far right) with his friends in the army (2007)

I am not quite sure how to say what it is that I am thinking at the moment. I am having a sort of… humbling moment. Last week I was notified that my reserve unit was going to be put on high alert and in the next round of reserve call-ups they would be called in. Upon hearing the news I returned to Israel as quickly as possible. Everyone so kindly kept asking me what the situation was. Would I be called in? But I had no answers. The only thing I could tel anyone was that we would have to wait and see if they were actually going to send in troops. If so, then there was a high chance I could be called in. If not, then there would be a low chance that I was called in. 

 
Then the call for the troops to go in was made and once again I was flooded with messages of all kinds asking me what was going to happen. Once again I had no answers. I thought that this was when we would be called in but so far nothing has been said. Each time I hear that more reserves have been called I wonder if it will be me, but so far I have not heard anything.
 
I want to make it clear that I was not hoping for there to be a war and for people to die. However, when faced with where I could be best used, I know that it would be in an army fashion. I want to admit something that might shock people. This is not something that I embarrassed about and is something that I work on constantly. I, RABBI Aryeh Kirshblum, am a better soldier than davener. I fight better than I pray. I have more focus and a greater sense of purpose working in a physical way than in a spiritual way. 
 
Again as I have said before We must fight equally on the spiritual side as we do on the physical side. Neither one is more important than the other and only if we all play our parts can we succeed. But knowing what I just told you, that I fight better than I pray I feel like I am not doing all that I can. I feel as if I am not maximizing my potential. 
 
This is why it has been a strange humbling feeling. To know what I can do yet not get the call to help out. I am forced into an area that is tougher for me. I have been taken out of my comfort zone.
 
At this point I have two options. Hang my head that I have not been chosen to help where I am best or stand up tall and daven/pray better than I ever have before. I may not be the best davener, but I will give it everything that I can to play my part. 
 
There may be a time in the near future that I am called up and will serve where I am more capable, but for now I will join the vast majority of Jews who cannot fight and pray as best as I can.
 
Praying for many is a struggle. Thinking of grand spiritual and godly matters is foreign to us. Praying for people we don’t know can be equally difficult. How can I possibly connect to a war that is thousands of miles a way in land I barely know and people who I have never met? I saw this idea called the Shmira project. The organization pairs up those who can pray with the name of a soldier in the army currently. 
 
I recommend to everyone to join and get a name for themselves. Ask questions about who they are. Look them up online in order to get a sense of what the person looks like and what kind of a person they are. The more you know about someone the more connected to them you can feel.
 
Ask a friend or community member if they have a relative in the army or live in an area that is being bombed. Get their name and ask questions about them so that there is a closer feeling. 
 
If you happen to be like me, someone who has a tough time truly focusing day in and day out on his prayers then let us work together and give a more concerted effort in the areas that we can. The soldiers are going to be pushed to their physical limits to stay out of harms way and protect our people. We need to push ourselves to our spiritual limits so that we can match our soldiers efforts.
 
Shabbat Shalom


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Eishes Chayil-A response to the Ground Invasion of Gaza

Written by Rav Aryeh Kirshblum

About an hour ago Israel decided to launch a ground attack against Hamas in Gaza. This very difficult decision has many thinking on many different terms. In order to protect as many people as possible, for both the Gazan people and Israeli civilians side, a ground attack to find and neutralize hidden areas is a must. At this point it is the safest for all the civilians in mind. However, while this may be a decision to protect as many innocent civilians as possible this also increases the danger for soldiers infinitely. They are no longer behind protective bases and shielded, rather, they will be walking through the very streets of the enemy who has sworn to destroy us. The soldiers involved know the risk that is being taken, but will voluntarily go in order to bring safety to our people. 

 
Classically in Judaism a relationship is broken down into 2 parts,male and female. Classically the man represents progressing forward and conquering while the woman maintains and controls what is already had. The man in many ways represents the physical and the woman the spiritual. Classically men are seen as soldiers, Chayalim in hebrew. Women, though, should not be seen as weak and incapable. EveryFriday night homes are filled with the sweet, loving tune of “Eishet Chayil”, the woman of valor. In hebrew the word “Chayal” (soldier/man) and “Chayil” (valor/woman) have the same root letters. This links them on the most basic and fundamental levels. While they may be expressed differently they come from the same source and have the same impact. Women are the very backbone which inspires men to have such physical courage. Her inner strength is comparable in every way to the his physical strength.   
 
As our “Chayalim” are on the ground, moving forward, in a very physical sense, we must make sure that they all have an “Eshet Chayil”, a person with inner strength and courage to do what can be done in a very spiritual sense. In this case we have some women in the army and some men who are not. At this time this is not a role played by a certain gender. We now have those playing the role of Chayal and those of Eishet Chayil. Every single Jew is on the front lines at this moment, some in a physical way and others in a spiritual. Together we can help fight evil and bring safety to our homeland and to our people.


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Message from a Rebbi in Reserve Duty

Last week I was notified that my unit was put on standby and had a high chance of being called in. For me, it wasn’t even a question. I couldn’t stand idly by in another country while my brothers could be called up. People wondered why I was going back if I didn’t officially know what was going to happen. My reasoning was simple. If you got a call from the hospital that someone you loved was brought in to the E.R. for medical testing, what would you do? Would you say thank you, wait for the results, and if something was terribly wrong rush to the hospital? Or would you immediately rush to the hospital to show support for the one you love regardless of the diagnosis. That is how I felt and how I made my decision. I could not just sit and wait to hear devastating news and be late. I was going right away to show support and be of service if it came down to it.

I find myself in a strange situation where I have returned but can’t actually physically fight until my unit is called in. I have to find another way to help in the meantime. That is why I am attaching the following document with how we all can contribute in our own ways.

I would appreciate it if you read it. If you agree with the message and the content please share it with as many people as you can wherever you may be.

Thank you,

Aryeh Kirshblum

 


 

(The following is Rav Aryeh’s full message)

It is well known that Yom Kippur is considered to be the Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgment. For me

there is a second time of the year that I have this same feeling. It is a day where I have to take a serious

cheshbon hanefesh, accounting of my soul, and how I have been living my life. Yom Hazikaron is that

day. On this day I spend most of my time at Har Herzl and specifically at the grave of Michael Levine. In

order to understand why I have to tell you a bit about myself.

After ten months of being in the army we had a special ceremony and were about to receive our sikat

lochem, the warriors pin. My parents had flown in for the special occasion as had the parents of many

of my fellow soldiers. It was a bright sunny day in June and was out with my parents the day of the

celebration. For the whole week of the celebration we would be off and I was very happy to spend the

time with my parents.

During lunch I received a text from my commander saying that I should make sure that at the

celebration I had my bag with me because there was a chance that our vacation might be cut early

and we would have to return to the base. Nobody was happy to hear this bit of news. Only having my

uniform with me I went with my parents to buy socks and basic toiletries just in case.

The ceremony was great as all the parents were so proud of their children. As boy had his pin properly

placed and got the requisite punch in the chest another wave of cheers filled the crowd of families.

When all the pins had been handed out commander got up and spoke to everyone at the ceremony.

He started by saying that he was very proud of the work that we had put in from day one, the level of

intensity at which we trained and how many great things we were going to do.

At that point he told all the parents that all the hard work and training would finally pay off. Earlier that

day Gilad Shalit had been captured and Israel was now going to war with Lebanon. Our unit was being

called in to go up north and fight in the war.

As you could imagine the tears of joy from the families in the crowd quickly turned to tears of sorrow

and fear. Some parents in the crowd took the news as well as could be expected, since they themselves

had served in the army and had an understanding of what it was their children were about to go

through. Some parents though, mine included, didn’t take the news so well. This was their worst

fear. Their first and oldest child going off to war. We hugged and kissed each other, said goodbye not

knowing if this would be the last time we were ever together.

We all packed on to the bus to go to Lebanon. I remember sitting in the back of the bus wondering what

it would be like to be in war. I had seen many movies and was wondering if my training was enough to

keep me alive and defend my country like I was supposed to. For ten months we had been building to

this moment and while there was no excitement to go to war I knew that this is why I had joined in the

first place. If needed to put my life on the line to protect my country and my people.

Three hours into the ride our commander took the microphone and announced to us a change had been

made and in the end we were not going to be going to fight in the war. We would continue our week

off while the rest of the army was fighting. Many of the guys on our bus jumped for joy and were high

fiving each other. My friend and I looked at each other though and had mixed feelings about this. While

we were relieved to not be thrown into the fray, we wouldn’t even get a chance to serve in any capacity.

We were returning for another few days of vacation. I thought to myself, how could these guys be so

happy? If we aren’t the ones going into battle, someone else will. Others will sacrifice their lives so that

we can move about freely in our own country.

Now what I am about to tell you is not something that I can prove. I have no facts to support me on this.

I believe though that is true and something that carries me through each year.

Michael Levine was killed in action during the fighting in Lebanon. I can’t prove to you that he replaced

me, that his unit was called into battle in place of mine. If I had to pick a person who I would have gotten

along with like brothers, it most likely would have been Michael Levine. From the videos I have seen of

him and his friends whom I have spoken to, we were very similar.

Again I can’t prove what I am about to say, but when I stand at the grave of Michael Levine I think to

myself that he took the bullet that was marked for me. Had I been in Lebanon on the battle field they

would have carried my body out and not his.

So when I stand over the grave of Michael Levine I wonder if G-d made the right choice. Have I lived and

earned my chance to continue living or would it have been better if I was the one in ground? Do I do

enough with the opportunity of life that was given to me? Have I been worth the sacrifice? I believe in

some way that Michael Levine took my place and gave me a chance to live and to do great things in this

world.

This story is not unique to me; each and every one of us has someone who has given his life so that we

can live, so that we can visit Israel, so that we can come for a summer or a year program. The question

we must ask ourselves is how can we repay such a favor? What can we do to make up for the loss of so

many people? Fathers and mothers have been lost, so have children and siblings. Spouses widowed and

children orphaned. What can we do for them? How can we give back to them?

I think that the way that we can give back to all these families is to pick up where their loved ones have

left off. To fill in the role that they so dutifully served. We can never replace them, but we can continue

the work that they had started. We can make sure that their deaths were not in vain.

This means that we must continue the fight that they were thrown into. We must fight the enemy with

everything we have. The enemy is still present and soldiers are working as hard as ever to make sure

that we are safe and have a place to call home.

For some this results in joining the army. Some will be willing to give up everything to make sure that

this battle is won. Some will train and learn how to handle weapons, how to find bombs and gather

intelligence. They will follow in the footsteps of Rabbi Akiva who said that his whole life he wasn’t sure

he would be able to fulfill the words of the Shema, that tell us that we need to serve with our whole

soul, even if it means that our soul/life has to be taken.

But this is not the only way.

Being that we are a nation that is just as involved in the spiritual realm as we are in the physical there

are a number of ways to fight this battle of ours.

The Gemara in Makkot on daf 10a explains the following pasuk. “Omdot hayu ragleichem b’sharayich

yerushalayim” – our legs were able to stand up at the walls of Yerushalayim. This pasuk refers to soldiers

who were fighting for the city of Yerushalayim. How they were able to have the necessary strength to

do so? The gemara asks what was the reason behind the strength of the soldiers. It was the learning of

those who were in Jerusalem. The merit of those learning helped those who were fighting on the front

lines.

In sefer breishit 48:22 Yaacov tells his sons that he took the land of Shechem from the Amori “becharbi

u’vekashti” – with sword and bow. Yaacov is telling his children that he physically fought for his land.

Onkelos on the spot explains the words “becharbi u’vekashti” as ‘b’vu’ati u’btzloti” with my prayer and

supplications.

Good conscious praying is just as effective as a soldier on the front lines. Just as a soldier must be

focused at all times. So too must the person in charge of praying have the focus and intensity in his

davening. If soldiers were idly chatting to one another on the battlefield they wouldn’t be focused on

the task. So too in davening if we are idly chatting how can we expect to fight as hard as necessary?

At the end of the 6th successful in battle was because Dovid Hamelech was learning.

It seems clear that fighting physically must be accompanied with spiritual fighting to be successful on

the battle field. Your prayers and the torah that you learn are no less important than the soldier holding

a rifle in a trench. We might not be able to join the unit of someone who gave their life for us but that

doesn’t mean we can’t join the battle and continue on their legacies of defending the Jewish people.

Some people will pick up a rifle, the modern bow and arrow that Yaacov Avinu spoke about, and some

of us might pick up a siddur, or a chumash, but through each of these tools we are able to continue on

the fight of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for us, to give us another chance at life and a

place to call home.

perek in masechet Sanhedrin we are told that the reason why yoav was able to be

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