Thursday, October 17, 2013

Parsha Vayeira, stories, news

Please add David Zvi ben Sara Leah to your prayer list.

Parsha Vayeira

We left off last week with Avram becoming circumcised and becoming Avraham. A fierce Hamsin (50 days of heat temperature inversion with winds from the east or southeast) is outside and the Shechina is talking to Avraham to comfort him. Suddenly from a far three Arab-looking idol worshippers appear. Avraham breaks off with the Shechina in order to make a Kiddush HASHEM. 

Most of Chapter 18 and 22:20 onwards I took simple explanations to keep the Parsha Story consistent.

A few words should be mentioned about Angels. After Yacov leaves Lavan and comes to the area between the Golan and the Galil he meets Angels and he sends them as messengers to Esav according to the Medrash. An Angel is essentially a messenger from HASHEM with a mission. Each Angel is given one mission. Example heal Avraham, save Lot and family and Destroy Sodom and Amorah. An Angel contrary to other religions cannot rebel against HASHEM neither to the right or the left and some are permanent and some positive or negative are created by the Mitzvos or anti-Mitzvos of humans.

18:1 And the LORD appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood over against him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed down to the earth, 3 and said: 'My lord, if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant.

A morsel? Not quite for immediately afterwards he tells Sara to make cakes out of farina and he takes the best butter and other has a milk meal before the meat meal to follow so that the travelers will not be hungry. At this point he then orders the slaughter of three young calves for their tongues for the guests. Would Avraham waste the rest of the calf like the Americans who slaughtered the Bison for their tongues? No, he would give meat to his followers, friends and the poor.

4 Let now a little water be fetched, and wash your feet, and recline yourselves under the tree. 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and stay ye your heart; after that ye shall pass on; forasmuch as ye are come to your servant.' And they said: 'So do, as thou hast said.' 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said: 'Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes.' 7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto the servant; and he hastened to dress it. 8 And he took curd, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

Do Angels eat? No, but the milk or meat inside burned up like a burnt offering before HASHEM.

9 And they said unto him: 'Where is Sarah thy wife?' And he said: 'Behold, in the tent.' 10 And He said: 'I will certainly return unto thee when the season cometh round; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.' And Sarah heard in the tent door, which was behind him.-- 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, and well stricken in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.-- 12 And Sarah laughed within herself, saying: 'After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'

Watch the narrative as the Angels only mention to that Sara laughed that she was old but not the part that Avraham was old and all this for Shalom Beis. The healing that the Angels did after the Bris was the equivalent of making Avraham young in his reproductive parts as like in his youth. Sara too received her period again. 

13 And the LORD said unto Abraham: 'Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying: Shall I of a surety bear a child, who am old? 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD. At the set time I will return unto thee, when the season cometh round, and Sarah shall have a son.'

For a man or even with medical doctors, even today, this feat of Avraham and Sara giving birth would be unheard of.

15 Then Sarah denied, saying: 'I laughed not'; for she was afraid. And He said: 'Nay; but thou didst laugh.'

This is the general rule for the Neshama. In this world one could be the bravest of men and fearless and stand up to our errors but when Sara is confronted by the Angels it is likened to standing in front of Beis Din Shel Maalah and there is trembling and fear. She is also afraid of Avraham and wants to deny what she did but it cannot be undone. That is why people should be careful in this world and in the next because here it is easy to succumb to the Yetzer but in the next we cannot repair it. While in this world we can do Teshuva.

16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked out toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.

In two sections of the Chumash we learn that one should accompany his guests 4 Amos at least to see that their path is safe. From here and the passage in Devarim 21:4 The elders of that city should bring the calf down to a rock-hard valley, which was never tilled or sown, and there in the valley, they should break the [back of the] calf's neck. We are told that the elders must come because they did not provide proper protection or accompanied the deceased.

17 And the LORD said: 'Shall I hide from Abraham that which I am doing;

Avraham is told that for his sake and merit Lot will be saved one of them but the wicked city will be destroyed. Unlike Noach who just did robotically what HASHEM to him, Avraham pleads with G-D to save the city. This is the precedence that Moshe will have in pleading for the nation at the time of the golden calf.

18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him.' 20 And the LORD said: 'Verily, the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and, verily, their sin is exceeding grievous. 21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me; and if not, I will know.' 22 And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.

Avraham, who is proactive for advocating THE ALL MIGHTY, now becomes the advocate for mankind with the incident in Sodom.

23 And Abraham drew near, and said: 'Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?

Avraham believes in just G-D especially if we view the theory that he was Hammurabi. He wants to see fairness executed both in this world and the next. Unfortunately today without a Sanhedrin and true judges there is next to no justice in this world.   

24 Peradventure there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou indeed sweep away and not forgive the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? 25 That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, that so the righteous should be as the wicked; that be far from Thee; shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly?' 26 And the LORD said: 'If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will forgive all the place for their sake.' 27 And Abraham answered and said: 'Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD, who am but dust and ashes. 28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous; wilt Thou destroy all the city for lack of five?' And He said: 'I will not destroy it, if I find there forty and five.' 29 And he spoke unto Him yet again, and said: 'Peradventure there shall be forty found there.' And He said: 'I will not do it for the forty's sake.' 30 And he said: 'Oh, let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak. Peradventure there shall thirty be found there.' And He said: 'I will not do it, if I find thirty there.' 31 And he said: 'Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD. Peradventure there shall be twenty found there.' And He said: 'I will not destroy it for the twenty's sake.' 32 And he said: 'Oh, let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once. Peradventure ten shall be found there.' And He said: 'I will not destroy it for the ten's sake.' 33 And the LORD went His way, as soon as He had left off speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned unto his place.

The environment is very important both for one’s own lifestyle and educating one’s children. Hillel in Perkei Avos 2:5 A boor cannot be sin-fearing, an ignoramus cannot be pious in chapter 2:10 [Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai said to them: Go and see which is the best trait for a person to acquire. Said Rabbi Eliezer: A good eye. Said Rabbi Joshua: A good friend. Said Rabbi Yossei: A good neighbor. Said Rabbi Shimon: To see what is born [out of ones actions]. Said Rabbi Elazar: A good heart. Said He to them: I prefer the words of Elazar the son of Arach to yours, for his words include all of-yours.                                                                                                                                                                                  He said to them: Go and see which is the worst trait, the one that a person should most distance himself from. Said Rabbi Eliezer: An evil eye. Said Rabbi Joshua: An evil friend. Said Rabbi Yossei: An evil neighbor. Said Rabbi Shimon: To borrow and not to repay; for one who borrows from man is as one who borrows from the Almighty, as is stated, ``The wicked man borrows and does not repay; but the righteous one is benevolent and gives'' (Psalms 37:21). Said Rabbi Elazar: An evil heart. Said He to them: I prefer the word of Elazar the son of Arach to yours, for his words include all of yours.                                                                                                                                                                         In 3:12 Rabbi Akiva would say: Jesting and frivolity accustom a person to promiscuity. Tradition is a safety fence to Torah, tithing a safety fence to wealth, vows a safety fence for abstinence; a safety fence for wisdom is silence. In 6:9 Said Rabbi Yossei the son of Kisma: Once, I was traveling and I encountered a man. He greeted me and I returned his greetings. Said he to me: "Rabbi, where are you from?" Said I to him: "From a great city of sages and scholars, am I." Said he to me: "Rabbi, would you like to dwell with us in our place? I will give you a million dinars of gold, precious stones and pearls." Said I to him: "If you were to give me all the silver, gold, precious stones and pearls in the world, I would not dwell anywhere but in a place of Torah. Indeed, so is written in the book of psalms by David the king of Israel: `I prefer the Torah of Your mouth over thousands in gold and silver' (Psalms 118:72). Furthermore, when a person passes from this world neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls accompany him, only Torah and good deeds, as is stated (Proverbs 6:22): `When you go it will direct you, when you lie down it will watch over you, and when you awaken it shall be your speech.' `When you go it will direct you'---in this world; `when you lie down it will watch over you'---in the grave; `and when you awaken it shall be our speech'---in the World To Come. Also it says (Chaggai 2:8): `Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold, so says the L-rd of Hosts.' "
Our Sages valued a good G-D fearing environment over anything else. I left Ashdod because of a boorish environment and moved into a good neighborhood in Petach Tikva but even that spiritually deteriorated for there were loud parties on Friday Night aka Shabbos in our area. It ruined the atmosphere and then came the war on the opening of the Cinema on Shabbos. I moved to Ramat Modiin a religious settlement and it was a world of difference all around and once we existed then Kiriat Sefer and the rest of Modiin Illit had an atmosphere to move into.

Lot could have “rocked his soul in the bosom of Avraham” but instead like the nightclub wild fun-loving life of Sodom. Permanent spiritual peace was thrown out for the whim of the moment. It can be compared to two people that most of us know. Mike Tyson, the boxer, who made millions and threw most of his money away on parties and a wild lifestyle to the frugalness of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor, who made much less but invested his money in a restaurant chain and other places he is worth if not a Billion close to it. Lot went from the height of spirituality to the depths both physically and spiritually of Sodom. 

 His neighbors influenced him and his children and ruined him and them spiritually. The main reason that he was saved was not to hurt the righteous Avraham who raised him or his father who died on a Kiddush HASHEM. In fact from this Kiddush HASHEM would come via Ruth the Moshiach.

19:1 And the two angels came to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom; and Lot saw them, and rose up to meet them; and he fell down on his face to the earth; 2 and he said: 'Behold now, my lords, turn aside, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your way.' And they said: 'Nay; but we will abide in the broad place all night.' 3 And he urged them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. 4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both young and old, all the people from every quarter. 5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him: 'Where are the men that came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.' 6 And Lot went out unto them to the door, and shut the door after him. 7 And he said: 'I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters that have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes; only unto these men do nothing; forasmuch as they are come under the shadow of my roof.' 9 And they said: 'Stand back.' And they said: 'This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs play the judge; now will we deal worse with thee, than with them.' And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and drew near to break the door. 10 But the men put forth their hand, and brought Lot into the house to them, and the door they shut. 11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great; so that they wearied themselves to find the door. 12 And the men said unto Lot: 'Hast thou here any besides? son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whomsoever thou hast in the city; bring them out of the place; 13 for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxed great before the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.'

Proper Education or the lack thereof: Each of us set our goals as adults for our own education whether continuing or for a hobby. We can learn to be a tourist guide, learn word or power point or a new language just for fun. However, when it comes to our future generation, our children, we have to think prior to marriage and during our marriage what we want for them. Sometimes a special needs child is born whether a genius or with problems and we have to vary our goals for our children accordingly. What do we want an only Torah way, an only science or trade way, a combination of everything, etc.? However, we have to take a deeper look into things. What was once an easy choice changes in the course of years as school systems change their teaching methods and curriculum.

Today, the public schools have become a breeding ground in many cases for drugs, teen-pregnancy, alcohol abuse, etc. There truly is nothing new under the sun as Koheles states. Lot’s daughters had the influence of the basic education of Avraham Avinu but the diversion to Egypt and the life in Sodom with their peers left a devastating influence on them. One must be careful the elementary school can be good and the intermediate school excellent but one has to watch out for the high school and then college for our children. The married daughters and their husbands ignore the message of the angels and the unmarried daughters ignore the laws of Noach and turn their drunken father into fathering children for them all because of bad education and peer pressure that ruined their moralistic beginning education.     

14 And Lot went out, and spoke unto his sons-in-law, who married his daughters, and said: 'Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy the city.' But he seemed unto his sons-in-law as one that jested. 15 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying: 'Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters that are here; lest thou be swept away in the iniquity of the city.' 16 But he lingered; and the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him. And they brought him forth, and set him without the city. 17 And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said: 'Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the Plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be swept away.' 18 And Lot said unto them: 'Oh, not so, my lord; 19 behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shown unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest the evil overtake me, and I die. 20 Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one; oh, let me escape thither--is it not a little one?--and my soul shall live.'

The Hebrew word Na is used which in Gematria is 51 and it was one year younger than Sodom and therefore less sins for Sodom started after the split of the nations which was when Avraham was 48 and now he was close to 100 or 52 years later. When it comes to sinning 51 years is better than 52 years of sinning.

21 And he said unto him: 'See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow the city of which thou hast spoken. 22 Hasten thou, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither.'--Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.-- 23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot came unto Zoar. 24 Then the LORD caused to rain upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25 and He overthrow those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. 26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. 27 And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD. 28 And he looked out toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the Plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the land went up as the smoke of a furnace. 29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the Plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt. 30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar; and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.

Now the two daughters that were virgins start their own mess and hanky-panky but little do they know it is to make Moshiach above their intentions.

31 And the first-born said unto the younger: 'Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth. 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.' 33 And they made their father drink wine that night. And the first-born went in, and lay with her father; and he knew not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the first-born said unto the younger: 'Behold, I lay yesternight with my father. Let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.' 35 And they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose, and lay with him; and he knew not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. 37 And the first-born bore a son, and called his name Moab--the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. 38 And the younger, she also bore a son, and called his name Ben-ammi--the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.

20:1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the land of the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife: 'She is my sister.' And Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him: 'Behold, thou shalt die, because of the woman whom thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife.' 4 Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said: 'LORD, wilt Thou slay even a righteous nation?

Rabbi Shlomo Mimran Shlita pointed this out to me from the Rashi that Avimelech does not see his own faults or the flaws of his people and therefore talks as Rashi mentions. I am innocent do you intend to kill me the way you destroyed the population in the flood or generation of dispersion.

And Abimelech had not come near to her: The angel stopped him, as it is said: “ I did not let you touch her.” - [from Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer , ch. 26] will You kill even a righteous nation: Even if he is righteous, will You kill him? Is that Your way, to destroy the nations for nought? You did so to the Generation of the Flood and to the Generation of the Dispersion. I too will say that You destroyed them for no reason, just as You threaten (lit. say) to kill me. — [from Gen. Rabbah 52:2]

5 Said he not himself unto me: She is my sister? and she, even she herself said: He is my brother. In the simplicity of my heart and the innocence of my hands have I done this.' … 18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Avimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.                                                                                                                                                                                           21:1 And the LORD remembered Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as He had spoken. 2 And Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 And Abraham was a hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. 6 And Sarah said: 'God hath made laughter for me; every one that hears will laugh on account of me.'  

The laugh is for the name Yitzchak but in our context means to be joyful and laughing with her for joy.

… 34 And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines many days.

The last trial of Avraham the Sacrifice of Yitzchak which on a rare occasion our Pasha matches the Arab Feast of Eid which celebrates this Sacrifice.

22;1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him: 'Abraham'; and he said: 'Here am I.' 2 And He said: 'Take now your son, your only son, whom thou love, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. … 17 that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast hearkened to My voice.' 19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-sheba.
20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying: 'Behold, Milcah, she also hath borne children unto thy brother Nahor: … 23 And Bethuel begot Rebekah;

The whole genealogy and mentioning of names is only because of Rivka.

Undercover Tzaddik thanks to Ever B.

The hidden deeds of the man we thought we knew.
We, the members of his community in the Old City of Jerusalem, thought we knew Gershon Burd. The men at the yeshiva where he worked full time and learned Torah full time thought they knew Gershon. Batya, his wife of ten years and the mother of his five children, thought she knew Gershon.
Only after Gershon drowned in the Mediterranean on his 40th birthday, October 4, did the truth, or tantalizing glimpses of the truth, start to emerge.
On the second day of the shiva, a woman Batya knew appeared in the Burd home. As Batya recounts: “She looked at me with this look and said, ‘I’m going to tell you something you don’t know. No one in the world knows this except me and your husband.’” The woman paused, as if reluctant to divulge her secret. “For nine years, I was the front for your husband’s tzedaka [charity] fund.”
Batya was dumbfounded, “What tzedaka fund?”
The woman continued: “Your husband came to me with money every month and a list of names. I would call the people and they would come to me to pick up the money. They never knew who it came from.”
And then there were the helium balloons. Everyone in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City knew that a certain stationery store gives a free helium balloon to every child on his or her birthday. Since most of the children here come from large, low-income families, a helium balloon is a real glee-producer. On Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah, every child receives two free helium balloons. The Burd children were among those who relished this delightful prize.
Everyone assumed that the balloons were gifts from the proprietor of the store. Paying a Shiva call, the proprietor revealed to Batya that Gershon had been paying for the helium balloons. At the end of every month, he would slip into the store and surreptitiously pay for that month’s balloons.

100 Questions

Greg Burd was born in Odessa in 1973. Three years later his parents immigrated to Chicago. Proud but non-observant Jews, they were not equipped to give their only son and two daughters a Jewish education. Greg went to public school, played on his high school football team, became a lifeguard, and got a B.A. in business from the University of Indiana.
Greg was 25 years old and working in his father’s insurance agency when his mother invited him to come with her to a Torah class at Rabbi Daniel Deutsch’s Chicago Torah Network. Greg loved the class, and made an appointment to speak to Rabbi Deutsch privately. He brought with him a list of one hundred questions.
Three months later, telling his parents, “I’m in preschool; I don’t know anything about Judaism,” Greg flew to Israel to learn Torah at Ohr Sameach Yeshiva. He returned to Chicago ten months later, but not for long. “I’m in kindergarten,” he told his parents. “I have to learn more.” He returned to Jerusalem. Every year his refrain was, “I’m in first grade. I have to learn more.” “I’m in second grade. I have to learn more.”
At the age of 30, Greg (now Gershon) married Batya Fefer, 28. She, too, came from a Russian family. Raised in Toronto, Batya was a lawyer working for Toronto’s top corporate tax firm when she decided that there had to be more to life. Her spiritual search took her to Nepal, where she climbed Mt. Annapurna, to India, where she met the Dalai Lama, and to a dozen other countries.
Back in Toronto, a friend told her about a free Birthright trip that would take her to Israel. Batya decided that that was a good way to get halfway back to India. Once in Israel, however, she started learning about Judaism at EYAHT, Aish HaTorah’s women’s division. She became observant, and in 2003 married Gershon Burd. They settled in the Old City.

Elaborate Ruses

Everyone considered Gershon a nice guy. One of his study partners recalled how Gershon would purposely choose a seat in the yeshiva across from the entrance so he could smile at people as they walked in. He was affable and gentle. In ten years of marriage, Batya heard her husband raise his voice only once—when he felt that someone was trying to rip off the yeshiva. But Gershon’s nice-guy persona was a mere front for his carefully hidden true identity.
Three years ago, Gershon approached Rabbi Nissim Tagger, the head of Yeshivas Bircas HaTorah, where Gershon was both learning and working as administrator. Gershon asked Rabbi Tagger to accept as a student a young man named David, whom Gershon intuited had tremendous potential. Rabbi Tagger had seen David, with his long, curled peyot and hippie-ish dress. “He doesn’t fit in at all with our Yeshivah,” Rabbi Tagger refused.
“He looks like that, but it’s not who he really is,” Gershon begged.
“Will he pay tuition?” Rabbi Tagger queried.
“No,” Gershon answered simply. “He has no money.”
“I have no scholarships available,” replied Rabbi Tagger.
The next day, Gershon returned to Rabbi Tagger and said, “David’s parents decided to pay for most of his tuition, and he’ll do odd jobs to pay for the rest.”
With misgivings, Rabbi Tagger decided to give David a two-week trial period.
Three years later, David is an accomplished Torah scholar at the yeshiva. Only after Gershon’s death did Rabbi Tagger find out that David’s parents had not paid a penny. It was Gershon who paid David’s tuition. “He lied to me straight to my face,” Rabbi Tagger says, holding back his tears.
The wife of one of the students of the yeshiva had not seen her parents back in America for several years. When she received news that her mother was ill, she wanted to fly back, but she didn’t have enough money for airfare. Hearing about it, Gershon told the woman about a credit card company that was offering a fantastic deal. If she signed up for the credit card and paid just $50, she would receive enough miles to get a free round-trip ticket. Gershon even showed her the promotion on his laptop, and offered to sign her up, explaining that he too would get miles for referring her.
The woman happily gave Gershon the information to sign her up, got her ticket, and flew to America to be with her mother. She never knew that Gershon had made up the whole promotion, even devising the graphic of the ad. Gershon himself paid for her ticket.
Once Gershon decided that a struggling family in the community really needed to take their children for a fun day at “Kef-Tzuba,” an attraction with giant blow-up trampolines, castles, etc. The family lacked the funds for such an outing, so Gershon got them a free coupon. They never knew that Gershon had paid for their admission and fabricated the professional-looking coupon.
Telling this tale, Batya laughs. “Gershon was a shyster. I only know what I know because I caught him on some things.”
When Gershon became aware of couples who were experiencing marital friction, he would surreptitiously pay for therapy sessions for them, with neither the couple nor the therapist aware of who was paying.
Nine years ago, Gershon got an idea. He created “Western Wall Prayers,” and put Batya in charge of it. This is a service where people all over the world can pay to have someone go to the Kotel and pray for them for 40 consecutive days. Not only have hundreds of people had their prayers answered through this age-old custom, but also the money raised supports many families of Torah scholars in the Old City.
At the Shiva, the Rosh Yeshiva disclosed that Gershon once came to him and asked if it was permissible according to Jewish law to give the “prayer agents” fake names to pray for. It was a low period for Western Wall Prayers, and Gershon was worried that the people supported could not afford to lose their regular checks. In order to maintain their dignity, he wanted to continue the funding from his own pocket by giving out fictitious names for which to pray.
Why did Gershon go to such lengths to hide his charitable acts? “He really believed,” explains Batya, “that if the giver gets something from his chessed [act of loving-kindness], it diminishes the chessed. So if someone knows what you did, it means you got something from it, recognition or whatever. The mitzvah is much more powerful if you get nothing … except in the Next World.”

The Real Mystery

The mystery, of course, is where did the money come from? The Burds were not well-to-do. They didn’t even own a car. They had no inherited wealth and Gershon’s salary as yeshiva administrator was sufficient to cover only the family’s living expenses. Sitting across from Batya at the Shiva, I ask her, “Where did Gershon get the money?”
“I have no idea!” she exclaims. “I really don’t know. For years we had a crack in the sink that we couldn’t afford to repair. I have no idea where he got the money to do all this chessed that we’re hearing about now. No idea.”
Daniel Rostenne, Gershon’s best friend and study partner, solves this mystery. “Gershon spent next to nothing on himself,” he explains. “He bought his shoes used on EBay. Used shoes! He bought his suits used on EBay. He would brag to me, ‘Look at this suit. I got it for $10, plus $10 shipping!’ He got his laptop, a used MacBook Air that sells new for $1200, for just a few hundred dollars. He simply didn’t spend money on his personal needs.”
Gershon scrimped on his own needs, so he could be generous in satisfying the needs of others.
His final deal was an overnight getaway at Tel Aviv’s Sheraton Hotel for just him and Batya to celebrate his 40th birthday, paid for with credit card points. Gershon’s favorite recreation was swimming in the ocean. He and Batya deposited their things in their hotel room and went to the beach. Taking one look at the muddy water, Batya opted to sit on the shore. Gershon, an expert swimmer and trained lifeguard, plunged into the waves. Minutes later, a rock or large piece of debris struck him in the back of the neck. Knocked unconscious, he was under water for 15 minutes before Batya, desperately scanning the sea with her eyes, saw her husband’s body float up toward the beach.
A few hours before the funeral, Batya said to one of the yeshiva students: ‘There’s a plan, and what was supposed to happen, happened. Gershon is smiling now in his world. It’ll be hard for me and the children. But Gershon is shining.”
Gershon’s red carpet to the Next World is lined with helium balloons, fake coupons, fictional credit card promotions, an anonymous charity fund, undercover tuition payments, surreptitiously sponsored marriage counseling sessions, and how many other hidden acts of chessed that we will never know.
Hiddenness is a sacred value in Judaism. In fact, according to Jewish lore, the world is sustained in every generation by the merit of 36 hidden tzaddikim. Could a Russian-born former football player from Chicago be one of them?
To donate to the fund for Batya and her children, click here:


Shalom on the Range: In search of the American Crypto-Jew Part 2

Eternal rest in the Santa Clara campo santo is restricted to the descendants of the families of the Atrisco Land Grant, an 82,000-square-acre expanse of mesquite-scented dust bowl, ceded in 1692 to the conquistador Don Fernando Durán y Chavez as reward for his suppression of an Indian uprising. The cemetery sits on a narrow pie wedge of desert scrubland, with perhaps 200 souls resident, in graves obscured by tangles of bunchgrass and windblown trash. A chain-link fence encircles the cemetery on three sides, along with a single cinder-block wall decorated with gangland graffiti and a crudely beautiful mural depicting the Virgin Mary with angel’s wings. Behind the fence lurks a decaying subdivision, which in its advanced decrepitude seems ready to collapse onto the cemetery.
Perry Peña, Daniel Yocum’s college roommate, had brought me to Santa Clara. Perry was a slightly built Hispanic man in his early forties, dressed in black slacks and a white button-down shirt. He was also wearing a Jewish religious undergarment called a tallit katan, with the tzitzit, the tassels that edge the cloth, knotted and tucked into his trousers. Perry said this was a Sephardic custom; Ashkenazim wear their tassels outside their pants.
“Let’s see if I can’t find a little example for you,” Perry said.
We walked through the cramped rows of gravestones, past memorials that were little more than a dirt mound, a wooden cross, and a hand-painted icon depicting a New Mexican patron saint.
“Okay, here’s one.”
Perry pointed to a flat cement slab with a red cross painted on it. No name, no dates. A series of shallow cylinders had been drilled into the cement and filled with pebbles. I noticed that at least half of the graves in Santa Clara were similarly marked.
“Who do you think did this?” I asked.
“You mean the cross?” Perry asked, motioning to the grave.
“Yeah, I guess,” I said. “But also that there’s a place to put stones.”
“That’s just a family custom. They don’t even think about it. It’s just automatic. They built it in for it, as you can see.”
Many people in New Mexico had no idea that such “family customs” were Judaic practices. Perry himself had never heard the term Crypto-Jew until he was in college. The university paper ran an article about a research project that was exploring hidden Judaism among New Mexico’s original settler families. There had been rumors in Perry’s family too, so he volunteered for the project and was given a list of questions. Did anyone in his family light candles on Friday night? His grandmother, Elvira, did. Did they attend church on Saturday instead of Sunday? His grandparents did that. Were there Jewish given names in the family? Abrana, Adonais, Ezekiel, Isaac, Eva, Eliasim, Moises. Perry’s recent ancestors, many of them sheep and cattle herders, used to slit the throats of their animals, drain the blood, remove the sciatic nerve, and salt the meat. They never touched pork, rabbit, or shellfish. No one ever used the word “kosher,” of course, and in fact, la dieta, as it is known, was never discussed directly. Perry’s grandfather, for instance, explained his aversion to swine by saying that he once “saw a pig eating a snake and that after that he could no longer look at pork.”
Some of the practices documented in New Mexico were either so altered or so obscure that I had no idea they were Jewish. Members of my family buried their dead within a day of passing, and we mourned for a year. But we certainly didn’t cover the mirrors in the homes of the deceased. Nor did new mothers refrain from sex for forty days, an observance known here as Quarentena. And married couples aligning their bed on a north-south axis? That was so bizarre I had a rabbi friend of mine look it up: “Whosoever places his bed north and south will have male children, as it says: And whose belly Thou fillest with Thy treasure, who have sons in plenty. . . . His wife also will not miscarry” (Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth 5b). I knew that Orthodox Jewish women changed the bed sheets and “personal” linens on Fridays before the Sabbath. But sweeping dust into the middle of a room? Burning fingernail trimmings and hair clippings (again, to avoid miscarriages)? Religious holidays likewise were observed in transformed fashion. Was the holiday known as Transito really Passover, with Queen Isabella as Pharaoh, the Rio Grande as the Red Sea, and hard-baked tortillas as matzos? Were those huts built for Jacales really for Succoth? Las Fiestas de Los Reis, when candles were lit every night for eight nights, was recognizable as Hannukah, but the Festival of Saint Esther? Could that really be Purim?
I was reminded that when the Holy Office arrived in a new town or city during the Inquisition, it would first gather the citizenry for the reading of the Edict of Grace, a document that described, in detail, what Jewish heresy might actually look like. Those who had committed or witnessed such acts were required to confess within a short period of time, in exchange for a lighter penance (hence the “grace”). More stubborn heretics were to be “relaxed,” a euphemism for being remanded to secular officials for torture or burning at the stake.
The Edict was intended to root out the covertly Jewish among the conversos, and, to an extent, it did. But the descriptions of Jewish practice included in the Edict also served another purpose: for those cut off from rabbinical instruction for generations, it became a rudimentary religious manual, without which many Jewish traditions, and even Crypto-Judaism itself, might have died out entirely. The same might be said for the scholarly study in which Perry had participated.
We continued wandering the cemetery, circling back through the rows of graves, and stopped at a memorial for a baby who had just died. Perry mentioned that the child was distantly related to Daniel. He dropped to his knees to retrieve a stone for the grave, his shoulders slumping almost prayerfully as he did so, and I perversely half expected him to make the sign of the cross.
Perry then pointed to the ground, where a few Easter eggs lay hidden in the weeds, leftovers, presumably, from the previous week’s holiday.
“Hunting for Easter eggs in a cemetery,” Perry said with a snorting laugh. “That’s a little creepy to me. I don’t know what anyone else thinks.”

A concern of mine is that the coming generation in the States has a sense of entitlement and sissy like qualities. This might be good for a special needs child but in produces mediocre results. It reminds me of the socialist way in my company. My boss could advance to level 9 engineer and his boss level 9 engineer. Only top management got a slightly larger salary. Coming from the US one had a reason to advance. Group leader base salary plus A, Dept. Head base salary plus A + B and Head of a few Depts. Base salary plus 3 times (A+B) above them administrator and then vice president, senior vice president and president. One had incentive to work harder. I worked because I loved my work I never tried to “Brown-up” the bosses but only do what I could to help the other engineers and technicians with my advice. I might not have advanced because of my lack of Hebrew and other things such a Yarmulke on my head and a beard but that was OK for me. I would not shave or take off my Yarmulke even if I could have been general manager or CEO.  

Rabbi Mizrachi brought down this story recently it is from the Talmud or Medrash: A man and his father were traveling on the road.
The father was riding a donkey and the son was walking besides him. They came upon a person who saw them and told the father: - You are cruel. You ride on the donkey and you make your son walk. What kind of father are you?
The father then got off the donkey and put his son on the donkey in his place. They walk a little further and came across someone else who attacked them:
- What kind of son are you raising? How can you let your child ride there like he is a prince while he makes you walk along on such a hot day? What kind of education are you giving him to do that? He then took his son off the donkey and they both walked alongside the donkey. They met a third person who attacked them:- What a bunch of fools you are! Why doesn't someone ride the donkey? You are both stupid.
They both got on the donkey and went a little further until a fourth man saw them and said:
- How cruel you are both of you riding this little donkey. Don't you have any concern for the welfare of animals?
They both got off the donkey and they both carried the donkey.
They meet another person who shouted: You fools!!!
What is the point of the story?
Whatever you do people are not going to be happy and if you try to 'react' to what everybody 'says' and make everybody happy than you will wind up as two people carrying on a donkey.  You can never please all the people EVER.The moral of the story is that one cannot be politically correct unless he wants to carry a donkey around.

From Oliver: To be Joyful Despite Bad Conditions
Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov once travelled with Rabbi Yisrael Pikover (the son of the Berditchever Rebbe) in order to redeem a captive. They arrived at a certain inn to sleep and were given a room that had cracks in the roof and from which pieces of the roof were falling down. Pouring rain was also coming in through the roof onto the bed were Rabbi Yisrael Pikover was sleeping, and Rabbi Yisrael was very troubled because he was not used to such miserable conditions.

Rabbi Moshe Leib, on the other hand, made all sorts of calculations for himself in order to be able to remain joyful and happy. For example, he said to himself: If he had a pain on his right side he would have to sleep on his left side; if he also had a pain on his left side he would then have to sleep on his back; and if he also had a back pain, he could not even sleep on his back! And so on with other such imagined calculations. So, since he actually did not have any of these various pains, he could rejoice and be happy! And he became so happy that he jumped out of bed, grabbed Rabbi Yisrael out of bed, and they began to dance. (Yehi Or, p.225, #469)

Convicted of crimes that could not have taken place because he was in place X and she was in place Y:,7340,L-4440400,00.html

Encouraging Jewish Women from Arab Countries:,7340,L-4438632,00.html

These and those are the words of Satan/Angel of Death = So you think it only happens with the Congress and Senate well guess again. My poor Chavrutha Rabbi Shlomo Mimran Shlita in his job as Rabbinical Judge called two opposing sides in Shass together to try to make peace in Kiriat Sefer. One was a local moving ahead full gas in neutral and the other was like Hillary Clinton from Arkansas to New York a carpetbagger. Similar to Hillary, the main Shass party with Arieh Deri is backing him. He sat them down for three hours to try to have them work together. However, it was impossible. At the end the poor neutral Rabbi was accused by both sides and each threatening him and our Kollel. Since neither was a Tzaddik my poor friend went with the majority of Sephardic Rabbis in the city for one candidate. He learned his lesson: Tehillim146:3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. 4 His breath goes forth, he returns to his dust; in that very day his thoughts perish. And in Perkei Avos it warns against getting too close to politicians for they use you only for their own gain and when you need them they are not there.

Inyanay Diyoma

Allen West posted this article asking about the 9 or 10% of the Copts in Egypt that were pogromed by the Muslim Brotherhood:

Baruch Dayan Emmet another Jewish Victim of Terrorists. You talk peace and this is what you get.,7340,L-4439342,00.html 5 suspects arrested: 

F-35 to replace the older F-16 Aircraft in the future.

Dry Bones of the Jerusalem Post had a cartoon this past Shabbos on Obama’s Policy on Syria and Iran has now made Israel and Saudi Allies.’s-show-of-muscle-comes-too-late-to-deter-a-nuclear-Tehran

There is still a war on terror but it is now very small.

Last week in NY when Yair Lapid said the States is Safer than Israel I almost fell off my chair and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because he was serious. Well in the Jerusalem Post Martin Sherman captures the Pearls of Wisdom from this Genius that make a certain 57 State Man look like a Dr. of History. This amounts to MUST READING. No serious person alive is better at skewering impostors than Martin Sherman!

The US Jewish Publications reported that this led to a kindergarten.

Russian/American deal in the works on Iran and me thinks that the USA are naïve diplomats:

Israeli Smart Helmet goes into the F-35:,7340,L-4439983,00.html

Can we trust an administration that repeatedly has abandoned its allies?

From Chaim O. Statin drugs unnecessary in Hebrew and some English.

Infiltration and possible terrorism on the rise:

Rules of engagement turning us into sissies with a yellow streak down our backs:,7340,L-4441229,00.html

Aren’t they the group in the States who allowed for a Bishop who left his wife for a man?
Rabbi, Do not just read this! THIS IS A CALL TO ACTION! The UK Methodist Church has strayed so far from the ethics of its founding fathers. With the active support of the devious BDS Movement, the adoption of the notorious Kairos Document, and the call to boycott Israel, the UK Methodist leadership have discarded the Old Testament and turned its back on the teachings of John and Charles Wesley. Please read this;
If you are appalled at the Methodist Church leadership call to boycott Israel do not just sit there - go to the link and completetheir questionnaire with your comments on why a church boycott of Israel is wrong, discriminatory, and fails to bring peace.
Please go to the link now and make your voice heard.    Barry S

From Asher: Knee scrapers now try to get up for the restroom and do not think of using a laptop for there is no space.

The Mossad in Iran damaged by Turkey:,7340,L-4441918,00.html

Now For M. Wolfberg’s Good Shabbos Story “No mistake”

  Good Shabbos Everyone.  The Torah tells us that Avram heeded Hashem's call to leave his birthplace.  The Torah states "ve-es ha-nefesh asher asu be-haran" (12:5) - and [they took] all their wealth that they had amassed in Charan."  One of the alternative translations of this verse is that Avram and Sarai brought people closer to Hashem.  The verse then reads  "and [they took] all the souls that they had made in Charan."   Which teaches us that when we bring someone closer to Torah and mitzvahs, we are credited as if we had created them.  The following true story will inspire us to act in the ways of Avrohom and Sorah. 
         Some twenty years ago in New York, a certain Mr. Fogel (fictitious name) - a middle-aged Chassid - was listening to a Torah tape of the Lubavitcher Rebbe while driving home late one evening from work. He had heard this one particular one tens of times but for some reason he liked it. But suddenly one sentence really struck him. It was as though the Rebbe was speaking to him directly:   "As is known, the Baal Shem Tov said that a soul can come into this world for seventy, eighty years just to do a favor for someone, especially a fellow Jew."
         Suddenly Mr. Fogel became lost in thought. 'Could it be that I could live my entire life and never fulfill my purpose! Could such a thing really happen? After all who knows the secret ways of G-d if not the Baal Shem Tov?' He became serious. His eyes even began to fill with tears and he began to pray. 'Please, Hashem, guide me to do what I'm supposed to do, I don't want to miss my purpose!' Deep in thought he began to imagine the hundreds (today there are thousands) of Chassidim all over the world going 'out of their ways' to wake up Jews spiritually. Nothing is more important. nothing!
         When he came out of his reverie he realized that he was in a strange place and it took him a few seconds to figure out what happened. He had passed his turn-off, gotten off the expressway several stops too late and now was in a different district of Brooklyn.
         He was looking for a place to make a U-turn when something caught his eye. To his right, at the side of the road was an older man standing before the open hood of a stalled car.
         The street was unusually empty so Mr. Fogel slowed down, opened his right side window and had a better look. The fellow looked up at him and signaled. It didn't look suspicious so he pulled over and asked what was wrong.
         "Ahh! What rotten luck! I can't figure it out." The fellow yelled out. "The thing just died on me! Now I'm really stuck!! A tow truck stopped about ten minutes ago but they wanted six hundred dollars to tow me home! Six hundred! And I only live fifteen minutes away!"
         Mr. Fogel pulled his car even closer and the fellow continued. "And I'm stalled in a no parking zone. Look at this! Even if I caught a taxi. if I leave the car here . they'll tow it away." "Fogel pointed to a spot about fifty yards ahead and said.  "Just don't worry. G-d will help. Here, look over there! About a hundred feet away is a place you can park. See! I'll push you. Get in your car and I'll push you. Then you can take a taxi home."
         "Thanks!" he yelled back as he walked to open the door to his car. "But I've been waiting here for a long time and not one taxi has passed. look! The road is deserted. But I guess you're right. Worrying doesn't help."
         Mr. Fogel was totally convinced that this fellow was telling the truth. So after pushing him to the parking place and the fellow locked his car up, he offered to take him home. After all it was only a fifteen minute ride. The old fellow couldn't stop thanking him. He got into Fogel's car and kept talking.
         "Wow! Thanks a million! I really appreciate this!! Now all we have to do, my wife and I that is, is order a cab."
         He looked at his watch, "Whew! It's really late! I hope we don't miss our plane. We're flying to Florida to visit our daughter and the plane is leaving in an hour."
         "Listen" said Mr. Fogel "It's no problem. You know what. I'll take you to the airport, after all it's only a half hour drive and my wife won't worry. Just don't ask questions. As soon as we get to your house get your wife and suitcases and let's go! You have no time to waste."
         The old fellow tried weakly to protest but realized that this Chassid was right, so in no time he and his wife were in the car and before they knew it were at the airport. "I can't thank you enough" said the old man as he pulled his suitcase from the trunk.
         "Listen, you got to let me pay you! Here, do me a favor.. take a hundred dollars." He pulled a bill from his wallet. "Nu! It's the least I can do. Just take it! But Fogel would have no part of it.
         "Sorry, my friend! First of all thank G-d I don't need the money. Second, it was a favor so I don't want the money. And third it was no big deal; the whole thing took less than an hour and I enjoyed it, so I don't even deserve the money." But the old man insisted, even took another hundred out and kept pushing it at Fogel saying "Just take it. Nu! Don't argue. Just take it."
         Until finally Mr. Fogel said. "Excuse me but you're Jewish, right?" the fellow shook his head yes. "So, listen, if you really want to repay me then, you know what? Put on Tefillin. Do you put on Tefillin? Do it every morning for a month."
         The man shook his head no. In fact it was exactly what he did not want to hear. Tefillin?! No way!! I'm not doing no mitzvos! No MITVOS! Not me!"
          "Alright, so then don't put on Tefillin." Fogel replied. "You were the one that wanted to pay. As far as I'm concerned you don't owe me anything but if you want to pay, this is what I want. Nu? What do you say? Just buy yourself a pair of Tefillin and put them on when you can. Okay?"
         The old fellow looked at Fogel with foggy eyes for a second, shook his head reluctantly and said . "All right. I'll do it!" Then he half-heartedly shook Fogel's hand, looked at his watch and ran to get a luggage cart.
         As soon as her husband was far enough away, his wife approached Fogel with tears in her eyes, dabbed them with a small kerchief and said. "Thank you! G-d just sent you!"
         She spoke in a low voice, keeping an eye on her husband to make sure he was involved with the cart but, although she tried to hide it, she was obviously very emotional, her eyes were red from crying.
         "You don't know what you just did. It was a miracle! We are holocaust survivors. We met after the war, got married, moved here to New York and agreed that we wouldn't do anything Jewish. Nothing. We were mad at G-d, you know."
         She started crying again. "But as we got older I began to yearn for the things from my mother's house.. you know, like lighting candles before Shabbos. But each time I mentioned it my husband said 'NO MITZVOS!! Our children got married, we are alone in the house but he still says 'No Mitzvos'!!'
         "So, yesterday I felt so bad  that .. I did something I haven't done since the war.. I prayed. "I begged G-d to send some miracle to change my husband's mind. And now you came .. You are a miracle!! "I'm sure that this Shabbos we will have Candles."   Good Shabbos Everyone
M. Wolfberg is sponsored by: In Memory of CHAYA CHAVA BAS REB MOSHE YAKOV In memory of R' Yaakov ben Naftoly, of blessed memory In Memory of Reb Yitzchok ben Reb Shimon (Friedman) of blessed memory Refuah Shleima to Reb Mordechai Mendel ben Tziporah Yitta Refuah Shleima to Leah bas Tziporah

A healthy, happy and wonderful Shabbos and may we all be well,
Rachamim Pauli