Monthly Archives: December 2006

Quote: Some Words of Mussar From Rocky

 Like most people I know, I was brought up watching the Rocky movies. Although I will not be watching the new Rocky Balboa film, I was curious to see what the plot would be about. I checked out the plot summary on Wikipedia and came across some interesting dialogue from the movie which I thought I would share. Robert (Rocky’s son) is trying to convince Rocky not to participate in the upcoming fight. Rocky responds with the following:

"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean, and nasty place an’ no matter how tough you think you are, it’ll always beat you if you let it. It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! If you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits and not pointin’ fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that, and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!"

Kind of reminds you of Proverbs (24:16)For a righteous man can fall seven times and rise, but the wicked shall stumble upon evil:)

Video documentary of Rav Kook

While searching on the Merkaz HaRav English website under their Video section, I came across this video documentary of Rav Kook. Click here to view it. 

Respect And Dignity For Those We Differ With 2

The following is an excerpt from a letter by R’ Samson R. Hirsch to R’ Zvi Hirsch Kalischer.The letter was written in 1864 and appears in Shemesh Marpeh, p.211. It outlines to me once again that the true Gedolim, even when they disagreed with one another, did so with the utmost respect and dignity. {Letter duplicated from here}

My wisdom is too small to recognize what good or true [things] your lofty opinion holds will result from your efforts regarding the settlement of Eretz Yisrael. What, to your heart, appears to be a mitzvah and a great obligation, to my weak mind does not appear so. In my humble opinion, since I have no business with secrets [such as when mashiach will come], there is no good [way] except to follow the well-worn path of our fathers and predecessors, their souls are in Eden. They taught us only to concern ourselves with using all our strength to put ourselves on the road of Torah, to remove stumbling blocks from our path, and to anticipate the redemption daily if we will hearken to His voice. They never placed [the responsibility] on our shoulders to pave a way for the redemption by strengthening and fixing the Holy Land, but rather by strengthening and fixing our hearts and our deeds.

My vision is too short to see the dawn of the redemption in the fact that some [Jewish] families are close to royalty [a reference to British Prime Minister Disraeli and French Senator and Justice Minister Cremiuex]. Virtually all of them, except the one and unique lord who lives here [i.e., Baron Willy Rothschild], are far from the ways of the Torah and mitzvot, and they are counted among the new ones who have thrown off the yoke of religion . . . Moreover, what can I do? Everyone who has come from there [i.e., Eretz Yisrael] and all my confidants assure me that it is impossible for any real good to come out of this because of the difficult times and the awful state of the country. Also, my worry cannot rest lest we see another stumbling block on the Holy Land through transgression of the Shabbat and of the agricultural laws that relate to the Land . . . If I am mistaken, may the good G-d forgive. [Nevertheless,] I have never spoken a word of this in public and I do not say, "Accept my opinion." It was never my intention to cast aspersions on your honor and those who follow you and whose lofty opinions agree with yours. However, man only knows what he sees. As long as our intentions are good and our goal is to do the mitzvot of our Creator as we see it, one will act and one will refrain, one will be rewarded for acting and one for holding back, and the good G-d will forgive the one who errs and causes others to err. With these words I have fulfilled my obligation.

Video of R’Yossele Rosenblatt

R’ Yossele Rosenblatt is rightfully known as the "King of Cantors". Here is a rare video I found online of a beautiful rendition of Hallel. (Hat tip to Circus Tent)


Rav Kooks Educational Philosophy Part 3:

Chardal has posted an interesting letter from Rav Kook outlining a curriculum of texts and ideas that he felt needed to be incorporated into the educational framework. See the letter here.

Rav Kook as a young man as Rabbi of Zoimel (Date of Picture probably 1888+, Rav Kook would be in his mid 20’s based on this timeline)

Thoughts On Love From Rav Kook – Part 1

One of my favourite seforim by Rav Kook is "The Moral Principles" (In Hebrew: Midot Harayah). It is published in english by Ben Zion Bokser in "Abraham Isaac Kook: The Lights of Pentience, Lights of Holiness, The Moral Principles, Essays, Letters, and Poems" as part of "The Classics of Western Spirituality" series.

Below is a the first excerpt from the chapter entitled “Love” from this sefer (Pg 135). More will be coming, so stay tuned.

1) The heart must be filled with love for all

2) The lovel of all creation comes first, then comes the lovel for all mankind, and the follows the love for the Jewish people, in which all other loves are included, sinice it is the destiny of the Jews to serve toward the perfection of all things. All these loves are to be expressed in practical action, by pursuing the welfare of those we are bidden to love, and to seek their advancement. But the highest of all loves is the love of G-d, which is love in its fullest maturing. This love is not intended for an derivative ends; when it fills the human heart, this itself spells man’s greatest happiness.

3) One cannot but love G-d, and this sweet and necessary love must engender as a practical consequence an active love for everything in which we perceive the light of G-d. One cannot but love the Torah and the commandments, which are so intimately linked to the goodness of G-d. One cannot but love equity and righteousness, the bening order that engenders good for all, which is firmly linked to the reality of existence, and in which the heart envisions excellence, that, becaue of its majesty and beauty, we designate as the will of G-d. The divine will is manifest in it, but it is greater than all this, and distinct from all this, and it nourishes the soul of every living being which delight beyond anything to which thought could reach. And it is impossible not to be filled with love for every creature, for the flow of light of G-d shines in everything, and everything discloses the pleasantness of the Lord. “The mercy of the Lord fills the earth” (Ps 33:5)

A beautiful picture

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (R’Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn) ZT"L playing chess with the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT"L on Nittelnacht

Working for a living 5

"Facing Current Challenges" by R’Yehuda Levi is an absolutely fantastic sefer which I recommend that everyone buy and read. His breadth and depth of knowledge in all aspects of Torah is simply phenomenal. The topics covered range from Jewish Nationalism to Ecology to Chinuch. One can read a book review by R’YGB here.

There is a whole series of essays on the topic of working for a living. Below are some extracts that I think highlight some pertinent themes and ideas that require thought and analysis:

Essay 29: Torah and Livelihood (pg 205)

Two hundred years ago the author of Sefer Heberith [1] expressed himself in the strongest terms concerning the common misinterpretation of R.Nehorai statement:

Fathers do this [i.e., teach their sons nothing but Torah] for the sake of Heaven, relying on the words of R. Nehoria, "I set aside every trade in the world and teach my son only Torah.[2]" They do not understand that this practice originates in the yetzer hara’ [the evil inclination], whose way is to clothe things that are not good in the garb of piety. The yetzer will dress up any crime with love and fear of God and make it appear to be for the sake of Heaven. They do not realize that this is not R. Nehorai’s opinion at all, as the Maharsha[3] has written.

In the same chapter of Sefer Heberith the author exaplins that “the cornerstone and foundation” of Divine service is “to have a craft by which to earn a living through ones own efforts, and not to need the support of other people”. He goes on to say:

I am distressed by the arrogant practice which has taken hold these days, according to which most of our people refuse to teach their sons a trade, arrogantly and haughtily claiming that trades are a disgrace to us… I am even angrier at Torah scholars who refuse to teach their sons a trade, only Torah, on the assumption that their sons will be rabbis and judges, for not many become so wise in Torah as to [be competent to] render decisions for the Jewish people. Instead they remain lacking in both [Torah and a trade]. There is no doubt that anyone who transgresses the words of our Sages in this matter and does not teach his son a trade will have to account for it before the Heavenly court and will surely be punished

The author of Sedey Chemed thought so highly of these remarks that he copied the entire chapter into his book [4]

[1] Update: Sefer HaBrit – Rabbi Pinchas Eliyahu of Vilna: First printed in 1797. A compendium of the scientific knowledge of the time (astronomy, geography, physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) together with a presentation of the kabbalistic worldview {Thanks to Shy Guy for that information} 

[2] Mishna Kiddushin 4:14

[3] Maharsha on Kiddushin 82A: “R.Nehorai.. certainly does not dissent, for everyone must learn a trade; rather, his words may be interpreted thus: “I put aside teaching a trade as a fixed occupation, and I teach Torah by a fixed schedule and a trade when I find the time”

[4] Sedey Chemed, Kelalim, Alef #230, Peiath Sadeh, ibid. #160

Respect And Dignity For Those We Differ With

My previous post was link to a brilliant shiur by R’ Mayer Schiller. While browsing the internet I came across another post that highlights the same point. It is by R’Eliyahu W. Ferrell of "Einei HaEdah" and is entitled "Ailu V’Ailu". It is evidence that Gedolim of opposite camps truly held each other in the highest esteem despite the great differences between them. There are many misconceptions regarding the attitude of Gedolim to their peers in Torah, hopefully this will help in setting the record straight. It is not right that the memory of great men should be tarnished because of the erroneous slander that so unfortunately permeates our midst .The quotes below should serve as an example to all of us, teaching us how to trully respect and honour others even if we disagree. Below is repost of that entry:

Rav Avrohom Yitzchok HaKohen Kook, Zatzal: The Perspective of the Chofetz Chaim, Zatzal
Rav Aharon HaKohen, the son-in-law of the Chofetz Chaim, wrote the following in 1928:
My father-in-law very much esteemed and loved [“HaMokir U’Mechaveiv M’od”] Rav Kook, and his soul was very pained [“Da’avah M’od”] when he heard about those who sought to persecute him [“Odos HaRedifos Alav”].
From Igros LaRAYaH, #30

Rav Hershel Schachter: The Perspectives of HaGaon Rav David Lifshitz, Zatzal, and HaGaon Rav Pinchas Hirschprung, Zatzal
HaGaon Rav David Lifshitz, Zatzal, and HaGaon Rav Pinchas Hirschsprung, Zatzal, wrote approbations ["haskamos"] for one or more of Rav Hershel Schachter’s works. Here are translated excerpts:

Rav Lifshitz [haskama to Eretz HaTzvi]
"My friend, the consummate Torah-scholar [‘Yedidi, HaRav HaGaon’], Rabbi Hershel Schachter, may he live a long and good life [‘Shlita’], informed me of the good news [‘Hishmee’ani Tovos B’Baseiro’]" that he is publishing a work of Torah-scholarship. "As for me, how dear is HaRav HaGaon Shlita, for I know him from when he was a youth as a distinguished student in in our yeshiva [and] and he showed with great clarity that he was destined for greatness [‘Her’ah B’Alil She-No’ad L’Gadlus’], as we understood the case to be [that he would achieve Gadlus], so have we seen…" Rav Lifshitz explains that he did not have time to examine the work in its entirety, but nonetheless, he states, "We can presume that his words will generate joy and wisdom, illuminating the eyes and refreshing the spirit…"

Rav Hirschprung [haskama to B’Ikvei HaTzon]
"Rabbi Hershel Schachter, the distinguished consummate Torah-scholar [‘HaGaon HaMuvhak’] sent me his work for an approbation…I was amazed [‘Hishtomamti’] at the largesse of the breadth of his knowledge in all aspects of Torah-scholarship and at his many well-predicated novellae."

The Bostoner Rebbe, Shlita, on Reb David Hatuel and his Kehillah
"There are people like David Hatuel who live the life of a tzaddik–‘Ve’tzaddik be’emunaso yichyeh.’ We must not disregard any group (or individual) because they do not understand the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael the same way we do. We certainly must not disrespect any group that contains such an outstanding Jew as David Hatuel just because their dress, while conforming to the halachas of tznius, is different from ours. The main factor must be the emunah shleimah."

"We must understand that what they are doing is not done for any financial profit or out of the ‘kochi ve’otsem yodi’ of the founding Zionists, which was not based on any shred of emunah. We must understand our neighbors, their motivations and their goals. When we are told not to judge our friend until we reach his position, it means until we really understand his fundamental outlook and what drives him, and not merely what we think of him."

from "Immeasurable Faith Amidst Unspeakable Tragedy," by the Bostoner Rebbe, Shlita, in Jewish Press, May 2004

The Rav, Zatzal: The Perspectives of Rav Moshe, Zatzal, and HaGaon Rav Mordechai Gifter, Zatzal
In 1983, the Student Organization of Yeshiva University published a volume of Torah works to honor the Rav, Zatzal, on his 80th birthday. It was entitled, K’vod HaRav. The volume contained works by Torah-scholars from within and without Yeshiva University. Among these works was a teshuvah (responsum) from Rav Moshe, Zatzal, and a chibbur (article) from HaGaon Rav Mordechai Gifter, Zatzal. The following is a translation of what Rav Moshe and Rav Gifter wrote as prefaces to their respective pieces:

Rav Moshe:
“I am writing now (‘Basi B’Zeh‘) to send my blessing to the editors of the Jubilee volume that the students of the great consummate Torah-scholar, our teacher, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, may he live a long and good life (‘HaGaon HaGadol Moreinu HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik Shlita‘), arranged in his honor, to mark his 80th birthday. And [I also write] to express my prayer that G-d lengthen the days and years of my great friend, with a good ‘old age, vigorous and fresh they shall be,’ and that he should continue to disseminate Torah publicly and to occupy himself with the needs of the community, for the sake of the honor of G-d and His Torah, and for the splendor (‘Tif’eres’) of our families. With friendship and esteem (’Hukra‘), Moshe Feinstein.”

Rav Gifter:
“Upon the reaching of the age of 80 by the Rosh Yeshiva, HaGaon Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, Shlita, I remember his arrival in the United States and his father’s joy–my mentor, HaGaon Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, Zatzal–with a wise son that brings joy to his father…Upon his reaching the age of 80, may G-d strengthen him so that he can continue to disseminate Torah and to develop students who understand the Torah…”

The Rav, Zatzal, and HaGaon Rav Aharon Kotler, Zatzal
These passages are from "A Fire In His Soul," which is the biography of the great Oskan B’Tzorchei Tzibbur, Reb Irving Bunim, Z"L, written by his son, Rav Amos, Shlita. Rav Bunim sheds a great a deal of light on the relationship between HaGaonim Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, Zichronom L’Veracha.
["Bunim" here always refers to Reb Irving and "the Rosh Yeshiva" here always refers to Rav Kotler.]

"Bunim saw that the Rosh Yeshiva always distinguished between people and the principles they professed. Bunim never saw him attack another Jew, except for those who negated the Torah. A person’s opinion might be at fault, Rabbi Kotler said, but never the person. Rabbi Kotler could disagree vehemently with a fellow gadol’s opinion while respecting him for his Torah knowledge and middos."

"[Rav Kotler] differed with Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchick’s approval of secular education and secular Zionism. Still, Rabbi Kotler invited Rabbi Soloveitchik to be honorary chairman of Chinuch Atzmai’s first annual dinner. During his speech, Rabbi Soloveitchik spoke in strong support of Chinuch Atzmai (a bold move since his own Mizrachi party supported the mamlachti dati day schools) and praised Rabbi Kotler as the gadol ha-dor. Rabbi Kotler began tugging at Rabbi Soloveitchik’s sleeve and, with tears running down his face begged him to stop, saying, ‘No, no, dos is nisht emes [that is not true]!’"

[Rav Soloveitchik describing Rav Kotler in his aforementioned speech]
"Something in him speaks, as I would imagine Reb Yoshe Ber Brisker once spoke. Something in him speaks as I would imagine the Chasam Sofer once spoke: indignation, wonderment, anguish and an invoking of one’s responsibility. And [ ] I mean not only the erudition of a gadol m’gedolei ha-dor because to be a gadol–scholarship alone is insufficient. The qualities of a gadol, besides Torah, are warmth, exuberance, tolerance, wonderment: "and warm yourself in the light of talmidei chachamim"–to benefit from their light is not enough. Cold light is worthless; there must be searing light so that one burns himself in its proximity. Reb Aharon, the great Rosh Yeshiva, has no cold light in him; it is hot; it kindles. And as you approach him, you, in turn, become enkindled…I would like to request that the entire audience rise and pay homage."

HaGaon Rav Avrohom Yitzchok HaKohen Kook, Zatzal: The Perspective of the Chazon Ish, Zatzal
“R. Yitzchak Gerstenkorn, the founder of B’nei Brak, told this story: In 5694 (1934), the Rav [i.e., Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook] was invited to the groundbreaking ceremony of the Beit Yosef (Novardok) Yeshiva in B’nei Brak…At the ceremony, which the Chazon Ish also attended, Rav Kook spoke at length…Throughout the Rav’s address, the large crowd sat quietly in their seats–everyone but the Chazon Ish. He remained standing throughout the speech, listening attentively to every word. He only sat down when the Rav finished speaking and took his own seat."

"R. Tzvi Kagan, who was present at the event, added this revealing piece of information: When the Rav’s address began to draw out, people approached the Chazon Ish and suggested that he sit down. The revered rabbi refused, however, saying, ‘The Torah is standing!’”

from An Angel Among Men, by Simcha Raz, p.375; translated by Rav Moshe D. Lichtman

It’s worth noting that, in his review of this work, Rav Berel Wein stated, "There is so much about Rav Kook that is misunderstood and misportrayed in the Jewish world, that a book that portrays him accurately is invaluable and necessary. This is such a book."

In a letter from the Chazon Ish to Rav Kook that is seen on p. 374 of this work, we see that the Chazon Ish opened by saying, “HaRav HaRoshi HaGaon Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, Hod K’vod Maran Shlita.” (“The Chief Rabbi, the consummate Torah-scholar, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, the glory of the honor of our Master, may he live a long and good life.”)

HaGaon Rav Avrohom Yitzchok HaKohen Kook, Zatzal: The Perspective of HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Zatzal
“Rav Shlomo Zalman, in his earlier years, enjoyed a warm relationship with Rav Avraham Yitzchak [HaKohen] Kook, the first [Ashkenazi] Chief Rabbi of Israel. He would visit with him, observe his actions, and learn from him. Their relationship was so close, in fact, that Rav Kook officiated at Reb Shlomo Zalman’s wedding… Reb Shlomo Zalman’s respect for Rav Kook was evident from the numerous stories he would tell which highlighted the brilliant and charismatic attributes of the Chief Rabbi… Reb Shlomo Zalman never ceased to speak of him with the very highest admiration.”

“Reb Shlomo Zalman’s classic work Me’orei Esh contains approbations from Rav Abba Yaakov Borochov, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, and Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. The approbation which appears first is that of Rav Kook.”

“Considering Reb Shlomo Zalman’s aversion to matters of a political nature, it was startlingly unusual when he intervened in the internal affairs of a particular organization. Needless to say, the Gaon’s advice was always sought and welcomed, but in the area of organization politics, no one had ever succeeded in eliciting his response in the past. The issue at hand was whether to accept a certain candidate for a key position in this Torah organization. Reb Shlomo Zalman had recommended not to accept the nominee. His unprecedented intervention was triggered by the fact that the candidate in question always referred to Rav Kook as simply ‘Kook.’”

“Once the Gaon was riding in a taxi with one of the rabbanim from Kol Torah. His companion began to relate that he had found the explanation of a complex subject under examination at the yeshiva, in a particular book. But when he mentioned the name of the sefer, Reb Shlomo Zalman stopped him and refused to hear the explanation, saying that the book contained denigrating remarks about Rav Kook.”

from “And From Jerusalem, His Word,” by Rav Hanoch Teller, pp.196-198

To be listened to by all!

This is the most fantastic, well thought out and articulate presentation on the issue of Jewish Unity – Achdus I have ever heard. It has to be listened to by everyone, spread the word. Find the link here.