Sunday, June 28, 2009

העושה מצוה אחת קונה לו פרקליט אחד העושה עברה אחת קונה לו קטיגור אחד. אבות ד:יא

A WORD is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.
-Emily Dickinson

Most people understand a פרקליט and קטיגור to be a mark in Hashem’s book on our behavior. Though this is true, there is more to it.

Yaakov dreamt of a ladder with מלאכים climbing up and down between שמים and ארץ. These מלאכים are our פרקליטים and קטיגורים going back and forth. What happens when you do a מצוה? As the משנה says, a פרקליט is created. It climbs up the ladder with an empty suitcase. It goes to the equivalent of a shopping center. This mall is unlike any you have ever been to – instead of selling makeup and clothes, this mall sells things like שלום, רפואה, ברכה ,פרנסה - all the things we daven for. The פרקליט goes to this mall and fills up its suitcase with all sorts of goodies. It then climbs down the ladder and opens the suitcase, releasing the contents to the world. Every מצוה we do has a positive effect on the world at large.

On the other hand, what happens when a person does an עברה? An עברה creates a different type of מלאך – a קטיגור. This קטיגור also climbs the ladder, but it heads to a very different place. It slowly makes its way to a huge courtroom. The room is filled with row upon row of other קטיגורs sitting quietly in their seats. Each one looks like the עברה that created it – big, ugly and mean. They are all silent, looking expectantly at the front of the room. Every single one is a בעל מום who cannot speak, so there is total quiet in the courtroom. Suddenly, an ear-splitting noise breaks the silence. A big קטיגור wearing a black leather jacket comes roaring into the room on his giant motorcycle. He rides straight to the front of the courtroom and tells Hashem to look and see all the עברות that His children are doing. Hashem slowly turns and sees the room full of קטיגורs. He takes out His gavel, and the judgment begins.

What קטיגור is it that has the power to speak and make Hashem listen? It is the קטיגור that is created by our mouths – with the terrible חטא of לשון הרע.

This post is culled from various lessons by Reb. Blatt, based on the Chofetz Chaim’s introduction to Sefer Chofetz Chaim

Friday, June 26, 2009

Parshas Korach

This is one of the points to ponder from Parsha Potpourri by Oizer Alpert

Which people who have appeared earlier in the Torah were reincarnated as Korach and his assembly? (Rabbeinu Bechaye 16:29)

Rabbeinu Bechaye notes that the verse states (16:2) ויקמו לפני משה – Korach and his followers stood up before Moshe. It would have been more grammatically correct to say ויקמו על משה – they stood up against Moshe. The word לפני also means “before” and is used to hint that these individuals were gilgulim of earlier generations. Regarding the generation of the dispersion, the Torah records (Bereishis 11:4) that they said הבה נבנה לנו עיר ומגדל וראשו בשמים ונעשה לנו שם – Come, let us build for ourselves a city and a tower which reaches the Heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves. Regarding the inhabitants of Sodom, the Torah writes (Bereishis 19:4) ואנשי העיר אנשי סדום. This literally means, “The men of the city, the men of Sodom,” but it alludes to the fact that the inhabitants of Sodom were reincarnations of the generation of the dispersion who had expressed their interest in building for themselves a city. Parshas Korach begins by stating ויקח קרח, which is translated into Aramaic by Onkelos as ואתפלג, which alludes to the fact that Korach was reincarnated from the דור הפלגה, generation of the dispersion, and for this reason, Korach and his followers are referred to (16:2) as אנשי שם, which was the goal of that generation. This was also the reason that Dasan and Aviram told Moshe (16:14) that even if he blinded them, they would still not go with him to Israel. They specifically mentioned this punishment because as gilgulim of the townspeople of Sodom, they had already once been afflicted with blindness (Bereishis 19:11).

Have a good shabbos everyone!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sleeping on the Job?

I'm really tempted to do this so I can sleep through class*, but it would be sooo bad for shidduchim. Can you imagine going on a date with that haircut?

* not that I sleep through class, or anything. The temptation is still there, though.

One Year Later

A year can bring a lot of changes to a person's life. The seminary year itself is one full of transformations. Unfortunately, as Staying Afloat mentions in her post, it's hard to keep inspiration going, and it's very hard to stay inspired over a long period of time. This past year since sem was over was meant to be the year of crystallizing what I gained in seminary and deciding (consciously or otherwise) what is going to stay with me for life. As a newly returned sem girl, I was idealistic; I was going to be the one to hold onto everything. Sadly, as I'm sure happens to most girls, this past year leeched away so much.

I found out yesterday that a friend of mine from sem who stayed in E"Y as a madricha is going to be in my lit class. Class is starting today, and I'm almost scared to see her. She only knew me at the height of my year, and now she's going to see me again a year later. I'm terrified that she's going to think I'm a different girl than I was. That I lost most of what I gained.

I'm thinking back now to all the kaballos I made last year. How many of them did I keep to? How many did I lose? How many do I not even remember making? Worse, how many do I no longer see the need for? I'm scared to look at myself in the mirror and see the girl I've become -someone who is not the girl I envisioned just one year ago.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

From the Mouths of Babes ...

While I was coming home from work today, I passed A., a kid I used to babysit for. He happens to be very precocious - most kids I babysat for don't remember me, but he does. The conversation went as follows:

A: "MM, why don't you ever babysit for me anymore?"
me: "Most girls my age don't really have the time."
A: "Oh. [pause while he thinks this over] Are you married?"

From his lips to Hashem's ears!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bread of Embarrassment

At some point in a person's life, s/he asks why s/he is here. The answer is different for each individual person, but the reason we, as a world, are here is the same: so Hashem can do good for us. Hashem is the מיטיב. All He wants is to give to us.

If that's the case (and it is, according to the מסילת ישרים, I think), why do we need to come down to this world at all? Why can't our neshomahs go straight to Gan Eden? The answer, according to whichever teacher I heard this from, is that if we would just go straight to Gan Eden, it would be like we were eating נהמא דכיסופא (excuse my spelling), bread of embarrassment. Better we should come down to this world and earn our portions in the world to come than just be given it.

I never fully understood this. Who cares if Hashem just gives it to us? I don't think I would mind if Hashem gave me a present of עולם הבא. This past Thursday I had an experience that helped me understand:

I was giving my friend (L) a ride home after our last finals. We had both just bombed the last test and were very upset about it. L's sister got married tonight. Since she (L) is a very good student who works really, really hard to keep up her GPA, she was determined not to let her grades suffer because of the simcha. After this particular final, she realized that it had. After figuring out her average in the class, she realized that she was at the high end of a B+. Her prof is a very nice man, and he said that he would raise her grade to an A- because she is so studious. While this was very nice of the teacher, L was still upset. When I asked her why, she said it was because she didn't deserve it. Even though she had worked really hard in the class, because she messed up on the final, she felt that she wasn't worthy of getting that A-.

Imagine how much worse she would've felt if she hadn't worked all year, but the teacher still decided to give her an A-! It's the same with עולם הבא. If we would get it as a gift, it wouldn't feel right because we wouldn't have earned it.

Thank you, Hashem, for giving me the opportunity to "pay my way" to עולם הבא.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Finals are OVER!!!!

Finals are officially over, and I only bombed one test! Now that I have more time on my hands, posts will IY"H be more forthcoming. We are now heading into the long summer vacation of Touro College. For all those not in the know, that is less than a week. That's right. My last final was last night, and the summer semester starts on Wednesday. Talk about a long break ... Anyway, that's all for now. Have a great Shabbos everyone.

Monday, June 15, 2009

One more thing

Here's more stuff that I haven't written, but are beautiful anyway. I first heard this as a song in Sternberg. I have no idea who originally wrote the words.

Is anybody happier because you passed their way
Does anyone remember that you spoke to them today
Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said
Does a man whose hopes were failing now with courage look ahead

Did you make the day or lose it, was it well or sorely spent
(alt wording: did you waste the day or use it ...)
Did you leave a trail of kindness or a scar of discontent
And as you close your eyes in slumber do you think Hashem will say
You have earned one more tomorrow by the things you did today

Can you say today in passing as tomorrow slips so fast
That you helped a single brother of the many that you passed
The day is almost over and the toiling time is through
Is there anyone to utter now a kindly word of you

Did you make ...

I'm in the middle of finals

Sorry for not posting as often as I was planning. Keeping up a blog is harder than I thought :-). As the semester is winding down, finals are keeping me very busy, so I haven't had time to write out a nice post.

In lieu of my own words of wisdom(?), I wanted to share something beautiful that I just saw on JACP's blog here. Enjoy those moments!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

פרשת בהעלותך

I wrote this right before I left seminary Israel:

In פרשת בהעלתך פרק ט פסוקים טו-כג the פסוק describes the נסיעות of בני ישראל. When the עננים would lift off the משכן, they knew it was time to leave, and when they would stop, בני ישראל knew it was time to set up their camps. As the פסוק describes it, בני ישראל never knew how long their stop would be. Sometimes it would be for a short time, even just overnight, while at others, they stayed for years.

Imagine you were of that דור- you've been traveling for who knows how long, and then finally, you get the signal to stop. You start setting up camp, doing all the bothersome tasks that come along with it: pitching the tent, unpacking, setting up the furniture, preparing supper (whatever that entailed with the מן) etc. Finally, everything is ready. You eat your שליו and then go to sleep, luxuriating in you non-travel bed. You wake up in the morning, ready to face the day in your new home. Just as you're about to finish gathering the מן for the day, you see that the עננים lifted off the משכן. It's time to leave. You have to go back to your tent, say goodbye to your bed, repack everything onto your donkeys, dismantle the tent, and get on the road again. After this scenario repeated itself a few times, you wouldn't even bother unpacking. You would live out of a suitcase, sleep on a travel bed, and every morning you'd check to see if the עננים had lifted. Even if the camp hadn't moved for a few years, you'd still be checking every morning. Of course, as soon as you'd stayed in one camp long enough to stop checking every morning and unpack, that morning the
would lift and you'd have to repack everything again.

It was a life lived day-by-day. They couldn't plan ahead because they didn't know where they'd be the next day. Yet never do we find that they complained about this aspect of traveling, though about other things, they did. How can this be?

The answer lies in the לשון that the פסוק uses in conjunction with this. "על פי ד יסעו ועל פי ד יחנו" This phrase is repeated a number of times, emphasizing its importance. But what does it tell us? The ספורנו comments that the main part is the על פי ד. They didn't decide where to camp based on their own perception of the place. Rather, every time they stopped, it was על פי ד - by Hashem's command. Even if there was a better camping spot a few yards away, they would only camp where Hashem told them to camp. Additionally, if they were in a perfect place for only a short time, when the __ would let them know it was time to go, they went. They lived each day as it came, full of אמונה and בטחון that Hashem would take care of them.

Each of us came to seminary with dreams of how she wanted it to be. We unpacked, got comfortable, set up our rooms to our liking, enjoyed our thick, American mattresses, and had an amazingly inspiring year. But now it's time to move on. Our personal עננים are lifting off our home for the past year and drifting to places unknown. Much as we plan our lives, how much do we really know of what will be? How can we know where we'll be next year or next month; even where we'll be tomorrow is out of our hands. But we have to remember to live על פי ד. Hashem is guiding our every step, making sure it's the right one. Everything we do has to be על פי ד. Whether getting a job, getting married, furthering our education, or all of the above, everything we do has to be על פי ד and only על פי ד.

As we leave seminary for real life, ארץ ישראל for חוץ לארץ, we have to realize, and truly feel, that Hashem is with us anywhere we are and in everything we do. We're going into our own מדבר, a place lacking the רוחניות potential we've had at our fingertips this year. But Hashem is with us, guiding us as He guided that generation. If we live with אמונה and בטחון as they did, we'll be able to live happy lives, safe in Hashem's hands and בעזרת ד be זוכה for the גאולה.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Milchige Noodle Kugel

I had a wedding in Baltimore earlier this week, and I made a noodle kugel as tzeida l'derech. Since it was on my mind, I decided to share the recipe. Here it is:

8 oz medium noodles
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
6 egg whites + 1 egg (I use 3 eggs + 2 whites)
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 container cottage cheese
8 oz plain yogurt (vanilla, coffee ... whatever [have used less])

Mix all ingredients. Sprinkle top with cinnamon. Bake at 350 covered for an hour, uncovered for 1/2 an hour. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I go to a shiur every shabbos afternoon. My high school chumash teacher learns Sichos Mussar of R' Chaim Shmuelevitz with a group of my friends and me. This shiur is the highlight of my week. This week, the sichah was on bitachon. I'd like to share one (among many) interesting point that was made.

Everyone knows the story from gemorah of the rat and the weasel. One day, a young man tells a young woman that he wants to marry her. She asks who will be the witnesses, he says the well and the weasel will bear witness, and they go their merry way. Time passes and the young man forgets his promise to the girl. He marries another and they have two children. Before either of them could grow to adulthood, one falls into a well and dies, while the other is bitten by a weasel and dies. They who bore witness now bring punishment. The question on this story is as follows: the weasel and the well (I love the alliteration ) don't have the ability to hear and understand, how could they possibly have been eidim? Even more so, how could they actually punish the young man?

When a person believes in something, it gets power. Because the man believed in the strength of the weasel and the well to serve as witnesses, not only did they have the ability to bear witness, they were able to go further and kill his children. But their power came only from his belief in them. (He brings many other examples to support this theory, but then this post would be way too long ;P.)

The same goes for Hakadosh Baruch Hu. When we believe in His ability to help us, kaviyachol we're giving Him the power to help us even more. When we trust in our Tatte ShebaShamayim, we give Him the ability to treat us even more like His children.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lessons from History

I'm taking a class in history this semester, and today we watched a video on America's silence during the war. I always mentally excused America by thinking they either didn't know about what was going on in Europe or there was nothing they could do about it. But according to this video we saw, not only did they know what was going on and not make an effort to do anything about it, 53% of Americans felt that "Jews are different and should be discriminated against!" Even FDR, who most people consider the hero of the war, was not blameless. The people who smuggled out the kinder-transport were able to save another 20,000 children. They wanted to send them to the US the way they had sent to England. Roosevelt didn't know what to do about it, so he "pocket-vetoed" it - he just left it unsigned until the movement died. On the other hand, England, who expelled all Jews some time in the Middle Ages, welcomed these children openheartedly, greeting the boat with cheers and waving. Did you know there were Nazi-support rallies and "no Jews allowed" signs here? I didn't. So much for the land of the free.

Even the American Yidden didn't do as much as they could have. Of course, I don't know what it was like then, and I'm not passing judgement - just stating a fact. There was a rav (I'm not sure how frum he was, but he was definitely Jewish) who stood up on Yom Kippor of 1938, before everything really started happening, and told his congregation that they should drive down to Washington that day and picket the White House to do more. But, he said, he knew they wouldn't because his congregants had spouses and children who had New Deal jobs that had finally been opened to Jews (more rampant antisemitism in the US), so they couldn't "rock the boat" and risk losing those jobs. He got fired an hour after the fast was over.

At the end of class, I sat there in shock with two thoughts chasing each other around my head. First, about how there really is no one in the world to stand up for us but Hashem. We're so comfortable in our lives here that we begin to forget that we're still in Galus - even those of us lucky enough to live in Eretz Yisroel. I once heard that when we forget that we're different from the goyim, the goyim have to remind us. Haskalah ---> Holocaust. Sometimes I look around me and I get very scared. Are we copying them too much? Are they going to remind us again soon? One of my high school teachers used to say (she probably still does, though I'm not there to hear) that we should look around us. The people who survived the Holocaust weren't the people her age (40s, 50s). No - the ones to survive were our age, the Bais Yaakov girls and Yeshiva bachurim. I remember that it scared me so much to ask myself if I would have the strength to do what they did. Hopefully I'll never be tested in that way. But I digress.

The second thought was about the American Jewry. As I said before, it's not for me to judge them in any way. When I think of them, the phrase "אל תעמד על דם רעך" comes to mind. Interestingly enough, there was a bone marrow drive today in Touro. I went and registered right after this class, with that Pasuk ringing in my ears. All we had to do was swipe our cheeks with what were essentially four q-tips, and we could possibly save a life. The truth is that if you are a match, you're faced with a hard decision. The surgery is very hard to go through, but, as I was thinking as I did, it's a person's life. I might be holding the key to someone else's life. If Hashem would place me as the shaliach to save someone, how can I let go of that opportunity? How can I let it pass me by?

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Burden, part II

In my last post, I mentioned that I dealt with this in HS. This is what I wrote after that whole episode.

There’s a burden on my shoulders
That no one else can feel
There’s a burden on my shoulders
Intangible, yet so real

The burden is so heavy
It’s a yoke I cannot bear
The burden is so heavy
I’d drop it if I dared

The burden tries to beat me
But I won’t let it win
The burden tries to beat me
But I’ll fight it to el fin*

The burden tries to get me down
I can’t let it succeed
The burden tries to get me down
It cannot make me bleed

The burden battles to the death
Be it its or mine
The burden battles to the death
Yet walks the finest line

The burden has followed me
Through the life I’ve known
The burden has followed me
It won’t leave me alone

The burden will not go away
For life it’s here with me
The burden will not go away
So I’ll just let it be

*Yes, I know the Spanish is a little out of place, but may I remind you that I wrote this in 11th grade right before I took the Spanish regents
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