Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Getting It Right

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

We are now into the second week of the month of Elul, the time reserved for reviewing our actions over the past year in preparation of the yemei hadin. We should not only examine what we did wrong and seek to improve our conduct, but also recognize what we did right and realize that we are essentially good people, capable of acting correctly. Concentrating only on what we did wrong can be depressing and lead us to think that we are incapable of conducting ourselves properly.
A cheshbon hanefesh should leave a person feeling empowered to get things right. Although we have sinned, we need not view ourselves as losers. We are given the opportunity to ameliorate our actions and correct the accumulated wrongs. We have the intelligence and strength to grow and persevere. Hashem helps those who seek to improve themselves but find it difficult. Lest someone feel that the task is too difficult, Chazal (Medrash, Shir Hashirim Rabbah 5:2) provide positive reinforcement. They say that Hashem proclaims to us, “Pischu li pesach kechudo shel machat va’ani eftach lochem pesach kepischo shel ulam. Show some effort, show that you care, and I will help with the rest.”

No one should underestimate their worth by thinking that they are ill equipped to follow all the mitzvos and act with proper middos in a world in which it seems that people are competing against each other for everything, from money to social status. There are so many temptations and problems. It is difficult to earn the money we need to make ends meet. People can’t seem to catch up and keep their heads above water. Everywhere you turn, there are higher bills, higher taxes, and higher rents, mortgages and tuitions. Who can blame you for feeling inadequate when you can’t keep up with the neighbors and your children feel as if they are lacking?
Everyone needs to be reminded not to judge themselves by comparing themselves to others. Don’t live based on what other people think. Don’t live to make superficial impressions on your friends. Get your priorities together and concentrate on what is really important. Don’t waste your time on fleeting pleasures, and don’t waste your money on things that are not really important.

Elul causes you to reflect and identify what is significant and central to you and your family. Keeping your family strong and satisfied is of prime importance. Improving yourself, learning Torah, observing halacha and being a mentch are important.
Finding time for what is crucial is possible even in our world, where it feels as if there is never enough time in the day to accomplish what must be done.

Concentrate on the meaningful things. When your focus is on the personal growth and wellbeing of yourself and your family, and that remains paramount in all your decisions, you will be successful and rewarded with a healthily functioning family and a healthy you.
Adjusting what takes precedence in your life is part of the Elul process and helpful as we seek to prepare ourselves for the Yom Hadin.

Elul should empower us to find avenues of chizuk and not be afraid to admit that we have made mistakes. As we go through the process, we become stronger. We improve and grow during these special days. We set goals and achieve them. We show ourselves to be good people looking to live good lives, and Hashem helps us attain what we seek. 
Rav Elimelech Biderman quotes anonymously a rov from a previous generation to explain a Gemara in Maseches Tomid (32a). Alexander Mokdon asked the chachomim what a person who wants to live should engage in. They responded, “Yomis es atzmo,” that he should kill himself. Rashi explains that to live, “yashpil es atzmo,” a person should subjugate his ego.

The old rov remarked that a person who wants to live should “kill” his wild ambitions and desires that bring him down and cause him to be sad. If a person is driven to achieve a certain prestigious position that remains out of his reach, and he is frustrated and depressed over it, he should kill that urge. If a person is jealous of someone and becomes consumed by that jealousy, he will live longer and better if he kills that enviousness. If he is driven to be unrealistically wealthy, or to be respected by others, and it’s not happening, he should kill those motivations and accept himself the way he is and stop comparing himself to other people. 
People ruin their lives chasing false dreams, seeking public recognition and accolades. They spend money they don’t have and occupy their time with ideas that lead them to depression and sadness.

Elul is the time to get our lives back, breaking free from the shackles that keep us from happiness and accomplishment.
Yashpil es atmzo.” Practice humility and your life will be greatly enhanced.
This message is alluded to in the opening posuk of this week’s parsha: “Ki seitzei lamilchomah al oyvecha - When you go to war against your enemy.” While the Torah is discussing rules pertaining to declaring war on Klal Yisroel’s enemies, it also hints to what we are to be engaging in during the period when the parsha is read.

We have no greater enemy than the yeitzer hora. He causes us to act in ways that are detrimental to our wellbeing and life. He causes us to become arrogant and consumed by bad middos, which ruin our personality and drive people and success away from us.

During Elul, we do battle with the yeitzer hora. We rediscover ourselves, finding out who we are and who we really want to be. There are many layers and levels of thoughts and actions that contribute to who we are. During Elul, we peel apart those layers, inspecting and rectifying them until we return to our core of goodness and kindness. 
Ki seitzei lamilchomah al oyvecha unesano Hashem Elokecha beyodecha.” The posuk guarantees us that if we set out to battle the yeitzer hora, Hashem will help us beat him. 
He who wants to live and he who wants a good life looks forward to Elul. Although teshuvah is welcome a whole year, during this month of rachamim we are given extra assistance as we recharge ourselves. It was during this month that Moshe went up to Heaven to plead for the Bnei Yisroel after they sinned with the Eigel. Ever since then, Elul has been the month of personal and communal teshuvah.
The word teshuvah literally means to return. People who engage in teshuvah return to their inner peace and goodness. It may be difficult to get the ball rolling and look at yourself and your wants and desires seriously, but once you get started, the rest flows and the results are exhilarating and liberating. 
There was a Lelover chossid in der heim who was struck with a terrible lung disease. The doctor had no relief to offer him, so he sent him to a place with a higher elevation and crisp air, hoping that it would help the sick man. When he arrived at the European spa site, he was turned back, as the directors feared that his illness would spread and they wished to take no chances with him. 
The poor man passed by Lelov on his return home to ask Rav Dovid Lelover for a brocha. The rebbe wanted to comfort the man and searched his kitchen for a delicacy. All he found was old salty cheese and some wine. He set the wine and cheese in front of the visitor and invited him to make a brocha. The man refused, saying that the doctor warned him against salty foods and forbade him from drinking anything alcoholic. The rebbe insisted. “I am now engaging in the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim,” he said, “and you are my partner in this. Shomer mitzvah lo yeida dovor ra. You won’t be harmed.”
The man did as the rebbe said, but the cheese was so salty that he kept on drinking wine to quench his thirst. Eventually, he fell asleep. When he awoke the next morning, he felt all better and was, in fact, cured. He thanked the rebbe profusely for saving his life and went on his way.
He returned home and was greeted exultingly by his family. The man went to see the doctor for an examination to determine if he had indeed been cured. He told the doctor the story with the rebbe. Amazed by his patient’s supernatural recovery, the doctor, Professor Chaim Dovid Brand, became a baal teshuvah.
Dr. Brand went to see the rebbe, Rav Dovid Lelover, who began to engage him in divrei Torah. Dr. Brand asked the rebbe, “Why are you discussing with me such deep ideas? I was just recently not observant. How can I have so quickly progressed to be able to discuss such topics?” The rebbe responded that such is the power of teshuvah. One day you can be so low and separated from Hashem, but after doing teshuvah the next day, Hashem brings you close to Him and you are worthy of plumbing the depths of Torah.”
Let us not think that we cannot return to the status we reached prior to our sins. We should never think that our middos ra’os are so entrenched in our being that we cannot rectify them. We are never locked into anything. We all have the ability to climb out of whatever rut we are in and rise to be great people, connected to Hashem. 
The Gemara (Shabbos 133b) quotes Abba Shaul, who derives from the posuk of “Zeh Keili v’anveihu” that we are commanded to emulate Hashem. “Mah Hu chanun verachum af atoh heyei chanun verachum. Just as Hashem is compassionate, so should we be.” Now, as we seek Divine mercy, and as we seek to rectify ourselves so that we may find favor in His eyes, we should also seek to justify others and not rush to condemn and attack. As we behave with others, so can we expect Hashem to act with us.
There are several pesukim in Tanach that hint to Elul. One is the posuk in Megillas Esther (9:22) that states, “Umishloach manos Ish Lerei’eihu Umatanos L’evyonim.” The first letters of the last four words here spell Elul.
The words indicated refer to sending gifts to friends and gifts to the poor. We can explain that during this period of Elul, when we engage in teshuvah bein adam lachaveiro, if we send gifts to friends and pacify the people against whom we have sinned, then Hashem will show compassion to us, who are poor - lacking - in mitzvos and Torah, and gift us His assistance in doing teshuvah for mitzvos bein adam laMakom.
If we demonstrate a longing for improvement and personal betterment, Hakadosh Boruch Hu assists us in achieving our objectives. The Gemara states (Yoma 38b-39a), “Odom mekadeish atzmo me’at mekadshin oso harbeiHaba letaheir mesayin oso.” If a person purifies himself and increases his connection with holiness, or even if he just begins the process and attempts to purify himself, he earns Divine assistance and achieves holiness and purity.

Baalei mussar of old would repeat a posuk or thought with great intensity for hours on end until they felt that the thought pierced their soul. We once wrote the story about the Elul that the Alter of Kelm sat at his shtender for seven hours and repeated the same words from Tehillim (118:19) with great devotion: “Pischu li shaarei tzedek. Please, open for me the gates of righteousness.” Finally, he jumped up and shouted, “Der tir is doch offen! Gei arein! The door is open! Go in!”
The story is a good one, but it goes deeper.

The posuk that the Alter recited, “Pischu li shaarei tzedek,” is followed by “Zeh hashaar laHashem tzaddikim yavo’u vo - This is the gate to Hashem, for the righteous to enter through,” and then, “Odcha ki anisoni vatehi li liyshuah - I thank You, Hashem, for Your salvation.”

We can understand that initially a person seeks to enter the shaarei tzedek, but is unable to, for they only open for tzaddikim. He engages in teshuvah and seeks to absolve himself of sin so that he may be termed a tzaddik, but he is unable, on his own, to attain that degree of teshuvah until he is blessed with the assistance of Hashem. When he is able to enter, he thanks Hashem for the yeshuah brought on by the Divine support in aiding him to achieve teshuvah
The Alter worked on teshuvah for seven hours so that he may enter the shaarei tzedek. Finally, he felt that Hashem helped him and he had achieved teshuvah. He then proclaimed that the door had opened and he was able to enter the shaarei tzedek.

May we merit that level of devotion and teshuvah

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Truth About Trump

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The country was gripped by hysteria last week and many Jewish groups bought into the narrative as well, issuing quotes and releases in a bid to be included in the conversation.

Fringe lunatic groups, including neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other weirdoes organized a demonstration in Virginia against the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee. Leftist groups lined up against them and there was much physical contact and violence. One of the neo-Nazis rammed his car into the crowd protesting his protest and killed a young woman while injuring many others.
A frenzy was stirred by the media against President Donald Trump. The president condemned the violence, but didn’t use the exact language that the PC crowd would have liked. His opponents grabbed onto the gift and launched a vicious tirade against him. Their candidate couldn’t beat Trump at the ballot box in November, and ever since, they have been working incessantly to discredit him and cause him to leave office prematurely.

The week before, it was North Korea and the hysterical alarms that the president’s statement that he would respond to any North Korean attack with “fire and fury” would cause a war. Trump’s gambit worked and the North Korean boy-dictator climbed down from his threats. That was the end of that story. It was gone from the national conversation almost as quickly as the allegations that Trump colluded with the Russians to swing the election his way, when polls showed it wasn’t sticking. 
And so it has been going ever since Trump’s presidency began.

The Democrat party has evolved into a group of avowed leftists, led by the likes of Reps. Maxine Waters and Keith Ellison, socialists such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Marxists such as Black Lives Matter, and the overwhelming majority of liberal Jews, blacks and Latinos. In order to preserve their coalition, it is vital for Democrats to cause their constituents to view the Republican Party as bigoted, racist, opposed to working people of all races and dedicated to stripping minorities of their rights and privileges. Class warfare is a classic Marxist tactic adopted by communists and Saul Alinsky, architect of much of the modern Democrat party and intellectual guide of notables Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
I received the following invitation from Tom Perez, chair of the Democrat National Committee: “This weekend, we’re holding a nationwide Weekend of Action to rise against hatred and organize to defeat all those who would perpetuate it. What happened this past weekend in Charlottesville, and Donald Trump’s disgraceful actions since, should only motivate us to keep fighting even harder for what is right”

They are rising “against hatred” and have to “organize to defeat all those who would perpetuate it,” meaning Republicans, and especially President Trump, because he has “engaged in disgraceful actions” since Charlottesville. 
What was Trump’s sin? He said that leftist protesters engaged in violence. It is forbidden to say that. Leftists can do no ill and whatever they do is justified. Their actions in Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities where people rioted against police, destroying property and causing mayhem, are not up for condemnation. Only people on the so-called right are to be condemned.

The Nazis, white supremacists, anti-Semites, KKK, and others like them are all contemptible; that goes without saying. We would prefer that they be put out of business, but this country’s laws guarantee them the right to gather and engage in public speech, even if it is hateful and despicable. The president never said otherwise, and to say that he did is fake news. Because he condemned leftist violence, he was accused of engaging in moral equivalency. A tumult ensued so quickly that it was as if it had all been planned.
Typical of the way the media works on the public’s perceptions was a broadcast conversation between CNN icon Wolf Blitzer and CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, who said that the Barcelona terror attack was related to what happened in Charlottesville.

It was Sciutto who brought up the idea, saying, “In light of the uproar of the last several days, five days apart you have a white supremacist in Charlottesville use a vehicle to kill, and here you have attackers at least following the modus operandi of terrorists using vehicles apparently to kill as well, and those shared tactics that should be alarming.”
Blitzer, who views himself as the reincarnation of Edward R. Murrow, picked up the narrative, saying, “There will be questions about copycats. There will be questions if what happened in Barcelona was at all a copycat version of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. Even though there may be different characters, different political ambitions, they used the same killing device: a vehicle going at high speed into a group, a large group of pedestrians.”

Never mind that using vehicles as weapons is an ISIS tactic, perfected by the Arabs in their terror battle against Israel before being introduced to Europe. But facts never stop leftists from the propaganda tricks they use to promote their agenda, whatever it may be.
There are ISIS networks in many European cities, including Barcelona, where a large group had been plotting this attack for some time. ISIS doesn’t need to learn from a sick hick Nazi how to commit acts of terror. Much planning goes into their attacks as they perfect their killing methods. There is no way any thinking person could think that this was a copycat attack.

Yet, CNN, the standard for news reporting in this country, has no problem tying the terror act to Charlottesville and, by extension, Trump. People watch this and read it. And the continuous drip, drip, drip of the lie that Republicans and Trump are bigots and KKK supporters continues to seep deeper into the American psyche.
Polls taken last week show that an overwhelming majority of Americans want the confederate statues to stay where they are. You would never know that the only people who want them removed are liberals, because the media has so tainted the way you view and understand what is transpiring in this country. What the majority wants is not necessarily what the media tells you they want.

The facts are not important to the media. They are focused on an agenda, which in this case is to discredit, demean and destroy Trump.
Last week, some sixty-plus Democrat House members signed a resolution censuring the president. Rep. Steve Cohen went further, saying that he would seek to impeach Trump because of his Charlottesville response.

Trump is Trump. He hasn’t changed since he ran for president. His agenda was clearly laid out, a bitter campaign ensued, and the American people elected him to serve as commander-in-chief. His political enemies thought that would never happen. There was no way Mrs. Clinton would lose. When she did, they could not face defeat.
Trump surely has his faults, and his administration has not yet established a solid footing. His constant, sometimes infantile tweeting does him no good and must be done away with. He has to keep his petty thoughts to himself and concentrate on doing what he promised he would do for the country. While Senators McCain and Graham, and others, may well deserve the contempt Trump heaps upon them, his tweets accomplish little more than antagonizing the swamp and people whose support he needs to move forward the agenda he was elected to implement. 

Now, with Steve Bannon out, there is a chance for the president to get his act together and regroup. We hope that he can right his ship and get back to focusing on governing, without veering off and getting bogged down with tangential issues.
There is a lot at stake here for the country and for religious Jews. President Trump is the friendliest president to Israel in a very long time. He has relationships with many Jews. Two of his children married Jews.

This president fights for moral causes. We benefit from a proper moral climate. He works to improve the economy. So far, the stock market has risen 4,000 points, as people are optimistic that his economic agenda will sharply improve the economy. Our community is desperate for a good economy, and for more and better jobs.

A President Hillary Clinton - like the past administration - would have forced us to be exposed to practices that are amoral. We should be thankful that we now have a president who values and supports religion. Our people should not be joining with the various liberal groups and swamp creatures who seek to weaken, isolate and topple the president, who still has the potential to do much good.
Do we want this country to look like Europe, where terror attacks are becoming commonplace thanks to the utopian open borders policy? Many Jews are afraid for their futures there and are planning leave the continent. Do we not appreciate what the president has set into action to stem illegal immigration and stop vile, dangerous people from coming here to perpetrate their murderous ideology?

Do we want a return to the days of Barack Obama? Have we forgotten what he did to undermine the country’s moral standing and weaken the country in myriad ways?

Are we that backward that we seek to curry favor with the likes of Senator Chuck Schumer, who votes against the interests of our community on every issue except Israel? 
For decades, people have been voting for Republicans because they promised lower taxes, better health care, morality, and much else that the majority of this country supports, yet they have never delivered on their promises. They become engulfed by the Washington Disease and seek to please their bosses, lobbyists, the media and Democrats. Finally, there is a president who takes those promises seriously, and is fighting to force Republicans to keep their word.

As a people who have been buffeted about from one country to another, we appreciate that this country is the most accommodating to us in history. This is in large part due to the constitution, which guarantees free speech and freedom to worship as we please. It is imperative that we elect candidates who take seriously their pledge to uphold the constitution and the freedoms it offers every citizen of this great and compassionate land. 
Do we not appreciate the meaning of Trump’s victory? Do we not recognize the need to respect the country’s leader? Does anyone think that the country, or the religious community, or Israel would have been better off with the Democrats at the helm of the vast bureaucracy?

Did the same people rushing to microphones to condemn the president ever utter a disrespectful word when Obama and his Sec. of State engaged in anti-Israel activity, or condoned wild anti-police demonstrations around the country? 
There was an election and this candidate won. As a democracy, we are to support him and pray for his success. Let us do so and hope that he finally gets his act together and is empowered to bring prosperity and unity to the land. Let us not contribute to the president’s further isolation, and aid the bid to topple him and reverse the trajectory of accomplishment.

Rabbeinu Bechyei writes in his introduction to Parshas Shoftim that just as peace is necessary for the world’s existence, so is mishpot, justice. Without it, people would be robbing, harming and killing each other and the world would not last. It is only with a system of laws and jurisprudence that everything hangs together. 
Chazal say (Avos 1:18) that the world exists on three things, law, truth and peace, as the novi Zecharia (Zecharia 8:16) states, “In your cities judge truth, justice, peace.” He is referring to the necessity for judges to work for peace and be loyal to the truth, for the existence of the world depends on that.

This is the admonishment of the parsha: “Shoftim veshotrim titein lecha.” In order to maintain a healthy society, we must establish a system of judges and appoint people to enforce the rule of law. They must be learned, intelligent, honest, upstanding and incorruptible. They must be men whose life ambition is to pursue justice. It does not suffice to have one supreme Sanhedrin staffed with such leaders. Every town has to establish a court to ensure that its citizens have a place to turn for direction and adjudication of their grievances.

The officers of the bais din must be beyond reproach. They must be men of uncompromising honor and power, who do not cower in the face of opposition and intimidation. They must possess the skill and determination to enforce the edicts and rulings of the shoftim with strength and dignity. Anarchy and mediocrity have no place in our system of rule, lest they result in a breakdown of respect for authority and righteousness.
The Torah states that when the people choose a king, the candidate for royalty must be an individual who is not interested in enriching himself or indulging in senseless trappings of power. The posuk further commands that the king write for himself two Sifrei Torah, from which he should read and learn throughout his life.

The Torah’s priority is to encourage people to follow an honorable, humble and just path. The monarchy, the Sanhedrin and other institutions were created to foster correct behavior and ensure that society is governed by Torah norms. Today, we unfortunately no longer have a Sanhedrin, kings or shoftim, but we still must act as if our every deed is destined to be written in the Torah, and conduct ourselves with that imaginary publication of our personal lives in mind.

The parsha ends with the mitzvah of eglah arufah, the procedure to follow when a body of an unknown person is found at the outskirts of a town. The elders of the city must wash their hands over the eglah arufah and state that their hands did not kill the person and their eyes did not witness it: “Yodeinu lo shofchu es hadom hazeh ve’eineinu lo ra’u.”
Obviously, no one would suspect the elders of murdering a person. The lesson of the eglah arufah is that they must declare that they set everything in place under their jurisdiction to preclude the travesty of murder. They proclaim that they established a proper system of justice and compassionate treatment of strangers. They come to the outskirts of the city to state for all to hear that the murder victim did not die due to negligence on their part. With the kohanim at their sides, the zekeinim claim that they did everything in their ability to ensure that no person suffers abuse of any kind, especially of the kind or degree that would lead to such a tragic demise. They proclaim that they have always acted in the best interests of the community, without engaging in corruption and favoritism of any sort.

In our day, although we no longer have the eglah arufah, we still must all be able to proclaim that we have done what we can to set up institutions of jurisprudence, chesed and charity, and proper schools for chinuch and the transmission of our mesorah. We have to be able to act courageously and without fear to ensure that we can all say with complete honesty, “Yodeinu lo shofchu es hadom hazeh,” our hands did not spill the blood - both literally and figuratively - of unfortunate victims in our community.
Too many positions of power and influence are held by people who have muscled their way in by virtue of their wealth or hubris. Too many issues fester, because nobody is interested in the messiness involved in dealing with them. By holding gatherings where the same predictable boiler-plate banalities are offered, we will not succeed in attracting or energizing large numbers of our people, nor will we succeed in bringing about change.

If we seek to continue to grow and thrive, we have to be more realistic and real, allowing competent, faithful, honest people to attain positions of power, where they can influence others to follow in Hashem’s path and dedicate their lives to goodness and righteousness.
If we want to make a dent in the problems confronting us today, we have to get past the knee-jerk impulse to remain loyal to what is politically correct and safe. Lack of information and an inability to think boldly are crippling. They prompt people to offer safe and simplistic solutions, relying on “conventional wisdom,” even when dealing with serious, multi-faceted conundrums, because they fear the new and unknown.

The school year is about to begin. So many people suffer through the acceptance process and there is more than enough blame to go around on all sides. But have we ever sat down to seriously and honestly examine the roots of the problem and seek to resolve them?
A baal teshuvah couple from a secular Israeli city moved to Bnei Brak so that they could raise their daughter to be a fine, religious Jew, but the local school would not accept the newcomers. The couple discussed their problem with Rabbi Yossi Vallis, who had been aiding them in their journey towards Torah. He went to speak to Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach, seeking his advice.

Rav Shach felt the pain of the parents and their daughter. He immediately called the head of Chinuch Atzmai, the religious school system in Israel, and told him the story, soliciting his aid. The leader turned down Rav Shach, saying that the principal of the school is a very tough woman and he has a very hard time with her. He was sure that his efforts would be in vain.
Rav Shach found the woman’s number and called. When she answered the phone, he said, “Hello, this is Leizer Shach calling. I want to speak to you about a fine girl who belongs in your school.”

How would you react if Rav Shach called you with a request? 
Not this woman. She turned him down. 

“They are baalei teshuvah,” she said. “I can’t take the girl in. The board of parents who oversee me will never permit such a thing.”

Despite her arrogance and obstinacy, the gadol hador continued the conversation. “Give me their names and phone numbers,” he said. 
There were a dozen people waiting outside to enter and speak with Rav Shach, who had many other pressing issues to deal with, but ensuring that a bas Yisroel had a school was a priority.

He sat at his table and called each parent representative one by one. “Hello, this is Leizer Shach. I am calling to discuss an issue with you…” 
He discussed the matter with every one of those parents who were the class representatives and resolved the matter. The girl was accepted into the school and Rav Shach kept tabs on her development.

That is a leader. That is someone who cares. That is a shofet who is incorruptible and works with emes and mishpot to find shalom. He has departed this world, but he left us an example to emulate. 
Elul is a good time to start.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Find Your Path

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

An American tourist turned off of Rechov Meah Shearim with a dreamy look in his eyes as he wandered about in the small alleyways. A local man approached and asked if he needed help with directions.
The visitor explained that while he looked like a wayward tourist, he was, in fact, born and raised in Meah Shearim. He hadn’t returned for some forty years, and this was the first time he was back in the place where he had grown up. He had gone far from his roots, he told the Yerushalmi, and decided that it was time for him to return and see what he had left behind.

There was one thing about which he was most curious. He remembered a scene from his youth.
“There was a young man who would sit alone in a small shul and learn,” he recounted. “That was all he did. His sweet voice would waft out through the windows, capturing passersby. He alone had the key to the shul, and he seemed to be there perpetually hunched over a Gemara, standing up to walk around and contemplate an idea, then returning to the Gemara. What happened to the young scholar from Ohel Sara?” he asked.

The local led him to the Ohel Sara shul and told him to peek through the window.
“Here he is,” said the Yerushalmi.

The visitor looked on in awe, a sight of more than forty years earlier coming to life in front of his eyes. That very same scholar, Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, was sitting in his spot in the same shul, learning with the same sweet voice, hunched over a Gemara.

Rav Elyashiv chose a path and never veered from it. As remarkable as his hasmodah and focus, was the fact that he stepped onto a derech as a child and never left it. He remained on that blessed path his entire life.
Staying on the path, as much as anything else, leads to a life of brocha.

That is the key of this week’s parsha, which begins with the words, “Re’eh, see, anochi nosein lifneichem brocha ukelalah, I place before you blessings and curses. Es habrocha asher tishme’u…” 
Those who listen and follow Hashem’s word remain on the path of brocha. Those who choose not to listen have no path to follow and find themselves ending up in the wrong places.

Someone who listens to the word of Hashem and follows His path is fortunate enough to know where to go and, just as importantly, what to avoid. If you have a path through life, you know how to live.
People who don’t have a path to follow get lost and end up far from the path of blessing.

Life throws so much our way that if we are not on an established derech, we can, when confronted by challenges, become sad, anxious, depressed and lonely. Those who don’t follow a derech will often lack the self-confidence needed to get back to where they belong.

The test of life is to withstand the ever-present pressures and difficulties. If we are ensconced firmly on a path, with a clear goal, then we have the strength to handle challenges.
People who find themselves in trying situations, facing danger, illness or financial difficulty, can retain their values and equilibrium if they follow the path of “re’eh” and brocha.

When Rav Yisroel Salanter was on his deathbed, he called one of the local gabboim, a fellow Rav Yisroel suspected would be asked to remain with his body until the kevurah. 
Rav Yisroel spoke with the poor man about the fear of being with the dead and explained to him why he need not fear, thus giving him strength to face the imminent task.

Not long after, Rav Yisroel’s soul left him and the gabbai was able to discharge the mission of remaining with the body, because this tzaddik was calm and tranquil enough in his final minutes to continue on his well trodden path and maintaining his lifelong practice of focusing on others. He felt bad for the poor man who would be left alone with the lifeless body.
Many question why the parsha begins with the word “Re’eh,” in the singular, and then continues with the word “lifneichem,” which is plural.

Perhaps we can suggest an answer of our own. 
The path is set for the individual to see and contemplate - re’eh. Once he has chosen to conduct  his life on the proper derech, he is able to impact and help many people. Hence the plural; lifneichem.

Every individual possesses the power to impact and influence the many. Man is given the capability to shape not just his own destiny, but that of many others.
We need to follow the blessed path, and if we do, there is no limit to the impact we can have on other people. The one who is blessed can cause a revolution among others, and that is the greatest source of merit.

There are people who are able to help many others. They are people of brocha. One such person in our times was Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, whose shloshim was recently marked. He began with one sefer. Its success emboldened him and showed him that there was a huge need for the type of work he became famous for publishing. From a small start, he went on to have a lasting impact on Jews around the world.
When regular people, like you and me, are on the right path, armed with visions, dreams and words, we can light up the world, if we only want.

The Kotzker Rebbe explained the shift in the posuk from the singular to the plural as a reference to the idea that we all have an individual path to Torah: Re’eh, find your path, your way, your road to Torah, but know that there is a path for each individual person. In our schools and homes, we need to remember that what works for one talmid or child doesn’t necessarily work for another.
This, too, is a directive for this period on the calendar, as we prepare for another year of doing our jobs as parents and teachers and meeting the call of the hour.

It’s time that we developed the humility to really try to understand the way our children perceive things and speak to them, rather than at them.
Rav Avrohom Pam, whose yahrtzeit will be marked this coming week, would recall a moment in his own home. There is a machlokes haposkim whether to first light the Chanukah menorah or to first recite Havdolah on Motzoei Shabbos Chanukah.

Rav Pam’s minhag was to light candles first. One year, as he struck a match and was preparing to say the brachos, his five-year-old son called out, “I don’t care what you do. I’m not lighting candles until after Havdolah.”
Rav Pam considered his son’s words and their source. He understood that his son was so frightened at the prospect of what he considered chillul Shabbos that he lashed out. Without hesitating, the rosh yeshiva looked lovingly at his son and thanked him.

As we bentch Rosh Chodesh Elul this Shabbos, we demonstrate that we are committed to living the next year more productively. “Anochi nosein lifneichem.” The anochi - that is us - can gain for ourselves great benefit if we are “nosein lifneichem,” helpful to others.
Success in impacting others starts with a respect and appreciation of where people are coming from. We have to learn to listen better and take the time to consider why people say what they say instead of brushing them off or shouting louder.

Re’eh. See the children and the adults. See the opportunities, each one an island of its own. Open your eyes, even if the sights appear new, even if you don’t completely understand them, and even if what you see calls for a new approach. Take the time to see and understand. 
When we will recognize that other people think differently and have a path to avodas Hashem that is different than ours, we will join lifneichem, all of us as one, a nation marching forward into the new year, assured of endless blessing.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

People is People

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Maybe because it was a slow news week, or because the Trump-Russia story is getting tiresome, or because it was a convenient way for the New York Times to cover our community from their vantage point; the Gray Lady has been running negative articles targeting our community and its practices.

First it was an article against bris milah - not only metzitzah, but the whole thing. The hardworking Times reporter dug up disenfranchised Jews and wrote about their decision not to circumcise their newborn sons. One of those newborns isn’t halachically Jewish, but that’s clearly beside the point. The goal is to plant seeds of confusion and uncertainty in the minds of readers.

Then it was a lengthy article about 62 families who moved to Jersey City, a major enough story to merit space on page A17. It’s as if 62 families moving into a city of 250,000 residents is something groundbreaking.

Are they Irish, or Italian, or blacks or Hispanics moving into a Waspy city? Of course not. The Times would never tolerate such bigotry. The 62 families are Jewish. Not only Jewish, but ultra-Orthodox. And worse than that, they are Hasids.

And get this. The Hasids have nerve. “The influx, however, has provoked tensions with long-established residents, as the ultra-Orthodox seek to establish a larger footprint for their surfing population.”

Those pushy Hasids again. Even the mayor says so.

“They literally go door to door and can be very pushy trying to purchase someone’s house,” said Mayor Steven Fulop, a Jew of course. He told the writer that “his town took pride in its diversity, but had been concerned about ‘very aggressive solicitation.’”

Then two more little dots for the reader to connect and complete the story.

The article is headlined “A Wary Welcome for Orthodox Jews as Prices Push Families Beyond Brooklyn,” and repeatedly speaks about Jews moving out of Brooklyn, as if that is something terrible.

“Squeezed out of their traditional neighborhoods, ultra-Orthodox Jews have taken steps that have raised concerns as they settle into new communities,” the article reports.

The continued reference to leaving Brooklyn is a dog whistle to watch out or you’ll have a ghetto in your backyard. A lead puncher is Mayor Fulop, who the paper identifies as “a grandson of Holocaust survivors and a graduate of yeshivas.”

Ah. So he has a right to speak.

Which yeshivos? I Googled it, and it turns out that the good mayor was in yeshiva as a child, but didn’t really stick around. I’m not judging him, and my heart is pained for another Yiddishe neshomah that drifted away, but by the time he graduated high school, he wasn’t in a Jewish institution anymore. The choices he made after that don’t indicate that the spirit of the yeshiva had stayed with him.

He’s certainly not the one to make a statement or provide analyses on our behalf.

The article also made sure to mention Lakewood - you know, the town where religious Jews have taken over - and remind readers that the municipality voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, making some sort of vague point without explaining it.

The author, who is probably a nice person, writes: “Lakewood is also feeling the impact of a fast-growing minority group. Decades ago, the area was rural, filled with hardscrabble egg-raising farms owned by Jewish Holocaust refugees, a few grand hotels and an estate that once had been owned by John D. Rockefeller.”

Holocaust Jews are the good kind, but the ultra-Orthodox Brooklynites? Watch out for them. They destroy farms and Rockefeller-esque properties. And they are going to destroy your town if you’re not careful and allow them to move in.

We, too, just like the good mayor, have a right to weigh in on the topic of Jews moving into rundown neighborhoods and helping the local economy.

Perhaps the relevance of 62 families moving into Jersey City is something very different and contains a message for us.

In Tehillim, we learn that after the meraglim convinced Klal Yisroel to reject Eretz Yisroel in the midbar - Vayimasu b’eretz chemdah” - Hashem promised “lehapil zarom bagoyim ulezorosom bo’arotzos,” to spread the children of the people who lost their trust in Him amongst the nations and disperse them throughout the lands (Tehillim 106:24-27).

Where does it say in Chumash that after the sin of the meraglim, Hashem swore to disperse the Jews around the world?

The Peirush Maharzu on Medrash explains that the root of this was the posuk that states that Hashem swore that His glory would fill the world: “Veyimolei kevod Hashem es kol ha’aretz” (Bamidbar 14:21). He explains that the only way for Hashem’s glory to fill the earth is through Jews living in every corner of the globe. The Jewish people are His ambassadors. Thus, it is derived that the Jews would be evicted from Eretz Yisroel as punishment for that sin and would be dispersed around the world.

The posuk in this week’s parsha (Devorim 11:1) says, “V’ohavta es Hashem Elokecha.” Chazal (Yoma 86a) derive from the posuksheyehei sheim Shomayim misaheiv al yodcha.” Our mission is to make the name of Hashem beloved.

Because our mission here is to increase love and appreciation of Hashem, there is significance to all we do. The story isn’t 62 families opening a shul in a former dry cleaners shop that was boarded up in a rundown neighborhood, but that kevod Hashem is spreading.

For our children to succeed, we have to invest them with self-confidence. For them to thrive, we need to tell them their strengths and point out their gifts. That should be obvious to everyone by now.

And sometimes, we need to give ourselves an injection of national self-esteem, to remind ourselves of who we are, who our forefathers were, where we come from, and why we’re here. We don’t always know. Sometimes we act as if we have forgotten.

The Chazon Ish writes that the length of golus makes us forget.

And we need to remember.

We lack self-confidence. We try to mix in with the others, because we aren’t proud enough of our identity.

We have to be self-confident.

In last week’s parsha (Devorim 7:7), we learned, “Lo merubchem mikol ha’amim.” Hashem doesn’t love us because we are the largest or most powerful nation. He loves us even though we are the smallest.

We shouldn’t make believe like we are something we are not. Compared to all the other nations of the world, we are quite small and different.

Rav Leizer Yudel Finkel zt”l, the Mirrer rosh yeshiva, met the sons of the Brisker Rov after their arrival in Yerushalayim. He was surprised to see that their dress was unique. They were wearing the old-fashioned caps and suits of Eastern Europe, attire that was very different from the dress of the yeshiva bochurim all around them. Rav Finkel mentioned to their father, the Brisker Rov, that their mode of dress made them look very different than everyone else in the resurgent olam hayeshivos.

“Yes,” the Brisker Rov agreed, “it does. Because they are takeh different.”

Sometimes, we need to celebrate ourselves and realize that we have a mission and a mandate that make us takeh different, as the posuk in Parshas Vo’eschanan (Devorim 4:6) states, “Ki hi chochmaschem uvinaschem l’einei ho’amim.” “Study and observe My mitzvos,” Hashem says, for that is what identifies you as a smart and intelligent people in the eyes of the other nations.

We have it all. The nations of the world don’t hate us for being us as much as they hate us for trying to be them.

It’s summertime. People travel. Those who live in sheltered neighborhoods get to be exposed to Hakadosh Boruch Hu’s beautiful world and its inhabitants. We get to make an impression, to play our role as ambassadors. People who have only heard about us or read about us in the paper, watch us and see how we conduct ourselves. They notice if we are pushy, if we clean up after ourselves, and if we make sure our children don’t run wild.

On his visit to America, Rav Meir Shapiro asked for a hairbrush. The Lubliner rosh yeshiva then stood in front of a mirror and brushed his beard. His host was bewildered by the sight.

“I am a European rov,” the famed guest responded. “For many in the audience tonight, seeing me will be their enduring image of an old-time rabbi. I feel obligated to make it as pleasant as possible, so that they will view our world positively.”

If you read accounts of contemporary baalei teshuvah, you find that many of their journeys began with the sight of a religious family, or a glimpse of a Shabbos table. In so many cases, there was no seminar or lecture, just an image, followed by the thought of, “I want that in my life.” Read Rav Uri Zohar’s story. Read the stories of the thousands who fell under his spell and sent their children to a yeshiva and became religious. You’ll see stories of ordinary people who met a religious Jew and decided to find out more.

Hundreds of kollel men fan out across Eretz Yisroel cold-calling for Torah and bringing souls back to Torah and Yahadus just by being themselves.

We all carry much power, which is emitted by the way we walk, the way we interact with each other, and the way we carry ourselves. Everything makes a difference.

The message of the New York Times article referenced earlier is not the negative impression that it was ostensibly meant to create, but that if 62 families in a city populated by hundreds of thousands make waves, then we can all do the same, in the wider world, wherever we go. We shake ‘em up. We get noticed. What we do and the way we act make a big difference.

In hilchos Shabbos, the Chazon Ish (siman 56:7) rules as follows regarding milking cows on Shabbos: “It is forbidden to milk cows on Shabbos, and this is the minhag wherever Shabbos is valued, and it’s the Torah’s way to maintain peaceful relations with everyone…

The last few words seem quizzical and unrelated to the halacha. What does having good neighborly relations have to do with milking cows on Shabbos?

Rav Yitzchok Hutner explained that the Chazon Ish wrote this p’sak at a time when the Israeli Histadrut labor union was on a campaign for Jews not to make use of Arab labor. They called it avodah zarah. The Chazon Ish held that Jews should try to maintain good relations with their neighbors, and thus inserted the line into a teshuvah in halacha in order to indicate the importance he attached to that dictate.

To be aware of those around us and act as a good neighbor is as eternal as the halacha itself.

Perhaps the New York Times article was a message to remind us of who we are and how we can impact others.

In the very last paragraph, the article quotes a Jersey City resident. “Eddie Sumpter, 34, a black neighbor around the corner who was able to buy a bigger house by selling his previous home to a Hasidic family, said he welcomed the newcomers. “‘We live among Chinese. We live among Spanish,’” said Mr. Sumpter, who is a cook. “‘It don’t matter. People is people. If you’re good people, you’re good people.’”

People is people. If we would accept that and be comfortable with our role and identity, embracing it and taking pride in our distinctive dress and conduct, we would be the light unto others we’re meant to be. People would see us as people.

A talmid approached Rav Avrohom Pam before bein hazemanim. “I am returning home,” he said, “and I have several non-religious aunts who will extend their hands in greeting when I arrive. How should I handle it?”

“I will share with you a rule I live by,” Rav Pam replied. “If a person expresses himself with courtesy and respect, then others around him will respect him even if they don’t understand his practice. If you are polite and considerate, and explain the halacha with confidence, then I assure you they will respect your conviction and not take it personally.”

Rav Pam’s rule for life is a guiding light for this season of travel and relaxation, as well as all year round.

We have to know who we are, and then those around us will know it too.

We is good people.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Where We Are

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Think about it. Last week was Shabbos Chazon and the signs of mourning were everywhere.

This week is Shabbos Nachamu and you can feel the happy energy. Celebration is everywhere.

What has changed between last week and this one? Last week, we mourned the absence of a Bais Hamikdosh. This week, it still lies in ruins. The shu’olim still run rampant over the Har Habayis. We are sorely lacking so much. Why are we suddenly happy?

Yeshayahu, the novi of nechomah, speaks to us seven weeks in a row. This week we read the first of those seven haftoros. What is nechomah anyway? What does the word mean?

The posuk in Bereishis (6:6) states after Adam and Chava sinned, “Vayinochem Hashem,” indicating that Hashem, kevayachol, “regretted” what He had done. Rashi explains that the word nechomah also refers to stepping back, re-evaluating a situation and shifting perspective.

Apparently, this is a facet of comfort, the general use of the word nechomah.

In the haftorah of this Shabbos, Yeshayahu repeats the comforting words of his hopeful prophecy. He says, “Nachamu, nachamu ami,” telling Klal Yisroel twice to be comforted. Clearly, there is significance to the nechomah bekiflayim, the double measure of solace.

At the end of Maseches Makkos, when Rabi Akiva sees the chaos and impurity on the Har Habayis as a harbinger of better times, his friends proclaimed, “Akiva, nichamtonu. Akiva, nichamtonu.” They repeated the comment, following the lead of the novi who had doubled his words.

Perhaps we can explain that nechomah, comfort, has two stages. There is the actual comfort, the words that form a healing balm on our souls as we are reassured that all will be well. There is also the comfort that is brought about when we are no longer myopic and step back to look again and see a bigger picture.

This Shabbos, we are promised that Hakadosh Boruch Hu will assist us in achieving both definitions: nachamu, nachamu.

Once again, the Jewish people approach Shabbos Nachamu in an all-too-familiar place. The nations of the world are aligned against us as we attempt to live decent, honorable, peaceful lives. As we are forced to fight against evil, they chant for our deaths.

They hate us.

Once again, the Har Habayis has been overtaken by shuolim.

Throughout our history, we have encountered this animosity. Although there have been times when the hatred was delicately concealed, it is currently becoming more in vogue and acceptable to bash Jews. It has become acceptable for celebrities and icons to express their open hatred. While they couch their rhetoric in words of sympathy for the poor Palestinians, the truth emanates. They couldn’t care less about the Palestinians. They just hate Jews. Once again, Jews in Europe cower and seek escape routes, a chilling reminder of seventy years ago.

Arabs kill Jews and then demonstrate throughout Israel and in European capitals against Jewish people. Lovers of Israel are unwelcome in American universities, which drive campaigns against Israel. The Left battles Israel at every opportunity, offering nonsensical, hypocritical excuses for their anti-Semitism.

Much of the modern anti-Semitism is depicted as anti-Zionism, though the folly is obvious. Jews fight for their safety and are condemned. Millions of Jews were driven to their deaths from those very countries in which anti-Semites currently flex their muscles.

Anti-Semitism morphs to fit with the times. The age-old hatred for the Jewish nation adopts different slogans and chants, but at the heart of it all is the same old hatred for Yitzchok by Yishmoel, and Yaakov by Eisov and Lavan.

Whether it’s under the guise of blaming the Jews for spreading the plague, or drinking human blood, as in the days of old, or cloaked in humanitarian vestments, hate is hate. In Europe, a continent soaked with Jewish blood, it is in vogue to bash Jews, demonstrate against them, accuse them of the vilest crimes, and create an atmosphere reminiscent of the darkest days of Jewry that many believed we would never return to.

The eis tzorah is palpable in England, where Jews were burned alive; in Paris, where the Talmud was lit up and destroyed; in Germany, home of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust; Poland, home of the crematoria; Austria, birthplace of Hitler; and many other places.

We wonder how it will end. When will justice triumph? When will care and concern about the good and the kind be paramount?

We recognize that we suffer persecution and discrimination because we are Jews. The world’s hatred of the Jew is not derived from their concern about human rights violations or political decisions.

We are reminded regularly that sinah yordah l’olam, hatred for the Jewish people descended to the world as we gathered at Har Sinai to accept the Torah. Since that time, we have been cast apart from other nations, despised, reviled, stomped on and murdered. Miraculously, we endure.

This Shabbos, we will go to shul and listen as the haftorah proclaims that Hashem calls out to us and says, “Nachamu, nachamu Ami. Be comforted, be comforted My nation.”

Where do we find answers to our questions?

In the Torah. These parshiyos give us the depth we need to see clearer, the second type of nechomah.

A young man boarded a bus to Bayit Vegan and saw one of its most distinguished residents, Rav Moshe Shapiro, sitting there. He approached the rov and asked, “How are we to understand what happened during World War II?”

Rav Moshe looked at him and nodded. “Shalom,” he said, effectively ending the conversation. He didn’t say another word.

Later, someone asked why he hadn’t answered the questioner. Rav Moshe explained, “He knows where I live in Bayit Vegan, and he knows how much time he had until the bus reached my stop. He asked a question whose answer is much longer and more complex than the few minutes of the bus ride, so clearly he didn’t want the real answer, but a conversation, and I don’t have time for small talk.”

To understand the events of Jewish history, we must peer beyond the curtain, studying and scrutinizing the happenings of our people and the pesukim of the Torah. Small talk and pedestrian thoughts will not lead to understanding what has befallen our people throughout the millennia.

The pesukim of this week’s parsha form a retrospective review, reminding us of the beginnings of our nation and our first footsteps as the Chosen People.

We feel along with Moshe Rabbeinu as he pleads for mercy. “Asher mi Keil kamocha - Who else is like You, Hashem?” he wonders (Devorim 3:24). Rashi explains that a king of flesh and blood is surrounded by advisors who question his merciful decisions, whereas Hashem can extend mercy without listening to others.

There is a spark of nechomah.

We read about the essence of life, “V’atem hadveikim baHashem Elokeichem chaim kulchem hayom,” and we feel a surge of hope. Life means connecting to Hashem, displaying more intensity in tefillah, and demonstrating more concentration when we sit by a Gemara (Devorim 4:3).

We continue by listening closely to Moshe Rabbeinu’s reminder: “Mi goy gadol asher lo Elokim kerovim eilov? Who else has this gift and ability that Hashem listens every time we cry out to Him?” (Devorim 4:7).

Has Hashem performed such miracles for any other nation? Has He gone to war for them and inspired awe and terror like He has done for us? (Devorim 4:34).

We study the Aseres Hadibros, which form the building blocks of our lives as Torah Jews. We recognize that they set us apart from the rest of the world, and by following their precepts, we are placed on a higher, blessed plane.

We study the words of “Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod,” which are the bedrock of our faith. We wake up to those words and go to sleep to them. They form the last physical action by souls ascending to heaven and have been the enduring final message of martyrs through the generations.

In 6:18, we are taught how to live as ehrliche Yidden: “You should act honorably and be truthful; then Hashem will be good to you and will bring us into the land He swore to our forefathers and will drive away our enemies from confronting us.”

If we seek Hashem’s protection and aid in battle, we must affirm our commitment to honesty and to battling corruption. Not just by listening, but by acting. If we tolerate men of ill-will and sometimes even promote them, how can we expect Hashem to fight for us?

We read about how He will lead us into the Promised Land, where we will find homes filled with good. It is an attainable goal, assured to us by He who is “ne’eman leshaleim s’char.” If we follow the word of Hashem, as laid out in the pesukim of this week’s parsha, we know that we will merit salvation, prosperity and peace.

The founding of Israel and the Six Day War were turning points in our history, but people became enamored with the power of man and seemed to overlook the Hand of Hashem. We are sent regular reminders that if we forget the Divine role and Hand in our existence, we are doomed to experience tragedy.

We merit nechomah when we recognize that we are kachomer beyad hayotzeir, wholly dependent upon Hashem’s mercy for our very existence.

Parshas Va’eschanon and the Aseres Hadibros are always lained on Shabbos Nachamu to remind us that our nechomah arrives when we follow the Aseres Hadibros and the Torah. It is through fidelity to Torah and Hashem’s word that we merit living peacefully, in Eretz Yisroel and everywhere else.

A young bochur davened in the bais medrash of the Bluzhever Rebbe. On Chanukah, the crowd would file by the rebbe after hadlokas neiros to receive his good wishes. The boy asked his friend to take a picture of him as the rebbe spoke to him.

The Bluzhever Rebbe noticed. When the bochur reached him, the rebbe took the boy’s hand and held it. Bochur’l,” he said, “you probably want a picture with me because I am a relic of a vanished world. And while it’s important to remember what was, it is also important that you understand that within you and your generation lie the koach, the ability, to guarantee its survival.”

We study what was because it gives us a charge for the future and a path forward.

That is why we rejoice now, comforted and secure in what we have learned over the past nine days. Over this time, we got in touch with our source, origin and destiny, and recognize our marching orders for the future. We even draw comfort from the fact that we mourned and that we have never forgotten, despite so many years and so much suffering.

After studying the messages of Eicha and Chazon, how can we feel anything else but “Nachamu, nachamu Ami? We understand where we were and where we are and how we got here. We are thus able to experience consolation.

Armed with the Torah’s enduring message of where we are going and how to get there, we reach the state of consolation, nechomah.

Nachamu, nachamu. Forever and ever. Amein.