Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Hopeful

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

This week, we celebrate Lag Ba’omer and the legacy of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai. We celebrate the conclusion of the plague that affected the 24,000 students of Rabi Akiva, who were expected to transmit the Torah to future generations. Their loss was such an overwhelming tragedy that we mourn them until this day.

This year, we mark the first yahrtzeit of the 45 holy people who perished at the Lag Ba’omer celebration in Meron. We mourn the recent passing of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, who mastered the Torah and epitomized its greatness. And the pain of those who perished suddenly from Covid is fresh in our thoughts as we contemplate the enormity of losing 24,000 anoshim gedolim in one period.

This Shabbos, we lain Parshas Behar, which opens with the mitzvah of Shmittah. We are all familiar with the Rashi that questions why the mitzvah is introduced by the statement that the laws were given to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai. All the laws of the Torah were given and taught to Moshe upon Har Sinai. Why, then, is it necessary to state that the laws of Shmittah were given then as well?

Rashi explains that this was done to demonstrate to us that just as all the intricate halachos pertaining to Shmittah were given to Moshe on Har Sinai at the time of Kabbolas HaTorah, so were all the halachos of all the mitzvos.

Why Shmittah is singled out as the mitzvah from which we derive this lesson is an oft-asked question. Various explanations are given, including that Shmittah is an extraordinary commandment in that its proper observance requires a person’s total belief in Hashem.

A person who doesn’t believe that Hashem controls the world and furnishes each person with his needs is unable to forgo a year of cultivating, planting and harvesting his field. Since the industrial revolution, we no longer live in an agrarian society and therefore view the main aspects of the mitzvah as something that affects people who happen to be farmers by profession.

We speak about them, highlight their heroism, and invite them into our homes, shuls and schools this year as we mark the Shmittah year. But outside of the obligations related to the fruits and produce grown in Eretz Yisroel this year, we in chutz la’aretz don’t view it as something relevant to us.

We couldn’t be more wrong.

With the mitzvah of Shmittah, it is as if Hakadosh Boruch Hu told us, modern-day people, that we should not work for one year. Whatever it is that we do for a living, we would not be allowed to do it for one year. From the past Rosh Hashanah to the coming Rosh Hashanah, we would have to stay home and count on Hashem to provide for us. We would spend the year studying Torah and pursuing mitzvos in a way we are not able to do the other six years when we are otherwise occupied.

The mitzvah would affect everyone, just as it did when everyone lived off the land, either as owners, workers or purveyors. How do we think we would fare? With what degree of fright would we enter the Shmittah year? Would we trust that Hashem would provide for us, or would we fear that we would suffer a year of hunger and worse?

Shmittah is thus a unique mitzvah that reinforces our belief in Hashem, as each person is witness to the fact that He cares for and provides for all of his needs. This buttresses our belief that everything that transpires with us is from Hashem. Nothing happens on its own. We have what the Ultimate Provider determined we should have, as do our friends, neighbors and competitors.

When we internalize that belief, we get along better with other people, as we are able to overcome bad traits brought upon by jealousy. We also become humble and are able to grow in Torah, as one of the requirements to master Torah is humility.

Perhaps that is another connection between Shmittah and Har Sinai. Chazal teach that the Torah was given on Har Sinai, the smallest and humblest of mountains, to teach us that for a person to grow in Torah, he must be humble. Shmittah, as well, brings humility to a person when he considers that his wealth and success are brought to him by Hashem and are not a result of his own ingenuity, creativity and prowess. This allows him to grow in Torah and middos tovos.

This is an added benefit of studying the halachos of Shmittah, as recommended for those who do not own fields or land in Eretz Yisroel. By doing so, we demonstrate our belief that all of Torah was given to us on Har Sinai, and as we continue to learn the halachos, the idea that Hashem provides for all is reinforced, even to those who are not agrarians or farmers.

Thus, Parshas Behar is studied in the lead-up to the Yom Tov of Shavuos, which commemorates our receiving of the Torah.

Therefore, Behar follows Emor, which contains the halachos of Sefirah. We count from the second day of Pesach until Shavuos, declaring that we acknowledge that we were freed from Mitzrayim so that we could accept the Torah at Har Sinai on Shavuos.

We count towards Shavuos, the day that marks our receipt of the Torah, to demonstrate that we are striving and reaching upward. Each day of the count, we seek to improve ourselves so that we can better study, observe and excel in Torah.

The Maharal teaches that the period of Sefirah is blessed with awesome light that is not present the rest of the year (Nesiv HaTorah 12). This ohr increases daily along with the levels of Torah, until it reaches a climax on Shavuos, when the Torah was given. In fact, as we count Sefirah, we say, “Hayom,” because yom, day, is an expression of light, and we make the brocha and thank Hashem for granting us the light of this specific day of the Omer, as every day more light is revealed as we proceed along the path to Torah (Derech Mitzvosecha).

Concurrent with the light and increased levels of Torah found between Pesach and Atzeres is our obligation to raise ourselves from the level of barley, basically an animal food, which comprises the Korban Omer, to the more refined wheat of the Shtei Halechem of Shavuos.

Chazal (Yoma 9b) teach that the second Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed because of sinas chinom. Simply explained, the people looked down upon each other out of baseless hatred. Perhaps we can say that until the period during which the talmidim of Rabi Akiva died because of a lack of respect for each other, there was hope that the Jews would be able to repent for the sins that caused the churban Bais Hamikdosh. However, when the terrible plague struck the Jewish people and the 24,000 talmidim died, it became obvious that the people were overcome with sinas chinom and were lacking in ahavas Yisroel and achdus.

As we mourn the passing of the 24,000 giants, we are reminded of the punishment for not dealing with each other with the proper respect.

We are reminded that “ve’ohavta lerei’acha kamocha” is not only a nice undertaking and a good minhag, but a mitzvah mide’Oraisa incumbent upon us to observe in order to be connected to Hashem and worthy of Torah and geulah.

During Sefirah, we attempt each day to perfect another of the 48 kinyanim of Torah and engage in raising ourselves from the nefesh habehami levels of se’orim, animal food, to the nefesh haruchni at the 49th level of kedusha. These attributes prepare us for Kabbolas HaTorah, when we stood united, k’ish echod beleiv echod, at Har Sinai.

Learning the lessons of Shmittah help us to arrive at that level.

During these days of Sefirah, it is incumbent upon us to end the hatred, spite, cynicism and second-guessing of each other, of people who look different or see things differently than us. It is time we adopt the message of Sefirah and the passing of Rabi Akiva’s talmidim so that we can return again to where and what we were and what we are meant to be.

The number of days in the Sefirah period is cited as connected to the 48 methods necessary to acquire Torah. The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos teaches that in order to properly acquire Torah, we must excel in the 48 methods through which Torah is acquired. Most of them relate to the way we deal and interact with one another. One who has not perfected himself ethically and morally cannot properly excel in Torah. A person who is deficient in the way he deals with other people will also be lacking in Torah.

The mourning we engage in is directly tied to the introspection that this period obligates. The lessons of Shmittah encourage us to view ourselves properly as creatures of Hashem, and doing so helps us interact well with others and grow in Torah and mitzvah observance.

It also prompts us to have a positive outlook on whatever befalls us in life. When we know that all that happens is from Hashem, we do not become shattered at tragedy. Instead of being forlorn and hopeless, we accept what happened and look forward to the future with anticipation of being recipients of Hashem’s kindness.

Rabi Akiva was the greatest Tanna of his generation. It is said that he was the shoresh of Torah Shebaal Peh. While on Har Sinai, Hakadosh Boruch Hu revealed to Moshe Rabbeinu the halachos that Rabi Akiva would discover through his drashos. Rabi Akiva’s greatness was such that Moshe asked Hashem why he was chosen to deliver the Torah and not Rabi Akiva (Menachos 29b).

The line of transmission of the Torah from Har Sinai to future generations ran through him and his students. When his original students died, the Jewish world mourned. They worried about how the mesorah that ran through Rabi Akiva would continue. They worried about who would teach Torah to future generations. A grieving people on the run from Roman persecution, they cried and wondered if they could ever be consoled for the loss of so many great men crucial to the spiritual survival of the nation.

However, despite the tremendous loss, Rabi Akiva was not crushed. He immediately set about rebuilding that which was lost. He recharged the people’s faith and helped them recover from the devastating tragedy and proceeded to transmit the Torah to a new group of students.

On Lag Ba’omer, which marks the cessation of the deaths of Rabi Akiva’s talmidim, we commemorate the renewal. We celebrate the determination. We foresee the future bright with hopefulness and optimism. On this day, the talmidim stopped dying and Rabi Akiva’s talmid, Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai, revealed the secrets of Toras Hasod, which infused future generations with added dimensions of kedusha and Torah.

As the centuries pass, and as every generation faces enemies seeking their destruction and annihilation, we look to Rabi Akiva and Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai for inspiration. We note how they persevered, ensuring that our nation and Torah are alive and flourishing to this day. In the wake of a tragedy that would have felled a lesser people, Rabi Akiva strengthened himself and set about ensuring that the chain would remain unbroken.

In our day, as well, as we recuperate from a plague, from tremendous tragedy, from the loss of the man who was viewed as our light and Torah leader, we need to reject gloom and doom, overcome anguish and grief, and redouble our faith in Hashem and His promises to the faithful who don’t question and doubt.

The Torah rejects hopelessness. So does Shmittah. Sefirah says that we can always improve. The fires of Lag Ba’omer burn vibrantly, comforting us with their message that the future will be bright, the mesorah will continue, and our people will be great.

Let us learn the lessons of Shmittah, Sefirah, Rabi Akiva, and his talmid, Rabi Shimon. Let us learn the lesson of Lag Ba’omer. Let us rejoice with our faith in the Creator who cares for every one of us and let us all pray that we merit soon the great light that will benefit us all with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu speedily in our day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Teach Them to Believe

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

This week’s parsha of Emor contains the various Yomim Tovim that we celebrate, as well as the obligation to count the days between when the korban ha’omer is brought on Pesach and the day which commemorates Kabbolas HaTorah. We refer to the obligation as Sefiras Ha’omer and the seven weeks when the count is conducted as the Yemei Sefirah, the period in which we currently find ourselves.

It was during the first half of this period until Lag Ba’omer that the 24,000 students of Rabi Akiva contracted illness and died. Chazal teach that they were punished because they did not treat each other with proper respect. And ever since then, people have been discussing why they deserved to die because they didn’t display proper respect for their colleagues.

Perhaps we can understand that by failing to treat their fellows with respect, they hampered their ability to grow and be as productive as they could have been. They robbed them of the self- respect and self-dignity every person needs in order to excel. And robbing a person of their pride and confidence is akin to killing him, for you have ruined their ability to do what they were brought to this world for.

Someone who publicly embarrasses another is referred to by Chazal as a rosha who does not merit a portion in the World to Come. The rabbis teach that it is preferable for a person to throw himself into a burning flame rather than cause another person embarrassment. This is because shaming a person is akin to murder.

It would seem that dealing with people in a less than respectful manner on a regular basis is more hurtful, and therefore the 24,000 talmidim of the great Rabi Akiva were punished so severely. These were the people who were to be charged with the responsibility of transferring the Torah to the future generations, but they impeded their fellows’ ability to reach their potential and to grow into the Torah giants they were meant to be in order to fulfill their specific missions. [See also Rashi Gemara Taanis 23a D”H oh chavrusah oh misusah.]

The Chazon Ish would say that every yeshiva bochur requires a spoonful of kavod every day in order for him to be able to grow in his Torah and avodah and not become disenchanted with himself. In order for bochurim to grow, they need to hear words of encouragement and kind comments about themselves. If they are treated that way, he said, they will be inspired to grow and excel. And while he made the statement about yeshiva bochurim, it refers to everybody.

Students of the Alter of Slabodka would repeat that he taught that if we would remove from a person all aspects of respect, he would either die or lose his mind and go insane. Without any feelings of respect, a person simply loses it.

Everyone needs to feel good about themselves in order to be happy, satisfied and productive. Especially in this time of Sefirah, we must all do what we can to help ourselves and others feel good about themselves and their abilities so that they will be motivated to be energetic and productive.

Sefirah is divided into two “halves.” There are thirty-two days and then there is the Lag Ba’omer break, followed by seventeen days. The thirty-two days leading up to Lag Ba’omer correspond to the word “kavod,” respect, whose numerical value is 32. It was during those days that the talmidei Rabi Akiva perished for not displaying proper respect, and correspondingly, it is a time when we should work on rectifying their sin by ensuring that we treat everyone with respect. Following Lag Ba’omer, there are seventeen days, corresponding to “tov.” Hopefully, by then, the sin has been rectified, as we continue to prepare ourselves for Kabbolas HaTorah.

Too often, we encounter people who lack motivation and drive. They have given up on themselves. They view themselves as failures because nobody respected them. They were labeled as dummies and slow learners when they were young and were never able to climb out from under that label.

I met a teenage boy over Yom Tov who wasn’t fitting in. He dressed differently than his peers, was making a big commotion, was using inappropriate words quite loudly, and was making a general nuisance of himself. I went over to him quietly and tried making conversation with him to calm him down and to see what his issue was. Perhaps I could help him. After some chit chat, he looked up at me and said, “Anyway, what do you want from me? I’m just a loser.” Feeling so bad for him, I said, “You’re just starting out. It’s way too early to be a loser. You have a long way to go.”

I hope he took my words to heart, but I doubt that he did. It’s been beaten into him ever since he was a young boy. Maybe he failed a test or two. Maybe he wasn’t able to read and was ashamed to ask for help. From there, it snowballed. It could have been anything, but by now, he has given up on himself, and it will take a lot of hard work to get him back to where he has some self-esteem and enough belief in himself to give himself another chance at climbing back up.

The great posek, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, served as rosh yeshiva of the famed Yeshiva Kol Torah in Yerushalayim. There was a boy who wasn’t doing well, and the hanhallah decided that he had to be sent away. Though he was quite intelligent, he was very lazy. Despite all their best efforts, they were not able to convince him to take his studies seriously. Finally, after exhausting all their attempts to get him to shape up and improve, they decided that it was not beneficial for him to remain in Kol Torah and it was detrimental to the others for him to stay there. The hanhallah convened a meeting to discuss the weighty issue, and it was agreed that he would be asked to leave. All present voted for his immediate expulsion – all except Rav Shlomo Zalman. He also agreed that the boy must go, but he asked for a two-week delay in carrying it out. The others agreed, though they didn’t anticipate any change. After all, they had tried everything, to no avail.

That evening, Rav Shlomo Zalman approached an older boy with a proposal. He said to him, “I want to hire you to teach this boy a certain Tosafos. I will pay you well, and I want you to teach him the Tosafos and the surrounding sugya. I want him to know this Tosafos inside and out, backwards and forwards. For two weeks, I want you to also teach him the commentators who discuss this Tosafos. I want him to know it all.

“It’s not going to be easy, and every day you will have to come up with different ways of getting his interest and holding it, but I have faith that you will be able to carry out this job for me.”

This older talmid got to work. First, he asked the boy for his help in studying the Tosafos with him, using the ingenuity his rebbi told him he would need to hold the younger boy’s interest and encourage his involvement. Each following day, he found a way to keep the conversation going, adding to the boy’s understanding of the entire topic and the words of Tosafos. By the time the two weeks ended, the boy who was struggling was energized. He was involved in the Tosafos and an expert in it.

Once a month, Rav Shlomo Zalman would go into each shiur room and give farhers, testing the talmidim’s knowledge and comprehension of what they were studying. He would ask them questions on the Gemara, Rashi, Tosafos, Rosh, Maharsha, and other commentaries connected to the sugya. On the last day of the two weeks, Rav Shlomo Zalman entered the shiur room that the boy who was to leave that day was in.

Everyone sat in their seats, tense for the moment the rosh yeshiva would call upon them. Everyone except that boy. It was his last day. He was leaving regardless, he was a loser anyway, and he had nothing more to lose. Besides, what were the chances that Rav Shlomo Zalman would call upon him? He leaned back in his seat, with his legs folded, waiting for the whole thing to end.

How surprised he was when, of all people, the world famous rosh yeshiva looked in his direction and called upon him. “Chaim Goldstein, let me ask you a question.” It was about that Tosafos that he had been studying the past two weeks. He sat straight in his seat, snapped out of his apathetic daydreaming, and proceeded to answer.

A broad smile spread across the beautiful angelic face of Rav Shlomo Zalman recognizable to so many. He shot back what’s known in yeshivish as “a bomb kasha on the p’shat the boy said in Tosafos. “How can you say such a p’shat?!”

The boy was now almost standing on his feet with excitement. “Rebbi, the Rashba asks that question, but the Maharsha answers it, so I stand behind my p’shat.”

“Not so fast. Perhaps you are correct. Tell me please, what does the Maharsha say?”

And so it went back and forth for a while. The rest of the shiur sat in amazement at the boy’s brilliance. Rav Shlomo Zalman was overjoyed. He could barely contain his pride as the boy showed what he was capable of.

Finally, the boy finished his journey through the sugya. Rav Shlomo sat there transfixed. He looked at the boy with warm, holy, Yerushalmi eyes and said with all the kindness of his soul, “I see in front of me a gifted boy, an exemplar of this yeshiva. You are brilliant and able to learn so well. Why are you leaving the yeshiva? What a shame.”

The boy wanted to jump up and say that he wasn’t leaving by his own volition; he was shown the door. But before he could say anything, the angel in front of the class continued: “I understand that you are going to study in a yeshiva that is closer to the home of your widowed mother.”

Copious tears were flowing down the boy’s cheeks, and even if he wanted to say something, he couldn’t. There was a large lump in his throat. He began thinking to himself, “If only the rosh yeshiva knew the real reason I’m leaving…,” but he didn’t have much time to think, because Rav Shlomo Zalman continued speaking to him. “It is amazing that a baal kishron like you is leaving the yeshiva just so that you can be close to your mother. What astounding mesirus nefesh! What kibbud eim! Amazing. You made the right decision.”

He went over to the boy and shook his hand, while blessing him that he should see much success in the yeshiva he was going to so that he could be close to his mother, the almanah, and help her with her needs, bringing her comfort and nachas.

That evening, when he packed his bags to leave, he did so with his head held high, with much pride and self-esteem. He wasn’t a loser who had to sneak out of the yeshiva, hoping nobody would see him, fading into the darkness of returning home with no yeshiva to go to.

He was the guy Rav Shlomo Zalman praised for his mesirus nefesh. He was a baal kishron, who excelled in learning and had a bright future ahead of him.

Years went by, he got married, and he had a few children. One day, he went to a bris and the great rosh yeshiva and posek, Rav Shlomo Zalman, was the sandek. After the bris, everyone passed by Rav Shlomo Zalman to shake his hand and receive a brocha. Our friend was among the people on line, though he doubted Rav Shlomo Zalman would remember him.

When it was his turn, he stuck out his hand. The elderly rosh yeshiva shook it warmly and asked him his name. “My name is Chaim Goldstein,” he said.

Rav Shlomo Zalman’s eyes lit up. “Of course I remember you! You are the tremendous baal kishron who, with mesirus nefesh, gave up learning in Kol Torah to be near your mother, the almanah. Of course, I remember you. How could I forget someone who gave up so much for his mother?”

What an amazing story about an amazing person. I’ve heard and read many stories, but this one takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes as I think about it.

There is so much pain in our world, so many struggling kids and adults, so many people who had their innocence robbed from them, so many who everyone has given up on, including themselves. So much sadness, so much grief, so much difficulty coping with what life brings.

We can help them. Each one of us can. We don’t have to be as great as Rav Shlomo Zalman. All we have to do is care. Care enough about other people to show them respect. Show them that their life is worth living. That they have a future. That despite everything, they are not losers. Allow them to believe in themselves. It doesn’t cost anything to smile at someone. It’s not the end of the world to make up a little story that allows someone to believe in themself and get their life back on track.

It’s not that hard to treat other people the way you want to be treated. It will make a world of difference if you do. And it will prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach any day now.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

The Rest of the Story

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Here we are into the third week of Sefirah, the second perek of Pirkei Avos, and studying Parshas Kedoshim, all intertwined and charged with the theme of the posuk found in this week’s parsha of “Ve’ahavta lerei’acha kamocha.”

The obligation to love our fellows as we love ourselves is fundamental to being an observant Jew. The story is often repeated about the man who came to Hillel Hazokein and asked to hear the entire Torah while standing on one leg. Hillel told him, “Mah de’aloch senei lechavroch lo sa’avid, v’idoch zil gemor - Don’t do to others what you don’t want others to do to you, and the rest go learn.” Basically, he told him, “Ve’ohavta lerei’acha kamocha,” to treat others the way he would want to be treated.

I never really understood Hillel’s response. What does he mean that the entire Torah is wrapped up in the command of “Ve’ohavta lerei’acha kamocha”? There really is much more to the Torah than one mitzvah. The Torah is, as the posuk states (Iyov 11:9), “Arucha m’eretz middah urechova mini yom.” It is “longer than the earth and wider than the sea.” What, then, is the understanding of Hillel’s response to the man?

I saw an anecdote involving Rav Chaim Soloveitchik that answers the question. It happened that in his city of Brisk the community was searching for a chazzan to lead the Yomim Noraim davening. They interviewed many candidates as they sought to find someone who fulfilled the conditions usually sought, namely that the chazzan preferably be virtuous, excel in Torah, be over 30 years of age, be married, possess a nice voice, and be acceptable to the people in the shul etc.

In the end, they hired the person who filled the most criteria. The only box he didn’t check was that his voice was not all that great. When Rav Chaim was informed of the decision, he said that he would not have chosen the person they chose. The committee didn’t understand his objection. The man was a fine person, an outstanding talmid chochom, and had every condition the job required except one. That was a lot more than the other candidates.

Rav Chaim explained that the other attributes sought for in a chazzan are advantages for a chazzan. But a person who doesn’t have a good voice is not a chazzan at all. Once you find a candidate with a good voice who knows how to lead the davening, then you check to see if he has the other attributes, but without the voice, he is simply not a chazzan.

That was what Hillel was teaching the impatient man who wanted to convert. To be a Yid, you have to love the other Yidden. That is the Alef-Bais. Everything else is commentary.

As we count down towards Shavuos and Kabbolas HaTorah, we not only need to engage in introspection to prepare ourselves for the great day, but we also have to consider our lives as Jews. We are all no doubt proud bnei Avrohom, Yitzchok, v’Yaakov, but sometimes we forget what it is all about. We become engaged in pursuits that take over our lives and fail to remain dedicated to Torah study and behavior. We become consumed with ourselves, our families and our immediate buddies, and are apathetic to other people’s needs and desires.

Everybody wants to be appreciated. Everyone wants to be noticed. Nobody minds a compliment every now and then. People want friends. They want to be included in things. And sometimes, people need help. They need someone to talk to, someone to understand them, someone to lend them money, or time, or a shoulder to cry on.

There is much more to being a Yid, but being thoughtful and caring and treating other people the way you like to be treated is where it starts. And it should become our second nature.

The Alter of Kelm would say that included in the mitzvah of Ve’ohavta lerei’acha kamocha is that we care about the other person not because we are commanded to do so, but because we really love him. He would explain that the mitzvah is to love the other guy as you love yourself, and just as you love yourself because that is your nature and not because anybody told you to, we are to love others as part of our nature.

And just as there is no limit to how much people love themselves - it’s not as if they love a certain amount and with that they have fulfilled their obligation of self-love - so too, when it comes to loving other people, the same applies. We need to be preemptive in anticipating the needs of others, caring about them, celebrating with them, grieving with them, assisting them, and helping them achieve a sense of satisfaction and happiness.

It is something we can all do, or else it wouldn’t be a mitzvah in the Torah. Let no one say, “This isn’t for me. I’m not that guy. I don’t have patience or I’m too busy or I can’t be bothered going to other people’s simchos or, lo aleinu, shivahs. I can’t be nice to everyone.”

It is who we are meant to be and what our essence should be.

The great gaon, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, was an uncle to three roshei yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva, Rav Aharon Cohen, Rav Yechezkel Sarna, and Rav Moshe Chevroni. At the levayah of Rav Isser Zalman in Yerushalayim in 1953, Rav Moshe Chevroni was maspid and told a fascinating story about his uncle’s love of Torah. This is the story he told.

During the period of British control of Eretz Yisroel in the lead-up to the founding of the State of Israel, a bitter guerilla war was ongoing between the British occupiers and the Jewish underground. In an attempt to curtail the activities of the underground, the British imposed strict overnight curfews, forbidding anyone to be out of their homes between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. British soldiers would patrol the streets, and anyone who was found disobeying the curfew was taken to jail and locked up, no questions asked. If the person looked suspicious to them, they would shoot him on the spot.

During one of these curfews, Rav Moshe Chevroni was learning in the yeshiva at 2 a.m. when he heard knocks on the door. He became frightened, afraid that British soldiers were looking for weapons or suspects. He did not understand English and had no way of communicating with them. He feared that they would take him away. As the knocking continued, he said a tefillah, asking Hashem to protect him, and approached the door. He stood by the door and, in a shaking voice, asked who was there.

Der feter. It is your uncle,” said the voice on the other side in Yiddish.

He opened the door, and there, at 2:00 in the morning, was his uncle, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer. Relieved, he let him in and began asking questions. “What are you doing here at this hour? Why would you leave your house in middle of a curfew and put your life in jeopardy to walk here? It is dangerous to be seen outside on the street.”

Rav Isser Zalman explained that he was learning at home and arrived at a difficulty in understanding a ruling of the Rambam. As hard as he tried, he could not come up with a solution to his question, and he knew that he would not be able to sleep until he understood the Rambam. “I was wondering who I could ask my question to at this late hour. I told my wife, ‘Our nephew, Rav Moshe Chevroni, is certainly awake. He must be in the yeshiva learning now. I will go to him, and together we will review the sugya and the Rambam. We will figure it out and arrive at an understanding. Then I will return home.’ So here I am.”

As he was delivering the hesped and recounting this, Rav Chevroni said in amazement that he was astonished by Rav Isser Zalman’s love for Torah. How at 2 a.m., he left his house, during a curfew no less, to walk to the Chevron Yeshiva in pursuit of an answer to his question on the Rambam. Then he continued with the story.

“He told me his brilliant question and looked at me. I asked Hashem to enlighten me and help me offer an explanation. A thought came to my mind. I shared it with him and he was satisfied that he now had the proper understanding of the Rambam.

“He got up to leave and return home. I said to him, ‘Where are you going? You can’t go back home. It is too dangerous. Stay here with me and rest until 6 a.m. Then you can safely return home.

“But he wouldn’t hear of it. He said that he had to write down the answer. I told him that he could write the answer there in the yeshiva. I would supply him with a pen and paper. But he said that he needed to write it in his notebook and that he couldn’t write it in yeshiva. He had to be home in order to write it properly. So he went home.

“Look at that love for Torah! Look how dedicated he was to understanding Torah! What a wonderful story. What an amazing lesson. What an astonishing person he was!”

He finished his hesped and everyone was impressed with his story and buzzing about it.

During the shivah, when he went to be menachem avel his aunt and family, his aunt called him over. “That was not what happened,” she said. He looked at her. “What do you mean that’s not what happened? It happened with me. I was there. I heard and saw everything. He came to me in the middle of the night during a tough curfew and asked me the kushya on the Rambam.”

“That part is true. He came to you during the curfew at night and asked you a kushya on a Rambam. You told that story to demonstrate the love of Torah of your uncle, and that is true, but everybody knew that before you told them the story. Everybody is aware of his love for Torah and his hasmodah. But now I’m going to tell you the rest of the story, and you will see a different side of his greatness.”

This is what she told him.

“He wrote his sefer Even Ha’azel and I helped him with it. He very much wanted it to be printed, as did I. But in those days, it wasn’t simple. The printer had a lot of work and it moved along very slowly. The printer told him that there would be a multi-year wait to get the sefer out. He was very upset, but there was nothing we could do other than wait.

“One day, I was notified by the printer that there was a cancellation. If I would get him Rav Isser Zalman’s transcripts by 8:00 the next morning, they would immediately get to work on the sefer. But, they told me, if they are not there by 8:05, we would lose our opportunity and they would give the slot to someone else.

“When he came home that night, I told him the good news. I was thrilled. Everything was prepared. The kesovim were all organized and ready to go to the printer. And now, we had an opportunity to have the sefer finally printed.

“But when I told him this, he turned white. I asked what happened and he explained: ‘You know that I included in the sefer a kushya and teirutz from Rav Aharon Cohen. I also have a kushya and teirutz from Rav Yechezkel Sarna. But I do not have anything from Rav Moshe Chevroni.’

“I told him that Rav Moshe Chevroni is humble and would not be hurt if there is nothing from him in the sefer, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He said that he couldn’t fathom the risk of hurting him, even if it meant not printing the sefer.”

The rebbetzin related that she was so upset that she almost began to cry, but she had a brainstorm. She told Rav Isser Zalman that he should go to Rav Moshe Chevroni. “Ask him to answer a question that you have in your writings on a difficult Rambam, even though you already know the answer. Then erase the answer that you wrote and insert his answer into the Even Ha’azel and it will be ready to go to press.”

The rebbetzin told Rav Chevroni, “Rav Isser Zalman accepted my proposal and left the house, arriving at the yeshiva at 2 a.m. to hear your answer to the question, so that there would be no chance of your feelings being hurt.

“He came to you with his difficult Rambam and told you that he could not sleep. And that was the truth. He could not sleep if there was any chance that you would be insulted. He desperately wanted to print the sefer that he had worked so hard on. So he went out in the wee hours of the morning, at great danger to himself, to ensure that he would not hurt the feelings of another person. He asked the question to which he knew the answer, and then he ran back home to adjust the transcript and get it to the printer by 8 a.m.”

Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer was famed as a great talmid chochom, a great rosh yeshiva, and a great masmid who loved the Torah. But he was also exceedingly considerate of other people, to the extent that put his life in danger to prevent hurting another. And that is the greatness demonstrated in the story that Rav Chevroni told at his levayah.

May we learn the lesson taught by Rav Isser Zalman, who knew what it means to be a Yid: kind, considerate, gentle, and unfailingly thoughtful. May we learn the lessons of Sefirah and the passing of Rabi Akiva’s 24,000 talmidim, the teachings of Pirkei Avos, and the obligations included in the posuk, “Ve’ohavta lerei’acha kamocha.”

If we do, we will be better Yidden, we will make life better for other Yidden, and we will help prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Climb

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

A certain sadness washes over many people when Yom Tov ends, and they find difficulty in returning to performing the various mundane activities that comprise our days. After weeks of preparation for the great chag and then eight days of bliss, joyfully performing mitzvos, enjoying the family, partaking of special meals, taking trips, visiting old friends and the like, it suddenly all comes to a crashing end. After drinking the eight kosos at the Sedorim and making Kiddush so many times, the most difficult cup to drink has to be the one we made Havdollah on at the conclusion of the glorious Yom Tov.

Perhaps the way to deal with the shock re-entry into the world is to seek to maintain a more spiritual level of life as we practiced over Yom Tov rather than quickly jettisoning everything and jumping headfirst into the rat race.

The Netziv, in his introduction to his peirush on Shir Hashirim, discusses the posuk (Devorim 16:8) which states an obligation to eat matzah for six days, followed by a seventh day, which is an atzeres when all work is forbidden: “Sheishes yomim tochal matzos uvayom hashvi’i atzeres laHashem Elokecha lo saaseh melocha.” He says that the last day of Pesach is to inculcate in us the achievements of the Yom Tov so that they remain after the chag has ended.

The Ramchal discusses in several places that matzah is analogous to good and to the yeitzer tov. Chometz is analogous to sin and to the yeitzer hora.

When Hashem redeemed the Jews from slavery on the 15th of Nissan, they were at the 49th level of depravity. Therefore, He extended His powers, so to speak, and caused a great Divine light to shine that evening, immediately removing them from Mitzrayim before they would sink further and be rendered beyond salvation.

Every year, those powers reappear at the time that they originally were apparent to save the Jews. In order to raise ourselves to the level where we can benefit from them, we partake of the matzah, which influences us letov and strengthens the yeitzer tov. Abstaining from bread and chometz, we weaken the power of the yeitzer hora. Coupled with the other mitzvos of the night that we perform, viewing ourselves as if we have been plucked from Mitzrayim, we can raise ourselves to the degree that we can benefit from the special hashpa’os that are manifest that first day of Yom Tov, and in golus the first two days.

After the boost that we receive on the first days of Yom Tov, the extra hashpa’os are removed and it is up to us to maintain the heights we reached. The Bnei Yisroel, at the time of their redemption, returned to the level of tumah they were on in Mitzrayim. The Medrash cites the malochim complaining at Kriyas Yam Suf, “Halalu ovdei avodah zorah vehalalu ovdei avodah zorah,” the Jews were disbelievers like their Mitzri pursuers.

This is why we were given the mitzvah of Sefiras Ha’omer, enabling us to return to where Klal Yisroel was at the time of the first day of Yom Tov. Each day, we are able to rectify another middah and climb another rung as we ascend to Shavuos. We are then able to achieve the associated tikkunim.

Sefirah is the bridge that transports us from Pesach to Shavuos. Pesach and the freedom it represents is not an end to itself, but the beginning of a longer journey. Hashem redeemed us from slavery in Mitzrayim so that we could go on to complete the reason we – and the world – were created. From there, He took us to Har Sinai and presented us with the Torah, the defining essence of our people.

Thus, we celebrate Pesach, relive the experience of deliverance and freedom, and count towards Shavuos to show that we understand why we were freed and what the essence of our life should be. Each day, as we count, we seek to improve, so that by the time of Matan Torah, we will be worthy of the gift.

Therefore, instead of a countdown of how many days remain towards the anticipated date, we count forward – “Today is day one, today is day two” - until we complete the count and reach Shavuos. Each day, we proclaim that we have rectified another facet of our behavior and raised ourselves another step, climbing towards the goal.

We recognize that to receive the Torah, we have to devote ourselves to the task of becoming better and more wholesome. Every day, we work on getting a little better, a little holier, a little less enamored by physical attractions, becoming drawn instead to things spiritual, real and eternal.

As we count Sefirah, we admit that we won’t get where we need to go if we are apathetic and lazy. We have to be energetic about our mission and recognize that success in life requires ambition, drive and hard work.

We take time each day to work on attaining a purity of character and clarity of thought necessary to function as bnei and bnos Torah. We acknowledge that scrolling through posts and flipping through glossy appeals to our lower forms do not aid us in the pursuit of what makes us better and happier people.

The mourning aspects of the Sefirah period have so taken over the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuos that we can sometimes forget that there is more to Sefirah than refraining from weddings, haircuts and listening to music.

During Sefirah, we work to raise ourselves from the level of se’orim, which comprises the Korban Omer brought on Pesach, to the more refined chitim of the Shtei Halechem of Shavuos.

Chazal (Yoma 9b) teach that the second Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed because of sinas chinom. Simply explained, the people looked down upon each other out of baseless hatred. Perhaps we can say that until the period during which the talmidim of Rabi Akiva died because of a lack of respect for each other, there was hope that the Jews would be able to repent for the sins that caused the churban Bais Hamikdosh. However, when the terrible plague struck the Jewish people and the 24,000 talmidim died, it became obvious that the people were overcome with sinas chinom and were lacking in ahavas Yisroel and achdus.

They realized that there would be no quick solution to their golus under the Romans unless they would quickly repent for their sins. The fact that the mageifah took place during the days of Sefirah, when we are to be engaging in daily introspection and improvement, indicated that not only were the people not worthy of Torah, but they were also not worthy of the Bais Hamikdosh.

The same components that are necessary for kabbolas haTorah are necessary for geulah, so this special period of Sefirah was chosen as a time to improve ourselves and prepare not only for Torah, but also for geulah. By mourning the loss of the talmidim, we are reminded of the punishment for not loving each other and dealing with each other respectfully. We see what happens when there is sinas chinom and a lack of respect for each other.

At the time of the churban, the people excelled in the study and observance of Torah, mitzvos and chesed (see Yoma, ibid.). The only area in which they were lacking was ahavas Yisroel. That alone was enough to cause the destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh and bring on golus.

In our day, we note the explosion of Torah and frum communities. There is so much that we can point to with great pride. Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs are more plentiful and larger than ever. We have every conceivable type of chesed organization. There is unprecedented dikduk b’mitzvos. Yet, the fact that we remain in golus indicates that we are lacking in ahavas Yisroel and achdus. If sinas chinom wasn’t prevalent among us, if there would be proper mutual respect, and if there wouldn’t be machlokes and division, golus would have ended.

During these days of Sefirah, it is incumbent upon us to work to end the hatred, spite, cynicism and second-guessing of each other and of people who look different or see things differently than we do.

The Sefas Emes was once given a large sum of money for safekeeping by a visiting chossid. The rebbe placed the money in a secure place, but the next morning, it was gone. The rebbe entered the bais medrash and announced that davening would not begin until the money was returned to its rightful owner.

No one came forward.

Time passed, but the mystery wasn’t solved. Finally, the rebbe went into his house, called over one of the attendants, and said, “Give back the money you took.”

The attendant broke down and admitted his misdeed.

“If the rebbe knew who had taken the money,” the gabbai asked, “why did we have to wait so long to confront him?”

An elder chossid explained that the rebbe knew who the culprit was; that wasn’t the hard part. The challenge for the rebbe was being able to look another Jew in the face and accuse him of being a thief. It took the rebbe hours to get to that point, after he had exhausted all opportunities for the man to save face.

Upon hearing the chossid’s explanation, the Sefas Emes confirmed what he had said.

During these days of Sefirah, as we seek improvement and mourn the passing of Rabi Akiva’s students, we have to bring ourselves to the level of love and care for others that it hurts us to embarrass other people, even when they may be deserving of punishment. We must always do what we can to help people protect their dignity, as they were created in the image of Hashem.

As our communities grow large, bli ayin hora, there is a tendency to take others for granted and not be mindful of their needs and feelings. In a small community, every person is precious and is needed to form a cohesive group, so, naturally, their feelings and concerns are more readily addressed. In a small town, every customer in the kosher grocery is appreciated, as they are needed for the proprietor to earn an income. In larger communities, where there are more customers and clientele to choose from, the owner must be cognizant not to become flippant with the needs and feelings of his Jewish customers.

And it is not only storekeepers. Everyone who comes into contact with other people during the course of the day must take note of this. If we want to realize the levels the Torah sets for us to achieve goodness, contentment and Torah itself, we have to show respect for all. If we want to attain the freedom our forefathers did at the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim and merit the ultimate redemption, we have to not only achieve excellence in Torah and be more scrupulous in our conduct and observance, but also be more considerate and caring for all.

May we all merit to advance daily and acquire Torah and proper middos so that we merit the geulah sheleimah b’meheirah.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Transforming and Transmitting

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz 

My dear friend, Rav Eliezer Sorotzkin, was in the United States a couple of weeks ago, and we were discussing the loss of Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l. As head of Lev L’Achim and Chinuch Atzmai, he was privileged to interact with Rav Chaim on a regular basis. I asked him for stories only he could tell.

This is one of them.

Lev L’Achim accomplishes its phenomenal historic kiruv work through teaching people Torah. Groups of volunteer bnei Torah travel to secular areas and invite people to study Torah with them. As they study, they begin showing interest in the Torah way of life and many begin taking steps that lead them to Torah lives.

Some of the leaders had a custom that when a group would finish studying their first perek of Gemara, they would travel to Bnei Brak and make a siyum in Rav Chaim’s room. Rav Chaim did not participate. When he learned Torah, nothing could disturb him. He simply did not hear anything that was going on around him. The boys would gather around the table and someone would make the siyum. Everyone would make a lechaim, an attendant would alert Rav Chaim to their presence, and then they would pass Rav Chaim. The boys would look at him and say shalom. He would answer, “Buha,” and return to his learning.

Rav Sorotzkin related that, invariably, some members of the group would undertake to do teshuvah as they left the room. If he asked them what moved them to take the drastic step of adopting a Torah life, they would shrug their shoulders and say that they didn’t know why, but something came over them being in the room and seeing the tzaddik, and they just knew that they had to change their way of life.

Being in the very presence of a tzaddik is life-altering.

Rav Yitzchok Hutner would tell a story about a visitor to pre-war Vilna who retained the services of a local wagon driver. Baalei aggalah, wagon drivers, were notorious for their illiteracy. As the passenger made himself comfortable in the wagon, he removed a Gemara from his satchel and began to learn. The wagon driver took notice and turned around to ask the learned passenger what masechta he was studying. The passenger politely answered, certain that this would be the end of the conversation.

The baal aggalah persisted, asking what daf he was studying. The passenger responded without looking up, amused that a wagon driver would care not only what masechta he was learning, but also which page.

The driver asked one question, and then another, and, suddenly, a Talmudic pilpul ensued, with questions, arguments, and proofs being shared. The passenger was amazed by the scholarship of his driver and asked him what the secret of Vilna is that even the wagon drivers are talmidei chachomim.

“It is because we had the Vilna Gaon here,” responded the driver.

I assume that the story is apocryphal, because it continues that the visitor to Vilna asked the driver about the Gaon’s position in the city.

“Was he the rov?”

“No, he wasn’t.”

“Well, then, was he the rosh yeshiva?”

“Also not,” replied the wagon driver.

“So was he a maggid there, inspiring people to learn?”

“No, he was none of the above.”

“Then how did he succeed in infusing the people with such ahavas haTorah?” wondered the guest.

Veil ehr iz da geven. Because he was here,” was the succinct answer.

Chazal tell us that at the beginning of time, Hakadosh Boruch Hu took the souls of the great tzaddikim and dispersed them throughout the generations, planting them at various junctures and stages in history - “shesolan bechol dor vador.” We were privileged to walk the same ground as Rav Chaim, be in the same room as him, and speak to him.

One of Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach’s talmidim told him about his father-in-law, who had survived the horrors of the Holocaust, enduring unimaginable torture. He said that he asked his father-in-law how he was able to emerge from such a dark, bitter tunnel with his faith intact. The man said that when he was a small child, the Chofetz Chaim visited his village. His parents felt that he was too young and fragile to join the crowd of people jostling for a view of the famed tzaddik, but his grandfather insisted that the boy go.

His grandfather carried him to where the welcoming took place, and as they approached the Chofetz Chaim, he lifted the child high in the air so that he could see the face of the tzaddik.

He recounted many years later, “How did I remain strong in my faith? It’s because I saw the Chofetz Chaim’s face, and that image remained imprinted in my mind in the darkest times, giving me chizuk and hope when things were very dark.”

We gather at the Seder and everyone is obligated to view himself as if he was in Mitzrayim and was redeemed from there. As the Baal Haggadah writes, “Bechol dor vador chayov adam liros es atzmo ke’ilu hu yotza miMitzrayim.” The Rambam famously changes the word “liros,” which indicates that the obligation is for a person to view himself as if he was redeemed, to “leharos,” to demonstrate to others you yourself were redeemed.

We wonder: Why is the obligation at the Seder to imagine as if we ourselves were just freed from Mitzrayim? Why is it not sufficient to celebrate that Am Yisroel gained freedom and independence after two centuries-plus of servitude and deprivation?

The Ramchal teaches that every Yom Tov brings along with it the special hashpa’os that were prevalent at the time of the original neis that we are commemorating on that holy day. On Pesach, at the Seder, we seek to recreate the special feelings of the night that changed and charged our people so that we may merit those extraordinary hashpa’os which were evident on the 15th of Nissan back in Mitzrayim and every year since.

But it goes deeper than that.

The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 16) questions why we have so many mitzvos to perform the night of the Seder. He explains that since on this night we began our trajectory to becoming the holy nation, every year, at that time, we undertake to perform actions that demonstrate the great heights we achieved on the same date and time. By performing those acts and imagining our feelings at that same time in Mitzrayim, we set those levels in ourselves for our lifetime. This, he says, is why there is an abundance of mitzvos on this night, because by performing them, our hearts and souls are changed and improved, and thus the more, the merrier.

Perhaps we can add that davka because the act of performing a mitzvah influences our character and changes us for the better, on a night when we are charged with transmitting the truths of our emunah to the next generation, we are given so many mitzvos. They change our very being. Therefore, as we do the mitzvos and contemplate what transpired on this evening so many years ago, imagining as if we ourselves were freed and formed into a free, holy, ambitious, growing person, we merit the special hashpa’os of this holy night. Not only our neshamos, but also our faces begin to glow with kedusha and taharah as we are transformed. Our children and grandchildren take notice, and those images are forever etched in their memories and neshamos.

I write from personal experience. When I was a young child, our family would travel every year to Detroit and partake in the Seder of my sainted grandfather, Rav Eliezer Levin.

Back in those days, my father would pick up a Drive Away car that had to be driven from New York to Detroit. It was the cheapest mode of travel and we didn’t have much money. My parents would pack us into the car - this was before the advent of seat belts, car seats, and vans - and off we’d go. My father would drive through the night. We kids would fall asleep in Monsey and we’d wake up at Zaidy’s house.

We were all up for the Seder; we wouldn’t miss it for anything. My grandfather sat there looking like a Malach Elokim Tzvakos. He spoke to us about Yetzias Mitrzayim and the mitzvos of the Seder in a way that remains etched in my heart to this very day. He was mekayeim the liros es atzmo and leharos es atzmo lemehadrin, with overwhelming joy and devotion.

His maaseh mitzvos were mashpia not only on him, but on everyone who sat at that table. We felt the joy of leaving Mitzrayim, the simcha of being a Yid, of eating matzos, drinking Arba Kosos, and doing mitzvos in general.

As the Sefer Hachinuch says, those actions and feelings remain etched in my soul forever, impacting me and making me a better person and a better Yid.

The Seder is the time when we are best able to feel the cheirus afforded every member of Klal Yisroel. When we transport ourselves back all those years to Yetzias Mitzrayim, it becomes real to us. As we perform the mitzvos of the night properly, they influence and change us. The Seder has the ability to transfix us, as it grips us in the enthrallment of the moment. We become like little angels riveting our children and grandchildren with the splendor of our way of life, of Torah and mitzvos.

The beautifully set table, the kittel, the matzos, the wine, the Haggados, the Mah Nishtanah, the songs, even the pillows - all the disparate aspects of the glorious image come together and forge memories and people.

My Zaide is no longer here. Nor are my parents. Now it is up to me to carry on their traditions, to light the fires in the souls of my children and grandchildren. It is up to all of us at our Sedorim to charge the room, imagine ourselves leaving Mitzrayim, showing our families what it feels like, transmitting the glory and magnificence of the moment. It is up to us to transmit the holiness and dedication of our parents and grandparents to the next generations. It is up to us to present that image of holiness that our grandchildren will hearken back to for the rest of their long lives.

We, who have experienced the ups and downs of life, who know of defeat and triumph, who appreciate what it means to be an eternal people, who appreciate being part of the Am Hanivchar, have an obligation to transmit the glory of Yetzias Mitzrayim 3,334 years ago, and the subsequent Yetzios Mitzrayim that Jews have experienced throughout the ages, as well as those that we ourselves have experienced. The Seder is the time to give all of that over so that our children and grandchildren can have the opportunity to be as blessed as we are to live joyous Torah lives in freedom.

Is there a greater joy? Is there a greater opportunity for joy and fulfillment?

Adopt-a-Kollel is a remarkable organization performing historic work, bringing much needed support to kollelim across Eretz Yisroel. For Pesach, they sent me a fabulous Haggadah named Toras Chaim, containing divrei Torah and stories of Rav Chaim Kanievsky. It was written by Rav Shalom Meir Vallach, who annually produces a new Haggadah from a different gadol which is a pleasure to read and learn from. This one was published four years ago.

He writes that someone asked Rav Chaim for advice on how to achieve simcha. He responded that the question is out of place, and he explained. The Brisker Rov was once watching children running around, playing and smiling as they were having a good time. He asked the people who were accompanying him why the children were happy.

They answered that the children were joyful because they didn’t have possessions and other things to worry about.

The Brisker Rov was not satisfied with their response. He said that when Hashem created the world, He created a happy place. But as people get older, they become ruined and therefore lose their joy. Children are still straight, the way Hashem created them, and therefore they are happy.

Thus, said Rav Chaim, when you ask how to achieve happiness, that indicates that a person is a depressed, sorry, sad creature, and when Yom Tov comes around, it is incumbent upon him to change his nature. In fact, the opposite is true. Man’s natural state is to be happy and joyful; our task is return to that.

On Pesach, at the Seder, we have the ability to experience our natural state of joy. Let’s do our best to achieve it and bring everyone who is with us along. May we all feel it, and may it remain with us until the great day when we will all be in Yerushalayim habenuyah.