Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Good Over Evil

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The news since Simchas Torah has been downright frightening. Twelve hundred innocent people were killed just because they were Jews. They weren’t just killed. They were brutalized in a most gruesome manner. Hundreds more were wounded. Some 240 were captured and brought back to the terror swamp that is Gaza, to be held in primitive conditions.

After an initial, fleeting, sympathy phase, the world reverted to its ancient hatred of Jewish people of all types. Political, industrial and educational leaders began bashing Israel for defending itself and battling its despicable enemy according to the rules of engagement. Huge public protests were quick to follow, with Muslims, students and leftists around the world marching against Israel’s “genocide.”

Though Israel’s loss was clearly evident, as was the ability to understand that no nation could tolerate the barbarism visited upon it by nearby savages, the world didn’t and doesn’t care. No matter what happens, Israel is always wrong and the Jews are always guilty.

And now, while Jews in Israel and around the world celebrate the homecoming of elderly women and young children who never hurt anyone, Palestinians are rejoicing over the return of their peers who failed in their missions to kill Jews.

The early Zionists believed that anti-Semitism was rooted in the statelessness of the Jewish people. If they would have a state of their own, not only would the world respect them, but they would also be able to defend themselves and fight back against enemies of the Jewish people. They would have an army and police of their own, statesmen, and all the trappings of a regular, normal country. They would no longer be knocked about from country to country. They would finally have a stable and safe home.

But it was not to be. After sacrificing much Jewish blood and continuously raising money around the world to fund their enterprise, it didn’t work as planned. The inbred, senseless hatred is still there, as strong as ever, just waiting for an excuse to erupt.

As Shlomo Hamelech proclaimed thousands of years ago, “Ein kol chodosh tachas hashomesh - There is nothing new under the sun.” Whatever was will be again. Indeed, time has borne out the wisdom of his statement.

The Ramban writes in his introduction to Parshas Vayishlach that the parsha “was written to show that Hashem saved his servant from someone stronger than him… The parsha contains an indication for future generations, for all that occurred between Yaakov and Eisov will occur to us with Eisov’s children [and we need to know that we should follow the path of our forefather Yaakov].”

It is often recounted that Vayishlach helps guide our lives in golus. The Midrash discusses how the chachomim who traveled to Rome for negotiations and deliberations with the political rulers of Eretz Yisroel in their day studied this parsha prior to setting out on their precarious journeys. To succeed in their missions, they studied the first encounter between Yaakov as an av and Eisov as a force in his own right. The lessons learned from the exchange between Yaakov and Eisov guided the chachomim in their interactions with Eisov’s offspring.

The Maharal (Derech Chaim 5) teaches that the experiences of each of the three avos parallels different periods in Jewish history. Yaakov, he says, corresponds to the final golus of Edom in which we find ourselves today. And just as Yaakov Avinu traveled a difficult, dark path until he reached peace, so will we, his descendants, travel a lengthy, bumpy road through the exile before we reach the eventual eternal peace and joy.

The pesukim in this week’s parsha tell the story of the eternal battle between the forces of kedusha and tumah, good and evil. That same conflict forms our mission communally as Am Yisroel and individually as bnei Torah, regularly forced to choose between right and wrong and fight for it.

As the sun started to rise and the battle between Yaakov and Eisov’s malach wound down, the malach asked Yaakov to let him return to his heavenly home. Rashi explains, based upon the Gemara in Maseches Chullin, that Eisov’s malach had to say shirah that day and that was pressing him to return.

The passage is commonly understood to mean that it just happened to be that this day was the one that was predetermined for this particular malach to say shirah. He begged Yaakov to release him, because he had been waiting since the beginning of time for this day.

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik understood the malach’s request on a higher level. He explained that it wasn’t mere happenstance that the malach would be singing shirah that day. Shirah is sung when a mission has been fulfilled and shleimus has been achieved.

The task of Eisov’s angel, who is the Soton and the yeitzer hora, is to struggle with the forces of good - and to lose. His task is to provide the challenge for the good people to overcome evil and for the good to overcome the challenge.

This is because everything in this world was created to bring about and to increase kevod Shomayim. Evil and the forces of evil were also created for this purpose. They accomplish their mission when they provide tough challenges for the forces of good. When the good beats them back, then kevod Shomayim increases and evil, and the forces of evil, have done what they were created to do. When that happens, they sing shirah.

But until that fateful night, the malach of evil had not fulfilled his shlichus, for every time, the power of tov was unable to beat him back. Each time there was an epic battle, the force of evil prevailed over the forces of good and the malach wasn’t able to bring about kevod Shomayim. Since until the showdown with Yaakov he had not achieved the purpose for which he was created, he was not yet able to sing shirah.

When Yaakov Avinu was victorious, the malach’s destiny was realized. He had fought hard, but the koach of good had won. He was now worthy of singing the shiras Hashem, because by losing, he had fulfilled his mission.

Times are tough. There is so much evil, and right now the evil seems to have the upper hand. The world is mostly united against the Jewish state, and even the countries that stand by it do so because they think that it will enable them to force upon Israel an evil enemy state on its border.

There is much confusion on many fronts and people lack a clear vision or understanding of where they should be and on which side of which fence they should stand.

Additionally, as the day of the geulah approaches, the Soton devises difficult vices with which to challenge us. The confrontations and challenges become increasingly tough, and people are ready to just give up and allow the forces of evil that plague us to win.

We cannot let that happen. We have to summon our inner strengths and find within us resources of energy and resilience to stay on the right side, just as Yaakov did.

And just as the sun rose for Yaakov and he was able to withstand Eisov, his son and his malach and safely return home with his family, so will it be for us. After the battles with the Soton, after enduring the chicanery of Lovon and the depravity of Eisov, Yaakov merits tranquility. And so shall we.

Yaakov later led his children into golus, instilling in them the qualities that they would need to persevere and thrive through a long exile. Yaakov’s experiences guide us, his children, through a long and bitter journey through many nations, and they remain as true today as they were in previous periods of our history.

Beneath all their veneers, the children of Eisov we deal with today in Golus Edom embody the same characteristics as their grandfather Eisov. Sometimes they present themselves as achim, brothers, concerned about our welfare, and other times their evil intentions are more readily apparent.

The Baal Haturim in Parshas Toldos (25:25) calculates that the numerical equivalent of Eisov is shalom, peace. Perhaps we can understand the significance of this gematria by noting that even when Eisov seeks to do battle, he presents himself as a man of peace.

He speaks in peaceful tones and his actions appear to be motivated by a desire to spread peace and brotherhood in the world. He presents himself as an intelligent, thoughtful person. Many people are impressed by his cunning.

These days, people review and post clips and photos of the mainstream media’s reporting on Israel and become frustrated when they note how prejudiced the media is and how the reporting is dishonest and twisted to support Hamas and its cause.

When Hamas sent out a picture of a bombed parking lot and claimed that Israel had bombed the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, killing hundreds of people there and wounding many more, the world took their world for it. Although Israel denied it and the only proof was the word of Hamas and the photos they distributed, the world accepted the claims of a barbaric, murderous group and blasted them everywhere. The picture they painted in the psyche of the world can never be erased. Furious demonstrations erupted around the world. Leaders were quick to condemn Israel, and by the time it became impossible to continue to claim that the hospital had been blown up, they moved on to the next lie.

As Israel reported that that very hospital was a Hamas headquarters with labyrinths of tunnels containing command posts and weapons, the very same media mocked Israel for making up stories to justify their genocide of innocent civilians. It wasn’t until Israel, America’s only trustworthy ally in the region, brought mainstream reporters to the tunnels that they accepted what has been a known fact for many years.

But they continue to publish daily the casualty numbers Hamas provides for the number of civilian deaths caused by Israel’s “indiscriminate” bombing, when it is well-known that Israel warned everyone to leave the area and goes out of its way to spare civilian lives whenever possible.

The examples of the hatred for the Jews abound. We’ll just cite another few. As the hostages were freed at the Rafah Crossing, the leaders of Spain and Belgium arrived at that spot to condemn Israel. Is there anything more hypocritical?

The American administration is much better than they are, and is providing immeasurable assistance to Israel, but President Joe Biden continues to insist that when the war is over - and he’s doing his best to bring it to a quick end - a state will be established for the Palestinians.

After all that has happened in Gaza since Israel left there in 2005 and handed it to the Palestinian Authority, and the people voted in democratic elections for Hamas to rule over them, creating a terror state and a base for attacks on Israel, the fiction continues: Reward a murderous, treacherous group that has no honest right to a state with just that - a state from which to terrorize Israel and then the West.

President Biden said this week that he is doing his best to end the war quickly and so once again the United States is working to snatch a ceasefire from the jaws of an Israeli victory, as they have been doing since Israel’s founding. And if doing so will lead the Israeli people to topple Netanyahu for not following through on his promise to totally wipe out Hamas, Biden and his gang will be even happier.

If we accept that this is our role and fate in golus, that we are on the same journey that Yaakov Avinu was on, then it becomes more bearable and understandable.

Ein kol chodosh tachas hashemesh.

Just as their grandfather, Eisov, using the banner of peace, with niceties and catch-phrases, his grandchildren betray their arrogance and anti-Semitism, disguised as concern for justice, calling for a lasting ceasefire. Some march in the streets with banners, while others use diplomatic double-talk to prevent Israel from taking down terrorists who aim for them as well.

We must remember that they are all tools of Hashem to somehow create kevod Shomayim in ways yet to be seen. They are here to perform a mission, to help us strengthen kedusha and defeat tumah. They are here to present challenges to the bnei Yaakov, so that we can overcome them and triumph. As the bnei Eisov perform their shlichus, we have to perform ours and do what we can for the koach hatov to achieve supremacy over the koach hora.

The pattern of Yisroel bein ha’amim is symbolized by the struggle between Yaakov and the sar of Eisov, which ended when the sun rose. The Torah reports, “Vayizrach lo hashemesh vehu tzoleia al yereicho - The sun rose and Yaakov was limping.” He limped, but the sun shone. Good triumphed over the evil.

“Al kein lo yochlu Bnei Yisroel es gid hanosheh.The Torah commands us not to eat the gid hanosheh, to remember that although Eisov and his men can hurt us, and they certainly have, if we remain strong and loyal to the precepts of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov as expressed in the Torah and handed down throughout the ages by Chazal, the Gaonim, the Rishonim, the Acharonim, our rabbeim, our grandparents and our parents, we will merit real peace and a brightened world, ohr chodosh al Tzion to’ir v’nizkeh chulonu meheirah le’oro, with the coming of Moshiach very soon.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

What Hashem Wants from Us

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

We are familiar with pictures from the Holocaust period. The truth is that as gruesome as those pictures are, until October 7th, people viewed them and turned the page without the photos making a dent. When people look at pictures from eighty or ninety years ago, they think to themselves that it was a terrible period back then, but it happened so long ago that it is not really relevant to our lives in this modern period. Hitler was a once-in-history phenomenon. The Brisk and Kishinev pogroms happened so long ago that most people don’t know anything about them.

However, after the terrible slaughter on October 7th, and after seeing the world’s reaction to the wanton, senseless, brutal murder of innocent Jews, we have been awakened to the fate of Jews throughout history and forced to confront the reality of our existence in this world. The bubble in which we had been living has burst, and now we have become aware that what happened in the past can happen again and it can happen here.

Now, when we look at pictures from the Holocaust period and from Be’eri and Kfar Aza, we feel the pain and we sense the anguish. The message is fresh and it is clear.

We aren’t blessed with the paytonim of old, who could powerfully express deep thoughts in a few timeless words. Sadly, the closest we come to the words of prophets nowadays are written in anonymous screeds and rants, with kernels of truth here and there and heavy doses of fiction and ignorance. They are passed around and discussed as if they were scripture.

When we see the society and culture of Western civilization breaking down and under attack, we know that we are living in serious times, from which we will be saved only by Divine interference.

We don’t have anyone to interpret for us the current gezeirah. But we do know that Hashem sends us reminders to prod us to do teshuvah.

The problem is that we forget them. How many remember the kidnapping of the three boys in 2014 enough to give it much thought? How about the attack on Yeshiva Merkaz Harav? How about the Number 12 bus on the way back from the Kosel? How about the five tzaddikim of Har Nof who were killed at shul?

Tragedy shakes us up a bit and then we get on with life. Perhaps that is the doing of the Soton, for he seeks to prevent us from engaging in teshuvah to prevent serious tragedies from occurring in the future. We are sent reminders, because we continuously forget the previous ones.

We have to know that to the extent that we recognize that all that happens is by Divine decree and plan, to that degree Hashem watches over and protects us. The sefer Chovos Halevavos states at the beginning of Shaar Habitachon that Hashem removes his protection from one who puts his faith in others and only protects those who place their faith in Him.

In Shaar Cheshbon Hanefesh, the Chovos Halevavos states that someone who puts his faith in Hashem is rewarded. Hashem “opens his gates of understanding, reveals to him secrets of His chochmah, places an eye on him to guide him, and will not abandon him only to his own powers and abilities.”

The Rambam in Hilchos Taanis writes that it is a mitzvas asei to cry out and blow shofros for every tzarah that befalls the Jewish community. This is one of the paths to teshuvah. When a tragedy befalls the community, everyone must acknowledge that it is due to their sins. However, if instead of crying out they ascribe the threat facing the community to “the way the world works,” such an attitude is an outgrowth of the middah of achzoriyus and ends up deepening and multiplying the tragedy.

The purpose of tragedy is to inspire us to do teshuvah.

The Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo writes that the foundation of the Torah is that every occurrence in this world is a miracle brought about by Hashem. Nothing happens at random. Nothing can be attributed to the forces of nature or “the way the world works.”

One who doesn’t believe this has no share in Toras Moshe, the Ramban affirms. People who observe the mitzvos will succeed, and those who don’t will be punished with destruction.

He also teaches that the daily hidden miracles are more evident when you examine the actions that affect the entire community. As the posuk says (Devorim 29:23-24), “And the nations of the world will say, ‘Why did Hashem do this to the Holy Land?’ And they will answer, ‘Because the Jews let go of the covenant that was made with Hashem, the G-d of their forefathers.’”

The Ramban explains that this is the foretelling of the destruction of Eretz Yisroel, which will be understood by the nations as a punishment for the Jews forsaking the Torah.

However, if we think about what is happening now in Eretz Yisroel and examine the sources, what we find is a much deeper perception of the news and maybe something even more frightening than it appears superficially.

We have been in several goluyos since sinas chinom destroyed the Bais Hamikdosh, but the golus of Yishmoel is totally different. The Maharal writes in his sefer Ner Mitzvah that Yishmoel is the only one of the subjugating nations whose malchus and strength are his own. Yishmoel derives his koach from Avrohom Avinu and from milah. He doesn’t depend on Am Yisroel to falter in order for him to rise. [See also the Ramban in Parshas Bolok, 24:21, and the Maharal in Netzach Yisroel, perek 21.]

Last week, in Parshas Toldos, we read that Yitzchok told Eisov, “Ve’al charbecha tichyeh ve’es achicha taavod vehaya kaasher torid uforakta ulo mei’al tzavorecha,” (27:40). Eisov is only strong when we are weak in our observance.

This idea also appears in Rashi at the beginning of the parsha on the posuk of “ule’om mile’om ye’emotz verav ya’avod tzo’ir (25:23). When one falls, the other rises.

Thus, when we are oppressed by Eisov’s offspring, we know that the way to overcome them is by engaging in teshuvah and maasim tovim. However, in addition to teshuvah and Torah, which is “magna umatzla,” to overcome Yishmoel we need bitachon and tefillah.

In his kuntrus Kol Dodi Dofeik, Rav Aharon Dovid Goldberg, rosh yeshivas Telshe in Cleveland, compares this power of Yishmoel to that of Mitzrayim during the period of the Jewish enslavement there. The Medrash Tanchuma (Shoftim 14) states that Hashem wanted the Bnei Yisroel to daven for redemption, and therefore He allowed the Mitzriyim to torture them. When they cried out to Hashem, He redeemed them.

We must place our faith in Hashem and daven not to be subjected to further attacks and to quickly merit the geulah.

The Gemara in Maseches Avodah Zarah (2b) states that when Moshiach comes, the nations of the world will protest the punishment they are about to receive for their treatment of the Jews. They will all proclaim that everything they did was only to benefit the Jews and their service of G-d and the Torah.

The Gemara says that Poras, Persia, will cry out that everything they did was to help the Jews. “We built many bridges, conquered many towns, and waged war,” they will say, “to enable the Jews to learn Torah.”

We understand the grounds for claiming that they built bridges and other infrastructure to enable the study of Torah, but how does waging war help the Jews learn Torah?

Perhaps this can be understood to mean that they waged war in order to scare the Jews into doing teshuvah and to engage in Torah study.

Poras, Persia, is the present-day country of Iran. When the ruler of that nation rises up and repeatedly proclaims, publicly, to the entire world, that he intends to destroy Israel, we can believe him that he intends to do so. When he continues his maniacally feverish race to arm himself with nuclear weapons to carry out his bloody intentions, the world stands by and pretends to engage in a process to curtail his ambitions. As he continues on, every day getting closer to attaining his goal, he funds his proxies to battle and torment us.

We must raise our voices in passionate prayer that Hashem spare us from the evil intents of the anshei Poras, Yishmoel and Edom.

We should use every opportunity to study more Torah, better ourselves, and do more for the downtrodden to create more zechuyos for our people. And we must continue to build and support Torah.

Learning the parshiyos of Sefer Bereishis, we find that the world’s antipathy toward Jews began when Avrohom Avinu determined that the world had a Creator. The loathing of Jews has continued throughout the generations ever since.

Avrohom’s father wanted him dead. Nimrod tried to burn Avrohom alive. Yitzchok Avinu was treated as an outcast by his neighbors.

Wherever Yitzchok went, his wells were filled with sand. In those days, without wells, one could not live. Yitzchok was therefore constantly on the move, encountering a hostile reception wherever he went. Though he was blessed with wealth and was an unquestionably kind, peaceful and spiritual man, nobody wanted to have anything to do with him. They drove him away by plugging up the sources of his water supply.

In this parsha, we learn how Yaakov Avinu was repeatedly lied to and tricked out of what was deservedly his. After working for Lovon for two decades, Yaakov is finally instructed by Hashem to return home. He gathered his wives, his children and his flocks and departed for home.

Lovon chased him down and accused him of stealing his property and running off like a thief. Yaakov responded by confronting Lovon, the paradigm con-artist, with the history of his subterfuge and dishonest dealings. Yaakov listed everything he had done for Lovon during his years of servitude to him. He enumerated all the ways that Lovon had robbed him, reminding him of how he altered the terms of Yaakov’s employment one hundred times in order to shortchange him. Lovon was as unmoved as today’s Jew-haters, who deny that Hamas is evil and blame Israel for the mess that is the Middle East.

The avos demonstrated how to respond to those who plot our downfall, seek to kill and destroy us, and accuse us of the very crimes they themselves have perpetrated against us.

Despite the enmity and harassment, Avrohom and Sorah continued with their mission of kindness and holiness. Yitzchok moved on and dug new wells. Despite all the attempts to shut him down, Yaakov persevered with his mission of raising twelve shevotim.

In these times of tragedy, we must not forget what is going on. Hashem doesn’t bring these occurrences so that we should ignore them or say that they happened only to a certain type of Jew but won’t happen to our type. He brings them so that we all learn from them and seek improvement.

We all know that the Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed because of sinas chinom, and until that sin is rectified, we will be in a state of churban, golus, terror and pogroms. It won’t end until Moshiach comes. In order for that to happen, we have to stop hating each other and looking down at Jews who are different than us.

If we have an argument with someone, we need to make up with them to help ourselves and our neshomah and to bring Moshiach. The sefer Ner Mitzvah v’Torah Ohr discusses that “when a person makes an enemy of someone, he brings upon his nefesh tribulations on High…and this is also the reason for the lengthy golus, because there is no place where sinas chinom does not exist…”

People are accepting upon themselves kabbalos as a zechus for themselves, for the hostages, for soldiers, and for people in danger. I think that it would be most appropriate to make a kabbolah not to hate other Jews, to think kindly about others, and to treat everyone with respect.

A small kabbolah can go a long way.

My dear friend, Rav Zvi Schvartz of Rechovot, told me something that he just experienced last week. He received a call from a person he was mekarev thirty years ago. “Hello, Rav Schvartz. This is Chaim X. Do you remember me? You were mekarev me to a life of Torah thirty years ago. Since then, I got married and moved to Yerushalayim, and now I have a large family of children and grandchildren.

“You are probably wondering why I am calling now. It is because of the war. My brother, who is not religious and lives on an irreligious kibbutz, heard me speak about you in the early years after I found religion. He is shaken up from what happened on Simchat Torah and called me to ask you about a kabbolah he can undertake at this time.”

Rav Schvartz is not one to let such an opportunity go. He said to the fellow, “Give me your brother’s number. I will call him and go see him.”

And that is what he did. He called the man and went to visit him on his kibbutz. After exchanging pleasantries, he told the man that first they would learn Torah for an hour, and then they would discuss an appropriate kabbolah.

When they finished learning, he asked the man if he made a Shabbat meal each week. When he said that he did, Rav Schvartz told him to make a kabbolah to eat more food than usual at the Shabbat lunch and that his chamim – cholent – should be prepared before Shabbat and kept on a platah (hotplate) until it was time to eat it.

The man said that he was looking for something more intense, but if that is what the rav prescribed for him, he would do it.

The next Thursday, Rav Schvartz received a call from the fellow, asking him if he would be able to come again to learn with him. The tzaddik put aside what he was doing, got in the car, and drove to the kibbutz.

While the first time they met the week before the man was a bit uncomfortable when he opened the door, this time he was excited to meet the rabbi and they sat down to study. When they were done, the man began to tell his tale.

Kevod harav, ten li lehagid lecha mah karah hayom. Let me tell you about my day. There was a meeting today in the lunchroom. Everyone had to be there. The guy in charge got us all together to announce that since all the foreign workers had left because of the war, everyone would have to show up at the feilds on Shabbat morning to pick the crops or else they will rot and the kibbutz will have a tremendous loss.

“I stood up and said that I wouldn’t be able to be there because it is Shabbat and I won’t do work on Shabbat. He said that anyone who does not show up there will be thrown out of the collective and would have to hand over his key. And that is what I did. After living here my entire life, I handed in my key and will be looking for a new place to live.

Kevod harav, I never kept Shabbat in my life. I barely know what it is. Something stirred inside of me, so I asked for a small kabbalah that I could make. I didn’t think that what you told me made much sense, but I must tell you that when I made that kabbolah, it made me feel good. And when I ate that chamim last Shabbat, I was a changed person. When that man got up and said that everyone must work on Shabbat, I was so incensed. My neshamah was on fire. I said that I would never work again on the holy day and want to study more Torah and find out about the mitzvot.

The power of one little kabbolah undertaken with sincerity.

Let us all make some kabbalos to improve in shemiras hamitzvos and ahavas Yisroel. Hopefully, we will be changed and the world will be changed. The war will be won, good will triumph over evil, and Moshiach will be on his way bekarov.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Message from Above

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Over the past month, Jews around the world have changed. Our demeanor has changed. The way we view the world and our place in it, and the way we view ourselves, has changed. There is a renewed feeling of achdus and everyone is seeking improvement. People who have never observed Shabbos are doing so. People who never wore tzitzis are doing so. Women who had never previously lit candles are doing so. There is a worldwide shortage of tefillin because so many men have begun wearing them every day.

The news from Eretz Yisroel is sad. So many Jews have been slaughtered. Hundreds of thousands of people are at war, fighting for the survival of the small Jewish state. Many are paying with their lives and limbs for the safety of Eretz Yisroel. Fearsome images and slogans are on display from masses of Jew-haters marching in the streets around the world. What are we to do? There is no place to hide, no place to run, no place in the world where we are safe, al pi derech hateva, without Hashem’s protection.

A biblical tragedy took place. Men, women, children, grandparents, parents, and even little babies were killed, and others taken hostage, after terrorists crossed through what was assumed to be the world’s best defended border, rushing virtually unimpeded into a host of Jewish towns. Families were wiped out. People who survived the Holocaust met their end at the hands of animals more vicious than Nazi dogs.

The more we find out about the ruthless attacks that gave birth to the current war, the more we realize that we are living in historic times. Every day, history is being made, as events occur that defy explanation and are obviously guided and orchestrated by our heavenly Father.

Hashem favors neither the might of the horse nor the prowess of its rider. All the jets, tanks and heroic soldiers can only accomplish what the Divine allows them. So far, the war is going better than planned, as the army marches through northern Gaza, hitting one target after another and pushing Hamas further and further away. Hashem has caused President Biden to support Israel in ways nobody thought he would, even as he faces tremendous pressure from his political allies and base.

In this week’s parsha, referring to our evil uncle, Eisov, the posuk states “vehu oyeif.” The literal translation is that Eisov was tired. He lacked in spirit and vitality.

The idea that he was lacking life-sustaining energy is reinforced by the phrase used in the posuk to describe the sale of his bechorah: “michra kayom.” It was a sale for today, because Eisov’s vision was limited to that which fit with his need for immediate gratification. He was tired and wiped out. He couldn’t think beyond a day at a time.

Yaakov didn’t tire. He remained vibrant, fresh and young, with the feeling that a person has at the dawn of a new day, when he is getting started, aflame with the sense of possibility and optimism that comes with the start of a project or endeavor. He was able to think and see far into the future. He visualized the fires of the mizbeiach, the joy of a korban being accepted, and the sanctity of the makom haMikdosh. He was able to “taste” it right then. He felt it. His vista was far larger and wider than “kayom.” When he realized the value of every moment and every mitzvah and every word of Torah, he was energized.

In making that decision, he invested us, his children, with the ability to stay young - ki na’ar Yisroel ve’ohaveihu - and remain fresh. Yaakov studied for 14 years in the yeshiva of Sheim and Eiver without sleeping (Rashi, Bereishis 28:12, from Bereishis Rabbah).

Imagine a marathon runner nearing the finish line. He is sapped, drained, thirsty and hot. But he sees the finish line and his spirits are up. He looks ahead, more excited and energetic as his eyes behold his goal.

A nation of people who had the strength to walk into fires in Spain, death pits in Lithuania, and gas chambers in Poland, and face the less glorious mesirus nefesh of turning their backs on the world, ignoring the call of the street and the lure of the outside culture each day, draws its strength from that vision. It embodies the rush of power that comes from visualizing a goal.

The Jews of Israel, from the very north to the very south, are living through a war. There are bouts of anxiety, fear, hunger, loneliness and sadness. But then they think back to all the tragedies suffered in that country since its founding and they remember how Hashem has been there for them, as they bounced back each time, vanquishing our enemies and emerging stronger and better. Their emunah and bitachon get recharged, and people at every level of frumkeit seek improvement in how they live their lives. As they get better, their lives improve, their level of simcha improves, and their hatzlocha and brocha are enhanced too.

Thus, the posuk states, “Vekovei Hashem, those who hope to Hashem, yachalifu koach, are constantly re-energized.” Their hope and faith invest them with life, spirit and stamina.

Being a Jew means being connected and charged. That is the legacy of Yaakov Avinu. That is our legacy. That is who we are.

Kelmer mussar teaches that under normal circumstances, man’s evil inclinations are kept in check by the “normal” rate and measure of tragedies and calamities. But when the regular spate of illness, death and turmoil fails to inspire us to repent and improve our ways, Heaven causes new, unimaginable horror to be created to scare us and steer us back onto the proper path.

The novi Tzefania speaks of a Yerushalayim stained with blood. It disobeyed the nevi’im, did not accept mussar, failed to have bitachon in Hashem, and did not draw itself near to Him. The novi speaks of ministers “roaring like lions” in the midst of the city, where there are “rebellious robbers of the Torah.” Hashem’s justice remains exact. “I have cut down nations and made their towers desolate in the hope that you would pay attention and learn mussar lessons from what Hashem has done, so that your homes would not be destroyed.”

One of the highlights of the tefillos of the Yomim Noraim is the tefillah of Unesaneh Tokef. We cry out, “Mi yichyeh? Mi yomus? Who will live? Who will die? Who will be torn apart? Who will live comfortably? Who will be rich? Who will be poor?” After we chant those fearful words and realize that everything that will transpire in the world during the coming year is decided by the Creator on Rosh Hashanah, we cry out and proclaim to all the world, to each other and to ourselves that teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah have the power to change the undesirable decisions.

Those tefillos aren’t just words. And they’re not just meant for the Yomim Noraim. The fear and kavanah with which we expressed them must remain with us throughout the year, especially in times of din, war and rampant anti-Semitism.

Teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah have been our weapons during our darkest days throughout all the ages. We never despair. We don’t get broken. Our spirit remains alive and vibrant no matter what is being done to us and what is going on around us. We never give up hope, irrespective of the issue we are plagued with, for we know that netzach Yisroel lo yishaker and hinei lo yonum velo yishon Shomer Yisroel.

My three-year-old grandson woke up on Friday night. He was shivering from fever. He went into his parents’ room and said, “Hashem is making my teeth shake and I can’t sleep. What should I do?”

Little Yaakov, who receives a good chinuch at home and in Yeshiva Nachalei Torah, understood that if something is happening to him, it is coming from Hashem. He didn’t say, “I’m shivering.” He didn’t say, “I’m feeling sick.” He said, “Hashem is sending me a message. He is causing me to shiver and my teeth to shake. What am I to do?”

We all need to be like little Yaakov and understand that everything that happens to us, to our people and to the world is from Hashem. Instead of saying, “I caught the flu,” or, “The flu is going around and it got me,” we need to say, “Hashem afflicted me with the flu. Which part of my life needs improvement?” Instead of saying, “I wonder how it could be that Hamas was able to break through Israel’s security fence and kill 1,200 people without the army being able to stop them,” we need to say and understand that they were able to do what they did because Hashem allowed them to. We should articulate what message there is for us in what happened and what chizukim in kiyum mitzvos we can undertake to do our share to make sure that it never happens again.

Ani Maamin is not just a nice moving tune to sing at serious times. It is the foundation of our belief and the frame of reference in understanding what happens to us in golus. Wrapping our arms around each other and singing “Lemaan achai verei’ay” and other songs of achdus is very touching and gives off warm feelings, but it doesn’t mean anything if we go on hating people who don’t think - or dress - the way we do.

At times like this, we need to take these things seriously and strengthen our emunah and bitachon, our dikduk b’mitzvos and ahavas Yisroel. Even though we are now b’ikvisa d’Meshicha, he is not able to reveal himself and undertake his mission until we are truly united and do teshuvah.

Each person has different challenges, but Hashem gives us the ability to withstand them and keep our internal fire of Torah burning, ready to burst into a glowing flame. Let us do what we can to grow that fire, day after day, week after week, and year after year, expending our energies on matters of substance and meaning.

Let us endeavor to always remain focused on a goal, ambitious and driven, young and vital, as long as we are able to on this earth. If what we are doing is worth doing, then it is worth doing right and energetically, giving it all we’ve got.

Let us never become lazy, lethargic or tired. Let us stop focusing on silly and trivial things. So much nonsense is passed around during these days of war and confusion. We would all be so much better off if we would do away with the little pekelach of nezid adashim that pop up on our phones minute by minute to avert our attention from our mission.

We have our work cut out for us. We are so close to the finish line, realizing the goal of Am Yisroel since its inception. Let us all do what we can to get there, bemeheirah beyomeinu. Amein.

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Key To Victory


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

People who follow the news are perplexed. At a time when a small beleaguered country does battle with terrorists who carried out genocide in their country, why do the nations of the world call for a ceasefire? Is there really support for terror states? Is there no limit to hypocrisy? What would those countries do if their country was attacked?

The United States says that it stands behind the victim country, yet it seeks to have them take a break in their war against evil to win some political points in Michigan. Does that make any sense to anybody?

How would the United States have responded had someone attempted to curtail their battle against the axis of evil following 9/11?

Does anybody know history?

Speaking of history, let’s do a short rewind on Gaza.

In the year 2002, President George W. Bush laid out his plan for peace in Israel. The first US president to call for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, he called upon “the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty.” For good measure, he added that the “Palestinian state will never be created by terror - it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change or veiled attempts to preserve the status quo.”

Bush had a lofty vision, yet where did it leave Israel? What came of his utopian plans?

In 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in a perfidious act, defied his party and his past and unilaterally pulled Israel out of Gaza, stating that Israel’s handing over of Gaza to Palestinian rule would bring the hoped-for peace with the Palestinian people. It was a farcical argument, yet the majority of the Israeli people supported him, so, like other Israeli hypocrites are want to do, he formed a new party, named it Kadima, and signed up ambitious Likud and Labor politicians.

Sharon suffered a stroke shortly thereafter and was taken over by his deputy, the arrogant and corrupt Ehud Olmert, who was blinded by ambition and ego.

It didn’t take long for the world to see what happens when Palestinians are granted their wishes. The terrorists, whose main aim is to destroy Israel, began to take advantage of the new stage from which they could carry out their jihad against Jews.

President Bush and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, maintained that the next step to bring about peace was holding democratic elections in Gaza. They also insisted that Hamas be allowed to run, even though they did not give up violence and refused to acknowledge that Israel has a right to exist. Israel didn’t think Hamas would win anyway - another intelligence failure - and Rice argued that even if they would win the right to govern the new Palestinian enclave, governing would force them to act responsibly and come around to the American position.

Of course, they were all wrong.

Thousands of Jews were mercilessly thrown out of their homes in the pursuit of a policy that guaranteed that such radical moves would bring relief from the constant terror.

The idyllic Jewish towns in Gaza were taken over by terrorists and used as bases for launching terror into Israel. Elections swept Hamas into power. And then, daily barrages of Kassam rockets began raining down on nearby Israeli towns. One day, Hamas terrorists popped out of an underground tunnel they had dug under the Israeli border and kidnapped a soldier, Gilad Shalit, bringing him back to Gaza, where he was held for over five years. Binyomin Netanyahu traded him for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, including Yahya Sinwar, who was in charge of governing Gaza until a little over a month ago. That kidnapping led to Israel’s first Gaza War.

Yet, no one – not Olmert, Bush or Rice – would admit that their plan failed.

When Israel went into Gaza back then, nobody called on Israel to finish off Hamas. None of the many peace-loving nations of the world lauded Israel for the failed experiment and asked them to quickly end it before Gaza would become another Iran terror state.

As prime minister, Ehud Barak pulled Israel out of Lebanon in 2000. He forsook the security buffer zone they had set up on Israel’s northern border. Everyone praised the move and the United Nations even passed a resolution calling on the government of Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah and take over the border area. That resolution was ignored, like so many others.

In 2006, Israel was back in Lebanon, battling Hezbollah, as the world called for a ceasefire, condemning Israel for fighting back. So soon after 9/11, France, Russia, Italy, Norway, the Vatican and many other self-righteous voices called upon the country continuously victimized by terror to halt its actions.

President Bush stood out among all major heads of state for championing Israel’s right to defend itself, even as his own secretary of state called for restraint.

It is astonishing to see how willfully blind people can be, and how they can twist facts so that the victim is the aggressor and the aggressor is to be pitied.

Over the weekend, the American secretary of state was in the Middle East, traveling from state to state, starting with Israel of course, where he pressed for a pause in the fighting to allow humanitarian aid. The snide insinuation of his repeated calls and those of his boss is that Israel doesn’t care about providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians. They need America to force them to do what is decent and moral, and even with American pressure, they don’t always cooperate.

But putting that aside, he did even worse, going to meet Yassir Arafat’s colleague, Mahmoud Abbas, where, according to his spokesman, he “expressed the commitment of the United States to working towards the realization of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

The entire world just saw what happens when Palestinians are given complete and total rule and control over a part of Israel, yet the Biden administration sits with a terrorist who seeks Israel’s destruction and discusses with him a state as a reward for years of terror and enmity, as if that would solve anything and lead to peace.

They also discussed “efforts to restore calm and stability in the West Bank,” because - and you probably were not aware of this - there is a “need to stop extremist violence against Palestinians and hold those accountable responsible.” Once again, it’s those Jews who are causing trouble in the West Bank. The sheer hypocrisy is overwhelming.

But no matter what is offered to them, it is never enough. According to the PA press office, Abbas told Blinken that he would agree to take over Gaza “within the framework of a comprehensive political solution that includes all of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”

Blinken also discussed with Abbas putting the Palestinian Authority in charge of Gaza once again when Israel defeats Hamas. The experience of what happened to Gaza when Israel left and handed the keys to the Palestinian Authority is ignored.

He then went to Jordan, where he discussed with the Jordan king their “shared commitment to the protection of civilians and to facilitating the increased, sustained delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance, the resumption of essential services, and ensuring that Palestinians are not forcibly displaced outside of Gaza,” as if anyone would let them in.

He “also expressed concern regarding the increasing violence in the West Bank and emphasized the U.S. commitment to working with partners towards a durable and sustainable peace in the region, to include the establishment of a Palestinian state, a shared priority of both the United States and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” according to the State Department.

So, for those Jews, who felt comfortable with the feeling that the United States is backing Israel and won’t let it down, the trip and statements that emanated from it should throw some cold water in the faces of those who don’t yet realize that it is Hashem who is our Protector, nobody else.

There has been a debate since the Holocaust whether it could happen again and whether it could happen here. That debate has been settled, as the world that defeated fascism and communism and went to war against Islamic totalitarianism is now marching in capitals and cities around the world to drive the Jews into the sea. Many of the marchers are young, but those who brainwashed them are not, yet when ISIS beheaded tens of thousands of Arabs in Libya, Syria, and Iraq in the name of Islam, nobody marched. When Arab dictators in Syria and Libya killed hundreds of thousands of their Muslim citizens, nobody marched.

When Saudi Arabia and the Houthis fought and killed hundreds of thousands of Yemenites, there were no marches, no flag-waving by the concerned people of the world.

When Russia bombs civilians in Ukraine, do any of the hypocrites who march for the so-called freedom of Palestine protest the slaughter of innocents? When Africans kill each other by the hundreds of thousands, does anyone march? Does anyone cry over the loss of life - of Muslim life? Do they even know how Gaza is ruled under Hamas, and that nobody there is free or has any dreams of freedom?

Where are all the people who care so much about the slaughter of innocents when they aren’t killed by Jews?

Where were all the peace-loving anti-genocide warriors before Israel went into Gaza, when 1,400 innocent people were barbarically tortured and killed by savages?

They were nowhere to be found. They were hugging trees, waxing poetic about climate change.

Most people were initially shocked, but almost immediately, their inner anti-Semitism took hold of them and they began blaming the Jews. It’s the Jews’ fault. And why not? Everything that goes wrong in the world is the fault of the Jews, so when Jews are mercilessly killed, it’s also their fault. It makes as much sense as blaming them for so many other things they have nothing to do with.

It is plainly evident that the campaign for Gaza’s freedom, for a two-state solution, for a Palestinian state, and for a ceasefire, not to mention the ripping down of posters of the hostages, the painting of Mogein Dovids on Jewish homes in France, and the entrapping of Jewish students at Ivy League universities, has nothing to do with peace or care for Palestinians and everything to do with Jew-hatred.

Jewish people who had grown detached from Yahadus and adopted the life and culture of their neighbors, as well as irreligious people in Israel, were shocked into reality on Simchas Torah. They realized that there is more to life than living a physical non-spiritual existence. They realized that without the spirituality of their grandparents, they are lost in a world that wants them dead.

Millions of Jews around the world are connecting with their Jewishness, and some are adopting mitzvos, while others resolve to accept upon themselves the strictures of the Torah, including shemiras Shabbos.

Hashem brings tragedies upon Am Yisroel when they veer away from Him to shake them up and bring them back to where they belong.

We have heard many times that the Rambam (Hilchos Taanis) writes that it is a mitzvas asei to cry out and blow shofros for every tragedy that befalls us. Everyone must acknowledge that the tragedy happened due to their sins. But if instead of crying out to Hashem, they ascribe the threat facing the community simply to “the way of the world,” that attitude will cause the calamity to continue and get more severe.

The purpose of tragedy is to inspire us to do teshuvah.

Rav Chaim Vital, in his peirush on Sefer Tehillim, writes that at the End of Days, we will suffer at the hands of the Yishmoelim, who will bring us unprecedented grief. They will seek to wipe us off the face of the earth, and without Divine intervention, they’d be able to implement their murderous designs.

He wrote that when that time shall arrive, we will cry out to Hashem and He will hear our cries and prayers. Hence the name Yishmoel, composed of the two words yishma and Keil, meaning Hashem will hear, according to Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer (32).

What is happening now with the offspring of Yishmoel is pre-ordained. In order for us to prevail over Yishmoel, we must raise our voices in prayer. His name does not hint that if we are strong and battle him with chivalry, we will defeat him. His name does not hint that if we engage him in diplomacy, we will outwit him. His name does not indicate that if America stands at our side, we will be able to defeat him.

His very name proclaims that the way to defeat him is through tefillah.

All the analysis, clips and speeches won’t help us. The only thing that will help us is for more and more people to realize that everything that happens in this world and in this war is b’Yad Hashem.

We need to learn better, daven better, and guide those Jews around the world who are returning to their roots, helping bring them back to Hashem’s embrace.

Let us all improve our shemiras hamitzvos, our love and care for each other, and our feelings of achdus for all Jews – yes, all of them, even the ones who are different than we are. Let us demonstrate to our friends and family how great it is to be a Torah-observant Jew, so that we may be zocheh very soon to victory in this war and the coming of Moshiach tzidkeinu. Amein.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Gadlus Ha’adam: Rav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi zt”l

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz 

Rav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi zt”l would tell the story of one of the times he went to ask the Brisker Rov a question in learning. He asked his question and the Rov answered and then an acquaintance of the Rov entered the room. Himself a distinguished talmid chochom, he said to the Rov, “Vos redt min duh? What are you discussing here?”

The Rov looked up at him and, with his Brisker directness, said to him, “Min redt nit. Min lernt. We aren’t discussing anything. We are learning.”

Undaunted, the guest tried again. “Vos lernt min? What are you learning?”

The Rov responded, “Min lernt nit. Min hurevet. We aren’t learning. We are deeply immersed in working to understand the sugya.”

With that, the conversation ended and the Rov left the room to tend to something.

Rav Boruch Mordechai, who was niftar last week at the age of 94, spent his life hureving - hureving in Torah, hureving in mussar, hureving in teaching Torah and mussar, hureving in bein adam lachaveiro, and hureving in gadlus ha’adam, the mantra of Slabodka.

Rav Eizek Sher was a relic of the pre-war Slabodka Yeshiva. As a son-in-law of the famed Alter of Slabokda and a head of the yeshiva when it was reconstituted and known as “Chevron,” the young bochurim who learned there revered him.

Rav Boruch Mordechai recalled that as a young bochur learning in the Chevron Yeshiva, he worked hard to develop a relationship with Rav Eizek. He finally merited a daily session with the mussar great. He would walk Rav Sher home from the yeshiva after davening.

One day, he accompanied Rav Eizek on the walk home, but upon reaching their destination, the rebbi turned to the talmid, shook his head, and said, “Nisht azoi. Not like that.” They retraced their route to the yeshiva and then walked back to Rav Sher’s home.

Once again, Rav Sher was displeased by something and the two returned to the yeshiva. The young bochur was perplexed. What did Rav Eizek want from him? He mustered up the courage and finally asked.

Reb Eizek straightened his shoulders, stood ramrod straight, and looked the bochur in the eye.

Azoi geit ah general. This is the way a general walks,” he said.

He was instructing young Rav Boruch Mordechai regarding the proper deportment and comportment of a ben Torah.

Rav Boruch Mordechai learned to walk as a general, talk as a general, and always be seen as a general. He learned what he could accomplish, the army he could yet lead, and his responsibility to view himself that way. And he transferred that concept to thousands of talmidim and to people he would influence with his fiery, heartfelt, impactful drashos throughout the decades.

Slabodka mussar as developed by the Alter and inculcated in the talmidim of the Slabodka Yeshiva and later the Chevron Yeshiva is defined as gadlus ha’adam, appreciating the many gifts Hashem provides to every person and maximizing them.

Slabodka mussar accentuates the positive and builds people up, instead of allowing them to get down, and instead of allowing the vicissitudes of life to sadden and embitter them. Slabodka mussar teaches that every person has the ability to rise above their circumstances and succeed. Every person can be great if they aim high. Rav Ezrachi would tell his talmidim that expending the maximum effort is the minimum that is expected of a ben Torah, and all his life he portrayed that.

Rav Boruch Mordechai wasn’t only a disciple of Slabodka mussar. He came to embody it. He embodied gadlus in so many different ways to so many different types of people, from his many talmidim in Chevron and then at Ateres Yisroel to those who came under his spell in his Bnei Torah camps in Eretz Yisroel and Russia and the many who heard his shiurim and drashos at dinners, conventions and gatherings around the world.

As befitting someone who appreciated gadlus ha’adam, Rav Boruch Mordechai’s kapoteh and hat always fit perfectly and looked brand new; his shoes were always polished. To him there was nobody more choshuv, more important than a ben Torah, a ben yeshiva, a rosh yeshiva, and in his comportment and dress he portrayed that.

The Ezrachi family lived near Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. When Rav Boruch Mordechai was a toddler, as his mother fed him in his highchair, she would say, “Boruch Mordechai, du zolst oisvaksen ah masmid azoi vi der zun for der Holmer Rov. May you grow up to be a masmid like the son of the Holmer Rov [Rav Elyashiv].” With such a chinuch from such a young age, it is no wonder that he grew to be a world-famous masmid and talmid chochom.

As a young child, his great intelligence was recognized. The family, like most Yerushalmi families in those days, was very poor. Following his bar mitzvah drasha, one of the family friends approached Rebbetzin Ezrachi, whose husband was sick in the hospital, with an idea. “I noticed from the way your son said his p’shetel,” the person said, “that he is brilliant. Perhaps you should send him out to work. I’m sure that with his great abilities he will be able to provide for the family.”

Rav Boruch Mordechai’s mother wouldn’t hear of it. She shot back, “I’d rather go to work washing people’s floors in Rechavia than send my precious son to work. He will grow up to be a talmid chochom and nothing else.”

His mother’s tefillos and bakashos were answered, and the family’s mesirus nefesh was rewarded, with Boruch Mordechai growing to become a masmid and a talmid chochom and a great rosh yeshiva and gadol.

I knew him for over forty years. My father-in-law, Rav Dovid Svei, would daven in Rav Boruch Mordechai’s yeshiva every Shabbos morning, and as a good son-in-law, I would join him. When I got engaged, I was an American bochur learning in Yeshivas Brisk and had never heard of Rav Ezrachi. But the first time I entered the yeshiva, he enthusiastically welcomed me with a broad smile and a warm greeting as if I was a long-lost family member returning home. I immediately fell under his spell.

Every Shabbos morning, following davening, there was a Kiddush. Long tables would be set up, and all the bochurim would sit down, along with the neighborhood notables who davened in the yeshiva. People such as my father-in-law, as well as Rav Yitzchok Peretz, later to become the head of Shas, Rav Avrohom Ravitz, who later headed Degel HaTorah, Rav Yosef Segal, a local rosh yeshiva, and Reb Aryeh Golovenchick, a well-known local askan, would sit around the rosh yeshiva, Rav Boruch Mordechai, who would deliver a stirring drasha on the parsha.

As he spoke, everyone sat spellbound, entranced by his delivery and brilliant analysis of a facet of the parsha.

Everyone received a slice of Yerushalmi kugel and a pickle. The kugel was really good, the best Yerushalmi kugel I ever had. But it didn’t come close to the pearls that would stream from the rosh yeshiva as he spoke.

Rav Ezrachi was a m’dabrana d’umsa, a gifted orator, and when the public needed him, when there was a message that had to be delivered in a way that people would listen and understand, Rav Boruch Mordechai would close his Gemara and travel to wherever it was necessary to deliver the daas Torah berurah. He always raised the crowd, never letting anyone down. He always delivered.

He delivered a variety of shiurim every week on diverse sugyos and diverse mesechtos, including on the mesechta the yeshiva was learning, a shiur on kodshim for bochurim and yungeleit from different yeshivos and a shiur based on a halacha mentioned in the parshas hashavua. Each shiur was a masterpiece, delivered by a master.

The shiurim were so much a part of his essence that according to his daughter, one time when he was under anesthesia during an operation, he began to deliver a shiur. In his state of unconscious, he delivered an entire shiur, with the same bombast as if he were awake and there a hundred bochurim sitting in front of him.

He spent his life learning, by himself and with others, raising himself and raising talmidim. He influenced many thousands of people, highlighting the beauty of Torah and those who study and follow it. Day and night, he had few interests other than learning and teaching Torah, and writing seforim to disseminate it further. As his reputation grew, so did his yeshiva, which was located in Bayit Vegan in Yerushalayim. A few years ago, it finally moved to its own building in Modiin Illit. Rav Boruch Mordechai became a leading Torah personality and was a senior member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah at his passing.

The last public picture of Rav Ezrachi was taken following his weekly Thursday night shiur. One of his talmidim, Rav Yechiel Sever, is seen speaking to him. I asked Rav Sever about the picture. He told me that it was taken at 1 AM, when the shiur ended. Rav Boruch Mordechai had difficulty speaking, as he was delivering the shiur despite breathing difficulties and general weakness. But when you look at the picture, his face is bright and illuminated and he has a broad smile as he reviews a point of the shiur with his talmid.

What a way to remember him! That was his life: Torah. Only Torah. Hasmodah in Torah, speaking Torah and hureving in Torah, just as the Brisker Rov had portrayed to him.

I asked Rav Sever what the topic of the last shiur was. He said, “He was discussing Rav Chaim Volozhiner and who is greater, man or malach. A malach does not have a yeitzer hora. When Hashem tells him to do something, he does it without hesitating. But man has a yeitzer hora, which he must overcome. The yeitzer hora tries to hold him back from fulfilling the will of Hashem, and when man beats back his yeitzer and acts according to the wishes of Hashem, he attains a great reward and becomes yet greater than he was previously.”

A malach is on a higher level, but man has the ability to raise himself, while a malach remains static, never able to be greater than he was when Hashem created him.

How poetic that after delivering thousands of shiurim and publishing over a dozen seforim, the last shiur he would deliver would be an appropriate epitaph on himself, leading a life of constantly rising, constantly growing, and constantly benefitting others with his greatness.

With his final breaths, he delivered his weekly Kodshim shiur, slowly breathing, inhaling oxygen and exhaling Torah, one labored breath after the next. And he finished the shiur, with his strength ebbing, he insisted on saying a devar mussar as he did every week. He repeated a thought from Rav Chaim Volozhiner, whose sefer Nefesh Hachaim was a guide to him in life and on which he said shiurim twice a week.

It was literally with his final strength and his final breaths that he exhorted his talmidim to always recognize their strengths and always seek to overcome obstacles and grow. On Shabbos, he was taken to the hospital, never to return to his home, to his yeshiva, or to his talmidim again.

There was no finer exemplar of gadlus ha’adam in our day, and alas, now, he, too, is gone.

Many of us knew him through his shiurim, shmuessen and chizuk missions, each one a classic, every one a gem. Some of us merited to speak with him and bask in his glow of greatness and warmth. Others were blessed to support him and his yeshiva.

May the memory of his life, his Torah, and his mussar and teachings be a zechus to all.