Weekly Dvar Torah
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Monday, June 15, 2015 / 28 Sivan 5775
Frum.org Vacation
By: Michael Winner

Frum.org will be taking a small vacation over the next few weeks due to the birth of a baby boy in the family!

We hope to continue writing as soon as everything is back under control.

Until then!
Friday, June 12, 2015 / 25 Sivan 5775
The Power of Eretz Yisroel
By: Michael Winner

“The land that we crossed to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants. All the men we saw there were huge!” (Bamidbar 13:32)

In this week’s parsha we have one of the most terrible episodes to have occurred to the Jewish nation. After their return from Eretz Yisroel, the spies spoke poorly of Eretz Yisroel and scared the nation into not wanting to enter. They explained that it “is a land that consumes its inhabitants.” The Hebrew word is “yoshveha” or literally, “those who sit on it.”

Eretz Yisroel has a powerful force. It can work to one's detriment, or it can slingshot people to unbelievable heights. When a person is in Eretz Yisroel and he is merely “sitting” on the ladder of growth, then the result is the land “consumes” him. He either does poorly or he is “spit out” and is forced to return to wherever he came from. However, if somebody is constantly “on the move” upwards, then the land could be turned into a giant, thus fulfilling the verse, “All the men we saw there were huge!”

Please note, I am NOT advocating aliyah. In fact, I’m strongly against people with children moving here, due to the terribly high rate of spiritual/emotional trauma that has plagued new olim and has caused tremendous amounts of pain. However, I’m simply pointing out the unbelievable power of Eretz Yisroel.

We all know that an embassy has the status of that particular country that owns the embassy. The United States Embassy in Tel Aviv has the legal status of the United States and not the State of Israel. The same is true in a person’s home. When a person comes from America and brings his “Americanisms” to his home in Eretz Yisroel, whether it be his television, his internet, his mentality, or any of his . . . sorry, but non-Torah things and attitudes, he is not living in Eretz Yisroel. Rather, he is living in his American Embassy located in Eretz Yisroel!

However, if a person is willing to forgo all of these things and work on himself as a Ben Torah, Eretz Yisroel will provide a proper springboard for him to soar to heights that he could never have done outside of Eretz Yisroel.

I should note for those who are not able to live here, Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, who lived up until the beginning of World War II, said that in his time the study halls of Torah had the status of a “branch” of Eretz Yisroel (similar to the embassy comparison mentioned above). So, if a person is outside of the physical borders of Eretz Yisroel, it is still possible to get a “taste” of Eretz Yisroel when he resides in his local beis medresh, yeshiva, or kollel.

With that, I wish you all a wonderful Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, June 05, 2015 / 18 Sivan 5775
Basic Training
By: Michael Winner

Had an interesting shock this morning.

A friend of mine got his license just over a year ago and wanted to rent a car for the first time to take his family to his parents’ for Shabbos. Given that he just received his first credit card, he was worried that there wouldn’t be enough credit for the deposit. Therefore, he asked if I can come along, and if needed, use my card. Fine. No problem. As he was going through the processes of getting the card, the lady says to him, “Your license is only a year old and the company policy [like all rental companies] is not to rent cars until a person has two years’ experience.” The manager, who was sitting right next to her said, “No, it’s okay. He’s chareidi (ultra-Orthodox). For them the company allows just a year.”

I was taken more than a bit by surprise on that one. I explained that in the States, something like that is completely illegal and will have a company thrown in court. But here? No problem! And the workers at the rental company were completely secular and seemed to have no issues either.

I’ve heard that chareidim also have an easier time getting mortgages from banks. But I understand that. I once read an interview with a CEO of one of the major Israeli banks. He explained that the chareidim in general have, statistically, shown that paying off their mortgage on time to be a priority and rarely default on their loans, compared to the other sectors in society.

I assume that the reason this company has exceptions for chareidim is because, on average, most chareidim get their licenses when they are already in the mid-twenties.

Either way, I found the whole thing to be quite amusing.

In this week’s parsha, the Jewish nation complained about the mun that fell every morning, which they used for their daily food. They Chikzuni explains that when they “remembered the cucumbers” that they ate in Egypt, that is referring to the side dishes, the “onions” refers to the extra spices, and the “garlic” refers to the dips. They were complaining that in the desert they had only the basics and were missing the “luxuries” that they had in Egypt. In the end, Hashem sent a devastating response, but gave them more than an abundance of food so that many filled themselves to death.

What was the cause of such a harsh punishment? The Shelah explains that the reason we were sent to Egypt was to sever our desires for luxuries and be satisfied with the basics in life. When people started complaining, it became clear that that lesson was not settled yet in the Jewish heart. Therefore, Hashem sent them such a surplus that they ended up desiring the basics.

Rav Aryeh Brueckheimer asks a famous question: If Hashem gives us such a beautiful world to enjoy, why should we limit ourselves in it? Shouldn’t we “try everything out”? In fact, the Gemara itself says that a person will be held accountable for everything that he saw and didn’t eat, when it was permissible to eat”!

He answers very simply: It depends on one’s motivations. If he’s motivated by luxuries and fulfilling his physical desires, then that’s a problem. However, if a person can control himself and use these luxuries for mitzvos (such as Shabbos and Yom Tov) then we can enjoy them.

So, during the week, a person should do his best to limit himself to the basics. But for mitzvos, it’s always best to put in something extra.

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan 5775
Be All that You Can Be
By: Michael Winner

How are legends made? Actually, it’s very easy.

I was walking Tova to her gan the other morning with Chaim. On the way, Chaim fell down face-first which opened up just-recently healed skin from a previous accident. He also cut up a good portion of his face (he looks pretty bad). I got him cleaned up and took him to cheder.

When he came home, everybody saw him and asked what happened. Before he could answer, I told them how two Arabs attacked me this morning, and Chaim jumped in and beat them up to save me. Chaim laughed and told them that he simply fell down.

Ten minutes later, Simcha was looking at Chaim’s face and said to my wife, “Aravim gave Chaim boo-boo.”

A racist has been created. :)

“And on the day that Moshe finished erecting the Mishkan” (Bamidbar 7:1)

The Midrash writes that whenever a person invests his entire being into a spiritual pursuit, he is credited with having completed it, even though he didn’t. King David was credited for building the Beis HaMikdash, even though his son did it, because he put his entire essence into preparing for it. So too here, even though the entire Jewish nation built the Mishkan, Moshe was given the credit, for he put all of his energies into it.

Once, a certain talmid chacham was suggested to open a new yeshiva. The people behind the idea even offered him a beautiful and luxurious place for it. While it seemed like a good proposition, he first decided to see Rav Shach. Rav Shach told him to turn it down explaining, “A yeshiva must be built with self-sacrifice, not with luxurious buildings.”

Incidentally (and surprisingly) I got some reward for saying something similar. After the fall, Chaim said he wanted to stay at home because he was in pain. I told him that he should try to go to cheder for two reasons. The first, “Hopefully, once you’re busy learning, you won’t be in pain anymore.” And second, “Do you know how much schar (reward) you get for learning Torah even though you don’t feel well? You get a lot more than somebody who finds it easy to learn.” In the end, he went to cheder. When he came home, I heard him say to my wife, “You know . . . Abbah was right! He told me that if I go to cheder I won’t feel the pain any more, and I don’t; AND I get a lot more schar for learning!”

Quite frankly, I was impressed. Worked out better than I was expecting.

Either way, the message is simple. No pain. No gain. In order to spiritually accomplish anything, one must put in his 100%. When he does so, even if he is not successfully in this world, he will certainly be successful in the next.

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, May 22, 2015 / 4 Sivan 5775
Cheese vs. Learning
By: Michael Winner

I don’t know if this craze is in the U.S. or not, but over here, tattoos seem to be the "in" thing. It seems that everybody is getting them. Just this week, I saw a very overweight man in his later thirties (clearly a computer programmer), with one leg covered with tattoos and an arm with a name tattooed across.

Personally, I think tattoos are one of the most shortsighted things a person can do because, like it or not, you’re going to get old and fat, and that tattoo is not going to look so good.

I can understand a Marine Recon sniper getting one. When he’s old and gray, his grandson will ask him why he has a skull on his arm, and he can proudly tell over how he used to kill bad guys for a living; to which his grandson will think he’s great. But this computer guy? What’s he going to say? “Well . . . I used to play Marine Recon Sniper on my computer against other people on their computers . . .” It just doesn’t come out the same.

Okay, on to Torah!

The Gemara discusses our obligations during Shabbos and the different holidays. For all of these days, there is an argument if they should be spent “fully for Hashem” or “fully for ourselves.” “Fully for Hashem,” meaning that we should spend our entire day in learning and davening, or “fully for ourselves,” meaning that we should spend our entire day having festive meals. For each of these days, they conclude it should be “half and half,” and for each of these days, the Gemara brings separate proofs for this conclusion.

There is one exception to this: Shavuos. Concerning Shavuos, there is no side to argue “fully for Hashem.” In fact, Shavuos is a bit strange. As we know, there is a custom to stay up all night learning Torah. But this is a CUSTOM. The halacha is that we should make festive meals. That means making a nice cheesecake for Shavuos is bigger than learning Torah all night.

Interesting, no?

Shavuos is the “Rosh HaShanah” for our Torah learning. After all, it is the day we receive the Torah. Our year's worth of learning is dependent a lot on Shavuos. So why does it seem that cheesecake is more important than staying up all night learning?

It’s known that if you walk up to any Star Trek fan, they can name, quote, and describe everything from any episode or movie without a problem. A person, who, G-d forbid, is suffering from a disease will know everything about that disease and all possible treatments, without having to review it. Baseball fans can rattle of stats . . . there’s no end.

Why is this? Because for each of these people, that “something” is very important and dear to them. And when something is important, you don’t need to review it so many times before it’s etched in your memory.

Torah is no different in this regard. If it’s something that’s important to us and something that we dedicate our lives to, then it will seep in and become part of us. However, if it’s a mere obligation for us to do every day so we can move on to “more important (and fun) things,” then it won’t leave it’s mark.

On Shavuos, when we re-accept the Torah, it’s very important to do so with simcha. Meat and wine help bring a person to that Simcha. Shavuos is the time of accepting for the future. So by accepting it with happiness, we will more likely have greater success in the long run to acquire it.

I wish you all a wonderful Shabbos and a Shavuos filled with Simcha!

Michael Winner
Friday, May 15, 2015 / 26 Iyar 5775
Producers and Parasites
By: Michael Winner

Somebody in the community lost A LOT of money with an investor that he’s used over the years, who decided to do something not so kosher. This resulted in 70 million shekels lost, and the man fled the country. This person now is in heavy debt.

He and his wife went to a rav to speak about the situation. The rav told him that in Poland when robbers wanted to rob a store, they would hand a few rubles to a teenager and have him steal something from the store and run out. When the storekeeper ran out to catch the youth, the robbers would come in and take everything.

He said that sometimes we get hit with teenagers stealing things from us, but it’s important to not lose control and let the important things slip away from us, such as our families, our health, our learning. Don’t lose everything else that is dear to you because of money, and make sure those always remain your priority.

This person admitted that before he never had a rav to go to, and he realized that he needed one all along. Now that he has someone to go to with big shoulders, he feels a lot lighter.

Okay, on to Torah!

“If you will go in My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them; then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit…” (Vayikra 26:3-4)

Rashi translates “if you will go in My statutes” to mean “that you should labor (amul) in Torah”

When the Torah states “amul,” it doesn’t mean simply opening up a book and learning, but rather to learn with intensity and focus. Everybody of course should learn what they can on their own level. We see from here that this “amul,” this labor, is the source of brachah in the world, and when people not only increase the quantity, but more importantly the QUALITY of their learning, more brachah is brought down.

When my Rosh Yeshiva first came to learn in Ponevech Yeshivah in Bnei Brak in 1959, he was seventeen years old. One day he received a letter from his mother telling him that a friend of hers would like to meet with him. So he arranged a time and met this 70-year-old friend of his mother's. She said to him, “So . . . during your daily break . . . do you go to the kibbutzim to help pick oranges?”

A bit taken by surprise, he answered truthfully, “I’m sorry, but there are no kibbutzim around Bnei Brak, so no, I don’t.”

“And what about during your break for Pesach? What do you do then? I assume you help then, no?”

“Honestly, no. I usually sit and review everything I learned over the past few months.”


He joked, “Back then, believe it or not, I was quite shy, and didn’t know what to answer her. However, now I would love to answer her: I agree with you, there are producers and takers. I also agree with you, parasites are a terrible thing. However, I don’t agree with you on who is what.

“The only reason there are oranges on the kibbutzim to be picked are because of those learning in Torah. The only reason there is rain is because of those learning in Torah!”

He also related a story of how he was once in Chevron Yeshivah shortly before the 1967 war. He saw two yeshivah students go to Rav Meir Chodosh and ask him if they should leave the yeshivah to volunteer to be ambulance drivers. Rav Chodosh, who normally spoke very softly and very slowly, roared, “If you close your gemaras to drive ambulances, they will need even MORE ambulances to carry the extra wounded that you are responsible for with your learning!”

This is the power of Torah.

And what type of Torah brings these brachos? In-depth learning.

When ArtScroll first came out with their translations of the Talmud, Rav Shach was very much against it. He wanted to put the whole thing in cherem (excommunication). It took Rav Gifter from America to speak to him and convince him that it was needed. Rav Shach backed down, but his opinion did not change. Of course he knew that through ArtScroll, tens of thousands of more hours of learning Gemara would be brought into this world. People who didn’t have a yeshivah background could finally sit and learn Gemara at a simple level. People working full time would be able to find it easier to learn. There is no question of the benefit that ArtScroll would bring. But at what cost? How many people who could be learning in-depth will take the "easy way out" and simply pick up an ArtScroll? True, he argued, quantity will increase, but what will happen with QUALITY?

Every person, when he takes time to sit and learn properly, without interruption and with proper focus, is responsible for the basic brachos in life. When a person, whether sitting in kollel or working during the day, uses his learning time properly, he is a producer in this world. If he is not . . . he’s simply a parasite.

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner
Friday, May 08, 2015 / 19 Iyar 5775
Taking Care of Your Children
By: Michael Winner

Last Shabbos, my wife and I "stacked" the cards in our weekly Uno game. We made sure that Chaim and Rochel Leah (in separate rounds) got only the really good cards. Rochel Leah, when seeing her cards, was smiling but kept her excitement in. Chaim on the other hand, started jumping up and down and yelling about out imminent downfall. I decided at that moment, for his sake, I won’t be teaching him poker.

Okay, on to Torah!

“Say to the Kohanim . . . and tell them” (Vayikra 21:1)

Rashi quotes the Gemara (Yevamos 114a) that states the reason the Torah uses “say” and “tell,” instead of using the verb just once, is to “say” to the Kohanim, and to “tell them,” being to “warn” their children.

Adults are able to comprehend things that they see, due to their (hopefully) mature level. Children on the other hand, need to be warned of possible dangers, since they lack the maturity and experience to be able to “see ahead.”

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein wrote a frightening story which he personally witnessed. I cannot say it over better than he, so excuse the lack of my personal wording.

“At 7p.m., in Bnei Brak, a group of boys were gathered at one of the park benches, some with their bags from school (being that they have not even been home yet) . . .

“The minutes tick by, until the clock reads 7:30. None of the boys is even thinking of going home. This is a winter night, and it had been dark for quite some time already. Why are these children still outside? Do they not have a home? Of course they have a home. But their parents don’t really pay attention to the fact that their sons have long finished learning in cheder and should have been home for some time already . . . . On this particular evening, one of the neighbors was learning with his son in his apartment, and without warning, the family hears a loud noise from the kitchen. A rock has hit the kitchen window, shattering it and almost breaking the window frame . . . . When the father goes downstairs, he is shocked to discover who this boy is. He is a child of an excellent family, definitely not the type of family that would condone this type of behavior. It IS an excellent family, except when it comes to education.

“The person whose apartment was hit by the rock told me that he went to the father of the boy who threw the rock and told him what his son had done. He warned him about the dangers of allowing a child to spend hours every night with his friends unsupervised in the local park. ‘Do you want your son to become a youth at risk?’ he asked the father.

“The father’s answer was unbelievable. ‘I agree with you,’ he said, ‘but I don’t have the energy to keep the kids at home for such a long time.’

“He doesn’t have the energy, so he prefers to leave his son out in the park and expose him to the terrible influences of the street . . .

“Why are the parents so blind to what is happening to their children? How do they ignore the terrible dangers of the street? The argument that ‘I don’t have the energy to keep the kid at home’ is so ludicrous that it does not even deserve an answer. All we can say is that if the parents would take their responsibility to care for their children seriously, they would find the energy to keep their children safely occupied . . .

“Sometimes I wonder: How is it that fathers do not fulfill their minimal responsibilities toward their children? For instance, during davening on Shabbos, many children go out to the hallways of the shul and play with their friends. These rowdy games not only disturb the people who are praying, they also train children to do the very opposite of davening. If a father feels that his son is not capable of sitting the entire time and pray, he should not send him outside; he should send him home! Let’s not fool ourselves, though. Many times the children who are playing outside are eminently capable of sitting inside the shul and daven. It’s just that the fathers are not doing what they are supposed to be doing: training their sons to sit in the shul and daven. One would almost think that these fathers do not care about their children. Is such a thing possible?”

Being a parent of small children is hard. Picking up the pieces later in life is even harder. Better to invest early.

Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner

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