Sunday, November 30, 2008

When he's finally here

Guest post by Daniel

I was thinking about the kinds of kiddushei Hashem that will occur when Moshiach is revealed.

The first thing I thought was that there will be a great kiddush Hashem in the eyes of the Jews. We will be astonished at the massive number of Jews that come to greet Moshiach.

What I mean is the following:

Each group of Jews naturally thinks that its group is "the Jewish people." This just seems to be the way people operate. It's difficult to see past our own community.

When Sephardi Jews came to Seattle in 1902, the Ashkenazi community was flustered by these "strange people" calling themselves Jews. Sephardi culture was as foreign to the Ashkenazim as another religion. Only after their Rav explained to them the truth did the people open up.

Similarly today, the Jews where I come from think that that bulk of klal Yisrael lives here. The Jews where you live think that klal Yisrael primarily lives there. Yes, we "know" that other communities exist. We may even visit them from time to time. But it's not real to us.

When Mashiach comes and unites us all, we'll come out of our cupboards, so to speak, and face one another in all our stripes and colors.

The Jews in Eretz Yisroel will see the Jews of chutz la'aretz, and the more modern folks will see the more orthodox community, and on and on - all of us arising to greet the same Moshiach sent by the same G-d with the same one Torah. "Goy echad, am echad, ha'meyachadim shimcha Hashem Elokainu Hashem echad."

Who knows what kind of Jews we'll get to see that we never even knew existed, that we never knew were out there saying in their hearts "achekeh lo b'chol yom she'yavo."

If you can picture this in your mind, you'll see that it's both a humbling and an empowering experience. Humbling, in that each of the communities will be brought to realize that their community is but one shevet in the midst of an entire am (there are 12 different tribes, not one monotone tribe). Empowering, in that we should no longer feel alone or small in numbers. We truly will be numbered like the stars.

What I'm trying to say is that perhaps we already are. And if you can see that, then you can put that inspiration toward your avodas Hashem. Toward accepting other Jews. Toward accepting your own community.

May we merit to greet Moshiach bimhera b'yameinu and say together:

“Baruch Atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam chacham ha’razim.”

Thursday, November 27, 2008


This week's parsha podcast discusses the character of Esav.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Who is wise...

Sometimes you learn a lesson from the place you least expect it.

I spent this past Shabbos with my family in Jerusalem. We took a bus from Ramat Beit Shemesh until the entrance of the city. From there we took a cab until our destination. As soon as we got in the cab I knew he was Arab. There are certain clues that give it away. I am always interested to know what they think of us, and I asked him what the feelings are generally in East Jerusalem. He seemed a little bit perturbed that I was asking him this. He said to me, "If you want to know about politics, ask Olmert!"

At some point in our conversation, it seems like he felt he needed to prove himself and he pulled out a document attesting to the fact that he had served Israel faithfully in one of its wars. He also told me that he was sixty years old and the proud grandfather of eighteen grandchildren.

What impressed me was a comment he made. He said that the problem with politics is selfishness. We need to be concerned about honoring our parents and our elders. He told me that Teddy Kolek, who served as mayor of Jerusalem for over thirty years, is sitting and rotting away in a nursing home. Is this how we show our appreciation for a person who served the public for so long? This is how we treat our elders - as soon as they aren't useful to us anymore we throw them out in the trash heap?

I told him that I was impressed with his attitude, and if there were more people thinking this way, the world would be a much lovelier place.

He left us off at our destination and said, "Shabbat Shalom."

Seems you can learn something from any man.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Investment Advice

People everywhere are desperately searching for the right place to put their money. Nothing seems safe. I would like to share with you the secret investment that is one hundred percent guaranteed.

A good friend of mine is involved in collecting for the Kollels of Rav Ahron Leib Shteinman, one of the great gedolei hador. He shared the following story with me that he witnessed recently.

One of the other people involved in collecting for the kollel had been promised by a certain wealthy individual that he would receive a sum ranging around $100,000 the following week. When it came time for him to come through on his commitment, he told him that he had just lost $3 million and would not be able to give that money.

My friend was there when the news was broken to Rav Shteinman.

Reb Ahron Leib's straightforward response was, "If he would donate the $100,000, he would not lose the $3 million."

Living in a world of Western values, we naturally think that the one who makes the money gives the tzedakah. Our Torah teaches us the opposite. The one who gives Tzedakah makes the money.

This is the idea of עשר בשביל שתתעשר - give off a tenth to become rich. We think this is a quaint saying our Chazal are telling us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This statement is actually a rule that is hardwired into reality. Those who are givers (or more accurately sharers) will find that Hashem pours out his beracha upon them, because the truth is that Hashem is always waiting to give His blessings to His people, and those who use their money correctly and truly give to the best of their ability become conduits for Hashem's Shefa into the world, and they themselves benefit as well.

In my neighborhood, as may be the case in yours, when someone is blessed with a child, the gears go into motion and the chessed pours out from every side. People are there to help in any way they can, from helping prepare for a simcha to cooking meals nightly.

Chessed and tzedakah go hand in hand and are the things that bring Hashem's blessings into our lives because we are bringing the blessings into others' lives. If we know someone who is suffering financially, we can help. We can offer to watch their kids or we can surprise them with a meal, or even create a schedule with others to help them on a regular basis. The brotherhood that can be advanced in difficult times can be the zechus to get us out of the difficult times.

A wonderful way to become more aware in this area is to learn the Chofetz Chaim's sefer Ahavas Chessed. If audio works better for you, you can find a number of five minute audio shiurim that I have recorded based on Ahavas Chessed on my website in the section entitled the Daily Dvar.

Now is the time to strengthen our resolve in this area, to dedicate ourselves to raise our level of giving. If we have not been careful until now with our maaser, let us take off our maaser as soon as we make the money. If we have given less than ten percent until now, let us make sure to give ten percent. It may be possible to look inside oneself and see that the bar could be raised and even twenty percent could be given. הבא לטהר מסייעין אותו - one who comes to purify himself is aided from Heaven.

I once asked Rav Sheinberg about how much one should give to tzedakah, and he emphatically said that every penny given to tzedakah comes right back. The more you give the more you get!

איש את רעהו יעזורו ולאחיו יאמר חזק - each man will strengthen his fellow, and say to him, "Be strong!"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rav Kanievsky's psak - part two

I have not had peace of mind this entire week. One of the things I hold dear in my life is the midah of Emes. I try to be true to that midah in my business dealings, in my family life and in any area where it applies. It was partly for this reason that I was so excited about the story of Rav Kanievsky's psak. Here was a story that for all intents and purposes was completely verified and strikingly pertinent in a quite immediate sense. Or so I thought.

I wrote the email and and posted the story on my blog ( on last Sunday evening after first hearing Rav Levy's story directly from his mouth. The story was striking enough that through Monday over a thousand individual hits were registered on my blog. This did not include the numerous people that saw it via forwarded emails.

When I came home Monday from my morning seder my wife had already received two phone calls from friends about the email/post, and she also happened to be on the phone with Rav Levy's daughter for an unrelated reason. This was Rav Levy's daughter who is married to 'Dovid' - the son-in-law who is working on the project that involves constant consultation with Rav Kanievsky.

My wife tells me that she said that the story with the bomb shelters was not confirmed. I was surprised at this, to say the least. I had understood from Rav Levy that he had verified the story himself.

It became clear that in my excitement about the story, I had misunderstood what Rav Levy had said. As it turned out, Rav Levy had heard the story from his son-in-law Dovid who had in turn heard it from another rav in the neighborhood, 'Rav Stein.' When I subsequently spoke to Dovid directly, he said that Rav Stein had heard both the story about the bomb shelters (his wording was 'bunkers') and the story about buying property from two different sources. Rav Stein could not remember from whom he had heard the story about the bomb shelters, and thus could not verify it. In the original version of the story as Rav Stein had heard it, someone came to Rav Kanievsky asking if he should make his chasunah on a certain date in Kislev of this year. Rav Kanievsky responded and said that he should not make the wedding on that date as we would be in bunkers. Again, this story could not be verified.

In regards to the second part of the story involving the property purchase, I spoke directly to Rav Stein and he told me that he heard it from a reliable source.

I was understandably perplexed by this information, and my wife advised me to immediately remove the post from my blog. As far as the emails were concerned, I wasn't at first aware as to how far they had spread, and I also did not want to send out another email until I had more information. I thought that perhaps it would be possible to actually confirm the first part of the story as well. If that would indeed be possible, sending out multiple emails would only make the story into a more confusing mess.

What made matters more complicated was the following story that happened to Dovid's chevrusa.

Dovid's chevrusa came to Reb Chaim Kanievsky with a question. He had heard from one source that R' Chaim had said that if you donate to a certain organization you will merit that your children will stay on the path of Torah. A different source quoted R' Chaim as saying that it is impossible to guarantee that all of your children will stay on the path.

Rav Kanievsky resonded and said, "כל מה שאומרים בשמי הוא שקר" - anything said in my name is false.

Basically, it seems Reb Chaim was saying that until you hear it from his mouth as it applies to your situation, you can not be sure it applies to you. People have a way of hearing what they want to hear, and interpreting things as they wish to interpret them, not per se maliciously, but naturally a person understands what he hears through the lens of his own experience.

I subsequently spoke to Dovid a number of times, and at first we thought that perhaps we could confirm the story by asking Reb Chaim directly whether he had indeed said these things. Dovid went first on Tuesday night and then on Wednesday night to Reb Chaim, but the first time he was too late to speak to him. The second time he was one of the last people in and was unable to get to this question, as he had another important and pressing question to ask.

I realized that even if we would ask the question, in all likelihood his response would just be, "כל מה שאומרים בשמי הוא שקר" - anything said in my name is false.

The bottom line of this whole story is that I have come to the realization that until one hears a story directly from the mouth of the one who experienced it, it should be taken with a grain of salt. It can be taken seriously, especially if it is coming from a reliable source, however even the most reliable source, and even the people themselves who experienced the story will only have understood what has happened from their own vantage point. That being the case, it would be wise to take heed, but at the same time be guardedly cautious.

As a final note, when trying to make heads or tails of this story, people have expressed the need to understand why Rav Kanievsky would make a statement that indicates there is danger here in Israel, but then say that a chasuna should be held here despite that. So I think it is important to note something that I clarified later with Rav Levy about the letter he wrote presenting the question to Rav Kanievsky. He specifically told me that he included a line in his letter saying, "We have heard that the Rav [meaning Reb Chaim Kanievsky] has said that some serious things are going to be happening in the near future," and Reb Chaim read the entire letter very carefully and did not make any comment to the contrary of this statement. Dovid also told me that he personally asked Reb Chaim three questions involving the issue of people being encouraged to move to Israel and whether people considering leaving Israel should indeed leave. His response to these questions was that if possible, people should indeed come here, and whether people should leave Israel, he said simply עדיף פה - better here. Would he say this for you? I don't know. If you want to know how to get your shaila to him, I would be happy to help. In any event, it doesn't take a great chacham to look at what's going on in the world and see that there is danger here. Nevertheless, Reb Chaim is telling people generally to come here and stay here. Clearly he feels that not only is it safe here, it is better to be here than anywhere else in the world.

May Hashem guide us all to do His will and may we all merit to see and hear only בשורות טובות.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dreaming of... Pesach

Last night I had an unusual dream. The reason it was so unusual is because it had nothing to do with anything I was thinking about the whole day, and at first glance seems to just be a funny dream.

In the dream it was Shabbos, and we were eating Challah. It must have been an early morning Shabbos meal. I don't recall seeing guests in the dream at first, but for whatever reason I suddenly became aware that it was erev Pesach and we hadn't gotten rid of the chametz! We were just sitting there eating regular challah, getting crumbs all over as if it was any other Shabbos.

I frantically ran around the house, clearing out all the chametz I could find. I found myself in this large open area (that doesn't exist in my real house) that had ארונות (Israeli style stand-alone closets) near the walls. I knew that some bochurim had left their old half-eaten sandwiches up there and I quickly pulled them down, continuing in my frenzy to gather as much chametz as I could. I deposited all the chametz in a large green dumpster outside of my house in some kind of large yard, and returned to my house where my guests (!) were all eating... more chametz! I knew that these guests were not religious, so they were unaware that Pesach was coming and the clock was slowly ticking closer to the time we would be unable to eat the chametz. They didn't seem to have an issue with the fact that I grabbed the challah away from them and quickly proceeded to dispose of it.

At some point in the dream I also knew that I was still chewing on chametz and that there was chametz in my teeth and this made me very nervous.

When I woke up it became clear to me what the message of the dream could be. One of the deep meanings behind our cleaning for Pesach is that we are supposed to be doing a soul searching - cleaning our neshamas from the chametz, i.e. the negative things we have done in our life. The Yetzer Hara is called the שאור שבעיסה - the yeast in the dough - because he convinces us that evil is good when really it is just hot air.

The sudden realization I had in the dream that it was erev Pesach represents the fact that sometimes we wake up to do teshuvah and clean our souls properly at the last second. When we do that it becomes a frantic search, and hopefully we will finish in time, before סוף זמן אכילת חמץ - the last time we can eat chametz. If we are too busy eating the pieces of 'chametz' (ie doing the aveiros) even as we are cleaning and trying to eradicate them, we may find some chametz left in our mouths even after the time when we are supposed to have stopped.

The final message for me of the dream was that there are many people out there who don't even realize that there will be an accounting or that they are doing something wrong, nevertheless we can help them, either by davening for them or by showing them a better way. If we are sensitive to them, not only will they not complain, they will certainly be happy we have prayed on their behalf and/or shown them the proper path so that they too would not be found with 'chametz' in their mouths on Pesach.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chayei Sarah

What is the difference between the way Eliezer planned to ask for water and the way he actually did?

What is the significance of this?

What can we learn from Eliezer's switch?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rav Kanievsky's Psak - update

I have received a lot of response to the post entitled "Rav Kanievsky's Psak" and I have taken down the post, and I am still not putting it back up for the time being. There is someone who will be asking Rav Kanievsky directly whether these statements were indeed made, and also whether he feels it is appropriate that they be made public knowledge. In any event, I will defer to his wishes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rav Kanievsky's Psak

I am putting the original post back up as I originally wrote it. Please refer to the second part of the story before drawing any conclusions, as I was mistaken in some of the major details.

Rav Levy is a very distinguished member of the community. He is someone well versed in both nigleh and nistar (the revealed and hidden parts of the Torah). I have spoken to him numerous times discussing topics ranging from the mundane to the esoteric and I have found him to be someone with a lot of intuitive wisdom and a keen observer of life.

A neighbor of mine was hosting a certain young man for Shabbos, and this young man ate the Friday night meal at Rav Levy's house. He came back and told my neighbor the story that follows, which I excitedly and quickly confirmed by hearing it directly from Rav Levy himself.

Rav Levy has a daughter who moved to the states a few years ago because her specialty pays 40 shekels an hour here in Israel, and in the US she would make $65 an hour. She recently became engaged to a young man who also lives in the US. Being that all of her friends and all of his family are there, both the chosson and kallah wanted to have their wedding in the states. Rav Levy was presented with a dilemma. Bli ayin hara he has a large family, and bringing the entire family to the states would be a tremendous expense. Besides for that, Rav Levy is careful not to leave Israel except for his livelihood or to visit his elderly father.

Rav Levy is very close to Rabban Gamliel Rabonovich, the rosh yeshiva of yeshivat Sha'ar Hashamayim (A school for mekubalim in Jerusalem), so he posed the question to him. R' Rabonovich told him that it would be best if he asked this question to someone else, as he has very strong feelings for Eretz Yisrael - he's never left since he was born here, and never plans to. He ssuggested that Rav Levy should ask a posek.

Rav Levy wasn't sure who to ask.

Then his fourteen year old daughter came home and mentioned that when she was at her friend's house, it came up that someone had asked Rav Kanievsky last week about making his wedding during Chanukah. Rav Kanievsky said that it wasn't such a good idea, as during Chanukah we will all be in bomb shelters.

Rav Levy was somewhat surprised at this information, especially since they were talking about a wedding only two weeks after Chanukah. He was able to get in contact with and speak directly to the young man (we will call him Reuven) who was told this by Rav Kanievsky, and it was confirmed that indeed Rav Kanievsky had told him this. Reuven also told him that he had another friend (we will call him Shimon) who recently went to Rav Kanievsky to ask for a bracha as he was planning to buy an apartment. Rav Kanievsky told Shimon that he should not buy any apartments, as the value of all apartments will be next to nothing within six months as people scramble to get out of Israel. Rav Levy was able to speak directly to Shimon as well, and confirmed that indeed this was what he had been told by Rav Kanievsky.

Rav Levy told me that he had previously posed questions to Rav Kanievsky on a number of occasions, and felt that this would be the correct address to pose this one as well. He went to Rav Kanievsky with a two page letter detailing all of his concerns, the chosson and kallah's concerns, as well as what he heard from Reuven and Shimon. Rav Levy was accompanied by his son-in-law who frequently visits Rav Kanievsky as he is working on a major project involving the Zohar that requires the guidance of the Gadol.

Rav Kanievsky read the letter slowly and carefully. He finished it and read it again. (Rav Levy's son-in-law said that it was very unusual for the Rav to read a letter twice.) When he finished, Rav Kanievsky said, "יותר טוב שיהיה פה" - it's better that it should be here. Rav Levy's son-in-law reiterated that the chosson and kallah both are in America and very much want it to be there. Rav Kanievsky again repeated, "יותר טוב שיהיה פה" - it's better that it should be here. Rav Levy asked how he should convince them, and Rav Kanievsky responded and said, "תגיד את זה בשמי והם יסכימו"- say it in my name and they will agree.

Rav Levy told his family and they all agreed to follow Rav Kanievsky's psak.

I was personally curious as to how Rav Kanievsky knows this information, perhaps through Ruach Hakodesh, or perhaps he's had conversations with Moshiach, or maybe from learning Kabbalah or the sifrei HaGra? Rav Levy gave me a sheepish look and said that of course he can't answer that, but he affirmed that on a number of occasions in the past when they have asked Rav Kanievsky shailos, he clearly had Ruach Hakodesh.

I thought it was appropriate to mention to Rav Levy that I had heard a rumor that R' Dovid Abuchatzeira was only standing for his visitors now because of a dream where his grandfather told him that Moshiach had come and he had not shown him the proper respect. Rav Levy told me that indeed he has been to R' Abuchatzeira a number of times in the past, and he was always seated, but when he went right before Rosh Hashana, the Chacham was standing the whole time.

After reading this, please see the second part of the story.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stuck in the US?

I received the following concern in an email:

I am very worried. I know that we should be moving to Eretz Yisroel, but we are stuck here in chutz l'aretz for many different reasons. I daven that Hashem should gather all yidden and bring us all safely to Eretz Yisroel.

to which I responded:

I think it's important to think about the fact that part of Moshiach's job is Kibbutz Galios. It may be more pleasant to have a 'front row seat' when Moshiach comes, but it's also important that we realize that all of our circumstances are almost completely controlled by Hashem, and although we do have some level of bechira that can affect our circumstances, we also have to trust Hashem that He would not put us in a place that isn't ultimately good for us. No matter what we will need miracles. True, the miracles may be more forthcoming here in Eretz Yisrael, but don't forget that the Geulas Mitzrayim and all of its accompanying miracles happened in the one place in the world that was known for being home to the greatest Tumah possible!

Kol tuv,
Ari Goldwag

After I posted this, I came across this post from R' Lazer Brody.

Bottom line is to follow your rav and put your trust in Hashem no matter what.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gog and Magog - part 1

A while ago I posted about the idea that Gog - גוג - is the opposite of Dovid - דוד. What this means is that whereas Dovid represents complete התבטלות (self-nullification) - דלות ודלות, Gog represents complete and absolute pride - גאווה וגאווה. The more we associate ourselves with the attribute of humility, the more we give power to משיח בן דוד, Moshiach who is descended, and of the same stock as Dovid. The more we associate ourselves with pride and are unwilling to bend to another's will, the more power we give to the powers of evil, represented by Gog.

I think it is especially significant to note that the place of Gog is called Magog. Gog completely represents the place that he is from. He is from the land that is completely full of itself, believing that its ideology and its outlook on life is the only way possible. Not only that, but its ideology, by definition, completely excludes Hashem from the picture, because the ultimate בעל גאווה (one who is completely prideful) does not acknowledge any other power than his own. This is the power that needs to be destroyed completely before Moshiach's advent when Hashem's Hand will be apparent to all and this land's power will be shown to be exactly what it is - hot air. There is certainly a strong resemblance to Sodom whose utter and complete arrogance and selfishness led to its ultimate downfall. Sodom's destruction set the stage for Lot fathering Moav who would be the great-grandfather of Moshiach. Gog and Magog's destruction set the stage for the ushering in of the one human being who so humbly represents Hashem's full control of the world - Moshiach ben Dovid.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Why didn't Hashem tell Sarah directly that she would be having a child, but rather tell Avraham who already knew?

Why did the malach who was going to destroy Sodom also have to come to Avraham and Sarah if he had no job to do there?

Why did Sodom have to be destroyed at the same moment that Yitzchak was to be conceived?

Why did the conception of Moav happen at this time as well?

Find out the answer to these questions and more by listening to this week's Parsha Podcast

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sign of the times

From the mailbag:


The day after election night, my host said to me the following:

"My close friend in Lakewood was driving by the passport office and said it was flooded with Jews the day after the election. She drives by there all the time and she said it's never like that."

Thought you would find that interesting.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Of Autists and Sheitels

I must admit that I have read most of what Ben Golden and Daniel have said on their site The prospect of a blog that's hooked up to what's going on in shamayim is pretty interesting. They have even been right in some of their predictions (like the fall of the world economy). Some of the more dire predictions have not seemed to come to fruition, by the grace of Hashem, but one could still attribute that to either Klal Yisrael's or some individual tzaddik's positive deeds (see Mishpacha's article on Rav Eliyahu) that have effected some change preventing "all of Israel being Sderot."

In general, I also must say that I take what they have to say pretty seriously. (Yes, I have a two week stock of food prepared, we call it the 'earthquake kit' with a wink.) One of the things that I have had difficulty with is their blanket statement that sheitels are evil. While I could understand where they are coming from, and I have heard of such an idea before, I always found it difficult to believe that the sheitel phenomenon could be so prevalent in the yeshiva world if it was indeed so horrible.

Recently, when statements came out from Rav Ovadiah Yosef and Rav Elyashiv confirming the autistic view on sheitels, it gave me reason to pause. Perhaps this is indeed more serious than I thought. But again, how could all these serious yeshiva families, whose goal in life is to serve Hashem, be so misguided?

I was somewhat comforted when I saw Josh Waxman's post on his parshablog where he brings Reb Moshe Feinstein's teshuva as well as the Lubavitcher rebbe's take. But I was still not satisfied.

Then a relative of mine who is engaged calls me. She is about to buy her first sheitel and her chosson, who is learning in Yerushalayim calls, telling her that perhaps she should not buy one because Rav Elyashiv just came out against them! Both I and she agreed that she should call her rav, a posek in Yerushalayim.

So she calls Rav Katz (name changed) and he says that she should absolutely still buy a sheitel! First of all, he asked her if she knows of any rabbonim whose wives wear sheitels. Her response was summarily affirmative. He also asked her if she waits six hours between eating yellow cheese and eating meat. She responded in the negative. He told her that Rav Elyashiv has many stringencies that are not per se accepted universally, and she need not worry.

The bottom line of this discussion is that whether an autist says something or lehavdil a gadol says something, it is a good idea to take note and take it seriously. In the end, Hashem guides us individually through the rabbonim that we choose to turn to for personal guidance. Whether the question is if the pot has become treif, or if the sheitel has become treif, whether we should move to Israel, or we should move around the block, we need guidance from those who know the Will of Hashem and they are our Rabbonim. The Torah applies to all people in all times, and in all situations, and being that there are a lot of people and a lot of times, and a lot of situations, Hashem gave us the means with which to deal with each issue as it is raised. We must know that He guides us through the people in our lives that we come to ask our Halachic questions, and we must also trust that by following their advice we are doing Hashem's Will to the best of our ability. If we are sincere in our desire to serve Him, He will not lead us astray.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Real Moshiach

I recently came across a very important statement Galia made in her book. You will find it on pages 113-114.

Ima: Is the time of the Mashiach coming soon?
Galia: Yes, my dear Ima, mighty and wonderful revelations await us so soon. But you have to be very wary of people who define themselves as messiahs. Soon there will be confusion. At the time of the revelation of Mashiach, the number of people who have risen to a high spiritual level will increase, and people will see and feel things such as there never were in all the generations. As we now draw closer to the time of the Mashiach, geula revelations that had previously been shown only to private individuals will be shown to the public.

Ima: Is Mashiach with us yet?
Galia: Mashiach is here with us. He is alive and with us here and now. He is all ready and waiting to be revealed. We all have to get ready to welcome him since it depends on us to determine how and when he will reveal himself.

Ima: It doesn't seem logical to me that everyone will do teshuva. So what then? Mashiach will never come?
Galia: Ima, leave your logic out of it. Mashiach comes in every generation and we simply don't receive him. But soon we will have to accept him. Either we prepare ourselves or Hashem will prepare us. Only through teshuva will we be able to welcome him quickly and without suffering.

Ima: Galia, when the Mashiach is revealed, how will we know that he is the true Mashiach?
Galia: Ima, when the Mashiach is revealed, everyone will know that he is the true Mashiach. He will have signs which will come together with him. The signs will be very clear and his authenticity will leave no doubt in the heart of anyone that he is indeed the Mashiach of Israel.

Lech Lecha

What was Avraham Avinu's real contribution to the world? Monotheism was already being taught in Shem's yeshiva.

Why does the Torah start the story of Avraham from the command of Hashem to go to Israel, and leave out his first 75 years?

What is the significance of the letter Heh being added to Avraham and Sarah's names?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

More Moshiach dreams?

Dear Rabbi Goldwag,

Have you heard anything about Rav Kanievsky having a dream in which Rav Schach zt"l told him that Moshiach is coming soon?

Have a good week,
Mrs. Goldstein

I have not. I am wary of these types of stories until I hear them from a close source.

I did recently hear from someone who heard from Rav Uri Zohar's mouth that Rav Zohar went to visit Rav Elya Svei recently, and he is still repeating that which Rav Elchanan Wasserman said in 1939 that Moshiach would come in 70 years.

Rav Uri Zohar also had come to one of the gedolim here (I forget if it was Rav Sheinberg or Rav Kanievsky... talk about accuracy!) because he knows a family outside of Israel who all the children are having difficulty with shidduchim. The gadol responded and said that the oldest one should come to Eretz Yisrael, and he would find his shidduch. The gadol then amended that and said that it would be a good idea for the whole family to come as Moshiach is coming soon.

all the best,
Ari Goldwag

Obama, Moshiach, and Gog

The election of Barack Obama is for me a source of interest and what I would describe as an emotion bordering on the edge of excitement.

Why? Because Hashem is clearly guiding our paths each day and each moment, both individually and nationally, and this election is bringing the final redemption closer.

What makes me say this? The following Torah code that was sent to me in an email.

These verses are from the beginning of Yechezkel 38, which speaks of the war of Gog Umagog.

ויהי דבר י-ה-ו-ה אלי לאמר. בן אדם שים פניך אל גוג ארץ המגוג נשיא ראש משך ותבל והנבא עליו. ואמרת כה אמר אדני י-ה-ו-ה הנני אליך גוג

Every seven letters gives us Obama's name. The significance of seven is that it denotes malchus.

What his role precisely will be remains to be seen.

By the way, his name is also encoded in this weeks parsha in the story of Hagar and Yismael (one of only a few places in the Torah with a short skip).


We've all heard that during the plague of darkness in Egypt, directly preceding the redemption, at least four-fifths of the Jewish people perished. We have also heard that the final redemption will parallel the redemption from Egypt, thus leading us to conclude that at least four-fifths of our people will Chas V'shalom not make it to see the final redemption.

I have substantial evidence that shows that this will not be the case, and I would like to present it as both hope and a prayer that indeed all of our people merit to see the final redemption, speedily and in our days.

The most obvious and explicit statement of this was made by Rebbe Nachman. He makes it very clear that there was a fundamental difference between the redemption from Egypt and the final redemption. He explains that there was a factor in the Exodus of speed. It was this speed that was what caused the Jews to leave with haste, not leaving time for their dough to rise (see Exodus 12:39). It was also this speed, says Rebbe Nachman, that prevented four-fifths of our people from leaving Egypt. There just wasn't time to wait for the Spiritual slumberers to awaken. Unfortunately they had to pass away. (This could be because the Jews were then teetering on the edge of the 49th level of impurity, and any moment more that they would remain in Egypt would have caused the destruction of the entire Jewish nation, Heaven forbid.)

Rebbe Nachman says that the final redemption WILL NOT HAVE THAT SAME ASPECT. It may be true that the final redemption will happen quickly, but it will not be the required haste as was necessary when the Jews left Egypt. This will ensure that all Jews will be redeemed b'ezras Hashem.

A second source for this which is older, but not as explicit, is a medrash I heard quoted by Rav Kessin. It relays a conversation between Moshiach ben Yosef and Hashem. Moshiach ben Yosef has become aware of the possibility that many of the Jewish people will not make it through to the times of Moshiach. This upsets him greatly and he declares his readiness to do whatever it takes so that they should survive. Hashem responds and says that in order to save them, he will have to descend to the depths of impurity in order to save every last soul, as many of them will be entrenched in evil. He agrees to this, and as he is sent down into the spiritual abyss, Moshiach ben Yosef screams in horror at the depths of the depravity he encounters, but nevertheless does accomplish his goal.

One could explain this medrash that it is speaking on a spiritual level, and that Moshiach is saving these Jewish souls from spiritual destruction. However, when one understands the role of Moshiach ben Yosef, it then becomes apparent what is being spoken of. Moshiach ben Yosef's job is the physical restoration of the Jewish people (similar to his forebear Yosef who provided physical sustenance to the Jews when they first came down to Egypt). Thus Moshiach ben Yosef's job includes bringing the Jews back to Israel, rebuilding the land, and even building the physical edifice of the third Beis Hamikdash (temple) itself. The role of Moshiach ben Dovid, on the other hand, is to bring the spiritual side into these physical constructs - the spirit back to the people, the holiness back to the land, and the Shechinah back to the Beis Hamikdash.

With this in mind, it becomes clear that when Moshiach ben Yosef is asking to save every last Jew, he is not just speaking about their spiritual existence, but rather, he is speaking about their physical existence as well.

Well, if this is true, you ask, why do we keep hearing that even during the final redemption many of our people will be lost, Heaven forbid?

I think the answer goes back to an argument we find in the Gemara in Rosh Hashana on pages 16b-17a.

The gemara there speaks of the Final Judgment that will take place and says that there are three groups on the Day of Judgment (similar to Rosh Hashana). A group of righteous individuals, wicked individuals, and middle of the road individuals. All agree that the righteous are immediately written and sealed for [Eternal] Life. The wicked are sentenced to Hell.

Here's where it gets interesting. What is with the 'middle of the road' class? So, in regards to Rosh Hashana, the gemara says that their judgment is suspended while they have ten days to do Teshuva (repentance). But in the final judgment, there doesn't seem to be a period of grace.

Beis Shamai says that these people are sent down to Hell [where they are purified], and then they float up. This is based on the verse (Zechariah 13), "And I will bring the third group through fire, and I will purify them as silver is purified [of its impurities], and I will check them as one who checks gold [for impurities]. He will call in My Name, and I will answer him." About this group did Chana say (I Shmuel 2), "Hashem kills and gives life, brings down to the depths [of Hell] and raises."

Doesn't sound too good, does it? Don't be too scared yet, because Beis Hillel argues.

Beis Hillel says that with regards to this group, ורב חסד מטה כלפי חסד - the One who is abundantly kind leans toward Kindness [i.e. Hashem shows kindness to the middle group, and does not send them into Hell.] About them did King David say (Psalms 116), "I love when Hashem hears my voice," as well as the rest of that parsha, including, "I was bereft, and He saved me." (These are the verses from Hallel - אהבתי כי ישמע ה' את קולי... דלותי ולי יהושיע)

It seems to me that Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel are arguing about our four-fifths of the Jewish people, and Beis Shamai says that they will have to do some time in Hell, whereas Beis Hillel says that there will be an overwhelming Kindness that Hashem will show His people.

Amazingly, the gemara there explains the verse דלותי ולי יהושיע, I was bereft, and He saved me - as meaning that despite the fact THAT I WAS BEREFT OF MITZVOS, to You [Hashem] it is beautiful to save me! Is there a clearer description of our four-fifths than that?

But what of Beis Shamai who says that the middle-of-the-road class of people don't make it? The answer is that the halacha is like Beis Hillel until Moshiach comes. Only when Moshiach comes do we go in accordance with the views of Beis Shamai. Since the judgment we are talking about is occurring BEFORE Moshiach, it is clear that this four-fifths of the Jewish people will survive in accordance with Beis Hillel's ruling!

This also explains why the autistic individuals are saying that there will be such mayhem and destruction before Moshiach chas v'shalom - because they are 'living in the world of truth!' In their world, all they see is a world of Din (pure judgment) and thus they see the ruling of Beis Shamai. We, however, who live in a world mixed with Din and Rachamim (mercy) will experience a reality based on the ruling of Beis Hillel - All of our people will survive, bezras Hashem, except for the most wicked individuals.

This leaves us with a small quandary. Based on what I am saying, why should we bother to do Teshuva? In any event Hashem will have mercy on us and redeem all of His people!

The answer is based on something that Rabbi Akiva Tatz writes in his book Living Inspired. While it's true that G-d willing, all of our people will survive, there will be a tremendous level of embarrassment that will be endured, Heaven forbid, when the truth of the spiritual world becomes evident. At that moment of truth, the contrast between Reality and how lives have been led will be most telling. For those who have lived their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Torah, their lives will reflect a harmony that will be exhilarating. For those who did not, however, their will be a tremendous dissonance that will result in a tremendous feeling of shame.

It is for this reason that we must redouble our efforts to do Teshuva, to try our best to constantly bring our lives in line with the dictates of the Torah - the Will of Hashem. We must develop our love of Hashem and our commitment to Him, and we must also pray on behalf of all our brethren who have not been privileged to know the Truth that they too should be drawn toward the light. The more we do this the more we will fulfill that which we say, "למען לא נבוש ולא נכלם" - in order that we not be embarrassed and mortified. The more we live a life of consonance with Truth, the greater will be our ability to fulfill the verse that speaks of the ultimate joy of Moshiach, "אז ימלא שחוק פינו ולשוננו רינה" - then will our mouths be filled with laughter, and our tongues with praise. May it be speedily in our days.

5769 II

The passuk uses the words "והיה ביום ההוא" in numerous places to refer to the time of Moshiach. On the surface these words are quite innocuous. The gematria of these words is 101, which would seem to be insignificant.

It gets interesting when you break down the letters as follows:

וי"ו ה"י יו"ד ה"י (והיה) בי"ת יו"ד וי"ו מ"ם (ביום) ה"י ה"י וי"ו אל"פ (ההוא)

in this form, והיה is 72, ביום is 534, and ההוא is 163. This adds up to a grand total of... you guessed it folks...769, corresponding to the year תשס"ט that is fast approaching.

(a note on מילוי - filling up the letters. The letters ו and ה can be filled three different ways - with an א - which would be וא"ו and ה"א; with a י - which would be וי"ו and ה"י; and the third way is ו"ו and ה"ה. These different methods are used in filling up the Tetragrammaton, ie. name of Hashem and give us the values of ע"ב ס"ג מ"ה ב"ן. Here we used the מילוי which corresponds to the name ע"ב, which is the highest name.)

While I am already posting, I would like to add something which I have thought about a lot recently.

I heard from my Rav that our sages tell us that when Noach exited the ark and looked around at a world devoid of humanity, he turned to heaven and said, "Could you not forgive the world? Was it necessary to bring such great destruction?" To this Hashem responded, "This would have been a wonderful thing to say before the flood. There was a hundred and twenty years of opportunity. Now the opportunity has been lost!"

We keep hearing that when Moshiach comes a large number of people will be lost from our people. I don't know what the source for that statement is. I have seen other sources that explicitly state that all of the Jewish people will survive to see Moshiach, namely Rebbe Nachman, among others. We need to understand that there is great danger, but we need to learn from Noach's mistake, and take on Avraham avinu's ways. When he heard about the destruction that was slated to occur to Sodom, he immediately pleaded for their lives, despite their great wickedness!

We also find that when Moshe rabbenu was told by Hashem that because of the Golden Calf, the Jewish people were to be destroyed, Heaven forbid, Moshe had no good excuse for the people. That did not stop him from beseeching Hashem for mercy. He was successful because of his self sacrifice. He constantly prayed for Hashem to forgive them despite the horrendous sin they had perpetrated.

We must learn from Moshe as well - not be concerned only for our own welfare. We must believe that all of Klal Yisrael will survive. Unfortunately, many of them can not pray for themselves. But we can pray for them. We are all responsible for one another and we can move the world with our heartfelt prayers, literally saving our people.