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Beis Kislev, 5777

Why Reb Nochum Fell from His Horse

The Mitteler Rebbe, was known for his penchant for joyfulness. He even had a group of chassidim who formed a kapelye (choir), and another group who were trained to perform tricks on horseback. On special, joyous occasions, he would ask these groups to perform, and he would stand on his balcony watching. The rebbe's son Reb Nochum happened to be one of these horsemen.

Once, for no apparent reason, the rebbe suddenly instructed both of these groups to perform. This was extremely unusual. Yet the chassidim performed while the rebbe stood in his usual spot and watched the horsemen carefully.

Suddenly the rebbe's son Reb Nochum fell off of his horse. Informed that his son was in grave danger, the rebbe merely motioned with his hand to continue the festivities.

After a while the rebbe asked them to stop, and stepped into his private office.

A doctor was summoned, and Reb Nochum's situation proved far less severe than previously thought. He had broken a leg, but no more.

The rebbe was then asked why he had told the horsemen and choir to continue with their performance while his beloved son lay injured.

He responded, "Why don't you ask me an even better question: why did I ask the horsemen and the choir to perform on a simple weekday in the first place?"

The rebbe explained: "Today was meant to be a harsh day for my son. I saw a grave accusation against him in the heavenly court. The prosecution was very powerful, and I could see only one way out: joy sweetens the attribute of severity. So I therefore called upon the choir to sing, and asked the riders to gladden everyone with their antics.

"The joy thus created tempered the strict decree against my son, but a small portion of the decree remained. That is why he fell off his horse and hurt his leg. However, the continued revelry lessened even this residual decree. G-d willing, Nochum will recover in the very near future."

Otzar Sipurei Chabad, vol. 16, p. 55, quoting Reshimot Devarim by Rabbi Yehuda Chitrik.

Translated by Yehuda Shuprin.

Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.

Beis Kislev, 5777

Date: 1953.
Location: Elizabeth, New Jersey

A blind Jew who would walk around with the assistance of a guide dog was faced with a dilemma. He desired to attend services in shul, but it didn't seem respectable to enter a mikdash me'at with a dog (or with any other animal, for that matter). On the other hand, that was the only way he would be able to participate in all of the devarim shebi'kedushah taking place in shul. Was he allowed to enter the shul with his dog?

The man presented his query to the local Rov, R. Pinchas Mordechai Teitz OBM, who in turn asked the opinion of HaRav Moshe Feinstein OBM.

In his teshuvah, R. Moshe cites a Yerushalmi (Megilah 3:3) that states that talmidei chachomim may make use of a shul for their personal needs. The Yerushalmi continues that Rav Imi instructed the schoolteachers (who taught in shul): "Even if a 'mediocre' talmid chochom arrives to the shul, allow him to enter along with his donkey and utensils." From this Gemara we can deduce that bringing an animal into shul is no worse than making use of it in other ways (such as through eating or drinking there). Since our shuls today are built with the stipulation that they may be used for other purposes (even by those who are not talmidei chachomim), it follows that one may bring an animal into a shul, at least in a case of a sha'as hadechak (such as ours).

R. Moshe brings another interesting proof as well. The Gemara (Brachos 62a) relates that Abayei's mother raised a sheep that would constantly accompany him. (This way he would not enter thebeis hakiseialone and would be protected from mazikin.) Since Abayei certainly spent most of his day in the beis midrash, the sheep probably accompanied him there as well.

R. Moshe concludes that the man was allowed to enter the shul with his dog, but he recommended that he sit near the entrance, to avoid disturbing the congregation.

When R. Moshe's teshuvah was printed in the first volume of Igros Moshe in 1959, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kasher OBM, compiler of Torah Shleimah, sent him a letter with a number of comments on the sefer, including this particular teshuvah. R. Moshe's heter was based on the premise that a dog is no worse than a donkey or sheep. R. Kasher argues with this premise.

"According to my opinion, a dog is much worse," he wrote. "The Torah forbids one to bring a mechir kelev as a korban-a sheep that was exchanged for a dog-because dogs are known to be brazen (see Chinuch §571 and Kli Yakar, Devarim 23:19). If this is the case with the exchange of a dog, how much more must one avoid bringing an actual dog to the Beis Hamikdash! This can be extended to a shul as well, because the kedushah of a shul, according to many Rishonim, is mede'oraysa, just like the kedushah of the Beis Hamikdash."

R. Kasher sent a copy of this letter to the Rebbe, and the Rebbe responded with a letter of his own, bringing up numerous points. Among others, the Rebbe cites a possible proof that this may be permitted: While in the first Beis Hamikdash the fire on themizbei'achappeared as a lion, in the second Beis Hamikdash it appeared as a dog (Yuma 21b). Apparently, having something in the Beis Hamikdash reminiscent of this animal is not necessarily taboo.

The Rebbe concludes that one must also keep in mind that remaining outside of shul while everyone else can enter can be extremely disheartening (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim §88). True, there may be other alternatives-such as arranging for the blind man to be assisted in shul by another person-but the bottom line is that a way should be found to enable him to enter the shul and participate.

Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:45. Torah Shleimah, Vol. 15, p. 147 (in note). Igros Kodesh, Vol. 18, pp. 422; 455-456

Note: The above was written for academic purposes only. Please consult a Rov for practical guidance. 

The Most Effective Medicine Beis Kislev, 5777

Rav Yehudah beRebbi Chiya said: Come and see how the measure of Hashem is different from the measure of a man of flesh and blood. When a man of flesh of blood provides another with medicine, it can be beneficial for one organ and harmful for another [for example, it can be beneficial for the heart and harmful for the eyes]. But Hashem is different: he gave the Torah to Yisroel, which is a medicine of life for one's entire body, as the possuk says, "It is a cure for his entire flesh."

Eiruvin 54a

Yud Zayin Cheshvan, 5777

Puppet Solution

Thanks for sending me the encouraging emails to get more involved in learning.

For lack of a better word I wish to share with you that I am really like a puppet. I don't see why I need to be learning if I can simply ask a Rov if a shaila comes up and, so to speak, be a puppet to his learning.

Dear puppet,

Look, if you put the other reasons to learn on a scale opposite the reason of knowing what to do - it would swiftly catapult that reason flying to a distant place.

Still, for the sake of argument let me address just that reason; imagine all the times that asking a Rov is not possible, On Shabbos and Yom Tov, when you have no phone (or battery), when a moment's notice is needed, when you are in middle of Shemone Esrei; I am giving these examples cause they all pretty much happened to me.

I can accept your argument about Hilchos Mikvaos which I imagine you are not constructing and Hilchos Toen and Nitaan as I sense you aren't sitting at din Torah's and such; but before dismissing leaning any other halachic topics think - can I honestly get away without this knowledge?

Gloves are more useful than puppets.

Beis Kislev, 5777

Date: 1953.
Location: Elizabeth, New Jersey

A blind member of the Jewish community in Elizabeth, New Jersey, would walk around with the assistance of a guide dog. As a frumme Yid, he strongly desired to participate in the tefillos in shul and be able to answer Kaddish and Kedushah, hear the reading of the Torah and Megillah, and so on. However, since he was dependent on his dog to help him make his way, this would only be possible if the dog would accompany him to shul.

The Yid was faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, it didn't seem respectable to enter a mikdash me'at with a dog (or with any other animal, for that matter). On the other hand, that was the only way he would be able to participate in all of the devarim shebi'kedushah taking place in shul.

Was the blind mispalel allowed to enter the shul with his guide dog?

Beruriah's Advice Yud Zayin Cheshvan, 5777

Beruriah [the wife of Reb Meir] once found a certain student studying quietly... She said to him: "Doesn't the possuk say, '[It is] arranged in all and protected'? This teaches us that if the Torah is arranged in all of one's 248 limbs, it will be protected; but if it is not, it will not be protected."

It was taught in a Beraisa: Rebbi Eliezer had a student who would study quietly. After three years, he forgot his learning. [...]

Shmuel said to Rav Yehudah: "Sharp one! Open your mouth and read [Chumash]; open your mouth and study [Mishnah]. This way, what you study will remain with you and you will have a long life, as the possuk says: 'For they are life for those who find them [למוצאיהם], and a cure for his entire flesh.' Do not read it as למוצאיהם, but rather as למוציאיהם, those who recite the words of Torah verbally." [...]

Rebbi Yitzchok said: We can deduce [the importance of studying Torah aloud] from this possuk: "For [the Torah] is extremely close to you, in your mouth and your heart to do it." When is it extremely close to you? When it is in your mouth and your heart to do it.

Eiruvin 54a

Gimmel Cheshvan, 5777

Torah Education for Women

Devora Leah was the aunt of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, known as the Alter Rebbe. Her mother, Rachel, was a very unusual woman for her time.

Educated secretly by her unconventional father, Rachel eventually mastered not only Chumash, but the Talmud and the writings of Maimonides, and was especially expert in the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law.

Her erudition in Jewish legal matters is illustrated by an incident in which her husband and father were walking on Shabbos.

Suddenly, someone came running to tell them that the city's eiruv had broken.

The two rabbis stood still, unable to remember the law under such circumstances. Rachel's father asked her what they should do.

At first she didn't want to reply, since it was frowned upon in those days for a woman to be learned and she didn't want to alienate her new husband.

But when her father pressed her, she answered and everyone abided by her instructions.

Upon returning home they consulted the Shulchan Aruch and verified that Rachel's pronouncement had been correct. When Rachel had her own daughter, it was only natural that she educate her in the same manner in which she had learned from her father.

Rachel began teaching Devora Leah regularly and systematically.

In the course of time, Devora Leah also became quite a scholar.

She grew up with the wonderful qualities so exemplified by her mother: fond of her fellow-beings, always interested in her neighbors, ready to help everyone. Her brother, Baruch, on the other hand, was cold and reserved, preferring his own company to that of others.

Because of Baruch's cold nature, there was no bond between the two siblings. Devora Leah was grieved at her brother's attitude. Her mother saw it and realized it was wrong, but it was beyond her comprehension. She was pained by Baruch's behavior and thought it might do him good to hear something of the family history that she had already told Devora Leah. But he seemed so unapproachable that she kept putting it off. Unfortunately, Rachel waited too long. She became gravely ill and passed away.

At the time of the death of her beloved mother Devora Leah was only sixteen years old. She found some consolation for her loss by immersing herself in the care of her father, brother and household.

Not long after the passing of her mother, Devora Leah's father succumbed to his emotional travail, and after a protracted illness, he too passed away.

Devora Leah, now an orphan, went to live with her aunt and uncle.

Her brother Baruch disappeared without telling anyone of his destination.

One day, Devora Leah's aunt and uncle announced that they had located a suitable match for her -- a young Torah scholar named Yosef Yitzchak.

The young girl immediately ran to the graves of her parents and poured out her heart, asking for their blessings only if the match was one which would be successful. Afterward, she agreed to meet the young man.

Devora Leah was very frank with him, explaining that she was inclined to follow the ways of her mother's family, who followed the teaching of Kabbalah and Chassidus. The young man listened attentively, and then, to Devora Leah's happy surprise, he told her that he had long ago made the acquaintance of a certain disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and was thoroughly knowledgeable with his teachings. In fact, he was entirely in sympathy with the Baal Shem Tov's path of Divine service.

Even more astonishing, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak told her that he had himself met the Baal Shem Tov.

The tzadik had told him that he would meet his intended in Vitebsk -- an orphan girl from a fine family.

Devora Leah was thrilled with all he told her and saw Divine Providence in their meeting. She had no doubt that this fine young man was her Divinely-chosen mate.

The two went together to Devora Leah's parents' graves and secretly agreed to marry on the following conditions: Yosef Yitzchak was to learn Torah with her two or three times a week; He was not to object to her continuing with her sewing and allow her to contribute monetarily to their household; They were to share equally in all they did relating to Torah and mitzvos; They were to keep the fact that she was studying Torah a secret; They were to live as followers of the Baal Shem Tov; From all their earnings they would put aside a tenth part for charity; They were raise their children in the Chassidish way; If they had daughters they would teach them Torah.

After their marriage, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak was appointed as head of the Vitebsk Yeshiva, and Devora Leah was very happy with the life she and her husband had undertaken.

Adapted and excerpted from Memoirs of the Frierdiker Rebbe

Taken from L'Chaim 352 with permission.

Gimmel Cheshvan, 5777

The first successful manned landing on the moon in 1969 opened up a new area of halachah- how are Torah and mitzvos to be kept on the moon. One of the many questions that can arise is whether a Jewish astronaut on the moon can recite Kiddush Levanah.

This question was raised by R. Avraham Maimon, a Rov in Marseilles of Tunisian descent, in a sefer published seven years after this event. R. Maimon is of the opinion that an astronaut can, indeed, recite this brachah. After all, the halachah is that one who sees the new moon should recite this brachah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 426:1), and the astronaut can certainly see the moon; in fact, he is actually standing on it! R. Maimon takes this a step further: since the waxing and waning of the moon is not noticeable on the moon itself, perhaps this brachah can be recited throughout the month.

In his comments to the above-mentioned sefer, R. Bougid Saadon, then rov of Djerba, Tunisia, disagrees. He posits that this very logic-that the moon's phases are not apparent on the moon itself-is reason not to say this brachah. Kiddush Levanah was instituted to be said over the moon's renewal, which can only be seen from Earth.

Either way, the astronaut would probably have to omit the words כשם שאני עומד לנגדך ואיני יכול לנגוע בך - "Just as I stand opposite you and cannot touch you," because he is, in fact, touching the moon.

A related question is when to say Kiddush Levanah if one is orbiting Earth in a space shuttle. This question was discussed by R. Levi Yitzchak Halperin, head of the Institute for Science and Halacha in Yerushalayim, in a treatise written in connection with the launch and subsequent death of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon in 2003.

Halperin rules that when the time comes to recite Kiddush Levanah on Earth, the astronaut can recite it as well, since he, too, is witness to the moon's birth from his vantage point aboard the shuttle. However, he should make sure to do so when he is orbiting the part of Earth where it is night. (Night and day aboard the space shuttle alternate rapidly, as a complete orbit consists of a mere 90 minutes.)

It is interesting to note that the Rebbe mentioned this question in a sichah on the sixth night of Sukkos, 5752, as an example of a new addition in halachah created as a result of a modern innovation. The Rebbe also points out that this discussion would also pertain to a Jewish person on one of the other mazalos (i.e., a planet, such as Mars).

Tzuras Halevanah, pp. 26b-27a. Im Esak Shamayim, pp. 63-65. Sichos Kodesh 5752, Vol. 1, pp. 158-160


The Key is At the End Gimmel Cheshvan, 5777

May it be a year of light, a year of blessing, a year of geulah, a year of happiness, a year of glory, a year of good assembly, a year of merit, a year of good life, a year of goodness, a year of promise, a year of sustenance, a year of successful study, a year of kingship, a year of victory and miracles, a year of good signs, a year of strength ("Hashem will give strength to his nation; Hashem will bless his nation with peace"), a year of redemption, a year of jubilation, a year of holiness, a year of supremacy, a year of great joy until it reaches the level of ad delo yada, and a year of praise.

All this is included in and derives from the fact that it is a year of Torah and a year of tefillah, and before that-a year of teshuvah.

Birchas Habonim of Erev Yom Kippur after Minchah, 5744 (TM 5744, Vol. 1, p. 137)

Chof Elul, 5776

Torah-Your Private Lawyer

The Gemara says (Makos 10a) that Torah protects a person, similar to an ir miklat. Similarly, Sefer Chareidim writes (Mitzvas Hateshuvah Ch. 3) that studying Torah protects a person from suffering.

How exactly does Torah protect a person? Perhaps it's by acting as a private lawyer when he is judged Above.

Chovos Halevavos explains (Shaar Hateshuvah Ch. 10, as explained by Pas Lechem) that (once a person does his best Teshuva, Hashem finds pretexts for a person's negative conduct, to minimize the severity of his misdeeds. This may be the type of protection afforded to a person who studies Torah: even if he has sinned and deserves to be punished, when he is judged in the supernal Beis Din, Hashem will excuse his actions so he can be vindicated.

This idea may apply to the present month of Elul. As is known, Elul is an acronym for various pessukim, three of which correspond to the three pillars of Torah, avodah, and gemilus chassadim. The possuk corresponding to Torah is אנה לידו ושמתי לך, written with regard to arei miklat, because Torah protects a person like an ir miklat (Lekutei Torah of the Arizal, Parshas Shoftim).

This fits very well with the above. The month of Elul serves as a preparation for the judgment of Rosh Hashanah. In the merit of studying Torah during this time, Hashem will advocate for us when judging us and give us all a good and sweet new year.

Chof Elul, 5776

Union City, New Jersey,
Erev Rosh Hashanah, 5742 (1982)

A few days before Rosh Hashanah, a young man named R. Sholom Eliyahu Tzvi Zilber was blessed with a simchah: his wife gave birth to a baby boy. Since that year Rosh Hashanah fell out on Shabbos, the sholom zachor was scheduled to take place on the night of Rosh Hashanah. The young man put together a list of items to purchase for the event, which included some mezonos, fruits, drinks, and, obviously, arbes (chickpeas).

(One of the reasons for making a sholom zachor is to comfort the child for forgetting the Torah he had learned while in his mother's womb [Derishah, Yoreh Dei'ah, end of §264]. Since lentils are customarily served to mourners, it has become customary to serve chickpeas, which are similar to lentils, at a sholom zachor.)

However, the young man remembered that one is not supposed to eat nuts on Rosh Hashanah, and certain poskim extend this to legumes in general. May one serve arbes at a sholom zachor taking place on Rosh Hashanah night?

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