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Michoel Dovid Leopold

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Menachem Mendel Simon

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Ari Pfeffer

“I heard about Yagdil Torah’s 20 hour open-door policy and decided I had to check it out for myself. I went there at about 12:45 AM and was amazed to find people learning. I sat down and before I knew it, an hour had passed as if it was only 5 minutes… The undisturbed, quiet atmosphere made it a pleasure.

I got hooked.

I guess my newfound pleasure was noticed by my friends and neighbors – they joined too. The secret is out: If anyone wants to learn in a quiet, heimishe place, this is it.”

Shlomo Ezagui

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Keep up the amazing work, and have tremendous hatzlochah!”

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So thank you Levi and the Yagdil Torah team, for bringing us life!"

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Compilation for Chof Daled Teives Tes Zayin Teves, 5778

Following the Rebbe's horaah that one learn from the teachings of the Alter Rebbe on Chof Daled Teves, along with at least one chapter of Mishnayos beginning with the one of the letters of his name, Yagdil Torah has prepared a learning guide for this day. The compilation features specially selected portions of the Alter Rebbe's teachings, stories and the full mishnayos. It will be distributed throughout the Shuls in Crown Heights, in the Heichal Halimmud and in our office. It is also available for download here.

Read an amazing story which shows the importance of learning in connection to a Yom Hilulah of our Rabbeim.

Tes Zayin Teves, 5778

The Great Rav

Bar Ayvoh, (who became known as Rav) was one of the great Jewish scholars who lived in Babylon the same time as Rabbi Yehuda the Prince led the Jewish community in the Land of Israel. Because of his fine, impressive appearance, he also was given the nickname Abba Aricha, or "the tall Abba."

Rav began his illustrious career when he arrived in Israel to study under the tutelage of his uncle, the noteworthy scholar, Rabbi Hiyya bar Abbah, with whom he was very close. Eventually, Rabbi Hiyya appointed his brilliant nephew to serve as an interpreter, a special scholar whose function it was to explain the teachings of the dean of the academy. Abba grew in Torah knowledge and stature, and when his uncle introduced him to Rabbi Yehuda, he made a very favorable impression.

Rav returned to Babylon and during his stay both of his parents passed away. Upon his return to Israel, Rabbi Hiyya inquired whether his father was still alive. Reluctant to give bad news, Abba responded with a question, "Why do you not inquire if my mother is alive?" Rabbi Hiyya then asked, "Is your mother alive?" To which Abba replied, "And does my father live?" From this cryptic exchange, Rabbi Hiyya understood that Abba's parents had died.

After his return to Israel, Rav joined the yeshiva of Rabbi Yehuda, becoming one of the outstanding students there, and following Rabbi Yehuda to Tzippori, when he moved his court there. His fame spread, and the Talmud reports the esteem in which his colleagues held him. Once, Issi bar Hinni referred to Rav as "Abba Aricha" in the presence of Rav Yochanan. Rav Yochanan angrily retorted: "You dare to call him 'Abba Aricha'? Why, I recall when I sat 17 rows behind Rav in Rabbi Yehuda's yeshiva. Sparks of fire passed from Rav's mouth to his Master's mouth, and back to Rav's mouth, and I could not even understand their conversation!"

Rav's brilliance was not confined to his knowledge of Torah. He was learned in the whole spectrum of secular studies, including medicine, nature, nutrition, zoology, geography, business and trade. He studied all of these secular fields in order to be able to decide the many legal questions which came to him. The Jerusalem Talmud relates that Rav spent 18 months studying with a shepherd to learn how to distinguish between blemishes which are permanent and those which are temporary, in order to render a decision as to the fitness of a first-born animal. In addition to all his other talents, Rav was an accomplished linguist, conversing fluently in Persian, Greek and Aramaic.

Many sayings in the Talmud are attributed to Rav and illustrate his wisdom and sagacity. "Better to be cursed than to curse" (Sanhedrin 49); "A camel came begging for horns, so his ears were clipped," (Sanhedrin 106); "Better to have a pot of earth than a large amount on the roof," (Pesachim 113). Rav used to say that a father should never show more love to one child than to another because such action causes jealousy between children, as was the case of Joseph and his brothers.

Rav was very humble and always sought peace. If someone happened to offend him, Rav was always the first to go out and try to make peace.

In later years, Rav returned to Babylon to strengthen Torah and Judaism there. There were great scholars in residence there when he arrived, and although he was greater than they were, he refused to assume any of their positions. In fact, he arrived anonymously and was not recognized. One day, Rav Shila had need of an interpreter, and Rav volunteered. It was soon apparent that he was no ordinary scholar, and Rav Shila recognized him. He exclaimed, "I am not worthy of having you as my interpreter!" Rav replied simply, "When one hires himself out for the day, he is duty bound to perform whatever job he is given."

In his great humility Rav greatly respected all Torah scholars, even those on a far lower level than himself. Only in the instance of a possible desecration of G-d's Name did he speak brazenly, saying, "When a question of the desecration of the Holy Name arises, one need not respect the feelings of even a great person" (Brachot 19b).

Rav owned a brewery, but was unsuccessful in business and lived in poverty. When Rav Shila died, Rav refused to step into his position. Instead, Rav left Nehardea to travel from town to town, teaching and attracting many disciples. He finally settled in the town of Sura, which had not yet been established as a Torah center. Eventually, his yeshiva grew very large. His financial position also advanced, and he became intimate with the royal family.

Although Rav didn't care for his personal honor, he was scrupulous toward the honor of the Torah. It is related in the Talmud that once Rav summoned a wealthy man to appear in court. The rich man was very haughty and instead of coming, he sent a message saying, "Do you know how rich I am? All the camels of the Arabs would not be able to carry even the keys to my treasures."

When Rav was given that message, he remarked that the rich man would soon be relieved of his riches. Very soon after, the king issued an order that all the rich man's possessions be confiscated. When that happened, the rich man ran to Rav, begging for his forgiveness. Rav forgave him at once. Soon, all his possessions were returned to him.

What Rabbi Yehuda the Prince was to Jews in Israel, Rav was for the Jews in Babylon. He is considered one of the greatest scholars of his time.

Tes Zayin Teves, 5778

A Golem-Making Guide

So how do you go about making a golem?

Regarding the calves Rav Chanina and Rav Oshaya would create every Erev Shabbos (as mentioned in a previous installment), the Gemara states that they would create them with Sefer Yetzirah (Sanhedrin 65b and 67b). How exactly does that work?

We know that the world is created with Divine letters (as the Alter Rebbe explains at length in Shaar Hayichud VeHaEmunah). Sefer Yetzirah, a sefer attributed to Avraham Avinu, discusses these letters and their special power. When the Gemara says that Rav Chanina and Rav Oshaya would study Sefer Yetzirah, it means that they would combine these letters and use them to create animals, just as Hashem creates the world with these letters (see Rashi to Sanhedrin 67b).

Let's ask the opposite question: How do you dismantle a golem?

According to one account, Ben Sira created a person with Sefer Yetzirah, and Yirmiyahu Hanavi reprimanded him for doing so. "The person is already created," said Ben Sira. "What should I do now?"

"Combine the same letters you did to create him," replied Yirmiyahu, "but this time combine them backwards." Ben Sira did so, and the golem returned to dust (Shevet Mi'Yisrael to Tehillim 28:1, quoting Yalkut Reuveni).

We can now understand the story mentioned in the previous installment, in which Rava created a golem and sent him to Rebbi Zeira, who caused the man to return to dust (Sanhedrin 65b). How exactly did he do so? By combining the specific letters used to create a human in a backwards order (Ben Yehoyada to Sanhedrin ibid.).

Next issue bl"n: Halachos of man-made animals-in our times!

What's Better, to Hide in a Cave or Study with a Chavrusa? Tes Zayin Teves, 5778

Yehudah of Hutzi had difficulty understanding the reason of the law that the members of a town should take care of their own needs before taking care of the needs of others. He secluded himself in a cave for three days to understand it, but was unsuccessful.

When he returned, he met R. Yossi ben Chalafta. "Where have you been?" asked R. Yossi.

"I secluded myself in a cave for three days," replied Yehudah, "to understand the reason for the above-mentioned law."

R. Yossi called for his son, R. Avirudimus. "Explain this law to Yehudah," he instructed.

R. Avirudimus proceeded to explain:

"The verse in Yehoshua (21:40) states, 'These cities should be [for the Leviyim], each city and its open areas around it.' From the fact that the verse first mentions the cities themselves and then the areas around them, we learn that a city's inhabitants should first take care of their own needs."

R. Yossi then turned to Yehudah and said: "Do you know why you were unsuccessful in understanding this law? Because you did not study with your colleagues, choosing instead to study alone in a cave."

Yerushalmi Shvi'is 8:5

Daled Teves, 5778


Kings and royalty have a sophisticated style; they aren't satisfied with good alone, rather they strive for the truly fine. By the same token, they don't just have street knowledge, rather they seek to broaden their knowledge in interesting and abstract topics, and delve in the arts. As an example of how kings seek to be above and beyond in everything, the Baal Shem Tov writes that even in his times, the Arab kings would speak in hints.

Chazal say that Jews are royalty. In that vein, Jews learn Torah, which is a wisdom that is on a wholly different and higher plain. Additionally, they keep Mitzvos, which is (also) the art of connecting a mortal to an almighty Hashem, who, while infinitively abstract is ever present in all.

Daled Teves, 5778

Man-Making Tzaddikim

Let's explore some of the Tzadikim throughout the ages who created golems.

According to one source (Pirush HaRaavad LeSefer Yetzirah 6:4), just as Avraham Avinu once created an animal with Sefer Yetzirah (as related in the last issue), he created people as well. This is the meaning of the possuk (Bereishis 12:5), "V'es hanefesh asher asu vecharan - the souls that they created in Charan."

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 65b) relates that Rava once created a man by combining letters of Hashem's name, a feat revealed to him by studying Sefer Yetzirah. He sent the man to Rebbi Zeira, who attempted to carry a conversation with him, but received no reply as the man lacked the power of speech. Realizing what type of person this was, he proclaimed, "Return to your dust!" and the man ceased to exist.

Such miraculous beings have been created in more recent centuries as well. In addition to the Maharal of Prague, Reb Eliyahu, the Baal Shem of Chelm (not to be confused with the Baal Shem of Worms), was reputed to have created a man using Sefer Yetzirah. At one point, seeing that he was acting in an overly destructive manner, he removed the name of Hashem that was affixed to his forehead, and he returned to dust. However, as Reb Eliyahu was removing the name, the golem inflicted a wound on his face (Shu"t Chacham Tzvi 93. Shu"t She'ilas Yaavetz 2:82).

There were some unfinished "projects" as well. In his introduction to Safra D'tzniusa, Reb Chaim Volozhiner relates that the Vilna Gaon told him that when he was still under the age of bar mitzvah, he once started making a golem, but then stopped when he received a heavenly sign that he should not do so.

Next issue bl"n: A golem-making "guide"

The Wicker-Basket Torah Learner Daled Teves, 5778

"To what can the Torah be compared? To a wicker basket with holes, [whose owner hired workers to fill it with water]. The fool says, 'What benefit will I gain from this?' But the wise one says, 'Won't I receive payment for my efforts?'" (Midrash to Mishlei 24:7)

A person may say: "What will I gain from learning Torah? Even if I put a lot of effort into studying, I am like a wicker basket, that lets out what is placed inside it. Similarly, I am a forgetful person, and whatever I learn and hear over the course of a year, I forget in one hour!"

However, the wise person says: "Since I will put all of my efforts into studying, and it's not my fault that I am forgetful, Hashem will certainly reward me for my efforts."

Tzror Hamor, Parshas Shelach

Fifth Gala Melave Malka: Report Chof Kislev, 5778

Yagdil Torah Celebrates 11 Years

Click on images to view full gallery.

A full crowd of men and women gathered this past Motzaei Shabbos at the Razag Ballroom in Crown Heights for the fifth annual Melava Malka of Yagdil Torah.

A prior Yagdil Torah honoree, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Wolf, was the guest speaker. He gave an inspiring message about sharing the wealth of Torah with others. The evening's honoree was Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Paltiel who saluted the organization for its drivenness in spreading Torah learning throughout the Crown Heights community and beyond with Shiurim, publications and other projects.

Chief among Yagdil Torah’s achievements are the two Heichalei Halimud, the study centers in Crown Heights, which are open 20 hours daily. People are welcome there to learn in a comfortable environment.

A highlight of the evening was when Shalom Ber Klein, a working Yungerman with a family, surprised everyone (including the organizers) by making a Siyum on Maseches Kiddushin during the Melava Malka. His Chavrusa and he had been learning the Masechta in the Heichal Halimud. Klein, who spoke about how Yagdil Torah helped him rekindle his involvement in Limud HaTorah, later explained that his purpose in doing this was to encourage others in their commitment to Limud HaTorah. "

As a working person," He said, "Yagdil Torah with its beautiful Batei Midrash has provided me with the wonderful opportunity to still learn on a regular basis. I have no words to describe how much fulfillment this has brought into my personal life."

Yagdil Torah was founded by Rabbi Levi & Batsheva Browd to perpetuate the memory of their first born son, Menachem Mendel.

"The event served to inspire participants and thank the honoree for what he has done for the Crown Heights community," remarked Browd. "Thank you to all the supporters who enabled us to achieve this success in the past eleven years, and thank you to the thousands who participate by learning, whether at a shiur, in the Heichal Halimud or with one of our print or online publications."

A beautiful selection of Niggunim was presented by Shimmy Brod, and guests enjoyed a delicious meal and entertainment by Comedian Marc WeinerWiener kept the crowd laughing as he recounted the various mishaps he had when he first attended a Frum Shul. “The warmth in the room was palpable,” commented Rabbi Levi Kaplan, who emceed the event. “It was engendered by those who came to express their gratitude to Rabbi Paltiel and to thank Yagdil Torah for the gift of spiritual life: Torah.”

Download the journal here.

Fifth Gala Melava Malka: Rabbi Levke Kaplan Chof Kislev, 5778

He Just Wants you To Talk to Him about His Day

Fifth Gala Melava Malka: Rabbi Mendy Wolf Chof Kislev, 5778

He Just Wants you To Talk to Him about His Day

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