And Straight Again!

I stumbled upon a list of aphorisms and one-liners from one of the premier Baalei Musar-Masters of Ethical Teachings, Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, also known as the Alter from Kelm. One phrase made me chuckle at first but I realized it wasn’t and couldn’t be a joke so I highlighted it and parked it in a file entitled, “more thought required”. The statement goes as follows: “Torah is divided into three portions; 1) Simplicity 2) Complexity 3) Simplicity!” That’s it! Get it!? Which one of these is not like the other? Two of the three are exactly the same! What are and why are there three parts when only two different ones are listed?

A model for explanation may be found in the Rosh Chodesh Bentching, when prior to each new month we pause in synagogue to recite some prayers of hope. Amongst the handful of items we cry out for is that this month should be filled with: “fear of heaven”, and that it contain wealth and honor, and not have embarrassment and shame, and then at the end of the list again we ask for “fear of heaven”. Twice! Why is it mentioned twice on the same short list? The answer is given that there is a “fear of heaven” that comes before wealth and honor and before embarrassment and shame and there’s another brand of “fear of heaven” that comes after the experience of wealth and honor and embarrassment and shame.
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The Blessed Present

See I place before you today blessing and curse… (Devarim 11:26)

All the days of the impoverished (of the mind) are bad while the one with a good heart- (mind) is always drinking. (Mishle’ 15:15)

Why is it often so hard to see the blessing? Why do we tend to obsess with -“what’s wrong with this picture?”

One of the three reasons offered by the Chovos HaLevavos- Duties of the Heart is that HASHEM is so consistently good that by the time we are old enough to intelligently appreciate what is happening we are already accustomed to it. However magnificent it may be most goes unnoticed.

He gives an example of a child left on a door step. A couple had mercy and raised this child from infancy to adulthood having cared for him by executing countless acts of goodness. Now that child is a married adult with a job, a house, and family of his own. The couple also took pity on an adult prisoner. They negotiated his release. They rehabbed him and eventually found him a job, a house, and wife. Who will be quicker to express gratitude? For whom was more done? For the prisoner dramatic change was experienced when his adult eyes and ears were plugged in. Similarly, men tend to quietly believe that socks are born in the sock drawer. You put them down the chute and they magically reappear clean and coupled, and so too that orb of light will arise in the east and dance overhead daily and sweet orange globes of will predictably dangle from the ends of woody branches.
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Cherishing the Shards: A 17th of Tamuz Meditation

By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz

Imagine this heartrending scene: You come to visit a frail old man, he is your father, grandfather or uncle. His mind is so addled and ravaged by Alzheimer’s that he doesn’t recognize his visitors, sadder still; the disease has so deleted or distorted his memory that he doesn’t “recognize” himself. For those who knew him as he once was his current desecrated state unleashes a torrent of clashing emotions ranging from pity, to contempt to revulsion to anxiety (this could happen to me!) to (shudder) thoughts that, if directed towards healthy members of our society, would be considered homicidal and criminal (Is he even himself anymore? Is he still a human being? What a lousy quality of life. Why doesn’t someone just put the poor old geezer out of his [our] misery?) Some of us have actually lived through scenes like this and don’t need to imagine it.

Now let’s modify the scene. Imagine if we could project a 3D hologram of the same person in the full flush and dynamism of his youth with his arm around the shoulder of, or, better yet, superimposed upon the entire body of, the ruined shell of a human being before us. Imagine further that these two images permanently fused so that we couldn’t look at the old man without concurrently seeing his younger clone. How might that change our attitude and emotional reaction? I believe it would cause a drastic change in the entire gamut of our auto-emotional responses. All euthanasia-cal designs would immediately cease. In spite of the wretched reality that meets our eyes we would begin relating to the patient with a dignity, respect and humanity more closely approximating what we used to accord to the man he once was than the Alzheimer’s patient he is today.
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Some Torah Links

It’s week one for Pirkei Avos and you can download an English translation here.

Over at Aish there are a lot of great pieces on Pirkei Avos authored by Beyond BT contributors Yaakov Astor and Yonason Goldson.

You can download Chaim Shulman’s Internet Parsha Sheet.

We offer our condolences to Rabbi Berel Wein on the recent passing of his wife, Mrs. Jackie Wein, a”h. Rabbi Wein has a good article this week titled, Torah Works Only If…

The Brilliant Bekiyus of Rav Daniel Feldman of YU

Many Baalei Teshuva unfortunately did not have the good fortune of sitting and learning for years in a single Yeshiva. But the benefit of this is that we feel free to partake of Torah in the many different forms that we find it. In Kew Gardens Hills we particularly reap the benefits of the tremendous Iyun (depth) of the Chofetz Chaim style of learning and the amazing Bekiyas (breadth) of the many Yeshiva University rebbeim and alumni who live here.

This morning the Vaad L’Chizuk HaTorah (of which Steve Brizel is an active participant) sponsored a shiur by Rabbi Daniel Feldman, a Rosh Yeshiva at YU (but not a KGH resident) on the Shesh Zichiros (Six Rememberances). With no notes, Rav Feldman covered an amazing amount of material in 75 minutes and at the end recapped the 50 or so points he made. Everybody in attendance was in awe of his tremendous mastery of the material and I thought some of the people here at Beyond BT might benefit from this great shiur.

You can download the shiur here.

You can purchase Rav Feldman’s recent sefer here.

The World Stands Upon Three Things

Yossie from New Jersey

Al Sh’losha d’varim ha-olam omeid: al ha-Torah, v’al ha-Avodah, v’al Gemitut Chasadim

The world stands upon three things: on Torah, and on Divine Service, and on acts of kindness.
(Avot 1:2)

There is an amazing Maharal on this Mishna, in his brilliant commentary to Pirkei Avos, Derech Chaim. He writes that all of creation is dependent on Man, in whose service it was created. If Man doesn’t function as intended, the entire world loses its purpose. We see this from the Generation of the Flood, where it says, “And God said ‘I will eradicate man … from the face of the earth, from man to the animals to the crawling creatures to the birds of the sky'”.1 How does the decision to destroy man come to include destroying the animals and birds and all the earth’s creatures?
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