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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Re'eh

Parshat Re'eh

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Re'eh                                                                               Print Version
25th of Av, 5780 | August 15, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi YY Jacobson
Talk to Yourself

I once had the unique opportunity to sit down and talk with Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb, at which point he shared the following poignant story that has stayed with me ever since.

Rabbi Weinreb, as a rav in his early thirties living in Silver Spring, Maryland, experienced a period of uncertainty, both personally and professionally. It was, in one sense, an early mid-life crisis. Unsure how he should proceed in the rabbinate, as a psychologist, and deal with varying questions of faith in G-d, he ultimately felt lost. As student of Rav Soloveitchik zt”l, he could have simply consulted his rebbe, and gained the much-needed insight and advice he was seeking. Yet, he wished to discuss the matter with someone outside of his circle; someone who could lend a new, fresh perspective to his dilemma.

He called Rabbi Chadakov, secretary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and anonymously asked if he would be able to arrange for a meeting with the Rebbe. “I am from Maryland,” Rabbi Weinreb said, “but would drive to New York whenever the Rebbe is available. I just need a few minutes to gain some advice and direction for my life.”

Rabbi Chadakov replied that the Rebbe was already booked for the next six months, and didn’t see a time he could fit Rabbi Weinreb in. “Please,” he said, “it’s very important. Could you just ask the Rebbe? I’m a confused Jew from Maryland. Maybe he’ll help me.” Rabbi Chadakov agreed.

As the Rebbe sat in his office, Rabbi Chadakov relayed the information spoken by Rabbi Weinreb. “There is a Jew from Maryland and he wishes to see the Rebbe and seek advice for his life and his future.”

The Rebbe began answering Rabbi Chadakov, as I remained on the phone, overhearing the familiar voice of the Rebbe. “Tell him that if he lives in Maryland, there is a Jew there by the name of Weinreb. Let him go discuss his dilemmas with Weinreb.”
“Rabbi Jacobson,” said Rabbi Weinreb to me, “I thought I was hallucinating. I am Weinreb! I am the man from Maryland who is confused!” I had not disclosed my name, though at this point, I felt compelled to clarify for Rabbi Chadakov that it was none other than me – Weinreb – on the phone. “Tell the Rebbe,” I said to Rabbi Chadakov, “that I am Weinreb!”

Relaying this vital fact over, the Rebbe took it in, and then replied, “If that’s the case, he should know that, sometimes, a person needs to speak to himself.”

Rabbi Chadakov was stunned, as was I. Short of breath, Rabbi Chadakov repeated to me, “The Rebbe said that sometimes it’s best to talk to yourself. Is your name Weinreb?” “Yes,” I reassured. “But maybe the Rebbe means a different Weinreb?” “No,” said Rabbi Chadakov, “if the Rebbe says you should talk to Weinreb, you got to talk to Weinreb.”

I thanked Rabbi Chadakov and hung up the phone, soaking in the words I just heard.

“That was it,” Rabbi Weinreb concluded. “That changed my life. Until today, whenever I have a simple question or serious dilemma, I will speak to people, but the person I speak to first and foremost is myself.”

In our lives, of course there are times which call for seeking advice from people who can provide the needed guidance. Yet it is extremely important that we, at the same time and more importantly, have a conversation with ourselves, with our inner voice. Before we go and ask this-and-that person for their input, we would do well first talking to ourselves and listening to what we have to say about it.

Sometimes that’s the best advice.

Rabbi Daniel Glatstein
Safari to South Africa

Close your eyes and open to your mind to the world of a Safari in South Africa, where animals roam and bask in the Divine and radiant expanse of nature…


While we do not have any documentation of any great tzaddikim going on a safari, it is noteworthy that many used to travel to the zoo to see various animals. The Chida speaks about various animals he saw at the Tower of London. The Terumas HaDeshen (sefer Leket Yosher) writes that for much of his life, he had never witnessed the sight of a lion. Upon the occasion that a lion was in fact spotted, he traveled miles in order to see it.

The Ramchal further describes (Daas Tevunos) that the myriad species of animals created in the world reflect Hashem. The ten Sefiros (Divine Emanations, which represent the different manifesting ways of G-d to this world) can be broken down into hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of dimensions of G-d. Every animal, in this sense, explains the Ramchal, represents a distinct dimension of Hashem. Every species signifies one way in which G-d manifests Himself and His glory in this world. Looking at an animal, in this regard, in akin to looking at one shade and facet of G-d.

May the following insights about the differing animals in our world lead to greater recognition and appreciation of Hashem.

A) The Rabbeinu Bachye writes that the letters which make up the name Lion – Aryeh – carries within it letters from the name of Hashem: Aleph, Yud, Hei. The lion represents the majesty of G-d. The reish of Aryeh signifies ruach, referring to the animated, spiritual quality of the lion. The Baalei HaTosfos add that the letters Aryeh can be rearranged to form the word Yirah, fear and awe, reminiscent of the Pasuk, “A lion roars, who will not fear” (Amos 3:8).

As Chazal tell us, utilizing the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, Adam HaRishon named all the animals, with each name encapsulating the essence and spirit of the animal. In this sense, we can appreciate how the lion bespeaks the majestic grandeur of G-d, and whose animated life-force inspires awe within those who see it.

B) The Navi (Yeshaya 29:1) states, “Woe Ariel…” Rashi, in one interpretation, explains that Ariel refers to the fire which rested aflame upon the Mizbeach (Altar), and looked as if crouching upon it in the shape of a lion. Alternatively, it is a reference to the Bais Hamikdash, given that the lion’s body shape is wider in the front and narrower behind, just like the Bais Hamikdash’s architectural design.

C) The Gemara (Sanhedrin 64a) tells us that after the destruction of the First Bais Hamikdash, the Sages beseeched that the desire for idolatry be diminished. Upon doing so, a fiery lion emanated from the Holy of Holies. The Aruch La’Ner explains that the desire for idolatry is compared to a lion, and thus, with the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, as the Sages beseeched that such idolatrous desire be destroyed too, a fiery lion manifested itself.

D) The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 11:1) writes that one who does not believe in the coming of Moshiach, or await his arrival, is not merely a heretic in the words of the prophets, but in the Torah itself. The question is where the Rambam derives that one who does not anticipate the coming of Moshiach is a heretic?
The Brisker Rav explains, based upon the Pasuk, “I was to them like a lion, like a leopard, on the road to Ashur (Assyria)” (Hoshea 13:7). Rashi notes that wherever the word Ashur appears, there is always a dot in the letter shin, which is not the case in this verse. Rashi explains that, in this context, Ashur does not actually refer to Assyria, as it generally does, but rather to the Pasuk in Parshas Balak, which says, “Ashurenu v’lo karov – I will look at him [i.e. await], but it is not near” (Bamidbar 24:17).

The above Pasuk in Hoshea thus means that Hashem will be as a lion on the road, awaiting in ambush. As the commentaries explain (see Ramban, ibid.), this means that we see Moshiach from a distance, but he has not yet arrived; we wait for him, even though he is not close.

From here, explains the Brisker Rav, the Rambam derives that we have an obligation to await and yearn, as in so-called ambush for Moshiach, even though his arrival doesn’t seem to be close. The lion reminds us of this illustration and gives us the vivid depiction of how we must wait for Moshiach as a lion awaiting in ambush. That is how our pining for Moshiach is meant to be.


The word for elephant, pil, stems from word Nephilim, which is mentioned in the Torah in reference to the Meraglim, Spies, and refers to human giants. Aligned with this and related to pil is the word Mapil, or falling out, which connotes that the elephant causes fear to fall upon other animals and people, or alternatively, that their teeth fall out every two years. The Gemara (Berachos 55b) reveals that if a person sees an elephant in a dream, ‘wonder of wonders’ will be performed for them.

As you watch the elephant walk, you will notice that they have much less flexibility than other animals. This brings to bear the Gemara (Kiddushin 25b) which cites the opinion of R’ Shimon that the only way to acquire an animal is by means of hagbaah, lifting. R’ Yossi questions R’ Shimon how one would be able, if this were true, to acquire an elephant?

R’ Zeira answers that you bring four vessels and place them underneath the elephant’s feet. The Gemara offers another answer, in which Chavilei z’moros, vine branches, are used, which according to Rashi means that you construct a kind of steps, three tefachim (handbreadths) high, and you cause the elephant to stand on these steps. Tosfos questions, why according to Rashi, the Gemara would identify vine branches as needing to be used to create these steps, instead of any other material, such as stone or wood.

Tosfos therefore cites the opinion of R’ Meshulam ben Nosson of France who understands the Gemara to mean that you raise up the vine branch, an action which would resultantly cause the elephant to jump, and thus be acquired by means of lifting.

Looking at an elephant, however, appears to lead to the impossible conclusion that such a thing could occur. How could you actually cause an elephant to jump up? To address this, in some measure, we would either need to explain that the nature of elephants have changed (nishtaneh ha’teva), a concept often cited in rabbinic literature, and thus in the times of Chazal, they had the means to prompt the elephant to jump. Or, alternatively, they had a unique system of training elephants in those days, which resulted in such a feat.


Welcome to Seal Island, an island near Cape Town, South Africa, which spans five acres and is home to 64,000 Cape Fur seals. It is an astounding sight.

The Mishnah in Seder Taharos (Keilim 17:13) states that if you make a utensil out of any hide or bone from a creature from the sea, it is not receptive to contracting tumah, ritual impurity. We derive that just as the material which constitutes a piece of clothing comes from the earth, similarly, hide must grow from the earth, and not emanate from an animal living in water. However, there is one exception. There is one species, from whose hide, ritual impurity can be generated. And that is the kelev ha’mayim, the dog of the water, or the seal. The reason this is the case, explains R’ Akiva, is because it runs to dry land and does not solely live in water. Looking at Seal Island, therefore, takes us back and helps us remember the opinion of R’ Akiva.

However, as we recall, when Rivkah Imeinu passed alternatingly by a house of prayer and a house of idol worship, she felt kicking from within. Disturbed, she was prophetically informed that this was a matter of carrying two children – and future nations – within her, one which would be righteous, and the other wicked.
How exactly did this information calm and soothe her?

The Baalei Mussar explain that it did calm her, as it beat the alternative. Rivkah surmised that perhaps she would give birth to a child who is wishy-washy in temperament and religious attitude, which is the worst. It is better to either be a tzaddik, a righteous person, or a rasha, a wicked person. If you are a tzaddik, great; and if you are a rasha, a real rasha, you have backbone and can always turn around. Someone, though, who is sometimes this way and sometimes that way – neither here nor there – will struggle to reach the higher end of their potential.

The illusion to this concept is the seal. When there is a problem on the sea, it travels to the dry land; and conversely, when there is a problem on the dry land, it races to the sea. It is neither here nor there. It therefore stands alone as the animal which retains the capability of contracting tumah, ritual impurity.

Tune in next week, as we continue along on our Safari across South Africa…

Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Working Hours, Working Decades

I once heard from R’ Eliezer Ginsburg the following story, which occurred with my Rebbe, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l during one summer he spent at a camp.

Rav Moshe used to write his Torah insights and novella on a special printed stationary, with a fountain pen, which he would refill from an ink well that was next to him. Given that he would write with a fountain pen, he would need to leave the papers to dry for some time after he would write. This would prevent the ink from smudging and making the writing illegible.

On one occasion, he had just finished writing three pages of his Torah thoughts over the course of a few hours, after which he got up and left his paper stationary to dry. Shortly thereafter, three yeshiva boys came by Rav Moshe’s table to glance at the work of the gadol hador, though accidently, the ink well somehow spilled over and poured onto the papers, ruining them all. When they saw what had become of Rav Moshe’s papers, they couldn’t believe their eyes. Appalled, they took off in a sprint.

Learning of what had happened was one of the camp rebbeim, who approached them. The boys confessed and owned up to what had happened, and from there went to Rav Moshe himself to apologize.

Standing before Rav Moshe nervously, the three boys expressed regret and their apologies over what had happened. Rav Moshe made nothing of it, and soothed the boys’ fears, reiterating that it was not their fault and that he accepted their apology and forgave them.

Some time later, Rav Moshe was asked how he was able to control his disappointment and frustration and not get upset at all? It had taken him hours upon hours to write those papers. Rav Moshe’s response is worth remembering for a lifetime.
“I worked for hours on writing those novella, but I worked for decades on not getting angry.”

There are those instances in life when we have spent considerable time and effort investing in something, and it doesn’t work out the way we wanted. For whatever reason, we are left in a position which could arguably warrant losing our cool. It is in that moment when we could let our rage flare that we ought to remember that while we may have worked for hours on that project, venture or investment, we can be on our way to working for decades at refining our character. For Rav Moshe,

trading in his temper for those papers, which were already ruined and nothing more could have been done anyway, was not worth it. All that remained was showing anger to these boys. But more valuable than that, and an even greater lesson to the boys and triumph for himself, was to remain perceptively poised and calm amidst the frustration.

Rav Elya Lopian once remarked that when dealing with negative character traits, one must extinguish the “pilot lot.” His intent was that by doing away with such undesirable traits, when an incident later occurs which could ignite it (e.g. a frustrating incident which could cause anger), nothing will follow. Since the core trait has been a focus of improvement, it cannot be reawakened by any subsequent event. There is no “pilot lot” for the anger to grow out of.

For Rav Moshe, he had spent day in and day out reminding himself of the importance of staying in control of himself, that the value of controlling his temper far outweighed any temporary relief that losing his temper would yield. That hallmarked his character and is a model from which we can all draw inspiration.

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