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9 Sivan, 5781 - May 20, 2021 | Mordecai Plaut, director | Bereishis- 5781 Published Weekly
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A Life's Work: Improving Our Middos

Improving ourselves is a task that is always in season, but it is especially appropriate as a preparation for kabolas haTorah. This essay and several more that will, iy'H, follow in the coming weeks, explains the basis for our obligation to work on improving our character, and the framework in which we should do so. One of the most important lessons is that we must turn to the Torah for guidance in middos — as in everything else in life. The following is based on tapes of shmuessen that were delivered at the Yeshiva of Staten Island. It was originally published in 1996.

The first part discussed the loss of the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva during Sefiras HaOmer because of their flaw in middos. We see that we must have good middos because we are commanded to emulate Hashem, the source of good middos is Sinai, and only from Sinai do we know the proper balance of middos.

Part II





Agreement Between Heart and Intellect: Na'aseh and Nishma

This article was originally published in 1995, 26 years ago.

A] "And Hashem said to Moshe: speak to the Cohanim, the children of Aharon, and say to them . . .." (Vayikra 21:1). The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 26:5) explains why Hashem said both "speak to the Cohanim" and also "say to them": "For those who live in the Heavens and have no yetzer hora, one time is enough . . . but for those who live in the lowly earth and have a yetzer hora, would that two `sayings' were sufficient!"

The idea behind repeated "saying" requires explanation. Could repeating a command actually have an effect on the listener? Even the Midrash, which concludes "would that two `sayings' were sufficient," appears skeptical about any benefit. In addition, is the fact that mal'ochim require to be told only once, while we need twice, the only difference between mortals and the Heavenly host?





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From Our Archives

Shavuos Insights

by HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt"l

The Giving of the Torah Specifically in the Desert

By that which it states "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai" (Ovos 1:1), we are taught a very fundamental point. The mishna teaches us that we received the Torah before we began leading an ordinary life. When we were in the desert as ochlei hamonn, we lived a divine existence, with no effort in arranging for our food, shelter, or livelihood. Many of the mitzvos did not yet apply. Still, then and there we were given all the commandments that would govern our lives once we would enter Eretz Yisroel and become a Kingdom, when we would have to lead even our mundane lives in a Torah fashion.

We were specifically given all the instructions prior to entering Eretz Yisroel, so that we would not be faced with any nisoyon of living differently than the way the Torah had mapped out for us. Had we entered Eretz Yisroel not already bound by Torah obligations, tremendous nisyonos would have loomed up before us at every step of the way, which would have been formidable: terumos, ma'asros, leket, shicechoh, pei'oh, shmittah, yovel, and more.

However, once we had already received the Torah in the Sinai Desert, we were expecting to be bound by the many mitzvos and mishpotim which the Torah commands us to keep. Thus, by the time we were ready to enter Eretz Yisroel, we naturally set up our day-to-day lives in the Torah fashion. Hence, there was no nisoyon to do otherwise at all.

This invalidates the approach of the Reform Movement, ym"sh who think that Torah is to be changed and adapted to fit the times and lifestyle of each generation. Our having received the Torah in the desert overthrows precisely this point: We received and accepted all the 613 mitzvos in the desert, even though many only applied later after we entered Eretz Yisroel. This teaches us that each and every mitzvah applies at any and all times, to any and all lifestyles. There are no changes in the possibilities life may hold.

Crier of the Unheeded Cry

by S. Fried

Several weeks ago Yaakov Fuchs, the son of the late R' Avrohom Fuchs, contacted the Rav Yisroel Moshe Dushinsky's personal assistant, asking for permission to copy his approbation for the book Hungarian Yeshivot from Grandeur to Holocaust (in Hebrew) into his father's other books. The assistant, to whom the caller's name was totally unfamiliar, replied that because the rov was very sick he would be unavailable to answer such questions. Subsequently, he responded that when HaRav Dushinsky heard him mention the name Avrohom Fuchs, a broad smile spread across his face and he granted permission, adding words of praise and blessing.

HaRav Dushinsky left this world before Pesach. Two weeks later, during chol hamoed Pesach, R' Avrohom Fuchs also returned his soul to his Maker. Then on the 27th of Nisan, HaRav Sholom Moshe Halevi Unger, gavad of Nitra, passed away as well after a long and difficult life. This was the closing of another circle, beginning in Hungary, continuing in the Holocaust and ending in eternal memory, completing yet another page in Am Yisroel's book of sorrows.

The name Avrohom Fuchs may not be familiar to the public, but if you say "the author of The Unheeded Cry," most people have something to say. The Unheeded Cry is one of the essential books on Holocaust history and a heartrending indictment of all those who failed to come to the aid of European Jewry before it was too late.

When asked about the relationship between his father and HaRav Michoel Dov Weissmandl, the subject of the book, Yaakov Fuchs provided a detailed account of the Hungarian Torah world before the Holocaust, its destruction and the efforts to save it--and the lifework of one man who tried to perpetuate Hungarian Jewry.


Av, 5765 - Kislev 5766 (August-December 2005)