MUSSAR AND EMUNAH
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שכר ועונש - פרשת פנחס - בו יבואר עניני תוכחה מחאה וערבות
שכר ועונש - פרשת מטות - בו יבואר עניני תוכחה מהגה"ק רבי הלל מקאלאמייע
SEFER SHEMOT CHAPTER 23
14 Three times you shall keep a feast to me in the
SEFER SHEMOT CHAPTER 34
18 The Feast of Unleavened Bread shall you keep. Seven
days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, in the time of
the month Abib; for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt.
SEFER DEVARIM CHAPTER 16
1 Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover to
Hashem your G-d; for in the month of Abib Hashem your God brought you out
of Egypt by night.
WE EXCHANGED YERUSHALAIM FOR
A "GLATT KOSHER" BEACH RESORT
THE ONLY KOSHER THING
ABOUT THIS, MAY BE THE FOOD
WE HAVE TO COMPENSATE FOT THE SIN OF THE SPIES
At that time, (The time of the Spies in the Wilderness) the leaders of the congregation spread evil propaganda against Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, today, as well, the leaders of the congregation must propagandize for the sake of Eretz Yisrael, in order to pay off their "bad loan." (Midrash Eicha Rabba 1:23)They must be the first ones to open the nation's eyes. They must explain that there is no reason for us to remain in the foreign, impure, and polluted atmosphere of exile, nor to expend our energies in vain while the Gentiles rob the fruits of our labor from before our very eyes. The leaders must speak to the people in this fashion and arouse within them a tire and a spark of love for our desirable Land. This alone will make us worthy of redemption, as I cited above from the Beit Yosef's Maggid. The Maharsha also writes that when the people of Israel cherish the stones and dust of Eretz Yisrael they bring the appointed time of redemption closer. Thus, the leaders will unite all of Klal Yisrael together for the sake of Eretz Yisrael, and then our "bad debt" will be paid off.
However, if the leaders neglect this matter, there is a danger that they themselves will have to pay for the bad loan that they took back then. The halachah states that if two partners borrow money from someone, the lender can collect the entire debt from whichever partner he wishes, because each partner becomes a guarantor for his friend.( See Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 77:3) The same applies to the "bad debt" that the spies and their entire generation incurred. Since they all joined together [against Eretz Yisrael], they became like partners who borrowed from the Holy One Blessed be He. Therefore, if HaShem wants He can collect the debt - which Klal Yisrael incurred by causing the exile - entirely from Israel's leaders. Moreover, the leaders have a greater obligation to pay off this debt, because they were the primary cause of this "loan" to begin with.
This explains the words of our mentor, the Or HaChayim. He writes that Israel's leaders throughout the generations will be held responsible for the fact that we are still in exile, because they should have inspired the Children of Israel to love Eretz Yisrael.( Or HaChayim, VaYikra 25:25)
….Now, based on the preceeding ideas, we can understand this better. Just as during the time of the spies all of Israel united for evil, to oppose Eretz Yisrael; today as well, we must unify all of Israel for good, to support Eretz Yisrael. This way, we will pay off our debt, tear up our record of liability, and cause the glory of HaShem to shine upon us with the complete redemption, speedily in our days. Amen.
...But, as long as we fail to do this, all of our complaints to the Holy One Blessed be He about the lengthiness of our exile are in vain. In vain we pray in our synagogues and study halls, "Our Father, our King, erase through Your abundant merey all of our bills of debt." For, the debt that we incurred by despising the desirable Land still hovers over uso How can we pray that God should erase this bill of debt when it is up to us to pay it off and rectify it? This is like a debtor who asks his creditor to rip up the bill of debt before he has paid. The creditor will certainly do no such thing! The same is true of us.
Em ha Banim Semecha, Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal ZTK'L
Forgive us Hashem, please Hashem we beg You, for we refuse to cherish the
Land that You desire. Who are we when compared to those brave men who
settled in the land in the past generations, we are like worms without
strength, we are weak in our minds. We say one thing and mean the other,
we who recite the prayers which exalt the land constantly and yet we
refuse to go live there. We say Next Year in Yerushalaim and yet we choose
to remain in impure Lands. Hashem, please give us strength to break the
lust for money which holds us back from going up to Eretz Israel, for it
is known before You, that material comfort is the main reason why we do
not come closer to You in the Land of the living.
We are sorry Hashem, You must feel betrayed by our behavior, please Hashem be patient; Do it for Your sake and not for us.
Oh Hashem, the Land is ready, we have no problems with governments forbidding our entrance to the Land, as used to be the case before, moreover now we have a government that helps us settle in the Land You chose to give us, and yet Hashem we still choose to dwell in the Lands of our enemies. Waiting, just waiting for the next pogrom, for the next confiscation of our assets. How blind we are.
Hashem please have compassion on us, and even though we have no merits, please Hashem open our hearts to the Love of Eretz Israel so that we may go live there. That we may go there through compassion and not becasue of death and persecution, G-d forbid
Open our eyes Hashem, that we may see clearly that America is not our Land, Europe is not our Land, open our eyes that we may feel the impurity in which we are immersed. Remove us from the sin of the spies who despised the Land. Forgive us for having heard their evil counsel, and having cried for no reason. Please Hashem let us repair what we did to the Shechina (Ha Aretz) when we complained about her.
We don't want to be in the desert anymore. We want to enter the Land. But we need Your help, in order to break our desires. Let us Hashem follow Your Torah and not our own wishes, for Your Torah can only be properly fulfilled in Eretz Israel.
Please Hashem listen to our supplications, because You listen to the Tefillah of everyone who desires to fulfill Your wishes
Rabbi Meir Tzeruya
THE RAMCHAL EXPLAINS
THE FOUNDATIONS OF EMUNAH
OBSERVE, NOW, THE PROGRESS OF THE WORLD, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE EARLIER AND THE LATER GENERATIONS. FOR, IN TRUTH, ONE WHO CONSIDERS THIS MATTER WILL INDEED MARVEL AT THE PHENOMENON OF MEN CEASELESSLY RACING BACK AND FORTH, DAY AND NIGHT, EACH IN HIS OWN PATH, WEARIED AND FATIGUED. AND FOR WHAT ARE THEY LABORING? FOR FOOD AND DRINK? FOR INANE VANITIES, FOR A ONE- NIGHT WORLD OF NOTHINGNESS—TODAY HERE, TOMORROW IN THE GRAVE.
But one who can observe well will see and understand that it was not for this that man was created; that it would befit him to engage only in the contemplation of the glory of his Creator; that it was this for which he was created and invested with great knowledge and wisdom, and not to devote himself to commerce or to other inconsequential enterprises. But man has perverted his deeds and has brought himself to his present state. The world is undergoing constant regression in this respect, the earlier generations having been closer to wisdom and having given greater priority to intellect, the later generations being farther from intellect and steeped in these elements of matter and nature, in commerce and in all manner of enterprise, which leave nothing behind them, as we have explained. The root of all this is as we have said. The one, Blessed Lord created the body through the concealment of His countenance, and not through its radiance, for which reason it is dark and ugly in essence. The soul, contrariwise, was created in the luminescence of His countenance and with projection for the good, for which reason it is eternally enduring and pure in essence. However, if man asserts his body and gives it the ascendancy, the Blessed One, measure for measure, will relate to him only in concealment of countenance, so that he will be far from the Light of Life, from wisdom and from knowledge, and steeped in the mire of material pollution and the vanities of this world.
And this is precisely what happened to Adam in the beginning, and to his descendants after him, until this very day. Because they went astray after their eyes and gave precedence to the body and not to the soul, the Holy One, Blessed be He, responded in kind with concealment of countenance. To Adam He said (Genesis 3:9): “By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread,” and from that day forward (Ecclesiastes 6:7): “All the labor of man is for his mouth, and his soul, too, will not be filled.” Wisdom has progressively waned and has departed from man.
And this is a great principle: The bounds of a man’s intellect dictate the bounds of his thoughts and his desires. The little child does not recognize wisdom and does not desire it at all. To the contrary, every child wishes to run away from school, thinking there is no good but the vanities he occupies himself with. But when he grows in knowledge and his horizons expand, he comes to desire more sophisticated things, and so onwards, according to his progress. The same applies to men in general. When their intellect was stimulated by an abundance of illumination, they found pleasure in wisdom alone and in what was truly good; but when their intellect is not so stimulated, they recognize nothing as good but these earthly vanities. And this is the evil that resulted from Adam’s sin — the removal of providence and radiance from the human species, so that they remained steeped in gross, material elements alone. The Holy One, Blessed be He, indeed, corrected this state at the giving of the Law, but they reverted to it through the sin of the golden calf and through others, so that the world remained in the darkness of illusory natural processes.
“A brutish man knows not, neither does a fool understand this” When the wicked spring up like grass and all workers of iniquity flourish, it is so that they will be exterminated forever" (Psalms 92:6-7)
Some time after, Rabbi Abba, as he was on his way to Rabbi Shimon, went into the town where this man lived. He found him expounding the verse: “A brutish man knows not, neither does a fool understand this” (Psalms 92, 6). ‘How foolish’, he said, ‘are mankind that they take no pains to know the ways of the Almighty by which the world is maintained. ‘What prevents them? Their stupidity, because they do not study the Torah; for if they were to study the Torah they would know the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He. “A fool does not understand this”: meaning [76a] the ways of “this” (zot is the Shechinah), in the world, how it judges the world. For they only see the punishments of this zot falling on the righteous and not falling on the wicked who transgress the precepts of the Torah, and who inherit this world in every direction, as it is written, “the wicked spring as the grass”. And so that we should know better, did not King David enlighten us in the second part of the verse, saying, “It is that they shall be destroyed for ever”; that is, to be destroyed in the other world, where they shall be dust under the feet of the Tzaddikim.’ He further discoursed on the verse: “My leanness rises up against me, it testifies to my face” (Job 16, 8). ‘Observe’, he said, ‘that if a man transgresses the precepts of the Law, the Torah itself goes up and down and makes marks on that man’s face so that all both above and below look at him and heap curses on his head. We have learnt that all the eyes of Hashem which go to and from in the world to observe the ways of mankind look well at the face of that man and exclaim: Alas, alas, Alas for him in this world, alas for him in the world to come. Keep away from So-and-so because his face testifies against him that an unclean spirit rests upon him.
ZOHAR HA KADDOSH ACHARE MOT 75B 76A
BASED ON REBBE NACHMAN MI BRESSLOV
ON THE BOLD FACE ANYONE WHO WANTS TO BE HOLY IN THESE TIMES MUST POSSESS
What happens if I want to do something very holy very strong, and the whole world laughs at me? Then I must have holy chutzpa, azuz d'kdusha, holy arrogance. If the whole world says I am crazy, how come I am not crazy? When I was born G-d gave me the holy arrogance to do what I know is right. Say for instance, I believe I should wear a yarmulke. I walk into a place, and all the people start laughing, "Are you crazy? A yarmulke! You're old fashioned! You're stupid! And if I say, "Oh, I'm sorry. Oh, you are really right. We are living in a civilized world. What do I need a yarmulke for?" Reb Nachman asks, "What am I doing to myself?" It is not that I took off the yarmulke. That is beside the point. When I do something because people told me I should, or shouldn't, or it doesn't look nice, you know what happens to me? I make a p'gam, a blemish. I destroy my holy arrogance. Have you ever seen someone who licks the whole world for two pennies? Why are they so low? Because they destroyed their azuz d'kdusha with their own hands.
Reb Nachman says something very sad. If you destroy the holy arrogance you have, the punishment is that you become a slave to people. Reb Nachman goes very strong. He says the question is, are you G-d's servant, or people's servant? There is no in between. G-d says, "Look at yourself. What are you? You were my servant before. I gave you tough chutzpa to do right, and you prefer to listen to people. Okay, be a slave to them. Make up your mind who is your master." If you are G-d's servant, then you are the highest person in the world, because you know exactly what is right. if you know what is right, then you don't listen to anybody - just to what the soul of your soul tells you is right. When I lose my holy arrogance, then I am a slave to every shmendrik. The moment I am a slave to every shmendrik, I hate the shmendrik, because he is my master. Have you seen a slave loving his master? I have no dignity, I have no spine anymore. I can't stand people anymore. it is very strange. We always think that if we don't listen to people tell us to do wrong, that means we will be off to one side, and we want to be in with the crowd. Just look at the crowd - do you think they love each other? They hate each other. The same thing on your part.
When you listen to people you become their slave, you don't love them. Don't tell me you listen to people because you love them. Don't kid yourself. You listen to people because you are not standing on your own two feet. If you have azuz d'kedusha, this holy arrogance against people, then you can really love people because you are not their slave.
Reb Nachman says something else. What about the relationship of people to you? If you have holy chutzpa, if you are strong enough to stand on you own two feet, nothing can bend you. Then the world really loves you. People mamash love you. If someone walks in with a yarmulke, and everyone laughs at him, and he still wears it, they can keep on laughing. But do you know what the person who is laughing really thinks? "Gevalt! I respect him so much." If I wear a yarmulke and people say, "Take it off - this is not the place!" and I knock it off, people laughingly say, "Really a strong character, this person!" You know how people are? When you listen to them, they spit at you. When you don't listen to them, they love you. Craziest thing in the world!
Can you imagine? Reb Nachman says you must have holy chutzpa against Tzaddikim, against holy people. It has to be so strong that if you look deep in your soul, you know what you have to do, and there is nothing, nobody in the world that can stop you. You have to be really plugged in – you have to do it mamash on G-d's account. Reb Nachman says not only you must have holy chutzpa against the Tzaddikim, you even have to have holy chutzpa against G-d! You have to come to G-d and tell Him, "G-d, I have to be a Jew, I have to be holy, and I have to be close to You, and You can't push me away." You have to tell G-d, "It is true I started 15,000 times, and I always fell down again, but G-d, I am telling you the truth. I'll never leave you, so you better let me get close." So to speak, I want to get close to G-d, and He gives me a little kick, pushes me off. He wants to see how strong I am. Coming back says, 'I don't care. You can kick me, I will still come back." It is actually chutzpa against G-d. Reb Nachman says this is so deep that he can't explain it more, but happy is the one who has enough azuz d'kdusha to get close to G-d.
Reb Nachman asks what it is to talk to a good friend. It is to take the little friend and instill into him the chutzpa which gives him strength to know how to do what is right. What is evil in the world? Imagine a person wants to learn, a person wants to do something holy. Evil doesn't say it is bad. You know how the devil, so to speak, gets to you? The devil puts himself on the face of a friend and he talks to you, and he wants to take away your holy chutzpa. Evil comes and says, "Listen to me. I've known you for so long, I know you very well. You be holy? You be a Jew? You be learned? Whom are you fooling? You won't be able to do it. I know you." He tells you, "Listen, you have to be realistic, and you have to know the world, and this, and that, be sensible, see a psychiatrist... " and he gives himself the mask of a great friend. So Reb Nachman says: Beware of devils who look like friends!.
What do you do then? You have to tell your evil, "Cut it out! I am not even listening to G-d if He kicks me. I am not listening to you, even if it is true. I am not listening to anyone. G-d is only testing you. G-d wants you to become strong. When Yaakov Avinu wrestled with the angel he was wrestling with G-d. What does it mean? G-d sends you a little evil in your heart in order to make you stronger. Each time you wrestle with G-d your soul muscles get stronger.
Reb Nachman says all Yiddishkeit, all service of G-d, depends on how much holy chutzpa you have within you. He says you must have holy chutzpa against your physical desires, against your spiritual desires, and you must have holy chutzpa against even the holiest dreams you have, and just do exactly what you know G-d wants you to do at the moment.
Then he says that the truth is, all the holy Tzaddikim reached so high, not because they knew more, or because their souls were holier, but they got there only because they had this holy chutzpa. The people who didn't get there did not have enough azuz d'kdusha. Reb Nachman says the people who have this holy arrogance are the most humble people in the world. The real humble people. Their arrogance is not because of "I am"; it is because "this is right" - this gives them strength.
If I am doing something because I think it is right, or because you think it is right, then I am not humble anymore. If I wear a yarmulke is it because I want to, because I believe in yarmulkes? It is because G-d wants me to wear a, yarmulke. I am a Jew. I want the world to know I am a Jew. I am drawing my strength not from my stupidity or my genius. It has nothing to do with me. It is just that I know a Jew has to wear a yarmulke, and I am a grandchild of Abraham.
This is holy arrogance, to do it just because the thing has to be done. For instance, I walk on the street and I see someone beating someone up. I walk up, and I knock them off. I am doing it because that thing is right, not because of "I". It has nothing to do with me. The holy arrogant people have no "I". The not-so-holy arrogant also, but it is such a big "I" that it is so disgusting, it smells so bad, that nobody can have anything to do with it.
Then Reb Nachman warns: You must be very careful. You must have a good nose to know what is arrogance of holiness and what is arrogance of non-holiness. A lot of people preach this kind of chutzpa, but it is really for the destruction of the world, for your destruction. You have to know exactly what is holiness and what is not.
Deep down we ask the question, when am I supposed to love, and when am I supposed to hate? When am I supposed to be arrogant, and when am I supposed to be bashful? When am I supposed to speak up, and when am I supposed to be silent? Reb Nachman says if I could get to the roots of loving, to own the roots of my soul... My body is one body, but it is not completely one, because my head doesn't look like my foot, right? G-d's oneness is not really in my body because there are still differences, Even one finger doesn't look like another finger. My soul is more oneness because it is one piece. My soul also hears, but for my soul hearing, seeing, doing, thinking and feeling are all the same. A human being feels with heart, thinks with his head, walks with his feet. Although he is one, he has different organs.
The soul is all one, If I am not on the level of one, then to love is one department, to hate is another department, and I don't know which one to use. If I am on the level of my soul, of complete oneness, then I know exactly when to love and when to hate, when to be humble, and when to use my azuz d'kdusha.
How can you know whether your arrogance is holy or not? The only thing I can tell you is Reb Nachman says, "Don't be a shlemazl." That means you have to know in your heart whether you are a shlemazl or not. Ultimately it is up to your own nose. You know very well deep down.
The world is bad not because they don't know enough. It is bad because they don't do enough. What is teshuva? What does it mean to repent? Why did I sin basically? Because I wasn't strong enough, right? I didn't have holy arrogance against my own self! To repent, to do teshuva, to return to G-d means to correct the holy arrogance within me. Who is Mashiach? What will Mashiach do? How will he get us out of exile?. How will he get us out of slavery? He will reach the utmost level of not being a slave to people, of not listening to anybody, not even to his own stupid self. He will be mamash a servant of G-d completely. He will have the holy chutzpa to get the whole world out of exile. Why aren't we on the level to get people out of exile, the world out of exile? Sadly enough, we don't have the holy arrogance. We really don't. We listen to ten thousand people. Maybe we listen to ourselves at the wrong moment. We do everything wrong.
At the end of days, or maybe tomorrow, there will be two Mashiachs, a Mashiach who will be the son of Yosef, and a Mashiach ben David, from the tribe of Yehuda. Yehuda was the one who did everything wrong. If you remember, Yehuda was the one who told his brothers, "Let's sell Yosef." According to this theory, in the deepest depths, the whole exile began on account of him. He should have given up then.
He gets married, and two of his children die. G-d is letting him know he is wrong. Everything goes wrong. He takes the guarantee for Benjamin, and Benjamin gets caught. What should he do? He does not give up. Yehuda is the holy Yidele who doesn't give up even at the very last second. He doesn't give up. He knew if Benjamin didn't come back he would lose his share in the coming world. What does he do? Yehuda says, "I don't care. Even if I don't have a share in the coming world, you can't knock me out." The Zohar ha Kaddosh on Vayigash explains that Yehuda spoke to Yosef, but really he was talking to G-d. He was pouring out his heart. He was saying, "You know, we have an old father," as if he were telling Yosef about Jacob, but actually he was saying to G-d, "You are my old Father. You were my Father since I was born. I am just a little boy. I am nothing." It is tremendous the way the Zohar interprets every word. This is Yehuda.
The world needs two Mashiachs, because it is a combination of billions of little things. Yosef is the one who has such holy chutzpa that he never did wrong. You know how much strength it takes never to do wrong? Certain parts of us are on the level of Mashiach ben Yosef; in certain parts we never did wrong. We have, thank G-d, the chutzpa, the strength that we never did wrong. Other parts of us are completely destroyed. For these we need Mashiach ben David. Yehuda has the holy strength to do everything wrong, and still want to come back. Between the two they correct the whole world.
According to the Bais Yaakov, before the story of Yosef, Yosef was holier than Yehuda. When did Yehuda become holy? After he sold his brother Yosef into slavery, after he started doing wrong, then he became so strong, so whole. In Bereshit it says, "mi teref bni alisa" which is usually translated, "from the prey, my son, thou art gone up". The Bais Yaakov translates.- "from tearing away my son you became great and holy". The meaning is, when did Yehuda really become Yehuda? When did he pull out his holy chutzpa, his holy soul which is the holiness of Yehuda? After he sold Yosef into slavery. That is why his father favored him. The level the children were on then, Yosef was really the king. There could be only one Mashiach, the son of Yosef. But after Yehuda sold Yosef, and didn't give up, then suddenly Yaakov realized Yehuda was even stronger. So you see, we need both. We need someone who gives us the strength not to destroy the holy things we still have and someone to teach us that even with all the things we have destroyed already, we should not give up, we should come back.
FROM REB SHLOMO CARLEBACH ZTK’L
A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE GREAT EVIL THAT IMMODEST AND EXAGGERATED EXPENDITURES BRING ON THE WHOLE JEWISH COMMUNITY
1. Micha 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord seeks from you: only to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.
2. Bemidbar Rabbah 1:3
Until the tent of meeting was established, God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, afterwards he spoke to him in the Land of Egypt (in public,) but once the Mishkan was established God said, privacy and humility are the best, as it is states "and walk humbly with your God," therefore He spoke to Moses (only) from inside the Mishkan.
3. The Commentary of R. Ze'ev Wolf Einhorn
(This midrash) understands the verse to mean: we are obligated to act with humility in relation to God just as He acted with humility toward us. Thus the verse does not say "walk humbly before your God" but rather "walk humbly with your God" for He too acts with humility.
Our sages declared: If the Nazirite, who abstained only from wine, requires atonement, how much more so does one who abstains from everything. Therefore, our sages directed man to abstain only from those things which the Torah denied him… A person should direct his heart and all his actions exclusively to the knowledge of God. Thus, one's resting, rising, and speech should all be directed towards this purpose. For example, when involved in business dealings while working for a wage, one should not think only about collecting money, but rather should do these things so that one will be able to acquire those objects that the body needs --- food, drink, a home and a wife."
5. Leviticus 19:1
Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel and say to them: ‘You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy.
6. Ramban to Leviticus 19:1
In my opinion this abstinence does not refer only to restraint from acts of immorality, as Rashi wrote, but it is rather the self-control mentioned throughout the Talmud, which confers upon those who practice it the title Perushim. The meaning thereof is as follows: the Torah has admonished us against immorality and forbidden foods, but permitted sexual intercourse between man and wife, and the eating of meat and wine. If so, a man of desire might consider this to be license to be constantly immersed in sexual intercourse with his wife or many wives, and be ‘among those who drink wine excessively, and the gluttonous eaters of flesh" (Proverbs 23:20) and speak with profanities, since these prohibitions are not explicitly mentioned in the Torah. He will accordingly become a scoundrel within the technically permissible realm of the Torah!
Therefore, after having listed the matters which are altogether prohibited, the Torah followed them with a generalized obligation to practice moderation even in matters which are [technically] permitted, [such as the following]: one should minimize sexual intercourse…and should not engage in it except as required in the fulfillment of the commandment thereof. One should also sanctify oneself by using wine [only] in small amounts… Likewise one should guard one's mouth and tongue from defilement by excessive food and lewd speech… and purify oneself until one reaches the level of Perishut ("self-restraint.")
7. Moed Katan, 27a-b
Formerly, it was the practice to deliver food to the house of mourning, for the rich in silver and gold baskets, and for the poor in willow baskets. As a result, the poor felt ashamed. It was therefore instituted that all food for the house of mourning should be brought in baskets of willows. Formerly, it was common to uncover the face of the rich and cover the face of the poor, because the faces of the poor turned black in years of drought. As a result the poor felt ashamed. It was therefore instituted that everybody's face should be covered, out of deference to the poor. Formerly, it was common to bring out the rich for burial on an ornamental coffin, while the poor were borne on a plain bier. As a result the poor felt shamed. Hence it was instituted that all the dead should be brought out for burial in a plain box to uphold the dignity of the poor.
8. Last Mishnah, Taanit Chapter 4
Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: "Israel had no greater days as festive as the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur. For on those days the maidens of Jerusalem would go out dressed in white garments that were borrowed, so as not to embarrass those maidens who were poor.
9. R. Yaacov Emden, Siddur Yaavetz
11. R. Israel Meir ha-Kohen Kagan (the Chafeitz Chaim), Sefat Tamim, Ch.5
Regarding the sin of stealing, which is rampant amongst some people, there are numerous reasons... 1. The excessive expenditures and the [monies spent on the] luxuries of wearing fine clothing which have become commonplace, because of our sins. These have caused all the problems, both internally and externally, in our time. At first when a person accustoms himself to such a lifestyle, he does realize its consequences. And the evil inclination acts towards him like a hunter who throws food out along with his trap in plain sight of all the birds. The birds, as a result of their strong desire to eat, and their lack of knowledge does not focus on the net that is outstretched, and when it enters the area, it is ensnared and is left standing ready for slaughter.
So too, when God, in His kindness, first provides man with money so that he will be able to sustain himself and fulfill the obligations to his Creator such as Tzedakah and acts of Chesed and the support of Torah, the evil inclination seduces him, telling him that it is appropriate for him to now spend more than his stature in life would require in the areas of his household expenses and his clothing, so that he will appear important and honorable in the eyes of his friends. And a man follows this advice, and accustoms himself to such a lifestyle, until he is forced to behave as one of the upper class. Afterwards, when he experiences a year or two when he does not earn as much as he has become accustomed to spending, the evil inclination finds ample room to seduce and encourage him to steal and cheat, and borrow money without repaying it, so that he will be able to maintain his accustomed standards, and not be embarrassed in front of his peers.
And as time passes, he becomes a thief and cheat who is unconcerned with the welfare of his fellow human being. In addition he might often endanger himself through such behavior, in that he becomes ill from anxiety and worry as a result of all the embarrassment and abuse that he experiences from all sides. In place of the small measure of honor that the evil inclination gave him at first, he now receives a double portion of scorn, in that others abuse him while clamoring for their money. And this is hispunishment in this world, besides the punishment that is reserved for him in the world to come for the sin of stealing.
However, our sages have stated "Who is wise? He who can anticipate and see what is to come," i.e., a person, even when he is vigorous and successful in his state, should consider and contemplate the upheavals of the times, which are very common, on account of our sins. For we should only act in accordance with the golden mean when it comes to expenses for running our households, according to our financial abilities and locale. And even if, by the grace of God, one is extremely wealthy, one should not wear fancy embroidered clothes, for that causes damage to the soul, leads man to arrogance, and encourages the growth of the evil inclination. It also causes others, who cannot afford to spend as much, to look at him and desire to be like him, and in the end they borrow and do not pay back their loans or they rob and cheat.
As a result of these luxurious lifestyles, the expenditures for wedding clothes have risen greatly, to the point that many young women are embarrassed when they reach their wedding. Father and mother cry and there is none to help them [afford the cost], even as other similar troubles fall upon the heads of the poor. What causes all this, if not the excessive expenditures and the luxurious spending on clothes, which have become common as a result of our sins, behaviors which cause evil to those who practice it, and to the entire world.
12. Rav Eliyahu Dessler, Michtav me'Eliyahu, Kuntres ha-Chesed
When the Almighty created human beings, he made them capable of both
giving and taking. The faculty of giving is a sublime power; it is one
of the attributes of the blessed Creator of all things. He is the giver
par excellence; His mercy; His bounty; and His goodness extend to all
his creatures...On the other side stands the faculty of taking, by which
a person aspires to draw himself all that comes within his reach. This
is what people call egotism or selfishness. It is the root of all evils
in the world... Why do we find so often that the affection between
husband and wife does not seem to last? The answer is simple. People are
generally "takers", not "givers"... Whereas, previously such a couple
were joined together in an atmosphere of love and mutual giving, now
they are "takers" once again and each begins to demand from the other
the fulfillment of his or her obligations. When demands begin, love
There are some people who do not want to enter into marriage. This is because they are unable to shake themselves free of the power of taking, and even their natural instincts cannot turn them into "givers", even temporarily. Similarly, there are couples who want as few children as possible --- a very prevalent phenomenon in our time. Such people are outstanding specimens of ‘takers"; they not want to "give" even to their own children...
Many years ago, when I was wandering in the lands of the north, I observed a pack of ravenous wolves running in search of food. All of a sudden they found the carcass of a small animal lying in their path, and they all pounced on it in ferocious intensity. But they were unable to devour the prey because each one attacked his neighbor, jostling him out of the way. They bit and fought one another until all were wounded and bled profusely. And so they fought until all lay exhausted ...I took another look at the others [wolves]. I saw that their wounds were worse than the first one's; they had lost blood, their strength was gone. And what had they gained from all their fighting? The shame of the vanquished. They had been beaten by their fellow, who had eaten and enjoyed, while they had nothing but their hurt, while their hunger, which had led them to fight in the first place, was as intense as ever.
Now when I reflect on the hunger of a man who craves material things, this memory from earlier times arises in my mind. It can serve as a parable for the human situation. The victor in the battle of life also comes out of it wounded, ill and exhausted. And what is more, his victory is a hollow one, because his hunger is never stilled, but rather redoubled and intensified, as we have seen. And if such is the lot of the "victor", what shall we say of the fate of the vanquished? And most people in the world end up in the competitive rat race.
13. Rabbi Yaacov Landau, Rav and Dayan in Bnei Brak, Letter, Nissan 1966
"The earliest sages already decried the wasteful spending for all types of celebrations. And unfortunately, in our generationspecifically, it has reached untenable proportions. I was astounded to see bar mitzvah celebrations that even include musical instruments, in a large hall!
custom to make all types of celebrations, whether weddings or engagement
meals or bar mitzvah celebrations, with great excess, is becoming more
and more established, with every person being envious of his neighbor,
and people assuming tremendous debts [to pay for these celebrations]..."
For a long time I, and I am sure many others as well, have thought, that it is the right time to explain to the public and to right a book discussing the terrible behavior that has taken root in the last number of years with the excessive wasteful spending, in all types of celebrations, such as weddings and tenaim, and bar mitzvah celebrations.
these are all celebrations of mitzvah, they do not obligate a person to
spend large amounts of money beyond his means, and specifically to
assume large debts as a result of them, debts whose consequences who can
foretell, as we all know, the great amount of suffering that is caused
by this to parents.
To all our brethren, beloved sons of Israel, who fear God and revere his name: From the time of our inception as a nation we were distinguished as a people of spirit and nobility, leading modest and wholesome lives... "Nothing is more beautiful than modesty", our rabbis proclaimed, and a life of modesty was the crowning pride ofour people throughout the ages.
As of late, the stress on luxurious living is taking a toll an ever-increasing toll on our resources of time and money, and as a result the health and stability of entire families suffer... At an assembly of the rabbis we have decided to enact the following ordinances and enforce them with all the powers vested in us by our sacred Torah... a. A kiddush in shul marking a family celebration should be limited to whatever extent possible. b. Spending on gifts for a bride and groom should be limited. c. Guests at a wedding supper should be limited to family and an intimate circle of friends. d. The wedding supper should include only one main course, fish or meat, with appropriate side dishes. e. No flowers should be placed on the guests' tables.
17. Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, Jewish Action Symposium, Fall 1986
difficult to define what a religious Jew is... but one thing a religious
Jew is not: smug, or self-righteous, or condescending... His or hers is
a piety that is not competitive, not ostentatious... It is a way of
living that is not touched by the grossness and vulgarity and
consumerism which marks modern life... Can it truly be said that today's
Orthodox individual is any less indulgent, less hedonistic, less
undisciplined, than those who do not perform mitzvot? The authors of
those crudely worded wedding invitations which condescendingly remind us
to "dress modestly in accordance with the Jewish tradition" frequently
forget that Jewish tradition requires modesty not only in sleeve lengths
but in Viennese tables, flowers, and the other vulgar excesses which
mark the typical contemporary Orthodox wedding... This is what
Nachmanides meant with his famous warning in Leviticus 19, about naval
bi'reshut haTorah; i.e. it possible to be meticulous in observance and
still not to live a spiritual life.
of course, there is the bar mitzva seuda. One need not throw a "big
bash" to send his son the wrong message. Once I attended a rather plain
bar mitzva at which a slide show was presented, showing the "star of the
show" at his best from birth to bar mitzva, certainly not a lesson in
humility. A bar mitzva is a time to show a boy not who he is but who he
can become... It is up to parents to determine whether their son will
see his becoming bar mitzva for what it really is -- a major spiritual
milestone and transformation. On the other hand, when parents place
undue emphasis on the style of the bar mitzva boy's hat and the rest of
his outfit, on the way his hair is cut, on party decor and other
foolishness, then the child has learned: what is important is not who I
am on the inside, but who I appear to be on the outside.
Bar Mitzvas are a good place to start. There is no reason that bar mitzvah should not be limited to close immediate family. For the most part they can be done at home. Where that is impossible, a small shul hall will do just fine. For kiddush in shul, a lechayim is quite sufficient. Several chasidic communities have mandated such takanot (ordinances). They work beautifully... Tenayim should be done at home. Formal parties, from lechayim to vort to actual tenayim, constitute a huge financial drain They are purely an American invention. In pre-war Europe they were unheard of.
We must find ways to drastically cut the cost of the chatuna night itself. Unless tough takanot are put into place we are bound to continue the present system. We invite many friends and relatives because we are obliged to do so. They are obligated to come because they have no alternative. The invitors would be happy to forego the formal full seuda invititation because they are unable to afford the cost. The invitees would be pleased to forgo attending the entire seuda because the cost of the present and the baby-sitter amount easily to $100 for the evening...
The costs of Sheva Berachot need to be sharply diminished. Catered meals on four or five successive nights can run anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 for the week --- excluding Shabbat. It would be quite sufficient to have the chatan and kalla and parents for dinner and invite a small group of friends for Birkat Hamazon... The need for takanot extends to seudot of brit milah, pidyon haben -- indeed to all semachot that are part of the ordinary Jewish life cycle. Putting this entire aspect of our lives in order will, when added together, have a significant impact on the quality of life for all of us. Modesty, true tzniut, could become fashionable... It is interesting that today when we see an elaborate non-Jewish funeral cortege we react: "That's so goyish!" It once was very Jewish [See Moed Katan 27a-b]. No longer. When non-Jews look at our elaborate wedding celebrations they say: "That's so Jewish!" Enough. We need to embrace the "hatzneah lechet im Elokecha", and declare it to be the norm for Jewish life.
Published with the help of Jason Robert Kovan