Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Help Me Purchase A Laptop

Hello everybody!

I would like you to help me purchase a laptop, please.

Here's what it needs to have:

1. I want a PC
2. Windows XP (I absolutely loathe Windows Vista.) Or the capacity to have an older version of Microsoft Word, because I hate the Windows Vista version of Word.
3. The iTunes, Paint, Windows Media Player and other applications should work
4. It should be a relatively large screen (15, 16, maybe even 17 inches)
5. Relatively light, if possible
6. DVD player with a tray (not a slot)
7. Built-in wireless ability

I'm supposed to pick one off of Costco. Please help. I don't want an Acer and would probably prefer a Dell. Thanks.

Chana's Course on Fairy Tales & the Bible

(Also known as: stories I tell to five year olds.) Or as RaggedyMom refers to it, "Chana reviews dissertation topics at the dinner table."

I would structure the course so that everyone read the original Judaic text (Hebrew, Aramaic, Mishnaic, Midrashic etc) and then the various forms of the fairy tale. I would want everyone to have access to the Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index and Motif Index as well. We would discuss similarities and differences between the Judaic and fairy tale text in class. If there was time, we would also go through variants of the fairy tale and/or Judaic text and show how they return or venture farther away from the comparitive text. Assignments would include coming up with your own comparisons between various fairy tales and Judaic texts, noting archetypal trends in Tanakh, or comparing and contrasting similar characters. The purpose of the class would be to demonstrate the many biblical themes and motifs in fairy tales. If possible, it would be nice to see if later Judaic texts or midrashim actually borrow from folklore and fairy tales (sometimes they do, although the veracity of these late midrashim is questionable at best to begin with.) Thus, this would be an interdisciplinary course and count for credit towards your English or Bible major.

1. Kamtza & Bar Kamtza/ Sleeping Beauty
2. Rachel & Leah (Wedded to Jacob)/ Swan Lake
3. Moshe & the Sapphire Staff (Midrash)/ The Sword in the Stone
4. Benjamin & the Stolen Goblet/ Simple Hans
5. Elijah's Violin/ Finist the Falcoln
6. The Demon Princess/ Jack and the Beanstalk
7. Leviathan, the Fox & Fish/ The Monkey's Heart
8. King Solomon & the Two Prostitutes with Infants/ The Future Buddha as Judge
9. Yiftach and his Daughter/ The King of the Golden Mountain
10. The Book of Esther/ Aladdin (The Princess & Vizier)
11. Choni Ha'Maagel (Taanis 23a)/ Rip Van Winkle
12. Nazir in Nedarim 9b/ Narcissus & Echo
13. Sanhedrin 105b /The Oak Tree & the Reed (Aesop's fables)
14. David & Saul in the Cave/ The Little Mermaid
15. Samson & Delilah/ Fenrir the Wolf (Norse Mythology) 

I'm sure there are plenty more. I'll add to these as I think of them.



2. Rachel, Leah and Laban are the source material (in my mind) for Van Rothbart, Odette and Odile. Odile wears Odette's form and Prince Siegfried makes the vow to her when in fact it should be made to Odette. Jacob marries Leah thinking that she is Rachel.

Read and perhaps include the book The Hebrew Folktale in the syllabus.


I could easily offer a similar course in film. That one would be 'Chana's Crash Course on Film & the Bible.'

1. David & Bathsheba/ The Man in the Iron Mask (starring Leonardo DiCaprio)
2. The Rav's Idea on Dignity in Defeat/ Beauty and the Beast + The Phantom of the Opera + The Last Unicorn (film and texts)
3. Theodicy throughout Judaism/ V for Vendetta (the torture scene with Evey and the fact that it frees her specifically)

Not to mention the 'Leitmotifs in Tanakh' course and comparing/contrasting symbolism between objects or places in Tanakh and those appearing in English Literature.

And plenty more, of course.

Copyright for the idea behind this course goes to Chana.

Arranged: Muslims & Jews Can Be Friends!

RaggedyMom told me about an awesome independant film today, then took me to see it (we rented it). It's called 'Arranged.' An Orthodox Jewish woman and an observant Muslim woman are both teachers in a public school, become friends, and are both engaged in searching for their soulmates through shidduchim and other arranged forms of meeting people. Their lives intertwine and interesting things happen. ;-)

See the trailer below, and definitely rent the movie. It's fantastic and made me happy.

HUGE PLOT SPOILER (so don't read this if you don't want the movie spoiled for you): Not that I do shidduchim anyway (although my mom would probably love me to), but I'm totally betting you that if I did, that's how I'd get married one day...my Muslim friend from public school would set me up and be my shadchan. It's not even remotely crazier than other things that have happened...


My favorite film as a child was Sleeping Beauty on Ice starring Robin Cousins & Rosalynn Sumners. Tchaikovsky's music for 'Sleeping Beauty' has always been the most magical to me, outdoing the Nutcracker and Swan Lake. In the film, which I was only privileged to watch at Grandma's house, I thrilled each time Carabosse brilliantly lured Aurora to her spindle. There was a room filled with beautiful fabric and flickering colorful lights; Aurora skated within and picked up a piece of fabric...finally she came too close and touched the spindle.

Colorful, gorgeous and otherwise exquisite, I always loved that production of Sleeping Beauty. Carabosse, the Wicked Fairy, spoke most to me. I loved the music that signalled her appearance and the scene in which she lured Aurora to prick her finger.

Alas, I can't find those scenes online, so I'll show you a scene where Carabosse enters in the ballet (not the ice-skating) version:

Carabosse and Aurora are two extremes. Of the two, I love Carabosse. Perhaps that's because I am her in a way...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Taran: The Witty, Thoughtful Child

Taran's comment on my melting laptop:

Wow. That's so weird. You have a strange computer. Well, that's the bad side. On the good side, you'll be able to make sunny side up eggs on your computer without even turning on your stove. And it's gas as well as electric free! Wooohoooooooooooooo!!! LOL

An essay on Shlomo Carlebach that Taran wrote in 7th Grade:

'The Rabbi that Inspired'

The theater is filled with the strumming of a guitar, the reverberation of the drums, and the clapping of the very excited audience. All are waiting impatiently for the next song to begin. At last, the music starts and the audience remains hushed. With enthusiasm and kavanah, the Rabbi closes his eyes and begins to sing the songs that could wipe away anybody’s worries. He begins to tell great tales about people caring for people. To be in the presence of a person so full of happiness and contentment, would be the most meaningful experience of my life. Strumming the guitar, singing from the depths of his neshama is Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. He is known for his wonderful singing, his thrilling anecdotes about chesed, and for the people who are at peace with themselves in his presence.

Nobody could sing Jewish songs like Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. In the second half of the 20th century, many people thought that he was the foremost Jewish composer and singer. One would know that Rabbi Shlomo was a great singer because in a period of thirty years, Rabbi Carlebach finished and published 25 music albums. He started singing on street corners and in a short while, he collected enough money to fly to Israel and presented his music there. He quickly became a big hit with anyone who heard his music. After spending some time in Israel, Rabbi Shlomo decided he would also play in America as well. He soon became known as “The Singing Rabbi.”

In addition to his singing, Rabbi Shlomo told great tales that are and were very interesting and thoughtful. One story was about when Rabbi Shlomo met an airplane attendant named Kathy. Kathy told Shlomo that she wanted to marry a Jewish man whose father would not allow the marriage. The reason was because her fiancé’s father had no intention of having his son married to a convert. Rabbi Shlomo listened to her story and said that he would try solving it. First, Rabbi Shlomo called the father of Kathy’s fiancé, who confirmed Kathy’s story. Then Rabbi Shlomo called Kathy’s father who told him that he was a Holocaust survivor and was still Jewish and that he wasn’t 100% converted to Christianity. Learning this, Rabbi Shlomo made a few calls to both parents to try persuading them to meet. Upon meeting, both parents hugged and kissed. Both said that they were best friends and that they promised that their children would marry. In addition, both were grateful that their children had fulfilled their pledge. Even without these stories, most people would agree that whatever Rabbi Shlomo wrote would be an excellent story. The other Rabbis would be very impressed with Shlomo’s wisdom and knowledge of the Torah which were always at the heart of his stories.

In addition to his singing and anecdotes, Rabbi Shlomo had a great talent for inspiring people to feel at peace with themselves. People would say, “This is a one of a kind Rabbi,” meaning that they loved his music and his stories. His popularity grew and grew as he started helping many people out of difficult situations. He had the ability to influence many Jewish people due to his singing and stories. For example, once Rabbi Shlomo needed to pray, so he asked some people to come and join in. Expecting about 10 people, Rabbi Shlomo was surprised that over two thousand people rushed to pray with him.

If I could meet Rabbi Shlomo, I would be so inspired and overjoyed by Rabbi Shlomo’s kavanah in singing, his wonderful stories, and his ability to make people at peace with themselves. To learn how to inspire someone and give chesed so generously are unbelievable qualities that I would want to strive and have for myself. It is wonderful to gain knowledge about Rabbi Shlomo’s stories, and at the same time, experience the love of Hashem through his songs!

Olly & Skater Guy: Subway Sandwiches, Slurpees, Sefarim & Surprises

Today I decided I wished to sample the fare at the kosher Subway in Queens. This Subway is located on 141-24 Jewel Avenue in Flushing, NY 11367. You can contact them at (718) 544-SUBS (7827). You see, Subway is a chain branch and is generally not kosher. So the idea of eating a kosher subway sandwich appealed to me. I was curious about how it would taste! RaggedyMom mentioned that if I were in that area anyway, there was a nice Jewish bookstore and other fun haunts on Main Street, and I was excited to entertain myself by wandering through Queens.

Thus, I entered Subway and talked to the nice man at the front counter. We shall call him a 'sandwich professional' as that is the title he went by. I told him it was my first time at Subway and thus I was unsure as to what exactly I wanted to eat. I was looking at pastrami, steak, bologna, salami and all other kinds of cold cuts. The sandwich professional happily informed me that when I purchased a sandwich from Subway, I got points on my Subway rewards card and also received a discount at the wine store next door.

"That'd be nice if I was legal," I stated, laughing.

"I knew you were young but not that young!" he exclaimed.

"Yeah, I'm 20, almost 21," I said, smiling.

Adjacent to me stood a guy who was finishing up his order. He had a cap, exciting headphones, a skateboard and a backpack. He has dark hair, an open expression and seems the sort to see things very clearly. This is aside from the fact that he's very attractive. "You're very jolly," he remarked to me, referring to my excitement over my Subway sandwich.

"Yes, I am," I stated, turning to him. "Aren't you?"

"I like to think I am, yes," he told me.

"Are you a New Yorker?" I questioned further.

"Yup," he said, eyes twinkling.

"Then you've dispelled the stereotype!" I laughed. "Since supposedly New Yorkers are cold and all." I then turned my attention to the sandwiches and ingredients therein (pickles, salad, sauces, onions, etc) as the skater guy tried to pay for his sandwich.

"Oh, we don't take credit cards, sir," stated the sandwich professional. "Only cash."

The skater guy looked panicked. "I only have a credit card," he stated apologetically.

I stepped in, handing the sandwich professional a $20 bill. "It's not a problem," I said. "I'll pay for him." After all, I've been in plenty of situations like this before. There's a restaraunt back home in Chicago called Slice of Life that only takes cash, not credit cards. It's always an unfortunate occurrence when this happens. And I know the panicked feeling and other unhappiness that swoops down upon you, so if you can spare a person that, why not?

"You know each other, I presume?" questioned the sandwich professional as he took my bill.

"Nope," I stated cheerfully. In truth, it wasn't necessary for skater guy to pay me back but I didn't want to make him feel bad. "You'll pay me back another time," I stated, smiling at him.

"Are you a student at Queens College?" he asked.

"Nope," I said. "I've just finished Stern." My phone rang, Lightman's Phantom of the Opera violin theme resounding throughout the eatery. It was my friend Michael Greenberg. I didn't pick up, figuring I would call him back later.

"I'll take down your information and pay you back," he stated fervently, a promise he intended to keep.

"It's really okay," I said as he took his sandwich and sat down. I moved on to creating my sandwich. "I'm going to leave it up to you," I told the sandwich professional. "Go ahead and give me whatever you think I'll like!"

"I'm 44, you know," the sandwich professional told me as he squirted Thousand Island sauce onto my pastrami sandwich. "But I look young. It's a problem with shidduchim; I look so young."

"It's a good problem to have," I told him. "You're young, young-at-heart, that's a wonderful quality."

He continued preparing my sandwich and I thanked him profusely. Skater guy came over to me in the interim and handed me a $10 bill. He had rooted through his knapsack and discovered it. Thus, I paid for his sandwich and he ended up paying for mine, as I used the $10 for my 6"inch sub.

When I sat down, I decided to talk to skater guy, who seemed friendly, approachable and kind. "So are you a student at Queens College?" I inquired.

"Yup," he said. "They have this program where you can do business but another major on the side. I'm doing philosophy."

"That's fantastic!" I stated. One of my friends who is currently finishing up Law School had majored in philosophy; she loved it.

"So did you do the whole year in Israel thing?" he questioned.

"Nope," I said. "Went straight to Stern, had some AP and college credits, and that's how I did four years in three. Have to take two summer courses at Hunter College, then I'm starting Revel."

"The graduate school?"

"Yup," I said. "Did you do the year in Israel thing?"

"Two years," he told me.

"Where were you at?"

"Gush," he said.

"Gush!" I exclaimed. "Hey, then you must know all my friends." I listed them all off. "Simcha Gross, Ben Greenfield, Michael Greenberg..."

"I went to high school with Michael Greenberg!" he stated.

"Ha, he just called me!" I laughed. "I'll have to call him back and say I met his friend. That's fabulous. Say, have you got any napkins?"

"Nope, was wondering how to get those myself."

"I shall go purloin some napkins," I stated, and brilliantly did so while he asked for his sandwich to be wrapped up. He had to return to school for class.

"Were you also a philosophy major?" he inquired.

"Nope," I stated. "English Literature, close enough!"

"Yes, that is close enough," he agreed amicably.

We introduced ourselves and now I know his name, although for the purposes of this blog he shall be known as Skater Guy. In any case Skater Guy is a fabulous individual and I'm very happy that my chance encounter in Subway means that I shall have a new friend!

After enjoying my delicious pastrami sandwich and thanking members of the eatery, I listened to Michael's message. To my great enjoyment, he had called to tell me he had just seen me walking down Main & Jewel and couldn't stop because there was no place to park, but he had been amused. Thus, he had called me.

I walked out of the shop and encountered a 7/11. "Perfect," I thought, and bought myself a Coke slurpee. I enjoyed it while wandering through Amazing Savings, and then, walking onward, encountered the Sefarim Store RaggedyMom had informed me of.

Now, I had written the rabbi of my shul, R' Gershon Schaffel, an email inquiring as to whether he could tell me of a good commentary to the daily prayers. As all of you know, I have difficulty with prayer; I can write prayers and say them in English but it's very hard to mean them in Hebrew. He wrote me back last night and stated that, "One that is good is R' Avigdor Miller's commentary Praise, My Soul." Now, previously I would never have been caught dead reading a R' Miller book, but Jordan changed my perspective on all that. Huzzah for Jordan! So, intrigued, I wandered into Safra & Stam's and located the book in question.

Wanting to pay for it, I looked through my purse and discovered that I had lost my credit card.

Hmm, I thought to myself. When did I do that? Was it when I went to the Butterfly Garden at the Bronx Zoo? But I remember paying for that in cash. So when did I last use my credit card?

Looking through my purse once more, my eye happened to light upon a receipt for a purchase from a drugstore that I had made on Friday. I normally do not keep receipts, so I knew that if I had seen this one, it was meant to tell me something. Of course, I thought to myself. I bought something at the drugstore and left my credit card there. And to my good fortune, the drugstore is located just across the street.

I debated as to whether to pay $27 for Praise, My Soul in cash when, if I could not find my credit card, that would mean I would potentially have no way to get to Scarsdale. Thus, I would effectively remain stranded in New York forever. No, I decided. God definitely wanted me to see that receipt; the lady at the drugstore has my credit card. Thus, I paid my $27 in cash, placed the smiley-faced plastic bag with the enclosed book around my wrist, and walked across the street.

"Hello," I said, smiling at the Russian lady. "You may not remember me, but a couple of days ago I was here to make a purchase. I was just wondering- did you happen to find a credit card made out to Olivia?"

Her whole face lit up. She walked behind the register, opened it up, and pulled out my credit card.

"Olivia ________," I told her my full name.

"Spell it out," she told me, and I did so.

She handed it over. She had been keeping it for me; it was safe and sound. I hadn't even realized I had lost it.

"Thank you so much!" I exclaimed gladly. First I have my LaGuardian Angel, rescuer of laptops, and now I meet the Russian lady who saves people's credit cards. As soon as I exited the store, I pulled out my phone to call up The Little Old Lady.

"Hello Little Old Lady!" I stated happily. "Guess what just happened..." and I told her my remarkable story. "I think that God saw I wanted to do something nice and pay for Skater Guy's lunch so He decided that I ought to be helped in return and made sure I got my credit card back. I hadn't even realized it was missing! Imagine what would have happened if I left to Washington Heights and only realized it was gone when I had to pay some exorbitant sum of money. They'd be delivering a bed, I would pull out my credit card, only to realize that poof! there was no credit card. I would completely have forgotten about my drugstore purchase; the card would have been gone forever. And the only reason I walked into Safra's was because RaggedyMom had mentioned there was a Jewish bookstore there, and the only reason I wanted to buy something was because R' Schaffel had recommended the book to me...and if not for that, I would never have thought to look for my credit card."

The Little Old Lady liked my story very much. "You have so many stories, you should write a book already!" she informed me. You see, I had told her about Kurt and Sean (the LaGuardian Angel) and various other experiences...

"Oh, I just write them all on my blog," I said.

And there you have it. God is wonderful!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Broken Wings by Alter Bridge

It's amazing how God holds people up. There's often no reason to wake up in the morning except for Him.

I love the song 'Broken Wings' by Alter Bridge. It includes two lines I enjoy a lot.

1. "In my opinion, seeing is to know the things we hold are always first to go. And who's to say we won't end up alone?"

But that line ends up switching to the positive, optimistic and happy thought:

2. "In my opinion, seeing is to know what you give will always carry you. And who's to say we won't survive it, too?"

Everybody who lives life is a survivor. We all survive something, whether it's financial disadvantages or ostentatious opulence, phony communities, cruel teachers, bad parents, divorces, falling-outs, etc. What exactly it is that we've survived changes as we age and our experiences differ. But there's no question- if you're still alive, then you're a survivor.

So yes, many times we're falling on broken wings, but in the end we know that we're all survivors. We're tough people, in for the long haul, going for the win. And sure, we've all cried ourselves to sleep sometime, thought that there was no way to go forward, been miserable about someone's death or loss, perhaps battled illness...because we're human, gloriously so. But the part worth remembering is who and what all those experiences made us. It's what we give that makes us; who we are is forged through the events we survive and knit together in the patchwork of odds and ends that is a human being.

I've got a million odds-and-ends that make me up. I'm holding a green bag with brownie Pepperidge Farm cookies, purple sparkling grape juice and a HIM 'Dark Light' CD in one hand, M&Ms that I swallowed in order to learn to take pills in the other. I've got scrolls of violin music threaded through my hair, blueberries and chocolate bars mixing in my memory. I have all the beauty of Fort Tryon park, the glittering butterfly lady birthday card, songs by Sting and Daniel Bedingfield. There's a castle that belongs to me, the fact that I'm clearly marrying a Kohen Gadol because of his golden clothes, the piano scene from "Pretty Woman," and the posters people made for my surprise birthday party. There's two canisters of glitter, each one labeled with one of my names, in gold and red. There's the art table, splattered with paint. There's uniform clothes, green and blue polo shirts especially. There's nude stockings and the copy of The Count of Monte Cristo which the ice-pack spilled on. And if you picked up any of these things, you'd be holding a piece of my life. Scattered objects to some- the images of my life.

A human being is fragile when she's made out of chocolate, song lyrics, glitter and gifts. But it's the words that knit her together. The words are true and they never lose their meaning. They're gold and flicker in and out of existence but they're the thread; take away everything and the words still remain. And because the words once existed, we will survive. We survive everything because we remember the words uttered by the ones who know us and love us. And thus, to give forges us, but it's the words that support us. And it's God who smiles and says, "My daughter, did you really think I'd break you for nothing? I'm making you into a patchwork. It's the reason you're going to be beautiful."

What do I carry? Battles with Deans, The Observer, The Butterfly of Freedom, chalk sketches and quotes doodled across Rabbi Auman's, Rabbi Kahn's and Rabbi Kanarfogel's blackboards, people's disdain, Birkas HaTorah, a swiftly-breaking-laptop (Madeline L'Engle reference!), dreams, a blue-and-brown cloak, the fairy dress for Batya's wedding, a London Fog duffel bag, R' Schaffel's Shema podcasts, the desire to please God without betraying everything I love and stand for, hugs and kisses from little children, awe of my parents, deep-rooted appreciation for Rebbetzin Greer and Rabbi Cohen, NCSY yearbooks, pens that rarely contain ink, Explorations by Rabbi Ari D. Kahn, a black-and-gold pocketsize JPS Tanakh, long silk black opera gloves a'la Erik the Phantom, two birthday tiaras, a Wicked sweatshirt, and most of all the words that people have given me.

I'm a patchwork quilt of items, objects and gadgets that represent everything that people are to me. Every time God throws me down, it's only to lift me up again. The patchwork is the reason that I'll be beautiful one day. So today I am happy, truly happy, for I know, with complete certainty that can only be given me as a gift from God, that the end result here is meant to be one that sparkles and shines. The patchwork quilt that is me will have all the colors of the world in it; there'll be glitter and joy and pain and tragedy and everything that has forged me in it. Today I am happy, not only for me, but for everyone, completely and truly. Do you hear? I've done it; I have! I am happy for you, I am, completely and wholly. It may be this will only last for a moment but I see it's possible and so I shall do it. We're survivors; we're patchwork quilts, and the tapestries that are our lives will be displayed one day to give comfort to another. God has a reason for me; today I know that's true. Sometimes that clarity leaves me, but today I know, I know because today I believe that as humans we are survivors. When one climbs the high mountains, the falls are vicious! But here's the fantastic thing...sometimes we're not falling, we're skydiving. *smile* Or parachuting. I know there are plenty more vicious falls in store for me, but maybe someone will catch me, and even if not, it's just another story to add to my patchwork. God's making me beautiful. And is that worth it in the long run? Hell, yeah!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Armour-Bearer

Duby, this one's for you.


Who was Saul's original armour-bearer?
David, of course.

כא וַיָּבֹא דָוִד אֶל-שָׁאוּל, וַיַּעֲמֹד לְפָנָיו; וַיֶּאֱהָבֵהוּ מְאֹד, וַיְהִי-לוֹ נֹשֵׂא כֵלִים. 21 And David came to Saul, and stood before him; and he loved him greatly; and he became his armour-bearer.

~Samuel I 16: 21

Now, in Saul's last battle, there is a lot of interaction between him and a mysterious armour bearer. This person could potentially be synonymous with the one identified later as being an Amalekite boy who comes to David to deliver the news. However, those verses don't entirely support the point (the Amalekite boy 'happened by chance upon Mount Gilboa' and was certainly not Saul's armor bearer). This leads people to state there were two occurrences, one with Saul's armour bearer and one with the lad. But look at the actual verses regarding this armour bearer.

ד וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל לְנֹשֵׂא כֵלָיו שְׁלֹף חַרְבְּךָ וְדָקְרֵנִי בָהּ, פֶּן-יָבוֹאוּ הָעֲרֵלִים הָאֵלֶּה וּדְקָרֻנִי וְהִתְעַלְּלוּ-בִי, וְלֹא אָבָה נֹשֵׂא כֵלָיו, כִּי יָרֵא מְאֹד; וַיִּקַּח שָׁאוּל אֶת-הַחֶרֶב, וַיִּפֹּל עָלֶיהָ. 4 Then said Saul to his armour-bearer: 'Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and make a mock of me.' But his armour-bearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took his sword, and fell upon it.

ה וַיַּרְא נֹשֵׂא-כֵלָיו, כִּי מֵת שָׁאוּל; וַיִּפֹּל גַּם-הוּא עַל-חַרְבּוֹ, וַיָּמָת עִמּוֹ. 5 And when his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he likewise fell upon his sword, and died with him.

ו וַיָּמָת שָׁאוּל וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת בָּנָיו וְנֹשֵׂא כֵלָיו גַּם כָּל-אֲנָשָׁיו, בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא--יַחְדָּו. 6 So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armour-bearer, and all his men, that same day together.

~Samuel I, 31: 4-6


Now, I think there is a double meaning in these verses. I think there really was an armour-bearer at that battle to whom Saul spoke and who refrained from killing Saul, etc. But on a deeper level, I believe the armour-bearer in those verses refers to David, the original armour-bearer. There is a sense of dramatic irony in Saul requesting this armour-bearer (and the term is meant to hint back to David; when language in Tanakh is similar we are supposed to hear the echoes) to kill him, seeing how many times David has refrained from doing just that! And look at the language- the armour-bearer refuses to kill Saul because he is afraid.

That exactly points to David who refrains from killing Saul many times before because of his fear of touching God's annointed.

ט וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד אֶל-אֲבִישַׁי, אַל-תַּשְׁחִיתֵהוּ: כִּי מִי שָׁלַח יָדוֹ, בִּמְשִׁיחַ יְהוָה--וְנִקָּה. {פ} 9 And David said to Abishai: 'Destroy him not; for who can put forth his hand against the LORD'S anointed, and be guiltless?' {P}

י וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד חַי-יְהוָה, כִּי אִם-יְהוָה יִגֳּפֶנּוּ; אוֹ-יוֹמוֹ יָבוֹא וָמֵת, אוֹ בַמִּלְחָמָה יֵרֵד וְנִסְפָּה. 10 And David said: 'As the LORD liveth, nay, but the LORD shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall go down into battle, and be swept away.

~Samuel I 26: 9-10

Indeed, the question David asks the Amalekite lad who comes to tell him of Saul's death is:

יד וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, דָּוִד: אֵיךְ, לֹא יָרֵאתָ, לִשְׁלֹחַ יָדְךָ, לְשַׁחֵת אֶת-מְשִׁיחַ יְהוָה. 14 And David said unto him: 'How wast thou not afraid to put forth thy hand to destroy the LORD'S anointed?'

~Samuel II 1:14

Thus the armour-bearer does not kill Saul because he is afraid to do so. And once Saul has fallen upon his sword, his armour-bearer also falls upon his sword. The verse states that 'Saul and his three sons and the armour-bearer' and all the other men died upon that day.

I think this is meant to hint to the fact that a part of David died that day. When Saul and Jonathan died, a part of David died as well. That is why this armour-bearer is mentioned specifically in the pasuk. Otherwise, why is that man worthy of particular mention? Why not simply include him in the statement 'all the other men died that day?' On the deeper level, these words refer to the original armour-bearer, who died, in an emotional if not physical sense, that day. Thus David's long, keening lament in honor of Saul and Jonathan; he is not only mourning them but himself, who loved and was forged by them.

As we already know, David loved Saul and wished him no harm. There were many times that he could have killed him but refrained from doing so. He loved Jonathan as well, and he believed Jonathan's words. If there must be a future in which David would rule, he wished that it would be in this way:

יז וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אַל-תִּירָא, כִּי לֹא תִמְצָאֲךָ יַד שָׁאוּל אָבִי, וְאַתָּה תִּמְלֹךְ עַל-יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָנֹכִי אֶהְיֶה-לְּךָ לְמִשְׁנֶה; וְגַם-שָׁאוּל אָבִי, יֹדֵעַ כֵּן. 17 And he [Jonathan] said unto him [David]: 'Fear not; for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth.'

~Samuel I 23: 17

One cannot escape God. If God desired David's rule, David believed that it would take place in this way, where Jonathan would be second-in-command, David's advisor. This was something Jonathan and even Saul knew to be the case. And now this had completely changed...for Jonathan was dead.

Thus, for Saul and especially Jonathan to die was for a part of David to die. He was the armour-bearer who could not kill Saul, the one who metaphorically 'fell upon his sword' when he saw the King had died. A part of him died with Saul and his sons; this part of himself would never be recalled. Why was it necessary to know that David was Saul's armour-bearer? Why was it necessary to list the armour-bearer amidst the list of royalty who died, instead of including him in the statement 'and all the other men?' It is because that armour-bearer was, in the emotional and metaphorical sense, no other than David.


P.S. If you want to get really crazy, you can argue that there was no armour bearer. Saul was talking to a figment within his mind which presented itself as his armour bearer, David. He told David to kill him but he refused, as was his wont. That's why, when the Philistines come in Samuel I 31: 8, they find Saul and his three sons but there is no mention of this armour bearer. The conversation with the Amalekite lad happened afterwards, when Saul realized that his imaginary David would not acquiesce to his request. Despairing and realizing that in the end 'one of those uncircumcised ones' would run him through, Saul found a certain poetic justice in having an Amalekite lad (the reason for his downfall and the loss of his kingdom- because he did not kill out all the Amalekites) kill him, rather than a Philistine. But this idea is more my conjecture and would be much harder to prove.

Saul & David

If David lived a life of complete agony, Saul's well defined endless pain. Chosen as King when he did not wish it, compelled to fight battle after battle against God's enemies, having been willing to sacrifice his son for breaking the command he gave that they must fast that day (does this show how much he valued God?) while nonetheless angrily shouting at that son because he defied his father and weakened his claim to the monarchy, and what is worst, knowing that he walked to his death, entering that battle doomed and knowing his sons, too, were doomed...having lied to them that they would live (as Samuel only appeared to him, and no one else), having had the spirit of God depart from him and the spirit of darkness settle on him...his life was in many ways cursed. The dark depression caused by this spirit of madness and unhappiness that haunted him creates one of the most fascinating, complex, and intriguing characters in Tanakh. Ecclesiastes and Samuel have always been my favorite sefarim for this reason.

There's a television show I watch that is a modern-day version of the Book of Shmuel (with obvious twists, tweaks and departures from the biblical story) that is nonetheless brilliantly done. It helped me understand better Saul's character and his descent into madness. The episode entitled 'The Sabbath Queen' was brilliantly moving in that way; Saul never seemed as real to me as he does now. (Warning: This TV show is by no means for everybody, especially not those who have not spent time studying the actual book of Shmuel and could easily be confused between what happens and does not happen in Shmuel's account. It is also not for those who cannot bear with scholarly conjecture, and thus, departures from the Judaic approach.)

Perhaps one of the (many fascinating) ideas presented within this episode was the Angel of Death's depiction as a woman. I have never thought of the Angel of Death as posessing the sadistic, cruel grace of a woman in manipulating, torturing and otherwise killing her prey. The Jewish approach has him as being more of a straightforward character; he comes and collects souls as that is his job- but does not take pleasure in the pain of others. Also interesting, they equated the Angel of Death with the dark spirit that rested upon Saul. Now I am curious to see whether any traditional commentary defines the ruach ra'ah that afflicts him as synonymous with Satan.

My Laptop Is Melting

You have reached a whole new level of computer woes when, after your DVD player not only does not play but scratches discs, Paint does not work, iTunes killed itself, and even Windows Media Player won't play certain videos (and yes, I downloaded the most current version), your laptop is melting.

I opened my laptop tonight to reveal what appeared to be a burst of steam (steam!) and then noticed that contrary to happily hibernating, my laptop keyboard has actually further degenerated in the course of one night than it had the year over. Yes, the space bar has been melting for a while, but the damage to the E, D and S keys all happened over the course of this one day.


However, I think that this simply gives my laptop character. Yes, that's right. My laptop has been used and bears its battle-scars and medallions proudly. I don't want to give it up. I love it. And so it shall remain with me, melting keys and all. It's actually really fun to type on; the melted plastic exactly fits the pads of my fingers. And I've grown accustomed to the frightening lava-like temperature of my keyboard. It warms my (usually cold) hands. But question for the audience: do any of you have laptops that are melting?

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Miriam Webster Shidductionary

I read Adventures in the Produce Aisle and other 'Perelous' Tales by Perel Grossman today. (I'm still trying to figure out how to get ahold of a copy of The House of A Thousand Lanterns so in the meantime, I read whatever I can get my hands on...) The part I found particularly funny was 'The Miriam Webster Shidductionary.' You see, I have friends who were actually told they have "too much personality" or are "too sophisticated" and suchlike...Props to you, Perel, for making me smile today. It's not so easy to do.

I'm going to copy the Shidductionary over with the understanding that you really ought to either take the book out of the library, buy it, etc. And that all credit goes to Perel. And if Perel wishes me to take down this post I shall happily comply. I just thought I should bring this wondrous list to the knowledge of the public.




(1) born after Mesushelach
(2) younger than he looks
(3) 19-21
(4) young at heart, but a valuable Social Security asset
(5) still has most of his original hair

Bright: always had a lot of potential throughout high school, no achievement, just potential

Slim: a testimony to the bad food at the yeshivah

Heavyset/ big-boned: purchases two seats on the airplane

Wonderful Family: very open to all types of "interesting" people, even you (see "interesting")

A little "out of the box": wears suspenders and a bow tie...to the swimming pool

Interesting: weird

Soft-Spoken: has not uttered a word on a date since 1998

Lively: jumps from subject to subject with lots to say on the central theme (himself)

Full of "simchas hachaim": every day is Purim

Tall: 5'7"

Short: very

Average: short and/or overweight

Sophisticated: knows the appropriate name for the William Tell Overture (hint: not the "Lone Ranger Song")

Shtark: displays the gleaming-eyed, maniacal look of a "kana'ee"

Best Boy in [fill in the blank]: he is registered in that yeshivah

Warm: greets the parents before taking the girl out

Ba'al Middos: middos tovos or middos ra'os?

The Top Boy in [fill in the blank]: when the bachurim get together to form a human pyramid so they can hoist one guy high enough to reach the cake that the cook hid, he is the "top boy"

Capable: has been known to take out the garbage

Health-conscious: drinks lite beer with his Thursday night cholent

Financially secure:

(1) has been single for a long, long time
(2) secure in the hope that his future shver has ample finances
(3) employed at the same job for six months or more

Worldly: has been outside the Flatbush-Lakewood-Monsey area

Handy: can screw in a light bulb (providing his wife buys it)

Black Hat: wears a black hat

Gray Hat: wears a gray hat

No Hat: tries to observe the Torah and all of its commandments without the aid of a Borsalino (Insert Chana laughing her head off- this one greatly entertained me)

Dresses well:

(1) yeshivah bachur: Both his socks are the same color.
(2) "fancy" boy: His socks are the same color and of the same pattern.
(3) businessman: The cost of his shoes and belt are equivalent.

Long-Term Learner: the t'naim will include a formal contract of support

One-to-Two Year Learner:

(1) will learn as long as the wedding money lasts
(2) would love to go to work right now, but will never find a shidduch if he does


Slim: owns a good pair of control tops

A little "out of the box": speaks Latin to the meshulachim

Interesting: weird

Lively: non-stop yapper

Tall: has to bend double to pass under thresholds

Sophisticated: knows the name of the president of the U.S.

Out-of-Townish: understands the meaning of ahavas Yisrael

Bubbly: an airhead

Ba'alas chessed: cooks with a can opener, never met a microwaveable dish she didn't love

Capable: can set the table (with plastic!)

Yeshivish: her family puts the Yated on the coffee table, keeps Hamodia in the kitchen

Middle-of-the-Road: her family puts Hamodia on the coffee table, keeps The Jewish Press in the kitchen

Modern: her family gets their news from the inter-you-know-what

Down-to-earth: wears crocs to simchas

A Natural Beauty: make-up has never crossed her face (and not for lack of need!)

Health-conscious: eats macrobiotic, practices yoga, relies on alternative medicine, uses only plant-based detergents. Meditates on dates.

Funky: her earrings are larger than her sunglasses; her purse could accomodate a week's worth of clothing. Funky, of course.

Stylish: her clothing bears everyone's name but her own

Dresses sensibly: rubber-soled shoes, bulletproof hose, navy-blue polyester suit, button-down shirt

Geshikt: makes fabulous Rice Krispy Treats


Here we offer a special addendum to help "decode" the phrases most frequently used to end a relationship:

No Chemistry: [an explanation in three parts]

I. Money + Yichus= Chemistry
II. PHD (Papa Has Dough) + FIR (Father Is Rosh Yeshivah) = CWC (Couple With Chemistry)
III. No Swiss Bank Account + No Father In Chinuch = Lack of Chemistry

We're moving in two different directions: He's moving down the fast lane at 90 mph in his Ferrari; she's riding the bus to catch a shiur on vegetable checking.

We have different values: The value of his bank account is less than the value of her childhood piggy bank.

She stopped accepting my calls: He thought maybe the phone was broken, so...he started appearing at her windows. Restraining order followed.

He's not serious enough about his learning: On their first date, she asked him if he would lie down in front of a moving train if it meant learning Torah for a few extra minutes. He had the chutzpah to ask, "Which train?"

She's too quiet: Like dating a glass of Diet Coke. (Chana: For some reason, this also made me laugh.)

He's too intense: He intensely dislikes me. The feeling is mutual.

Her mother "killed" it: Was it the T-shirt and suit combo?

He doesn't really want to get married: He doesn't want to marry me.

She doesn't have time for a man in her life: She put a three-hour cap on our phone conversations.

Personality Clash: I have a personality, she doesn't...

He has a bad temper: He was a little out of sorts after waiting two hours for her. No explanation given.

She's too "into" gashmius: She suggested I get a new car; just a few loose springs in the seat- no biggie...

We are looking for different things: He is looking for a young bride; she is looking for someone who was born in the same decade.

She's not cut out to be a kollel wife: What was the giveaway? The Gucci bag or the Manolo Blahnik pumps?


15. The waiter is more eloquent than your date.

14. The waiter has a better haircut than your date (spiked, gelled, and dyed lavender.)

13. The waiter is better dressed than your date.

12. The guy tries to forge a bond by calling her by her first name. Repeatedly. Too bad it is not Malky.

11. She says she just might be expecting a family emergency. Very possibly. Any minute now.

10. He goes to the bathroom and, moments later, his car is missing.

9. She tells him the appalling story of someone who had the nerve to hit her blue Honda at Shop-Rite last Friday and didn't even leave a note. He blanches and studies his fingernails with great intensity.

8. He asks for vodka in his milk shake.

7. She pops out her lens, swishes it in her mouth, and pops it back into her eye, pronouncing it "good as new."

6. He tries to pay for their meal at the five-star restaurant with coupons. They are expired. He won't take no for an answer.

5. She wishes he had worn a hat. He goes back to the car to get it. She sees it. She wishes he hadn't worn a hat.

4. The maitre d' sits down with them to try to stimulate conversation.

3. She closes her eyes and claps and sways to the background music.

2. He keeps a barf bag in his jacket pocket. Just in case.

1. She has no choice. The date must end. She goes to the ladies' room and pulls the fire alarm on the way out.

I hope that, armed with all of this important information, you will go out there and STOP THE SHIDDUCH CRISIS by getting engaged. As soon as possible. Hurry! My reputation is at stake.


I have to look over this list more closely and figure out which terms apply to me now...huzzah...!

Guide To Judaism

There are many paths in Judaism, and at first that seems confusing. In truth, however, it's not confusing at all. It works like so.

Everything begins with the heart. It begins with love and warmth. That is the start of all things. All seeds need light and water to grow. Aggadah before halakha. Spirit of the heart before the spirit of the mind, as R' Aaron would say. If people have pure intentions or yearn to do good or come close to their fellow men or God, that is exactly where they are supposed to be and where they should begin.

From here we progress to halakha. This is the mind. What begins in the heart becomes translated to the mind, and thereby, to proper action.

The different branches of Judaism (Chasidic, Litvish, etc) are just prioritizing for different people. Chasidim focus on beginnings. Thus, they focus on the heart. Litvaks are more concerned with the ending, the halakhic dedication to God and halakhic transformation and conquering of the world. Thus it makes sense that people may begin by being very, very attracted to the works of Chasiddus even though they have no other connection to Judaism and then may end up becoming very rationalistic, Maimonidean and Litvish. This is what happens (for some people) as they grow.

Aggada and the heart are the water, soil and light that nurture the seed. The beautiful flower bloom and the exquisite petals are those of halakha. But the plant will grow strong even without it.

Thus the conflicting stories that we hear. They are not conflicting at all; they are meant for different people at different stages. Does God desire the song of the flute when the boy played it for Him on Yom Kippur? Of course, yes. That's the aggada part- the beginning- the boy coming close to God. If the boy were to be taught more and knew better, would God desire him to keep halakha and not to play musical instruments on Yom Kippur? Also yes. Not contradictions, merely different stages for different individuals.

Some people claim aggada and halakha are exactly the same; there is no distinction at all. I disagree with them. If they think so, perhaps they were just lucky enough to be born to an understanding most don't immediately possess.

It all comes down to what kind of a person you are. Are you a person who works in beginnings or in endings? Or do you perhaps excel at both? The kind of people you should be teaching depend upon your allegiance and your strength. If you excel in beginnings and have the necessary love and appreciation rooted in Chasidic thought, you should teach little children or those beginning to come close to God. If you are a Litvak to the core and halakha is in your blood, you belong with the scholars and those who already know enough to appreciate your comments. The worst thing that can happen is for the super-halakhicist to teach a classroom of beginners; he will destroy them.

I prefer beginnings; that is why I belong with the children and the ones who are curious to begin. That is because I myself am always at beginnings. Other people are better at keeping halakha and respecting it than I am. That is not to say that I don't keep it; only that it is much more difficult for me. They are the ones who will teach the ones who have learned enough to progress to that level. Those who have the necessary foundation of love and warmth can progress to loving God's law and excel at all things halakhic. Those who have been burned by the law and hate it cannot be taught that way. Carlebach stated this when he discussed the "Israeli soldiers who ate not three but five times on Yom Kippur just to show you" but who was fascinated to know Judaism was comprised of more than just laws, rules and halakha. Carlebach offered to learn R' Kook with him and the soldier was thrilled.

That's because one touches the heart first and allows the soul and heart to come close to God. Then, if the individual desires it, they come close to God through the halakha. But this is why everyone in the world who is sincerely, honestly seeking is beautiful. Because no matter what they do and how halakhically incorrect it may be, it is the idea, intention and beginning behind it that God cares about. By touching the heart one opens the mind. Thus it is necessary to love all people and not to focus on their halakhic observance. Halakha is the ending...it comes with time. It's the people who matter, more than the halakhic correctness or lack thereof of their actions.

The most frustrating thing is when people persist in seeing this as being complicated. It is the simplest thing in the world. It's what R' Akiva espouses. Love everybody first- then teach them the laws. Love them, listen to them, hear them, touch them, and then they will want to come close to God and will discover the halakha and the ways they can approach Him. But we do not begin by teaching rules and regulations. The only thing that does is disgust people and leave them feeling estranged; they are all sinners and damned, or so they think. Just love people, really love them, and let them grow. They don't have to grow the way you want them to- it doesn't matter if they never keep kosher in their whole lives! They just have to be growing close to God. All of our service is different; God will judge us on our level. I plan on visiting many of my non-religious and non-Jewish friends in their castles in heaven, and I know they will be equal to if not higher than mine. That's the Midrash in Bereshit Rabbati- Ninus the Butcher & R' Joshua ben Ulam. (Alternatively, Shmuel the Butcher, who saved the captive woman.) The butcher and the sage were seated together...God only knows which fantastic people He'll seat us next to! Thus we must love everyone; it's only practical. The person I meet on the street tomorrow may end up being my eternal companion in Heaven. Thus, you're protecting your own self-interest in looking to love others. That's how I see it, anyway.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Friend!

Seal is my favorite artist. He's probably the only artist I would actually want to hear live in concert. In any case, I absolutely love his song 'Newborn Friend.' (Lyrics.)

Newborn Friend - Seal

I wash my faith in dirty water,
Cause it gives my mind a little order.
And I play that game, just like I should do.
But my whole world, slips away.
Ohh, I know the reason,
I'm not enough.
There's nothing more... But,
If I chant for happiness, maybe that will make me feel better.
I can't changes my ideals, I can't put out the fire.
I'll be your newborn friend and I'll...
Sing loud... Sing loud... Sing loud... my friend
Gonna sing louder sing loud sing loud my friend
To my friend my friend and I...
I'll sing love, sing loud, sing a little louder of my friend.
Ohh, my darlin friend my friend my friend

And then I love his song 'Amazing.' (Lyrics.)

The best part of that song is the verse: "I want you to always feel you're amazing."

Ah, my friend, my friend, even though you won't hear me, I hope you always feel you're amazing. And I think I shall do as Seal advises...chant for happiness because maybe that will make me feel better. And I'll sing of my friend whom I love so well, the friend with all my blessings.

Olly & Kurt: Barnes & Noble, Refrigerators and Romance Novels

For Rocket Man, the disguised roughneck


So I'm sitting in Barnes & Noble of Bayside, perched atop a black stepstool and reading a copy of Judith McNaught's Once and Always when two jean-clad legs come into view.

Looking up sweetly, I inquire, "I'm sorry, am I blocking you?"

The man is burly and gruff. He looks incredibly strong. In fact, I think he could kill me with an accidental sideswipe of one hand. He's wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans and has tattoos on his arms. But the thing that gets me is his face. He has a beautiful face. He's got white hair and incredibly kind eyes behind a pair of glasses. Despite the fact that his legs are the size of tree trunks, he strikes me as such a nice person.

He is looking through the romance novels. I am perplexed. I didn't know men read romance novels.

"No," he tells me. "You're not in my way at all." He smiles at me. "Whatcha reading?"

I show him. "Once and Always," he says aloud. I nod.

He continues browsing through. "School's out?" he inquires.

"Yup," I tell him brightly. "I just graduated."

"High school?" he questions, then looks at me and corrects himself. "College?"

"Yup," I say. "Little school in the middle of Manhattan."

He nods. "I've got a bad leg," he tells me. "Been laid up in bed for the past 10 days or so. Looking for stuff to read while I'm there."

Ah, I think. It all makes sense now. Of course he's reading romances. He wants mind-candy; he's been in bed, not able to walk on his leg for a week and a half. "What do you like?" I inquire and he shows me some of the books.

"Oh, I like science fiction or fantasy," he tells me and grins, "preferably with some love stuff in it."

I smile. This huge man is actually just a softie at heart. "I like historical romances," I tell him. "I really just read Judith McNaught."

"Aw, I just read one like that," he tells me and proceeds to describe a book I read as well (although I do not tell him that, because he's having fun telling me about it.) The book's title is A Knight in Shining Armor and it's by Jude Deveraux. It's a book in which this woman goes to a museum and there's time travel and this guy from the 1100s with Vikings shows up in a suit of shining armor and they fall in love and she goes back to live with him. But she makes him build her indoor plumbing and brings back Victoria's Secret underwear and suchlike, as this wonderful gentleman was keen to inform me. "She's wearing these long dresses," he tells me, demonstrating on himself by moving his hand down his jeans, "but Victoria's Secret underneath." He shakes his head, laughing.

I look demurely back at my book. He leans in a bit. "Let me tell you something," he says with sage wisdom. "Always use protection, and you take care of everything yourself. Guys will lie and lie and lie because guys only want one thing. I don't have to spell it out for you." His eyes radiate kindness; this advice is being given with only my good in mind. "Guys will lie and lie and lie to you so you don't trust any of them until you have a ring on your finger. And even then don't trust them! Never trust a man," he reiterates.

I nod. "I went to visit my grandmother," he tells me, "she was in her 90s already! And next door to her there was this real cute girl and I used to watch her going out and mowing the lawn and doing her laundry (I think he meant hanging up the clothes on the line.) So my grandmother says to me, says, I know what you want. So I froze up a bit and she says, I have eyes in my head! You know what you do in order to get her?"

The man leans in to me to tell me the punch line.

"You just lie and lie and lie to her. You tell her she's beautiful and that you love her and then you'll get what you want." He laughs out loud, a hearty laugh. "And it worked!"

While this is not exactly what I would do in his situation, I am enjoying his infectious humor. This man seems to love life; he is large and real and red blood runs through his veins. I like that. I like him.

"How did you hurt your leg?" I inquire.

"Oh, I work with heavy machinery," he says, "so I was standing against the wall and got caught and it got banged up pretty bad." He lifts up one of the legs of his jean pants so I can see. The skin looks like it had been mottled and now is a mass of pink healing flesh. "But it wasn't crushed. So the doc made me put it up for a while and put ice on it and junk like that, but now I'm supposed to walk on it."

"But will you still be able to do your job?" I question, concerned.

"Oh," he laughs. "I'm the guy who made the company! So it's my company, so I can definitely take off for a while." He winks at me surreptitiously. "My life is so screwed up right now..."

"Why?" I ask, fascinated.

"So I just found out this week that I have two brothers and a sister (Note: I might be getting the exact logistics of the family wrong.)"

"What?" I exclaim. "How could you just find out?"

"Well, see, after World War II, everything was messed up in Germany. People displaced, and whatnot. So my mother and my father made love, and she got pregnant 'cept she didn't know she was pregnant. So it took her three years to track him down. By that time, he was engaged to be married and she had a boyfriend. So eventually, we emigrated to America and he emigrated to Canada. Now, I went and joined the Service, back when Vietnam was happening..."

"You were in Vietnam?" I ask, my eyes wide.

"No. I was lucky."

"But you got all trained up and everything," I say.

"Yup. Anyway, I was on leave once and I come to the house and I'm looking through a drawer for something else and I find this letter from my father to my mother. And I was pretty pissed that he knew all about me but refused to acknowledge me. See, I had only met him the one time, when I was four. So I wrote him this letter and he had moved but eventually it got to him so you see, I knew that I had two brothers and a sister. But they didn't know that I existed."

At just that moment, my phone rang. RaggedyMom, who is beyond fantastic, had come to pick me up. I rose and extended my hand. "Olivia," I said. "I'm so sorry I didn't get to hear the rest of the story!"

"Kurt," he said, and shook my hand, enveloping it in one of his huge hands. And then, very tenderly, and very surprisingly, he raised my hand to his lips and kissed it, exactly as the most cultured gentleman would.

The gesture touched me. I paused. He continued, "Anyway, so my father was on his deathbed and he told my brothers and sister that he had another child and I was their brother. And he told them not to get in touch with me. But they got right on the Internet and found me and got in touch with me. They called and my wife- I had told my wife I knew about them- picked up the phone and she knew who they were so she put them in touch with me. And then," he continued wonderingly, as though in awe, "I checked online and saw there was all this stuff about me! I never knew there was so much stuff. Anyway, I'm going to meet my brother this week."

"Wow!" I exclaimed. "Good luck with that meeting!" Can you imagine not seeing your brother for forty or fifty years and meeting him for the first time? "I really hope it goes well!" I continued happily.

"Yeah, me too," he smiled.

"And I hope you feel better and your leg gets better," I say. "Say, what's the name of your company?"

"Oh, it's Fire Ice Mechanical," he says, giving me a card. Only when I get home do I realize he's a huge contractor and mogul in the refrigeration business and won Contractor of the Year in Contracting Business magazine.

My God, I think to myself. This man is amazing. He's self-made, a huge contractor, works with heavy machinery, his leg is hurting him and despite all that he took the time out of his day to tell me the facts of life as he sees them, warn me away from guys, and then confide his life story in me. Not to mention the fact that he's really soft at heart. And that he kissed my hand, just as though I were a royal maiden out of a romance novel.

In short, people are beautiful, and Kurt, I am honored to have met you.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Could Not Bear The Music That Made The Memory Such A Killing Thing

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!

There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim!
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face I say,
“There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!

The Girl With The Heart of a Star

The little girl looked up at her with wide open eyes.

"Give me a kiss, darling," the Queen said carelessly, shrugging her shoulders. Her long black curls fell across her back, tangled together in wild ecstasy.

The child leaned forward, pursed her lips, and kissed the Queen full on the lips. The Queen laughed mirthlessly and smiled, enjoying the taste of the little girl's innocence.

"Oh," said the little girl, "why do I feel so queer?" Her head spun; she reached out a hand as though to brace herself before falling to the ground. The Queen recoiled as the child's hand touched her white gown; it was as though the innocent had scorched her flesh.

"Because," stated the Queen cruelly, "I have given you a piece of myself."

The girl flailed her arms and fell, kicking her feet against the ground, her eyes rolling back in her head. The Queen looked down at the ground, but it did not seem as though she saw the child. In fact, it did not seem like she saw anything at all. Her mind swam with images, but they were pictures of a forgotten time. A little girl with black hair and curious blue eyes fell on the ground and writhed. It was she.

A single tear fell from the Queen's eye. It slipped through the little girl's clothing and made its way to her heart where it froze into the shape of a star. Her heart was pierced through.

The little girl rose from the ground and faced the Queen.

"I am sorry for you," she said softly. "So sorry. You are so unhappy."

The Queen's face reddened, and taking a step forward, she slapped the girl across the cheek.

Still, the girl remained standing upright. The Queen rained blow after blow down upon the child's head until she had been beaten black and blue.

"Please," the child insisted, "let me take your pain away."

And then the tears fell, cool, soothing tears and with them the years seemed to pass until finally a little girl with black hair and blue eyes stood before a tall woman robed in white. The light shone on a star embedded within the woman's heart.

"Who am I?" questioned the little girl.

"You are me," stated the woman in white. "I gave you my life."

And then, taking up her robes, she walked away, leaving the little girl confused by the strange feeling blossoming within her breast. She had never before known what it was to be happy.

Shema Podcast (Venture Into The Realm of Awesome)

The Rabbi of my shul, Rabbi Gershon Schaffel, decided to create a fantastic program which I think everyone could vastly benefit from. Since there are 21 days in this month, he has decided to study the 21 pesukim of Shema through a podcast. Each podcast will take A MERE FIVE MINUTES. Everyone can spare five minutes a day for Torah! The way the podcast is structured is like so: First, my father reads the pasuk with correct Ashkenazi pronounciation, then R' Schaffel speaks about the pasuk, then Steve Goldfarb reads the pasuk with correct Sephardi pronounciation.

I am going to link the podcast episodes here, and, if possible, write down what R' Schaffel said so that we can all learn together. As usual, any and all mistakes are mine.

This will be linked on my sidebar for easy access.

1. Day 1

The simple translation of the pasuk is 'Hear O' Israel, Hashem is Our God. Hashem is One.' Let us now endeavor to try and understand the deeper meaning of this pasuk. The term 'Shema' doesn't merely refer to the act of hearing. The term also includes an understanding of the concepts that are presented. R' Shimon Schwab in his commentary to the siddur takes it one step further and explains that it is not sufficient for a person to hear and understand the message of Shema, but one must make sure that the upcoming message is never forgotten. The declaration of Hashem's unity is preceded with the phrase 'Shema Yisrael.' R' Yehuda Leib Chasman wonders why it is necessary to address the Jewish nation as an introduction to Shema. Seemingly, emunah in Hashem is a personal matter! It has nothing to do with the rest of the nation. He answers by noting that the Torah was given to the nation, not to the individual. This means that every member of Kelal Yisrael is responsible for every other member's belief in Hashem! Therefore, emunah's not the personal matter as we initially thought; it is one that is important to the entire nation, a collective responsibility. As an expression of that understanding, we preface our statement of belief with a call to the entire nation of Israel.

'Hashem Elokeinu.' The term 'Elokim' always refers to Hashem as the one who is in control of the world and nature. The nations of the world have an angel that is directly responsible to oversee their wellbeing. The phrase 'Hashem Elokeinu,' 'Hashem, Our God,' explains the Netziv, indicates that unlikes other nations, Hashem Our God is the one who personally oversees the wellbeing of Kelal Yisrael and does not assign an angel for that task. The Sifri looks at the phrase 'Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad' and finds a redundancy. Why is the phrase 'Hashem Elokeinu' necessary if we are going to declare 'Hashem Echad?' The Medrish answers that His name is called on us more than the other nations. R' Moshe Nezhara offers two beautiful explanations on the intent of this Medrish. He explains that although Divine Providence reaches the other nations, as expressed with the phrase 'Hashem Echad,' 'Hashem is One,' nonetheless Divine Providence reaches Bnei Yisrael in a more concentrated, direct fashion. And that is the additional emphasis of the phrase Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem is our God. Alternatively, although 'Bayom Hahu,' on that day in the future when Mashiach comes, all the nations will recognize Hashem Echad, Hashem is One, in the present it is only Bnei Yisrael who recognizes His authority and His dominion and thus we emphasize Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem is our God today, even though in the future it will be Hashem Echad and Hashem's unity will be universally recognized.

R' Yisrael Salanter is famous for reminding people that when they declare 'Hashem Echad,' 'Hashem is One,' and they meditate on the fact that Hashem's unity encompasses the entire universe, including the seven heavens and the four corners of the world, they should not overlook declaring Hashem's unity over the most important part of the universe- themselves. The gematria, numerical value, of the word 'echad,' alef, ches, daled, is 13. Rabbeinu Bachya points out in Parsha Breishis the term 'gan' for garden appears 13 times and similarly in Parshas Ve'eschanan, in the description of Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah, the word 'eish' also appears 13 times. This teaches us that one who has proper intent in declaring Hashem's unity will be saved from the fire of Gehennim and will merit the 13 levels of Gan Eden. Lastly, the ayin of the word Shema and the daled of the word Echad are written with larger letters. Those letters spell the word 'eid,' witness, to indicate that we are to be witnesses to the two principles expressed in the pasuk, 1) Hashem's unity and 2) His unique and close relationship with Bnei Yisrael.

2. Day 2

The simple translation of today's phrase is 'Blessed is the name of His honorable kingdom for all eternity.' Let us delve deeper into the meaning of this phrase. The word 'sheim' as in the phrase 'blessed is the name' is the way in which we capture something in a word. The Biblical name of anything is a spiritual description of that item. The term malchus, kingdom, refers to the way in which Hashem's kingdom is perceived. If the presence of the kingdom is not felt in the land, it is worthless. The strength and power of a kingdom is measured by the degree it is felt by the citizens of the land. Thus, the meaning of the phrase is 'Blessed is the name,' meaning we bless our perception of Hashem, of His honorable kingdom, referring to the closeness we feel to His kingdom, for all eternity.

This phrase is not a pasuk in Tanakh. And the Avudraham quotes two different accounts in Chazal for the origin of this declaration. According to the Medrish, when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to the Heavens, he heard the angels recite this praise of Hashem and he stole it from them and taught it to Bnei Yisrael. Since it was stolen, he instructed them not to recite the declaration out loud so as to not draw attention to the stolen phrase. This is why, throughout the year, when we recite Kriyas Shema, we say the phrase 'Baruch Shem Kevod' quietly. On Yom Kippur however, we make the declaration out loud since on that day we are like Melachim, like the angels themselves. The second account of this phrase is found in the Gemara in Pesachim. The Gemara relates that when Yaakov was on his deathbed he wanted to share with his children what would happen to them at the End of Days. At that precise moment, the Shechina, the Divine Presence, left him and he was suspicious that this was an indication that one of his children would not remain loyal to Hashem. When he verbalized this concern to his children, the twelve tribes, they put his mind at ease by making the declaration: Shema Yisrael, Hear, our father Israel, Hashem Echad, Hashem is our God and he is One and we are going to remain as loyal to Hashem as you were throughout your lifetime. As an expression of apprecation to Hashem that his children would remain loyal, Yaakov made the declaration 'Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuso L'Olam Va'ed' - blessed is the name of his honorable kingdom for all eternity.

R' Chaim Soloveitchik is quoted as citing the pasuk 'ki shem hashem ekra, havu godel elokeinu'- 'when I call Hashem's name, ascribe greatness to Hashem,' as the reason to say Baruch Shem Kevod after the pasuk of Shema. Meaning, after they make the declaration and call his name with the phrase 'Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad,' 'Hashem is Our God, Hashem is One,' at that moment, we have the obligation to ascribe greatness to His name and we do that with the declaration 'Baruch Shem Kvod.' Accordingly, the explanation offered by the Gemara in Pesachim regarding the origin of this pasuk is really addressing a different question than where the pasuk came from. What the Gemara is answering is why the phrase 'Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuso' appears immediately after Shema rather than putting it at the end of the paragraph 'V'ahavta.' That, the Gemara says, is the connection between Shema and Baruch Sheim. I think the significance of this can be explained in light of a comment by R' Shimshon David Pincus. He discusses the clarity of truth that a person achieves when he contemplates the words of Shema. When the impact of those concepts becomes clear, we are overwhelmed by the fact that the rest of the world has not yet been privileged to see these truths. Therefore we daven 'Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuso' for all of the other nations to also achieve a clarity of belief in Hashem, recognizing His Malchus, His Kingdom, l'olam va'ed, for all of eternity. In this regard, the declaration of 'Baruch Shem Kevod' is more dear than even the declaration 'Shema Yisrael.' Shema Yisrael is a declaration of absolute truth of Hashem's existence but that is not the intended goal of Keriyas Shema. The intent is that we should incorporate these principles into our lives. R' Pincus compares this to a parent who asks his/her child for a cup of water and the child prepares a cup of tea. With this action, the child demonstrates the love he/she has for the parent. So too, our obligation is only to recite Shema Yisrael. But the extra declaration of Baruch Shem is something that we become inspired to do on our own, and that is why it is so precious to Hashem.

3. Day 3

Simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should love Hashem, Your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all of your posessions. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. Rashi explains that the command of the pasuk, V'ahavta, and you should love, means and you should perform mitzvos lovingly. The Gemara in Yuma writes that the pasuk instructs us to behave in a way that leads people to love Hashem. We are to be so honest, so just and so upright in our behavior that people will wonder our motivation for behaving in such an honest fashion. And when they find out that it is the instruction and guidelines of the Torah, this will lead them to also become ones who love Hashem. Many commentators wonder how the Torah could command us to feel the emotion of love to Hashem. Either I love Hashem, or I don't! But the command seems to be completely out of place. The Sfas Emes responds that the question is itself the answer. The Torah is informing us that the nature of a Jew is to love Hashem just as a child naturally loves a parent. It's true that there are times when this is difficult and that love might be buried deep beneath the surface, but it is always there and it is our job to figure out how to uncover and feel that love. In response to the same question, R' Akiva Eiger suggests that the answer is found in the bracha in Shema. That bracha concludes with the words 'ha-bocher b'amo Yisrael b'ahava.' Hashem who chose His nation of Israel with love. When a Jew realizes that Hashem loves him, it is only natural to love Hashem back. Like the pasuk says, 'K'mayim panim el panim, kein leiv ha'Adam.' Just like water reflects a person's image, so too a person's heart reflects the love that s/he is shown. This love, the Torah says, must be b'chol levavcha- with all your heart. The gemara in Brachos explains this to refer to "shnei yitzrecha"- both inclinations. The good inclination, the yetzer hatov and the bad inclination, the yetzer hara. Talmidim of Rabbeinu Yonah explain that the yetzer hatov relates to the performance of mitzvos whereas the yetzer ha'ra refers to overcoming the urge to sin. Employing both traits is the ideal. R' Yisrael Salanter elaborates on this and explains that one who serves Hashem with the yetzer ha-tov may still possess character traits that require attention and improvement. At this level, one uses his intellect and broad perspective of life to refrain from acting out those sinful impulses. Loving Hashem with one's yetzer ha-ra is a higher level where one is capable of redirecting and channelling the negative traits into positive ones that serve to further enhance one's service of Hashem. The pasuk further explains that one's love of Hashem must also be b'chol nafshecha u'bchol m'odecha: with all one's soul and with all one's resources. The gemara in Brachos explains that b'chol nafshecha obligates a person to be willing to give up their life out of love of Hashem. This reminds us of the story in Chazal of Rabbi Akiva, who at the moment that he was being tortured to death was seen by his students accepting upon himself Hashem's kingdom. His students were aghast. !Even now, at your moment of death?" In a great of display of calm and presence of mind, in the midst of the horror of his own death, he replied that this was what I always thought about when I recited this pasuk- a willingness to even give up my life out of love of Hashem. And now, I shouldn't fulfill it?

B'chol meodecha, the Gemara says, refers to the necessity to give up one's posessions in service of Hashem. Maharal points out that the Torah expects us to display our love of Hashem in 3 ways-

1. B'chol levavcha: With our bodies
2. B'chol nafshecha: With our souls
3. B'chol meodecha: With all of our posessions

encompassing our entire being.

4. Day 4

The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And these matters which I command you today should be on your heart. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. Rashi quotes the Midrash which connects this pasuk to the previous pasuk which says 'V'ahavta es Hashem elokecha,' and you should love Hashem your God. How does a person develop ahavas Hashem, love of Hashem? The answer, the Midrash says, is today's pasuk: vehayu ha'devarim ha'eila. When we take Hashem's Torah and put it into our hearts, we develop a love of Hashem.

R' Chaim HaKadosh explains: That love is not something that one could force another to feel or sense. Therefore, one who does not yet feel love of Hashem or someone who seeks to deepen and strengthen their love of Hashem has but one thing to do. Vehayu ha'devarim ha'eilah: pursue the study of Torah. Allow the words of Torah to penetrate your heart and that will lead to ahavas Hashem, love of Hashem.

R' Elazar from Kozhnitz points out an interesting choice of words in the pasuk. The pasuk says that the words of Hashem should be 'al levavecha' which literally means 'on your heart.' Contrast this with the pasuk we say in Aleinu- 'v'yadata hayom v'ha'shevoisa el levavecha'- 'you should know today and take to your heart.' El Levavecha, the pasuk from Aleinu, sounds like something taken into your heart, whereas al levavecha sounds as though the message is to remain superficial- on the heart but not to enter into the heart! R' Elazar from Kozhnitz answers that there are difficult times in our lives where we are incapable of transferring spiritual, ethereal concepts into our hearts. That does not mean that our attempts to put things into our hearts is gone; during difficult times, we can put things on to our hearts. When the time comes for Hashem's mercy to open our hearts, all the Torah that has been waiting on the outside will finally be able to penetrate and have its desired effect.

The Alshich connects today's pasuk to the next pasuk which states 'V'shinantam l'vanecha,' and you should teach them to your children. Every Jewish parent dreams that their children should be connected to and have a love of Torah. The question we ask is: how do we succeed at teaching our children this lesson? The Torah itself tells us 'v'hayu hadevarim ha'eila'-take the words of Torah and place them on your heart. Once you, the parent, have succeeded in putting a love of Torah into your own heart, you are then prepared for 'v'shinantem l'vanecha,' teaching them to your children.

R' Shimon Schwab in his commentary to the Siddur emphasized the simple meaning of this pasuk. V'hayu ha'devarim ha'eila- take these words, the words of Torah- that I, Hashem, or that Hashem, b'chvodo v'atzmo, that Hashem personally, with all of His honor and glory, commands to you. The word is not in the plural speaking to the nation. It is in the singular form- metzvecha to emphasize that Hashem addresses each and every one of us personally hayom- today. Each and every day Hashem addresses us directly and gives us the message of loving Hashem and studying His Torah. R' Schwab goes on to relate the conversation he had with someone who was not Orthodox who claimed he had followed the tradition of Judaism the same as those who are Orthodox. R' Schwab gave an astounding response. He told his friend that he does not do mitzvos because his ancestors performed the mitzvos. "It's true," R' Schwab said, "that I take great pride in the fact that my ancestors going back to Har Sinai fulfilled the Torah but that is not the reason why I fulfill mitzvos. The reason why I fulfill mitzvos," R' Schwab taught his astonished friends, "is because Hashem commanded me personally today to observe the Torah." That is the significance of the phrase, 'asher anochi metzavecha hayom' - that which I command today.

5. Day 5

The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should teach them, referring to the Torah, diligently to your children. And you should speak of them while you sit in your house, and as you walk on the way, and as you lay down and as you rise. Let us now delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk.

The phrase 'v'shinantem l'vanecha,' and you should teach them diligently to your children, the gemara in Kiddushin explains, means that the words of Torah should be sharp in one's mouth. Meaning, one should be fluent in the words of Torah that one studies. The etymology of the word is from the word 'shana' which means repetition. The word is also used to refer to the sharpness of an arrow or a knife. These are not two separate explanations; rather, an arrow or knife is sharpened by the repeated action of rubbing an arrow on a whetstone. Similarly, fluency in Torah is achieved when one reviews the material many times. Review of one's Torah studies has a second benefit, namely, it allows the words, ideas and inspiration to remain fresh in one's mind rather than become faint and fall into the unconscious part of one's mind. The gemara in Yuma presents two explanations of the phrase v'dibarta bam, and you should speak in them. One explanation is: bam yesh lecha reshus l'daber v'lo b'torah acheirim. One has permission to speak in Torah but not in other matters. This strict interpretation indicates that one may not talk about matters that are not Torah-related. The second explanation of the phrase is 'asei osam teva v'al ta'asei osam arai.' Make them fixed and primary in your life rather than a temporary, secondary activity or a mere hobby. This implies that other conversations are permitted but one must be certain that the Torah conversations are primary. Is it permitted to discuss other matters or not? The Sefer Maalos HaTorah answers that both are correct and it depends on one's activity. While studying Torah, one should strive to fulfill the first interpretation, to limit oneself to only Torah conversation. This is similar to the mishna in Pirkei Avos that criticizes one who interrupts his learning to comment on a beautiful tree. The second interpretation applies when one is involved in other activities. B'shivtecha b'veisecha u'velechtecha baderech u'bshantecha u'vkumecha. When one is sitting in their home, walking on their way, going down to sleep or rising in the morning, even when one is engaged in other activities, one must mantain the perspective that Torah is still primary.

The Vilna Gaon is cited as noting that the word 'bam' of the phrase 'vedibarta bam' is written with a beis in the mem. The beis alludes to Torah She'Bksav, the Written Torah, which begins with the letter Beis - the phrase 'Bereishis Barah.' The mem refers to the Oral Law, Torah She'Baal Peh, which begins with the letter mem in the first mishna in Shaas- me'amaisai karim l'shma? The phrase u'vishevtecha b'veisecha u'velechtecha baderech, when you sit in your house and walk on your way, represents the obligation to study Torah in the two extreme circumstances. Sitting in one's house represents a place of serenity, removed from the business of the world. Traveling on the way is when one is besieged with distractions. Both circumstances can lead a person away from the study of Torah. Therefore, the Torah emphasizes the necessity to study even in those circumstances and obviously at every point in between. Some of the Baalei Mussar, Teachers of Ethics, write that the word 'b'veisecha' -in your house, does not refer to the physical structure of one's house, the bricks and mortar; rather, it refers to the way one runs his/her household. A person should strive to include Torah in all of one's regular and mundane activities. Finally, the words b'shachbecha u'vekumecha, when you lay down and when you rise, also represent the obligation to study at two ends of the spectrum. When a person lays down to go to sleep, s/he is tired and weary from a long, exhausting day. When a person rises, s/he is filled with energy and excitement for the new day. In both circumstances, in both conditions, one must think about and discuss Torah-related matters.

6. Day 6

The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should bind them on your hands and they should be 'totafos' between your eyes. The term 'totafos' is a word that refers to Tefillin but is difficult to translate. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk.

The Alshich explains that the paragraph of V'ahavta has already emphasized the importance of thinking about and speaking words of Torah, and in this pasuk there is an additional emphasis on the importance of maaseh, action. The verb of the pasuk, 'u'keshartem,' and you should bind them, is a symbolic act of putting theory into practice. In this regard, the mitzvah of Tefillin is a model that reminds us of our obligation to take all the Torah that we study and translate it into our behavior. One reason Tefilin is placed on the arm and between the eyes is explained by R' Menachem ben Aaron ben Zaruch, a fourteenth-century scholar, who lived in France and Spain. In his work on the siddur, called Tzeida L'Derech, he explains that Tefillin are placed on the arm because the hand represents a person's actions. The command of Tefillin is that we should place a reminder of Yetzias Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt, on our hand to be reminded that all one's activities should be l'sheim Shamayim, for the sake of heaven. The second part of one's Tefillin are placed on the head between the eyes to serve as a reminder that one must be careful not to follow all that glitters is gold and be led to sin by one's eyes. He also mentions that the Tefillin on the arm which are near the heart and on one's head, which are near the eyes, represent the two sources of sin. The Tefillin on the arm are placed near the heart to serve to protect from sins related to emunah, belief in Hashem, which is housed in one heart. The Tefillin worn near one's eyes represent the sins that involve some sort of physical pleasure and the combination of the two is to protect us from all categories of sin.

The Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Monsey makes an interesting observation concerning the order of the pasuk. Regarding the Tefillin that one wears on one's head, we are told: V'ro kol amei ha'aretz ki shem Hashem nikra alecha. And the nations of the land will see that Hashem's name is called upon you. Regarding Tefillin worn on the hand, we are taught that it serves to subjugate our physical desires. The fact that the Torah instructs us regarding the hand Tefillin before the head Tefillin teaches that before we go out to improve, elevate and uplift the nations of the world as a light unto the nations, we must first become masters over ourselves. Furthermore, one who tries to reverse the order is certainly doomed to failure.

The word 'Totafos' as mentioned, is difficult to explain. Some commentators understand it to be related to the word 'netifos' found in Sefer Yeshayahu which refers to a type of adornment. In other words, Tefillin are a badge of distinction in addition to serving as an 'os,' reminder of the earlier-mentioned concepts as a tangible sign of the connection between the Jewish people and Hashem. This idea that Tefillin binds us and establishes a connection between us and Hashem explains the halakhic requirement to have a clean body when wearing Tefillin which does not apply to the same degree by other mitzvos. Since Tefillin have the unique capacity to bind us to Hashem, we are held to a higher standard. It is specifically the bind between us and Hashem represented by the Tefillin that the other nations will notice and cause them to realize that Hashem's name is called upon us.

7. Day 7

The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should write them on the doorposts of your house and of your gates. This is the mitzvah to write the first two paragraphs of Shema onto parchment and affix them to one's doorpost. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk.

The simple thought behind the mitzvah of Mezuzah is offered by the commentary to the siddur Tzeida L'Derech where he writes the purpose of the mitzvah is to remind the person, when he leaves and when he returns of 1) the yoke of Heaven as expressed in the first paragraph of Shema and 2) the yoke of mitzvos as expressed in the second paragraph of Shema. Another thought related to Mezuza is found in the Alshich. He observes that when a person is alone it is more difficult for that person to succeed over his yetzer hara and resist the temptations that come his/her way. This was the concern of R' Yochanan ben Zakkai, who when asked by his students to bless them, said, "Yehi ratzon she'tihiyeh moreh yiras shamayim aleichem k'mayim basar v'dam." May it be the will of Hashem that your fear of Heaven should be like your fear of mankind. When asked by his students to elaborate, he explained that when people sin their concern is that a friend or perhaps a loved one will see them and do they not express concern that Hashem will see them. Therefore, R' Yochanan ben Zakkai blessed his students to fear heaven to the same degree that they fear their fellow man. Out of concern for this tendency, Hashem commanded us to put a mezuzah on our doorposts so that when we go in and out, but primarily derech biascha- when we go in- we should remain cognizant of the fact that we are not alone and that awareness can serve to protect us from the temptation of sin.

In the commentary Iyun Tefilah, found in the Otzer HaTefilos siddur, he writes that the mezuzah is a siman, a reminder that all of a person's posessions are Hashem's and it is out of His kindness that He shares them with us. Moreover, like food, it is prohibited to benefit from Hashem's property without first giving thanks to Hashem. The reason the reminder is affixed to a person's home is because one's real estate is the most enduring of a person's possessions and this best serves as the vehicle of this reminder. He also emphasizes that a person should not mistakenly believe that the purpose of the mezuzah is to protect one's home from harmful spirits. He describes this belief as a 'ta'us gedolah,' a great error. The mezuzah is not an amulet of sorts that has supernatural powers. It is one of the mitzvos of Hashem, whose purpose is to remind the person that he should be cautious of committing a sin. It is not a homeowner's insurance policy to protect one's home from harm. Although it is true that the mezuzah does protect one's home, it does so not due to something special about this particular mitzvah, but rather it has the same power as any other mitzvah which protects those who fulfill that mitzvah from harm.

As we conclude now the first parsha of Shema, it is important to point out that many commentators take note that the first paragraph of Shema, which begins with the pasuk of Shema and V'ahavta is written in the singular form whereas the second paragraph of Shema that we begin to study tomorrow, im yirtzeh Hashem, begins with the words v'haya im tishmoa yishmeu begins in the plural form. The reason for this is that the first parsha addresses a person's belief in Hashem and those beliefs reside in a person's heart. Consequently, just as it is known that there are no two people that look exactly the same, so too it is impossible to find two people who have exactly the same views, perspectives and thoughts. Therefore, the first parsha of Shema is written in the singular form so that it could speak to each person according to his level of understanding, belief and emotional connection to Hashem.

8. Day 8

The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And it shall be, if you listen to the mitzvos that I command you today, to love your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk.

The term 'vehaya,' explains the Sefas Emes, always connotes simcha, or joy. Accordingly, in our pasuk, the meaning is that in proportion to the amount of simcha one has in fulfilling a mitzvah, the degree one merits to understand the depth of that mitzva. The phrase 'im shamoa tishmeu l'mitzvosei' is a curious phrase. The emphasis is not on the performance of mitzvos but on hearing the mitzvos. A person does not have control over circumstances and whether the mitzvos will be fulfilled but a person does have control over the ability to listen well. The double expression 'shamoa tishmeu' stresses the importance of hearing and understanding the mitzvah as well. Some commentators take note of the choice of term 'anochi' rather than 'ani.' They explain that the term 'anochi' is a stronger term and it is reminiscent of the most famous 'anochi' of all, that of 'Anochi Hashem Elokecha,' the word that begins the Aseres HaDibros. The pasuk teaches that the purpose in doing mitzvos is: l'ahava es hashem elokeichem, to love Hashem your God and u'lavdo, to serve Him. This expresses two different dimensions of the relationship with Hashem. One dimension is a love we are to have for Hashem. The love that we refer to is love that emanates from our appreciation of the relationship we have with him as Hashem Elokeichem, Hashem Your God. The second dimension of the relationship is that we are slaves to Hashem, obligated to serve Him as expressed in the phrase u'lavdo b'kol levavechem u'vchol nafshechem. This dimension instills in us a humility, a necessary trait to speak to Hashem in prayer. Many commentators wonder what this pasuk which instructs us to love Hashem adds that it did not know from the previous paragraph, which also instructs, 'v'ahavta es Hashem elokecha,' and you should love Hashem, Your God. Based on the gemara in Taanis, R' Chaim Volozhin explains that the previous paragraph of Shema emphasizes love of Hashem in genearl whereas our paragraph emphasizes specifically avodah she'beleiv, service of the heart, which is Tefillah. This leads to an interesting observation from R' Shimon Schwab. The concept of davening is not just avodah she'beleiv is relatively familiar. What is the meaning of the continuation of the pasuk that demands service of Hashem b'kol nafshechem, all of our souls? He answers that there are in fact two types of prayer: 1) Tefilla B'Leiv- Prayer in one's heart and 2) Tefilla B'Nefesh, prayer with one's soul. What is the difference between these two types of prayer? Tefilla B'Leiv, prayer of the heart, refers to those types of prayers that look to our physical or spiritual needs. These are the types of requests found in the middle section of Shemonah Esrei. The second type of prayer, Tefilla B'Nefesh, prayer of the soul. In this category we do not daven for our needs but for Hashem. We yearn that the desecration of Hashem's name that exists should cease, that His name should be glorified and sanctified. It is called Tefilla B'Nefesh since we put aside our needs and focus on Hashem's interests.

The last point related to this idea is that our pasuk, addressing specifically prayer, is written in the plural as opposed to the previous paragraph written in the singular. The reason is that when it comes to prayer, it is important for us to realize that we do not have the merit to stand before Hashem and place before Him our requests. If Avraham Avinu was afer v'efer, nothing more than dirt and ashes, certainly we are even lower. The merit that we have to stand before him is to invoke the power of Tzibur. As a member of the Tzibur, one does not have to rely on his/ her merit but has the support of the whole entire Tzibur.

9. Day 9

The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And I shall give the rain of your land in its time, the early yoreh rain and the later malkosh rain; you should gather your grain, your wine and your oil. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk.

Commentators note that the pasuk does not say 'v'nasati metar' and I will give rain- and stop- rather, it says, 'v'nasati metar artzechem'- and I will give the rain of your land. Your land obviously refers to Eretz Yisrael. Interestingly, the pasuk before this paragraph states, 'aretz asher Hashem elokecha doresh osa tamid, m'Hashem elokecha ba'- the land which Hashem your God always seeks; the eyes of Hashem your God are always upon it. This emphasizes that rainfall upon Eretz Yisrael is not the result of nature; it is a result of divine decree as befitting the holy land. This principle is further accentuated when the pasuk goes on to say 'b'ito yoreh u'malkosh,' in its time the early yoreh rain and the later malkosh rain. The emphasis that the rain will fall in its time indicates that the rain won't fall randomly, as it does in other places; rather, it will fall at appropriate times. This means, according to Chazal, that the rain will fall at night rather than during the day, it will be disruptive to daily life. Furthermore, the needs of the ground at the beginning of the rainy season is different from the needs of the ground at the end of the rainy season, into the spring. The pasuk is telling us when we do the mitzvos, each rainfall will be appropriate and beneficial to its time.

We mentioned yesterday that the paragraph of 'v'haya im shamoa' is in the plural addressing the nation. What's interesting is that in today's pasuk the Torah switches from plural to singular. The pasuk begins with the phrase, 'v'nasati metar artzechen,' and I shall give the rain of your land- the term artzechem, your land- is in the plural. It then continues to state 'v'asafta degancha tiroshecha' - and you shall gather your grain, your wine and your oil. All the words in this phrase are singular. Furthermore, in the other pesukim, the paragraph returns to plural. Why? Alshich suggests that the Torah does its wording carefully to convey important principles. When addressing the issue of hearing about the mitzvos and its fulfillment, the Torah uses plural language based on the principle 'b'rov am hadrus melech,' in the multitudes of the nation is the glory of the King. When discussing the reward in store for those who listen to the mitzvos, the Torah utilizes the singular form because individuals do not receive the same reward. Each individual is reward l'fum tzara agra, in proportion to the effort and difficulty that he/she faced when doing a mitzvah and although the pasuk says 'v'nasati metar artzechem,' and I will give the rain of your land (in the plural), nonetheless, the same rain will be more beneficial for some and less beneficial for others. Therefore, the pasuk says, 'v'asafta deganecha,' and you will gather your grain to highlight the fact that whatever each individual gathers from his field is a portion designated for him by divine decree.

The philosophical difficulty with this pasuk is that the gemara in Kiddushin states, 'sechar mitzvah v'hay alma lekin,'- there is no reward for mitzvos in this world. The reward for mitzvos is infinite. It is not possible to give an infinite reward in this finite world. How then are we supposed to understand our pasuk that promises rain for the performance of mitzvos? Rambam answers that the promise of reward in our pasuk does not represent the infinite reward for mitzvos; rather it is a reward that is given as encouragement to the individual to continue in his avodas Hashem. This is also the meaning of the mishna in Pirkei Avos that states 'mitzvah goreres mitzvah'- one mitzvah leads to another, and 'sechar mitzvah, mitzvah,' the reward for one mitzvah is another. Success serves to faciliate the individual's progress in service of Hashem.

10. Day 10

The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And I shall give grass in your field for your animals and you shall eat and be satisfied. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. The pasuk doesn't merely assure that when compliant with the Torah we will be blessed to su ch a degree that 'venasati eisev,' we will have an abundance of grass to share with our animals. Rather, the pasuk also promises that 'venasati eisev b'sadecha' - the grass will be available in your field. Rashi explains that the blessing that there will be unecessary to go into the wilderness to obtain food for one's animals; it will be available nearby in your very own field.

The next word of the pasuk, livhemtecha, to your animals, adds an additional dimension to the bracha. The grass that Hashem promises to provide will be designated exclusively for your animals. And other animals, whether wild or owned by others, will not come to pasture on your property and take away the food that is designated for your animals.

The words 'v'achalta v'savata'- and you shall eat and be satisfied- also emphasizes another aspect of the bracha Hashem is promising for devout commitment to Torah. The words indicate that as soon as one eats, he'll be satisfied meaning the food will be endowed with the special capacity to make a person full so it's unecessary to eat in excess. Commentators note that this last phrase of the pasuk is seemingly out of order. In the previous pasuk, the Torah promised us the brachos of rain that will bring an abundance of grain, wine and oil. The end of that pasuk should have concluded with the words 'v'achalta v'savata'- you will eat and be satisfied. Instead, the Torah interrupts the discussion of the blessing that provides for our abundance and tells us of the blessing that provides for our animals. Why does the Torah present these thoughts in this fashion?

One explanation is offered in the Eitz Yosef commentary to the Otzer HaTefilos siddur. He suggests that both pesukim are focused on the bracha that is coming to Bnei Yisrael. The reason the pasuk mentions animals is because animals play an integral part in the production of grain, wine and oil. There are many steps in the agricultural process that rely heavily upon the strength of animals. therefore, the Torah tells us that since it is necessary to have healthy, well-fed animals to do all of that difficult work, Hashem will provide plentiful supply of grass for the an imals so that they can assist in making the field productive. When Chazal looked at the unusual presentation of concepts, they saw a hint to the halakha that requires a person to feed his animals before feeding himself.

An interesting contrast between this pasuk and the previous pasuk is that in our pasuk, the emphasis is that Hashem is the one who puts the grass in the field for the animals. 'Venasati eisev b'sadcha'- as opposed to the previous pasuk wh ich tells us that Hashem will provide rain- 'venasati metar artzechem' - but does not mention anything about Hashem providing the grain, wine and oil. The reason relates back to the sin of Gan Eden where Adam and Chava ate from teh forbidden tree. One of the curses that resulted from that sin was 'b'zeis apecha to'chalecha' - by the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread. The design of the world was that man's needs would be provided not only in abundance, but without effort, as we see the animals experience. Animals do not have to work the land in order to eat. Each species has food and nourishment that is available. Not only is it available but Hashem designed the grass of the field in such a way that it spreads by itself- so the animal can move from one pasture to another and then back again. Mankind, however, suffers from the sin of Adam HaRishon and as a result Hashem provides the rain but it is our job to do the work to make the land productive so that our nutritional needs are fulfilled.

11. Day 11

The simple translation of today's pasuk is: Guard yourselves, lest your heart become foolish and you will turn away and you will serve other gods and you will bow down to them. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. Rashi sees a connection with today's pasuk that turns against turning away from Hashem to other gods and the end of yesterday's pasuk. Yesterday's pasuk concludes with the words 'v'achalta v'savata,' - you shall eat and be satisfied. The concern of the Torah is that 'keivan tihiyu ochlim u'sevayim, hishamru lachem'- once you will be eating and full, 'hishamru lachem,' guard yourselves, because at that exact moment a person is at risk at moving away from Hashem, 'she'ain adam moreid neged Hakadosh Baruch Hu, ela mi'toch seviya,'- a person doesn't rebel against Hashem except as a result of being sated. Some commentators understand the word 'yifteh' to mean 'to be seduced.' In other words, one should not be seduced away from Hashem towards other gods. Others understand the term to be related to 'pesi,' meaning fool, like in the pasuk 'Toras Hashem Temimah' which concludes with the phrase, 'machkimas pesi'- it makes the foolish wise. In other words, one must not be foolish and allow his/her material success to believe their material success is due to their own wisdom, acumen or skill. One must believe it is a blessing from Hashem to provide encouragement in one's service of Hashem.

The term 'vesartem' and you will turn away, indicates a step away from Hashem, but not quite far enough that one is worshipping other gods, which is mentioned in the next phrase, 'v'avadetem elohim acheirim.' Rashi explains that the first step away from Hashem and towards worship of idols occurs when one separates from the Torah. The inevitable result of one who separates from Torah is that he is led to idolatry. 'She'keivan she'adam poreish me'Torah'- once a person separates himself from Torah, says Rashi, 'holech u'medabek b'avodah zarah,' he will go and attach himself to idolatry. Although the person's arrogance should have only taken him away from Hashem, he becomes foolish enough to adopt the ways of idolaters that he knows has no merit. This idea is expressed later in Parshas Re'eh, where the Torah tells us that people led astray will declare: Eicha ya'avdu hagoyim ha'eila- how do these nations serve their gods- v'eseh kein gam ani- and even I will do the same?

Some commentators understand the pasuk as referring to a person who believes in Hashem and is willing to perform the mitzvos and avoid transgressing them. The person in this pasuk is one who foolishly believes that worship of Hashem can be performed without Torah study as part of their commitment. It is specifically the commitment to Torah study which makes Judaism unique. Torah study is not just for the scholars; it is our belief that everyone must engage in Torah since it is through the study of Hashem's Torah that you have the opportunity to interact with Divine wisdom. True Judaism cannot exist without a commitment, however large or small, a podcast to Torah study.

R' Elchanan Wasserman, in the name of his rebbe the Chafetz Chaim, explained a pasuk with the following mashal, parable: If two people of two nations are fighting with one another and one side seems to be overpowering the other, we have no assurance that that side will win the battle. It could happen that the next time the two sides engage, the other side will prove stronger or more skilled at war. The only way to be certain of victory is if one side takes away the weapons and armor of the other. When that occurs there is no hope for the losing side to emerge victorious, since they don't have the resources for victory. So too, as long as we are committed to Torah, we can emerge victorious against our battle with the yetzer hara, no matter how badly we failed. But once we lose our connection to Torah, we lose the invaluable resource necessary for victory.

12. Day 12

The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And Hashem's anger will flare up against you and he will shut the heavens and there will be no rain and the ground will not give its produce and you will speedily go lost from the good land which Hashem is giving to you. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. In the Torah's description of Hashem's anger, the Torah says 'vechara af hashem'- and Hashem's anger will be flared up. This name of Hashem, spelled yud-hey-vav-hey, usually signifies the name of Hashem associated with rachamim, mercy, and yet when we turn away from Hashem and follow idolaters' practices, even that name of Hashem, the merciful name, could be kindled into anger. The result of Hashem's anger is that the heavens are shut and there will be no rain. The purpose of Hashem's anger is to lead us back to the point where we began to turn away from Hashem so we could recalibrate our perspectives and realign ourselves with Hashem and His Torah. Therefore, since it was the rain and dthe subsequent bounty that led us to the arrogant belief that it was our wisdom and skill that led us to our prosperity, Hashem shuts the sky and withholds the rain so that we should be reminded of his role in our lives and should not become the fools who think that they will be the cause of their success.

Despite the fact that the Torah says there will be no rain, it is necessary to state that the ground will not give its produce. The reason is because it is possible to irrigate one's field and by doing so one is no longer relying upon the rain to make the ground give its produce. Therefore the Torah assures us that during the time of Hashem's anger, even if we attempt to short-circuit his plans, the ground will not give its produce. Commentators take note of the fact that when Hashem is angry with the Jewish people he uses the heavens and earth to express that anger. It is the very Heaven and Earth that Moshe Rabbeinu calls upon to serve as witnesses to the message that he shares with them at the beginning of Parshas Haazinu that are now called upon to be the agents that lead the people to repent. In addition to the shutting of the heavens and earth, the Torah makes it clear that it will speedily go lost- meaning, sent into exile and banished from Eretz Israel. The pasuk emphasizes that this exile will happen meheira, quickly. Rashi explains that Hashem will seemingly not demonstrate patience - it will be exiled quickly. The reason Hashem will exile us quickly rather than show patience like He did during the generation of the flood is because during the generation of the Flood, there was no one to teach them so that they should know better. In contrast, we have a Torah and teachers and sefarim and even podcasts, so we don't have any excuse why we turn away from Hashem and worship idolatry.

The last idea that is emphasized in the pasuk is that the exile will be from 'ha'aretz ha'tovah asher Hashem nosein lahem'- the good land Hashem is giving you. We are reminded of the fact that the land is good and capable of providing sufficient produce to provide for the entire nation. Furthermore, this good land was given to us by Hashem. Not only was it promised to our ancestors, but when we entered the land in the time of Yehoshua, Hashem gave us the land with great miracles and defeated the mighty kings who were occupying the land at that time. One would expect gratitude in terms of service of Hashem in return for receiving such a mighty land. When we become ungrateful and turn to other gods, Hashem exiles us from that good land so that we should be inspired to repentance.

13. Day 13

The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should put these words of mine upon your heart and upon your soul, you should bind them as a sign on your hands and as a totafot between your eyes. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. According to some commentators, the pasuk is referring back a couple of pesukim. The Torah warned, Hishamru lachem pen yifteh levavchem-guard yourself lest your heart become foolish. How does one guard oneself lest one's hard becomes foolish? 'Vesamtem devarai al levavchem v'al nafshechem'- and you should put these words of mine upon your heart and upon your soul. When a person takes the word of the Torah and places th em upon one's heart, meaning one's mind or thought and onto one's soul, meaning one's free will and emotions, he or she puts up a barrier of protection from going astray. Other commentators understand today's pasuk as addressing what happens after a person has strayed away from Hashem and now seeks to return. This is based on Rashi's comment that the pasuk is addressing our circumstances after we have been exiled after making our foolish choices to abandon Hashem and serve other gods. Therefore, the Torah teaches that the way we repair the damage that was done and repent is 'vesamtem divarai al levavchem v'al nafshechem'- taking the words of Torah and putting them on your heart and soul. Chazal identify specifically the eyes and the heart as the limbs that lead us to sin. 'Ayin roeh v'lev chomed'- the eye sees and the heart desires- 'v'kli ha'maaseh gomrin' - and the rest of the body merely finishes the aveira. Therefore, when we seek to repair the damage, we begin by first atking the words of Torah onto our hearts and soul to restore our drive for mitzvos. Then we put Tefillin upon our eyes and hands to repair our eyes that saw and our arms that represent the rest of the body that completed the transgression. This process recalibrates our minds back to being a loyal servant of Hashem.

The Gemara in Kiddushin breaks down the word 'vesamtem' into two separate words. 'Sam,' spelled with a samech, meaning medicine, and tam, meaning perfect. This leads to the idea that Torah is a life-giving potion. R' Yitzchak Isaac Chaver connects this expostion with a gemara in Megillah that relates that the letters samech and mem stood miraculously in the Luchos. Both letters have an inside that is not connected to something outside itself. So they similarly floated in midair. This occurrence indicates to us that the Torah, which is a sam hachayim, a life-giving potion, spelled with the same samech and mem, is not confined by the laws of nature. One of the main areas of struggle is whether our intellect will guide our heart or whether our heart will guide our intellect. Regarding the wicked, we are told that their emotions guide their behavior. Thus for example, in the Megila we find, 'Vayomer Haman be'libo'- and Haman said in his heart. He didn't consider or think whether his course of action was correct- he just went with what felt right. In contrast, the righteous use their minds to control their hearts. As we find by Chana, about whom it is written, 'V'Chana medaberes al liba'- and Chana spoke to her heart. She told her heart what to do. Similarly, when we strayed away from Hashem, the pasuk says, 'pen yifteh levavchem,'- lest your heart become foolish. It is when we follow our heart that we make mistakes. Therefore, in our pasuk the Torah says, 'samtem as divarai al levavchem'- you should take these words of Torah and put them upon your heart! Take these words of Torah through one's mind and put them on your heart so that our minds are instructing your heart.

The last phrase of the pasuk instructs us to put Tefilin on our hands and on our eyes. This is a tangible instruction saying that we have taken the words of Torah and placed them on our head, near our heart, to signify that we have surrounded ourselves with the words of Torah.

14. Day 14

The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should teach your sons to speak in them when you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you lay down and when you rise. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. The pasuk does not merely obligate parents to teach their children Torah- the obligation is to teach them Torah l'daber bam- to speak in them. Merely transmitting knowledge and information to our children is not sufficient. Our job as parents is to inspire a love for Torah so that whatever they may choose to do professionally, they will continue to have Torah a main component of their conversation.

Some commentators connect today's pasuk with yesterday's pasuk. At the end of yesterday's pasuk, the Torah mentions the mitzva of Tefillin and today's pasuk mentions educating our children. This juxtaposition teaches that just like one who wears Tefillin may not allow his mind to wander from the mitzvah of Tefillin, so too one must be constantly focused on their child's Chinuch. One of the ways this is done is through prayer. A person once approached the Steipler Gaon and asked him when one is no longer responsible to daven for their children. His response was that one never stops davening for the success of his/ her children, then related that he continues to daven that his son should be a Talmid Chacham. The son he referred to was none other than the renowned Torah sage R' Chaim Kanievsky, who at the time of the story was already a well-known accomplished author. If the Steipler felt the need to continue to daven for the success of his son, all the more so should all of us never lose sight of the importance and necessity to daven for the spiritual health of all of our children.

The word 'osam', from the phrase 'velimadetem osam es beneichem'- and you should teach them to your sons, is curious. First of all, it is written without a vav, as though the word says 'atem' meaning you rather than them. Secondly, the word is superfluous altogether. The pasuk could have simply said 'velimadetem es beneichem' and you should teach your sons. This curiosity conveys to us one of the most important principles in Chinuch and educating our children.

Rabbi Tarfon, one of the great scholars of the Mishna, related that he would be surprised if there was anyone in his generation capable of properly rebuking others. Why? Because as soon as a person gives a message of rebuke, the listener responds and says, "Before you point out my faults, why don't you look in the mirror and correct your own faults?" This stresses the importance of living the message one wishes to teach. As parents who seek to teach our children about the importance of Torah study, we must realize that we have to look in the mirror first to assure that we are living by those principles we wish to convey to our children. Thus, the Torah adds the word 'osam'- them - but spells it 'atem'- meaning you, to hint that first we must teach ourselves to live a life of Torah before we can properly and fully transmit those ideals to our children.

The pasuk goes on to say 've'shivtecha b'veisecha u'velechtecha ba'derech u'veshachbecha u'vekumecha- when you sit in your home and when you walk on the way and when you lie down and when you rise.' As we have mentioned before, this paragraph of 've'haya im shamoa' is generally in the plural. Therefore, whenever we find the parsha switch to singular, an explanation is necessary. Commentators offer on this change the same principles we suggested earlier- the way we succeed in transmitting Torah principles to our children is living them ourselves. Thus, the pasuk is speaking to us in stressing the importance of spending our time studying Torah when we are at home, on the way, when we lay down and when we rise. It is not written in the plural as though we were discussing the children.