Thursday, June 7, 2018



Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman is known as "the Disco Rabbi" due to his amazing success at reaching out to boys and girls in their own "habitat" and bringing them closer to Hashem and His Torah. There are many amazing stories about this remarkable person and his unconditional love for every single Jew. The following was published by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat who witnessed it:
“Allow me to share with you a story from my previous life in the exile of the West Side of New York City, which taught me how the word can bring sanctity into the most unlikely of places:
“In the early 1970's, a disco opened up in a window storefront building on 72nd Street and Broadway; despite the fact that it was called the Tel Aviv Disco and was owned by Israelis living in New York, it remained open every night of the year, even Kol Nidre night. I must have placed at least two dozen calls to the owners to try to persuade them to close at least on the night of Yom Kippur, only to have finally received a message from their secretary informing me that the owners would not speak to rabbis!!
“During this period, Rav Yitzchak Dovid Grossman - a beloved and respected friend who is the Rav of Migdal Ha'Emek - spent Shabbat with us at Lincoln Square Synagogue. He is a charismatic religious leader who is well-known for the many prisoners and other alienated Jews whom he has brought back to religious observance.
“After a delightful Friday evening meal at my home, replete with inspiring Hassidic melodies and words of Torah, he suggested that we go for a shpatzir (Yiddish for a leisurely walk). I tried to explain that the general atmosphere of the West Side streets of Manhattan were hardly conducive to Sabbath sanctity - but to no avail. His steps led us in the direction of 72nd Street and Broadway, right in front of the window revealing the frenzied disco dancers.
“Did you ever see a mosquito captured in a glass jar?” he asked me in Yiddish (our language of discourse). “The mosquito is moving with all sorts of contortions and appears to be dancing. In reality, however, the mosquito is gasping for air. That is the situation of those “dancers” in the disco. They are really gasping for air, struggling in their search for a real Shabbos. Let's go in and show them Shabbos.”
“Before I could say anything, he was inside the disco. As a good host, I felt constrained to follow him. He sported a long beard and side-locks and was wearing a shtreimel (fur hat) and kapute (silk gaberdine), and I was dressed in my Sabbath Prince Albert, kippa and ritual fringes out. As we entered the disco, the band of Israelis immediately stopped playing. I immediately recognized three young men from the Synagogue - who seemed totally discombobulated; two ran out covering their faces, and the third tried to explain to me that he wasn't really there, that his mother had had some kind of attack and he thought that her doctor might be at the disco…
“Rav Grossman began to sing - Sabbath melodies. Almost miraculously, the men danced on one side, the women on the other. After about twenty minutes, he urged me to speak to them in English. I told them of the magical beauty, the joy, and the love of the Sabbath, and they listened with rapt attention. Rav Grossman led them in one more song - and we left.
“I cannot tell you that the miracle continued, it didn't take five minutes, and we could hear the resumption of the disco band music. However, before the next Yom Kippur, the Tel Aviv Disco closed down. I don't know why, because the owners wouldn't speak to rabbis. And for the next two years, at least a dozen young singles joined Lincoln Square Synagogue because they had been inspired by our Disco visit!”

The Sefer Yetzira explains the significance of each of the twelve Jewish months of the year, including which physical sense it corresponds to, as well as which of the twelve tribes it corresponds to, as well as other symbolisms. It states that the month of Tamuz corresponds to Reuven, the oldest of the tribes, and to the sense of sight[2]. The month of Av corresponds to Shimon and the sense of hearing.[3]
The months of Tamuz and Av contain the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of both Batei Mikdash. The Three Weeks begin on the fast of the seventeenth of Tamuz and end with the fast of the ninth of Av. The primary causes of the destruction of the Batei Mikdash were because we failed to use our eyes and ears properly. Therefore, the rebuilding and consolation will occur when we rectify those shortcomings. That is the primary spiritual effort of these (summer) months – to channel and utilize our vision and hearing properly.
The sense of vision makes us particularly vulnerable because we are quick to trust what our eyes see, although we are often not privy to seeing the entire picture. In addition, how we interpret what we see is skewered by our preconceived notions.
At the beginning of parshas Shelach, Rashi asks why the Torah juxtaposes the narrative about the tragic story of the Spies with the story of Miriam contracting tzara’as, at the end of the previous parsha? Rashi answers, “Because she was afflicted due of matters of speech, for speaking against her brother. And these wicked ones saw and didn’t learn the lesson[4].”
What is the connection between the loshon hora Miriam spoke about Moshe[5] and the negative report the spies gave about Eretz Yisroel?   
Why did Miriam feel justified to speak to Aharon about what she felt was a shortcoming in Moshe?[6]
There is no question that Miriam was aware of Moshe’s greatness as a tzaddik and a prophet. But Miriam was also a great leader and prophetess. The poignant rebuke that Hashem told her is that she didn’t adequately recognize her younger brother’s greatness. True, she and Aharon were also prophets, but Moshe’s prophecy was on a higher level. Aharon and Miriam had failed to see what was beyond their purview, that Moshe had achieved levels of greatness beyond what they had attained. “Not so my servant Moshe; in My entire House he is trustworthy.”

The verses in three of the five chapters in Megillas Eicha form an acrostic based on the letters of the Aleph Bais. However, the letter פ precedes the letter ע. The gemara[7]explains that it is to hint that they (the spies) spoke with their mouths[8] what their eyes did not see[9].
Maharal[10] explains that the gemara doesn’t mean that the spies blatantly lied. When it talks about what they saw it isn’t referring to physical sight, but to things one understands through contemplation, pondering, and analyzation.
When the spies returned from Eretz Yisroel, they in fact related exactly what they saw. But their physical vision hadn’t presented them with the real truth. They were great men and should have seen beyond the surface to recognize what was really happening. It was true that the land was unconquerable, but that was without G-d’s promise and assurance. It was true that there were great people dying wherever they went, but that was as a favor to them, so they shouldn’t be noticed by the grieving citizens.
In that sense, the sin of the spies mirrored the sin of Miriam. Just as Miriam had not recognized greatness beyond what was immediately apparent, so did they did not realize and appreciate greatness beyond what they saw. They jumped to conclusions without contemplating the deeper meaning of what they were seeing.

The AriZal writes that when a farmer offers Bikkurim, it serves as a rectification for the sin of the spies. The Torah relates that the spies brought back pomegranates, dates, and grapes. When the Mishna[11] describes the process of bringing Bikkurim, it says: “A man goes down into his field and he sees a ripened date, a ripened cluster of grapes, a ripe pomegranate, he ties it with a string and declares “These are bikkurim”. The fact that the Mishna specifically uses as examples the same three fruits that the Spies brought back, demonstrates that they are connected.
When a farmer sets aside his first frits to be brought as Bikkurim, it demonstrates that he is seeing beyond the physical fruit before him. It symbolizes his awareness that the growth of his produce is not merely the result of his tireless efforts, but a result of the blessing of Hashem.
The spies looked at Eretz Yisroel with a physical perspective and saw negatively. The one brining Bikkurim recognized the sanctity of his produce, and that the greatness of the land traverses its physical landscape. That was the rectification for the sin of the Spies.

Our world is not only judgmental and opinionated, it is also often emphatically condemnatory. We are quick to forward articles about others, and to spread news, which maligns other individuals or groups that we may not agree with. We are very smug and confident that we know what’s best for everyone else and for the world. But the truth is that there is a world beyond what we see, and we are less privy to the full picture than we care to believe. It requires a modicum of humility to submit to the notion that what we see isn’t the whole truth.
Someone once asked Rav Avigdor Nebenzhal shlita how he could judge someone favorably, when it seemed like the person did something wrong? Rav Nebenzhal’s poigniant response was: לא צריך לדון אותו  - you don’t have to judge him! If one is not a judge, or a parent, or teacher, or employer, in that situation, why should he judge him at all? Let Hashem do the judging in that case, and we can go back to trying to judge our own lives.

The month of Tamuz is a time to reflect and improve upon our vision – to realize that there are other perspectives and viewpoints besides ours, and to remember that there is far more going on in other people’s lives than we know. The mistake of Miriam, and subsequently the Spies was, that they thought they had a fuller picture than they in fact did.
A close friend often remarks how often one thinks he knows someone well, until he finds out that there was so much he didn’t know.
We must remember that there is much to see beyond what we see, and know that only Hashem can see everything.

   “Not so my servant Moshe”
   “These are bikkurim”.

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Shelach 5777.
[2] The name Reuven means sight; Reuven was so named because his mother Leah declared that G-d had seen her pain.
[3] The name Shimon means hearing; Shimon was so named because his mother Leah declared that G-d had heard her prayers.
[4] Literally “take discipline”
[5] When Eldad and Mediad began prophesizing unexpectedly, Zipporah, the wife of Moshe, commented to Miriam that she felt bad for their wives because now that they were prophets they would have to physically separate from her. Miriam then repeated to Aharon what Zipporah had said and noted that she and Aharon had not separated from their respective spouses, and they too were prophets. So why did Moshe have to separate from Zipporah? The Medrash notes that Miriam only spoke out of concern, she spoke about her beloved younger brother, and Moshe was not slighted in the least bit. Yet she was punished with tzara’as. It is a painful reminder about the severity of speaking loshon hora.
[6] It must always be reiterated that we proceed with awe and caution when we speak about the flaws and shortcomings of our greatest leaders. We only do so in order for us to learn the vital lessons we can relate to on our level.
[7] Sanhedrin 104b
[8] The letterפ  is called “peh” which means mouth
[9] The letter ע is called “ayin” which means eye. The gemara is explaining that in Eicha the peh comes before the ayin to symbolize that the spies – who gave their evil report on the ninth of Av – gave a report about things they didn’t actually see.
[10] Netzach Yisroel chapter 9
[11] Bikkurim 3:1


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