Thursday, August 30, 2018



Rav Yankel Galinsky zt’l related that in Europe many chazzanim introduced the prayer “Ribbono Shel Olam[1]” with a song that began “Yum bum bum”.
One year, the town chazzan came to the Rav and announced that he had a new “Ribbono Shel Olam”[2]. The Rav smiled and replied, “You better hope the Ribbono Shel Olam doesn’t have a new chazzan!”

The Tolna Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchak Menachem Weinberg shlita, related[3] that on one occasion the Gerrer Rebbe, the Bais Yisroel, related to his grandfather[4] the following thought:  
When the Torah states the frightening curses of the tochacha, it interjects that all the curses will transpire, “tachas asher lo avadeta es Hashem Elokecha b’simcha uv’tuv levav – being that you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, with joy and goodness of heart.”
The commentators question why the punishments of the tochacha are the result of failing to serve Hashem joyously? In fact, nowhere in the Torah does it say that one is obligated to serve Hashem joyously. Perhaps serving Hashem in an unemotional manner isn’t correct, but does that warrant the infliction of the horrors warned about in the tochacha? 
To answer this question, Rav Henoch of Alexander related the following anecdote:
There was a teacher who taught young cheder children in the shtetl how to read. One day he began testing his young students to see how well they knew the letters of the aleph bais and the nekudos. The boys did very well, until the rebbe called on Shmuli. After Shmuli correctly identified the letter the rebbe was pointing to as the letter hei, the rebbe asked him what was beneath the hei. Suddenly, Shmuli froze and the color drained from his face. The rebbe affectionately again asked Shmuli what was beneath the hei, but Shmuli just stood there. When the rebbe asked a third time, Shmuli replied that his father had forbidden him to answer.
Later that day, the rebbe saw Shmuli walking with his father. The rebbe related to the father the strange occurrence that happened earlier when Shmuli refused to answer. The father immediately became incensed with his son’s disobedience, and he began to remove his belt. When Shmuli saw that he was about to “get it”, he cried out, “under the hei is a calf!”
The rebbe realized immediately what had occurred. In Yiddish (as in English) there is a lot of hay[5] upon the floor of the barn. Shmuli’s father had stolen a calf and had hidden it in the family’s barn beneath the hay. He warned Shmuli that if he knows what’s good for him, he better not tell anyone what’s underneath the hay. When the rebbe asked Shmuli what was under the hei, Shmuli fearfully replied that his father forbade him to answer.
Rav Henoch explained that when the Torah says that rebuke will happen “tachas” that you didn’t serve Hashem joyously and good heartedly, it doesn’t mean that the rebuke is a punishment for lack of joy. Rather, the word tachas is to be read literally, “underneath”. At the time of the fulfillment of the tochacha, invariably we will wonder how we become so degenerate as it sin so egregiously that we became worthy of such horrible punishments. How did a nation of such regal bearing, lose sense of its mission and resort to such base iniquity? The answer is that it is a result of unemotional, rote Judaism. Beneath our external piety and noble actions, was internal apathy and disconnect. That lack of emotion, which at first was subtle and indiscernible, is what eventually caused the nation to lose its direction and become seeped in the morass of sin.
The Tolna Rebbe recounted that the Bais Yisrael was conveying to him that even when one is going through a painful or stressful time in his life, he must always strive to feel and radiate simcha.

Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook zt’l explained[6] that “simcha” refers to the joy one feels about the greatness of Torah. “Goodness of heart” refers to one’s feeling of personal connection to the Torah.
Rav Kook explains that one without the other is insufficient. If one feels personally connected to the Torah but doesn’t realize its infinite greatness, he is lacking simcha in his service to Hashem. On the other hand, if one recognizes the greatness of Torah, but doesn’t realize that he has a personal connection and portion of the Torah, he will lack the goodness of heart necessary to personally grow in Torah.
Every person must recognize that Hashem loves him and values everything he does. That realization will infuse him with joy and feelings of connection.

When we “bentch Rosh Chodesh” the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh each month, we recite a prayer asking Hashem for a month of life. We then specify: “long life, life of peace, life of goodness, life of blessing...”
Towards the end of the prayer, we seem to repeat one request twice - “life that contains fear of heaven and fear of sin... a life of love of Torah and fear of heaven...” Why is ‘fear of heaven’ mentioned a second time?
Rav Asher Weiss shlita related that most people read the prayer incorrectly. We are not requesting “life of love of Torah, and fear of heaven” but rather “a life of love - of Torah and fear of heaven.” In other words, we are asking Hashem to endow us with - not only love of Torah, but also love of being G-d fearing.
Rav Weiss added that although various explanations have been offered to explain the redundancy, in his opinion this is the true explanation. If it’s such a simple explanation, why is it not more universally known?
Rav Weiss explained that it’s because we have a mistaken notion that being G-d fearing entails being stoic, rigid, and morbid. But that is a fallacy. One who is truly G-d fearing lives a life of inner joy, knowing that he is living with integrity within the parameters of halacha. He lives with the happiness of knowing that he is fulfilling his divinely-ordained mission to the best of his ability.
During these weeks, we strive to do teshuva and rebuild our connection with Hashem that we compromised with our sins and moral failings throughout the year. It requires arduous internal self-introspection. However, it too must be performed with joy, the joy of knowing that we are always wanted at home, and can always find our way there, if we seek it. 

“Underneath it was that you did not serve Hashem with joy.”
“A life of love of Torah and fear of heaven”

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

[1] “Master of the World”
[2] In other words, he had a new introductory tune for the ‘yum bum bum’
[3] Dibros Kodesh, Ki Savo 5774
[4] Rav Yochanan Twersky zt’l (1906-1999) was the previous Tolna Rebbe
[5] which sounds the same word as the Hebrew letter hei
[6] Mussar Avicha


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