Wednesday, May 22, 2019



The following are my personal notes from the remarks delivered by my rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, at the Torah Umesorah convention, Shabbas Kodesh parshas Behar 5768, May 1998:

The haftorah of parshas Behar relates that just prior to the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash, G-d tells the prophet Yirmiyah to purchase land in Eretz Yisroel. Yirmiyah signs the deed and places it in earthenware so that it will last. Then Yirmiyah asks G-d, “You made the heavens and the earth….לא יפלא ממך כל דברThere is nothing that is too wondrous for You.”
He continues by relating the history of Klal Yisroel- the exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah, their arrival in Eretz Yisrael, and he mentions the sins of Klal Yisroel. He then says, “Behold! Upon mounds of earth they came to the city to capture it, and the city was handed over to the Chaldeans who are attacking it, in the face of the sword, the famine, and the pestilence; what You declared has happened- and You see it!” With the destruction being so imminent, Yirmiyah asks G-d why He instructed him to purchase land in Eretz Yisroel?
G-d’s response is terse and seemingly redundant, “Behold- I am Hashem, the G-d of all flesh;  הממני יפלא כל דבר-Is there anything too wondrous for me?”
What was G-d’s response? How did He answer Yirmiyah?
The commentators explain that when Yirmiyah made the statement it was out of wonder for the destruction which was imminent. Klal Yisroel didn’t believe that G-d would ever destroy the Bais Hamikdash and throw them out of Eretz Yisroel. They reasoned that G-d had too much invested in them! Yirmiyah warned them repeatedly but they would not listen to him. He asked G-d how it could all happen.
G-d’s response was with the same words. However, whereas Yirmiyah said it out of shock, G-d responded with conviction. “Indeed, nothing is too wondrous for Me!” The Jews would indeed suffer horribly but they would also be resilient, they would rebuild, and their eternity would never falter.

In our time, we have witnessed both forms of the statement. We endured a horrible Holocaust where everything that stood for hundreds of years was destroyed in the most horrific manner. We didn’t believe it could happen. We had too much invested in Europe; we had lived there too long. It couldn’t happen! But לא יפלא ממך כל דבר, we know that it did happen!
On the other hand, we have witnessed the second part as well, הממני יפלא כל דבר. Our rebuilding of Torah is also incredible and defies all logic.

                    When I was the Rav in Miami Beach, I had the opportunity to develop relationships with many great Torah giants. They would come to Miami to collect money during the winter because many wealthy individuals came to Miami for the winter as well. One of those great personalities that I was privileged to become close with was the Ponovezher Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kaheneman zt’l.
                    He once told me that he and his son escaped to Eretz Yisroel in 1941. His family was supposed to leave Lithuania the next week, but the Germans invaded, and their visas were no longer valid. He lost everything in the war. He arrived in B’nei Brak and purchased land to build the Yeshiva.
                   At the time Rommel, the Nazi general known as the Desert Fox, was an eleven day march from Tel Aviv. Until that point Rommel had been virtually invincible and had pushed his way across North Africa. The British were burning their papers and getting ready to move their defenses to Iraq. The final British holdout was at El-Alamein In Egypt. If that fell there was nothing between the Nazi onslaught and Israel. The country was preparing for doom and the Ponovezher Rav bought land in order to build a Yeshiva.
                    When he was asked about it, the Rav explained, “Klal Yisroel needs yeshivos for eleven days too!” Then he added that the land would not fall!
הממני יפלא כל דבר” The doom was horrific and unbelievable, but rebuilding of Torah and the revitalization of Torah in our time is nothing short of miraculous.

The gemara[1] asks about a certain animal[2] how it fit on Noach’s Ark. The gemara first suggests that it was born and brought on the Ark as a little baby. Then the gemara suggests that only its head was on the Ark and the rest of it was outside floating along. Then the gemara suggests that only its nose was in the Ark. Finally, the gemara concludes that it was tied to the Ark, although it was outside.
The Ark represents the Ark of Torah; our only salvation from the torrents and deluge of impurity and defilement that rage throughout our world. Some people are lucky enough to be born on the Ark. They are raised ion a Torah observant atmosphere.
Others aren’t born into it, but they have an intellectual connection. Their heads are in the Ark. They possess an understanding and an appreciation of the depth of Torah.                   
Currently, I deliver a daily shiur in Yeshivas Ohr Somayach. The students there challenge me with questions that really make me think. They haven’t been discouraged by our system, so they are confident and comfortable to ask.
Then there are those who are emotional Jews, they have a “shmeck yiddishkeit”, e.g. a Carlebach Friday Night, enjoyable Shabbos meals, etc.
Finally, there are those who have almost no connection to anything. They are not biologically, intellectually, spiritually, or mentally connected to it. Those people we must bind to the Ark, “bavosos shel ahava- with ropes of love”. We have to show them that we love them and embrace them, so that they maintain a connection with us, and hopefully will one day enter the Ark.

Chazal say, “Push with your left (weaker) hand but draw close with your right hand!”[3] There were great educators, some of the greatest men of all time, who pushed their wayward students too hard and it brought untold destruction to the world.
I once expelled a boy from the Yeshiva three weeks before he was to graduate because he was caught cheating. I called him in and told him, “`I want you to know that I love you because I am going to get a great deal of flack it for this[4]. But if I don’t crack down on you, you’ll go to grad school and you’ll cheat there. Then you’ll go into business and you’ll cheat there, and one day your face will be on the front page of the New York Times. So, I feel that this is what I must do!”
Two and a half years later he came back to thank me.

A Rosh Yeshiva once approached me when I was the head of the OU Kashrus division and asked me how I sleep at night. He asked me if the fact that so many people are eating based on my rulings bothers me; isn’t that unnerving? I replied that everything we did was based on Shulchan Aruch and the rulings of the Halachic authorities. Therefore, I did not feel nervous at all. In fact, I was very confident. “But you”, I told him, “You are a Rosh Yeshiva! You deal with students; you deal with lives! How can YOU sleep at night?”
The Good Lord paid me back by making me a Rosh Yeshiva…. But the fact is that in education we are indeed dealing with nefashos (souls) and we cannot underestimate or undervalue the greatness of what we are doing.    
We must hold on to our students, “bavosos shel ahava”, and we can only do so when we value ourselves and recognize the greatness of what we are accomplishing.
          “There is nothing that is too wondrous for You.”

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


[1][1] Zevachim 113b
[2] the Re’em- some suggest that it was a rhinoceros
[3] Sanhedrin 107b
[4] he was the son of a board member of the Yeshiva


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