Yaakov: Protect Yourself!

28 11 2014


Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky explains why Yaakov had to spend 14 years in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever.

The first 63 years of his life he studied Torah with his father, in an environment insulated from the immorality and corruption of Canaan.

Now, Yaakov would be living in Charan, with people like Lavan – dishonest and unscrupulous, Yaakov would need to protect himself both morally and spiritually. Therefore he needed these years in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever to further mould his personality to be able to protect himself.

Why the Torah of Shem and Ever? Because they too had lived in the generation of the Flood and Tower of Babel and had had to protect themselves against spiritual and moral threats. Therefore, their Yeshiva was the appropriate place to learn.

In these 14 years at the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever, Yaakov would learn how to emerge spiritually clean and unscathed from his personal exile.

G-d appears to him through angels and with a Divine promise at the beginning of this weeks Parsha, but first Yaakov has to make the effort, by learning in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever.

Shabbat Shalom,

Benjy Singer – My Shteiblech.


Har Nof Terror Attack: Plea from families of the 4 victims – Shabbat of Ahavat Chinam / Carrying phones and guns on Shabbat.

21 11 2014


As we are all aware, the terrorism continued this week with a horrific attack in Har Nof, a neighbourhood many of us love and know well. Underneath, you will find the psak about carrying phones over Shabbat in Yerushalayim due to the current security climate.

May calm return to the streets of Yerushalayim,
Benjy Singer – the founder of the My Shteiblech Social Media Portal.

(Here is the blog I wrote about how to cope in times of terrorism: https://thoughtsfromtheshteiblech.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/coping-in-a-climate-of-terrorism-5-practical-steps/)

1) Here is a special plea for Shabbat from the families of the 4 Kedoshim:

“The widows of the Har Nof massacre have asked that this Shabbat be dedicated to ‘ahavat chinam’ – love for no good reason.”

Translation of Widows’ Letter:
The widows and orphans of the four men who were slain in the Jerusalem synagogue massacre this week issued a letter calling for national solidarity and unity:

With broken hearts, drenched in tears shed over the spilt blood of holy men – the heads of our families.

We call on our brethren wherever they are – let us come together so that we may merit mercy from Heaven, and let’s accept upon ourselves to increase love and comradery, between each individual and each community.

We ask that every person accept upon himself on this Sabbath Eve (Parshat Toldot, November 20-21, 2014), to set aside the day of Shabbat as a day of unconditional love, a day during which we will refrain from words of disagreement and division, from words of gossip and slander.

May this serve to elevate the souls of our husbands and fathers who were slaughtered while sanctifying God’s name.

God will look down from the heavens, see our suffering, wipe away our tears and put an end to our tribulations.

May we merit seeing the coming of our Moshiach (Messiah) speedily in our days. Amen.

Signed with a torn heart,

Mrs. Chaya Levin and family
Mrs. Bryna Goldberg and family
Mrs. Yaacova Kupensky and family
Mrs. Bashy Twersky and family

2) Carrying phones/ guns over Shabbat in Yerushalayim:

Guns :
The shuls in the area- Ramban, the Katamon Shteiblech etc. have asked those who are licensed gun holders to come to shul with their guns.


Rav Yoni Rosensweig:
In my opinion it’s simple. A phone is not muktze – it is a כלי שמלאכתו לאיסור. A כלי שמלאכתו לאיסור can be moved on Shabbat לצורך גופו and לצורך מקומו. In my opinion when one is carrying a phone on Shabbat, and it helps to allay one’s fears, that falls within the category of לצורך גופו, and is obviously fine.

My (Benjy) addition:
I have heard poskim in a number of different circumstances give the psak that it is permitted to carry around a phone on Shabbat – as a phone is a lower level of mukzeh, preferably in something that isn’t mukzeh, in a case where a person feels their life maybe in danger or they maybe needed to safe life. Of course in a definite situation of pikuach nefesh it’s permitted to break Shabbat as we all know.
This is a complex issue and if you have any further questions please ask a Rav.

3) Links to the My Shteiblech Social Media Platforms:

My Shteiblech comprises of 5 Social Media platforms you should like, subscribe to and use:

1) Weekly Newsletter:http://eepurl.com/CcIAH

2) Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Shteiblech/139446259564549

3) Facebook Group for the Jerusalem area (you can post in this group):https://www.facebook.com/groups/464864350308046/

4) Facebook Group for the Tel Aviv area (you can post in this group:https://www.facebook.com/groups/502245053236300/

5) Twitter: @myshteiblech

Shabbat Shalom!


Coping in a climate of terrorism: 5 Practical Steps.

19 11 2014

magen david blood

My friend and ex-colleague of mine, R’Johnny Solomon, wrote a few ideas (1-4) which I added to (point 5) of how to cope in the current climate of terrorism that we are currently going through, after yesterday’s horrific attack in Har Nof. The 4 steps that R’Johnny wrote are in memory of the 4 kedoshim murdered yesterday HY’D.

Especially for those who have recently made Aliyah, these 5 steps may be useful:

1. Helping the families of the victims

This can be done by making a donation at http://www.rootfunding.com/campaign/help-har-nof-families or emailing Hannah Pasternak at dosomethingforthefamilies@gmail.com. As always, you can also donate through OneFamily: http://www.onefamilytogether.org/ .

2. Start reciting ‘AL TIRA’

There are three verses that appear at the end of the Aleynu prayer called אל תירא which include the message that we should not live in fear from sudden terror and that evil plans should be annulled. Try and start saying this prayer from now on (see http://www.aleinu.org/altirah.html).

3. Shabbat hospitality

While some Jews will have secure Shabbat plans, others still may not know what their plans are or may appreciate being invited to your home. Reach out and invite a fellow Jew for Shabbat simply because they are family.

4. Davening in Shul

Many Jews struggle to make it to a weekday service to pray, and while some people have good reasons, others can simply be lazy. All four men were murdered yesterday because they were praying in shul so those of us who struggle to make it to shul should try and make an extra effort to pray in shul in their memory.

5. Daily Routine/ Being with others – Not alone.

Carry on your daily routine, whilst of course taking necessary precautions. Be with others, talk about your worries – sitting on Facebook and listening to the radio alone can be highly detrimental. Make sure to go out with friends and mix with people. Get involved in group activities which will take your mind off things. If you are walking alone at night and are concerned make sure to walk where you can be seen and where there is traffic and light.

Besurot Tovot,

Benjy Singer, from ‘My Shteiblech’.

My Shteiblech comprises of 5 Social Media platforms you should like, subscribe to and use:

1) Weekly Newsletter:http://eepurl.com/CcIAH

2) Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Shteiblech/139446259564549

3) Facebook Group for the Jerusalem area (you can post in this group):https://www.facebook.com/groups/464864350308046/

4) Facebook Group for the Tel Aviv area (you can post in this group:https://www.facebook.com/groups/502245053236300/

5) Twitter: @myshteiblech

Parshat Chayei Sarah: Avraham, the Ramban and Eretz Yisrael is acquired through pain and suffering.

14 11 2014


This week, despite the Smachot and the good news of R’Yehudah Glick continuing to recover, there were more piguim ( terror attacks) where Israelis were killed and injured.

Just a minute away in Gush Etzion, up the road from where the 3 boys were kidnapped and murdered a few months ago, Dalia Lemkus, the daughter of South African Olim from Tekoa, was murdered at the bus stop by Alon Shvut, by a terrorist.

The Gemarah in Brachot says that three things are acquired through suffering: Torah, Olam Habah and Eretz Yisrael. We are seeing this in our day. The murder of Dalia being yet another illustration of this.

The Ramban in Parshat Vaéira, Shmot 6:2-5, comments that unlike Moshe Rabbenu, the Avot did not see the promises Hashem gave them actualised. Ramban comments on the differing names that G-d appears to the Avot and Moshe. To the Avot, G-d just appears as, ‘ El Shadai’, unlike as ‘Hashem’ which is how G-d appeared to Moshe. The Ramban explains that the Avot did not see the promises G-d present to them come into fruition, whilst Moshe Rabbenu did. For instance, Moshe did see the redemption from Egypt, although – Moshe doesn’t enter Eretz Yisrael so there is an aspect of tragedy with him too.

The Ramban continues to explain that ‘El Shadai’ represent G-d acting through nature – this is what the Avot experienced. For instance, G-d helped them in time of famine, made them victorious at times of war and helped them gain wealth. However, ‘Hashem’ – being how G-d appeared to Moshe, implied that G-d intervened in a super-natural, miraculous manner.

We see through the explanation of the Ramban, that the Avot did not receive the reward that they should have. Also, Moshe Rabbenu despite the fact that ‘Hashem’ appears to him, also suffered in that he did not enter Eretz Yisrael.

In this week’s Parsha, we see the Torah completes its description of Avraham’s character as he died in 25:8. What defines Avraham’s life? Mesirut Nefesh (self sacrifice). The Midrash describes the 10 tests that Avraham had to go through. Avraham didn’t have an easy life- either in his domestic, personal life or in his role as a leader and teacher of monotheism and faith.

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains that what drives and motivates Avraham and causes him to be succeed and have such an impact is in fact his loneliness and the fact he has to cope with so much of life by himself. In a way the challenges and difficulties he goes through makes him into the leader he becomes.

Rashi at the beginning of Parshat Lech-Lecha 12:1, says on the phrase, ‘ Lech-Lecha’, that going ‘ for yourself’ – means,’ go for your own benefit and for your own good‘. By journeying to Eretz Yisrael, on the one hand, it would be good for Avraham – it would make his life better. On the other hand though, life in Eretz Yisrael would cause him pain and suffering, but would be nevertheless for his long term benefit.

I never knew Dalia Lemkus although from having heard her father and sisters give hespedim at the levaya and having read about her, her murder is a tragedy like all the others have been over the past few weeks. The people and youth of Gush Etzion have suffered yet another painful blow and we hope they are able to recover and regain their strength and sense of idealism.

May Shabbat bring peace and calm to the streets of Jerusalem and the rest of Eretz Yisrael and may the pain and suffering associated with Eretz Yisrael we see in the Gemarah in Brachot and in the Tenach be replaced with only joy and happiness.

Shabbat Shalom,

Benjy Singer.

Vayera: Avraham – The ability to SEE beyond the contradictions.

7 11 2014


To the Western, rational mind, Avraham’s life does not make much sense.

I’m not just talking about his Mesirut Nefesh (self sacrifice) and unflinching inner strength to follow the call of G-d, but also the way it seems G-d does not reward him for it. Where does all this piety and righteousness get him?

Avraham on the one hand, is promised by G-d at the beginning of Parshat Lech-Lecha, 12:2-4, as well as in Pasuk 15:5, that he will have children. Rashi also builds on this idea in the Pasuk 12:2, when he comments that extended and strenuous travel effects 3 things including the ability to have children – and this is why G-d promises Avraham that he will have children, despite the long journey he is about to embark on.

Firstly, he has to wait to see G-d’s promise of children come into fruition which puts strain on his marriage to Sarah.

Secondly, when finally Avraham does have children after waiting so many years, as we know, he is not blessed with a smooth and straightforward ride.

In this week’s Parsha, in 21:14, he has to tell Ishmael to leave, which as we see in Pasuk 21:11, wasn’t easy for him.

Later on in this week’s Parsha, in Perek 22, in the Akeidah, he also has to be ready to part with his other son, Yitzchak, which makes little sense. What did Avraham do to deserve all this stress and turmoil?

We see as Rashi comments at the beginning of next week’s Parsha, that Sarah dies as a result of hearing about the Akeidah. So we see the Akeidah had serious consequences both for Sarah, as well as for the father-son relationship between Avraham and Yitzchak as after the Akeidah, they don’t speak.

As I quoted above, G-d promises numerous times he will have offspring. But, when this promise is finally actualized, G-d does not seem to be following through on his assurance.

So, what can we learn about the disparity between what G-d promises to Avraham, in other words what he deserves and how in the end G-d rewards him, and how his life actually pans out.

The Shoresh, Yud.Resh.Aleph – Appearing or Seeing, comes up 3 times at the beginning of this week’s Parsha. G-d appears to Avraham, then the three ‘men’ appear (twice in 18:2) to Avraham.

There are two levels to seeing:

1) Seeing. What there is in front of you. Literally just seeing what presents itself on face value and not trying to see beyond the here and now. Often, at this level things make no sense,


2) Seeing as a means of understanding. This second level of seeing, attempts to see beyond the here and now. Despite the contradictions and complexity of how things seem to the naked eye, on this second level, you try to see sense as you believe that there is a reason why G-d is doing this. On this second level G-d, and not man or mere chance, is the cause of your predicament.

Avraham was able to adopt this second approach. Not just, ‘seeing’, but ‘seeing as a means to understanding’. Therefore, he was able to see beyond the all contradictions and make sense of what life threw at him.

Shabbat Shalom,

Benjy Singer.