Marriage is a privilege – by Yitz Grossman

Getting married is not an opportunity to make demands. It means that you now have a partner with whom you can share and to whom you can give. We get married so that we can have someone to be kind to and to love. That is the true opportunity which marriage affords. 

Making demands in marriage stems from haughtiness. A person may think that he or she is overly important and whatever he demands must be fulfilled. If a person was modest, he would have very few demands. Who is he to tell another person what to do? Every decision must be made together after mutual consultation. Doing things only after first discussing them together shows modesty and humility, which are two very positive character traits for a Jew to have. We can learn from the actions of Rabbi Yitz Grossman how modest and humble a person should be. 

It is a good habit to reflect every day, “What did I do today to make my spouse happy?” You can call home from work to say hello. You can bring home flowers or a small gift. You can offer to do something to help your spouse with her tasks. Or you can simply smile when you walk into the house. Any extra effort you make will be appreciated by your spouse and will cause the love between you to grow and mature, according to Yitz Grossman.

A couple came to me recently, and the wife complained that whenever her husband comes home from work, he immediately starts learning Torah, hardly speaking a word to her. I told him that it was very commendable for him to be studious, but he must learn to balance his time. It was crucial to his marriage for him to find a little time every day to show his wife that he loves her and cares about her needs. A good time to do this is when he comes home after being away all day. She does not expect very much, I told the husband. She just wants to feel that there is affection between you, then she will be willing to let you learn as much as you want. The wife heard my words and nodded her approval with deep emotion. 

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Support the supporter – by Yitz Grossman

After his marriage, Rabbi Eliezer Gordon, the founder of the Telshe Yeshiva, was supported by his father-in-law, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Grossman, so that he could devote himself fully to Torah learning and develop into a gadol. As his family began to grow, and he was offered various rabbinical positions, Reb Eliezer sought to relieve his father-in-law of this financial burden. He asked his permission to accept a rabbinincal position and begin to support himself. Despite difficult financial times, Reb Avraham Yitzchak refused to permit him to do so. When Reb Avraham Yitzchak’s wife asked him how long he intended to support their daughter and son-in-law’s family, he responded, “My dear wife, who knows who is supporting whom…” Finally the prestigious rabbinical position in Eisheshok was offered to Reb Eliezer, and his father-in-law could no longer detain him. The day after the Gordon family left for Eisheshok, Reb Avraham Yitzchak was niftar. It then became clear who had been supporting whom. 

In this light, we can appreciate the significance of the deletion of the “yud” from the title of the nesi’im. With a “yud”, the word nesi’im denotes “those that carry”. Without the “yud”, the vowels can be rearranged to read “nis’aim”- those that are carried. The “yud” was removed to instruct them that, though they viewed themselves as making up the shortfall, they were in reality being carried by the merit of the mitzvah. 

Chazal tell us that we will be redeemed through the merit of tzedakah. May we recognize the great oppurtunity offered us when we are called upon to support Torah institutuions and the poor, and thereby merit redemtion.

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Truly motivated to help – by Yitz Grossman

Much has been written in praise of those who generously open their hearts and their wallets to help those who are in need. What about those who volunteer to raise funds for people and organizations in need? The commentators write that he who contributes charity, receives his due reward regardless of his motivation – be it l’shmah, for the sake of the mitzvah or the person and organization in need, or he is acting beneficently to promote himself. The same does not hold true with regard to the one who has the “fun job” of raising money. He must do so l’shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven; otherwise, his reward is very limited. This is derived from V’yikchu Li, they shall take for Me – LiShmi, for My Name, l’shem Shomayim.

Horav Shimshon Pincus, zl, explains the tzedakah process and its benefits with a meaningful analogy. The world we live in may be compared to a stormy sea, its waters raging. Man sits in his boat being thrust up and down with the rising and descending waves. Torah and mitzvos are the boat that protect man from the raging world. They are his boat of salvation, his only line of protection from the dangers of the sea. One who sins, inevitably cracks his boat and falls prey to the destructive elements. He is thrown into the water, cast about by the waves, and, ultimately, becomes their victim. 

There is, however, one way to have one’s life spared, even as his boat capsizes: a lifeline. He grabs hold of that lifeline and literally holds on for dear life until the storm subsides and he is able to make his way to dry land. Man’s lifeline is the mitzvah of tzedakah. When all else has failed and he is drowning in the raging waters, the mitzvah of tzedakah allows him to hang on. Even if the Heavenly Tribunal has issued negative decrees against him, he may continue to cling for dear life to his lifeline of tzedakah. 

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No need to know – by Yitz Grossman

Located by Yitz Grossman.

“Knowledge is power,” goes the knowing cliché. Like most clichés, this is true. If you knew what your bargaining partner’s fall back position was; if you knew whether or not she really loves you; you’d be more in control, more the master of your fate.

But only up to a point. Imagine that you knew everything. Imagine that you knew exactly when and exactly how you will die. That you knew, in advance, the details of every twist and turn in your marriage — the cause of every quarrel and the timing of every reconciliation. Imagine that all the actions you will take in the course of your lifetime were listed like entries in a giant captain’s log, with the results of each action noted at its side.

Would you feel that you were in control of your life? Or would you feel like a pawn being walked through the steps? Knowledge may bring power, but absolute knowledge brings utter powerlessness.

In the 49th chapter of Genesis we read how Jacob, before his passing, summoned his sons to his bedside, promising to reveal “that which will happen to you in the end of the days.” When they gather round, he blesses them and assigns to each his role as the progenitor of a tribe within the people of Israel. Nothing, however, about what will happen in the end of the days.

So life’s most urgent question remains a mystery. We know that the world will one day come to reflect the infinite goodness and perfection of its Creator. We know that our every positive deed is a step toward that goal, a brick in that glorious edifice. But when will it happen? Why can’t we see the finish-line approaching, why can’t we behold the rising edifice?

Some would say that this is G-d‘s way of keeping us under His thumb, so to speak. Perhaps if we knew too much, if we saw exactly how our every action and choice fitted in the master plan, we might take too many liberties, developing our own assessments of the goal and our own ideas on how to get there. So better keep man in the dark, so that he plod on toward his destiny in oblivion.

The truth, however, is the very opposite. It is precisely because G-d desired a creative, independent-minded partner to His endeavor, that He made life the mystery that it is. If we were consciously aware of the ultimate significance of our every action, our actions would be lifeless and mechanical — rehearsed lines recited by rote in a play whose script has already been read by every member of the audience.

It is only because each of our deeds, choices and decisions stands out in stark relief against the background of our lives, its train of causes and effects trailing off into the darkness of an unknown future, that our choices are truly ours, our decisions a true exercise of will, and our every deed is a meaningful contribution to our partnership with G-d in creation.

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Have full confidence – by Yitz Grossman

Once the general secretary of an organization for distributing charity in the Batei Machse neighborhood of the Old City of Jerusalem told his assistant to notify a Mrs. Rosenfeld that a sum of money had arrived for her from abroad, and she should come into the office to sign the receipt. 

The assistant went quickly on his errand, but in his haste he forgot the name Rosenfeld, and went instead to the house of Rabbi Yoseph Chaim Sonnenfeld, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, and notified him that the secretary would like him to come to his office. 

Rabbi Sonnenfeld complied and went immediately to the office. Upon his arrival, the surprised secretary asked, “If the esteemed Rabbi needed me, why did he not notify me and I would have gladly come at once?” 

“But I was invited by your assistant to come to see you,’ responded Rabbi Sonnenfeld. 

The mistake was quickly discovered. The angry secretary wanted to rebuke his assistant for his error, but the Rabbi prevented him, claiming that such a mistake is commonly made. 

The Rabbi then left the office. Instead of returning directly home though, he went to the house of Mrs. Rosenfeld and told her, “The secretary would like to see you in his office. A sum of money has arrived in your name.

Rabbi Yoseph Chaim Sonnenfeld had complete faith in the secretary and did not question his being summoned to the office, in spite of the fact that he was the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. We must also have complete faith in our spouses in order for our marriages to succeed. 

Rabbi Eliezer bar Yossi said, “Once I entered Alexandria in Egypt. I found an old man who said to me, ‘Come and I will show you what my forefathers did to your forefathers. Some were drowned in the sea, some were slain with a sword, and some were crushed within buildings.’ 

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Trust in marriage – by Yitz Grossman

All the lessons taught in the above midrash can be applied to married life as well. First, the question of lying to your spouse should never even arise. When you lie to your spouse, this is a betrayal of trust. The whole idea of marriage is to share, and when one lies to the other, there is no sharing possible any more. Such a couple begins to live separate lives. To avoid this terrible destruction of the closeness of a marriage, it is always much better to talk difficulties over frankly together and try to iron things out, than to cover problems over with a lie. Even though lying might seem easier at the time, over the long term it creates more problems which will be harder to solve later on. 

On the other hand, we do find that one is allowed to tell a “white lie” for the sake of shalom bayis. In this regard our Sages tell us that G-d changed the words of Sarah when she said, “and my husband is old.”  Instead of this, G-d quoted her words as: “and I have become old,” in order to prevent Avraham from being insulted by this remark.  When someone says something derogatory about his or her own spouse, we also should never repeat it to the person spoken about, so as to avoid unnecessary friction. (This example has very specific applications and should not be used as an excuse to lie when it is convenient.) Whenever possible, one should not conceal anything from one’s spouse. A couple should share the burdens and the joys of life together. 

The consequences of lying mentioned in the midrash apply to married life as well. “Rabbi Chiya learned, ‘This is the punishment of the liar, that even when he tells the truth, he is not believed.”‘ Once one discovers one’s spouse telling a lie, he or she will never be completely trusted again. Therefore it is always counterproductive to lie. 

The second lesson of the midrash is the burning of the wagons, which teaches us not to consider financial loss when something is spiritually harmful in the home. When it comes to anything that can be an educational deterrent, there is no room for compromise. Even if your spouse will be hurt by your determined stand to rid the house of the harmful object, the education of your children (and your own spiritual growth) must come first. 

The last lesson was that of the Eglah Arufah. Here we see that Yoseph tried to tell his father not to blame the brothers, because he knew that the whole incident had been orchestrated in Heaven. At first glance the brothers would appear to be blameworthy, so he tried to intercede and point out that the whole incident could not have happened were it not the Divine will. This is a lesson for us to apply when we feel hurt or insulted by our spouses. A person should always remind himself that any hurt he suffers is planned for him in Heaven, and therefore there is no reason to be angry with his spouse. According to Yitz Grossman, our Sages say, “A person does not hurt his finger below, unless it was decreed Above.” 

The more we learn to practice such tolerance, the stronger will our marriage become. 

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Is it ok to pray? – by Yitz Grossman

It’s a sign of the times that the sight of a person praying is cause for alarm. The expectation being that he is about to launch a terrorist attack or, at best, commit suicide.
Religious people have long protested this prejudice, and rightly so. People who make it a habit to speak to G‑d are not, on the whole, more violent than the general population.
Interestingly enough, however, in Jewish tradition, prayer is an activity with distinctly violent connotations. Our sages point out that the Hebrew verbvayigash (“and he approached”) is employed by the Torah to describe a person entering into battle, as well as one engaging in prayer. Indeed, the use of this word often implies a combination of the two—an approach that is both a plea and a confrontation (as in the case of Judah’s approach to Joseph, which gives the Torah reading of Vayigash its name).
We are speaking, of course, not of the type of violence that is perpetrated with bombs or fists, but of a deeper, more spiritual violence. Prayer, in its truest form, is a confrontation—a confrontation between man and G‑d, and a confrontation between the pure, unsullied self we cherish in the depth of our souls and the self we’ve made of ourselves in our daily lives.
How many times do we say to ourselves in the course of our day, “This isn’t who I am! This isn’t me!” We sense that we are in possession of a better self, a self that does not succumb to the countless compromises, great and small, we make to the “realities” of an imperfect world. But where is this inner self? When do we get to see it? Is it doomed to remain forever locked in some inner chamber of our soul, its voice muted and its influence negligible in our daily lives?
Prayer is when we open the gate that shuts in this inner self, and release it, together with our regular self, into the arena of our heart to confront each other face to face. The battle that ensues is always difficult, often indecisive, sometimes disappointing. But as long as it takes place on a regular basis, we know that that the “spark of G‑dliness” at the core of our soul is alive and well.

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Only twenty pieces – by Yitz Grossman

Twenty silver pieces amounts to five shekalim, the same amount we use to redeem our firstborn sons. Chazal teach us that this amount of money atones for the brothers’ sin of selling Yosef. Additionally, since each brother’s share of the “take” amounted to two dinarim, the equivalent of a half-shekel, Jews annually give a half-shekel for the upkeep of the Bais Hamikdash. Since we no longer have the Bais Hamikdash, the Machatzis hashekel, half shekel, is contributed annually on Purim to charity.

The Shivtei Kah, brothers who sold Yosef, represent Klal Yisrael. Thus, the onus of their guilt is on the heads of each and every Jew. It thus makes sense that we all contribute a half shekel annually. According to the first opinion, however, that only one who has a firstborn boy gives five shekalim, it would seem that a small minority of Jews are obliged to carry the weight of guilt for everyone else. Is this right?

Horav Chaim Zaitchik, zl, explains that there is a different aspect to remembering the sale of Yosef, specifically at such a heightened moment of joy as a Pidyon Haben. A family is blessed with a firstborn boy. Everyone is ecstatic, their hearts filled with joy. It is especially at this moment that one should take a step back and think. It really is not all that good. Although we may be happy with this present simchah, in the large picture of life it is not that good. The Jewish people are still suffering in galus, exile. We no longer have the Bais Hamikdash. When did the origin of our troubles begin? With Yosef Hatzaddik. Had we not sold him, we would not have been relegated to go down to Egypt. One thing led to another, but, it started with a few silver coins for which we traded away a brother. This will minimize the joy, because, as long as we do not have our Temple, there is no real joy. There is always something missing.

David HaMelech writes in Sefer Tehillim 137:6, Tidbak leshoni l’chiki, im lo ezkireichi, im lo aaleh es Yerushalayim al rosh simchasi. “Let my tongue adhere to my palate, if I fail to recall You, if I fail to elevate Yerushalayim above my foremost joy.” At the moment of intense joy and uplifted happiness, it is incumbent upon us not to forget Yerushalayim, which is in mourning for its Temple and its people. As the chassan, bridegroom, is about to take his first step to the chuppah, when it is the most climactic moment of his life, ashes are placed on his forehead as a remembrance of Yerushalayim. Do not forget.

Yitz Grossman via Rav Zaitchik implores us never to forget the plight of the unfortunate, those who have less, those who have lost, and those who never had. It is so easy to forget the pain when our mind is drunk with joy. The Talmud Megillah 28a states that Rabbi Zeira was asked, Bameh he’erachta yamim, “Why (for what merit) did you achieve longevity?” He replied, “I never showed anger in my home; I never walked in front of one greater than I.” He concluded, “I never rejoiced in the stumbling of my fellow.” This statement is enigmatic. Is not rejoicing in a fellow Jew’s misfortune sufficient reason for longevity? It is forbidden to rejoice in another’s misfortune. Shlomo HaMelech writes in Mishelei 24:17, B’nefol oyivcha al tismach, “When your enemy falls be not glad, and when he stumbles be not joyous.” This is what is written concerning an enemy! Imagine how one should act toward a friend.    

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Why act like a youth – by Yitz Grossman

The Torah calls him a boy, even though he was already seventeen years old, because he behaved in ways characteristic of youth. 

Why did Yoseph behave in ways which were characteristic of youth? Yoseph was the child of Yaakov’s beloved wife, Rachel. Everyone knew that she was the one Yaakov considered to be his true wife. This gave Yoseph the status of being the favored son among all the others. He was the son who was supposed to take his father’s place.

Everyone knew that only one son of Avraham would take his place, and that was Yitzchak. Similarly, only one son of Yitzchak took his place, and that was Yaakov. Thus, everyone assumed that only one of the many sons of Yaakov would take their father’s place. Since Yoseph was the son of Yaakov’s beloved wife, he was the natural choice. This situation was a trial for Yoseph. He was not an only righteous son as his father and grandfather had been. They had no competition, since Yishmael and Esav were not really candidates for taking their fathers’ place. But Yoseph did have real competition. All his brothers were spiritual giants. To ward off their jealousy,  Yoseph played the simpleton. He pretended that he was not as interested in spirituality as was his father. He preferred combing his hair, accentuating his eyes, and paying great attention to his appearance. When the brothers saw him act in this way they left him alone, thinking that such a simpleton would never pose a challenge to them in taking their father’s place. 

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Fighting the angel – by Yitz Grossman

Located by Yitz Grossman based on the writings by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Perhaps the most mysterious incident in the Torah‘s account of Jacob‘s life is the night-long battle described in the closing verses of the 32nd chapter of Genesis.
Jacob is preparing for his encounter with Esau the next day. He ferries his family across the Yabbok stream, but “remained behind alone” (according to the Talmud, he stays to retrieve some “small jars” of his that were left behind). There, “a man wrestled with him until dawn.” Jacob is injured in the struggle, but is undefeated. At daybreak, Jacob’s combatant pleads with him to let him go. Jacob says: “I will not let you until you bless me.” The man accedes and confers upon him the name Israel, “because you have struggled with the divine and with men, and you have prevailed.” (Israel, Yisrael in the Hebrew, means “he who prevails over the divine.”)
Who is this man with whom Jacob wrestled? According to the Sages, he is the “angel of Esau,” and their struggle, which “raised dust up to the Supernal Throne,” is the cosmic struggle between two nations and two worlds — the spirituality of Israel and the materiality of Edom (Rome). The night through which they wrestled is the long and dark galut (“exile”), in the course of which Jacob’s descendants suffer bodily harm and spiritual anguish, but emerge victorious.
The struggle is conducted on two planes — “with the divine and with men.” It is a struggle with men: in nearly 4000 years of galut we have wrestled with the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Romans, the Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany and Islamic terror. These and many others did their worst to destroy us, yet we have prevailed.
It is also a struggle with the soul of galut, with its Divine essence and purpose. Thrice daily we plead, protest and contest before the Supernal Throne: How much longer? Yes, it is true that these struggles have roused the highest and deepest potentials of the Jewish soul. Yes, it is true that galut has unearthed reserves of faith and wisdom such as would never have been actualized by a tranquil people enjoying a tranquil existence. Yes, it is true that we are fulfilling the cosmic plan in retrieving the Sparks of Holiness buried in the darkest reaches of G-d‘s creation. But how much longer must we linger over these “small jars”? And surely You, the essence of Kindness and Goodness, could have devised a way to achieve all this without all the evil and pain!
It is a long and difficult struggle till dawn. But in the end we triumph over men and prevail over the divine as well. For this is the essence of Israel.

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