Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Shemos – Building A True Torah Home

Parents invest thousands of dollars in the education of their children, seeing it as a critical tool in their success. Schooling is not the only component in the development of successful children, however. A Yeshiva will give the child a good education, but the relationship of parent to child and the environment and atmosphere of the home is what truly molds a child’s character.

Our children spend many hours a day at school, but it’s their home that serves as their foundation for a happy, well-adjusted and productive life.

Looking at our leaders involved in bringing us out of Mitzrayim, we see Moshe Rabbeinu, who led us out and brought down the Torah, Aharon HaKohen who was Moshe’s partner and became Kohen Gadol, and Miriam, the leader and role model for all the Jewish women. Remarkably, all these unparalleled leaders…were siblings!

How did Amram and Yocheved, the parents of these three, merit that their children be the leaders and pillars of Klal Yisrael? What components of their home helped nurture these spiritual giants?

Let’s look at Yocheved. Pharaoh decreed that she and her daughter, Miriam—the midwives of the Jewish people—kill all the Jewish boys at birth. Yet, Yocheved and Miriam defied their orders, ignoring the most powerful ruler on earth. The verse says, “Vatireina Hamiyaldos es HaE-lokim.” (Shemos 1:17) “The midwives feared Hashem.” Their fear of Heaven (“Yiras Shomayim”) would simply not allow them to perform such a terrible crime, no matter what the penalty might be.

It’s very rare that the Torah specifies the reward for an action in this world. Here, the Torah does so. It says because the midwives feared Hashem, He made houses for them. These are not physicalhomes, but rather, the three empires of Klal Yisrael:Kehuna (priesthood), Leviim (Levites) and Malchus (Royalty).

Why are these virtual empires called “houses?” The Kotzker Rebbe quotes Yeshaya Hanavi saying, “Yiras Hashem hi otzoroh”(Yeshaya 33) – the fear of Hashem is the storehouse… for one’s Torah and mitzvos. Anything precious that we own, we keep in a safe place.  We don’t want it to disappear or get damaged. Yiras Hashem surrounds and keeps fresh our commitment to Torah and mitzvos.

Rav Gedalia Schorr adds that fear of Hashem is also called “home.” Just like a house surrounds and protects a person, so too does Yiras Hashem safeguard a person. Further, a home is much more than just a building. It’s the environment that helps create us in an ongoing manner, an evolving and growing expression of who we truly are. In the case of Yocheved and Miriam, their home was totally suffused with Yiras Shomayim. This was the atmosphere that nourished Miriam, Aharon and Moshe to grow into the spiritual and leadership giants they became.

Reb Yerucham Levovitz zt”l, the renowned Mirrer Mashgiach, explains that Fear of Hashem is not a possession that we own. It’s a trait that we gradually acquire, reinforce and expand. We have an obligation to build our Yiras Shomayim.  Even for Yocheved and Miriam, it was a product of hard work to reach their lofty status, which allowed them to stand up to the threats of Pharaoh.

 By working on our spiritual development, we create a legacy for our children and grandchildren. Indeed, among the first words we teach our children to say each morning are, “Reishis chochma Yiras Hashem”— the first step to wisdom is Fear of Hashem. While we should always make our best efforts, it’s the Almighty who ultimately decides all that happens in the world.. But what’s always in our control is what we do and how we react — that must always reflect our Yiras Hashem.

Life will often present us with choices and it’s tempting to opt for the easier path. Yet, our decisions not only impact us; they affect our offspring as well. My paternal grandfather, Mr. Helmut Bodenheim, emigrated from Germany to America in 1938. He was told he had to work on Saturday to hold any job. But my grandfather wouldn’t hear of it and remained firm in his faith and his principles. A week ago, my family got together for his yahrzeit. As I looked around the table, with a large Torah-observant family from both America and Eretz Yisrael, I was amazed at the beautiful legacy my grandfather created. No doubt, it was the commitment to Torah and Yiras Shomayim in his home, that nurtured the values thriving in the homes of his descendants.

Our schools and our Yeshivos are vital partners in the growth of our children and families, but it all starts in the home. Making clear choices for ourselves, based on love and fear of Hashem, builds a “home” that children will be anchored to forever and will pass on to their own families as well.

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg Of The Boca Raton Synagogue – Parsha Shemos – Achieving Serenity

This week, we begin reading Sefer Shemos. The Ramban tells us it is the story of our transition from galus to geulah, from exile to redemption. At the end of the book, we still aren’t yet in Israel so clearly geulah cannot mean a geographic description alone. What then does it mean?

The Me’or Einayim (R’ Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl) explains that in truth, galus and geulah are mental states. When our mind is cluttered, anxious, burdened and we are incessantly busy, we are in exile, our da’as suppressed and persecuted. When we have peace of mind, serenity, space to think, interact and be, we have personal redemption.

Pharaoh understood this and so וימררו את חייהם בעבודה קשה he made our lives bitter by burdening us with more and more work making us busier and busier with no time, no space, and no peace. When we are overwhelmed and feel despair, we are in a personal exile. When we replace busyness with productiveness and include margin and space in our thinking, our schedule and our lives, we have been redeemed.

The Slonimer says the first letters of the opening words of the parsha spell שביה, captive. We are in exile when our neshama is held captive by busyness, FOMO, connectivity, technology and the constant background noise. We release ourselves when we live with menuchas ha’nefesh, serenity.

Carve some space in your day with no technology, noise or activity and redeem your neshama today!


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Vayechi – A Guaranteed Return On Investment

The calendar year is coming to a close. Investment firms are reminding us to contribute to our IRA’s before year-end. Non-profits are sending emails to contribute now to gain our tax deductions. Everyone is looking to get the biggest bang for the buck. In our lives, and in our Parsha as well, the theme is getting our affairs in order to better secure the future.

Although I am not a financial advisor, I would like to share the best investment advice which the Torah reveals to us.

Yaakov gathers all his children together before he passed away and gives a specific bracha (blessing) to each of them. Upon careful scrutiny, however, some of those brachos seem not to be blessings at all. For the first three sons, it was more of an admonishment! Rav Yerucham Levovitz explains that Yaakov was actually giving his children the greatest gift: a deep, penetrating insight into the nature of their character. This prophetic insight would serve as a pivotal tool to help achieve their success in life.

The tribe of Yissachar, which Yaakov compares to a donkey carrying a heavy burden, is compared to one who dedicates himself to rigorous Torah study and who bears the responsibility – the burden — to understand and explain the Torah correctly to all of Bnei Yisroel. The tribe of Zevulun, symbolized by a ship setting sail on a voyage, represents people in the business world embarking on new business ventures. The relationship between the two is apparent, as Yaakov Avinu groups them together.

The Chofetz Chaim explains that Hashem — the source of all good and kindness — knew that it’s impossible for the people of theentire nation to solely dedicate themselves to the study of Torah all day. Some would need to work and earn an income! Yet, the Gemara Nedarim says, “If not for those who toil in Torah day and night, the heavens and earth would cease to exist.” Moreover, Rav Chaim Volozhin says the world only spins because of the words of Torah that are being learned. Therefore, Hashem made different time zones to ensure that even while it’s night in one part of the world, it is day somewhere else and people are awake learning Torah.

Still, this Torah existence cannot survive independently without support. Therefore, Hashem created the Yissachar-Zevulun partnership. Yissachar studies day and night and Zevulun is the businessman who generates the income. It’s a true partnership. Both are essential – Zevulun is the business partner of Yissachar. Further, the Shach quotes the Zohar which tells us this partnership is so binding that the special reward for studying Torah is shared equally between the two. Supporters of Torah learning receive the best in this world and the next!

The Sfas Emes adds that Zevulun should be truly excited in each new business venture, for he is guaranteed success because his partner Yissachar is studying in yeshiva. Reward in this world comes with business success; reward in the next world comes with the Torah learning he shares. It’s a great proposition!

After Yaakov blessed each tribe, the verse says,” Ish k’virchaso barech osum,” – he blessed each person according to his nature. Rashi tells us Yaakov gave an additional blessing to the effect that each tribe will have an intrinsic element and quality of all the other tribes. As such, Zevulun – those who work – also have an aspect of Yissachar and also need to dedicate time themselves to study. The Chofetz Chaim says further that everyone — even those who study all day — are also obligated to donate to help further Torah study.

So, as we look to make our year-end donations, let’s remember that the best investment — with a guaranteed return on investment — is Torah. The more shares one buys in a company, the more of a portion he has in that company AND the more dividends and revenue he will receive when the stock value increases. The same is true for our investment in support of Torah. The resulting continuation and spread of Torah learning will benefit us personally, the Jewish people as a whole, and even the rest of the world! What a payoff!


Yacov Nordlicht – Parsha Vayechi – The Yissachar Zevulun Relationship – Evaluating Action Within Mitzvos


In this week’s parsha, the medrash relates to us the unique relationship shared by יששבר  and זבולון. It’s the first mention in the Torah of an agreement where one brother would learn Torah and the other would support him financially, and they would “split” the שכר.

The אמרי שפר  is bothered by a fascinating question. Many ראשונים imply that if one were to support another financially, even if the learner doesn’t learn לשמה, the שכר  received by the supporter is still a לשמה-type of שכר. There are two glaring difficulties with these ראשונים. The first problem is simply in the mechanics. How could such a thing be? How could a supporter receive an equal שכר than the person who actually did the learning? And furthermore, in the end of the day, תורה wasn’t learned לשמה! How then could he receive a שכר for something which never actually happened?

In order to understand the answer to this question, we have to be able to properly define the different parts of any given מעשה. On a superficial level, there exists two different parts of a מעשה; the action itself and the result of the action. In reality, however, there must exist another part of a מעשה  which isn’t immediately recognizable to the naked eye, yet must exist in the world of the abstract.

To illustrate this point, we have to explore a different הלכה, the פטור of an אונס. If a person does an עבירה באונס, he isn’t held accountable because of the famous dictum אונס דרחמנא פטריה. There exists quite a famous חקירה in how to understand this דין. Rav Elchonon Wasserman in his famous work קובץ הערות elucidates two distinct ways of understanding this פטור. Is it like other פטורים where a person physically performed the action but isn’t held accountable for what he did, or is the פשט of an אונס somewhat more radical, that it isn’t just a פטור rather it’s viewed as if the perpetrator didn’t even perform the action in the first place! (These two opinions could be the subject of a מחלוקת between the רמב”ם and רמב”ן in regards to the מצוה of קידוש ה’).

However, we find a massive difficulty with this second way of understanding אונס. It’s well known in הלכות נזיקין that אדם המזיק is held accountable and liable to pay for damages whether or not he performed the act באונס or ברצון. Now if we understand like the second way of understanding, that it’s as if the perpetrator never even performed the action, then how could he be held accountable for something which he never did?

We’re forced to say in lumdus that there exists another part of a מעשה which isn’t immediately distinguishable. Certain אחרונים called this the “עשייה”. The proper definition in English is what the person invests into his action. For example, even though a person physically performed an action, how personally invested into his action was he? This could be the proper understanding of why a person is held accountable in דיני נזקין by an אונס, yet פטור in other areas במקום אונס. In other areas of the תורה, for example, in the majority of עבירות, the תורה doesn’t hold us accountable for the action itself, rather for what we invest into the עבירה. Therefore, if a person was באונס he isn’t personally invested in the עבירה at all, and therefore there would be no reason to hold him accountable. On the other hand, in דיני נזקין, the תורה is מחדש that a person isn’t liable for what he invests into the action, rather the action itself has the ability to make him liable to pay.

I think with this understanding, we can properly understand how a supporter of תורה could receive שכר for תורה לשמה even though the actual learning which took place was שלא לשמה. The reason is that when a person supports another in learning, it isn’t the learner’s עשייה which is reflected back on the supporter, thereby giving him שכר, rather it’s the actual מעשה of לימוד התורה itself which is reflected back on the supporter! Therefore, it doesn’t have the specific “investment” of the learner, namely the aspect of “לא לשמה”. Therefore, when it’s reflected to give the supporter שכר, it remains a מעשה לימוד התורה in its purest form, without the blemish of the learner.


From The Editor – Parsha Vayechi – 120 – For The Refuah Shlema Of Avigail Ester Bas Chaya Rochel

Yosef’s life was shortened, and he died at the age of 110. The Gemara (Brachot 55a) explains that this occurred because he conducted himself with an air of superiority over his brothers.

drash that establishes the normative lifespan to be 120 would be based on the Gemara (Bava Kamma 26a) that says, “Adam Muad Leolam,” which can be translated to mean that man’s time is forever, and the gematria of the word muad is 120.