Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – Passaic Torah Institute – Shabbos Chazon And Tisha B’Av – Opportunities For Redemption

Arachim was running one of its powerful seminars in Eretz Yisroel, exposing the attendees to the beauty of Torah and Mitzvos. The crescendo of this seminar was going to be Shabbos.  Friday afternoon, as most of the attendees were getting ready, Rabbi Wallis noticed one of the participants, a noted doctor and professor, wheeling his suitcase in the process of leaving.

Rabbi Wallis walked over to him and said, “May I introduce myself? I am Rabbi Wallis, CEO of Arachim. I noticed you wheeling your suitcase and exiting. Was there something in the seminar that was not to your liking?”  The doctor replied, “Everything was perfect.  I enjoyed myself tremendously and gained a lot.” Rabbi Wallis was puzzled. “So may I ask why are you leaving before Shabbos begins? Shabbos is the highlight and most beautiful part of the seminar.” The doctor responded, “I will tell you the truth. I heard all the lectures; I argued and challenged and was politely refuted. I am now convinced that Torah is true. But…I am a high-level physician in a big hospital and if I come in wearing a kippah and tzitzis and leaving early for Shabbos, the future of my career is over! If I stay for Shabbos, there will be no turning back. I’m not prepared to throw away my future and career.”  Rabbi Wallis watched as the man drove away from what he knew was true, but knowing the doctor now had an inner spark that could be rekindled later.

This is a sad story, but it’s very apropos to our time. Each year, as we enter the period of national mourning–the Three Weeks–for the loss of the Beis Hamikdash, we are confronted with the sad truth that we individually and as a nation are in exile. Klal Yisroel should be living in Eretz Yisroel with Kohanim serving in the Beis Hamikdash. Yet, the prohibition on weddings, music, and haircuts reminds us of our state of imperfection. As the mourning intensifies with the commencement of the nine days, adding limitations on eating meat, doing laundry, and bathing, that which we are lacking becomes harder to ignore.

And finally there’s Tisha B’Av itself.  As we sit on the floor with our shoes off, fasting, and listening to the tune of Megillas Eichah, the stark reality that we are not where we are supposed to be hits us hard.   But what do we do with that truth??  Will we “drive away” from spirituality the next day or will we change something in our lives to correct our errors?  We know our errors and what we need to work on.  The Gemara tells us explicitly the Second Temple was destroyed because of sinas chinam-baseless hatred, or as Rabbi Leuchter translates it, alienation.

There is an alternative way to find the truth, by plugging into the Shabbos before Tisha B’Av. It’s called Shabbos Chazon, since the Haftarah starts with the word Chazon – Vision. This is a unique word used only in the prophecy of Yeshaya.  The Nesivos Shalom explains it’s used because on this Shabbos, all Klal Yisroel received a heightened sense of sight, vision and perspective.

The vision of Yeshaya gives us a keener understanding of our current situation: Even with the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and exile of the Bnei Yisroel, Hashem still loves us! Yeshaya teaches us that we are children of Hashem and just as a father has to admonish and sometimes punish a child harshly, it’s all done with immense love for the child and solely for the betterment of the child. Indeed, this is reflected in the name of the month ” Av”– father.

This level is achieved specifically on the Shabbos prior to Tisha B’Av when the mourning period and limitations are at their highest. And yet, this Shabbos is free from any of the mourning of the nine days!  One may shower regularly for Shabbos (according to many Poskim) and wear freshly-laundered Shabbos clothes. This demonstrates that on Shabbos, we have the same connection with Hashem that we did with the Beis Hamikdash. The heightened state we achieve on Shabbos can elevate us to the redemption.  “If the Jews would keep one Shabbos with adherence to all the laws of the Shabbos, then even if they serve idols they will be forgiven” (Gemara Shabbos 118).

The Nesivos Shalom points out that this Shabbos, we can transform the upcoming week to a week of redemption by recognizing Hashem’s immense love for us.  The Midrash says Moshiach will be born on Tisha B’Av, which can be interpreted to mean that the lesson of Tisha B’av will inspire us to come close to Hashem and merit Moshiach.  Still, if we do not open our eyes to this vision, we will end up once again sitting on the floor Monday night, listening once again to “Eichah” in that haunting melody.  This is hinted to us on Shabbos in Parshas Devarim as Moshe Rabbeinu used the word Eichah in referring to the contentiousness of B’nei Yisroel (Devarim 1:12).

Shabbos is transformative.  The Sages compare the six days of the week to Creation and the next world to Shabbos.  Someone who does not cook food during the week for Shabbos will not have food when Shabbos arrives!  Someone who does not prepare in this world, will not have what to enjoy in the next world.

Let us use this Shabbos to express our love for Hashem by dedicating time to study Torah, the treasure of Hashem.  Let us sanctify Shabbos by our mode of dress and conduct. Let us internalize this feeling of everyone being “children of Hashem,” to care for all our brothers and sisters, regardless of the way they differ from us.  Remember: every parent wants all their children to get along.   Connecting with each other, and our Father in Heaven, will surely lead us from sitting on the floor on Tisha B’Av, to singing and dancing with Hashem in Yerushalayim in the new Beis Hamikdash.  




Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Mattos Massei – A Matter of Priorities

It’s not surprising to find our Parsha reflecting the period we find ourselves in now, the Three Weeks, as we are contemplating our two thousand year exile and why it’s taking so long to end.  Let’s examine the Parsha closer to glean a few insights into our path to geulah!

The tribes of Reuven and Gad were blessed with huge quantities of cattle for which they needed suitable grazing areas.  They approached Moshe to request that their portion or inheritance be east of the Jordan River, instead of inside Eretz Yisroel proper.  It seems the land in the east was particularly fertile and well-suited for cattle.   A heated dialogue began, as Moshe thought their request would lower the morale of the people, who were about to enter the front lines of battle to conquer Eretz Yisroel.  

But Gad and Reuven quickly replied this was not their intention!  Indeed, they would be the vanguard of the people at the very front of the troops entering the Land, and would not return home (to the east) until the job was done!  This took a full 14 years to accomplish.   

Looking closer at this exchange, a couple of interesting insights come out.  Moshe did not once mention that he was upset at their request to switch their portion in Eretz Yisroel for land “over the Jordan.”  Another perplexing point is, why did they care so much about grazing their livestock?   After 40 years of living from the Hand of Hashem, weren’t there more elevated priorities to consider?

Rav Dessler explains Hashem gives each person a portion in life that directly supports his or her unique mission.  Gad and Reuven understood that if they were blessed with all this livestock and wealth, then they obviously were responsible to ensure they use these materials things well.  Moshe Rabbeinu understood this clearly and did not even need to consult with Hashem because this was their tafkid (purpose).  

However, Rashi quotes the Midrash Tanchuma which takes issue with the language used by the tribes of Gad and Reuven. They told Moshe, “We will build corrals for our sheep and cities for our children” (32:16) to house them until the men return from war. The Midrash notes the placement of their livestock/ possessions before their children. To this, the Midrash says, “The heart of the fool is on the left – these are the sons of Gad who made the tafel ikur and the ikur tafel (the secondary primary and the primary secondary).  They were more concerned with their possessions than their children.”

This is what Shlomo Hamelech was referring to when he wrote “They hurried to receive their lot first, but in the end they will have no blessing.” (Mishlei 20:21) The tribes of Gad and Reuven were hasty in their request for land.  Their hastiness is apparent in their placement of their animals before their children, and so they will have no blessing in their lot – they will be the first of the tribes to be exiled.  Indeed, the tribes of Gad and Reuven were exiled close to 200 years prior to the exiles of the rest of Bnei Yisroel!    

Every one of us has responsibilities in life, but we need to keep are priorities straight.  The tribes of Gad and Reuven assumed tremendous responsibility for helping others.  They understood the need to encourage and support Klal Yisroel in conquering Eretz Yisroel.  They also understood their own responsibilities to their families.  However, one of the greatest challenges is knowing how to prioritize those sometimes conflicting responsibilities.  

The crux of the matter was that their possessions were a gift of Hashem and a great blessing, but their families were an even greater priority.  Their inappropriate emphasis on possessions before children led to their being punished with exile first.   

Exile truly challenges our sense of priorities.   Will we keep our own Torah-given priorities front and center, or exchange them for the values of the nations and cultures in which we live?  Will our family come before our money and job, or will we place the dollar before our children?   For Gad and Reuven, they walked a delicate tightrope.  They understood their possessions were part of their service to Hashem, but they were incorrect in putting them before their own children.

Our constant challenge-and opportunity-living in the world today is to clearly show our families the priorities set forth by the Torah and our talmidei chachamim.  The outside world will respond in kind with different priorities, but our road to Geulah (Redemption) is to be steadfast in keeping the ikur before the tafel, (the primary before the secondary).

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Parsha Pinchas – The Value Of Constant Service

While learning Parshas Pinchas, I noted the incredible actions of Pinchas in executing Cozbi and Zimri, which saved the Jewish people from a continuing plague. Pinchas was driven by passion.  At the end of our Parsha we read about the daughters of Tzelafchad, who very much desired a portion in Yisroel. They were also very passionate. Imagine what it took to stand up to Moshe and the leaders of their tribe in front of Klal Yisroel! So we have two examples of Passionate Judaism. But are the passionate actions of Pinchas and the daughters of Tzelafchad, the type of actions required of all of us?

A wonderful neighbor of mine asked me the following: In Parshas Pinchas, Hashem chooses Yehoshua to be the successor of Moshe Rabbeinu. Why wasn’t Pinchas, who had just saved the Bnei Yisroel from Hashem’s anger, the first choice? Pinchas was a hero, while Yehoshua was a quiet figure. Shouldn’t Pinchas be the one chosen to lead?

To answer this question, let’s first look to the end of the Parsha, where we are introduced to the Korban Tamid, the daily offering. On the 17th of Tammuz, at the time of the Roman persecution, the Korban Tamid was abolished, one of five things which led to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. How was terminating the Korban Tamid a catalyst for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash?

The Gemara Shabbos (119b) lists many reasons for the destruction of Yerushalayim, the first one being that the people stopped saying Krias Shema in the morning and evening. Why should this omission lead to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash?

Our Parsha lists the Mussaf offerings of each of the holy days, each one a special Korban (sacrifice). Even so, the Korban Tamid (daily sacrifice) was also brought. Which was brought first, the daily sacrifice or the unique, special sacrifice? We have a great rule: “tadir visheaino tadir, tadir kodem,” the more frequently performed Mitzvah precedes the less frequently performed. It’s not the unique, special actions that make us great, but rather the constant performance of the daily Mitzvos that makes us heroes in Hashem’s eyes. Therefore, the Korban Tamidwas offered first.  The simple, yet consistent everyday Mitzvos are the key.

Look at the unique sacrificesof Sukkot. 70 bulls were offered on behalf of the 70 nations of the world. The first day of Sukkos 13 bulls were brought; the following day 12. The bull offerings decreased daily until only 7 were brought on the last day of Sukkos. This signifies that the nations will diminish over time. They start the observance of their religion with a big to-do, represented by the 13 sacrifices, but they don’t maintain their enthusiasm, and their passion and excitement wane. But Bnei Yisroel don’t bring the BIG Korbanos, bulls; rather, they bring sheep, the sacrifice of the ordinary man. Also, they bring the same number (14) daily, because Hashem values consistency. Bnei Yisroel started and maintained their closeness to Hashem throughout history.

Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld zt”l, hearing that the great Klausenberger Rebbe would not start davening until he had a new insight into the Tefilah, sat down the next morning and looked inside his Siddur, but no insight came to him. He looked again…still nothing. Finally, it was so late that he had no choice but to start davening. This illustrates that davening daily is a greater mitzvah than davening only when you feel a great kedusha or insight come over you.

This, therefore, leads us to the impact of not reciting Krias Shema, a simple, twice-daily Mitzvah, where every Jew declares his acceptance of Hashem’s rule as the King of the Universe. This is why – measure for measure – it led to the abolition of the Korban Tamid on the 17th of Tammuz and ultimately the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash!  Without the daily, set service to Hashem, there was no way for their Avodas Hashem to have any permanence.

Pinchas, great as he was, was a symbol of monumental passion and action- the hero who stepped up. Yet it was Yehoshua, “a lad who never left the tent” of Moshe (Shemos, 33:11), who was chosen to lead. He had been a faithful talmid for 40 years and he would represent to Bnei Yisroel, the perpetual, steady service of Hashem.

Shlomo Hamelech tells us, “The lazy man should examine the ways of an ant and grow wise.” The Yalkut Shimoni (Mishlei 938) tells of an anthill that was discovered to contain 300 kur(about 1900 bushels!) of grain in a year of famine. They didn’t gather it all in one day. Our constant and consistent Tefilos, Mitzvos and especially Torah study, mean more and have a greater, lasting effect than any occasional, extraordinary act.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI In Passaic – Parsha Balak – How Good Do We Have It

The calmness of summer days is a sweet feeling.  Everyone is more relaxed. Children enjoy their newfound freedom.  For me, a distinct and most beautiful part of the summer morning is walking up and down the streets, hearing the melodious voices of little children davening in their homes and summer camps. Hearing Mah Tovu from an innocent child is especially moving…and motivating!

The text of our prayers is a tapestry of verses woven from Torah, Neviim and some passages composed by the greatest men of Jewish History. Pesukei D’zimra consists of verses from Tanach, as well as tehillim composed by Dovid Hamelech. The Shema is written in the Torah. Every word of the Shemoneh Esrei was decided by the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah (Men of the Great Assembly) 120 of the greatest sages. Aleinu, the closing prayer of each service, was composed by Yehoshua bin Nun.  Hence, it is surprising, if not disturbing, that the first prayer of the morning, Mah Tovu, was composed by Bilaam –the wicked– who sought to curse and destroy the Jewish nation.  Couldn’t we open with something from Dovid Hamelech?  Even young children who are just starting to learn how to daven and only recite a few selected prayers, recite Mah Tovu.  Why did this prayer composed by Bilaam merit to be the opening prayer of the day?

One explanation is given by the Sfas Emes (Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter 1847-1905).  We are commanded in the haftarah of Parshas Balak (Prophet Michah) to remember what Bilaam and Balak attempted to do to Klal Yisroel, as is stated, “Remember what Balak and Bilaam attempted to do to Klal Yisroel.”  The sages would even have included parts of Parshas Balak in the reciting of the daily Krias Shema, but for its length! (Gemara Berachos 12b) The Chidushei Harim said that even though it’s not included in Shema, we fulfill the mitzvah of remembering what Bilaam and Balak attempted every morning by saying Mah Tovu, which is in Parshas Balak.

A second explanation comes through an incredible insight shared by the Lev Simcha – Rabbi Simcha Bunim Alter (Gerrer Rebbe 1898-1992), who says Bilaam attempted to curse Klal Yisroel many times and Hashem reversed his words of curse to words of blessing.  However, when Bilaam finally articulated the words of Mah Tovu, his sincere intention was to bless the Jewish nation. This is why it says (Balak 24:2) “…and the divine spirit of Hashem rested upon Bilaam.”  Explains the Lev Simcha, the codifiers of the prayer wanted to emphasize in the very opening of our prayers that anyone who has a sincere desire to do good, even the wicked Bilaam(!), is recognized by Hashem and can even merit the Ruach Hakodesh (divine spirit).  As we start each new day, we need to realize we have a new opportunity to connect to Hashem, no matter what we might have done the day before.

Still, what is so important in Parshas Balak that we are required to remember daily?  What is so pivotal that it would have been included in Shema but for its length?

The opening verse states, “How beautiful are your tents, Yaakov, and the Mishkenos of Yisrael.”  The Sforno explains “tents” as the Yeshivos, as it says, Yaakov Avinu was a Yoshev ohalim – a dweller of the tent (which refers to his learning in Yeshivos).  Mishkenos is understood to mean the Shuls.  The Lev Simcha offers that the tents of Yaakov are the Jewish homes and the dwelling places of Hashem’s presence are the Shuls and the Yeshivos.

I believe this is why we need to open our tefillos with precisely this verse each day.  Mah Tovu – What is good?  The answer is simple:  a Jewish home, our Shuls and Yeshivos.  We are to create an abode where we can bring the presence of Hashem into our lives through our prayer and proper behavior.

And why was Mah Tovu impervious to the evil intent of Bilaam? The Maharal explains that Bilaam listed ten things with which he tried to curse the Jewish people unsuccessfully. Ten is considered the number of holiness, as indicated by the minimum number of people needed to recite Kaddish and Kedusha.  The first of the Bilaam’s ten is the holiest and that is found in Mah Tovu:  the tents – the Jewish home, the Mishkenos (Shuls) and Yeshivos.  They are the “holy of holies” and therefore impervious to curses.

As we recite Mah Tovu each morning, let us integrate this concept of remembering how holy are our homes, Shuls and Yeshivos.  Let’s be inspired to maintain their sanctity and decorum with proper speech and conduct and to conscientiously incorporate Torah in their midst.

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI In Passaic – Parsha Chukas

Learn Now.
Timely Torah Insights

by Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim

Associate Rosh Yeshiva  
Our True Culture

In life, there are people, circumstances, and scenarios which we understand and there are those that leave us perplexed.  Sometimes it’s due to lack of knowledge or familiarity and sometimes it’s just beyond our comprehension. The purification process, where the Kohen sprinkles the ashes of the Parah Adumah on the defiled, is a pure enigma.  In this process, the impure becomes pure yet the pure becomes impure.  That is why the Torah introduces this process as a Chok – Zos Chukas HaTorah – This is the law of the Torah.  As Rashi explains, the word “Chok” means a law without any obvious rationale, as opposed to a Mishpat – which is a law whose purpose we can comprehend.  However, the word Chok also has a second meaning –to inscribe– as is used regarding the Luchos (tablets of the Torah) “Chakuk Al Pi Luchos” – that is, to be inscribed, or etched, into the stone.

Rav Hirsch tells us that in Lashon Hakodesh (the holy Hebrew language), if a word has two meanings, there is a common concept they share.  So what is the connection between Chok as a law without rationale and Chok as an etching?  There is a very telling Rashi in Parshas Acharei Mos (18:3) “Uvchukoseiheim lo seleichu” –and in the Choks (ways) of the Nations do not go. Rashi explains that the Chukim of the nations refers to the cultural ways of the nations, which are ‘chakukim,’ “etched,” into the fabric of society, i.e., widely accepted; for example, going to theaters and stadiums. Thus Rashi explains how a Chok is a cultural phenomenon (not necessarily based on logic) which is etched into the fabric of society, thereby uniting both uses of the word Chok.

When one writes something on paper, two separate items result: the paper and the words which are written on the paper.  However, in an etching, the surface itself forms the words.  As such, a Chok is something which is part of the fabric itself. This explains a puzzling Chazal which expounds on the verse, “Zos Chukas HaTorah, adam ki yamus b’ohel….” This is the teaching regarding a man who would die in a tent.” (Chukas 19:14) We learn from this that Torah is acquired by those who kill themselves to understand it. (Gemara Brachos 63b) This is a very strange way to describe the need to apply oneself to Torah study.  Why such an extreme?

I remember hearing an interview on the news with a Yankee fan after the Yankees won the 1996 World Series after eighteen years of not even making it to the World Series.  The fan said, “The Yankees won the pennant; now I can die!”

A little extreme, right? Is this logical? Is this what he was living for??  Really, he was expressing a feeling about something he felt was part of him.  The Yankees were his life.  Why do people enjoy watching sports?  Sports is a national and international craze. But what does your favorite team really have to do with you?  People are so taken with the game and its players, yet receive no direct benefit from the team.  Why?  No need to look for logic here- they just enjoy it.

We find the word Chok used in the beginning of Parshas Bechukosai: “Im Bechukosai Seleichu….” Rashi explains this means if you toil in my Torah, then you will merit all the blessings. So we see that the Torah uses the word Chok in regard to diligent Torah study.  The reason is as we quoted– Zos Chukas HaTorah, but the interpretation now is: This is our culture – the Torah. Other peoples have theaters and stadiums as staples of their culture, but our culture is only the Torah.

Now we can understand how Torah is acquired by one who “kills himself” to understand.  It’s not an extreme, but rather an expression of how acquiring Torah knowledge is the core of a Jew’s life, into which he puts his all, like the person (l’havdil!) who felt the Yankees’ victory was his whole life.

There is an incredible insight from the Ohr Hachayim which says we are compared to parchment and every time we learn Torah, we are carving the words of Torah into ourselves.  A Jew’s true essence is Torah.  That’s what we should live for and that’s what we should die for. As we say in Maariv each night, “Torah is our life and lengthens our days, and in Torah we toil day and night.”

Indeed, the Torah is the essence of who we are. May we all accept the concept of Torah as our culture, in which we revel.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim Of PTI On Parsha Korach

Striving to Make Peace
Korach, Dasan and Aviram. Not exactly top tier names when a baby boy is born. Indeed, within the Chumash, these names are nothing short of synonymous with utter discord and defiance. In Sefer Bamidbar, we are introduced to many individuals and groups who act in extremely abhorrent ways, yet the Baalei Musar refer to Sefer Bamidbar as Sefer Hamidos, the Sefer that teaches us the proper rules of conduct.
We interact with people all day. Very often, we encounter individuals that we do not get along with. Yet, our lives are governed by the Torah, which demands a higher level of conduct, recognizing at each moment that all human beings are created in the image of Hashem.
The most enigmatic people in this week’s Parsha are surely Dasan and Aviram. They have a long history of causing trouble. Our first introduction to them is when Moshe encountered the pair in the midst of a quarrel. Moshe screams “Rasha, Lamah Sakeh as Rei’acha – Wicked man–why do you strike your friend?” (Shemos 2:13) Their response is even more shocking. “Hal’hargeini … Will you kill us like the Mitzri you murdered yesterday?” insinuating that they are going to report Moshe to the authorities. It is hard to imagine such a level of insolence. Moshe says, “Achen Noda Hadavar – Now the matter is known.” (Shemos 2:14) Rashi tells us Moshe was saying that he now knew why the Bnei Yisroel were in Galus – exile– since there were informers! And indeed, they did report Moshe to the authorities, causing Moshe to flee from Mitzrayim to Midyan to escape certain execution.
One would assume that this wicked duo perished during the plague of darkness when 4/5ths of the Jewish people who were not deserving of being taken out of Egypt died. Yet, much to our surprise, they survived. Why?
Rav Shimon Schwab explains the mystery. Because Dasan and Aviram believed in Hashem and stood at Har Sinai and said Na’aseh V’nishma- we will do and we will hear- they merited to be taken out of Mitzrayim. Nonetheless, they had a personal issue with Moshe Rabbeinu. They felt he was improperly usurping all the power, which should have been shared with others (including them, of course!). Rav Schwab suggests they were also angry with Moshe as a result of having been punished with poverty for informing on Moshe (Gemara Nedarim).
So here we have Dasan and Aviram, who have a personal vendetta against Moshe. Our normal inclination is to focus on the negative behaviors of Dasan and Aviram, so that when similar situations arise, we will know what conduct needs to be avoided.
However, doing this alone potentially has a great pitfall. Do you remember telling yourself that you definitely will not copy certain negative language or actions of your teachers and parents?  Yet, much to your surprise, you find yourself as an adult or parent doing and saying those exact things! Why is that?  Rav Wolbe zt”l tells us that when a challenging situation arises, most of the time, our brains cause us to react automatically based on past experiences, even if those experiences are negative. The only way to ensure a positive response is to affirmatively replace the bad reactions with the proper reactions. How? One excellent way is to watch talmidei chachamim; to be trained by their actions, rather than go on auto-pilot and be governed by negative experiences and environmental influences.
If we focus on how Moshe interacted with these instigators, we will be surprised to see the extent of how we are expected to treat and interact positively with those with whom we do not get along.
Despite the treachery of Dasan and Aviram in reporting Moshe to Pharoah and challenging his power, Moshe appointed them as Kri’ei Ha’ideh – leaders of assembly, who are seated in front at all public gatherings. Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people, also tried to dissuade them from taking part in the dispute regarding his power, even going to their tent.  Rashi tells us from here we learn that one needs to take positive action to put an end to any disagreement. Moshe did so even after Dasan and Aviram responded with unprecedented insolence, saying “even if you would poke out our eyes we will not come speak with you!” (Korach 16:14)
Moshe Rabbeinu is teaching us how one must treat the other party in a disagreement One must place his personal honor and pride aside and accord the other party honor and respect in trying to settle the dispute!
May Hashem help us train ourselves to act and treat all people with the honor they deserve and to learn from appropriate role models.
Practical Halacha: 
Halachos of Tzedakah – Maaser Part 4
by Rabbi Gershon West
Maggid Shiur
Maximum Amount of Tzedakah
Is there a maximum amount of money that one is permitted to give away each year to tzedakah? The Gemara in Kesubos[i] says Chazal stipulated one may not spend more than a fifth of one’s profits on tzedakah each year. The reason is because if one he exceeds this, he may then need to take tzedakah himself. Therefore, they made a takanah not to give away more than a chomesh to tzedakah.
The Rema in Shulchan Aruch[ii] brings this Halacha to not give away more than a chomesh of his profits to tzedakah.
Exceptions to the Chomesh Cap
Are there any exceptions to this rule? The Gemara in Kesubos[iii] tells the story of Mar Ukva. When Mar Ukva passed away, he left half of his assets for tzedakah. The Gemara explains that only during a person’s lifetime is he restricted to giving a chomesh. This is because he may give away so much tzedakah that he may need to take tzedakah himself. However, when a person passes away, there is no longer that issue. Therefore, Mar Ukva was permitted to give away more than a chomesh when he passed away.
Rema[iv] brings this Gemara and states the halacha that one may bequeath in his will as much money as he likes to tzedakah. This implies there are no limitations at all[v].

However, Rabbi Akiva Eiger[vi] quotes the Shiltos DeRav Achai Gaon that the gift to tzedakah at the time of one’s passing is limited to a third of one’s assets.  Apparently, the Rav Achai Gaon had a different girsah in the Gemara in Kesubos that said a third instead of a half.

Others[vii] state the halacha based on our girsah in the Gemara, which permits up to a half of one’s assets.
The Meiri[viii] writes that how much a person should give to tzedakah in his will depends on numerous factors.  How much did he miss the opportunity to give to tzedakah during his lifetime? How many assets does he have and how many children does he have who will inherit those assets? The amount he should leave to tzedakah depends on these questions. The Meiri seems to say that one may give as much tzedakah as one wishes, and he is not limited to a third or a half of his assets.[ix]

[i]דף נ ע”א.
[ii]סימן רמט ס”א.
[iii]כתובות דף סז ע”ב.
[iv]סימן רמט ס”א.
[v]עיין בפרי מגדים או”ח סימן תרנו ס”ק ב במ”ז.
[vi]בגליון השו”ע.
[vii]פרי מגדים או”ח סימן תרנו ס”ק ב במ”ז, וצוין ברעק”א.
[viii]כתובות סז ע”ב.
[ix]בדרך אמונה פ”ז ממתנ”ע ס”ק כו משמע דנקט דגם לפי המאירי השיעור הוא מחצה או שליש. אמנם עיין בשט”מ בדף נ ע”א בשם תר”י דמותר לבזבז כמה שירצה רק שישאיר קצת ליורשיו, עיי”ש.ועיין ערוה”ש סימן רמט ס”א וחכמ”א כלל קמד סי”ב.

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim On Parsha Shelach

Learn Now.
Timely Torah Insights

by Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim

Associate Rosh Yeshiva
Truly Seeing What You See
While living in Eretz Yisroel, I was delayed many times due to a chefetz chashud – a suspicious package – but I never got to witness the procedure up close.  A friend of mine did.  The bomb squad pulled up in a special van. After the area was cordoned off, the back door of the van opened and a special robot was wheeled out.  The robot drove towards the suspicious package, pulled the package inside a cavity in its center and then detonated the package.  If this was a bomb, the explosion would have occurred inside the robot, thus shielding everyone around.  Baruch Hashem, the bag was not a bomb.  A half hour later, when the crowd disbursed, all that was left on the floor was the remains of a small pink school bag, which a little girl forgot at the bus stop on her way to school that morning.  (Better to err on the side of caution in these instances.)
When the meraglim -spies- which Moshe sent to scout out the land of Eretz Yisroel returned, they reported that “the land consumes its inhabitants.”  (13:32) To their credit, this report was based on real events they had witnessed. They saw that every town they entered was engaged in funeral processions and the townspeople were all distraught with grief.  So many people were dying. The meraglim came to the conclusion that the land itself must be deadly. Why else should there be so many deaths? (Gemara Sotah 35a) However, they failed to consider that these deaths were not caused by something inherent in Eretz Yisroel, but rather by the Hand of Hashem, Who arranged all these deaths to preoccupy the inhabitants with their losses, thereby keeping the meraglim undetected.
Harav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky zt”l (known as the Steipler) proves these deaths were uncommon from the fact that everyone was so distraught.  Had they been common, only the immediate families would be distraught.  So why did the spies not properly analyze what they were observing?
The answer is a pasuk we recite daily in the last paragraph of Shema.  “Do not stray after your heart and eyes” (15:39) There are two components in seeing.  The eyes physically view the image and then our brain processes the image.  Just how our brain interprets what it sees, depends on our hearts.  It seems the meraglim had ulterior motives.  They were all the heads of their tribes and knew they were going to lose their positions when the Bnei Yisroel moved into Eretz Yisroel.  This impending change in status predisposed them toward giving a negative report to prevent them from entering the land. Indeed, the Torah concludes with a warning that we not make the same mistake of explaining circumstances based on our own personal interests.
To see how an event can be viewed differently, in good faith, let’s look at a simple modern-day illustration: a policeman’s body camera.  The footage as shown from the body cam of the policeman shows him going toward someone standing in a parking lot looking suspicious. The policeman approaches closely and says, “Sir, what are you doing here?”  We then hear screaming and the view jostles violently for a few seconds. We next hear a thud and apparently the policeman is on the floor, as the view is now looking up.  We would naturally conclude the person attacked the policeman!
The same scene is then replayed from an outside camera, which shows the view of both the policeman and the individual. Again, the policeman approaches and says, “Sir, what are you doing here?”  We then see and hear a woman nearby screaming as her young child is about to step off the sidewalk into heavy traffic. The policeman turns to help and trips, landing on his back.   What a different story! The man did not attack the police officer. The view was jostling because the policeman tripped and fell!
It’s all in the eye of the beholder, who interprets that which he sees.
In fact, our human anatomy makes this all so clear! The image our eyes see is really upside down and the brain has to turn it right-side up. If our brain would not invert the image we see, we would literally see the world upside down.
So how do we know if we are interpreting what we see correctly? Rav Dessler points out that we are biased to our own self-interests.  However, our friend or neighbor viewing exactly what we see, can be objective when it doesn’t concern him.  As the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos implies, it’s crucial to have a Rav and a friend to keep us on the right path and help our eyes see that which is really there.