Rabbi Efrem Golberg Of The Boca Raton Synagogue – Parsha Behaalotecha – Remaining Humble

Towards the beginning of the parsha, the Torah describes that Aharon lit the Menorah, just as he was commanded. Rashi says l’hagid shevacho shel Aharon she’lo shina, this teaches Aharon’s greatness that he didn’t deviate .

Would we suspect for a moment that Aharon would fail to fulfill Hashem’s command or that he would distort the proper lighting of the Menorah? Why do we need to be told that Aharon didn’t change?

The Sfas Emes suggests that Rashi isn’t telling us that Aharon didn’t change from the command, but rather that Aharon attitude didn’t change. The enthusiasm, joy, excitement that Aharon brought to that first kindling remained each subsequent lighting and didn’t diminish at all.

Perhaps we can suggest another interpretation. The pasuk is revealing Aharon’s greatness she’lo shina , Aharon didn’t change. He was elevated to the status of Kohen Gadol, distinguished, prominent, prestigious and yet it didn’t have an impact on him. Aharon remained the same humble person he was before. His status, stature and prominence didn’t change him.

No matter our accomplishments or achievements, our roles or titles, the friends or following we have online or offline, like Aharon, we must remain humble, authentic and at our core, the same person we always were.


Rabbi Efrem Goldberg Of The Boca Raton Synagogue On Lag B’Omer

Tonight we will celebrate Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer. Each day of the Omer is characterized by another kabbalistic attribute. Lag B’Omer is Hod sh’b’hod, the glory of glory, reflecting our appreciation of God’s greatness and glory. The Hebrew word hod can be understood as coming from the same word as hodu, or modeh, meaning thanks. Lag B’Omer is a day characterized as “thankfulness within thankfulness,” or a day to celebrate gratitude.  Why are we so grateful? Rebbe Akiva’s students stopped dying because there were no more left. Is that a reason to be grateful?

The Chassam Sofer, Rav Moshe Sofer says we celebrate Lag Ba’Omer for an altogether different reason and it is one that teaches us about gratitude.  Historically, the miraculous mann that fell from Heaven began to descend on Lag B’Omer. On the first day, the mann was undoubtedly greeted with great enthusiasm and appreciation, but as time went on and there was an increasing expectation the heavenly bread would descend, it became much easier to take it for granted and to forget to be appreciative for it at all. Therefore Lag B’Omer is a time that we identify and say thank you for all of the blessings that regularly descend into our lives, but unfortunately, like the mann, that we take for granted.

It is so easy to fall into a sense of entitlement and to forget to be grateful. Why should I thank my children’s teachers? They’re just doing their job. Why should I be so appreciative to the waiter, or the custodian, or the stewardess? Isn’t that what they are supposed to do? When was the last time we said thank you to whomever cleans our dirty laundry? Do we express gratitude regularly to our spouse who shops, cooks dinner, or who worked all day to pay for dinner, or in some cases did both?

As we celebrate Lag B’Omer, let’s not just say modeh ani in the morning and then quickly transition to feelings of entitlement for the rest of the day.  Say thank you to the people who do extraordinary things in our lives. But even more importantly, express gratitude to the people who do the ordinary things that make our lives so filled with blessing.


Rabbi Efrem Goldberg – Rabbi Of The Boca Raton Synagogue – Have Klal Yisroel In Your Hearts

“Aharon shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the choshen over his heart when he enters the Holy.”  Shouldn’t it say on his chest, why on his heart?

The Seforno says it was over his heart to inspire Aharon to daven for the Jewish people – sheyispalel aleihem sheyizku b’mishpat – that they persevere and triumph in judgment.   The Abarbanel goes even further. Aharon wore the breastplate with the names of the tribes on his heart – “sheyizkor Aharon tamid b’machshavto u’vitfilosav es Bnei Yisroel,” so that the would always be thinking of his brothers and sisters, the Jewish people constantly.”  Wearing the Jewish people on his heart meant he was always mindful of them. They never grew old, or stale or irritating. He never got used to them or their plight or their fate.

The midrash tells us that when Aharon went into the Kodesh Ha’kadashim, the Holy of Holies, it was bizchus ha’avanim v’hasfatim, in the merit of the stones and the tribes.

Asks the Sfas Emes – but when Aharon went into the Holy of Holies, he wasn’t wearing his choshen with the stones representing the tribes?  How could his entrance be in their merit? Answered the Sfas Emes that in fact he was wearing them. Aharon wore the Jewish people on his heart whether technically donning the choshen or not.  He carried us with him on his heart wherever and whenever.

We too must carry the Jewish people, we must carry our family and their fate on our hearts.  When we learn of the tragedy of the murder of a beautiful Jewish soul in Israel for no other reason that she is a Jew, we should put down our mug and shed a tear.  When we read the anti-Semitic twitter rants of a sitting member of Congress, we must stop in our tracks and pledge to protest, to do something about it and hold her colleagues accountable.

To be a Jew is to have the rest of the Jewish people on our hearts and in our minds always, never looking away or saying its not our problem, but always feeling the pain and celebrating the joys.

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg – Terumah – Why Voluntary Giving Is Desired

The collection of money for the Mishkan is different than the solicitation of other forms of tzedaka.  Normally, we can technically force someone to give tzedaka as they are only the stewards of the money, it really belongs to Hashem.  We are to allocate it based on Hashem, the true owner’s will, which generously let’s us keep 90% of it.

Why is the Mishkan different that only those “who give generously form their heart” are invited to donate?  Rabbi Soloveitchik writes:
“Man is basically a homeless being.  No matter how large and opulent his home, he is exposed.  He is subject to the vicissitudes of life, subject to nature – which at best is indifferent to man, at worst is hostile – and subject to an inscrutable future.  

There is only one home where man gains security:  Hashem is called Me’onah, an abode (Devarim 33:27).  The only home where man can find security is in the Ribbon Shel Olam.  Hashem told Moshe not to collect the money for the Mishkan by using force, because the Mishkan was to be built only if the nation felt the need to build a home for Hashem on their own.”

With all the turbulence and chaos around us, only by connecting with, investing in and feeling close to Hashem can we feel truly protected and insulated.  We aren’t called to give money to build a home for Hashem, but we are called on to make room for Him in our hearts, our thoughts and our actions.

Rabbi Efram Goldberg – Rabbi Of The Boca Raton Synagogue – Parsha Beshalach – The Bones Of Yosef – Never Forget Where You Came From

After centuries of suffering and servitude, the Jewish people were liberated and set free.  The pasuk describes that when leaving, while everyone else was packing up his or her personal belongings, Moshe had only one concern.  On his deathbed, Yosef made his children swear that when they would finally leave Egypt they would bring up his bones for burial in the land of his forefathers.  Moshe made good on that promise, vayikach es atzmos Yosef imo, while everyone else schlepped their luggage, Moshe took Yosef’s remains.

The Abarbanel wonders, why is the Torah first telling us about this now in Parshas Beshalach after they left Egypt and not in Parshas Bo where they are preparing to leave?

This newly emancipated nation barely had a moment to celebrate their freedom before their former oppressors were in pursuit boxing them in with the sea.  When the Egyptian military and their chariots drowned in the sea, their wealth, gold and silver floated to the Jews. As they stood on the other side of the sea watching and welcoming their salvation, they bent down and collected the spoils.  All of them that is, except one.  Moshe, says the mechilta, had the wisdom and righteousness to collect the greatest wealth at that moment.  He didn’t pick up gold or silver; vayikach es atzmos Yosef imo, he took the bones of Yosef Ha’Tzadik.

While the rest of the nation used their newfound freedom to pursue wealth, pleasure and a brighter future, Moshe was unwilling to look only to what lay ahead.  He recognized that they could not go without Yosef.  Yosef is part of them: he is their history; he is their connection to the past, he reminds them where they come from and their roots.

The Kli Yakar notes it doesn’t just say vayikach es atzmos Yosef, but rather vayikach es atzmos Yosef imo.  Moshe didn’t just carry the bones of an old ancestor.  He took Yosef imo, with him shaping who he was and who they were to become. The Itturei Torah encourages us to read it not as atzmos Yosef, the bones of Yosef but atzmus Yosef, the essence of Yosef, his narrative, personal story of courage and heroism, remarkable accomplishment of rising to greatness, extraordinary ability to raise a proper Jewish family within a foreign culture and land. Atmus Yosef, it was the essence of Yosef that Moshe carried not only that day, but for forty years as they wandered the desert.

As we live in the present and look towards the future, we can never forget our past and the people and values that helped shape us into who we are.

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 Efrem Goldberg Of The Boca Raton Synagogue – Sharing is Not Always Caring: Being Judicious With What We Share

A number of years ago, shortly before I was scheduled to travel, I remembered that my passport had expired. When I called to make an appointment for an expedited renewal, the woman offered me a date that I quickly realized coincided with Shavuos.  I told the woman I couldn’t come then because it was a Jewish holiday.  She asked me to wait a and when she returned informed me that she checked with a “very Jewish” co-worker who said there is no Jewish holiday on that date and that neither she nor he have ever heard of Shavuos.

Of all of the Jewish holidays, Shavuos is probably the least well-known and definitely the least observed among the Jewish community. This is particularly sad in light of the theme of Shavuos, namely the camaraderie, kinship, and bond our people forged as we received the Torah that unites us together as one. Shavuos should be a time that we re-connect, re-bond, and remember the fraternal nature of being a Jew.

Rosh Hashana, Chanukah, and Pesach are very public holidays that are often noted even in the non-Jewish world.  Companies take out ads with holiday greetings to the Jewish community, television newscasts wish happy holidays to their Jewish viewers, and Presidents release holiday messages directed at the Jewish people.  Shavuos is an orphan holiday with our own people barely taking notice, let alone the world.  If only it weren’t such a well-kept secret and more widely celebrated and observed.

And yet, there is an aspect of the privacy and secrecy of Shavuos that is completely appropriate.  On Shavuos, we commemorate the experience of receiving the luchos, the tablets at Har Sinai, and with them the whole Torah.  However, the luchos that were to last, the ones that survived and endured, were not the original set that Hashem gave to Moshe publicly.  Rather, the luchos that remained intact and that protected our people at war were the ones that Hashem gave Moshe privately at a later time.

The Midrash tells us that this is not a coincidence but, in fact, is a reflection of a broader principle.  The Tanchuma teaches that because the first set of luchos were gifted at a very public ceremony with pomp and circumstance and the world watching, they were susceptible to ayin harah, the jealousy, envy, and ill wishes of others.  The second set, given privately in an understated, under-the-radar-manner, endured. They were protected from the negative aspirations of some who would be watching.

What is ayin harah and how does it work?  Shouldn’t what happens to us in life correlate with our personal merits and not to some extraneous force that comes from jealousy?

Ayin harah is not a kabbalistic, mystical, or irrational concept.  When we boast openly, carry on ostentatiously, brag showily, or even simply celebrate our success publicly, we invite others to look jealously upon us and to wonder why we deserve good fortune when they don’t have it.

The Maharal explains, that this curiosity, this wonder, and the question that others have when they observe our good fortune is a type of prayer, intended or unintended, that elicits God to wonder as well.  God hears the pain of the one who is lacking and has our good fortune cast in his or her face and He reacts by taking a closer look at whether or not in fact we deserve the blessing we are boasting in the first place.

Perhaps it is with the force of ayin harah in mind that the Gemara (Bava Metzia 42) observes: Amar Rebbe Yitzchakein ha’beracha metzuya elah b’davar ha’samuy min ha’ayin – Blessing is not found except in something that is hidden from the eye.

The force of ayin harah is stronger today than ever because we have more platforms to talk, show, and share than ever.  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and to a certain extent even text messages and email are all designed to entice us to share pictures, spread information, and boast about things going on in our lives.

Let me be clear.  There is nothing wrong with sharing and connecting with family and friends using these mediums.  However, we must be extremely judicious and cautious with what and how we share publicly, and what remains protected by the veil of privacy.  Not every picture needs to be posted.  Not every stock market success needs to be flaunted.  Not every intimate experience needs to be shared, online or offline.

Ein ha’beracha metzuya b’davar ha’samuy min ha’ayin.  Showing off about a vacation we took, how smart or adorable our children or grandchildren are, which famous person we met, or what we just bought, invites others to place their jealous and prosecuting eyes upon us.  I am not calling for a blanket ban on sharing, but simply calling for us to struggle a little more with what, how, why and where we share.

How do you protect yourself from ayin harah?  You can’t tie a red string around your Facebook profile and even if you could, it wouldn’t help whatsoever.  Says Rav Dessler, the antidote to ayin harah is simple – be modest, humble, understated, low-key, inconspicuous, and unassuming.  Preserve your capacity for privacy. If something good happens to you, be happy and even be proud. Share it with trusted family members or friends, but keep it samuy min ha’ayin, under the radar, not posted, shared, linked, and texted everywhere and for all to see. Use social media to connect, never to self-promote.

Last year, CNN had an article about a Prep School headmaster whose contract wasn’t renewed. He had sued his former employer for age discrimination and won a settlement of $80,000. The agreement contained a standard confidentiality clause, prohibiting him or the school from talking about the case.

However, his daughter couldn’t resist bragging about the case on Facebook. “Mama and Papa won the case against Gulliver,” she wrote. “Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.” She had over 1,000 Facebook friends, many of whom were connected with Gulliver and so news of the post made its way back to the school’s lawyers. After they appealed the verdict, the Third District Court of Appeal tossed out the $80,000 settlement. Not keeping their beracha samuy min ha’ayin cost her family a lot of money.

As we celebrate Shavuos and commemorate the giving of the luchos, let’s remember that those that were accompanied by pomp and circumstance quickly came crashing to the ground, while the tablets that were given privately persevered and endured.

Reprinted with the permission of Rabbi Efrem Goldberg.