Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Special Hoshana Rabbah / Pre-Shemini Atzeres Post - Of Dew and Rain

During the summer I took along a companion on my four hour drive up to Camp M. to visit my family. Every week I would download multiple shiurim on the parshah given by Rabbi Eli Mansour which were made available on the http://www.learntorah.com website.

One of the best shiurim which I heard from R' Eli was on Parshas Shoftim and was entitled "Dew and Rain." I have attempted to reproduce a number of thoughts from the shiur to the best of my ability. As always, any inconsistencies are my fault and should not be attributed to R' Mansour.

Rabbi Mansour quoted a pasuk from Shir Hashirim where it is written "Kol Dodi Dofek" - my beloved one is knocking on the door. The pasuk ends with the statement - please open the door for me because my head is filled with dew ("nimla tal"). R' Mansour commented that the pasuk seems not to make sense - if the person is waiting outside to come in, his head could be filled with rain if it is raining, but why dew? Also, who is the one who is knocking?

The literal translation of Shir Hashirim would imply a man talking to his wife, but Shlomo HaMelech has better things to do than tell us love stories. We know this from a gemara which writes that all the books of the Tanach are kodesh (holy), but Shir HaShirim is kodesh kadashim. Thus the story is Hashem knocking on the door of each Jew's heart and He is asking to come in. He is saying - knock knock, open up for Me.

The gemara writes that Hashem asks each every Jew - open up your heart like the opening of the eye of the needle, and if you make that opening I will take you back.

Rabbi Mansour explained that there are many many mitzvos and Hashem is not saying accept on yourself to do all of the things you have not been doing properly. He is saying, make a small change like the eye of the needle. These could be things like benching from a siddur. Or accepting on one's self not to speak lashon hara for a specific hour (9-10 AM) every day. If one does something small, it will grow and a mitzva will lead to the other.

Rabbi Mansour explained how this defeats the yestzer hara. The yetzer hara says to the person - you can't do all the mitzvos, so why are you even trying. Are you a hypocrite? However, by chosing one mitzva we can defeat the yetzer hara and feel good about our path back to Hashem.

Why does the gemara use the example of the hole or eye of the needle? Why not the hole when you stick your finger in the sand? R' Mansour answered that it is a small hole, but it lasts. Once the hole is made in the needle, it will stay forever. Hashem is saying, choose one small mitzva and keep it.

R' Mansour then gave another explanation for the use of the needle analogy. He observed that people make resolutions and promise change around Rosh Hashanah. Then as we get further away from the yamim noraim, we forget our resoultions and ease back into our old ways. By mentioning the opening of the needle Hashem says - much like a garment which has developed a hole, we have separated from Hashem. As such he tells us give Me an opening like the eye of the needle and I will use the needle to sew us back together.

R' Mansour then returned to the pasuk from Shir Hashirim and he used a medrash to explain it. At the end of time, Hashem will say to the Jews - come to me and drink a cup of consolation. The Jews will respond - initially, you got so mad at us that you threw us out and sent us into exile, now you want a cup of consolation. Hashem responds by saying here is an example - a man kicks his wife out and later wants to appease her. She says to him, you got mad and now you want to appease me? He responds, do you think that from the day that I kicked you out, I was still in the house? I left too! Hashem tells the Jews - from the day that I kicked you out of the Beis Hamikdash, I left my Beis Hamikdash shel ma'alah. And here's my proof - my head is filled with dew, because I have been sleeping outside in the streets like you.

R' Mansour then started talking about the mitzva of hosting guests, a great mitzva. R' Mansour said - imagine that you get a call that the Chief Rabbi of Israel wants to stay at your house. You would paint the house for him! But then imagine that its not the Chief Rabbi - its David Hamelech, or Adam HaRishon. You would really want to host these people as guests. But what if it is Hashem who is knocking and asking to stay by you? Can you imagine the z'chus, the blessing you receive from Hashem if you host him? Hashem is knocking on the door like a guest and is asking to come in. Are we going to answer - sorry I am busy shopping or watching TV?

If we don't answer, Hashem asks - why have I come and there is no one there? Open the door and let Me in as my head is filled with Dew.

R' Mansour then gave an introduction to the concept of dew. He quoted the Zohar that all the bounty that comes from Heaven initiates on the from Earth. If we want the water supply to be blessed, we make a bracha on the water and drink it. Not only does that allow us to drink the water, it creates a shock in shamayim that allows Hashem to bless the water. Hashem says, they appreciate my water so I will bless it. If a person does something good on Earth, the good deed travels up to Heaven like a pinball and hits the target and the bracha comes down. If a person wants a bracha they need to do something to get it. If you don't put a quarter in the pinball machine and hit the flippers, the score will not register. If a person wants a bracha they must do good deeds on Earth to merit it.

In addition to the rain which comes when we merit it and is caused by our actions, Hashem also gives us moisture because He loves us, even if we don't merit it. R' Mansour gave an example of a person who wanted to support his child so he gave him an allowance. The only proviso was that the son had to come every Sunday to get the allowance. The pattern continued for a period until the son stopped coming. After three weeks, the father came to the son's house, looking to see where he is and why he has not come for so long. The father sees the son in the house and says where were you - I was worried.

In the same vein, Hashem wants us to do teshuva, but sometimes we don't come. So Hashem makes an event on the Earth to inspire us to return - an open miracle or a natural disaster which should motivate us. In the month of Elul, Hashem knocks on the door and calls out to us and ask us to let him in.

I will iyh finish this post after yom tov in a separate post.


If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com/ to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - Braylon and the Telshe Yeshiva Boys

As regular readers of this blog are aware, the Monday post was usually devoted to sports with highlights and analysis of the Max Kellerman show which formerly aired on 1050 ESPN Radio. Although Max resigned from 1050 more than a year ago, I have tried to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

Over the last two weeks, the Jets and football fans at large have been "treated" to the best and worst of Braylon Edwards. During the Jets game on Sunday September 19, 2010, the Jets were victimized by Braylon's emotions which could have potentially undone the good that he accomplished. After Braylon caught a ball for a touchdown, he was doing an "in your face" type of activity to a player on the New England Patriots and was flagged for "taunting." Variations on this penalty have been existence for the last fifteen years or so in the NFL, but the bottom line is that a player cannot be engaged in "excessive celebration."

As a result of Braylon's actions, the Jets were forced to kick off from 15 yards behind the usual spot, but they did not suffer any serious damage since the Patriots were unable to capitalize on this gift as they did not score on the possession and the Jets ultimately won the game.

The day after the game, Braylon again caused potential damage to the team, his image and the public at large, based on his simple inability to think before he acted. As was reported in the newspapers, on Monday evening Braylon visited a charity event which was hosted by a teammate. After he left the event, Braylon got drunk and was arrested by a New York City Police Officer after he blew a .16 (double New York's legal limit) on the Breathalyzer.

After Braylon was released from lockup, the Jets decided to "punish" him by benching him for the First Quarter of Sunday's game against the Dolphins. They then allowed him to play the final three quarters and he factored heavily in the outcome as he caught a touchdown as well as a very important third down pass.

While I can't truly fault the Jets (the NFL determines the suspension for criminal activity and they have not done so yet) for their slap on Braylon's wrist, I have to admit to wondering whether there is any line that Braylon can cross which would permanently "undo" the good he does between the lines on the field. When he taunted the other team he could have potentially cost his own team the game. When he drove drunk he could have potentially cost an innocent person his life.

The question reminded me of a story that Rabbi Kelemer told in his Shabbat Shuva Derasha this year. Rabbi Kelemer mentioned that one year when he was in the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, a local reform Rabbi drove onto the campus in order to partake in the Simchas Torah celebration. Although the Rabbi parked in a remote area, some of the boys in the yeshiva saw him and let the air out of his tires.

Rabbi Kelemer said that the following week the Rosh Yeshiva gave a derasha on Shabbos wherein he ripped into the boys for their actions. As told over by Rabbi Kelemer, the Rosh Yeshiva noted that this Rabbi had visited the yeshiva because he felt compelled by something in his neshoma to dance and celebrate upon completion of the Torah. Rather than allow this Rabbi to join in their celebration and possibly influence him l'tov, the boys created a chillul Hashem which "undid" their Yom Kippur and its teshuva.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com/ to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Night Suds - New Belgium Hoptober Golden Ale


This week's Sunday Night Suds comes as a special delivery from the Windy City and looks at New Belgium's Hoptober Golden Ale (on sale this week at Binny's).

Regular readers of this blog are aware of my fondness for New Belgium beers (see reviews of the New Belgium 1554 Black Ale -- here, Two Degrees Below Ale -- here, Sunshine Wheat -- here and of course, Fat Tire -- here. So as a reward for driving to Chicago for Sukkos, I took the opportunity to load up on New Belgium and bring some back to my home in New York.

Although the name Hoptober conjures up images of an Oktoberfest type of beer, it is definitively not that type of brew. Indeed, the experts at Beer Advocate consider the New Belgium Hoptober Golden Ale to be an American Blonde Ale which is defined as:

More or less a creation from the craft-brewery movement, and also reminiscent of the German style K├Âlsch. Pale straw to deep gold for color. Usually an all malt brew, well attenuated with a lightly malty palate. Most have a subdued fruitiness. Hop character is of the noble variety, or similar, leaving a light to medium bitterness. A balanced beer, light bodied and sometimes lager like.

With this kind of definition, it should not be surprising that the beer was sought after and consumed by the Heineken man as well as others in the Chicago family sukkah. The beer went very well with schnitzel and I would strongly recommend it for other types of fried chicken dishes.

Tip - If you are in the Chicagoland area, you can pick up the Hoptober Golden Ale on special at Binny's. While the NB brews usually go for 8.99/6 or 16.99/12, the Hoptober was on sale for 7.99/6 and 13.99/12.

New Belgium Hoptobers under the Kosher Supervision of the Scroll-K of Colorado. Although the beer does not bear the kosher symbol on the label, it can be found on the bottom of the six pack carrier. Additionally, if you would like me to e-mail you the LOC for New Belgium Hoptober. send me an e-mail and I will gladly oblige.

Please note that not every brew produced by New Belgium is under kosher supervision. Please click on the link on the left side of my home page to see my latest Kosher Beer List.

To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about New Belgium Hoptober Golden Ale, please follow this link http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/192/51991 . As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

Finally, if you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com/ to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Night Suds Joseph's Brau Black Toad Dark Ale

This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Joseph's Brau Black Toad Dark Ale.

First let me clarify that no amphibians were harmed or used in the creation of the beer as it is certified Kosher by the Va'ad of Detroit. [I don't know if its the lawyer in me or just a preemptive strike on the emails I will certainly get, but I figured that I would give the disclaimer up front that the beer does not contain Kermit parts].

The Black Toad Dark Ale is another beer which was recently introduced in Trader Joe's under their Joseph's Brau line of house branded beer. Much like the Stockyard Oatmeal Stout, this beer was previously brewed for another brewery, but now is property of the Joseph's Brau company.

The experts at Beer Advocate deem this beer an English Brown Ale which is defined as "maltier and sweeter on the palate, with a fuller body. Color can range from reddish brown to dark brown. Some versions will lean towards fruity esters, while others tend to be drier with nutty characters. All seem to have a low hop aroma and bitterness."

The Black Toad poured a reddish brown with a decent amount of foam (my daughter Penina commented that I had a "beer mustache" when I was drinking it). The beer has a rich malty flavor with a good deal of coffee notes. The beer is not as heavy as a stout and may even be a let down if you are looking for hop bite. Still, the brew is quite tasty and would go well with pot roast or other rich meat dishes.

To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about the Black Toad Dark Ale, please follow this link http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/2250/5729 .

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

One final note - I was thinking about saving this beer to review it the Sunday of Parshas Shemos, but since the beer did not have a brewed on date or a use before date, I decided not to chance that the Toad would turn to skunk and I reviewed it this week.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com/ to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Erev Yom Kippur Thoughts on Teshuva - R Frand Teshuva Derasha Part II

Regular readers of this blog may recall that during the aseres yimei teshuva I try to put up additional posts with summaries of teshuva derashas. This year there will (iyh) be summaries of two derashos posted during the aseres yimei teshuva - the Rabbi Mansour Teshuva Derasha on Wednesday and the Rabbi Frand Teshuva Derasha on Thursday and Friday.

Same rules as always apply to these posts. I have attempted to reproduce portions of the shiurim to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to the magidei shiur.

The night of Yom Kippur is not a mournful night, but its a somber night. R Frand recall walking the Rosh Yehiva of Ner Yisrael home almost forty years ago on a Yom Kippur night. And during the walk, the Rosh Yeshiva said absolutely nothing. The same person who could not walk 4 steps without discussing a Torah thought, he was unable to speak on Yom Kippur night out of fear of the meaning of the night.

R' Frand then told a story about R' Shlomo Zalman who was walking home after shul on Yom Kippur night and he saw a group of men sitting together, singing niggunim. This was amazing to him, but was more amazing was that the Tzchbiner Rav was sitting and singing with them.

Days later, R Shlomo Zalman saw the Rav and asked him why they were singing? The Rav explained that the men were holocaust survivors who had lost everything. They had decided to sit together and sing the niggunim from Galicia. How could he not join them in singing niggunim and trying to uplift their spirits.

R' Frand then told a story he heard from a Rav Rodin from Dallas,Texas. Rav Rodin said that he had a congregant who made aliyah and became a pediatric emergency room physician in Israel. One night when she was in the emergency room, a bride walked in. The woman was fully bedecked for her wedding, gown, train and veil. She asked the bride why are you here? The bride answered that everyone knows that a kallah is like a queen and everyone wants a bracha from the kallah because her tefillos are heard in shamayim on the day of her wedding. The kallah proceeded to give berachos to every child in every bed and crib in the emergency room. This is a bigger ani and the essence of erev Yom Kippur.

R' Frand then said that everyone has a part of davening that hits them. For him, its the end of the avodah on Yom Kippur which talks about what happened when the kohain gadol left the kodesh kadashim. This is based on a Yerushalmi in Yoma which details that the bracha included parnasa and other good things. And at the end, the Kohain Gadol prays that the Anshei Hasharon should not have their houses become their graves? Why, because they lived in an area which was poor and the houses were subject to collapse from mudslides. And the Kohain Gadol who could have been concerned about himself, or larger issues, mentioned them by name.

R Frand then told a story about R' Herman Newberger, the former executive director of Ner Israel. R' Frand then retold the well known story about how he was stabbed by a crazy person while R' Frand was in Beis Medrash at Ner Israel. After the man was arrested and R' Frand was checked out and was found to be fine, R' Frand went to R' Newberger and asked him to go the arraignment to ensure that the man would not be released. R' Newberger ran to Court for the arraignment. When R' Newberger returned, R' Frand asked what happened? R' Newberger said that there should be rachmanos for his parents, the people who had to live with this deranged man. This was because R' Newberger had a big ani.

R' Frand then talked about another way that we can get Hashem to change his attitude to us. R' Frand quoted from the Haftorah on YK morning, where it says - cry out and Hashem will say "hineni". R Frand said that there are 14 times in Tanach where the calling and hineni are used. Thirteen times are subordinates answering Hineni to the superior, such as Moshe, Avraham and Shmuel. The one exception is this Haftorah where the navi writes, we can call out and Hashem will say hineni. How do we get this closeness? The gemara says - hamikarev es kirovav - just be nice to your relatives.

The Maharal explains by quoting a pasuk in Devarim which states, who is a great nation? The Jews who Hashem is a close relative to. (Ki Mi Goi Gadol...) Hashem says that if you bring your relatives close to you, Hashem will treat you the same way. This is the Medrash the Maharal uses to explain the gemara- be nice to your relatives and Hashem will be close to you.

R Frand asked rhetorically - is this a needed message for a Teshuva Derasha? He answered yes, because there are so many families where siblings don't attend each others' weddings, where parents don't talk to children. Maybe the reason that our tefillos are not answered is because we don't treat our families well enough. Go to each others events, even family barbecues.

R' Frand closed by stating that he has presented two approaches to improve ourselves and our mindset - reach out beyond our four amos and help others - reaching up by reaching out, or as R' Chaim Volozhin states - this is what man is all about, don't live for yourself, live for others. The second key is to make shalom with those who should be the closest to you. By doing these, Hashem will come close and say Hinieni to us.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com/ to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday's Thoughts on Teshuva - The R' Frand Derasha - Part I

Regular readers of this blog may recall that during the aseres yimei teshuva I try to put up additional posts with summaries of teshuva derashas. This year there will (iyh) be summaries of two derashos posted during the aseres yimei teshuva - the Rabbi Mansour Teshuva Derasha on Wednesday and the Rabbi Frand Teshuva Derasha on Thursday and Friday.

Same rules as always apply to these posts. I have attempted to reproduce portions of the shiurim to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to the magidei shiur.

R' Frand started with a story about the Ponevitz yeshiva. As with many yeshivos, space was at a premium during the yomim noraim. One year, one of the administrators thought of a way to make space for the boys - section off part of the ezras nashim (women's section) and let the boys use it. R' Shach zt'l said absolutely not. He asked -- who are the women who come on the yomim noraim? Not women with young children. These were women who were widows or women who may have been childless or older women who never married. R' Shach said that the prayers of the boys on the high holidays ascended to the heavens on the backs of the prayers of these women.

R' Frand then linked this story to the Haftorah for the shabbos before Tisha B'Av wherein Isaih prophesied that Hashem will not listen to the Jews' prayers and turn away from them -- truly chilling words.

R' Frand said that this is a plague which we still suffer from today as it often seems like our prayers are not heard. R' Frand then dedicated to the shiur to how we can get out prayers listened to.

The prophecy of Isaiah offers ten steps which can be taken to bring us back to having our prayers listened to. These include cleansing one's self, stopping doing evil and more. Rashi (quoting a pesikta) explains that ten steps are connected to the ten days of repentance. The ninth step is Rivu Almana - help the widow. This is the avodah of erev Yom Kippur. If we follow the steps, Hashem will once again answer our tefillos.

R' Frand then quoted a different formula for teshuva. The Tanna Dibei Eliyahu teaches that the ten days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur connect to the aseres hadibros. Some are easily connected - Anochi with the first day of Rosh Hashana, a day to recognize and accept Hashem as our G-d.

Using this progression, the avodah on erev Yom Kippur would connect with not bearing false witness against another Jew. But how often do we even testify against Jews that we could fix it this way? And how do these two concepts connect?

R' Frand prefaced by talking about what it means Rivu Almana. It does not only mean that we should listen and help an almana when she comes to the door to ask for money. We need to use our creativity and planning to think of innovative ways to help an almana.

R' Frand then told a story about R' Zelig Epstein zt'l (recorded by R' Mordechai Kaminetzky) who helped an almana. A couple who survived the Holocaust came to the US. Soon after, the husband took his own life. R' Zelig began to help to support the wife emotionally. But then one of her children became ill. R' Zelig helped with the treatment for the child, but the child got sicker and died on Erev Yom Kippur, so close to Yom Kippur that they could not bury before Yom Tov. On the way to shul on Yom Kippur eve, he became concerned that the woman might take her own life. He decided not to go to shul and instead to go to her home. But he also realized that it would take an hour to get there and that it might be too late. So R' Epstein went into Torah Voda'as during Shema of Ma'ariv and asked R' Yaakov Kaminetzsky can he take a bus on Yom Kippur to get to the woman's home and R' Yaakov nodded yes and pointed to the coins in his box that he was going to use for bus fare after Yom Kippur, so that R' Zelig could take them and use the bus to get to the woman. That was Rivu Almana.

R' Frand then quoted Rashi on Chumash that Almana does not only mean a widow. R' Frand said that an almana can be a person out of work for six months, or a person with a child at risk, or with a terrible disease or no child at all. Rivu Almana means step out of our box and think about someone else. For most people out of sight means out of mind, so we must expand our definition of me. He quoted R' Shimon Shkup, the ani is the person, if you are bigger it is your wife, children or neighbors. But if you are a true adam gadol, your ani is all of klal yisrael. An adam gadol is not only knowing shas gemara, it's knowing how to care about all fellow Jews [Ed. note - see R' Mansour shiur from last night for a great story about R' Moshe Feinstein and the elevator, showing how he was an adam gadol].

R' Frand said that we are resistant to helping others because we think that we will be overwhelmed. But the opposite is true -- the more we help others, the more content we will be.

R' Frand then told a story about a friend who was fighting lung cancer for two years, despite never having smoked. The man said that he has watched others fight disease and realized that the only thing that they have is how they handle their problems. The man said that he had a chance to observe R' Nosson Tzvi Finkel try to help others despite advanced Parkinson's disease. R' Finkel was not a man with Parkinson's disease. He was a man who was trying to help others who happened to have Parkinson's. The man told R' Frand that he has learned that by turning his attention to helping others he is less obsessing about himself and he is a happier person. All because the man had expanded his Ani.

R' Frand then quoted the Tolner Rebbi who connected the Lo Saa'neh (false witness) with Rivu Almana. Why is bearing false witness in the Ten Commandments? Because it is a premeditated act! Killing or adultery can be crimes of passion. But bearing false witness requires planning and creativity, all to do someone injustice. So on erev Yom Kippur we have to do teshuva for all the premeditated evil - by doing planned, premeditated good. We need to take the opportunity to think and act to help others who cannot help themselves.

This concept applies even if you can't give the person their ultimate goal. You may not be able to give the childless woman a baby, but just knowing that someone took the time to call is enough to make their day.

The Tolner Rebbi tells over a story about a 15 year old girl in Jerusalem who was upset and did not want to leave her house because of vicious, untrue rumours about the girl. The girl's father wanted to buy her a seat on Rosh Hashana, but she did not want to leave her house. R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach heard about the girl and called her on erev Rosh Hashanah to ask how she was doing. When they got off the phone, the girl asked her father to buy her a seat. The father told R' Shlomo Zalman - you have been michayeh meisim. We may not be R' Shlomo Zalman, but there was no one busier than him, and he still took the time to call this 15 year old girl. We can take the simple step of picking up the phone and calling.

R' Frand digressed to say that someone may have a yatom or almana or alman in their own house, if they are neglecting their family for other pursuits.

We can now understand why R' Shach said not to take space away from the women. Because taking space away would be the antithesis of Rivu Almana, if the yeshiva put these unfortunates down by eliminating the places for them to pray on the high holidays.

I hope iyh to post the second half of this shiur tomorrow before Yom Kippur.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com/ to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday's Thoughts on Teshuva - The R' Mansour Derasha

Regular readers of this blog may recall that during the aseres yimei teshuva I try to put up additional posts with summaries of teshuva derashas. This year there will (iyh) be summaries of two derashos posted during the aseres yimei teshuva - the Rabbi Mansour Teshuva Derasha on Wednesday and the Rabbi Frand Teshuva Derasha on Thursday.

Same rules as always apply to these posts. I have attempted to reproduce portions of the shiurim to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to the magidei shiur.

R' Mansour started by making reference to a statement that when a lion (arieh) roars -- who is not afraid. R' Mansour stated that the chachamim teach that the lion is not a physical lion, instead it is an acronym for Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Hoshana Raba.

R' Mansour then noted that the zodiac of this month is libra - scales. On one side are the mitzvos and the other are the aveiros. If the mitzvos outweigh the aveiros we are inscribed in the good books. If chas v'shalom they do not outweigh, then a person can be written into the other book. The key to winning the balance is the doing of mitzvos, not segulos or red strings. The judgment depends on mitzvos. This can be seen in the tefillah in Shmoneh Esreh - ata zocher, Hashem remembers. However the tefillah also says that nothing is forgotten before the chair of Hashem. But why should the chair make a difference? Chazal state that the kisei hakavod (heavenly throne) is made up of our mitzvot. When we do mitzvot it is strengthened, but when aveirot are done the chair is weakened. (R' Mansour equated this to what is taught in the nursery schools - each mitzva is a brick). When the tefillah states that nothing is forgotten before the heavenly throne it means that Hashem looks at the kisei hakavod and is instantly aware of what we have done.

R' Mansour also mentioned that those who connect to Hashem through the name of Ykvk get life. He connected it to the pasuk v'atem hadveikim. How do we connect? By doing mitzvot. He also connected it to the pasuk where Hashem said to Moshe - zeh shmi v'zeh zichri - Hashem said to Moshe if you connect to my name and my rememberances, you will get great reward. It can be seen in the words of the pasuk themselves. The gematria of shmi is 350, if you add the 15 from yk you get 365 which is the number of negative commandments. The gematria of zichri is 237, if you add vk you get another 11 and this is the 248 which is the number of positive commandments. Hashem tells Moshe the way you connect to me and get "chaim kulchem" is by doing the mitzvos.

The Ari asks - why is a mitzva called a mitzva? R' Mansour gave an introduction before he gave the Ari's answer. The hebrew alphabet can be studied in order and many of our tefillot, like those in the selichot, follow the alphabet in order. There are other tefillot which use the alphabet backwards. However, there is a third way to learn the alphabet, which is through the at bash. This can be seen in some selichot as well. We thus pray to Hashem using many systems, hoping that one of formulations will be successful.

R' Mansour then noted that the at bash for mem is the letter yud and the tzadik corresponds to heh. So the Ari states that each mitzva is like a piece of Hashem since the mem, tzaddik are really yk and then the vk is left intact. However, since we cannot pronounce the ykvk we are given the word mitzva instead, and the mitzva is how we attach to Hashem.

In our new year we commit to resolutions, although they are different than the secular acceptances such as losing weight or quitting smoking. Our acceptances are spiritual, that we will change certain things in our daily lives to become closer to Hashem.

R' Mansour also quoted a statement - when Hashem wants to shower chesed on a person, He looks not for the big things, but instead He looks for small things, even though to us they may seem insignificant. The midrash teaches that two men were chosen to be leaders based on the small things that they did in their careers as shepherds. Moshe chased after a sheep which Moshe thought was escaping. Moshe chased it until it got to a lake and the sheep started drinking water. Moshe realized that the sheep was not escaping, it was just thirsty. Moshe then apologized to the sheep for suspecting it and he carried the sheep back. To us, this does not seem like a big test for Moshe, but this is what Hashem thought was significant and justified his role. David was the same way. He would meticulously take his sheep out to the outskirts of the city so that the sheep would not eat someone's grass. Because of this small act of going just beyond the city, Hashem said - you are worthy of a greater role. In our own lives, we should see that even focusing on small things can cause us to become closer to Hashem and merit his rewards.

R' Mansour brought a proof from Megillat Esther where it states that every day, Mordechai went to see what was going on with Esther. The medrash asks - why was Mordechai going to see what was going on with her? The answer was that he wanted to see if she had some small questions which needed answers. Mordechai at the time was the leader of the Jews with a lot on his shoulders to see if he could foil Haman's plans. But with all that on his mind, he went to to Esther to see if she had a question in the palace.

At the time of the destruction of the 2nd Beis Hamikdash, R' Yochanan Ben Zakai needed to make decisions for the Jews. He had a historical meeting with Vespasian which impressed the Roman ruler. He said to him, ask for whatever you would like. This would set the stage for the next two thousand years. R' Yochanan thinks for a second and then says - give me Yavne and its chachamim - as long as yeshivat Yavne is still in existence, we can rebuild. He also asked for the family of R' Gamliel to be spared, because he is thinking of geulah and that the lineage to moshiach must remain. His final request is that R' Tzadok be given a doctor. Why is this the third request? The first two requests for preserving Torah and the link to Moshiach were great, but to ask for the emperor to call hatzalah for R' Tzadok? The answer is that this is what made R' Yochanan the chief Rabbi. Because at the same time that he is thinking about the big things, he also is thinking about the small things, that this person needs a doctor. The message is, do big things, but don't forget about the small things too.

R' Mansour then told a story about R' Moshe Feinstein. A doctor who had a question about heart transplants went to ask R' Moshe what he thought. R' Moshe said, come back to my apartment, I have written on this. When they walked back to his apartment building they approached the elevator and R' Moshe pushed the button. The elevator came down, opened and closed and went back up without R' Moshe or the doctor getting on. R' Moshe then pushed the button again and the elevator came back down. Again, the door opened and no one got on and the elevator went back up. R' Moshe pushed the button a third time and the elevator came down. This time, R' Moshe got on the elevator and the doctor followed. The doctor asked R' Moshe, why did you wait until now to get on? R' Moshe replied - didn't you see the little boy in the hall? The boy was there with no supervision and I was worried about him. I waited until I saw that there was someone to watch him before I got on the elevator.

This is yet another example of a small thing which coupled with big things made a great leader, truly great.

Another R' Moshe story involved a call which came to his home on a Friday. A person in the house picked up and asked what the caller wanted. On the other end, the caller asked what time was candle lighting. The person in R' Moshe's home asked - why not look it up in the calendar, why are you calling to ask R' Moshe this question. The caller responded - I don't know what you are talking about, I call every week and R' Moshe tells me when candle lighting is.

R' Mansour told a story about R' Gifter who would have a minhag on erev Yom Kippur to go to the florist to buy roses. Why? Because his anniversary was the day after Yom Kippur and he wanted to have flowers on the table so that when his wife came home from shul she would see that he remembered the anniversary.

R' Mansour then made reference to a gemara in Avoda Zara 17-18 about a conversation between R' Yosef Ben Kisma and R' Chananya Ben Tradyon. R' Yosef says, I hear that you are teaching Torah in public and that the Romans might take you. R' Chananya says yes I am, Hashem should have mercy. They have a back and forth exchange. Then R' Chananya asked, am I going to Olam Haba? R' Yosef replies, have you done any great acts? R' Chananya replies that once he had monies for Purim that he mixed with other money. Tosafos tells that he had invited poor people to get money, thinking that he could use this money, but then realized that he could not. He then took money out of his own pocket and gave them money. R' Yosef says - this is great and I wish that I could be like you.

The exchange is bizarre. R' Chananya is teaching Torah in public at great risk to his life. Yet when asked what are you doing that would merit Olam Haba, he tells the story of the money. Why? Because the person is measured by the small things that are done when no one is watching.

In our daily lives we can do this as well. When going to a store, we can hang up our cell phones before we reach the cashier, or not text or email when someone talks to us. We can give proper respect to the people that we are dealing with, and in so doing appreciate that they are tzelem elokim.

R' Mansour then made reference to a gemara in Berachot 18b, which tells the story of Shmuel who was called the son of the man who ate the money of the orphans. Shmuel did not know what to do, so he went to the cemetery to ask his father where the money was. When he got there, the people there helped him search for his father's grave. While he was looking, he saw a friend who had died and was sitting outside and was not entering the heavenly shiur. He asked why and was answered that the person was excluded because when alive he did not enter the shiur of R' Afas and R' Afas was upset that he never went. His punishment was that for as many years that he did not attend R' Afas's shiur, he was excluded from the heavenly shiur.

After this, Shmuel found his father who was alternately crying and laughing. Shmuel asked why he was doing this. His father responded, you are going to die tomorrow, but you also have a great reputation in shamayim.

At this juncture, Shmuel has just been told by a reliable source that he will die tomorrow. His response to this was, tell them in shamayaim to take care of this man so that he can get in to the heavenly shiur. Shmuel did not think about himself, he thought about how the other could be helped.

This is the act of a true gadol, to be concerned about the minor things and to help others. If we can seize on these mitzvos then we can be zoche to great reward as well.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com/ to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Avodah Zara 31

It was pure hasgacha pratis that Avodah Zara 31 fell on a Tuesday in the current daf cycle, as the daf discusses whether beer is subject to the same type of stringency as kosher wine.

The first reference to the kashruth of beer is found on 31b, when the gemara asks - why did they prohibit the beer of idolaters. Tosafos (d'h Mipnei) is quick to comment that this prohibition is not found in the mishna nor beraisa and opines that it might have been a temporary prohibition in the time of the Amoraim.

Other Rishonim comment on the issue and ponder why the issur of stam beer was not followed in the same way as pas akum or bishul akum. The Ran explains that the gezeira on beer was not followed in the same way as pas akum because bread is a staple of life and beer is not. He further comments that because bread is made by women there is more of a danger of chasnus then with beer (although Rashi's explanation of Chasnus would seem to point in the opposite direction).

The Biurei Rishonim in the V'shinanatam version of Avodah Zara distinguishes beer from bishul akum as he notes that the ingredients in beer can be consumed raw (c'mo shehu chai) and would therefore exempt beer from the issur of bishul akum.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com/ to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - Of Einstein, Castro, Tennis and the Divine.

As regular readers of this blog are aware, the Monday post was usually devoted to sports with highlights and analysis of the Max Kellerman show which formerly aired on 1050 ESPN Radio. Although Max resigned from 1050 more than a year ago, I have tried to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

This morning when I woke up, my clock radio was set to WCBS (880 AM). Since it was 6:15 AM (got to get to early selichos) I was awoken by the morning sports report. The report featured some discussion on the fact that yesterday's US Open final had been postponed because of rain. The sports anchor mentioned that this was the third year in a row that the Men's final had been postponed due to rain and then he made mention of the famous quote from Albert Einstein that "Coincidence is G-d's way of remaining anonymous."

I'm not really a tennis fan and I could not tell you who won the US Open in any given year, so I really had no clue that it had been rained out for three consecutive years. Still, the reference to the Einstein quote really intrigued me. This was the second time in the last week that I became aware of a major public figure who could have observed G-d's will in an act, but instead attributed it to something other than the hand of G-d.

What was the first reference? On erev Rosh Hashanah, I downloaded a blog post by Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg which detailed his meeting with Fidel Castro (click here for the actual post http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/09/fidel-to-ahmadinejad-stop-slandering-the-jews/62566). The main theme coming out of the post was Castro's observations about the nature of the Jews' survival and a sharp criticism of Ahmadinejad's holocaust denial. However an interesting side point was that despite Castro's return from life threatening illness and his cognizance of the Jews' survival through the millennium, he still claimed to be a "dialectical materialist" and as such denied the existence of G-d.

To me, both the Einstein and Castro quotes demonstrate a concerted effort to deny what should be obvious to them. Given Einstein's understanding of science and nature, he should have been fully aware that nothing is truly coincidence. Similarly, Castro's observance of the Jews' ability to survive thousands of years of expulsion and pogroms should have led him to recognize g-d. But he did not make the connection.

I recall hearing a shiur from R' Mansour this summer in which he talked about how Hashem allows disasters as a way to let us know that there are things we need to do to improve our actions. These disasters may take place half a world or just a few miles away, but they are His way of showing us that there are improvements that we need to make. I can recall on the night of September 11, 2001, coming to a shul to try to make sense of the horror. I took to heart a message that these things happened because Hashem wanted us to make changes in our lives, so I accepted at that time to try to daven Maariv with a minyan whenever possible. (Prior to this I would routinely daven in my living room when I came home from work).

I am also reminded of a vort by Rabbi Frand this summer about maa'seh meriva. Rabbi Frand quoted R' Alpert who cited the Rashbam in Chukas about Moshe's act. In this story, Moshe is told to pick up the mateh and then later told to talk to the rock. Ultimately, Moshe is punished for using the staff, rather than speaking to the rock. But why is he told to pick up the staff in the first place? The answer Rabbi Frand gave is that Hashem was trying to teach Moshe a lesson about how to interact with the Jewish people. Hashem instructs - there are two ways to interact and influence the Jews, either by speaking to them or by hitting them. This time, the lesson is that the pen (or in this case the spoken word) is mightier than the sword.

When Hashem tells Moshe to take the staff, Hashem is saying take the staff, but then go and talk to the Jews. Hashem attempts to teach Moshe a lesson - you don't always need the stick, you can have as much impact by speaking. Rabbi Frand concluded that sometime we don't hear the word and as such we need the stick to remind us to repent. However, even when the stick is fairly obvious, some very intelligent people like Einstein or Castro may still choose to ignore it.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com/ to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Night Suds - Laker Honey Lager



This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Laker Honey Lager.

Following up on last week's Leinenkugel Honey Weiss, I decided to bring a six pack of recently purchased Laker Honey Lager with me when we went away to family for the Rosh Hashanah holiday. This gave me the opportunity to sample the Laker Honey Lager with both dairy and meat meals and get a better appreciation for the brew.

Before getting to the description of the brew, let me first state that despite the information posted on the BeerAdvocate website, the Laker Honey Lager has not been "retired" by the Brick Brewing Company. The Laker Honey Lager was available in six, twelve and twenty four packs at the "Beer Store" in Niagara Falls (ON) last month. Additionally, the Laker website indicates that Laker is still brewing the Laker Honey beer (link here http://www2.brickbeer.com/brands/lakerHoney ).

The beer poured a pale yellow and had a pleasant honey smell in the glass. The first taste of the brew was not exactly as I expected as the honey flavor was not as strong as the nose of the beer led me to believe. In fact, the beer was a bin on the dry side with a little honey in the finish, but certainly not as strong as the Blue Moon Honey Moon or the Leinenkugel Honey Weiss.

The Laker Honey Lager was an OK pairing with chicken and turkey dishes, but was not strong enough to stand up to roasts or meat. I found that it went very well with sweet and sour salmon (poached, not chinese style) and was also a nice pairing with sweet yom tov cakes.

Laker Honey Lager is certified kosher by the COR (aka Kashruth Council of Canada). For the experts' take on Laker Honey click here http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/416/28375.

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com/ to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Annual Labor Day Kosher Beers List

Below is the 2010 List of Beers which have Kosher Certification. For this year's version, I am experimenting with the use of scribd to upload the list.

September 7, 2010 Update - List has been further updated and document should be functioning properly.

Labor Day 2010 List of Kosher Beers

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Night Suds - Leinenkugel Honey Weiss




This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at beer whose name is quite a mouthful Leinenkugel Honey Weiss.

Long a staple of Midwest towns, but always ambiguous in terms of its kashruth, the Jacob Leinenkugel brand of beers has had a cult following for some time. The brand dates back to 1867, when they began brewing in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. More than one hundred years later, Leinenkugel was purchased by SAB Miller and their beers began to enjoy broader distribution and notoriety. With the merger of SAB Miller and Coors, much of the Miller family of beers became certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. A complete list of the Miller beers which are now certified kosher will be posted iyh tomorrow in Kosher Beers' Annual Labor Day Post - the Updated Kosher Beers List.

When I first received the OU's Letter of Certification for MillerCoors, I began looking for a beer to review for Labor Day weekend. There were so many great options available, but I settled on the Leinenkugel Honey Weiss in honor of Rosh Hashanah which starts on Wednesday evening.

So what does the beer taste like? It is certainly not a heavyweight and does not have the body nor complexity of a Lake Placid Honey Rye or a Samuel Adams Honey Porter. It has some resemblance to the Blue Moon Honey Moon, but this is brewed as a lager and is lighter in color and alcohol content.

I would recommend this beer for a Rosh Hashanah meal as it not overly heavy and the generous amounts of honey would well complement your apples, challah with honey and other light yom tov fare.

As mentioned above, Leinenkugel Honey Weiss is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union, although the product currently in the marketplace does not yet have an OU on the label. If you would like a copy of the LOC please contact me via email. A complete list of the other Leine's which are certified kosher will be iyh posted tomorrow.

To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about Leinenkugel Honey Weiss, please follow this link http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/710/2958.

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com/ to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshios Netzavim & Vayelech

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on the parsha. I have attempted to reproduce the vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

[Ed note: Due to issues with transmission of the shiur this evening, I have been unable to duplicate the entire parsha portion. I hope to iy'h do an additional post tomorrow which will supplement this blog entry].

In Parshas Nitzavim, the Torah writes at Devarim 29:28, "Hanistaros L'Hashem Elokeinu, V' Haniglos Lanu u'Lvaneinu ad Olam..." This is translated as - the hidden are for Hashem our G-d, and the revealed are for us and our children forever.

Rabbi Frand stated derech hadrush that the pasuk is teaching us the power of chinuch. When the pasuk states that the hidden are for Hashem, this refers to the sins which a person commits in private which are between the person and Hashem. Only Hashem knows that the person has sinned against Him and while the person must do teshuva, the affront is only between him and G-d.

However, the public sins, these are for us and our children. When a person does an act in public, his children see his actions and learn that this is acceptable conduct. If the person makes a kiddush Hashem, the children learn and want to emulate him. However, if the person c'vs does a negative act, the children will observe and believe that this is an acceptable mode of conduct and this could stay with them and be passed on to their children and so on, forever.

R' Frand then quoted R' Vulba who states that a person who is a ba'al middos will protect his children as they will see his actions and take similar acts.

R' Frand then told over a question that was asked to the Chazon Ish about the best location to daven on the yamim noraim. The person asking the sheilah had an option to daven in a Beis Medrash where he would have greater concentration on his prayers, but there was no room for his children to join him. In the alternative, the man could daven in a regular shul where there was room for the kids, but his kavanah would be less intense. The Chazon Ish responded that the person was better off davening in the regular shul where his children could join him and see how he davened on the high holidays.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!