Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thursday's Thoughts on Teshuva - aka The Erev Yom Kippur Recap of R' Frand's Teshuva Derasha - 5775/2014

The following is a summary of some of the thoughts said by Rabbi Frand in his teshuva derasha which was recorded Tuesday Night, but played tonight in the NY area. Same rules as usual apply. I have attempted to summarize many of the thoughts to the best of my abilities. Any inconsistencies are the results of my transcription and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Rabbi Frand began by speaking about the extraordinary need for support for Just One Life. [The teshuva derasha is annually recorded in Brooklyn as a benefit for this great organization. For more on Just One Life, please click here

Rabbi Frand began the derasha by noting that there is always a search for what to speak about for the derasha, but based on the events of the summer there is a clear topic.

There is a debate in Israel as to whether there was any gain from what occurred this summer. Did they stop too soon or too late. Did they go too far or not far enough.

R Frand said that he is not qualified to speak on the political topic, but remarked that there is a gain because we saw the hand of Hashem exposed and how we can deepen our emunah in Hashem. 

The Rambam Sefer Hamitzvos lists the first mitzvah -- to believe in Hashem as it is written in the Aseres Hadibros as the first dibbur. But how can there be a mitzvah to believe? Those who believe don’t need a mitzvah and those who don’t believe wont follow anyway!

The Rambam answers this question in the Yad Hachazakah where he explains that the mitzvah of emunah is to turn faith into fact. Each one of us is born with a sense of faith in a higher power. It is as though we are hard wired for this from birth.

Some meforshim see this in a pasuk that man was created "yashar." But people get messed up because of their learning and desires. 

R’ Frand quoted a source from a secular publication which states that research has shown that faith is so deep that it cannot be expunged. He quoted the maxim – there are no atheists in a fox hole and then paraphrased "there are no atheists at Sloan Kettering." Even militant atheists will pray in a time of great stress. 

For Jews its in our spiritual DNA, because just as we have chesed in our DNA from Avraham which pervades all Jews even those who are secular and join the forefront of social movements to do chesed. But Avraham has also given us faith, but it must be cultivated or it will become dormant. 

How do we turn faith into fact? I don’t believe that I have five fingers, I know that I do and can count them. How do I do the same with faith? 

Rabbi Frand gave a number of suggestions - the first was to look for Hashem in history, nature and every day life. The Rabbeinu B’Chaya says that Olam (world) is connected to Ne’elam (hidden). Hashem hides himself in nature and it is our job to find him. 

By example, this past June 6th we commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Dwight David Eisenhower had millions of soldiers and sailors, seven thousand boats and twelve thousand planes. The invasion was supposed to be 6/5 but he changed it to 6/6 because of weather. The commander of the German force was to be Rommel – the desert fox. Historians say that he was greater in prowess than any other military leader. Rommel knew the weather was bad and thought that there would not be an invasion for a few days, so he went to spend the time with his wife … and missed D-Day. Should it be deemed as luck? 

Hitler yimach shemo had a custom to sleep at from 3 AM to noon, but he was personally put in charge of the tanks supporting the beach. D-Day occurred at 5 AM and no one had the audiacity to wake him, so he missed D-Day. Luck? Or something else - Hashem's hand hidden in nature.

Colonel Ofer Winter was the leader of the Givati force which was supposed to invade Gaza at night but he was delayed and he did not go forward at night. The next day there was fog instead of night. Luck? 

You can see a sunrise or sunset and say its nature…or you can see the hand of Hashem. 

R' Frand mentioned that Yuri Gargarin in 1961 was the first man to orbit the earth and sent down pictures from space and the leader of Russia said I saw G-d nowhere. R’ Gifter ztl looked at the pictures and said I saw Hashem everywhere. 

R’ Chazkel L kept a daily diary of how he saw Hashem in his life. This makes a person a real ma’amin. R' Chazkel said that the fact that the Mirrer yeshiva survived WWII intact (the only yeshiva to do so) was a greater miracle than the story of Purim. This was not his Megillas Esther, this was his Megillas Yechezkel. And there must be a Megillas each person. Each person needs to write down the miracles they saw and write their own personal megillah. 

R’ Frand then quoted facts from the war in Gaza which show the hand of Hashem. Hamas had plans that terrorists would pop up from the terror tunnels and kidnap and kill hundreds of people on Rosh Hashanah. Had they been successful the Jewish world would have been in mourning. In perspective, they got so much in exchange for Gilad Shalit, they could have asked for so much more in exchange for the potential hundreds. 

Why was this thwarted? Three yeshiva boys were kidnapped. Israel arrested Hamas operatives. Hamas sent hundreds of rockets into Israel and Israel responded with airstrikes. They were offered many cease fires and turned them all down. If they had sense, they would have accepted the cease fire and waited. But Hamas then defied logic by using the terror tunnels which exposed them to Israel and forced Israel to invade – how could they be so stupid and expose their secret weapon? Was it luck? Were they stupid? 

Why does Hitler sleep, why does Rommel sing Happy Birthday to his wife, why does fog descend on Gaza and why does Hamas use their secret weapon? Luck or the hand of Hashem? 

Hamas shot 4,000 rockets into Israel but there were only six civilian fatalities - a miracle. Yes there was the iron dome, but how effective could it be? It only had a 90% success rate. Do the math – only six fatalities? This is greater than the miracle of Purim.

When the Jews of Purim were saved they had a renewed acceptance of the Torah. What can be our reaction to the exposing of the Yad Hashem. This was clearly Lo Yanum V'Lo Yishan. Look for Hashem in history, nature and every day life.

Chazal gave us other tools to become bigger ma’aminim. They said think about Hashem 100 x a day and you will become a greater believer. How? I email 100x a day. I txt 100x a day. How do we do it? Make 100 berachos a day as we learn from the gemara "Mah Hashem Elochecha Shoel" – we learn  from this to make meah - 100 - berachos. 

You will say - I make 100 berachos but it does nothing for me. How do we learn and appreciate the brochos? R' Frand remarked - what is the first berocha that we make in the morning after the birchas hashcahr? The shekahol on the coffee. Taste the coffee, smell the coffee, who gave you the ability to do so? Feel the brocha. 

How about the bracha of asher yatzar, the lowest of berachos. The language of the bracha is a description of how the body functions. But as noted by Dr Prager at Columbia Presbyterian that when he was young he thought the beracha was funny, but after seeing patients with colostomy bags and dialysis, he learned the value of the ability to do this. 

Dr.  Prager told a story of Josh who was 20 and injured in a car accident. He recovered some use of limbs, but it took a while before he could stop needing a catheter. When Josh stopped using the catheter, he told Josh to make Asher Yatzar. He agreed and when he recited the beracha tears welled up in his eyes, as Josh was his son. 

R’ Frand said that he was stopped on his way out of a shiur and was told a story by a man whose mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (lo aleinu) and the family accepted on themselves to say the beracha standing still. 

R’ Shimon Schwab when he left the hospital after visiting the sick would ask whether there was a Simon Schwab in the hospital. They would check and say no. He said are you sure and they would say yes. He would walk out of the hospital and say Baruch Hashem, I am healthy. 

R’ Frand noted that there is a less formal way to make Hashem real. He quoted Chassidim who say He’emanti Ki Adaber – the more I talk about Hashem it becomes real. He quoted his daughter who works in a Bobov Cheder and had to learn a Chassidish Yiddish. In the course of therapy for a child she said to the child – don’t lose the pieces from the game because I will be sad. The child responded – why be sad – gam zo l’tovah. 

R' Frand observed that if we were bigger ma’aminim it would change our lives. The gemara in Shabbos says that after 120 years there will be a test – the "final, final." There are six questions, but four of them are the fundamentals of being a Jew – did you make time to learn, try to have kids, find time to learn Torah daily and did you believe in Moshiach. But one of the questions is – did you cheat in business? Why is this one of the questions?

R' Frand answered that the question is Hashem's way of asking – do you believe in me, because if so, you would not cheat in business. This is true faith.

R’ Frand quoted a story from R’ Reich who heard it from his father in law R’ Schneir Kotler. When R’ Kotler was young he spent a shabbos with Slonim Chassidim. He was blown away by their hislahavus for Shabbos and the ruach and deveikus. He returned on Sunday and told his father about his incredible Shabbos. His father asked – tell me one thing - will they be more honest in their business on Sunday? If yes, then I am impressed. If not, then it does not mean much.

R' Frand observed that the Aseres HaDibros begins with a high level of theology – I am Hashem, but it ends with don’t be jealous – his car, his house, his wife, his salary. This is emunah – don’t be jealous of the neighbors' new car or kitchen or vacation.

The Rikanti (a Rishon) says that all of the mitzvos in the Torah can be found in two words – Lo Sachmod – don’t be jealous.

R’ Frand said that with more faith, people would be less angry and less frustrated, because living with real emunah means accepting that this is what Hashem wants. If you want a great example, just look at Mrs Frankel – the mother of Naftali o’h. Because the way that she acted and her faith is one of the greatest example of how to show faith and to live with emunah.

We know now in retrospect how things were. The Israeli authorities knew that the boys must have been killed and she must have assumed that they were gone. But throughout the time that the boys were missing, she was serene and expressed faith. When Mrs Frankel was approached by little girls at the Kotel and she said to them – I want you to promise me that no matter what, don’t be crushed by what happens. Hashem is not our employee, He does not always do what we wish. But she was serene throughout and that comes from emunah.

We are able to live with emunah when all is going well, but in every life there are difficulties and we need to turn to Him. If we have faith when all is well, we can turn to Him when times are dark.

R' Frand made reference to a story involving R’ Yeruchum Lebovits. He was in a hotel in Warsaw and there was a sudden blackout and he had to walk down four flights of stairs in the dark and he made it down by holding onto the banister. He gave a shmooze - emunah is like a banister - when it is dark you need to walk down holding onto the banister.

There is a gemara in the end of Makkos which states that the manhigim of generations distilled the Torah down to principles – David to 11, Yechezkel to 6 and Chababkuk to 1 – Tzaddik B’Emunaso Yichyeh.

If I was a bigger ma’amin I would be less angry, less frustrated, because Hashem is right there. The same way that a person would not be angry in public, because people will see, our emunah would be different and our actions would be different.

R’ Frand told a story from Ner Israel in the 60s/70s. There was a boy in the Yeshiva on the Saturday night of Shabbos Shuva who went to shoot pool. R' Frand quipped that shooting pool is not a great sin, but on the Saturday night of Shabbos Shuva? The boy was called into the office of the mashgiach (R' DovidK.) who asked the boy – do you believe in Hashem, because if you do, how can you go shoot pool on the Saturday Night of Shabbos Shuva? For him this was real and Hashem was there.

Everything should change if you saw what happened in Gaza. A soldier on an iron dome battery saw a missile heading towards the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv. They fired a missile at the rocket and it missed. A second missile fired at the rocket missed. He called emergency services and told them – there is going to be a tragedy. Then the rocket went off course on its own and into the Mediterranean. He yelled out – yesh Elokim, yesh Elokim - there is Hashem. That should have been our reaction.

R' Frand closed by observing that we saw this summer how alone the Jewish people are. We saw the riots in France and demonstrations in England. R' Frand said that he was in Central Europe and saw that they needed armed guards to protect kosher restaurants. Europe will become Eurabia. And the US State department criticized Israel for firing at a school from which rockets were fired and said they are appalled. They are appalled, but what would they do if 4000 rockets were fired from Mexico – would they use restraint? Can this happen here in America? What is the answer - the geulah.

Chazal say that the Jews only came out of Egypt because of their emunah. Yitziat Mitzrayim is the paradigm and template of all future geulos. And it all came because of emunah and that is what we must work on.

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