Monday, September 21, 2015

R' Frand Teshuva Derasha 5776

Every year R' Frand's Teshuva Derasha is an event. Over the course of a few weeks leading up to Yom Kippur, R' Frand polishes the shiur and makes changes to it based on the feedback and stories he receives. Finally, the shiur is given in Baltimore and in Brooklyn, New York (the NY shiur is to benefit Just One Life) during Aseres Yimei Teshuva. The following is a summary of some of the thoughts which he said in this year's derasha. As always, 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 the maggid shiur.

R' Frand began by posing the hypothetical questions as to what the most dominant news story has been over the last few months. He paused and then said that the words Islamic State/ISIL/ISIS has been used more that twelve thousand times. He gave a brief introduction as to the Islamic State and noted that Islamic Terrorism has been a preoccupation of the American public since 9/11, but it really goes further back to the first WTC bombing in 1993.

Jews on the other hand have been dealing with this for many prior years. The only question is when do you want start counting? This would include the 1880 arab pogroms, the 1929 Hebron Yeshiva massacre, the pact between Hitler and the Grand Mufti and the countless attacks since Israel's foundation in 1948.

Did we know that this would happen? R' Frand said that the answer is a resounding yes.

R' Frand quoted the Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer which quoted Bilaam in Parshas Balak (Bamidbar 24:23) - Oy Mi Yicheyeh M'Sumo Kel - and stated that Hashem placed his name Kel in two names of all the 70 nations - Israel and Ishmael. The name Kel connotes power and strength. Bilaam stated - woe is to whomever has to live with Ishmael. Hashem has given them power and the Jews must bear the brunt of their power - woe is to us who have live with them in the end of days.

The Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer writes that Ishmael will do fifteen things to the Jews, including that they will turn a cemetery into grazing land and a garbage dump. This can be seen today on the Mount of Olives, where the arabs have turned it into a garbage dump. The Pirkei further writes that they will pervert honesty and spread lies. He also writes that they will build a building on the Heichal - this is obvious - the mosques built on Har Habayis - and was written hundred of years before the life of Muhammad.

The Rambam wrote in the Igeres Tayman more than 800 years ago that there will be no nation that will cause the Jews more trouble than Ishmael and they will make the Jews appear despicable. And this has happened again as Amnesty International used the language of war crimes and accused Israel of showing indifference to civilian homes, while ignoring that Hamas hid the missiles in homes and schools, not to mention the 4000 rockets fired at Israeli civilian targets. This is what was meant by making the Jews appear despicable.

R' Frand made reference to the BDS movement and its attempt to force hedge funds and universities to boycott Israel. Israel Apartheid Day is a regular event on many universities. R' Frand talked about a Jewish student at UCLA who was asked during an interview to be on the student council and she was asked - do you think that since you are Jewish you can be unbiased? No other group would be the subject of such question without claims of overt racism. R' Frand also an allusion to Matisyahu being banned from a concert in Spain unless he declared his opposition to the State of Israel.

R' Frand asked - how do we defeat the adherents of Islam? He answered by making reference to Avraham and his two sons - Yitczhak and Ishmael. The Medrash teaches that Ishmael tried to shoot and kill Yitzchak with an arrow and that this is what prompted Sarah to tell Avraham that he had to leave. Ishmael did so because he believes that he is the legitimate heir of Avraham, but it was not true. In fact, while Esav was given some land, Ishmael was not given any and he has never gotten over it. That is why they covet the land of Israel. And how do we defeat them? By being truer to our ancestor than they are to theirs.

What defines Yitzchak? Initially - one must say prayer - the three foundation of the world are Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chassadim. Yitzchak is the middle - he is prayer. But Ishmael is also identified with prayer as Hagar is told in Bereishis 16:11 that she will have a child and that her child will be called Ishmael because Hashem heard her prayers. Hagar calls that place in Bereishis 16:14 - Be'er L'Chai Roee. Yitzchak is aware of this and the pasuk tells us in Bereishis 24:62 that Yitzchak prays there and comes from there when he first sees Rivka. He was there to counterbalance Ishmael and his success in prayer. And as descendants of Yitzchak we must carry on with his legacy.

R' Frand noted that the descendants of Ishmael take their prayers seriously and that they pray to the same G-d. R' Frand told a story which was said over by R' Moshe Shapiro about the Maharil Diskin who was walking in Jerusalem and was about to pass a Muslim who was praying and he stopped -- because the halacha is that one should not walk in front of a person who is praying.

So how does one improve his prayers? R' Frand said that there have been many suggestions for improving prayer and kavana - concentration. But he gave two easy ways to improve. The first was a suggestion of being properly attired when one davens. He told a story of a lawyer who told him about how he walked into court with his top button undone and the tie slightly low and the Judge told him off for doing so. R' Frand said that he does not think that people need to daven with ties - but that he has also seen people come into shul with their baseball caps turned backwards as if they had just come from a game. He then suggested - just try to daven in Tishrei, or even for the next week, like a mensch. Pretend you are trying to present a case, or close a deal or are coming from an interview. Would you walk in with a backwards baseball cap?

R' Frand gave one additional suggestion - avoid looking at your cell phone while davening. He gave a hypothetical - would a person answer his cell phone while at his parents grave? When the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt - will you text there? R' Frand said that he knows a businessman who has a policy that if a person looks at his cell phone while there is a lull in the conversation the man will break off negotiations, regardless of how lucrative the deal would be. R' Frand wondered if Hashem has the same policy.

The second aspect of Yitzchak was his Mesiras Nefesh - his willingness to give up his life for the sake of Hashem as seen at the akeidah. This was passed down to Jews and throughout the millenia, "simple Jews" gave up their lives for the sake of Hashem.

R' Frand said that this past summer he was on a tour that visited Wormes, Spires and Maines (sp?). These cities had a glorious Jewish history, but the cities were wiped out during the Crusades in 1096 when they were ostensibly going to liberate Jerusalem, but instead they made pit stops to try to force Jews to convert. Where did Jews get this ability? This came from Yitzchak.

R' Frand said that he was in a shul in Germany which had a unique paroches which stated - Lo Amus Ki Echyeh - I will not die. 

Even over the last hundred years when Jews have not had to make the ultimate sacrifice, they still had to sacrifice financially - when people were told - if you don't come in Saturday, don't come back on Monday. And people lost their jobs every single week. R' Frand that he was told by someone that his grandfather hung his pink slips in the Sukkah as Noy Sukkah - and all his grandchildren are religious.

R' Frand said that he hosted R' Aharon Kahn of Yeshiva University for Shabbos. He asked him - where are you from and where did your parents come from. He said that his father was a simple stockbroker. But previously when he first came to America he was working for family in Harrisburg in a factory. One fall Friday they took away his job and house when he had to leave early. They told him - you will need to keep half of Shabbos. He came to NY and was sitting on a park bench when an old Jew sat down and complained about his stockbroker. The old Jew said would you be my stockbroker? R' Kahn's father said yes and then came home and asked the 11 year old R' Kahn - what is a stock? R' Kahn had to read the books and explain the terms to him to teach him for the test.

R' Frand observed that over the last 50 years we have not needed to fight this battle or use this muscle. So it has atrophied as the Avnei Nezer says that if Jews don't use a middah it gets taken by the other nations and in this capacity - our middah of Mesiras Nefesh has been usurped by the sons of Ishmael. 

R' Frand quoted Rashi on the pasuk in Bereishis 22:1 - Vayihee Acharei HaDevarim Ha'eleh --- that what actually happened was that Ishmael says to Yitzchak, I am more devoted than you because you had no choice about having a millah as it happened when you were eight days. I was 13 and submitted voluntarily. Yitzchak responded - you want to talk about one part of the body, I am willing if asked to give up my entire life.

Islam defines itself as submission to the will of G-d and devotion to his law. It is a perversion of G-d's law but they are devoted.

So how do we counteract this? Do we blow ourselves up? Of course not. But we do need to reinvigorate the heritage of Mesiras Nefesh. But how?

Rashi explains that Mesiras Nefesh means subjugating one's will. Rashi states on the pasuk in Bereishis 23:8, Im Yesh Es Nafshichem - subjugate your desires to the will of G-d. Mesiras Nefesh is defined as self sacrifice - give up your desire and will for the sake of Hashem.

R' Frand said that we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask whether we are behaving properly, even if no one is around.

R' Frand quoted R' Nosson Friedman of Ner Israel who discussed how his father came to the country in the 1940's with no background or skill and he got a job doing body work on cars.  He was so good at it that he got a job at Capital Cadillac. But he felt that this was not a respectable job for a Jew, so he quit his job and took a job as a Shamas in a shul.

R' Frand said that Jewish women should attempt to dress with tznius, even though its very hard. He said that they can look at Islamic women who wear burkas. He clarified that Jewish women don't need to wear burkas - but think about the Islamic women - do they really want to wear them? They do it because of a sense of Tzinius.

R' Frand said that two years ago he was in the Intercontinental Hotel in Vienna and he saw many Islamic women wearing burkas but they were also shopping at the most modern clothing stores. Why? Because they only wear burkas outside, because they don't want men to look at them. But at home they wear modern clothes for their husbands to see.

R' Frand tied this into the statement by John Kennedy about sending man to the moon - we choose to do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard. 

Avraham went to do something which was antithetical to his nature in order to do Hashem's will. This is Mesiras Nefesh.

R' Frand quoted R' Yaakov Luban who talked about his father R'  Chaim Luban who was a Rav in many shuls. He was a man of peace who avoided confrontation whenever he could. There was a wedding to be held at the YI of Forest Hills and R' Luban was to be the mesader kiddushin. As he was waiting for the Kallah to come down to the Chuppah he heard a relative say - I hope this works out better than the last wedding for her. R' Luban asked her - were you married before? She said - it was only a civil ceremony and it was annulled. R' Luban held like his Rebbi who said that she would need a Get before she remarried, even though R' Moshe Feinstein permitted such women to remarry bidieved. And so this man who was an ohev shalom and rodef shalom went back into the Shul and told the audience that the wedding was cancelled.

R' Frand talked about the Rambam who says that if a person abstains from an aveirah or does a mitzvah solely because Hashem told him to do so - like Yosef who abstained - not because of fear of sin or to earn a reward or kavod - in a totally private setting - he is Mikadesh Hashem.

R' Frand made reference to R' Yosef Friedenson who was in a concentration camp and was assigned to clean the barracks with an older Jew. The two were cleaning under a gentile's bunk and found a loaf of bread hidden there. R' Yosef wanted to take the bread but the older man who was working with him said not to. Why? The man said that he was old and would not survive the camp, but he wanted the gentile to know that a Jew does not steal.

R' Frand quoted the Brisker Rav who discussed why Yosef had all the reasons in the world to leave the wife of Potiphar alone - but he said that he would not do it because it would be a sin to G-d. Because all the other reasons can have a rationalization - but not when its done because Hashem wants things done that way.

R' Frand also said that people should think about what hangs in the balance. We are past the Iran deal and the Iranians will get the bomb one day. What can we do? We need to pray to Hashem to protect us and we need to daven better than they and submit to the will of Hashem more passioinately than they do. The world hangs in the balance and we need to defeat the sons of Ishmael by being better descendants of Yitzchak than they are of Ishmael.

The Ba'al Haturim comments on the pasuk in Bereishis 25:18 - Al P'nei Kol Echav Nafal that the pasuk is immediately followed by the words Eleh Toldos Yitzchak (25:19) which is the first pasuk of Parshas Toldos. He explained that in the ends of days, Ishmael will fall and then the Moshiach son of David, descendant of Yitzchak will rise and we will rebuild the Beis Hamikdash.

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

No comments: