Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Shaare Hatikvah

Shaare Hatikvah

I'm told this was the first Minhag Ashkenaz Shul in Washington Heights. Still going.

"Congregation Shaare Hatikvah – Ahavath Torah v'Tikvoh Chadoshoh is an Orthodox Synagogue founded in 1935 and located in Washington Heights, Upper Manhattan, by German-Jewish refugees"

Also from the website

"Our weekday morning minyan each day at 6:45 AM has successfully taken off. We are steps away from the bus station, subways, and the M98 bus. There's also lots of free street parking available. Check out our For Commuters Page for details."

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

More Gadolim on Rav Hirsch

"The Chasam Sofer's lifespan extended from the Sha'agas Aryeh and the Noda B'Yehudah, whom he knew in his youth, to Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, whose Horeb he admired." (Chasam Sofer, Commentary on the Torah, Artscroll, p. xvi)

"Rav Yisroel (Salanter) had a great longing to become acquainted with Rabbi Hirsch and to learn his views on the means needed to consolidate traditional Jewry in Russia. He had great respect for the regenerator of German Jewry, and no one else was more deeply convinced of the desperate need of Russian Jewry for such a personality." Rabbi Naftoli Hertz Ehrmann, who arranged a meeting between these two giants in 1876 in Berlin. (2 Giants Speak, p. 6)

Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz had such awe for R' Yisroel Salanter, who he knew from Kovno, that he would tremble whenever his name was mentioned. (from Artscroll bio on Rav Baruch Ber).

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

military prison

As we head into Shabbos Parshas Balak, 25 bochurim and kollel yungerleit are incarcerated in military prison for the sole crime of refusing to join the IDF.
Everyone listed below registered for a deferral. They were denied a deferral and were subsequently arrested.  Jun 29

Sunday, June 10, 2018

R' Chaim Kanievsky on keep minhag ashkenaz in Eretz Yisroel

R' Chaim Kanievsky on saying the prayer for rain and dew in Eretz Yisroel: "Each according to the custom of his forefathers."

תשובת מרן שר התורה הגרח"ק שליט"א על אמירת מוריד הטל ושמירת שאר מנהגי אשכנז בארץ ישראל, מפי נאמן ביתו הגדול הרה"ג ר' גדליהו הוניגסברג, הבוקר כ"ז בסיון תשע"ח:
"כל אחד לפי מנהג אבותיו"

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Where Synagogues Once Stood by photographer and filmmaker Judah S. Harris

"One Tisha B'Av afternoon in the late-80s, photographer and filmmaker Judah S. Harris took a walk in Harlem in search of some of the synagogues that once existed  in this former Jewish neighborhood.

"Written a decade ago (2006), his essay "Where Synagogues Once Stood" documents his exploration of the places where synagogues once stood, both in New York City and also in Jerusalem, where the grandest of synagogues once welcomed an entire people.
""Visiting the places where synagogues once stood, where Jewish communities once thrived... can be one way of internalizing the meaning of Tisha B'Av, especially if the structures — their exterior architecture and Hebrew inscriptions — still remain visible but the life within them does not.""

Monday, June 4, 2018

20,000 gather to say Zionism is not Judaism

20,000 erliche yidden gathered at the Nassau Coliseum last night to say Zionism is not Judaism. But the NY Times, the NY Post, and the NY Daily News fail to mention it even though they have articles on far smaller protests like a tiny gathering concerning gun control.  

But Rav Hirsch would be proud of the righteous Jews.

"Israel should be one nation, an entire nation that should have no other foundation for its existence, survival, activity and significance other than this Torah. It is to see the realization and devoted observance of this God-given "fiery Law" as its one contribution in world history for the edifice of human salvation. What the Phoenicians sought to bring about with the keels of their ships, what the ancient Greeks sought to achieve with their chisels and what the ancient Romans sought to attain with their swords, Israel is to accomplish with its Torah. Nay more, Israel is a nation that became a nation only through and for the Torah, a nation that once owned a land and existed as a state only through and for the Torah, and which possessed that land and that statehood only as instruments for translating the Torah into living reality. This is why Israel was a people even before it possessed land and statehood; this, too, is why Israel survived as a people even after its land was destroyed and its statehood lost, and this is why it will survive as a nation as long as it does not lose this only מורשה, this sole foundation for its survival and significance. That is the kind of nation that Israel, that all of us, should be." 

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch "The Character of the Jewish Community," Collected Writings, Vol. VI, p. 35

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Wisdom from the Gentiles: Steinbeck

“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Expose on the gentile influences in contemporary frum world music

Read here



הועד לנגינה יהודית
TELEPHONE: 03-6191973

Monday, May 14, 2018

Today's event

The Israeli government has killed 52 people thus far today in Gaza. They are all on their side of the fence being shot at by snipers. They are nowhere near any Jewish communities. They are not firing rockets. They are protesting being locked in the largest concentration camp in the history of the world. The economic blockade has resulted in 98% of the drinking water in Gaza being polluted and enormous challenges in running businesses and getting a proper diet: "the number of trucks entering the Gaza Strip is very close to the absolute minimum required for basic sustenance, as determined by the IDF itself. " (Haaretz) Not a single Israeli has been hurt in any way, not even a scratch. The protests started peacefully with few exceptions. They got wild after Israel shot 100s of people. This isn't a case of disproportionate force. It's a case of killing at will. The Israeli government has killed children. It has killed journalists, doctors, medics. Will this not inspire terrorism? Is that the goal? Is the State of Israel pushing the Arabs to start violence, to launch rockets again? Is that the goal? If the health situation continues to deteriorate it could lead to the start of disease that spreads to Israel, which let us remember is right next door. Jerusalem is 50 miles away. Is this risk being made intentionally or is just Israeli arrogance? Is the government of Israel trying to get into a war? Is the government of Israel actively trying to cast doubt on every case it has ever tried to make that it uses force only when necessary because violence is so unnecessary here. The assumption seems to be, we are so powerful we can do whatever we want. This is a bad assumption. Israel is a little country. And when America goes away, which is any day now, look out because the bad will that Israel has built up is going to come back to get us, Heaven forbid. The Torah has rules about starting up with the gentiles. These rules didn't cease to apply in 1948 or 1967. Right now, people are putting all their faith in the military and none in Hashem. We are following military rules not Hashem's rules. And it will not work out in the end. It's a house of cards. You watch.

Some Torah to address the situation:

First halacha:

"Whenever a person kills a human being, he transgresses a negative commandment, as Exodus 20:13 states: 'Do not murder.'"

Rambam. Mishneh Torah, Rotzeach uShmirat Nefesh - 1:1

Now musar:

"We are fortunate to have been the victims, and not the murderers. How terrible it is to be the winners, if it means being murderers. We are better off being the losers. If we are martyrs, God decided our fate. But if we murder, we have destroyed our humanity. "

Rabbi Elazar Menachem Man Shach (1899 - 2001)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Compassion on all

“Compassion is the feeling of sympathy which the pain of one being awakens in another; and the higher and more human the beings are, the more keenly attuned they are to re-echo the note of suffering, which, like a voice from heaven, penetrates the heart, bringing all creatures a proof of their kinship in the universal God. And as for man, whose function it is to show respect and love for God's universe and all its creatures, his heart has been created so tender that it feels with the whole organic world bestowing sympathy even on beings devoid of feeling, mourning even for fading flowers; so that, if nothing else, the very nature of his heart must teach him that he is required above everything to feel himself the brother of all beings, and to recognize the claim of all beings to his love and his beneficence.” R' Samson R. Hirsch, Horeb,125

Friday, May 11, 2018

No draft

Twitter post I liked:

We learned this month that the Israeli army does not need the Charedim. Iran and Syria can't fight back. The Palestinians are target practice. Egypt and Jordan continue to honor peace treaties. So where's the big threat that requires a universal draft?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


"Learn from no teacher, be he ever so wise, whose way of life is open to reproach. The source of true wisdom is not to be found in him."

R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, 494

Friday, May 4, 2018

nothing, nothing at all, would be gained

"So that even if to-day, through some miraculous chain of events, Palestine were to be placed at the unconditional disposal of the Jews, and they could return to the “Land of their Fathers” and found an independent state there: nothing, nothing at all, would be gained as long as the causes have not disappeared which once brought about the downfall of the state and the destruction of the Temple, yea which made that downfall unavoidably necessary for the preservation of Judaism and thereby Jewry. A Jewish National body with Jewish spirit would be, and remain, dead: a Jewish State, that does not, in making the laws of the Torah, a reality, present a picture of the realisation of the eternal laws of justice and love of one’s neighbor based on the sound foundation of purity of morals, would be a still-born creation, and irretrievably doomed to dissolution, even as it was thousands of years ago. But this is just by way of parentheses!"

R’ Mendel Hirsch, The Pentateuch, Haftoroth (Gateshead: Judaica Press, 1989), pp. 592-3. R’ Mendel Hirsch (1833–1900)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Rav Gelley זצ"ל

From KAJ in New York on Friday:

With profound sadness, we regret to inform you that the levayo of Rav Gelley זצ"ל will take place at 10:00 this morning from our Bais Hakenesses, 85 Bennett Ave. 
Kevuro in King Solomon Cemetery. 
Rebbetzin Gelley will sit in Moller Hall, 90 Bennett Avenue, with her children, from the time the men return from the Bais Olam (approximately 1:30) until 3:30 p.m. 
The Rebbetzin will not return to Washington Heights next week to sit shivo. 
She will sit the remainder of the shivo with her children at the Kranz home, 12 Omni Court in Lakewood.
The Shivo ends Thursday morning.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Requirements of Torah Im Derech Eretz and Recent Events

"It is evident from the concluding verse of this Psalm that Asaph does not think here only of the Jewish people, but also pleads the cause of the salvation of all mankind on earth, all of whose existence and welfare is dependent, first of all, upon the proper enforcement of justice and right." (Hirsch Siddur, p. 214, Psalm for Tuesday)

Many who pretend to be followers of Torah Im Derech Eretz may be disappointed to learn that TIDE is not Modern Orthodoxy, is not a license for wanton consumption of secular culture. Rather it allows for utilization of the best elements (and you won't find those on television or Hollywood films) of secular wisdom, when that wisdom does not conflict with or dilute Torah in any way, as long as Torah remains our main pursuit. This knocks out many people who claim to be TIDE from truly being classified as TIDE. 

Those people may be even more disappointed to learn that Rav Hirsch was not a fan of Zionism. He stressed over and over again that our home is Torah and the land is an adjunct to that. Land without Torah is very dangerous. And not only that, but Rav Hirsch stressed the applicability of the Three Oaths from the Gemara in Shavuous, that Jews are not allowed to immigrate en masse to the land, nor to take it by force. Rav Hirsch also forbade dealing with institutions run by non-religious Jews, like, you know, the Israeli government. So that knocks out about 90% of the remaining people who claim to be followers of Hirsch.

But not only that. Under TIDE, a person should not care only about Jews. Imagine that. We also have to have concerned for humanity in general. Our view should not be, anything for Jews even when it harms gentiles. We should even promote the general welfare of gentiles. Imagine that. 

So that brings us back to the shooting of the protestors in Gaza. The Israeli government has become so arrogant over the last decade. It doesn't even hide its methods anymore. It really has overplayed its hand here, shooting more than a thousand people with banned exploding bullets, killing three dozen and maiming a few dozen, including a little boy. He now has one leg. 

Was he a danger? Was an eleven year old boy a danger because he came too close to a fence? Was he going to break through and beat up all the soldiers and then march on to Tel Aviv like some beast from Greek mythology?

For decades now, Zionists everywhere have been claiming that every act of violence by the State of Israel is necessary and justified. Most religious Jews, I am so sorry to say, can't imagine for even a second that the Israeli government has ever made a mistake of any kind, done any injustice whatsoever to the Palestinians because the government like a god is perfect and the Palestinians are all devils, all terrorists, even though in fact there has been an average of 20 acts of terrorism a year since '48 and there are millions of Palestinians. So if one is capable of grade school math, he can calculate that 99.9% of Palestinians do not engage in terrorism. Call me a leftie if you want but at least I can do math.

One - that is one who thinks - starts to wonder. When the government of Israel talks about existential threats is it being paranoid? Is it being delusional? Because if people protesting on their side of a fence are labeled rioters because they roll tires in a field then one starts to wonder if the definitions being used are a little off. Normally, rioting means destruction of property like cars and store windows and harm to people. There is not much damage to property that one can do in a field, particularly their own field. And there is not much harm one can cause to others if those others not only are located on the other side of a fence but in fact don't live anywhere near the fence.

It's pretty obvious that the goverment of Israel could have said, go ahead wave your flags, roll your tires, and yell. Just don't cross that fence, the one we set up to lock you in your concentration camp. And let us note that a ten year economic blockade that leaves 95% of drinking water polluted is a cause worthy of protest. Go ahead, yell about it. We blame Hamas for this as we do everything but that doesn't mean you can't have your protest. That would have been nice of us. 

But that is not what the Israeli government has done. Rather, it has gone ahead and shot 1000 people that clearly and obviously to everyone who is not paranoid and completely brainwashed by fear mongering did not present a danger to anyone other than themselves via smoke inhilation of burning rubber. 

And surprise, surprise, the Palestinians are becoming less peaceful. Did we provoke them by any chance, provocation of the gentiles being another issur from the Torah?

Provocation is a serious matter. We seem to feel at this point that we are so powerful that we can provoke all we want and our armed forces will keep us safe. That's an idol worship. While the yearly frequency of terrorism in Israel since '48 is 20 a year, the rate prior to '67 was 3 a year. Thus, terrorism has increased with this military occupation that we insist we must maintain to prevent terrorism. Huh? Not only that but the rate in recent years is 50 a year. Thus, all the tough guy tactics that we claim keep us safe have made us less safe. One can suspect, chas v'shalom, that the sniper shootings of Gazan protestors will trigger acts of terrorism that would not have otherwise happened. Maybe it's time to rethink our methods and attitudes. This assumption that everyone who breaths is a killer may not be the right way to go.

One wonders, what about all the other times we were told that violence was necessary because of the dangerous enemy. By dangerous enemy did they mean teenagers with tires? Ladies waving flags? Journalists taking notes? 

Apologies to all blind followers of the state and its propaganda. I am a follower of Rav Hirsch and he was a follower of the Torah that forbids murder and forbids Chillul Hashem. Can there be a much bigger Chillul Hashem than a sniper meticulously and intentionally shooting a little boy in the leg because he came too close to a fence that isn't actually near any of us? All this while billions of people are watching? Not exactly what one could call not having a choice but to be harsh. Rather, it is seeming that we take great pleasure in being harsh. And that is yetzer hara of a very bad kind and the kind nevertheless that seems to be standard in Orthodox Jews who worship the state. So much for Jews being indentifiable by kindness, humility, and modesty. 

All those people need to read Rav Hirsch's writings again, not for permission to watch television (as if he gives it) but to find their way again to the path of mentsch Yisroel. As Rav Schwab noted, Torah Im Derech Eretz is not a kulah, not a leniency, it is a chumrah, it is a harder path of life. Just as we don't ban all secular studies, we don't declare war on all the goyim of the world. We need to use our minds, think, use fact, control the emotion, reason, and seek the truth, seeking the middle path, slice and dice. Is that person really coming to kill you just because he wears the same kind of clothing as someone who did, or speaks the same language of someone who did? Justice, justice you shall pursue. And that doesn't mean justice only with Jews. It means you shall be a just person no matter who or what you are dealing with. We say to countries what we say to police. If you are so jittery that you shoot at anything that moves, you shouldn't be a policeman or a country. Let somebody else do the policing or the running of people's lives. We need steady, rationale people in charge. If you are convinced that everyone is out to get you, you more likely need to be in a mental institution than a government office. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

On Israeli television: Discussion and Condemnation of the shootings of Gazans

Discussion of the shootings of Gazans on Israeli television

Video link appears above. Once again, I will stress, these are Jewish Israelis talking on Israeli television. Get that, Israelis. Israeli television. Israelis. No Arabs talking here, no "Palestinian propaganda" as some like to label everything and anything that questions anything the Israeli government does. This is Israeli television. Got that? Israelis. Israelis. Jews. Israelis. Are you following? All former military people. Israelis. Strangely, we often have to go to secular Israelis to find any traces left of humanity. Much of the Orthodox world has lost it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

It was not the land

It was not the land that Moses had been commanded to proclaim to his people at the outset of his mission as מורשה, as the inheritance they were to preserve (Ex. 6,8). The Law, to be translated into full reality upon that soil, was to be the true מורשה, the one true, everlasting inheritance, the one true center around which the nation and its leaders were to gather as one united community. Herein lay the goal and the destiny, the character and the significance of the people.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch "The Kehillah," Collected Writings, Vol. VI, p. 62

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Chad Gadya: An Interpretation

Chad Gadya
An Interpretation

by Rabbi Tzvi Abraham
Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came a cat and ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came a dog and bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came a stick and beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came fire and burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came water and quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.

Then came the ox and drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came the shochet and slaughtered the ox, that drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came the Angel of Death and killed the butcher, that slaughtered the ox, that drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came the Holy One, Blessed be He and slew the Angel of Death, that killed the butcher, that slaughtered the ox, that drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.

Chad Gadya  beckons interpretation.  It’s the concluding song of the Seder and that’s the key.  What do we expect from the final paragraph of an essay, or the conclusion of a  play?  Something that wraps it up and puts in perspective.  That’s what Chad Gadya does. 
The Haggadah is much more than the story of the Exodus.  It a bird’s eye view of Jewish history, not as a secular historian would see it, but as a sacred historian would see it:  as an unfolding of the spiritual destiny of Klal Yisrael,  from the beginning, when “our Fathers served idols,” to  the end, as we pour a cup for the prophet who will herald the coming of the Moshiach  and  petition (שפוך חמתך) for the manifestation Divine Justice that will mark the transition from the world we know to the world to come, in which all nations will revere Hashem and honor His Chosen People.  Chad Gadya identifies the essential motifs of the religious experience that drives our history.
Chad  Gadya – One kid  goat that Abba bought of two zuzim (Emunah)
The kid goat represents the Jewish People, which Hashem (Abba) acquired by bringing Bnei Yisrael to Mount Sinai and giving them the Two Tablets of the Law (The two zuzim).
Then came a cat and ate the goat (Kefirah)
The kid goat (the Jewish People )  is set apart from the nations by the emunah instilled at Sinai.  The opposite of emunah (revealed faith) is the kefirah of the  rationalist who scoffs at anything that cold reason cannot comprehend or ascertain. That scornful, cold intellect is represented by the “shunra,” the wild cat who hunts by stealth and pounces with cunning, killing the kid without compassion.
Then came a dog and bit the cat (The Longing Heart that finds no Peace in Kefirah)
The Hebrew word for dog is kelev, meaning “like the heart,”  and that’s what the dog represents, here:   the heart, with its longing for love.  The enmity between the dog and the cat is the struggle between the longings of the heart and the cold discipline of the intellect. The dog bites the cat because the longing for love, both human and Divine, is the greatest challenge to the rationalist spirit. For some, Judaism is more a matter of the heart; for others, more a matter of the mind.  The tension between heart and mind has been a driving force in Jewish history  (consider, for example, the rise of Hassidism).
Then came a stick and beat the dog (Torah Disciplines the Heart with Practice  and Images)
The stick disciplines the dog.  The dog is the heart that longs for love. Unless that longing is guided and disciplined by reason informed by emunah (i.e., Torah), that longing for love will turn to things that are hateful.  But how does reason address the heart?  Through images and practice (i.e. halachah).  They are compared, here, to the stick that disciplines the dog. Without that stick,  the heart may entirely reject authority of reason, and descend into the chaos of  whim and irrationalism.
 Then came fire and burnt the stick (When Mystical Passion Chafes at Halachic Restraint) 
The Transcendent  Glory of Hashem is revealed through an interior union  (d’vekus) unmediated by images, for just as Hashem transcends all things, we know Him most perfectly when we move beyond anything that an image can convey. The mystical passion that aspires to that interior union is the fire that burns the stick (the images and practice) that beat the dog (discipline the heart).  When mystical passion “burns the stick,” the communication based on images which reconciles the heart and the mind breaks down, so  the heart, swept up in the religious passion of the spirit, can feel constrained by the discipline of religious practice.  The result is antinomianism:  the rejection of Law and religious authority in favor of religious experience.  That can happen on the highest levels, and analogously, in people who have no real knowledge of Hashem, but reject  religious law and authority because they feel that it just “gets in the way.”   The tension between religious passion and halachic restraint is another dynamic component of Jewish history.

Then came water and quenched the fire (Body and Soul)
Few are fired with desire to know the Transcendent Glory of Hashem, because that fire is so readily  extinguished  by the flow of feelings and natural impulses that carry them away like an untethered raft on rapids. Those feelings and impulses are suggested by the water that that “quenches the fire that burned the stick.”

Then came the ox and drank the water (The Demands of the Body)
The ox is the natural life of every Jew sustained by the inner flow of natural inclinations.  Much as the ox would die without water,  the Jew could not live the human life Hashem created him to have without partaking in the “water” --the flow-- of his natural inclinations.  The ox drinking water represents the man preoccupied with his natural inclinations.

Then came the shochet and slaughtered the ox (Using the Body in the Service of the Soul)
If we are oxen, we are not only oxen, for we have a Divine Soul.  The ox is nourished from below. The Divine Soul is nourished from above.  They tug us in opposite directions. How can we avoid being pulled apart?  The answer lies in the will, and the single most fundamental choice we can make:  the ultimate purpose of whatever we do to feed and care for that ox. 
A person can work with the purpose of living in luxury or he can work for the purpose of supporting his family and giving more charity.  The choice to serve that higher purpose is the spiritual choice of avodas Hashem that yokes the ox to the service of the soul. The shochet personifies that choice, reciting a blessing and fulfilling a mitzvah while slaughtering the ox for flesh to feed the body.  The death of the ox signifies the transfiguration of the physical through everyday  tasks when they are done with a higher purpose, so that the efforts we make to feed the body also feed the soul. That higher purpose is like the fire that transforms animal flesh into the sweet fragrance of sacrifice  that ascends to Hashem from the altar.
Then came the Angel of Death and killed the shochet (Sin and its Consequences)
But the  consecration of everyday tasks is not unobstructed.    Adam was made to live forever.  He died because he sinned. Just as we still die, we still sin, and the impulse to sin which Adam’s sin implanted makes it hard to lift our hearts to a higher purpose.  And so we are torn between an ox that forages the  fields and a soul that forages the Heavens. Will it always be like that?  Are we condemned to live forever frustrated in our avodah by the leaven of sin and an ox that bellows for the pleasures of his greens?   
Then came the Holy One, Blessed be He and slew the Angel of Death (Hope and Redemption)
No! The sin of man brought death to a creature that was made to live forever.  Hashem won’t allow that sin to  nullify His purpose of creating an immortal being that dwells in a temporal world. Someday He will restore the creature He made in His Image and  debased himself with sin to his  original dignity.  And then, the descendants of Adam  will live forever, their soul suffused like Adam’s in the Garden by an Eternal Light that penetrates through his soul to his body and nourishes it from above, so that the tick- tock of time in the natural world no longer measures the length of his days.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Widsom from the Gentiles: Ode To Joy

Close the holy circle tighter,
Swear by this golden vine:
Remain true to the vows,
Swear by the judge above the stars!

Escape the tyrants’ chains,
Generosity also to the villain,
Hope upon the deathbeds,
Mercy from the high court!
The dead, too, shall live!
Brothers, drink and chime in,
All sinners shall be forgiven,
And hell shall be no more.

by Friedrich Von Schiller

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Rabbi Miller on Charedim and the Army

“Some people are proposing to take frum boys into the army in frum regiments. You should know that it’s a shtus. The army is made לכתחילה for the purpose of changing the minds of the boys in the army. It’s a statement they made long ago. It’s very long. And it’s only a trick that they are using now to deceive the frummah into entering the army. The truth is Am Yisroel has to keep out of the army. We have to maintain our privilege as all the countries give, rabbinical students are patur from the draft, exempt from the draft. Let’s continue to fight for it, and not to yield, and not to listen to the מסיתים ומדיחים who are talking about frum regiments for frum boys.”
(Rabbi Avigdor Miller, “Fortunate Are You,” Audio # E-253, 1:15:52)

Monday, April 2, 2018


The Torah Im Derech Eretz Society condemns the shooting of the protestors in Gaza as well as the theme of the protests which is return to pre-state homes when the theme should be end the blockade. We also condemn those Gazans who are engaging in violence by attacking the fence or throwing incendiaries. Though a small group, they are jeopardizing the safety of everyone with their actions. Jews are enjoined not to provoke the gentiles and shooting protestors with a billion Moslems watching can certainly qualify as provocation. Moreover, the shootings weaken Israeli claims of being surrounded by enemies as we basically see here people protesting in a field and rolling tires. We must always be careful with the laws of murder and be careful not to shed blood unnecessarily. We must careful also with chillul Hashem and the government has not demonstrated that these people who are protesting behind a fence in a field pose any danger. So the chillul Hashem of a government that insists on calling its country the "Jewish state" is high indeed. 

"The land of the Divine Torah is there for the people who live in it. Its most valuable product, the purpose and goal of the whole of God's Blessing directed to it, is every human life nourished by it, through its means able to dedicate itself to making God's Torah into a realisation. The land is only given on the condition of every human life respected as being unassailably sacred to the Torah. One drop of innocent blood shed and no notice taken of it drops a stitch in the bond which connects the land with the nation and both with God. (see verses 33 and 34). This holding human life to be so sacred is to be made evident immediately on taking possession of the land in the division of it by instituting the arrangement which the Torah had already referred to in the fundamental laws of Torah social life." (Ex. XXI, 13).  Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Pentateuch, Numbers 35:10

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Lehman Haggadah

This gem was written by Rabbi Marcus Lehman of Mainz, a contemporary of R' Hirsch,  and translated into English in 1974.

Here's a sample:

“The actual Essence of God is love, inexhaustible, unbounded love. Where both this love and the name of God are unrecognised and God therefore finds it necessary to maintain and preserve His glory from lack of recognition and waywardness, it is 'כבוד ה the glory of God which procures recognition by storm, judgement and punishment. Where God appeares in punitive form, as in the overthrow of the Egyptians, and with devoted love, as in the liberation of His people, He reveals Himself ובעצמו בכבודו in His glory and His whole real Being. Here God appears on the one hand as the sublime, unapproachable and inviolable Holiness, who disseminates death and fear, whereas on the other hand He appears as the source of all love and blessings, all existence and hope, or expressed in other terms: as הקדוש on the one hand, and ברוך הוא the other. קדוש expresses the concept כבודי
(ונקדש בכבודי ) whereas the description of עצמו in shortened from is ברוך הוא
R' Marcus Lehman, Passover Haggadah, pp. 131-2

Monday, March 19, 2018

Kenes for Chol Moed Pesach

Kenes for Chol Moed Pesach

When: Fourth day of Pesach, third day of Chol Moed, Tuesday 18 Nisan, April 3, 2018 

Where: B'nai Brak, 25 Ben Yaakov St., very near the Coke factory, first stop on bus

4:30 PM Talk in English by Rav Meir Posen, followed by translation into Hebrew.
Chazanut, including the choir of KAJ Jerus.
6:30 PM Mincha
Talk by R’ Shlomo Binyamin Hamburger shlita, in Hebrew
7:45 Maariv

A group will be leaving from Beit Shemesh around 4:00 PM. Please contact me if you’d like to join us.

Get off bus at Coca Cola factory. Ben Yaakov street is to the right of the gas station across the street.

In attendance will be Yekke/Minhag Ashkenaz people from
all over Eretz Yisroel.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

שרשי מנהג אשכנז - חלק חמישי

אנו שמחים בבשורה הטובה שקיבלנו בסוף השבוע שעבר, שהספר "שרשי מנהג אשכנז - חלק חמישי" הגיע לחנויות.

(ההפצה ע"י יפה נוף - פלדהיים
, ניתן להשיג גם במכון מורשת אשכנז בבני ברק, ואצל הרב משה המבורגר ברמות- ירושלים).

הספר מופיע בכריכה חדשה ומהודרת, 917 עמודים, 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Every aspect of a full life

"God's Law does not deal with things that are supernatural or not of this world; instead, it includes every aspect of a full life which can be lived here below. Therefore these laws are עדות, the testimony of God's truths for all our earthy relationships, and hence they are עדות, because they crown all our earthy affairs with the ornament of human nobility which find favor in the eyes of God." Rav Hirsch on Tehillim 119:99

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A tour of the main Belzer Synagogue in Jerusalem

A tour of the main Belzer Synagogue in Jerusalem

You could say this is not German Orthodox or TIDE but then again it is as the synagogue is run with a kind of German order.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

only after

This is the plea for the גאולה of the entire Jewish community, for whom there can be no חרות while it is in galuth. Its redemption will begin only once all of its members will be gathered together out of this dispersion in order to be reunited. But such a reunion cannot be brought out by human action or even only through the intermediary of human effort; we must wait for God Himself to sound the Shofar. Even as the individual can hope for גאולה 

(ראה בענינו )

only after he has first passed through the states of daa'th, teshuvah and selichah, so our people can expect collective geulah only after all of us have re-acquired for ourselves the only true perspective of things, and after we all will have returned to His law and to His faithful service so as to be deserving of forgiveness and pardon. Any allegation that deliverance can be obtained by other means than those is nothing but dangerous folly.

R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, Commentary on Siddur, p. 138 on the bracha “Sound the great Shofar for our freedom”

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

R. Meir Simha haKohen

"R. Meir Simha haKohen of Dvinsk suggests that murder of gentiles cannot be atoned for by capital punishment because the murderer must achieve kappara for both murder and hillul hashem."

Meshekh Hokhma, Shemot 21:4.

Yitzchak Blau
Tradition 34:4

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Levaya of Rav Shmuel Auerbach zt'l

Today I attended the levaya of Rav Auerbach zt'l. It was an extraordinary experience.  I saw people crying, men, women. I saw torn shirts and jackets from kriah. I saw a sea of people. It was at least 150,000. For some reason Yeshiva World News is reporting 10s of thousands. This is false. The Israeli government and the newspapers tend to underreport attendance at levayas so as to undercut the importance of Torah. Israel is so political and people hide the truth all the time. They don't deal in facts. They deal in points of view. Facts are secondary. I hope that YWN is not underreporting because the Rosh Yeshiva was anti-Zionist. Someone told me the military radio reported 100,000.

I attended a college that had a football stadium with 100,000 people and I saw what 100,000 people look like on the street and in a stadium many times. This was way more. It was a sea of black hats that extended as far up the road and down the road as I could see.

We stood there for two hours listening to hespidim as the crowd grew and grew. And then we walked the 6 or so kilometers to Har HaMenuchos. This throng of people moving through Jerusalem out to the highway and up to the cemetery. There was such awe of Torah and tzidkus in the air. And not a policeman in sight. With yirei shemayim it's not necessary. They policed themselves.

Really incredible. Such a loss for the nation, for the world.

Monday, February 19, 2018

He Had the Lord

He Had the Lord

When a person is as full of Torah and life as was Rav Chaim Kastel z'l his passing from the world is hard to accept; it's hard to believe. He was always so above the fray, so unfazed, so unafraid, so insightful about it all. I got to thinking that he was indestructible. He was only 7 years older than me, but it seemed like 50. He seemed to be from a prior generation. It is incredible to think that when I first met him he was only 36. He seemed like a sage.

You could usually reach him by phone, often on the spot. Sometimes you had to call back in a few hours, but only because he was giving a shiur or with someone else. He took great pains to make himself available to the tzibur. He believed that if a person had a question it would be painful to wait for an answer.

I know I wasn't the only one, because I brought many people to him, people with lumdish questions, people with complicated halachic shilos, people with simple halachic shilos, people who were struggling with life, people struggling with Torah observance, people who were just beginning to get involved. In many cases, they became his students. Chassidim might be a better term, even though Reb Chaim, as I generally referred to him, traveled a litvach's derech.

He was an accomplished talmid chocham. I brought Gemaras to him out of the blue, something that perhaps I had seen in a article or heard in passing, and no matter the tractate, no matter if it were svara, shaklah v'taryah, halacha, or aggadata he knew the material without having to crack open a book and handed over about as much insight as I could handle.

You could ask him questions on Chumash, Mishnah, Midrash, halacha, history, philosophy, even a lot of kabbala and he was nearly always fully familiar with it and ready to explain. On the rare occasions where he wasn't familiar, he wouldn't hesitate to admit it. He fulfilled the Talmudic doctrine of “teach your tongue to say I don't know.”

Because he never showed off, and never bragged, it was hard to gauge his full knowledge. He told me what I needed to know. If I probed to get more, he'd give more.

I'd bring him a chapter of Maharal, he'd read it in 60 seconds and explain it. I'd reread if for a decade and realize that he had explained it perfectly after that first quick reading.

I once had a yom tov meal with a family in Monsey, and the host started to talk about an older bochur with whom he, the host, had attended Yeshivas Beis Shraga in Monsey decades before. He said, this bochur was a phenomenon. He was so diligent in his studies that he used to take the shortest walking route to his shtender. He'd eat in minutes and go back to the beis midrash. He said this bochur knew everything, Gemaras, halachas, haskafas. What was his name I asked. Chaim Kastel he said.

But Reb Chaim never told me these things. He didn't talk about himself. I probed. Can I ask what you were doing when I called? Reading, he'd say sometimes. Just taking care of some things, he'd say other times. You could talk to him like that, like a friend.

I spoke to him in the first person. I believe that I once tried the third person – would the Rav, etc. – but he wasn't having any of that. You could call him Chaim and he wouldn't blink. He ran from cavod. Literally ran. He wore a short coat. I don't think you could pay him enough money to be a mesader kiddushin.

He didn't gossip. Despite all that people shared with him about themselves, he never spoke lashon hara, never exposed anybody. He was like a vault. In all my conversations with Reb Chaim, he never exposed information about anyone whose identity I would have even the slightest chance of guessing. He never said one single harsh word about anybody in his family or his talmidim. Never ever.

He never exhibited anger. I doubt that he was even capable of anger. I saw people ask him questions that would evoke charges of apikorsis from other rabbis. But he might say, the Gemara asks that. Or if the Gemara didn't, he'd still address it, calmly, totally unfazed.

I know one guy that was angry about his life, angry with Hashem for his struggles. Sometimes he directed that anger at Rav Chaim as if it were all his fault as a representative of Heaven. Reb Chaim never blinked. Never fired back. He listened. He tried to put things into perspective. He always used to say, you have to take life easy. Sometimes he'd lighten up the air with a joke.

He was very funny. I once showed him a very left wing article that was something of a precursor to Open Orthodoxy. It was essentially Conservative Judaism. He joked good naturedly about the author, saying “that guy has a few screws loose and I'm not talking about the little ones.”

He was funny with children too and tried to make them smile by employing funny voices and Yiddish words like schmekle and peckle.

One of his students was in a car accident. He wasn't hurt, but the car was wrecked. When Reb Chaim saw it he called it a “zecher l'chorban,” a play on the burned egg from the Pesach seder that commemorates the Beis Hamikdash.

This fellow phoned Reb Chaim while trapped in the car at the accident scene. That's who he thought to call. Many of us did that. I used to phone him while on business trips in Los Angeles or China. He helped anchor me to the Torah world no matter where I went physically.

He had all kinds of good suggestions for life's problems, even minor matters. I once told him of my distaste for wearing suits. I found them itchy and expensive to take care of. He suggested wearing a blazer with matching khaki pants. He said, just wear out the blazer and get a new one. That's what I do to this day. Problem solved. I'm comfortable and nobody can tell the difference.

He advised another guy to buy a four-wheel drive car since this fellow lived in Monsey, NY in a house that sat above a steep hill. Turned out to be great advice as the snow and the ice there can make driving up a hill otherwise impossible.

He used to say that generally changing jobs wasn't a good idea. The new job was usually worse than the old one. Yet, I once came with a job opportunity at a new company and he told me that sometimes a person needed a change of scenery. I took the job and it elevated me to a new career as well as providing me a much better income. After that, I approached him with another job opportunity and he reminded me of the rule about changing jobs. I didn't listen and how I suffered at that new job, coming to see how good I once had it.

He used to say that with shiduchim the most important thing is to marry a person with a good heart, adding that not many people have a good heart. Having watched all kinds of marriages of my relatives, friends, and neighbors, people who were successful and people who struggled, I see how right he was. Go for the good heart.

He fielded many questions from me about different derachim, different gadolim, different classic seforim and their different styles. He had an amazing sociological grasp on the Jewish world.

He was pithy. I have always blanched at the generalized hostility to gentiles in the frum world. He said to me the pshot is not that gentiles are necessarily so bad, it's that frum Jews are so good. That worked for me. He told me, the gentiles have merits but they can't relate to keddushah. Again, so pithy, so effective.

I'm embarrassed to say that there were many matters of Torah and Torah life that I struggled to grasp even on a basic level and I came back to him again and again and every time he patiently explained it to me. It's hard to imagine how such a genius had the patience to explain basics to somebody who just wasn't getting it, even over years. He explained to me the difference between the views of Rabbeinu Tam and the Gra on when days start and end more than a few times. I must have asked him half-a-dozen times about slavery in the Tanach. It's hard to go backward, he said. Hard to understand past eras fairly. In those days, slavery was a good way to eat, he said. I asked him if he struggled with any parts of the Torah and he said that slavery bothered him some.

He referenced Hashem much more than most other people. He often ended conversations by saying “Hashem yaazor,” Hashem will help. I once asked him about Rav Henkin's fundraising work for Ezras Hatorah, the charity organization for scholars. I was surprised that a person as aidle (refined) as Rav Henkin could withstand the barbs that go along with fund raising. “Wouldn't it hurt?” I asked. “Nothing hurts when you have the Lord,” he said, referring to Rav Henkin's yiras shemayim. This seven word response made a huge impact on me. I think of it often.

He sometimes used the English terms for Hashem – the Almighty, the Lord. Sometimes he used the Yiddish Aybishter. Sometimes he said Ribbono shel Olam. He mixed it up. I found it very effective for causing me to take notice of the points he was making and to actually become aware of Hashem. I believe that his using different names for Hashem in different languages showed that he wasn't just mouthing a word by rote but actually thinking of God and keeping his thoughts fresh.

He chose his explanations for his audience. I worked in the computer field and he used to explain to me that some parts of Judaism like Shabbos are like the hardware and some parts like whether to be Yeshivish or Chassidish are like the software.

For a man that studied Torah day and night and never attended any college or worked in secular industry, he knew important information about the world. He used to say that Sigmund Freud and Dr. Spock destroyed the world with their philosophies (Freud destroyed the adults by corrupting them, Spock the children by spoiling them) and that Bill Gates, the computer entrepreneur, changed it (not necessarily for the better but changed it nonetheless).

He knew what couldn't be known. I asked him once what was the solution to the problems in the Middle East. He said, “Who's the fool who thinks he knows?”

I asked him if in Olam Haba we might learn who shot President John F. Kennedy. He pushed off the question by saying, “Curiosity killed the cat.” I expressed surprise that we wouldn't be shown all such secrets in the next world. He repeated, “Curiosity killed the cat.” I took this mean that a person should mind his own business and not poke into every matter of the world.

Some people would just mock the entire secular world and that always seemed to me a denial that Hashem is running it. And for a baal habyis like me, it's hard to go out into the world that is portrayed as having no good in it. Reb Chaim had a way of applying Torah sensibilities to life and society, seeing the good, seeing the bad. As the Mishnah says, “who is wise, he who can learn from all men.” Yet, he generally steered me away from secular pursuits. While some try to assert the truth of Torah by pounding the table, Reb Chaim poured Torah insights over everything. It was second nature to him. It seemed effortless and was the ultimate testimony to Torah truth.

Reb Chaim had talmidim of all types and spoke to each in a different way. There were haimish guys, hard core yeshivish guys, scholars, budding scholars, and people struggling to hang on. He worked with kids. He was a champion of baalei teshuvah, a whole crew of which looked to him like a protective big brother. He tended to their wounds and gave them hope. He opened his home to everyone.

It was so peaceful there. It wasn't always quiet as he was a lively man and his family large. But a calm took over me when I passed through the door. The other home where I felt that to such a degree was that of the Rivnitzer Rebbe, the famous baal mofes.

Yet even though his house was full of people, we didn't see them very much. He had mostly girls in the days when I was there, but all managed to stay out of sight most of the time as did his wife. Such sacrifices they made so that he could teach Torah and take care of the public.

He gave wonderful greetings whether at his house or on the phone. Heelllooo, he'd say, lingering on the word, his voice traveling up a musical scale from B♭ to A♯. If it had been a while, you might be treated to a truncated bracha of techiyas ha-masinm or shehekiyanu without the shem.

In email, he'd always write the word hello. He didn't care for what high tech correspondence was doing to our interactions. People should say hello he would remind me.

His emails were brief. They were responses to halachic shilos. It was another way of reaching him quickly. He wasn't chatting.

He insisted on honest business dealings. All taxes were to be paid. No cheating anybody. Truth and honesty was his policy. If I were writing a Torah essay, everything had to be sourced and true. No fudging it to win an argument. Truth and again truth.

Rav Avigdor Miller noted that many people fail to talk about Olam Haba and Divine justice sufficiently. However, Reb Chaim did. He was particular to note that we will be held accountable for how we treat people and for honesty in business dealings. I heard this from him many times.

Of course he didn't just advise this to his students. He was completely honest in his own monetary dealings and always erred on the side of short-changing himself for what he was owed. I have heard that he took on all kinds of chumros upon himself. But he was so modest about it, that I'm not really sure. He kept it totally hidden in accordance with the verse: “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you Except to be just, and to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.” ( Michah 6:8)

He believed in being pleasant, in derech eretz. You could enter a debate, fight for causes, speak the truth, but do it in a nice way, he'd say.

Reb Chaim's Torah outlook was incredibly well-balanced. There are people out there, scholars even, who will give pictures of Torah values that don't always seem quite right, at least not to me. They'll tell you that this is the most important thing or that is the most important thing. From our very first meeting more than two and a half decades ago, Reb Chaim's picture of the Torah seemed right to me. When I study Rishonim, say the Rabbeinu Yona or the Chovovs Halevovos or the Rambam, I find a match with Reb Chaim and his rich picture of proper Jewish life. It includes many parts that seem forgotten today. In general, I felt that watching him was like watching Pirkei Avos come to life. Here's some of it:

Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgment. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah.” – Reb Chaim was a big believer in traditional Orthodoxy. He was faithful to the mesorah. He tried his absolute best to find you the heterim you needed but always within the rules. He used to say that one has to stay within the highway lanes established by the gadolim and try on the outside to pursue the halachic standards of one's community. In the home and in your mind you were free to do your own thing. But one had to be careful with the children. Mixing derachim often confused them, he said. Ensuring that the children grew up right was a common theme with him. He often referenced Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Eliyahu Henkin, and Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky as examples of geniuses who were very down to earth and normal. They were good role models. Some people misunderstood Reb Chaim since he did a few things differently than others. In his Succah, he hung real framed pictures rather than tinsel and cheap cutouts which he felt failed to fulfill the halachic obligation of living in the Succah like it was your home. Would you put tinsel on the wall of your home he asked. He also never wore a tie. So he seemed unconventional. But I can attest that his approach to Jewish life, to halacha, and to avodas Hashem went very much by the book. He taught me over and over again to follow the majority of gadolim and stay on the true and tried path.

Shimon the Righteous was among the last surviving members of the Great assembly. He would say: The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G d, and deeds of kindness.” – This was Reb Chaim. He was all about Torah, Avodah, and Chesed. I can't think of anything else he ever did. He used to say that the Torah gives the title of Eved Hashem to very few people, Dovid Hamelech being one of them.

Let your home be wide open, and let the poor be members of your household.” – We came from near and far. His home was our home. I felt so comfortable there that without being conscious of it on a few occasions I walked in without knocking. I completely forgot that it wasn't my house. It goes without saying that Reb Chaim's wife Shulamith deserves enormous credit for this. She too opened her house to all these strange visitors. I was often amazed by that. She never caused me to feel unwelcome. It seemed to me that she fully understood what Reb Chaim was trying to accomplish and she accomplished it along with him.

Do not engage in excessive conversation with a woman.” – On a few occasions I sent over women who needed his aitzah and had no other place to go. He dealt with them like a kadosh. Yet women could come to his door or call him with questions. My wife did and I know that other women that did. Many came to him with their shalom bayis issues. And of course everyone came with halachic questions – pesach, niddah, finances. They came for advice on schooling, work, health. Many people came to Reb Chaim simply for a listening ear, for support, for encouragement. He told me once, there are kids out there who never see a smile the whole day. He tried to give them that smile. He helped many people with their emotional struggles and saved more than a few lives.

Judge every man to the side of merit.” – He was utterly non-judgmental. There wasn't a hint of it, no matter what you told him. With some people, even if you tell them you finished Shas and supported orphans they look at you judgmentally. With Reb Chaim, it was the opposite. He simply didn't judge. He defended people, explaining how one has to understand their background, their hardships, and their limitations.

Scholars, be careful with your words.” – He spoke briefly, explaining vast concepts with a few precise words. I asked him how Esav could be good enough that he appeared to be like Yaakov as many commentators have explained but Esav could hunt Yaakov with such venom. Sibling rivalry, explained Reb Chaim.

Be of the disciples of Aaron, a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah. – When I was working out the details of my chassunah, who should get civudim, how to walk down the aisle, he told me the most important thing was to have peace with all the relevant parties. He also pushed for peace with neighbors, peace with coworkers. He used to say, it's good to get along with family. You never know when you are going to need them.

One who advances his name, destroys his name.” – He never, ever promoted himself, not even a tiny drop. He did the opposite. And he wouldn't allow his talmidim to promote him either. He also didn't care about money. He wore an old coat and drove an old car.

If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” – He took care of his family, each member of which he clearly loved, and always moved them forward in life. And they are wonderful people. But he gave and gave to the world. And again, his wife shares the credit as she freed Reb Chaim up for his public work and never interfered. And everything was quick. He got right to it. He was in the now. When my first child was born, I told him I was having trouble finding backup god-parents to raise my child in case my wife and I were no longer around, Heaven forbid. I asked if he could do it. He didn't hesitate. Send over the papers, he said. After my grandmother died, I told him I'd like to find a way to have Mishnayos said for her. On the spot, he offered and went through all of the six sedarim of Misyhnaos by himself. I had forgotten about it and one day he said to me, I finished the Mishnayos.

Make your Torah study a permanent fixture of your life. Say little and do much. And receive every man with a pleasant countenance.” – He studied constantly and made Torah so much his own that there was wisdom in every conversation. As I have explained, he used words efficiently yet he'd would converse with you at length if you needed it. The conversation was on point and with me it was all Torah, but he took the time. I can't think of anything in life I enjoyed more than talking with Reb Chaim. He was fascinating, learned, wise, and fun. And his wonderful greetings I have talked about. He made delivery men feel good. It wasn't a put on cordiality. There was nothing stiff or fake about Reb Chaim. He was down to earth, straight forward, and jolly.

By three things is the world sustained: law, truth and peace. As is stated (Zachariah 8:16), "Truth, and a judgment of peace, you should administer at your [city] gates.' – He taught me the sanctity of halacha and truth. Go with the truth, he'd say. To this day, even as I write these words, I hear his voice in my head, only write the truth. He never flattered and could not be flattered.

In this era, this crazy era where good dayos and middos are rare as diamonds, living these halachos is not common. He covered it all up with his jocular and informal style. But if you study each teaching there, you see it.

He'd groan if he ever heard me say anything of this. He'd say, Charlie, are you crazy? I think this whole write-up would be excruciating to him. He'd rip up the paper into pieces and run out of the room. Reb Chaim did not take himself very seriously and did not see himself as being anything special. He was just trying to “do some good.”

Reb Chaim grew up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan with Rav Eliyahu Henkin on his block and Rav Moshe Feinstein in the neighborhood. He said that when you met Reb Moshe you were struck with what a nice person he was. The greatness in Torah was incidental at that moment. He said half-joking that Reb Moshe would have played stick ball with you if you wanted. He used to tell a story about how his father was once pouring water over Rav Henkin's hands for netilas yadiyim in a Succah. It was near the end of Rav Henkin's life and he was blind or nearly so. Yet, because there was a water shortage in New York, he cautioned Reb Chaim's father:שאַגראַ פעיוועל ביטע נישט צו פיל וואַסער , Shraga Feivel, please not too much water.    

Reb Chaim learned well from those giants. He carried their tradition, a great litvach in the best sense of the term, a teacher of Torah, a posek, a shepherd for the sheep all while being a very down to earth, approachable, helpful person. He used to let us store boxes in his garage. If you needed a book that he had he just handed it to you. Some people get very nervous about lending books. He said, what do I have it for? Here, take it.

Reb Chaim said that part of the reason that Reb Moshe was such a great posek was because he gave of himself to klal Yisroel. The result was incredible siata d'shemaya. I think it was the same with Reb Chaim. He was at our service and the result was a Torah mind and personality that seemed to be from another realm. What a privilege it has been to know him. Without him, the world is a different place. It's less interesting. It seems less holy. I have such an urge right now to call him and ask him about that. How do I make sense of the world without you Reb Chaim? I'm reaching for the phone, dial tone. One last call, please? This time, I will have to wait for more than a day.

I was going to end this memorial on that pained note. But I remembered something else that Reb Chaim taught me. I wrote a number of articles over the years and he was very gracious to read them and give suggestions. Often he had to remind me, try to be a little more positive, because oftentimes I am not. So I am catching myself now, and maybe after decades of trying to learn the lesson, I am ready. I ask the following question: How did he do it? What propelled HaRav HaGaon Chaim Kastel to study Torah with such vigor, thirst, discipline, faithfulness, open-mindedness, creativity, and integrity, to commit himself so strenuously to Hashem's commandments and to halacha, to go through life with such aplomb, to wipe insults off his shirt as if they were dust, to care not a whit about possessions or money, and to lend so much of himself to the needs of Hashem's nation? I'll give the same answer that he gave to my question about Rav Henkin. He had the Lord.