Charity is a Mitzvah Too! (Parshat Re’eh)

One Dollar Bills
One Dollar Bills

I often become startled – if not embarrassed when I find myself around those who hate to give. Pirkei Avot 5:13 teaches us that there are four types of givers. There is one who wishes to give but that others should not. He begrudges others! There is one who believes that others should give, but that he does not have to. He begrudges himself! There is one who gives and believes that others should give too. He is a Chassid (pious person)! Finally there is one who believes that he does not have to give, nor should others. He is wicked! When I find a situation of someone asking for help (especially a person dressed in rags – God forbid) other than considering my own responsibility to give, I find myself reciting this Mishnah. Indeed, the Mishnah is telling us the truth!

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The Story of The Carpenter and The Two Brothers


Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.

Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I‘m looking for a few days’ work,” he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?”

“Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm.

“That’s my neighbor. In fact, it’s my younger brother! Last week there was a meadow between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence an 8-foot fence — so I won’t need to see his place or his face anymore.”

The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”

The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day — measuring, sawing and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job.

The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all.

It was a bridge… a bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all! And the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward them, his hand outstretched..

“You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder.

“No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother.

“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but I have many more bridges to build.”

My Journey to Become a Sofer – Part 4 – Finding a Teacher

Owl - Teacher
Owl – Teacher

Though still teaching via Skype (from this website) and being involved in some other Torah projects, I felt that I needed some other type of career path. I was looking for something more stable in terms of earning a regular income. Living in Israel is not so simple! Making Aliyah over the age of 30 brings with it tremendous tests in terms of one’s finances! Those who don’t take the “dive” to come to live in Israel, lack an awareness of just how difficult it is to earn a proper income here. Continue reading “My Journey to Become a Sofer – Part 4 – Finding a Teacher”

My Journey to Become a Sofer – Part 3 – Simple Beginnings

School Black Board
School Black Board

I hope that my posts about my story to becoming a Sofer will also be of aid to those who may be wishing to learn the art of Sofrut. In fact, the journey is not an easy one. If one doesn’t know where to start, then there’s not much of a beginning! One finds oneself wondering what to even do! My own journey started out with a lack of knowledge of knowing what to do. It then developed into a “better idea of things.” Thereafter it seemed like things could still improve, but I’d find out later that I had chosen the wrong path!

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My Journey to Become a Sofer – Part 2

Quill and Ink
Quill and Ink

I remember when I was coming closer to Yiddishkeit (i.e. following in accordance with the laws of Judaism and really becoming aware of what being Jewish is all about). I obtained a beautiful book written in English. “The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet” by Michael Munk. It is all about the Hebrew letters. Based upon the Gemara Shabbat 104a, it discusses at length the wisdom behind the letters, their meaning, and the reasons behind their shapes. That Gemara in Shabbat is absolutely fascinating! It’s not supposed to be read at just face value!

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My Journey to Become a Sofer – Part 1

Sofer - a Jewish Scribe
Sofer – a Jewish Scribe

Rabbi Meir said, “When I came to Rabbi Yishmael, he said to me, ‘My son, what work do you do?’ I said to him, ‘I am a Sofer (scribe).’ He said to me, ‘My son, be careful with your work, because your work is the work of Heaven. Maybe you will leave out a letter, or add an unnecessary additional letter. Consequently, you will destroy the entire world!'” (Gemara Eiruvin 13)

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The Magic of Our Words – Parshat Balak

Aladdin's Magic Lamp
Aladdin’s Magic Lamp

Parshat Balak tells us the story about a king ready to destroy the Jewish people. His reasoning – without any provocation or cause – based on made-up images that perhaps only a lunatic could consider. Having seen that Bnei Yisrael were successful in destroying the two kings – Sichon and Og, he imagined that he was next in line. His plan – to hire a magician to curse the Jewish people into oblivion.

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Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher – The Tur

Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher - the Tur
Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher – the Tur

Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher (1269- 12 Tammuz 1343) was one of the foundation builders of all of Jewish law as we have it today! He was the son of Rabbeinu Asher – known as the Rosh (“the Head” – an acronym for Rabbeinu ASher). The Rosh was one of the three pillars upon whom Rabbi Yosef Karo – the author of the Shulchan Aruch – would base his magnum opus. It is indeed the Shulchan Aruch which determines the majority of Jewish law today! Those wishing to become Rabbis must pass examinations showing competency in certain sections of his work. Ideally – a true Rav should be competent in the entire Shulchan Aruch! If that can be said of the Shulchan Aruch, then let us not treat lightly the words of the Chida – Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai, who said that without a proper study of the Tur and its commentaries, one cannot begin to determine Halachah!

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Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam – The Klausenberg Rebbe

Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam - Klausenberg Rebbe
Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam – Klausenberg Rebbe

Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam (1905-1994) – the Rebbe of Klausenberg was one of our generations greatest rabbis. He was known for his exceptional breadth of knowledge of all areas of Torah and his immense level of compassion for others.

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