Experiencing the
crunch of inflation is very uncomfortable feeling but learning to reframe ones
attitude can greatly alleviate the stress that can accompany it. No doubt,
needing more money than we have or expect to receive is very uneasy and
disturbing, so let us ask if there anything on the practical level that can
mitigate the detrimental emotions that often accompany it?   

             Everything in
life being relative, let us start by learning to see our challenges in
perspective. However, before we begin we will clearly point out that this
article and these suggestions are not being expressed in any way to minimize
the seriousness of ones personal challenges but only in order to hopefully
reevaluate and thereby avoid or alleviate the ominous prognosis and even
perhaps transform it into a positive productive experience. (This subject is
financial but the same type of reframing can be done with any stressful issue.

              It was written
in the news recently that there is a country named Zimbabwe whose inflation rate has
become the highest in the world, surging past the whopping – 1,000 – one
thousand per cent mark. This crises of inflation has caused the prices of goods
to increase to the point that products are now eleven times more expensive as
they were only twelve months ago. The entire country is suffering from food,
fuel and foreign currency shortages. Their money has devaluated so much that
believe it or not – 110,000 Zimbabwe
dollars equals only seventy-nine U.S. cents. Yes you saw right, this is not a

printing error. A carton of orange juice costs about 500,000 Zimbabwe
dollars which is equivalent to about three and one half U.S. dollars. To make
matters worse two-thirds of the population are unemployed and impoverished with
no sign of economic recovery.

            Now after reading
these heartrending facts let us return to our reaction to our own problems
during these times of inflation. Oh, we are now saying: what problem? Yes,
after reading or hearing of such a heartrending national dilemma, our problems
seem to pale in relationship to the hardships of others. What then should be
our attitude in life toward financial concerns? It is stated in the Torah that
Mine is the – cesef – silver, Mine is the – zahav – gold says Hashem. Perhaps a
lesson that we can learn from here is by “deflating” our (material)
expectations and “inflating” our (spiritual) aspirations in achieving a level
of becoming – “samach bi-chelko” – satisfied with our lot, we can greatly “en-rich”
ourselves and the whole world with the true “current-cy” that being “In G-d we really
trust”. May we all merit to always feel “plentiful” thereby being able to “share”
this “abundance of positive feelings” with others.              






All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia


                 One of the
most famous confrontations in history has an interesting “footnote”.  We are informed by the Midrash that the
battle between the angel of Eisav and Yaakov was so intense that the “dust” it
raised reached the Kisei Ha-Kavod., and then we are told wondrously that all
the successes of Yaakov Avinu, in business ventures and in battle as well as
the success of all of his descendants throughout the ages comes in the merit of
this “dust of contention”.
(Shir Hashirim Raba: 3:6:2)

              These puzzling and profound statements warrant
further attention but before we look into the spiritual molecular structure of
this “dust,” we will add one more dimension and that is the element of time.
Our holy Zohar (Vayikra 100b) implies that our tikun of that battle takes place
on the evening of Yom Kippur.

              What is this
“dust” that guarantees blessings throughout the generations?

We begin our analysis with the understanding that every human being
is a composite of soul and body, intellect and emotions, the spiritual and the
physical. When we make choices in our everyday activities – those choices can
either align us with Hashem’s purpose for us or send us off in the opposite
direction. We falter when we lose the “soul perspective” which is “cosmic view”
of the world that allows us to see the “terrain” for what it is and travel
safely over and around the pitfalls in life. These small challenges can be as
insignificant as someone taking our parking place or jumping ahead of us on
line.  If we are in a tired or in a
hurry, these perceived slights can be enough to throw us off balance and
unleash feelings of frustration and resentment that could lead to regrettable
thoughts, words or actions.    

             When, as was the case with Ya’akov
Aveinu, all of these components are in equilibrium– balanced and focused upon
serving Hashem – then moral stability is achieved.

         As is well known,
Esau, who came with four hundred men to confront Ya’akov, symbolizes the yetzer
hora’s efforts to try to upset this synergistic balance. That night Yaakov
returned over the Yabuk to collect – pachim ketanim – small vessels and had a
dramatic encounter with the angel of Esau. Near the end of the battle, Yaakov’s
gid hanasheh, the cord/sinew that coordinates balance and movement and allows
us to effect a change in physical position, was dislocated. Perhaps we can
say that the gid hanasha not only represents the pivotal point for movement but
also symbolizes the moral direction we choose.

            Interestingly, the exact size army that Esau
came with is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for straw (kash) spelled  – kuf shin. The nature of straw is that each
strand itself is weak, but when many strands of straw are bound together they
become strong and resilient.  Each of the
four hundred men individually represents a relatively minor challenge, however
together they could seem overwhelming.

          Perhaps we can
derive from this that if a number of difficulties and challenges befall us, we
should keep a clear soul prospective not allowing ourselves to become
overwhelmed by bundling the issues together. Thus, for example, if an
emergency arises and we need to take someone to the hospital but the car in
front of us is moving too slowly, or our children start fighting in the back
seat, or the secretary at the registration desk is rude, the strategy is to
separate each contentious factor (kash) and thus diffuse the intensity of the situation,
staying focused on the primary goal. This process has two aspects. One is that
a person should respond quickly to the emergency at hand and equally important each
challenge should be handled with self-control, thereby making a Kiddush Hashem
each step of the way.

 The conflict between Yaakov and Eisav symbolizes
the quintessential battle between selflessness and selfishness. The Zohar in
Parshas Toldos informs us that everything that Yaakov Avinu did was for the
sake of Heaven (l’Sham Shamayim). The Midrash tells us that Yaakov is the symbol
of the Yetzer Tov while Esau corresponds to the Yetzer Hora. At the end of the
titanic struggle that lasted until the break of dawn, Yaakov Avinu was able to
triumphant over the angel of Esau. Our forefather Yaakov, like his predecessors
Avraham and Yitzchak, was able to successfully realign his spiritual genetic
propensities thus enabling us to be the perpetual beneficiaries of this
treasury of moral refinement

 Each of us in life has been given a unique set
of temptations and tribulations along with ammunition and the strength of the
Torah to succeed in overcoming all obstacles. There is no incident that is too
small to gain from, for example, a child leaves his bike lying in our driveway
or someone failing to return our call on time can serve as a barometer of our
discomfort as well as an opportunity to subdue our agitation.  

        The avoda of Yom Kippur can be
understood as the battlefield where the confrontation between the material and
the spiritual takes place, as it is a time of extremes. On Erev Yom Kippur we are
asked to live in seemingly disparate realms. We spend the day examining our
actions and our motives in an effort to do sincere teshuvah and immerse in the
waters of purification (the holy mikva) and yet are commanded to eat well throughout
the day with culminating with a full seuda. Beginning with the evening of Yom
Kippur, we continue the process of purifying and rectifying our soul-body
relationship through the five restrictions.   

    In essence, the effort we make in our
striving for holiness has three major components/dimensions. They are person,
place and time – nefesh, makom and z’man.   Yaakov Aveinu and his counter part Eisav
represent the two diametrically opposed aspects of nefesh – moral extremes of
good and bad.  The gid hanasheh
represents – mokom – place since it is the mechanism which allows us to
position ourselves in the physical and moral planes. [In the Tikuni Zohar it is
written that the gid hanasha corresponds to media of tzadik which corresponds
to the attribute of yesod – (tikun 18 duf 32b)]

 The third component is Yom
Kippur which is separate and apart from the rest of the calendar year [that Rashi
brings from one pashot in the Tana devay Eliahu – Raba – perek alef on Tehillim
(139 pusack 16) indicating that Yom Kippur is a uniquely sanctified day. [also
see the Sefer Likutey Moharan – simon 179].

        On Yom Kippur we are
compared to malakim because we are not limited to the realm of this mundane
world. It is a time and opportunity to reach new levels of closeness to G-d
through His Torah. The eve of Yom Kippur can bring with it a shift in
consciousness from the earthly to the spiritual realm, with the “break of dawn”
perhaps symbolizing the new light of day which has the power to shine its
beneficence throughout all the rest of the year.

           May we all
experience each moment as the perfect time and every situation as the ideal
, thus transforming the “dust of confrontation” into the “gold
dust” of the final geula
, may it be soon in our days.



All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia


              From Atkins to the Zone and everything in between, diet, nutrition and fitness are the all consuming topics of this generation.  Countless hours are invested in trying to find that perfect combination of food, nutritional supplements and exercise.    In the process, kitchens are transformed into mini-labs complete with scales and measures, herbs and sprout growers, juicers grinders and processors of all sorts.  Precious space in small apartments has been dedicated to all kinds of exercise equipment. Books and magazines on health and nutrition crowd the shelves and pantries are filled with nutritional experiments.

Contemporary diet and nutrition programs have, for many, virtually  become  belief systems.  Each dietary path has its devoted adherents – ready to defend their faith to the last spoonful.   How can this be, we wonder?   Health and fitness are purely a physical, factual matter– are they not?  Yet people speak in terms of guilt, shame and taboo when they talk about eating. What is the deeper message in all of this from the Heavenly prospective? Is it only weight control or is there a more profound meaning to this diet revolution?

            First, let us take a moment to think about just how many facets of  life reflect occupation or preoccupation with food.  Eating and drinking are primary pleasures that have generated a multi billion dollar industry. Today, there is virtually no taste experience that is not available to the kosher consumer and so all of the  gustatory adventures available to the world at large  are open to observant Jews as well.

Inspired by the media and the merchandizing masters, the average person spends a startling percentage of his or her waking hours, buying, preparing and eating food and drinking beverages.  In reaction, many will then invest additional time learning to resist temptation.  If we add to these figures the amount of time and effort spent on learning to live with  food allergies and combating eating disorders we can easily see how  some enormous percent of  time and energy is spent in these pursuits.

Thus, dieting has a tremendous mass appeal because it meets the diverse needs of large numbers of people.

       Let us return to our original question.  What is it about diet –whether elective or mandated by  an allergy or condition–that has become such a preoccupying factor in people’s  lives? Perhaps this phenomenon is a preparatory precursor to the time, in the hopefully not too distant future, when the Creator will impose a new world order known as the “birth pangs” of the the world’s redeemer (Mashiach) bringing with it a new state of higher consciousness for all mankind. Yet to achieve this new state of consciousness there will have to be a refocus upon things spiritual.  How can this happen we may wonder when we spend so much time pursuing materialistic goals. How will we ever willingly follow principles that are linked to spirituality which require the dedication of considerable time and effort?

Society’s preoccupation with food and specifically with dieting is perhaps a part of the Divine solution to this question.   For there is nothing like a diet to train a person in the skills needed to  achieve the discipline of following rules established by someone other than themselves  and experience the humility of  trying to overcome obstacles. 

Instilling belief:     Dieting works best when the dieter believes in his or her chosen diet.  Changing life long eating habits is challenging and for most  that challenge can only be met when the dieter is persuaded that the diet will completely overhaul and change his or her life.

Disciplined Action:   Once convinced of the virtues of a  particular way of eating, the dieter is willing to weigh every mouthful, go miles out of the way to find certified organic foods,  eat only according to a rigid schedule and learn to tolerate the physiological and psychological challenges that are a  part of the process.   

Reaping the Rewards:    When  dieters  painstakingly follow their diet plan, they experience  the  “good feeling”  that comes with  gaining control and mastery over their desires.  Indeed,  weight control may  be their first  experience of  self imposed discipline and restriction which leads them towards personal empowerment.  

Let us bring that intuition into focus and look at it more closely.  

Towards a Universal Diet: 

The new age goals of fitness and  health  are very important to many of us.   Whether prodded by their fears of gaining or losing weight, of becoming ill or of  showing the signs of aging,  many of us are willing to spend time and effort studying and investigating competing dietary claims and adhering to restrictive dietary regimens.  Many are willing to swallow the inflated costs of  buying  organic foods and  nutritional supplements and endure strenuous and often monotonous  exercise regimens.

For the health advocate, a profound yet practical benefit of these programs  is an enhanced awareness of the significance of  these actions.  This awareness  can lead to an heightened level of consciousness that will incorporate self control and discipline into many other facets of  their lives.                 However this is only the beginning.  May we soon see the day that we who  had previously weighed and measured our portions,  are weighing  and measuring the consequences of our actions; monitoring and directing our thoughts and emotions  in accordance with the Creator’s guidelines. We will then be able to  “exercise”  our free will to choose to fulfill the Creator’s will (mitzvoth and ma’asim tovim). These acts of Divine service will then serve as spiritual “wings” for us to reach new supernal heights. This elevation of the consciousness will also empower us to resist ephemeral temptations as we will now see life from an ethereal position  and understand the futility of pursuing temporal goals and ambitions as an end unto themselves.

   Therefore, we need not despair for  the Creator has already embedded within the mundane activities of this world the potential for reconnecting with Hashem.  May  we all  merit to see the final redemption (geulah) soon in our days.

All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia

Conquering Eretz Canaan … and Ourselves


I was riding on public transportation a few months ago when a young person, sporting a ponytail and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt peered over my shoulder at the sefer I was reading.  It was a copy of Mesilas Yesharim with an English translation.  I imagined that he would not give it a second glance, but to my surprise, his eyes lit up, he smiled broadly and asked me, “Is this the new one that’s just out. I read the first one and it was great.”  Before I could absorb his comment and respond, he got off.  His reaction aroused my curiosity.  I came to learn that the mussar movement has attracted adherents from unlikely quarters. They are young secular people, who, to their great credit, have apparently become disillusioned with relativistic morality. They appreciate a teaching that says that there is correct and inappropriate behavior. In a spiritually and morally challenged world they apparently have found the teachings of mussar to be comforting and inspiring.

However, the transformation even from a G-d fearing serious minded Jew to the tzaddik portrayed in the closing chapters of Mesilas Yesharim is quite a journey.  How much greater is the distance, we may imagine, for that young man and his colleagues. Yet, we have learned that our Torah is accessible to all who sincerely strive to attain it. We do not need to ascend to heaven or cross the seas to find it. Thus, such transformation must be both feasible and practical.  We therefore can ask ourselves, How does this journey begin?

An answer to this question can be found as a solution to a puzzling piece of Torah.  In this week’s parasha, when Hashem promised to drive out the nations that lived in Eretz Canaan, it says, “Hashem, your G-d will thrust these nations from before you little by little; you will not be able to annihilate them quickly, lest the beasts of the field increase against you”(Devarim 7:22). Wouldn’t it have been better had Hashem driven them out all at once?  Wouldn’t it have been easier for Bnei Yisrael to have subdued the occasional wild animal that might have crossed their path rather then do battle with the well armed, well fortified military forces of a number of powerful enemy nations?

These lines of Torah can, perhaps, at one level be understood as a parable – a parable that explains just how we can begin to walk the path carved out by the great and profound teachings of mussar and chassidus.

Eretz Yisrael may be compared to the body which can either serve as a vessel for holiness or its opposite.  The connection between the land and the people can be seen in the word Yisrael, which refers to both and represents the spiritual DNA that makes up our personal and national characteristics.  The letters yud, shin, reish, alef and lamed which form the word “Yisrael” are an acronym for the names of the Avos and Imahos, the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people: Yitzchak, Yaakov, Sara, Rivka, Rachel, Avraham and Laya whose positive middos, personality traits, were handed down to us as a spiritual legacy (according to the Ari HaKadosh, Likutei Torah, Kisvei Ari, parashas Vayishlach, d’h, Vayikra es shemo Yisrael). 

The powerful “nations of the land” who built fortified cities and established military forces are parallel to various forms of knowledge and information which could be used to construct a thriving beneficial civilization based on truth and justice or a corrupt society.  When the seven Canaanite nations who occupied the land chose to use their knowledge to live an immoral existence, those nations came to represent the seven kelipos, unholy husks, the negative counterparts of the seven positive spiritual attributes expressive of Hashem’s goodness and humanity’s true goal (Likutei Torah, Kisvei Ari, Parashas Devarim, d’h, Yesh Ladaas).  These are the middos of chessed, loving kindness for the sake of Heaven, gevura, directed holiness through discipline, tiferes, harmony through the Torah, netzach, eternal connection to the Creator’s will, hod, splendor in the service of Hashem, yesod, moral purity in righteousness and malchus, the power of royalty to orchestrate and combine them all.  These middos are hinted at in our daily prayer of Vayevareich David when we say, Lecha Hashem, “Onto you Hashem, we ascribe Hagedula (chessed), Vehagevura, Vehatiferes …”  Thus, in the hands  of the Canaanite nations, wisdom or knowledge became a vehicle for the pursuit of  amoral, unprincipled and unethical diversions.


The “beasts of the field” represent the baser emotions which will clamor for the fulfillment of personal desires at the expense of loftier goals unless they are properly channeled. These “beasts of the field” are ruled by the heart and lead one to self-serving, ego pleasing pleasure seeking.


When we enter the Land – meaning when we begin the process of transforming ourselves, we must confront two fierce adversaries which have to be subdued and controlled: One is the powerful, well fortified intellect which navigates through the world using verifiable scientific and sociological data and submits to society’s codes and mores in order to promote its survival. 

The other is the seat of equally powerful emotional drives which will urge us to bend or break the rules of society whenever they interfere with the fulfillment of personal pleasure. We can harness the intellect and the emotions and use them to aid us in the acquisition and perfection of the positive attributes that have been handed down to us, in potential, from our Avos and Imahos.  Indeed, it is the acquisition of the positive character traits of our Avos and Imahos that earns us the title of Bnei Yisrael.  In this process, we are able to affect the soul’s purpose on earth by allowing these lofty goals to guide our intellectual decisions and control our emotional responses so that we can achieve the proper service of Hashem. However, the self willed intellect and the exuberant emotions will not meekly yield to this yoke without a struggle.

It is to this struggle that our portion of Torah addresses itself. It teaches that the intellect set upon pursuing misdirected secular goals – the enemy nation – is not as harmful to us as the unbridled lower emotions – the wild beasts of the field. Importantly, it teaches that the mind, like the land, is never empty – it is either occupied by people or by wild animals – meaning by intellectual pursuits or emotional experiences. 

Thus, if in the conquest of our “land” we try to rid ourselves of non-beneficial pursuits before Torah driven values, ideas and activities have had a chance to increase, spread out and occupy our thinking, then the vacuum thus created, could, if we are not exceedingly careful, be filled by the “beasts of the field” – the lower passions and desires. Thus our Torah teaches that  “Hashem, your G-d, will thrust these nations from before you little by little; you will not be able to annihilate them quickly, lest the beasts of the field increase against you.”


Growth in the service of Hashem is like climbing a ladder.   We must be realistic about our present level and not try to pretend to a righteousness that is not yet ours.  The transformation from secular ideologies and their corresponding lifestyles cannot occur all at once, but only “little by little.”  Just as a person cannot mature from infancy to adulthood in a brief period of time, so too we cannot instantly make drastic changes in our natures. The Torah, therefore, warns that this process of vanquishing inappropriate mindsets and lifestyles needs to take place little by little to give an opportunity for the Torah driven values that we have planted to grow and spread and keep the wild beasts of the field at bay.


By way of example, let us assume that someone has attended an inspiring mussar shiur and makes a decision to forgo reading novels and secular newspapers. For someone who has spent a great many evenings in those pursuits, this is quite a tall order. The person certainly means well, but does not yet have the training, the discipline or the motivation to dedicate those long evening hours exclusively to learning Torah, doing community work or engaging in other constructive activities.  That person might feel frustrated or anguished and could, at one extreme, decide that he or she is not capable of keeping to this newfound resolve and may let go even of spiritual levels that had already been achieved.

Therefore the Torah wisely informs us that if such a person sincerely wants to change these aspects of their lifestyle they might choose to begin by looking critically at what they read and by exchanging certain harmful and debased subject matter for that which is less so, all the while increasing slowly but surely their pursuit of a Torah directed lifestyle. 

As Torah values are put in place, unnecessary and unhealthy intellectual pursuits can be safely removed or transformed into useful ‘servants’ of the soul. Unrefined emotions will have no foothold because our neshama will have spread out, filling the potential vacuum with the glory of the Divine Radiance that is waiting to shine within all of us. This means that as we mature, develop and apply the attributes that are part of our inheritance from our Avos and the Imahos, then and only then will Hashem totally remove any connection with the lifestyle of the other nations.  Eventually through effort and sincerity we can reach the level of living life according to the will of and for the sake of the Creator alone. Hopefully, through this perception and approach to life’s challenges and most importantly with the help of Hashem, we will succeed in returning to our inheritance and living within its borders in peace and holiness soon in our days.

All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia


           Tishah B’Av is one of those rare days in the Jewish calendar that seamlessly interfaces with the ordinary weekday. On Tishah B’Av we are not clothed in our regal Shabbos or Yom Tov clothing nor do we partake in any festive meals and therein lies its power and strength. Indeed, this day is quite unique in that it is dedicated to relinquishing some of our most basic needs: the learning of Torah, eating and drinking and wearing leather shoes. But it is by focusing our attention on the meaning of the day in the manner proscribed by our sages that we can attain extraordinary results.

The intensity of the feelings of the day, superimposed upon our daily lives gives us a humbling view of our actual position in this world. It is by sitting for hours on or near the ground, in serious contemplation while fasting, that we can catch a glimpse of something about ourselves that we rarely have a chance to see.  And this glimpse can be — if we allow ourselves to take advantage of it –the inspiration for a true transformation. Tishah b’Av like teshuva aids us in reaching a profound depth within our yearning souls.  This yearning for the redemption (geula) for the time when we will find security, respect, peace and prosperity and where we will finally see an end to the  periodic eruptions that have punctuated our long exile – eruptions that  have produced  the seismographic pulsations is what we heart fully pray for all day.  

            The bitter roots of our exile were extended deeply into the soil long before the destruction of our holy Temple — their growth  stimulated through the diminution of Torah learning and by the adoption of foreign lifestyles and cultures.  

What can we do on this day to “uproot” these perennial underlying causes that continue to hinder the rebuilding of our holy Bais HaMikdash?

             On the Ninth of Av, as we accept upon ourselves the physical restrictions our Sages have imposed, we sow seeds of renewed dedication in the soil of altruistic humility that will, with the help of Hashem, bear an abundance of fruitful blessings.

               On  this day of mourning, by not wearing leather shoes on our feet, we begin to “step” unassumingly down from our pedestals of overreaching self-confidence.              

            On this day of mourning, by not using our legs to take leisurely strolls we increase our “strides” towards holiness.  

            On this day of mourning, by not washing and anointing our bodies for pleasure, we enhance our spiritual “purification”.

             On this day of mourning, by not eating and drinking, we take the reins of control away from corporal desires of our hearts and hand them over to the soul to be our guide.

             On this day of mourning, through refraining from using the thoughts of our minds for Torah study we clearly recognize the futility and emptiness of life without it. 

            And this day of mourning, the birth date of our long awaited Redeemer (Mashaich), is the very day that is the beginning of the new dawn which will bring everlasting joy and peace to all mankind.  May we merit the final geula soon in our days.



All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia

The Mystery of Bein Hametzarim – The Seeds of Redemption

          Bein Hametzarim – “between the tragedies.” Caught in the vise between – the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av – days in which our Bais Hamikdash was destroyed as well as many other calamities befell us – it is difficult to perceive any redeeming aspect of this tragic period. However, we have long understood the spiritual value that lies within adversity.  For example Chazal inform us of the benefits we derived from our period of bondage in Mitzraim, which prepared us for the next level in the service of Hashem. In Mitzrayim we were given the opportunity to extract precious sparks of holiness that only the most challenging of events and epochs could release.  

          Let us try to reveal a redemptive, positive view of this difficult period that we re-visit each year at this time. Perhaps one of the “keys” to releasing ourselves from personal and national bondage lies, ironically, in the name for the period – “Bein Hametzarim”.

               Why is this time called “between the tragedies” and not “the time of tragedies”? The nature of many people, when beset by difficult challenges, is that they tend to become overwhelmed and even imprisoned in their own personal “bars” of anguish and hopelessness. Yet, many of us know those exceptional people who, in seemingly overwhelming circumstances, are able to overcome restrictions focusing not on the bars – of limitation – but on the spaces “between” them – the inner messages that offer new vistas of growth and change which are encoded “within” the challenges.

          Chazal have foretold that one day the inner lights of these days called Bein Hametzarim will be unveiled revealing the crowning gem, our long awaited Moshiach, whose birth  date is the 9th of Av (Yerushalmi, Brachos).

            Sfas Emes tells us that the ten ma’amoros (sayings) with which the world was created world were later channeled in Mitzraim through the ten makot and finally revealed in the form of the Ten Commandments.[1] These ten sayings were the Divine D.N.A. that G-d used to formulate the world.  Had mankind cooperated and obeyed Hashem’s commandments, the world would have achieved perfection; however because of the various sins throughout the generations, a process of purification was deemed necessary including the ten plagues (makot) for the Mitzrim (at  the same time that the Jewish people were the recipients of blessings) that led eventually to the exodus.        

          However, since freedom from physical bondage was not the final goal, the benevolent Creator led us to Har Sinai and gave us the Torah whose essence is coded within the ten commandments. 

                 Perhaps we can draw a parallel from this to draw another connection among numbers: the twenty-two osios of the Torah, twenty-two days of Bein Hametzarim and to twenty-two of our holiest days. As is well known the entire creation was and continues to exist through the twenty-two holy osios of the Torah. However, due to the ongoing failings of mankind, specifically the Jewish people have designated to be a holy nation charged with rectifying and elevating the whole Creation. We are assigned at times to descend into the darkest, most dangerous realms of time in the calendar year[2]  in order to reveal the inner radiance their intrinsic holiness. It is specifically during the depths of the frigid winter referred to as SHOVAVIM (TAT), during which the Torah reading retells of the bondage of our forefathers, that we can access the spiritual “genetics” necessary to rectify not only that period but all challenging times. This lofty goal is achievable through the dynamic vibrant power contained within the twenty-two aliyot of the Torah beginning with the story of Moshe Rabbinu and the burning bush (sneh) (the forth aliya in Parshas Shemos), ( then seven aliyas each in Parshas Va’eira and Parshas Bo) and ending with the splitting of the Yam Suf (forth aliya of Pashas Beshalach) for a total of twenty-two aliot.

         It is specifically through the Torah, our spiritual catalyst, that even during the most  twenty-two searing intense summer days of Bein Hametzarim will be transformed in the near future into days of joy. Adhering to the Torah’s prescriptions will enable us to make the transition from the grip of stifling bondage to new heights of freedom in days of Divine radiance. Each and every day of the Bein Hametzarim period contains within it the seeds – the inner essence – of twenty-two of our holiest days.  [3]

          May all of us merit to see, feel and experience the blessings encoded within each and every one of these days, thereby transcending the galus of limitation to arrive at the ultimate geulah.

[1]  S’fas Emes in the name of his grandfather the Chidushei Ha’rim.

[2]  The Bnei Yisaschar brings a Zohar that Yaakov Avinu received the portion (control) of Nisan, Eyar and Sivan while his brother Esau received control of the summer months of  Tamuz, Av ( the months of Bein Hamitzarim)  and Elul. (Ma’amrei Chodesh Tamuz-Av, Ma’amar alef, s’eef vav.) I also heard that Yaakov Avinu also received in addition the portion of the months of Thisre, Chesvon and Kislev whereas Esau received the portion of the strongest winter months of Tevet, Shevat ( the months of  Shovavim -Tat) and Adar. Only later did Yaakov Avinu take Elul and Adar into his realm of holiness.

[3]           Parshas Pinchas, read at this time, contains the mitzvot of theYamim Tovim, indicating that there is a connection between the Yamim Tovim and Bein Hametazarim. Additionally, the twenty two days from Shivah Asar B’Tammuz through the Tisha B’Av parallel the twenty two days from Rosh Hashanah to Shmini Atzeres (which are also twenty-two days) and through this connection the days of Bein Hametzarim are drawn up and sweetened. (Parshas Pinchas – 24 & 25).


All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia


       Let us begin by using a 21st Century (moshal) example of travel that “journeys” into the “highways” of our hearts and “byways” of our minds in order to enhance our relationships with others. Possibly one of the (Torah’s) Five Books of Moses intentions for recording for all posterity each of the “driving” and “parking” violations, in the course of our Nations journeys and encampments during the forty years in the (midbar) desert, was to serve as a “sign post” for future “motorists” pointing out “road hazards” in order to help them avoid potential “pitfalls” while “traveling” through life’s (galus) exile. This “driver’s education course” that teaches the “rules of the road” maximizes our safety, in addition to helping us maintain a clean “traffic record”. Passing life’s “driving tests”, especially in interpersonal relationships during these three weeks when the “road conditions” are less than optimal is a great opportunity remove some of the perceived “road blocks” and “pot holes” that can arise in relationships between people.

             It is human nature, especially in relationships with others, to become impatient and frustrated when things don’t “move along” according to our plans and timing. We live in a generation of maps, scales and watches where every inch, ounce and second is measured, therefore we sometimes find ourselves tested by the idiosyncrasies of others which seem to be at variance with our opinions or attitudes. When one is “behind the wheel”, the first rule when there is a potential problem is to put on the “brakes” – “slowing down” enough or “stopping” a moment to ask ourselves if we our “traveling” the best “route” of communication.

        Another cause of excessive “tire wear” is when a relationship with another feels like “riding” on a roller coaster. Since this person – whether friend, relative or stranger – was sent into our lives, it behooves us to ask ourselves whether these emotional “ups and downs” at this “intersection” of our “journey” might be preventable by building “bridges” between us that will smooth out” the “road conditions” and “distance” between us.

           If we appreciate the fact that a road that ascends a very steep hill must, of necessity, have various twists and turns in order to facilitate a safe, gentle journey, then we might also validate the opinions and emotions of others, which may at times differ from our own perspective.

            In order to make our journey safe and enjoyable, we would do well to follow the (derek eretz) etiquette manual that is located in the heart of every driver. Before “traveling” to meet or interact with other people, obtain a “traffic and weather” report of their attitudes and moods. Are any of their “lanes blocked” or is there a “storm” brewing around them?      

         Another invaluable tip is to learn how to “change lanes” in conversations that lead to “dead ends” and if necessary to find “alternative routes” of communication.

           Even in ones very own home, one is constantly being asked to “journey” and then “encamp” at new levels of relationships. How so? Each telephone call or door bell represents a potential “obstacle” placed in our “path” schedule. Interactions with family and friends constitute an ongoing “up hill ascent” that can sometimes make us as if  we can’t reach an agreeable “meeting ground”. If anyone “stalls” or “drives recklessly”, the ensuing “personality crash” may can cause a further “traffic jam” “slowing us down” from reaching the next “plateau” of mutual agreement.

                Let us look at some of the many components that will prove invaluable as a part of our (Chaverim) friendly – helpful “travel guide kit”. The first and foremost advice for “motorists” is to learn how to maneuver the steering wheel, so that in our conversations with others, we may “steer clear” of any “pot holes or barriers” that can might impede the smooth “flow” of “traffic” – ie. communication.  The “rear view mirror” serves as an excellent tool for observing past mistakes in order to avoid wrong turns” in the future. The “brakes” help us to “stop short” of saying or doing anything that “crashes into” another person’s feelings. It is valuable always to have our “booster cables” at hand in order to “boost the mood” of others who may be having a hard time of getting started.

         Also, an extra supply of  “fuel” – ie. an encouraging word – is reenergizing for those who have run out of “gas”. A tire jack can be an excellent tool to help “lift up the mood’ of someone whose life seems without much (ruach) air – ie. “flat”; while a flashlight is always valuable in offering a “ray of hope” at a “dark” moment.  Last but certainly not least, always have a “road map” – an inspiring Torah thought to help point out the best  direction in life.

            By faithfully following these (bain adom bi-chavero) between man and his fellow “rules of the road” we will thereby merit to reach our “destination” safely together at the (Har HaKodesh) holy Temple sight in Jerusalem soon in our days. 


All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia


              Our dreams, hopes and deeply felt needs are directed privately and quietly throughout the day to the Creator as we communicate with Him -sharing our joys and travails, our hopes and disappointments – often without uttering a word. Instinctively we believe that some of those thoughts and feelings are best left unspoken. Yet, we are taught that our formal tefillos-prayers should be said at least loudly enough to be audible to our own ears. This halachic guideline directs us to verbally express the outpourings of our heartfelt prayers and suggests that we should be attentive to what we say. What is achieved through our audible prayer?

          The author of the sefer Noam Magidim asks why the halacha requires us to utter our tefillos audibly, when the Ari zal informed us that it is sincere inner intention of the mind and the yearnings of the heart that actually empower prayer? If in fact vocalizations are required in order to awaken awe and fear of G-d (Hashem) in the heart of the supplicant then surely, at least, the tzaddik, who always is properly focused, should not be required to utter his prayers aloud. The Noam Magidim explains that audible tefillah is a Divine decree (chok) hinted at in Torah reading (Parshas Chukas -19-1) where we are taught the procedure of  sprinkling the waters of the Parah Adumah:  ”Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon saying: This is the decree of the Torah, which Hashem has commanded, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, and they shall take…” That is to say even tzaddikim like Moshe and Aaron are commanded to speak – ie. – make their tefillos audible. The connection between tefillah and the halachas of the Parah Adumah possibly further suggests that even as the sprinkling of the waters of the Parah Adumah purifies the impure, so also does davening audibly “sprinkle”/anoint this world with the purifying holiness contained within our sincere words and expressions. We all appreciate how fresh flowers and spices have the power to fill their surroundings with their fragrant aroma and how revitalized and inspired we feel upon hearing joyous news or a sweet melody; even more so do our tefillos and brachos have the power to purify and enhance our surrounding as well as ourselves.

         In our efforts to understand the value of verbal prayer, it behooves us to look at another sphere of human endeavor that is credited with elevating the human spirit and that is music. Tefillah shares with music the quality that both were designed to bring joy and inspiration to the world through the means of sound. Of course music that remains in the mind of the composer is not accessible and can have no effect upon another, while prayer that remains unspoken can still have its intended benefits since the Hashem knows well what is within our hearts.  Nonetheless, a comparison between these two powerful forms of expression can be profitable.

Musicians who wish to bring to the listener’s ear those sound sequences that had previously been kept in the privacy of their minds and hearts must evoke the ideal sound that resides within their thoughts and feelings through the vibrations of key and string creating notes and cords.  It is only when the music is played aloud that the musicians can determine whether  the music they have intended and hoped to express was actually what emerged. They can then endeavor to refine the performance so that it comes as close as possible to the perfect synthesis of rhythm, melody and harmonic sound.

How much more so, when we audibly express our prayers, we gain an additional ability to assess and then enhance our efforts through now hearing our inner expression from a vantage point outside of ourselves. Our heartfelt, audible words of prayer and praise then resonant with the rest of creation adding its special uniqueness and value that each of us has been blessed with. May all our tefillos be accepted on High as a fragrant offering (rei’ach necho’ach) for Hashem.  

All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia


           As the story was told to me, one of the richest men in the entire world wrote in his will a request to be buried wearing his socks. The family wanted to fill the wishes of their father but the burial society said that it is impermissible to fulfill this request. To settle the issue both parties went to the Rav of the city who after hearing both sides declared that … .

             Don’t go away, as we will come back to the Rav’s decision later, along with an inspiring twist in this unusual story.    

             Most people live their lives focused on two major financial goals, that of satisfying ones daily needs and securing a comfortable future “retirement”. In Pirkei Avos, which we read this time period between Pesach and Rosh Hashanah, our Sages offer us weekly advice on how to obtain both.

                The holy Torah sub-divides all potential investments of into two major sectors/categories. The first being a composite of two hundred forty eight – top rated – investments that are to be pursued with all ones abilities referred to as the  mitzvos aseh fund and the second consists of three hundred sixty five – lo-saaseh which are to be avoided at all costs.

             As most of us our novice investors we should take advice from the most qualified investment experts in the field. Thus let us turn to our Sages, who opening share with us the best possible strategies for maximizing our assets as well as minimizing our loses.

                  The first of many beautiful metaphors that alerts us the value of daily adding to our “savings” account is in Gemora Shabbos 127a: “These are the precepts whose fruits a person enjoys in this world but whose principal remains intact for him in the World to Come. They are (the investment sectors of): honoring your father and mother, acts of kindness, early attendance at the house of study morning and evening, hospitality to guests, visiting the sick, providing for a bride, escorting the dead, intention in prayer, bringing peace between man and his fellow, and between man and his wife – and the study of Torah is equivalent to them all.”

              In Mishnah 20 – Perek 3 Rabbi Tarfon gives us additional far-sighted advice informing us: “The day is short, the task is abundant, the laborers are lazy, the wage is great and the Master of the house is insistent.” He also used to say (2/20-21): “You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it. If you have studied much Torah, they will give you great reward; and your Employee can be relied upon to pay you the wage for your labor, but be aware that the reward of the righteous will be given in the World to Come.”

               Rabbi Yonasan reveals to us the secret to true wealth in Mishnah 11 – Perek 4: “Whoever fulfills the Torah despite poverty, will ultimately fulfill it in wealth; but whoever to neglects the Torah because of wealth, will ultimately neglect it in poverty.”

              Rabbi Yaakov then alerts to us the importance of using our time wisely in Mishnah 21 – Perek 4 when he said: “This world is like a lobby before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall.”

                   Ben Bag Bag elaborates further on the value of plummeting the depths of ones abilities in Mishnah 26 – Perek 5 when he said: “Delve in it (the Torah) and continue to delve in it; look deeply into it; grow old and gray over it, do not stir from it, for you can have no better portion that it.” Ben Hei Hei adds that reward and effort have a symbiotic relationship in that: “The reward is in proportion to the exertion.”

             Mishnah 5 – Perek 6: Offers us some sage advice on what to avoid, thereby maximizing our benefits: “Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not crave honor; lest your performance exceed your learning. Do not the lust for the table of Kings, for your table is greater than theirs, and your crown is greater than their crown; and your Employer is trustworthy to pay you remuneration for your deeds.”

               Then in Mishnah 9 – Perek 6 – Rabbi Yose ben Kisma shares with us invaluable investing strategy when he tells us of a story of a man who offered him vast wealth for coming and living in his city, to which he answered: “Even if you were to give me all the silver and gold, precious stones and pearls in the world, I would dwell nowhere but in a place of Torah…”

              Rabbi Akiva then eloquently sums up our financial responsibilities within this life stating in Mishnah 20 – Perek 3: “Everything is given on collateral and a net is spread over all the living. The shop is open; the Merchant extends credit; the ledger is open; the hand writes; and whoever wishes to borrow, let him come and borrow. The collectors make their routes constantly, every day, and collect payment from the person whether he realizes it or not. They have proof to rely upon; the judgment is a truthful judgment; and everything is prepared for the final festive banquet.”

                    Oh yes, as for the conclusion of the story at the beginning of this article – the Rav told all those present that the burial society was correct and then the Rav then added that the nifter had some time earlier left a sealed envelope which he requested be opened by his family only after his passing. The children immediately opened the letter and read it out loud. “My dearly beloved, by now you have heard the pasak halacha which reaffirms that even if a person were to have all the money in this world, he cannot bring with him even one pair of socks to the Olam HaEmes.  

                This is just as Rabbi Yose ben Kisma informs us in Mishnah 9 Perek 6: “When a man departs from this world, neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones nor pearls escort him, but only Torah study and good deeds…” Then he concludes: “It (The Torah and good deeds) shall speak on your behalf – in the World to Come. And as it is said: ‘Mine is the silver, and Mine is the gold, says Hashem, Master of Legions.’”                

            May we merit to have our Heavenly bank accounts filled with the rich returns from the Torah, mitzvos and maasim tovim in which we invested in this world

All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia