When I Was The Hole Of The Bagel By Rabbi Hanoch Teller and 7 of 10 videos from Prague and How To Know If You Have Attained True Teshuvah By Rabbi Nosson Rossman and talking about Mistakes from famous people from my sister and The Portion of Shlach Lecha -Intelligence Gathering
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Following the exodus, the revelation, the construction and dedication of the tabernacle, the census, and the arrangement of the camp according to the tribes, the time has finally come to enter the Promised Land. As is the case with every army, the first step in planning a military campaign is to gather intelligence about the forces with which you will contend.
The leaders of the tribes are sent to scout the Land and to bring back a report.
It seems that while facts are important, interpretation of facts is no less important.
Ten of the twelve "spies" return with a message that evokes fear and trepidation in the minds of the Children of Israel. While exhibiting the fruits of the Land with which they returned, they spoke of fortified cities and overwhelmingly strong inhabitants.
Calev ben Yefuneh stands almost helpless opposite his colleagues. The entire nation, 600,000 men strong together with their wives and children, concluded that, given these "facts", they will be unable to conquer the Land. But Calev doesn't give up. He gets the people's attention when he says "And this is not the only thing that Moses did for us…" The people think for a moment that Calev is going to join the majority (see Rashi's commentary) and silence reigns as the people wait to hear what Calev has to say.
Calev then courageously speaks to the entire nation: "Let us go up… for we can do it"! (Numbers 13;20)
The fact that Calev succeeded in quieting the 600,000 strong people of Israel is alluded to in the crown and addition at the bottom of the letter "samech" in the word "vayahass" (and he quieted). (The numerical value of the letter 'samech" is 60, and by extension alludes to 60 X 10,000.)
Remazei Rabbenu Yoel)
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
The Three are Rabbi Yehuda Glick, famous temple mount activist, and former Israel Mk, and then Robert Weinger, the world's greatest shofar blower and seller of Shofars, and myself after we had gone to the 12 gates of the Temple Mount in 2020 to blow the shofar to ask G-d to heal the world from the Pandemic. It was a highlight to my experience in living in Israel and I put it on my blog each day to remember.
The articles that I include each day are those that I find interesting, so I feel you will find them interesting as well. I don't always agree with all the points of each article but found them interesting or important to share with you, my readers, and friends. It is cathartic for me to share my thoughts and frustrations with you about life in general and in Israel. As a Rabbi, I try to teach and share the Torah of the G-d of Israel as a modern Orthodox Rabbi. I never intend to offend anyone but sometimes people are offended and I apologize in advance for any mistakes. The most important psychological principle I have learned is that once someone's mind is made up, they don't want to be bothered with the facts, so, like Rabbi Akiva, I drip water (Torah is compared to water) on their made-up minds and hope that some of what I have share sinks in. Love Rabbi Yehuda Lave.
Mistakes by Famous People
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
I heard a story, which I have every reason to believe is true, that once Reb Moshe Feinstein was being driven on the highway and a child in the back seat of a passing station wagon waved at him. Without any inhibitions the Gaon waved back, which brought the passengers in Reb Moshe's car to inquire, "Do you know the boy?"
Reb Moshe sheepishly shook his head and commented, "A Yiddishe ponim!" (looks like the features of a Jewish face).
This is an endearing story for often we meet strangers or even people who look vaguely familiar and a wave will usually elicit a response, except from the most hardened individuals. Allow me to share some of my own experiences of encountering Yiddishe ponims.
Because I travel a lot, and many people know who I am, I am very "bageled." Yes, there is actually an expression to portray one Jew acknowledging another. The term is bageling and it is defined by the Urban Dictionary as, "You are Jewish, and you want other people around you to know that, so you say or do something Jewish in nature in order to drop the hint so they know you're one of the tribe."
I was in the Narita Airport (as in Tokyo, Japan, for those not familiar) and, as always, I selected what I thought was the most unobtrusive location to daven Mincha. And sure enough, by the time I stepped out of Shemonah Esrai and opened my eyes there were two upper-middle-aged Hadassah ladies waiting to say hello. I guess bageling in Japan is at a premium.
Perhaps my most unique bagel (if I may convert this gerund into a noun) was when I stepped into a supermarket in Omaha, Nebraska. Suddenly a teenage girl turned and, cupping her hands, called out, "Ima." The woman she was addressing was no more than two feet away. "What time is candle-lighting?" the teenager wished to know, critical information for a Tuesday afternoon.
Before I get to my clincher story, which is what prompted me to write this column, I will share one more anecdote roughly, even if not technically, connected. Years ago, I was in a yellow cab in New York City (and fortunately two of my daughters were with me, so I have definitive proof of the veracity of this story) and, as is my policy, I engaged the driver in a conversation. The driver, as is so common in New York City, was not an American native but an immigrant. But this driver, instead of coming from somewhere in East Africa or Pakistan, was from Romania. He commented that it was unusual for passengers to speak to the driver and he was appreciative of my inquiries and conversation.
I noted that I had actually written a book ("Hey, Taxi!") about tales told in taxies and recounted by cabbies. The driver, quite remarkably, nodded his head in recognition and told me that he had read the book. I assumed, as did my daughters, that he was just trying to be polite, as the odds were infinitesimal that this non-Jewish Romanian immigrant of limited English skills could have actually read my book.
I guess my nonplussed reaction was very obvious and the driver blurted out, "I assume you are referring to "Hey, Taxi!" It's a good thing that the Tellers in the car were not at the driving wheel for we surely would have braked short or performed some other incredulity-prompted driving hazard. As one, we rolled our eyes in an involuntary expression of deep shock.
And as if knowing the title of the book was not enough, the cabbie began relating some of the book's stories. Accurately. I have family members not as expert as he was in the book's content.
Factually, "Hey Taxi!" is one of my best-sellers, but that still cannot explain how this gentleman came across the book and actually read it. His familiarity would be akin to me reading a book on quantum mechanics in Nepalese and remembering the scales of the subatomic particles.
My most flattering fantasies of book distribution could not explain this anomaly – until the cabbie himself explained it. His job behind the wheel does not cover all of his expenses, so he moonlights for the Jewish Institute for the Blind typing books that are rendered into Braille. "Hey, Taxi!" was one of the books that he converted, and because of his daytime job he paid extra attention to what he was inputting.
One more tale. Because I have been teaching and lecturing for decades, a lot of people have seen and heard me, making me a likely subject for bageling. Often the gesture is less discreet and takes the form of frontal gawking and waving. Invariably, if a stranger approaches me, I can guess that they heard me speak somewhere or that I taught their daughter in seminary. Of course there are exceptions, but they are usually easily explained.
The week I am writing this column was a major exception. I had just landed from Israel and was making my way past border control when I saw a scene that intrigued even not-very-curious me. Someone was trying to get into the country with a passport that was of dubious kashrus and the border agent was having none of it. Basically, she was conducting a bust when she looked up and saw me.
"Rabbi Teller, Rabbi Teller!" she beckoned, while simultaneously having her colleagues subdue and lead away the suspect. Something was definitely wrong with this picture until the border agent explained, to my best poker face, that she had been a student of mine in Michlelet Esther many years ago.
I felt as if I was reliving the theme song of Candid Camera: "When you least expect it, you're elected…"
In Likutey Moharan (I:6), Rebbe Nachman of Breslov tells us something astounding: "The true sign of a person who has returned to G-d is that they can hear themselves be insulted and remain silent. They suffer the insults and 'bloodshed' by feeling their own smallness and the great damage they have done (through their sins), and understand that it is most fitting that they suffer the insults they are experiencing. In this way, they diminish the blood in the left side of the heart (the seat of the animal soul) and slaughter their evil inclination, thereby meriting G-d's honor."
Rebbe Nachman is telling us how we can know if we have attained true teshuvah. The litmus test is quite simple: What is our reaction when we hear someone insult or belittle us? If we respond with rage – "How dare this person insult my honor!" – then it is a sign that we are far from true teshuvah. But if we hear the insults and can endure them without responding, this is a clear indication that we have attained the level of humility needed to merit the title "ba'alteshuvah."
But why is this so? Of all the possibilities, why is being silent in the face of insults the single indicator that we have returned to G-d?
To answer this question, we must first understand why we do aveiros in the first place. At the core of our rationality, we have the mistaken belief that we deserve and are entitled to do as we please, even if it means transgressing Hashem's Torah. Without this mistaken belief, it would be impossible for us to knowingly violate G-d's expressed will for us. Therefore, teshuvah must perforce require a correction of this mistaken belief.
The only way for us to make this correction in our thinking is to deflate our inflated egos. We are not entitled to do as we please, and if our behavior is sinful we will be held accountable. This is the proper way to view ourselves and this is the correction that needs to take place in our thinking if we are to become true ba'aleiteshuvah.
Rebbe Nachman is telling us we can know for certain we've reached this level of humility if we are able to endure affronts to our honor in silence, without responding.
Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter tells of an incident that happened during World War II: There were a number of "Practical Kabbalists" who devised a plan to destroy Hitler. They were going to fly a plane over the Cave of the Patriarchs in Chevron, slaughter a chicken while concentrating on Hitler's name, and perform certain mystical intentions. Needless to say, this strange idea was not well received by the leading rabbis of the time.
It happened, during those days, that one of the truly great Kabbalists of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shimon Leider, was sitting in his yeshiva teaching a class. Suddenly, a man walked in and started to hurl insults at Rabbi Leider. The man was outraged by this "witchcraft" that was being perpetrated by the Kabbalists. Rabbi Leider accepted the disgrace without a word in self-defense and continued his class as if nothing happened. A week later, Rabbi Leider told his class that he had absolutely nothing to do with the "Kabbalistic" plan, and that he was in fact totally opposed to it. He wanted to tell them this so that they wouldn't suspect him of holding strange beliefs. The reason he had not said anything earlier was that he was concerned he would have become angry, and he preferred humility over anger.
May Hashem help us to attain such a lofty spiritual level as this and thereby merit to truly be called "ba'alei teshuvah."