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Chanuka Message 5777

Dear Mispallelim,

Chanuka is here! Arguably the most famous question in Halocha, and certainly the most famous question with regard to Chanuka, is the Bais Yosef's Kasha. The Bais Yosef asks, "Why is Chanuka eight days? After all, the oil lit one day naturally. Only the additional seven days were miraculous. The Alter of Kelm says a beautiful thought. It's true that it was natural for the oil to light for one day. But the point of a Nes, as the Ramban teaches us, is to remind us that Hashem is running the world, and that even the seemingly natural parts of life are just as much conducted with Hashgocha Protis - Divine Providence, as those that are obviously miraculous. The point of a Nes is to realize that everything is Nes, including the "natural".

Often, in our daily routine, if we look for Hashem we will see Him clearly orchestrating the events in our life. Here's an amazing example, heard firsthand, just a few weeks ago.

It was the mid 1960's and the draft for Vietnam was in full force. Dr. Sokol [Rabbi Nochum Sokol's father], who was a young doctor in Chicago at the time, received a draft notice. Shortly thereafter, he was on his way to the Sam Houston base in San Antonio Texas. Upon arriving in Texas, Dr. Sokol felt very alone. Here he was - a frum Jew wearing a Yarmulka and a Sefira beard, in the middle of a state that seemed to have very few, if any, Jews at all. Almost immediately he was directed to go into town to the uniform store to get the appropriate uniform. Once in the uniform shop, Dr. Sokol started to try and figure out if there was any Shatnez in the various uniforms. Although trying to be discreet, the owner noticed him and asked him if he could be of help. Dr. Sokol explained that there is a Biblical command not to wear wool and linen together, and as a Jew, he wanted to be certain that he would not violate this law, known as Shatnez. The owner, a true Texan, replied, "I remember my Pappy Shechting chickens in the backyard but I aint never hear of that Shatnez!". In spite of his lack of knowledge of this Mitzva, the owner told Dr. Sokol that he would help him out. The owner then led him to the back of the store and took him upstairs in the elevator. Upstairs there were thousands of uniforms and an elderly gentleman in the corner who was working a sewing machine and making alterations to various uniforms. The owner called out to the "tailor", "Meish! We have a Yiddishe soldier, maybe you can help him. He wants to know if there is any Shatnez in the uniforms. You ever hear of Shatnez?" The tailor responded, "Shoin draissick yohr voss ich hob nit gehert der vort Shatnez" [It's been thirty years since I heard that word Shatnez]. He went on to tell Dr. Sokol that he would help him identify uniforms that didn't have Shatnez, and help him in general, as well. At that moment Dr. Sokol felt like Hashem was telling him, "Don't worry, you might be in Texas, but I am here too, and I am still taking care of you".

Over fifty years later, three weeks ago to be precise, Dr. Sokol's granddaughter got married to a wonderful boy learning in Lakewood, by the name of Yitzchok Dovid Katz. Yitzchok Dovid grew up in Akron, Ohio, and after spending a few months in Firestone High School, decided that he wanted to go to Yeshiva. Indeed he went to Telshe and excelled. He continued on to Eretz Yisroel and Lakewood. At the wedding, Dr. Sokol was talking to the Chosson's mother, Karen Katz, about how his family had come to America and ended up in Chicago. She, in turn, explained how her family came to America through Galveston, Texas, not Ellis Island, and her grandfather and family settled in Corsicana, Texas. Although her father and his entire family lived in Corsicana, her father's brother wanted the big city, and moved to San Antonio where he opened a big UNIFORM STORE! Her grandfather's brother Meish also lived there!

Some would say "What a small world!" But we would say "Hashgocha Protis"! The miracles remind us that there is no natural course of events. It is all miraculous! 

Wishing you all "A Freilichen Chanuka",
Rabbi Charlop   

Rosh Hashana Message

״וגילו ברעדה״!
   Typically, the Jewish calendar comes with very clear emotional directions. Adar is happy. "Mishenichnas Adar marbim b'simcha". Av is sad. "Mishenichnas Av mima'atin b'simcha". Sukkos is happy - after all it is z'man simchaseinu. 
However, Rosh Hashana is emotionally confusing. On the one hand, it is a frightening day of judgment. Our past is being laid out and scrutinized, and our future is being decided. 
   Yet, on the other hand, it is a day of happiness. The Posuk in Nechemia tells us regarding Rosh Hashona אכלו משמנים ושתו ממתקים וגו׳ כי חדות ה׳ היא מעזכם - "Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet beverages, etc. the enjoyment of Hashem is your strength". The Novi is clearly instructing us to be B'Simcha on Rosh Hashana.
   The Gemora tells us how the מלאכים ask Hashem, "Why is Klal Yisrael not singing Hallel on Rosh Hashana?" Hashem responds that given the severity of the day with Hashem judging us, it is inappropriate to sing Hallel. 
   The Mei Marom asks, "Didn't the מלאכים know on their own the gravity of the    day? Don't we say in the tefilla of U'nesaneh Toikef ״ומלאכים יחפזון וחיל ורעדה יאחזון ויאמרו הנה יום הדין״ - "angels will hasten and will be gripped by fear and they will say behold is the day of judgment?" If so, why did they ask the question? He answers that indeed they were aware of the seriousness of Rosh Hashana, but nevertheless, they asked, "How is it possible, on such a special occasion, when the Melech Malchei Hamelochim is coronated, that His chosen people would not sing, in spite of the severity of the day?"
   Rosh Hashana is a time for two strong emotions to pulse through us simultaneously - happiness and trepidation. They are not a contradiction. We have the capacity to feel both together. In fact, they complement each other to create a new mood that is unique to Rosh Hashana. וגילו ברעדה!
   May Hashem bentch each and every one of us and our families with a כתיבה וחתימה טובה, a year of nachas, simcha and accomplishment. And together with the rest of Klal Yisrael, we should be zoche to see the fulfillment of the נבואה of Yeshaya, ״שמחו את ירושלים וגילו בה כל אהביה״. 

Dvar Torah - Pesach 5775

Dear Mispallelim,

With the updating of the shul website, we are afforded the opportunity to share with you a Dvar Torah on Pesach. However, I would first like to thank those who spent countless hours of time they did not have, to make this a reality. Gershie Goldberg, Yisroel Goldstein, Moshe Levy, Shaya Shtern, Aaron Sonnenshein and Marcello Weiss, thank you!

There are two words that describe much of the upcoming Yom Tov - "Chometz" & "Matzo". Recently, someone commented, "The importance of Matzo is understandable, as it commemorates the Matzo we ate as we left Mitzrayim. Similarly, one can comprehend the emphasis that we place on the Seder, as it too serves not only as a commemoration of Yetzias Mitzrayim, but as an enabler to visualize and even relive the experience. But why the prohibition of Chometz? Why work so hard on something that we won't have? Why make it so difficult with all the intricate cleaning? Why isn't the positive commemoration enough?"

This is not the only place we find a focus on what we are removing. Bris milah also celebrates the removal of the Orla. The common denominator is that both are seemingly just removing something we don't want, and not giving us something we do want. However, in both instances, by removing that which we do not want, we emerge with something greater. In the case of Bris, by removing the Orla we are creating a "mahul", one who has Milah. And by Pesach, by watching the dough and removing any leavening agents, what emerges is the Matzo.

While it is true that we might relate better to the positive points of the Yom Tov, we need to remember that the Torah gives us very clear directives regarding how to create these positive parts. The "Aseh Tov" - "doing good" - must be preceded by the "sur miroh" - "avoiding bad". Not only will we be lacking the "sur miroh" if we skip that step, we will never achieve a true "aseh tov" without it.

This is an integral part of the Yom Tov. The Chometz symbolizes the Yeitzer Horah, and only by fighting the Yeitzer Horah can we produce the Matzo.

Since this is the debut Dvar Torah the Shul is sending via the internet it is only right that we focus on the internet in this light as well. While the internet certainly has alot of advantages, advantages that are too numerous to deliniate, we must approach  it with the same attitude with which we approach the Matzo. Through monitoring and filtering we can transform this mode of communication into a means of growth in Torah and Chesed.

May we all be Zoche speedily to a fulfillment of our yearly tefilla, "L'shona haba'ah b'Yerushalayim".

Wishing you a Chag Kosher V'someach,
Rabbi Charlop

Sun, May 26 2024 18 Iyyar 5784