Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Piquing Hashem's Interest

What's the deal with the simanim?

If we were to visit an individual’s tefilos we would almost always find something wrong. Either it was self-serving or we were spacing out part of the time or something else. There are malachim who usually try to deny these tefilos from going up and they have a very good claim based on the part of our davening which is insincere.

Comes Rosh Hashana and we put all these unusual fruits and fish heads and what have you on the table. Hashem takes interest in the peculiarity of it all and (kaviyachol) says, “Say, why do have this fish head here? That’s a little strange.” Now that Hashem Himself has initiated the conversation and shown interest in what we have to say, the accusing angles have no ability to stop our answer. Hashem wants to hear from us, otherwise He wouldn’t have asked. So we take the opportunity and answer Him by saying, “So it should be Your will that we have a good, sweet year.”

(First Night Rosh Hashana, 5767)

Confusing the Satan

We don’t bensch Rosh Chodesh on the Shabbos preceding Rosh Hashana as we do before every other Rosh Chodesh. There are numerous reasons given but the most frequently quoted reason is that by doing something different, we hope the Satan will become confused as to when Rosh Hashana falls out and forget to prosecute. It is for this reason as well that we do not blow the shofar after davening on Erev Rosh Hashana as we have been doing throughout the entire month of Elul.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Life Choice

During the season of the Yomim Noraim, we customarily wish each other “to be written and sealed” in the Book of Life. The Maggid of Mezritch and Rav Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye both comment that the “writing” is not a verdict dictated by the Almighty but it is rather of our own volition that we are inscribed in whichever book we choose. We must ask ourselves: where do we want to be? Do we want to write ourselves down in the Book of Life, with all that that has to offer? Or, chas v’vshalom, one may decide it too difficult an undertaking and he may choose to write his name and that of his family in the other Book.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Yahrtzeit Highlights (Elul 22 5771)

The Rebbe Reb Motele Hornosteipeler, zy"a

The oilam got together at the home of Rav Bentzion for a seudah in honor of the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe Reb Motele, zy"a. (Pictures in the extended article.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Rebbe Stronger Than a Cossack

R' Mordechai Dov of Hornsteipel fell ill with a violent cough. He went to consult doctors in the city of Kiev, and was told that it would be necessary to sear one spot on his body with a burning-hot lance. The doctors told him in advance that the treatment was extremely painful; so painful, in fact, that the patient had to be tied to a chair in order not to move during the process.

Saved at the Mikveh (from Heichal Hanegina)

Story number three (see the other two in the two most previous posts), culled from the vast archives of stories on Heichal Hanegina. Adapted from "Not Just Stories" and "HaAdmorim L'Beit Sanz" by "yitz" of Heichal Hanegina.

Young Mordechai Dov seems to have been fascinated with mikvaot. Already thoroughly learned in the entire Talmud, at the tender age of eighteen he wrote his first sefer, "Chibur LeTahara" ["Connection / Author's Work of Purity"] on the Laws of Mikvaot and Netilat Yadayim, ritual immersion and washing of the hands. Even earlier, on the evening of his wedding [at age 15!], the Mechutanim, Rebbe Chaim of Sanz and Rebbe Yaakov Yisrael of Cherkasse, accompanied young Mordechai Dov to the mikva to watch him tovel [immerse in the water], remarking, "A tevila like this we've never seen!" However, the following event happened even earlier, but first we need an introduction, from Rabbi Avraham Twerski [a descendant of the Hornesteipel Rebbe]:

A Bracha for...a Theif? (from Heichal Hanegina)

In honor of the great yahrtzeit, here is a second story, adapted by the wonderful blog, Heichal Hanegina, from Rabbi Abraham J. (Reb Sheya) Twerski, M.D.'s book, The Zeide Reb Motele.

"I learned from all my teachers," David HaMelech says in Tehillim [119:99]. Our Sages tell us in Pirkei Avos [4:1] that a truly wise person is he who learns from everyone. Indeed, the Maggid of Mezritch taught the Rebbe Reb Zusia [of Anipoli] that one can learn three things from a baby, and seven from a thief. Among those seven is that "a thief never gives up. If he fails the first time, he keeps on trying until he succeeds." Sometimes, however, his success is not in what he thinks it should be, as our story teaches us…

A Look of Teshuva (from Heichal Hanegina)

Again, in lieu of my own posts and my fear of misrepresenting this great tzadik's message, I bring you a few posts from Heichal Hanegina.


(from The Zeide Reb Motele, by Rabbi A.J. Twerski, MD)

Pictures From Hornosteipel Today

The ohel in Hornosteipel

Yahrtzeit: The Rebbe Reb Mordechai Dov of Hornosteipel (Elul 22)

As usual, I don't feel adequate to writing something about the Rebbe Reb Motele, especially without the appropriate amount of time for such an undertaking. But, we are in luck. Here is an edited transcript of the Rebbe's remarks at the yahrtzeit seudah on Elul 22, 5766 (2006). Very, very worthwhile!

One Small Change Has A Massive Effect

There is theory that if a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, the minute disturbance that it causes in the air can ripple off and ultimately create a tornado over Moscow. Even the smallest movement, in what one may believe to be a very distant and remote place, has the ability to move huge amounts of energy in other areas. Making a small change in the right direction in even a seemingly insignificant area of one's life can cause enough of a shift in the trend of his day-to-day drudgery to stir up the storm of change requisite to make headway in other more significant areas. Especially in our quest along the road of Elul, we must never underestimate the power of small steps. (Erev Rosh Hashanah, 5767)

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Totality of Judgment

A person is made up and created by different aspects and influences, some internally bred and others that come from the outside. The Zohar Hakadosh says that the opening verse of Parshas Nitzavim, אתם נצבים היום - You are standing today, refers to Rosh Hashanah. When you stand on Rosh Hashanah before Hashem, its כולכם - all of you. You along with all of those influences that have helped mold your existence. The verse continues, ראשיכם שבטיכם וכו' טפכם נשיכם - your heads, your tribes, your elders, women and children, all of them. And we have to decide which things work for us and which have not been helpful to the mission. Those things that were detrimental, that compromised our dreams and integrity are חוטב עציך - wood-choppers; we must chop them down and cut them out. And those things that we would like to draw more of are שואב מימך - water-carriers, as water is a source of life and vibrancy. All of them are here with us on the Day of Judgment. We can not ignore anything in our lives for on this day it is all לפני ה' אלקיכם, before Hashem, your G-d. We must address everything. To conveniently forget about any particular skeleton in the closet, aspect of our personality that needs tending to or any choice that we have made that we are maintaining, is to deny outright the totality of Hashem’s scrutiny. We bring everything with us when we step into the courtroom.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we must look deeply into our lives and selves and decide which things are wood-choppers, the detrimental forces that must be excised, and which are water-carriers, those things that revitalize us and bring us closer to the Source of Life.

(Shabbos Netzavim-Vayelech 5767)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

First Night Selichos (audio)

We are at the half-way mark of Elul. As scary as it is, I find it quite thrilling and exciting. The Yomim Tovim are rich with mitzvos and opportunities and they always give us the energy we need to make the rest of the year what it needs to be.

In any event, here are recordings of the Rebbe saying Selichos from 5764-5. Anyone who has been in the Rebbe's shul for the first night of selichos recalls the electric feelings of anticipation as the Rebbe begins Ashrei. The ZIP file contains a bunch of small clips, each one either the beginning or end of a paragraph when the Rebbe is most audible. DOWNLOAD

Rosh Hashana in Cherkass

(צולם מילקוט מאורי אור)

Owning It

On Rosh Hashanah of 5767 (2007), before the blowing of the shofar, the Rebbe, shlit"a, spoke about the following ideas:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reb Mottel's Tenaim and Wedding Invitation

News Clippings about Reb Mottel Twerski

Three newspaper tidbits: Reb Mottel as a child, at his bar-mitzvah and at his engagement. Click on any image to enlarge.

From the collection of Rav Bentzion Twerski, shlit"a, of Milwaukee.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yahrtzeit: HaRav Mordechai Dov Ber Twerski (Elul 15)

The following piece originally appeared in Turning Pages (pg. 197-198):

The Big Blizzard and The World Without Motty

Written by the Rebbe, Harav Michel Twerski, shlit"a

There is something awe-inspiring in a blizzard. I was reminded of its magnitude during this past winter's most major snowstorm as I watched the interplay of wind and snow from the comfort of my living room window.

A Time For Arrogance (by Rav Mottel Twerski, ztz"l)

Today (Elul 15) is the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe's older brother, Reb Mottel Twerski, ztz"l. In 1994 an article he wrote for Rosh Hashana was printed and then reprinted in Turning Pages: A Compilation of Twerski Writings. Here it is, retyped from there.

The Cherkasser on Erev Rosh Hashanah

Once the Rebbe Reb Yaakov Yisroel of Cherkass came to Mincha on Erev Rosh Hashanah very late. Seeing the surprise on the faces of those assembled to daven, he explained, "My brothers (referring to his seven brothers, the tzadikim of Chernobyl, Koristchov, Tolna, Trisk, Mekarev, Skver and Rachmistrivka) and I do not come in to Mincha on Erev Rosh Hashanah until we have rectified the neshama of every Jew."

(See Yalkut Me'orei Ohr, pg. 44, in the name of the chosid Reb Yitzchok Zakan, z"l, who heard it from his uncle who was present at the time.)

Emek Tefilah on Elul

עמק תפלה פרשת כי תבוא

Let’s Get It Right This Year – Not "New", But "Nu"

Written by the Rebbe, Harav Michel Twerski, shlit”a

The Torah, assuredly, teaches us to treasure the “old.” We are exhorted to respect and care for elderly parents, seek counsel of the elders, and treat reverently the faded parchment of our once usable torah scrolls. Our ancient Torah practices, rites and rituals, are never to be bartered, diluted, compromised or sacrificed in deference to anything new, no matter how promising. The “new” year consequently is most decisively not an invitation to jettison the familiar and the venerable, or to discredit the old. As a matter of fact, “Rosh Hashanah” doesn’t even mean “New” year! Rather, it translates as the “head”-of-the-year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Yahrtzeit: Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel of Cherkass (Elul 13)

The New Matzeiva for the Cherkasser, zy"a

Believe it or not, I did not have time to translate or write anything original for the Cherkasser's yahrtzeit. Quickly, Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel of Cherkass was the third of eight sons of the Chernobyler Maggid, Reb Mordechai, who was the son of the Maor Einayim, Reb Nochum Chernobyler. His grandson was the Rebbe Reb Motele of Hornosteipel, and thereby the originator of the Hornosteipeler dynasty we all know and love. Here are a few stories that I have heard from the Rebbe, shlit"a, but never had the chance to commit to writing. They are all borrowed from Heichal Hanegina.

Are We Willing To Answer Our Prayers?

By the Rebbe Harav Hatzadik Rav Yaakov Yisroel Twerski, zt"l

No matter how old one may be, no matter how many New Years one has already experienced, the coming of Rosh Hashanah is always an exciting and hope-filled event. We look forward to a year in which illness will yield to good health, sadness to happiness, misfortune to mazel and success, and the hope that a general improvement will prevail in all of the hardships which afflict mankind. To those who are sustained by a strong and abiding faith, this is not a vain hope. The all-powerful and bountiful hand of G-d can, within a twinkling, transform our life into one that is filled with every desired blessing and good fortune. It is important, however, that we remember that while we shall pray and ask the Almighty’s blessing for the coming year, a great many of our most painful problems can be removed by our own intervention and efforts. For so much of our unhappiness is not outside of us, but rather is brought about by our own distorted hopes, and our exaggerated demands on life. Our Sages, for example, suggest this, when they state “He is wealthy who is content with his portion in life.” Let us hope that G-d shall fill this coming year with the fulfillment of our most cherished dreams. And let us also hope that we will find the spiritual strength to look inwardly, so that we may bless our own lives with contentment and peace of mind.

(Written by the Rebbe, Harav Michel Twerski, shlit”a)


This past week's d'var Torah from Rabbi Sender Haber mentioned a precious exchange he had with the Rebbe, shlit"a. His own application is understandably very Rebbe-esque.

About ten years ago I called Reb Michel Twerski of Milwaukee to tell him that I was engaged. His reaction was, unfortunately, unique.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Three New Old Pictures of Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel, zy"a

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Enlisting Hashem

Okay. So, we are deep into Elul. It can be overwhelming -- life-altering changes and stuff. Just trying to decide what particularly we want to change is challenging enough. Then we need to worry about making a plan, carrying it out, sticking to it when we are spent, picking ourselves up when we fall, and on and on. We are all surely familiar with that unwelcome voice inside our heads that won't stop telling us, "You can't".

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Minhagim: The Month of Elul

1) Many have the custom to recite the order of Yom Kippur Katan on Erev Rosh Chodesh. There are those who don't normally say it except on Erev Rosh Chodesh Nisan and/or Elul. The minhag of the Rebbe is not to say it even then.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Daven That Others Do Teshuvah

I came across a wonderful mareh makom quoted in Nitei Gavriel. There he brings from the Sefer Tehilah L'Dovid who says in the name of the Arizal that throughout the month of Elul, one should have kavanah in the beracha of Hashiveinu and daven for those who strayed from Hashem and those who were "taken captive as children" and grew up not knowing about the Torah. "For these days are propitious to bring them back to teshuvah and Hashem's right hand is open to accept those who return."

How convenient is it that in the Radviller siddur there is a little addition to daven for exactly that. In the berachah of Hashiveinu in Shemoneh Esrei, before one concludes with "Baruch Atah" etc., one may add the following: "May it be your will Hashem, my G-d and the G-d of my fathers, that you carve out an opening beneath the Throne of Your Glory to bring back all of the sinners of Israel with complete teshuvah, and amongst them myself (ploni ben plonis) (and/or ploni ben plonis), for Your right hand, Hashem, is open to receive returners."

The note indicates (in the name of the Turei Zahav) that such additional prayers should not be said on a constant basis as a part of Shemoneh Esrei because while one is permitted to always add there own personal prayers, we don't want to add a specific, set prayer that Chazal did not include.
One who needs something, it is said by Chazal, should pray for someone else who requires the same thing. This is considered a very worthy and effective method of both having his own prayers answered, as well as helping another. During these days of Elul we all need help doing teshuvah.

While it is surely in our own hands and our own responsibility to return to Hashem, we desperately need Divine assistance in order that our teshuvah be meaningful and effective. All the more so those who have no idea that they should be doing teshuvah, and those whose hearts have become closed. In more than one way, davening for them is davening for ourselves.

The Whole Point...

What exactly is the point, the focus, of Elul and Tishrei?

Drops of Rain: Shoftim 5771

My internet was down on Erev Shabbos so I couldn't post Drops of Rain. Here it is, belated but just as good.

Oldie of the Week: To Love A Fellow Jew (Karev Yom)

Click HERE for another "Oldie of the Week" of the Rebbe's from Gruntig.
The clip there is powered by YouTube, so since many filters will block it out, I stripped just the audio. DOWNLOAD

Hat tip to Sruli Besser (of Mishpacha fame) for sending me the link.

Apparently, this has become a very popular song in Lubavitcher camps over the years. Here is a clip on YouTube of a little Lubavitcher "shliach" singing the Hornosteipeler Rebbe's Karev Yom (how cute!).

Friday, September 2, 2011


The following article was written by the Rebbe, shlit"a, a number of years ago for

During a recent excursion, I was surprised to find myself surrounded by a sea of "tomorrows." No, I was not visiting a maternity ward or a nursery school classroom where the bright potential of young children gives off a tangible sense of "tomorrow", i.e. the future, vital and promising. While it is true that I always experience the elation of "tomorrow" when I am with little ones, the sensation I am describing came from the opposite end of the spectrum -- a cemetery.

My official duties as a community rabbi take me, more often than I might prefer, to the quiet fields where the generations before us have come to rest. If one looks about and listens carefully to the stillness, there is a stifling awareness of a multitude of (for want of a better word) "tomorrows" -- a profusion of things that might have been, could have been, should have been, and would have been... but for "tomorrow."

Growing up in Milwaukee, and having served for some 40 years in the rabbinate, I am able to look around, no matter which cemetery I may be visiting, and recognize many familiar names, people whom I remember from my childhood years and thereafter. Many lived lives of great distinction. The rest, as a rule, were upstanding individuals, devoted to their families and community, Jews who left a heritage of industry and integrity. It is about this latter group that I am so saddened. Because I not only remember who they were, but who they might have been, had they not squandered their "todays" for their "tomorrows."

Of course, we all do it; procrastination is as old as mankind itself. Yet the sheer deluge of what the past put off for "tomorrow" rose like a heavy mist above the field, casting a long and heavy shadow upon the ground.

My reflections took me back to the present, to family, my friends, and myself. Each of us has many things we cherish and hope to accomplish during our lifetimes. Invariably they are achievements of substance, the stuff of which enduring legacies are made. What do we do about these aspirations? Put them off for "tomorrow", of course! Today is just too busy, too cluttered, and too demanding. With unfailing constancy tomorrow becomes yet another today, full and hectic with characteristically unforgiving demands which brazenly refuse to be postponed. Pathetically, the eternal verities of life, the ones that should clamor for our attention and insist upon recognition, wait silently and patiently in the wings of our consciousness to be converted at long last into the living tissue of life. Altogether too many tombstones tell the story of tomorrows which never came, and altogether too many of us are etching similar epitaphs for ourselves.

The beginning of a New Year represents a unique opportunity to make our "tomorrows" into "todays," by making a serious commitment to the goals we hold sacred. Putting "first-things-first" will enable us to feel the energy of coming alive and experiencing the liberation of our potential.

On my personal list for the coming year, "today" is uppermost on the roster. I would respectfully urge that everyone reflect on the many blessings that would be forthcoming if we had the tenacity and the determination to transform our "tomorrows" into "todays."

I wish everyone a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Elul Reflections (4 audio shiurim)

In the Reflections of Rabbi Michel Twerski tape series, there are four entire shiurim devoted to the avodah of Elul. Here they are in MP3 format for your downloading and listening pleasure (hopefully for more then just pleasure):

1. Courtship 

2. Jewish Love 

3. Mirror Mirror On the Wall 

4. Ascending the Mountain

To purchase the entire tape series, other tapes and music, visit the shul's website.