Rabbi Price shlit"a will be undergoing open heart surgery in the near future. He requests that all daven for his health.
His name is Shlomo Yoel ben Chayah Leah
He is publishing these new sichot to serve as a zechus for him.
Well, it's that time of year again. It's after the Grand Siyum here at my Yeshivah Neveh Zion. That is the day when guys get up after a whole year or two at Neveh and talk about their lives. They reflect about their past and what they have gained. They talk regretfully about what they could have gained and didn't, and they thank all those who helped and inspired them. It's an emotion packed day, and marks the end of the Neveh year.
This happens usually in the beginning of June (this year it was Sunday, June 11, 2000) and also marks my "vacation" from the Yeshivah. It's interesting to note that when a businessman gets vacation from his job, he wants to go away and forget about his job as much as possible. But to people in Torah, "vacation" just means a different way of learning and teaching Torah. Torah is our "life" (See the "Sefiras Haomer Sicha"), and just as one doesn't take a vacation from eating and sleeping, so too we don't take a vacation from Torah. (Even if we do get a chance to go away we take our Torah with us).
In my case this is manifested in having more time to try to make "Sichot" (which I'm trying to do right now), corresponding with former talmidim, or learning different things with different people that I could not do the rest of the year.
A few months ago, before Pesach, I had the rare opportunity to share a simcha (happy occasion) with my two brothers and their families in America. My middle brother Rabbi Mayer Price married off his daughter and I was able to be a part of it. About a year and a half ago, my oldest brother Rabbi Joel Price married off his daughter and I also wanted very much to be a part of it. But my plans were "messed up" as my wife, Boruch Hashem, gave birth to a baby boy and I was "stuck" with the Shalom Zochor and the Bris.
As part of my duties as the self-proclaimed "speaker-of- the-house" of my family, I allowed myself to be "persuaded" to speak. As it worked out I spoke at the Aufruff-that is the Shabbos before the wedding, when the Choson-Groom gets an aliyah -called up to make a blessing on the Torah in shul-synagogue. I also used my "oratory skills" (a fancy way of saying that I gave a speech) by one of the Sheva Berachos-the festive meals, in honor of the Choson -groom and Kallah-bride, that are held during the week after the wedding.
I realized that many of the things I said were not just geared for the Choson and Kallah alone. Rather they were important things for all of us to hear and know. So I felt that I would share some of those thoughts.
First of all, there are a few standard starting routines that I try to implement whenever I speak. It is sometimes a story or a short joke to put the audience at ease. I will share some of them with you. But please, if you ever hear me use one of these, don't say that you heard it already.
You also never know when you may be able to use one of these in your own speech. Of course, not every story will be apropos for every crowd and situation. You will have to decide yourself.
This is one my favorites. I know that other speakers have also asked me about this story and have used it with great success. But this can only be used in certain situations.
It is a story that can be used with a mixed crowd of English and Hebrew speakers. In my case since I'm the guest from Israel and am speaking in America, the question is should I speak in Hebrew or English? (Don't get any false impressions, I maybe made a speech in Hebrew once and English is my preferred language. But for the joke, I make it look like that I would speak in Hebrew). The punch line is in Yiddish, so it's essential that at least some people know Yiddish.
I originally heard this from Rav Nota Schiller from Ohr Sameach who spoke once at a Neveh Zion function here in Israel. He was speaking to a mixed crowd of Americans and Israelis and wondered what language to use. He said that one is not always sure what language to use as can be illustrated in the following anecdote.
There was once a very important trial in America and the main witness, a Chasidic Jew dressed in the full Chasidic garb, took the stand. The lawyer, who assumed that the Chasidic Jew only spoke Yiddish, immediately called for a Yiddish interpreter. By the time the interpreter arrived, the Jew understood what was going on. The Jew turned to the judge and said in perfect English, "Your Honor, I would like to inform the court that I have just received my P.H.D. in English Literature from Harvard University and I'm quite capable of conversing in the English language. Whereupon the interpreter turned to the judge and said, "Der Yid zugt az er ken reiden English zer fein" ("The Jew says that he can speak English very well."-The interpreter mistakenly assumed, when he heard the witness speak English, that he was supposed to translate it to Yiddish for the judge. Please don't rely on my Yiddish spelling or pronunciation).
I usually conclude that in my case if I would speak English then at least some people would understand me. But if I tried Hebrew or Yiddish, I wouldn't even understand myself.
The next story I heard from Rabbi Chaim Silverberg who traveled from America to Israel and spent about 12 hours on the plane. I realized that I could use the same story on the opposite route, as you will soon see.
There was a reform (or conservative) rabbi who had an orthodox Rabbi as a friend. The reformed rabbi was complaining to his friend that they both speak in shul on Shabbos, yet, "I can barely speak for five minutes and you speak for 45 minutes. Why is this so?" The Orthodox Rabbi pointed out that they both prepare their sermons on the way to shul. "You ride to shul and it takes you only five minutes, so you only have a five minute speech. I walk to shul and it takes me 45 minutes, so I have a 45 minute speech."
So I conclude, "Well, based on the above formula,it took me about 12 hours to get here, so I should really be up here till tomorrow. But don't worry, I'll make it a lot shorter."
I heard later from my brother Joel, that after I used this story, somebody adapted it. They attended a Sheva Berachos across the street from their house and said, "Based on the above formula, coming from across the street, I should only say Hello-Goodbye!"
My final introductory routine is just simply saying over the "three rules" of public speaking that I heard over many years ago at a Bar-Mitzvah.
It is also very important to say some nice things about the host and hostess of where the occasion is taking place.
I was once on a shidduch date at a restaurant where there was a Sheva Berachos taking place on the other side. I heard one of the speakers say in Hebrew, "Posichim bekavod haachsania-it's proper to begin the speech honoring the host and hostess." I found out later, that this is based mainly on a Gemoro-Talmud in Berachos 63b.
I will now try to say over some of the main points that I said that I feel apply to all of us.
In Parshas Shimini -Vayikra 10:9 the Kohanim were warned not to get drunk when serving in the Mishkan. The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 12:1) relates a story that shows the evil of getting drunk.(This is also brought down in "Growth Through Torah" by Rabbi Pliskin, p.250). There was a man who was so addicted to drinking that he started to sell his valuables in order to obtain wine. His children decided to teach him a lesson. They got him very intoxicated and then brought him to a graveyard and put him in one of the compartments (it was like a mausoleum) and left. They hoped that when he would awake that he would be so shocked and learn not to get drunk again. Meanwhile, a group of wine merchants were passing near the graveyard and they heard a loud uproar coming from the city. They unloaded their wine in the graveyard in order to see what was going on in the city. One of the barrels was put right above the head of this man who was brought there by his children. When the man awoke from his drunken stupor, he immediately saw where he was and what a surprise was a waiting him. Naturally, he opened the barrel and imbibed again in his favorite pastime. After three days his children returned hoping to see a repentant father. To their shock they found him with the spout of the barrel in his mouth. They said, "Even here, Hashem doesn't forsake you (and brings you wine) so we don't know what to do (against the Will of Hashem)." So they decided that each day one of the brothers would supply their father with wine.
We see here how Hashem will lead a person on the path that he has a strong desire for. And if this so when the desire is for evil then how much more so when the desire is for the good. In fact the gemoro in Shabbos 104a brings the saying of Reish Lokish "Ba letamei posichim lo-ba letaher mesayiin oso-One who comes to be impure-they OPEN (the door ) for him-One who comes to be pure they HELP him." Some commentaries (see Tosefos ibid. s.v. Is Digarsei) point out that the term used for one who wants to be impure is OPEN that is that Hashem just opens the door for him but doesn't help him through. Whereas the term for the one who wants to be pure is HELP that is that Hashem does more than just open. Hashem actually HELPS him through. Based on this, one could wonder, if Hashem justs opens for one who wants to be impure then in the Midrash above, the amazing scenario with the wine is just the "OPENING" of Hashem so what can HELPING be?
So Rav Shabsi Yudelevich z.t.l. when he brought the above Midrash with the wine, pointed out, "This is what one merits when he wants to do bad so what does one merit when he wants to do good ? He then cited the Gemoro Sotah 12b (brought partially in Rashi Shmos 2:6) that Basya the daughter of Pharoh went to wash herself from the idols of her father and she saw the basket with Moishe floating. She saw with him THE SHECHINA-THE DIVINE PRESENCE. This is the epitome of goodness, to see such tremendous DIVINE HELP-The DIVINE PRESENCE ITSELF.
Let us all realize that Hashem is just waiting, so to speak, for us to come to be pure so He can show us all such tremendous Divine assistance.
The next point I took from a beautiful sicha from the Manchester Tzadik Rav Yehuda Zev Segal . In his book on the Chumash "Inspiration and Insight", by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman and Rav Yosef Weiss, on Parshas Tazria- Mezora,p. 177, he talks about the Haftora-the portion of the Prophets that is read following the Torah reading.
Naaman, the gentile general of the army of Aram, was stricken with tzaraas (somewhat similar in appearance to leprosy, but is by no means related to that physical ailment). He was told to go to Elisha the Jewish prophet who would be able to cure him. When he arrived outside Elisha's door together with a retinue of riders and chariots, Elisha sent a messenger outside to tell Naaman that if he would immerse himself seven times in the Jordan river he would be cured.
When Naaman heard this he was enraged and he left. He said, "…I had thought that he (Elisha) would come out to me…he would call out in the name of Hashem…and lift up his hands to the area and the afflicted one would be healed! Are not…the rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel? Can I not immerse in them and be healed?"
(II Melachim-Kings 5:11-12).
The main source of Naaman's anger seems to be his dislike of Elisha's advice which he thought ludicrous.
However The Metzudos, ibid., a commentary on the Prophets explains what actually triggered his anger. He explains on the words "… I had thought that he would come out to me."
"I had thought that due to my importance, he would come out to me and stand erect in the way of honor that people normally accord esteemed officers."
This seems hard to understand. Naaman had a disease with no known natural cure. He had the opportunity to heed the advice of Elisha the Prophet who was said to perform miracles. Now he wanted to go home and LIVE OUT HIS LIFE WITH THIS DISEASE BECAUSE HE WAS NOT ACCORDED THE HONOR HE FELT DUE TO HIM!!
Then Rav Segal points that based on "The Mesilas Yesharim- Path of the Just" ( the monumental ethical work of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato), Chapter 3, such behavior should not be surprising. Rav Luzzato says,
"One who is still bound up in the chains of his evil inclination cannot see nor perceive the truth, for his inclination blinds his vision literally."When a person is afflicted with the need for honor, this craving will make everything else- even lifelong physical affliction- seem trivial by comparison.
Here we see the truth of the Mesilas Yeshorim's words by a gentile warrior.
What is more amazing is that Rav Segal shows us that those very same words apply to Geichazi, Elisha the prophet's prime disciple and a great warrior of Torah scholarship (Talmud Yerushalmi- Sanhedrin 10:2)
In II Melachim-Kings (Chapter 5) they tell how eventually Naaman was convinced to immerse himself in the Jordan and he came out with smooth unblemished skin of a young child. He then came to Elisha and wanted to give him a present which Elisha refused to accept.
When Geichazi heard this he ran after Naaman and told him, "…my master has sent me saying, 'Two youths have just now come to me from the hills of Ephraim from among the sons of the prophets. Please give for them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.' "
Naaman replied, "Swear [that your master did indeed send you (Rashi) ] and then take two talents….." (ibid 20-23)
So far we see that Geichazi lied and swore falsely to cover it up. But there is more.
When Geichazi arrived home and hid his treasures he presented himself to Elisha.
Elisha asked Geichazi when did he come and Geichazi said that he hadn't gone anywhere.
Elisha said, "Did not my thoughts accompany you when the man (Naaman) turned around in his chariot to face you? And at the time when you accepted the silver…..The tzaraas of Naaman shall cling to you and your children forever." And Geichazi left from before him a metzoira like snow (ibid. 25-27).
Look how far Geichazi had fallen . Didn't he, Elisha's prime disciple, realize that Elisha was the leading prophet of the generation, and that consequently he could perceive what had really occurred? How could he dare deny the truth?
Again we see the accuracy of the Mesilas Yeshorim's words, how Geichazi's lust for wealth and Naaman's desire for honor blinded them into not seeing the truth.
As Rabbi Elazar Hakapar says in Pirkei Avos (4:28),
"Jealousy, lust and desire for honor remove a man from this world."In fact, Geichazi eventually lost his share in the World to Come for other sins (Sanhedrin 107b).
Rav Segal points out, "We see from here that superior Torah scholarship without proper midos-ethics is of no substance. Moreover, if a person doesn't place importance on refining his midos, then no amount of Torah scholarship will insure him against spiritual decadence- and his potential for decline will be without limit, G-d Forbid."
The final point that I try to speak about might be rather sensitive. There is a very important issue that I like to make the Choson and Kallah be aware of, if they aren't already. That is not to have unrealistic expectations of their marriage. We have been raised on the concept of "romantic love" where everybody lives "happily ever after", where there are no arguments and the husband and wife always see eye to eye. And if there is more than one argument they start to think that maybe it was a mistake to get married.
One would object at this point and say, "Why talk about such a sad point at this happy occasion? Maybe wait a few years before you bring up this point. You are just going to scare the newly married couple. And maybe they, in fact, won't have any arguments."
Well, one of the greatest mussar-ethical Rabbis of the present generation, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, shlita, discusses this very point in his famous "Mamarei Hadracha L'Chasanim-A Guide for Chasanim".
This guide takes on the form of a dialogue between a Rabbi and his student who is a newly engaged Choson.
When the Rabbi asks the student on what foundation he is going to build his "home"- marriage, the student tries to explain that he will build it on mutual love and understanding.(p.1-2)
The Rabbi, thereupon, takes a realistic approach and shows the student that "understanding" may not be so mutual. After the marriage you may find many things that you have differences of opinion and there will be certain things that there will not be any understanding whatsoever between you.
And as for "mutual love" the Rabbi asks the student, "…Is love the soul foundation of your home? We are dealing with the joint daily life, year in and year out up to 120. Through different situations and different moods-and there is no house without an idun rischa-a time of anger, and then it's quite possible that this love will turn to hatred. And even if we hope that this will be a passing phenomenon, but what foundation will carry the house at that time and prevent the gap,
once discovered, from widening, and to keep the house from being destroyed?"
Naturally, the student replies, "You are scaring me. I hope that, b'ezras Hashem-with the help of Hashem, we will not come to such situations."
The Rabbi concludes, "My intention is not to scare you rather to put you at ease, and to show you a mighty foundation that will hold the house up even in such situations. And that is, 'Tov lagever ki yisa ohl miniurav-It is good for a person to carry a yolk from his youth' Eicha-Lamentations 3:27.And the Midrash Eicha Rabah Parsha 3:10 explains that this 'yolk' is referring to a wife. This is the foundation. To get married -means: I accept upon myself the yolk of this woman, to carry her in all situations, at all times. And I will never remove this yolk from upon me. We will try to explain the significance of this 'yolk'."
Rav Wolbe then continues throughout his guide, to instruct the Choson what to expect and how to deal in various situations that are part and parcel of a successful marriage. (Recently Rav Wolbe came out with a similar guide for Kallahs).
I also compare this to life insurance. No one wants to think about death especially when they first get married. However, everyone understands that one of the first things a young married couple does is to get a life insurance policy. Why scare the young couple with such morbid thoughts especially when they first get married? The answer is obviously, there are certain realities in life that one must face no matter how hard they are in order to take preventative measures. These measures, if implemented early enough, can prevent or minimize tragic scenarios for the future. When are the young couple supposed to think about life insurance when G-d Forbid, one of them is fatally ill and it's too late to get a policy?
So, I call this "marriage insurance." When are they supposed to look for a "policy" when they see that the marriage gets shaky and not the rosy dream of Gan Eden -Garden of Eden here on earth that they imagined it to be?
Rav Wolbe himself describes to the newly engaged Choson a possible tragic scenario of fiery anger and misunderstandings that could erupt in a marriage. He explains how corroded and deteriorated the marriage could get if one does not deal correctly with those situations.
Rav Wolbe then apologizes for mentioning such severe encounters to the newly engaged Choson and explains:
"In the previous printings of this guide, this sicha -lecture didn't appear. Because I was hesitant to tell the Choson before his wedding such terrible things, while he is dreaming his rosy dream of a life of Gan Eden-Garden of Eden on earth. But what can I do? Most of my experiences with young couples have pointed out to me the necessity to tell the chasanim that this too is the reality of married life….And this is a great benefit for the couple if the husband knows beforehand that this situation will happen and he will know then how to react in the proper and most effective manner, which will enhance peace between them."So we see from all of this that, especially before they get married, it's important to explain to the Choson and Kallah the difficult situations they may encounter. Far from scaring them, it gives them the opportunity to know what to expect (not to be disillusioned) and consequently how to react in the most effective way to insure peace in their marriage.
However, when I do speak at the sheva berachos about this point, I don't say over Rav Wolbe's whole sicha. Rather, I just try to mention it a bit and lighten the mood with a joke that my wife told me.
My wife told me over a joke in the name of Rav Dovid Orlofsky, who is a very humorous and effective speaker here in Eretz Yisroel, that shows the difficulty of trying to have "Shalom Bayis-Peace in the Home"
He tells about a fellow in California who was by the beach and found an old lamp. He rubs away the sand from it and lo and behold a genie comes out and grants him one wish. The fellow thought for a moment and then said, "You know, I always wanted to visit Honolulu but I'm afraid of flying. Can you make me a bridge from California to Honolulu?"
The genie, who was not to anxious to do such hard work, asked the fellow for another wish. The man said hopefully, "Well, the relationship between my wife and me has never been too good. We don't seem to understand each other. Maybe you can enhance our Shalom Bayis-Peace at Home?"
"Tell me," said the genie, " about this bridge to Honolulu you want it to be one lane or two lanes?"
I then say over a beautiful thought from Rabbi Yissoschor Frand. Rabbi Frand has many inspiring tapes about many different subjects. He has one especially on this topic of Shalom Bayis. Some of his tapes have been printed up into a book called "Rabbi Frand In Print". I recommend hearing and reading the whole sicha . I just take out one beautiful thought from p. 86-87.
He explains how, many chasanim come to him after their marriage disillusioned. There is a terrible shock when they have their first argument as they have been brought up with the concept of romantic love where everyone lives happily after. They also do not really know each other. They have to learn to live in the greatest intimacy with another person, who may be to them like fire to water. The problem doesn't disappear just because we may be fortunate enough to survive the first year of marriage. Life is full of many changes. There are children, they grow up and they leave the house. You acquire different interests and new friends. As one psychiatrist said, "Spouses have to be like astronauts-always making mid course corrections." If we don't learn to do this, the potential for conflict in any marriage can overwhelm us.
Rabbi Frand uses the mezuzah (the rolled up parchment with the first two portions of the Shema in it) on the door post as a good example for a successful marriage.
There is a difference of opinion how to place the mezuzah on the door post. Rashi holds vertically and Tosefos holds horizontally. To resolve this difference we do something that is almost never done in halacha. We split the difference between these two positions, and place the mezuzah on a slant. (See Shulchan Oruch Yoreh Deah siman 289 seif 6 in the Ramah). The mezuzah is the first thing that one sees when he comes into the house, and should teach us all an important lesson. You can't be rigid if you want a secure happy home; you have to learn to bend and compromise.
There is one more very nice point that I use sometimes. I heard it from a speaker at an engagement party and have subsequently read it in different sources.
Every weekday when a man puts on Tefilin-Phylacteries he winds the strap over his finger in the form of three marriage rings. By each ring he says a verse from Hoshea -Hosea 2:21-22 that uses the term "V'erasticha…And I will betroth you to me…" The first verse is "V'erasticha li l'olom-I will betroth you to me forever."
We know in Jewish law that there are two parts to a marriage.
There is the Eirusin-Betrothal or Engagement. (This is not the common engagement that we know of, that has no legal hold over the woman, and consequently no divorce is necessary to break it. Rather, in Jewish law, it is designating this woman for your wife by giving her, in front of two witnesses, a ring or money and saying,"Harei At Mikudeshes Li B'tabaas Zu Kedas Moishe V'Yisroel- Behold You are betroth to me with this ring according to the Law of Moses and Israel." This is halachically binding and requires a divorce to sever this engagement).
In the olden times the couple did not live together after this Engagement, rather they prepared for the final part of the Marriage called "Nisuin or Chupah" when the husband would take his betrothed into his domain and live with her as man and wife. (Nowadays both parts are done at the same time during the wedding ceremony).
So the question is what does it mean "I will betroth you to me FOREVER?" Who wants to be engaged forever without concluding the second part-Nisuin-Chupah?
The speaker explained that there is a very important lesson alluded here in this verse. We all know that when one goes out on a date the boy and girl are on their best behavior. They both speak nicely and show consideration for each other as they want to give the best impression possible. This continues during the engagement and maybe in the very beginning of the marriage. Then they get used to each other and drop the facade. The way of speaking and acting to each other doesn't always come up to the level that it used to be at the time of engagement. (This is an understatement).
This is what the verse is alluding to. That we should be "Engaged" forever. That is, the same manner of speech and consideration that was implemented during the Engagement should continue forever even after the "Nisuin-Chupah". This will definitely enhance the marriage and insure shalom bayis.
I will end up with a true story about this point that I heard from Rav Nisim Yagen, z.t.l., who just passed away recently (15 Sivan,5760- 6/18/00). May this serve to uplift his soul.
He was saying how he was walking with a new Choson and Kallah in Jerusalem. All of a sudden the Kallah fell on the street. The Choson showed tremendous concern for his wife. He asked her how she felt and even got angry on the ground and said to it, "Why did you make my wife fall?"
A year or so later, Rav Yagen was also walking with this young couple when the woman fell again. This time, however, the husband started to berate his wife, "Why are you always falling? Why don't you look where you're going?"
May Hashem help us to learn all the lessons from this sicha and we should merit to have only Shalom Bayis and live a better life in this world and the next.
List of Rabbi Price's sichot
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