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Caving Kedusha

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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Caving Kedusha

When R’ Yisrael Salanter was in Odessa, he witnessed Chillul Shabbos for the first time. Upon seeing a Jew smoking he fainted. However, the next time he saw this he didn’t faint. He then said to himself, “I must leave this place,” as he was desensitized to Chillul[1] Shabbos.[2]

In regard to Yaakov and Lavan it says…איננו עמו כתמול שלשום, Lavan is not like he was to me in earlier days as Lavan was duplicitous and disingenuous.[3] A deeper meaning encoded in these words is that, “I (Yaakov) got so accustomed to his nefarious ways since the way he appears to me today is not the same as he did in the past. His skullduggery behavior doesn’t bother me as much.” Thus, Yaakov says he must leave this place, as the narrative continues, שוב אל ארץ אבותיך, return to the land of your fathers.[4]


There was an orthodox Jew named R’ Binyomin residing in the secular city of Hertziliya that would occasionally visit the Steipler (1899-1985). On each occasion, he would bemoan about the spiritual wasteland in his city and say that the Shabbos desecration, lack of modesty and the like were extremely difficult to bear. The Steipler would console him by stressing the importance of secular Jews in Hertziliya should see the image of an authentic Jew. A few years passed without R’ Binyomin visiting the Steipler, until one day they met each other at an event in Bnei Brak. When the Steipler asked where he has been, R’ Binyomin replied, “Baruch Hashem the rebbe’s blessings were fulfilled, as I have become accustomed to the situation.” The Steipler trembled and said, “You have become accustomed? Then you must move to Bnei Brak.”

R’ Shalom Shwadron[5] (1912-1997) once passed by a sewer which was being worked on. He was appalled upon seeing the workers there eating their meals in the sewer. After passing by them daily, he realized that one can get accustomed to anything.[6]

[1] At the funeral of a holy Jew named Yaakov that lived in Beit Shemesh, a eulogizer related the following story. When Yaakov was moving apartments, he specifically looked for one without a view, where it would be facing the brick wall of the neighboring building. This was because the apartments with a view were facing the highway and he didn’t want to see the Chillul Shabbos caused by those driving on Shabbos. In a similar vein, there was someone that was moving apartments in Telz Stone that approached his rav for advice. The rav said that when you buy an apartment in that neighborhood, make sure that the view doesn’t face the highway so that this way you won’t see Chillul Shabbos from those driving cars on Shabbos.

[2] There is a criminological theory known as the broken windows theory which states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes.

[3] Breishis 31:2,3.

[4] In a similar fashion we can interpret הסרותי מסבל שכמו (Tehillim 81:7): remove from me the fact that I tolerate Galus.

[5] R’ Shalom Shwadron wrote, annotated and edited more than 25 Sefarim, mainly those penned by his grandfather, the MaharshamHe also edited and published two famous Mussar texts composed by his teachers — Ohr Yahel by R’ Leib Chasman and Lev Eliyahu by R’ Elya Lopian.

[6] In 1966 at age 21, the American economist Robert Frank arrived in Nepal for two years to teach high school math and science as a Peace Corps volunteer. He was assigned to a one-room hut with no running water or electricity. At first he was in shock and despair as he came from comfortable America. But he was surprised at how quickly he felt comfortable in his modest new home. He said, “What was astonishing to me was that within a day or two, everything seemed normal.” This was because everyone else around him had the same conditions. After his first month of work there, he received his first paycheck—$40 for the month. He then set his heart on returning to America because how could he survive on such a minuscule amount of money. Then he discovered that in that part of Nepal no one earned more than $30 monthly. He stayed and later said that he never felt healthier or happier in his life than when he did living on $40 a month in a one-room hut without running water or electricity.

Writer of the weekly Fascinating Insights Torah sheet in Englishעברית ,אידיש and français
Author of Five Books including the recently released “Magnificent Marriage Insights: Captivating Torah Essays about Marriage”

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