30 Apr 2009
"She got all of the lessons", the mother told the audience.
"Her lessons were interrupted due to the war", the daughter explained.
I remarked to the woman that it was heartwarming to see this survivor of the war, who, instead of being bitter and mired in the past, had successfully rebuilt her life, and had seen her childhood ambitions realized through her daughter.
The woman told me that it was unfathomable to her as to how those who had been in the camps had survived with their faith intact, ready to build their lives anew. She related to me a story about her father.
While he was in one of the concentrations camps, a German officer had taken an inexplicable liking to him. One day, her father and a few inmates decided to write a siddur, surreptitiously, putting to print the words of the prayers recalled from the recesses of their minds. The woman's father was busy at the task, when the officer approached him.
"What are you doing?" the officer shouted. "Don't you know what will happen to you for undertaking such an activity?"
Her father responded.
"You took away everything. You took away my home, my family and my livelihood. But the one thing you didn't take away is hope. And that hope is written in here", he said, as he pointed to his makeshift prayer book.
"Get away from me", the officer commanded. "I didn't see anything."
The following video link shows Itzchak Perlman playing the theme from Schindler's list. Those of you who don't listen to any music during the sefira should wait till Lag Baomer to listen to his performance.
29 Apr 2009
The concept of holiness is one that many nations have tried to grasp, with limited success and often with disastrous results. How many crusades and pogroms have been launched in the name of "holiness"?
Perhaps the problem lies in the difference between the English translation and the actual Hebrew word. The English word for holy comes from the word "halo," like those associated with angels and those the non-Jews believed were "saints." The Hebrew word "kadosh" comes from the word that means "to separate," which is why kiddush, which separates Shabbos from the six working days, occurs at the onset of Shabbos.
This in itself indicates that the type of separation being referred to is more than just a physical separation of a person from what might be considered non-holy, which is what the monks of other religious have done. The first level of separation must begin in the mind- kedusha emanates from the distinguishing of ideas.
For example, most people know that the Torah values modesty; modest dress is often associated with religious circles. Thus, if a person merely considers himself or herself not to be religious, or wishes to make an "anti-religious" statement, they have little or no difficulty in dressing immodestly.
However, the truth is, modesty has more to do with a sense of human dignity than it does with religion. It has become a religious "symbol" because Torah is concerned with human dignity as defined by G-d Himself, who created us in the "image of G-d" (human dignity means to live in the image of G-d). Thus in this week's parsha, G-d tells us that we must be holy, because He Himself is holy.
Hence, if one truly understands the essence of man, and the true definition of human dignity, and how central such dignity is to the fulfillment of mankind, then he or she automatically will choose to live on a higher level of modesty. The dress code of any society can actually be a "thermometer" of sorts indicating how well that particular society understands and relates to man's Divine image and human dignity.
Nowhere is this clearer than with Jews who, after years of living a less-than-modest lifestyle (at least by Torah standards), change their course in life and choose a more modest wardrobe. It was not an overnight decision to be sure. In fact, often there is a rebellion against this aspect of Torah observance at first, sometimes even a passionate one. Yet, a year or so later, the hemlines drop to more modest levels, and men who spent their summers in tennis shirts and shorts now wear suits. Were they simply worn down by the struggle?
No. The process was simple: they happened to have attended a class on the ABC's of Judaism which they found to be intellectually stimulating. One class led to another class, which, over time, sensitized the student to new levels of spiritual achievement and the pleasure that comes from spiritual growth. A deeper awareness of the purpose of life emerged, and through it, the person learned to grasp the universal importance of living up to the standards of Torah. A whole new image of man and his potential emerged, and this inner change prompted the need for external ones that were consistent with the inner ones. Modesty is just one such manifestation.
Thus, the directive to be holy, or kadosh, can be understood as a directive to become a deep thinker, and to look into the concepts of daily life to see them for what they really are. Being kadosh means looking past our emotions and attractions when making decisions, especially those that can dramatically affect the direction of society. If history teaches us anything at all, it is that ideas look different in hindsight than they did in the present. This is why the Talmud teaches: Who is the wise man? He who can see what will eventually result from that which occurred today. This could also be the definition of the holy person as well.
Perhaps this is why the "Kedushah" prayer in Shemonah Esrai is placed prior to the blessing of understanding and intelligence, as opposed to at the end of the Shemonah Esrai. Wouldn't it be logical to assume that holiness is the result of the process, as opposed to the cause of it? Putting Kedushah first is tantamount to saying that IT is the necessary prelude to all else that follows.
However, instead, it comes at the beginning of the section of requests. Why? Because what we want is clearly a function of our priorities in life, which are the result of what we understand to be important to G-d, and one cannot know this without seeing what He has to say about creation and our role within the grand scheme of things. Modest dress and a modest lifestyle is bound to result from knowing this.
Another example of this is the mitzvah of shatnez, also in this week's parsha.
Shatnez is a mitzvah to not wear clothing made from a blend of wool and linen. Though this mitzvah is typically a "chok," that is, a mitzvah whose logic is beyond human reason, the midrash tells us that a reason for this mitzvah goes back to Kayin (Cain) and Hevel (Abel).
As the story goes, Kayin brought a sacrifice to G-d, but of poor quality. Hevel saw his brother's action, and decided to do the same, but instead, he brought from the best of his flock. G-d accepted Hevel's offering and rejected Kayin's, for obvious reasons. However, Kayin didn't accept G-d's rejection very well, and instead he turned his anger toward Hevel. G-d warned Kayin that his growing hatred of his brother would lead him down the wrong path, but he ignored G-d's warning, and ended up committing the first murder in the history of mankind.
But what does shatnez have to do with any of this?
What did Kayin bring, and what did Hevel bring? Kayin brought from the least of his produce, which, being a farmer, was flax; Hevel, being a shepherd, brought from the best of his flock, which, as you can now guess, was wool. In the end, it was the "owner of the flax" who killed the "owner of the wool." Therefore, every time a person buys a new garment and delays wearing it until after it goes in for shatnez-testing (most cities with a significant orthodox population have a Shatnez Laboratory that can confirm the presence or lack of shatnez in clothing), they are reminded of what goes wrong in life, and how to keep on the straight and narrow.
For, murder was just an outer manifestation of something that was wrong on the inside of Kayin. And like Kayin, we are all capable of camaflouging negative qualities, at least until a situation presses us so much that we lose perspective and carry out acts that, for us previously, was unthinkable. And what better place is there to make this point than in clothing. After clothing is to the body what the body is to the soul-an outer manifestation of what is spiritually going on in the person. (I heard from Rabbi Yissachar Frand that this is why the mitzvah of "Love your neighbor as yourself" follows the command of Shatnez in this week's parsha. When G-d asked Kayin if he knew the whereabouts of his brother, Kayin answered, "Am I my brother's keeper"? This statement is answered directly and succinctly with the words, "Love your neighbor as yourself" as if to say, "Yes. You are expected to care for your brother at least as much as for yourself.")
All of Torah works the same way. Each level of understanding reveals more about how the Torah approach to life increases human dignity, and in doing so, brings about the fulfillment of mankind within the purpose of creation.
Kedoshim Teheyu means live in the image of G-d; don't be satisfied with what "feels" good at the moment, but go beyond the surface of issues and things to determine their true essence, their essential meaning (if they in fact have any). Increase your appreciation of what matters most to G-d, what is considered dignified, and what is not. Your behavior patterns will follow in time, until you resemble on the outside what you have created intellectually and spiritually on the inside.
There is no better time to do this than during the counting of the omer, which we began to do the second night of Pesach, and which we will continue to do until the night before the holiday of Shavuos. Fifty days of counting correspond to the famous "Fifty Gates of Understanding," to emphasize the intellectual and spiritual refinement process we are supposed to be going through each day of the omer, on the way to the day on which we received the Ten Commandments.
The drive to do so must come from within, for it rarely comes from without. And from my recent stay in America, I can say that the forces of society work against such a process. Life has become very distracting, and in some ways, even absurd. The priorities in life are not what they used to be, and this is not a positive sign for it has resulted in a live-for-today attitude, and, in my opinion, a reduction in human dignity.
Kedoshim Teheyu: Be intellectual, be smart, be a wise person.
Kedoshim Teheyu: Be like G-d, be dignified.
A friend of mine once shared with me the following insight. After about a month in law school he figured out the following revelation. If he puts in long hours studying and worked very hard in law school he would be rewarded by receiving a high paying job that would require him to work even harder and put in even more hours. If he succeeded in that task over many years, he would be rewarded by being made partner receiving even more money and working even harder. At some point he'd be making so much money that they'd throw him out and he'd spend the rest of his life working even harder to prove that he is better than they are.
"Cosmetics company's 25 stores across Israel to be closed on Shabbat, Jewish holidays starting this weekend
by Amit Schneider
Another major company going kosher: Cosmetics company Il-Makiage announced Sunday that it plans to begin observing the Shabbat as of this Friday – for the benefit of its store workers and customers from the religious and ultra-Orthodox sectors.
Il-Makiage owns a make-up college and 25 stores across Israel. Its branches all over the country will now be closed on Shabbat and on Jewish holidays, enabling the religious and haredi public to enjoy the brand's products without hurting their religious sensitivities. "
Full article can be accessed here.
The other day, I discovered a video of the Munkatch Rebbe, speaking in Munkatch in the 1930's, exhorting American Jewry to observe the Sabbath. One of the comments posted about the video contains the English translation of what the Rebbe said.
"The Midrash states: Shabbat is unique. Nothing compares to it! So, I urge you, my brothers in America: observe Shabbat & things will go well for you! It's not enough to go to shul on Shabbat. Do not desecrate Shabbat afterwards by driving or working. You CAN observe Shabbat!"
27 Apr 2009
Let's not wait for a sign from Above to become aware of the power of talking to Hashem. If a doctor tells someone that a loved one, chas veshalom, is hours away from death, I would venture to guess that the person would turn to G-d in his hour of distress. So, why not turn to Him when things are going well, and thank Him for the good bestowed upon us?
Incidentally, Israeli Deputy health minister Litzman has urged reporters to refer to the virus as 'Mexican flu' rather than 'swine flu.' Something doesn't sound kosher to me.
Our Sages taught: “Initiate a greeting of peace to every person” (Avos 4:20). What is meant by “every person”? Even if you know that someone bears you ill will, nevertheless, initiate a greeting of peace toward him. This will awaken a feeling of love for you within him. And even if he will not humble himself to make peace with you, God will humble him before you [so that he will not cause you any harm]. An allusion to this is found in Scripture, “But if he does not make peace with you ... HASHEM shall deliver him into your hand” (Devarim 20:12-13).
Illustrative of the above is the story of David and Shaul. David sought peace with Shaul, while Shaul, far from being appeased, pursued David with the intent of harming him. Thus did David say, “I am peace —but when I speak, they are for war” (Tehillim 120:7). In two separate episodes, Hashem gave Shaul over into David’s hands [and David could have easily killed him]. Yet, it did not enter David’s mind to cause Shaul any harm, for man must love peace and pursue it."
As a child, we used to play the game, "I got you last", trying to be the one to get in the last slap on our sibling before our mother would stop the fighting. As an adult, I intend to play, "I got you first", being the first one to greet someone. And if that person doesn't respond, I won't call her a snob. Rather, I will judge her favorably. In all probability, she didn't see me or she didn't hear me.
26 Apr 2009
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
But they needlessly chastise themselves or those who influenced their choices, for the poem's premise that we had another choice - the road not taken - is not a Torahdik one.
This is because the path a person ultimately finds him/herself on wasn't chosen; it was the one they were meant to be on - as decreed by Hashem.
Everything is bashert. It is Hashem's will that decides our fate. It is a will that we must accept - no matter how difficult or unfair we feel our lot is."
".....With acknowledgment that Hashem is behind the steering wheel of our journey and that the content of the days of our lives are min haShamayim comes sweet relief that we are not to be blamed for our situation - for our individual pekel was tailored for each of us. "
24 Apr 2009
For those of you who missed this news clip, it pays to watch, just to see the joy yidden experience when performing a mitzvah.
Haaretz reporter Gideon Levy recently wrote an article entitled "Purim games / Only the Haredim are really joyful". To read the full article, click here.
First poster- A man lying in the hot desert sand...totally exhausted and fainting. Second poster - man is drinking our Cola. Third poster- Our man is now totally refreshed. Then these posters were pasted all over the place "That should have worked," said the friend. The salesman replied "I didn´t realize that the Jews read from right to left"
23 Apr 2009
22 Apr 2009
As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, 'You'd better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it'.
Then he thought, 'Oh, forget it, it's only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a 'gift from G-d' and keep quiet'.
When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, 'Here, you gave me too much change'.
The driver, with a smile, replied, 'Aren't you the new rabbi in town?'
'Yes' he replied.
'Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I'll see you in Shul on Shabbos'.
When the rabbi stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, 'Oh Rebono Shel Olam, I almost sold a Yid for a quarter.'
Our lives are the only thing some people will ever read.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny."
21 Apr 2009
R’ Naftoli Ropshitz (1760-1827), the first Ropshitzer Rebbe, asks: Why does the mishnah refer to “his” inclination, rather than simply saying, “the yetzer hora”?
He explains that each person has his particular yetzer hora. Each person has a weakness for a different vice. Some may have an addiction, i.e. alcohol, smoking or drugs, which makes them vulnerable to sin. Therefore, that which tempts one individual to transgress may not have any impact on the other person. Hence, each person must make the effort to keep his weakness in check.
Moreover, explains the Ropshitzer, people often tend to note and correct others and their faults. The mishnah tells us “hakovesh es yitzro” – worry about your own yetzer hora and your own flaws.
http://www.inspirationalmoment.com/Chapter_Four_Mishnah_1_Day_One by Rabbi David Gol
"The Vilna Gaon in his peirush on Mishlei says that the reason why a person is put on this world is to break his middos. Life is granted to a person in order to perform the mitzvos he is least inclined to do. He is given a personality and told not to dare come back home to Shamayim with that same personality. He must break his habits and rectify his negative character traits. This is a lifetime struggle.
The Gemara in Bava Metzia (32b) says that if you have a choice between helping an enemy load packages onto his donkey or help your friend unload his donkey that is suffering under its load you should help your enemy even though causing an animal pain may be an aveira di'oraisa. Why the Gemara asks? Because it is better to conquer your inclination and overcome your disdain for your enemy even at the expense of causing Tzaar Baalei Chaim."
To read full article click here.
As the days between Pesach and the holiday of Shevuos are marked by the counting of the sefira, I am significantly aware of the passing of each day. Particularly during this time approaching the holiday of Shavous which marks the giving of the Torah and our acceptance of the concomitant responsibility, I will strive to be a better person. This involves working on negative character traits and breaking harmful habits, built up over a lifetime.
A COPY of the report was given to Rudolf Kastner, a Budapest Jewish leader. Instead of publicizing the information, Kastner negotiated a deal that involved bribing the Germans to permit a train with 1,684 of his relatives, friends and Hungarian Jewish leaders to leave the country. Kastner's action became the centerpiece of a controversial trial in Israel after the war.
Recently, my niece had a problem with her teacher. My sister-in-law called her up to resolve the problem. First, she complimented her and spoke about the great mesirut nefesh the teacher had displayed with the extracurricular activity she was busy doing with her class. The teacher warmed up immediately and told my sister-in-law that many parents call up to complain and yell at her.
The next day, the teacher called my niece in front of the class and told her what a nice mother she had.
I had been teaching for a couple of weeks, this year, when a mother called me up to say how pleased her daughter was with me. Then she went on to make a specific request. To this day, I have a positive attitude towards her daughter. When I am in doubt as to what her grade should be, I always resolve my doubt by giving her the higher grade.
So, why don't you try to give your child's teacher a compliment today? They are human and would sure appreciate a compliment as opposed to the litany of complaints they receive. And, if you bump into them in a store, it is not the time to conduct a mini parents-teachers meeting. They are only human beings who also would like their private moments to shop without being innundated with questions that can be addressed during school hours.
20 Apr 2009
Years ago, when I went to seminary in Jerusalem, one of the professors asked us to raise our hands if we were descendants from the Chatam Sofer. A number of girls raised their hands. He then asked us to raise our hands if we were descendants from Moses Mendelssohn. Not one girl raised her hand.
Moses Mendelssohn, who embraced enlightenment and modernity, had grandchildren who left the faith. On the other hand, the Chatam Sofer, whose motto was "Chadash Assur min HaTorah", - That which is new is forbidden - succeeded in having generations following in his path.
Shema Yisrael, Adonoi Elohenu, Adonoi Echad
Hear O Israel, The Lord is our God, The Lord is One!"
19 Apr 2009
Even if this were correct, is it reason enough to ignore this mitzvah? Imagine a person walking along the seashore, who sees that the sea has washed ashore precious gems. Would such a person — even if he were wealthy — refrain from picking up any gems because he knows it will be impossible to gather them all?
It is exactly the same regarding shmiras haloshon. It is well known that the Vilna Gaon (in his famous letter) quotes the Midrash which says that for each moment in which a person refrains from speaking the forbidden, he merits a hidden light that no angel can fathom. Note that the Midrash does not speak of refraining from forbidden speech for a month, a week, or an hour — but for only a moment!
Scripture states: “If you will seek it like silver and hunt for it like hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of Hashem, and knowledge of God you will find” (Mishlei 2:4-5). One must strive to attain spiritual goals in the way that he would seek the greatest valuables that this world has to offer. This is the intent of the statement, “Do not distance yourself from a quality that is without limit.” Avoiding forbidden speech brings infinite merit; if we will only pursue this quality, and not tell ourselves that it is out of our reach, then we will have achieved that which no angel can fathom. "
17 Apr 2009
"Exhausted from the journey, the man fell asleep. He dreamed he was walking alone on a deserted toad. He saw horse-drawn chariots pasing by, filled with angels. Some of the angels were beautiful and white as snow. Others were black and terrifying to behold. Wondering what this was all about, he followed them, and found them gathering around an enormous scale. The white angels were climbing onto one pan of the scale, and the black angels onto the other.
"What's happening?" the man asked one of the angels.
The angels answered, "This is the Heavenly Court, and someone is being judged. The beautiful, white angels were created by the mitvos the person did. The ugly, dark angels were created by his sins. The angels are climbing onto the opposite sides of the scale. Whichever side is heavier will determine this person's judgment."
"Whom are they judging?" the man asked.
Anxiously, the man looked and saw that the sins outweighed the mitzvos.
The angels presiding over the case asked, "Are there any more white angels?"
"No!" came the reply.
"Then maybe there are sufferings?" asked the presiding angel. "Maybe this person suffered during his lifetime? The suffering will nullify his sins."
This man had indeed suffered greatly in his lifetime, and the court began to weigh his suffering, removing dark angels from the scale accordingly.
Slowly, the scale tilted in his favor. But not enough. He hadn't suffered quite enough to nullify all his sins.
"Only a little more suffering!" the man screamed. "Please! Please! I need just a little more suffering!"
13 Apr 2009
A young girl was standing in the marketplace with a large basket of apples for sale. Suddenly, a thief approached and began to snatch apples out of the basket. The girl became confused and stood helplessly, not knowing what to do. Someone who was watching from a distance called out to her, “Why are you standing still? What are you waiting for —that he should grab everything? Just as he is grabbing, so should you grab- whatever you can get will still be yours!”
And so it is regarding prayer. If one was overcome by lethargy and mindless daydreaming at the start of the Shemoneh Esrei, and suddenly finds himself near the prayer’s end without having “grabbed any apples,” this does not mean that he should give up and leave himself with nothing. Rather, he should strive with all his inner strength to concentrate on the remaining blessings.
And so it is, exactly, with shmiras haloshon. You stumbled this morning and spoke the forbidden? Then stand ready this afternoon to overcome your evil inclination and refrain from forbidden talk. And if you fail in the afternoon, nevertheless, strengthen yourself to do battle once more tomorrow. Surely Hashem will help you to succeed, for “one who seeks to purify himself is granted Heavenly assistance” (Shabbos 104a)."
from the daily halacha sent by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage foundation. To register, click here.
12 Apr 2009
11 Apr 2009
"You shall count for yourselves seven weeks, from when the sickle is first put to the standing crop shall you begin counting seven weeks. Then you will observe the Festival of Shavu'ot for the L-RD, your G-d "-Deuteronomy 16:9-10
Every night, from the second night of Passover to the night before Shavuot, we recite a blessing and state the count of the omer in both weeks and days. For example, on the 17th day, you would say "Today is seventeen days, which is two weeks and three days of the Omer."
A number of years ago, my friend's father, a Torah scholar and all around mentsch, was niftar. I remember feeling awkward at the shiva, searching for the right words to say, knowing how close she was with her father. My friend came from a large family, and she had five brothers. I began by telling her that my husband's father was also niftar during the time of sefira. I told her, "You don't know how careful my husband is with counting sefira. On the yarzheit day, my husband realizes he will have to daven maariv before the amud and he would be so embarrassed if he had to step aside and let someone else say the beracha of sefira, because he had lost count and couldn't say the beracha anymore. I told her, "Your father is mezakeh all your brothers to be makpid (be stringent) in the beracha of sefira."
"You have consoled me", she said.
7 Apr 2009
One amazing anecdote that stands out is when a Chacham's house burned down. Most of the burnt items were taken to a dump, but she went to the dump to search for parts of sefarim that she collected and brought for genizah.
When she became ill, a rav advised her to sell a valuable item and to use the money to buy challah and wine for Shabbos for a poor family in Israel. She told her daughter, "Go under my bed. There's a small box of my jewelry." Her daughter found a thick gold bracelet but her mother told her she couldn't sell that item. When her daughter asked her why, she answered, "Because that bracelet is already hekdesh. I put it aside for when Mashiach comes and the Beit Hamikdash is rebuilt. Don't you have a jewel put aside as well?"
Additionally, over the years she had sold other items of jewelry to pay for someone's wedding, a bris, and much more.
After reading about such an outstanding woman, I truly believe that the accolade, the Sarah Imeinu of Mexico City is her due.
P.S. Did you put aside a jewel?
"Today, the Jewish people has in it still those elements of strength and of endurance which enabled it to surmount all the crises of its past, surviving thus the most powerful empires of antiquity.
From a reading of Jewish history, one factor emerges which may perhaps help us in our decision. The preservation of the Jew was certainly not casual. He has endured through the power of a certain ideal, based upon the recognition of the influence of a Higher Power in human affairs. Time after time in his history, moreover, he has been saved from disaster in a manner which cannot be described excepting as "providential."
"The History of the Jews" by Cecil Roth [Schocken 1961, pp. 423-424]
6 Apr 2009
"Several weeks ago I publicized an essay concerning the great earthquake that happened in our land. In that essay I encouraged Kelal Yisrael to do teshuva and that the earthquake was a warning to the entire world that they should repent of their evil ways and believe in Hashem Who controls all. Not for naught did all these terrifying and frightening things of this year come upon us. And now, we hear new and terrifying information about the great flood that took place in our land and the great earthquake that took place in Russia in which were killed and injured thousands of men, women and children and many livestock; many of them were buried alive. Even in our land we experienced some tremors of this earthquake. Certainly any thinking person should be gripped by fear and trembling as to what Hashem has done to us. The One who is good and does good to all and is merciful on all of His creations, and does not even desire the death of the wicked, as it says 'By My life, says Hashem, I do not desire the death of the wicked one, but rather that he repent and live'(Yechezkel 33).The understanding person will realize that Hashem is urging us to do teshuva and is showing us all that He has the power to as He pleases, and none of His creations of above or below can tell Him what to do. And it is clear to me that if we had prophets sent from Hashem, they would without doubt be standing guard to urge Jews to do teshuva to our Father in heaven. Because, with our evil deeds we have no prophets or divine messengers in our times, He is urging us through other messengers to do teshuva, as it says 'He makes winds-his messengers; burning fire-his servants."'
“Occasionally, one memory escapes from the vault that holds the terror of those years. One Passover, my three-year old grandchild looked up at me from his chair at the Seder table. I don’t even know what he said, because the rush of Passover 1941 blocked everything else. I was a young girl hidden in a dark cellar in central France. I was without other family - alone with four other children, all of us strangers. Today and in recent years, as I celebrate Passover surrounded by the comforts and luxury of our London flat and the security of more than a dozen relatives and friends, I realize that for all of their splendor, these holidays cannot compare in my heart to that unique event 62 years ago. 1941 was the most extraordinary Passover of my life."
To continue reading the story, click here. After reading her story, I am sure we will have an extra appreciation of being able to share a seder table with our extended family, something that is taken for granted, in this day and age.
The yeshivaworld website reported "Minister of Welfare & Social Services Yitzchak Herzog is concerned with the alarming fact that 1.5 million Israelis are in the social services database, receiving assistance of some kind.
Herzog stated 250,000 Israelis need assistance to meet the basic Pesach needs, explaining no one can get by on a minimum wage salary.
Speaking with the prime minister on Shabbos, Herzog called for tripling the pre-Pesach assistance to non-profit organizations assisting the poor from NIS 3 million to NIS 9 million to permit getting the basic to the so many who will not receive assistance ahead of yomtov.......
1.Family and close relatives
2.Local Jewish community
5 Apr 2009
Few have better understood or more successfully promoted these ideas than Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who emphasized the importance of education and good character. Through the establishment of educational and social service institutions across the country and the world, Rabbi Schneerson sought to empower young people and inspire individuals of all ages. On this day, we raise his call anew."
The Torah commands us to honor our parents, our older siblings and older people in general. Indeed, Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch pointed out that honoring parents is one of the foundation stones of Yahadus, because our basis for accepting the truth of the Torah is something that is passed on from one generation to the next.
When I was growing up (I was born in 1941), it was made very clear to me that you never called an adult by his or her first name. It was always "Mr." or "Mrs." or "Miss" or "Aunt" or "Uncle." Calling an older person by his or her first name would instantly result in a rebuke from my parents.
Today I often hear children call their adult aunts or uncles by their first names. Some years ago one of my sons had a classmate over for Shabbos. (The boys were 10 years old at the time.) After Shabbos I asked our guest what he was going to do now, since his parents had gone away. He replied, "I am going to call Shloime. He will pick me up." I asked, "Who is Shloime?" The boy replied, "My uncle." I was taken aback at how this young man thought nothing of calling his uncle, who was, of course, an adult, by his first name.
I have asked people in their twenties and thirties and even older why they let themselves be called by their first names. They reply, "Being called 'Uncle' (or 'Aunt') makes me feel old." They do not seem to realize that they are doing a disservice to their nieces and nephews. Allowing them to address older people by their first names fosters the idea that everyone is on an equal level. This is not true. The Torah tells us that age deserves respect, and children have to be made aware of this as often as possible.
And then there are the youngsters who push ahead of me when I am about to leave shul. Often I put my hand on the shoulder of such a fellow and say to him, somewhat facetiously, "Sir! I believe that I am a bit older than you are!" More often than not the young man has no idea what I am talking about.
I was taught that you always let an older person go through a door before you. It was just one more part of practicing derech eretz, but it seems to have been lost in many circles today."
Click here to read the entire article, which I highly recommend.
3 Apr 2009
"One of the children's favorite parts of the Seder is the stealing of the Afikoman, hiding it, and subsequently asking for a gift before returning it to their father. Where does this minhag come from? The Hagadah Otzar Divrei HaMeforshim brings some reasons for stealing the Afikoman.
1. To show how much they love the mitzva. (Mekor Chaim - Chavos Yair)
2. Based on the Mishna in Pesachim that says the children grab the Matza so they shouldn't fall asleep. (Chasam Sofer)
3. Dogs watch the house from burglars. On the night of Pesach the dogs did not bark therefore they were vulnerable to thieves. As a Zecher to this we steal the Afikoman. (Michtav Sofer - Rav Shimon Sofer of Krakow)
4. Matza represents parnassa. The Ba'al HaBayis breaks it in half. He leaves half on the table representing Olam HaZeh and the other half he hides for Olam Haba. The little children who only know from Olam Hazeh try to grab the hidden half. The Ba'al HaBayis must watch it and make sure they don't steal it. (Ach Pri Tevua - Rav Tzvi Hirsch MiLiska)
5. When Eisav went in to get the brachos from Yitzchok, Yitzchok said "Ba Achicha BiMirma" you brother came with trickery. The Medrash Plia adds "and he took out the Afikoman." The brachos were given on Pesach. Therefore the children grab the afikoman to get the brachos. The brachos are the present that they ask their fathers to buy for them." (Rav Menashe Klein)
For those of you who won't have a chance to visit a matza baking facility, you can get a quick overview by clicking here. Just remember not to get too close to the oven. It's hot.
2 Apr 2009
"P.S. I want to thank Hashem, again, for letting me be your mother. There is no gift greater than the privilege of motherhood. I thank Him, too, for all the precious souls He spared, both those who were in the library and escaped with their lives, and those who were not quite so close, but whose presence I can no longer take for granted. Each and every one is a tremendous consolation for me."
Mrs. Moriah, you are truly a noble spirit. May you have nachas from your other children and may you raise them leTorah leChupah uleMaasim tovim.
Click here to read the entire letter.
Update: As I was about to post the above paragraphs, I heard reports of a 13 year old who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank. Today, let's take time from our busy schedules to feel the pain of a family who is burying their young child. And let's daven with special kavanah as we recite Shemoneh Esrei. "hashivah shofteinu kivarishona viyoatzeinu kivatchila vehasir mimenu yagon vaanacha umloch aleinu miheira atah HaShem livadcho bichesed uvirachamim, restore our judges as in earliest times and our counselors as at first; remove from us sorrow and groan; and speedily reign over us – You, HaShem, alone – with kindness and compassion. "
"Every day I receive tens of emails from complete strangers in the religious community asking me if I can suggest a shidduch for them. But the increasing superficiality in the frum dating scene has me often feeling despair, like the story a year ago when I was going to introduce a young yeshiva scholar with a razor-sharp intellect to a brilliant frum intellectual woman who seemed perfect for him. The day before they were meant to go out he called me to tell me he was cancelling the date. He had seen her picture on FaceBook and decided he was not attracted to her. I was shocked. First, even by the most objective standards the girl is highly attractive. Second, the bochur did not even feel any shame in telling me that with the glance of a single picture he had dismissed the entire idea."
If the above anecdote is not reason enough to get off Facebook, here's another more sinister reason. Last week, it was reported in a New York newspaper that a 16-year-old confessed to the slaying of a radio newsman, who was stabbed multiple times. A source told the newspaper that the radio broadcaster and the teen had met on Craigslist and had been e-mailing one another. So, another reason to sign out of Facebook is because you don't know with whom you are chatting.