QUESTION: I see that some people refer to the month of Cheshvan as Marcheshvan. Which is correct?Nachman M.(Via E-Mail)
While studying the anatomy of the heart in Machon Biotechnology in Israel, I had some thoughts: The four holiest cities in Israel - Jerusalem (fire/aish),Tzfat (wind/ruach), Chevron (earth/adamah), and Tverya (water/mayim) - seem to correspond to the four chambers of the heart.
I was writing in my home office, and the back door was open, letting the breeze waft in. It was quiet, except for a loud squawking squirrel outside. In fact, he was so loud that it sounded as if he was in the next room. I stopped typing and unsteadily dragged myself to the dining room door, terrified to open it.
In last week's column I wrote about the sincere Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur resolutions that we make year after year - the commitments we make to change, to become better, kinder, people, and the promises we make to become more devoted Jews, more loyal to Torah and mitzvos.
Rabbi Dan Roth's very first day teaching in yeshiva did not at all go as planned. After learning in kollel for many years in some of the best yeshivos in Israel, Rabbi Roth got his first job teaching in a program for teens-at-risk. A short time before taking the job, he wrote a sefer on modern-day lessons gleaned from the teachings of Pirkei Avos. In the process of writing the book, he realized that he had a talent for making Torah concepts relevant and down-to-earth.
For the past 10 years, I have been privileged to be part of a women's Tehillim group in Jerusalem. Every Shabbat, we meet and divide Sefer Tehillim (the Book of Psalms). We pray for the safety of our soldiers, for Eretz Yisrael, and for those injured in terrorist attacks. We also bring our individual lists of people in need of Divine assistance. We pray for women waiting to become mothers, for singles waiting to meet their spouses, for sick people waiting for good health, and for soldiers waiting to come home.
The High Holy Days are over. It was an awesome spiritual time - when we probed or souls, asked profound questions and tried to determine what our lives are all about. We made resolutions - each in our own personal way - committed to being better Jews. We promised to become better ambassadors of Hashem, more meticulous with mitzvot, more devoted and zealous in doing acts of loving kindness, and in general, become more dedicated to our Torah and all that that implies. And now comes the big question: Are we still determined to make that change?
For many years now our Hineni organization has been privileged to hold High Holy Day services in Manhattan. We rent one of the hotels in the heart of the city and transform the ballroom into a magnificent shul. Our davening is always exhilarating. The sanctity of the day totally envelops us. The prayers just soar and everyone is spiritually elevated.
My husband and I were honored to attend a Hachnassas Sefer Torah celebration this summer at our upstate summer home in Elm Shade Estates. We have had a summer home for many years. We were always privileged to have a special, devoted friend take care of all the things that needed attention there - from ensuring that the grass was cut to keeping the shul spotless for Shabbos.
During the 1920s, a polio epidemic swept across the United Sates. My uncle, then a baby, was one of its victims. As a child, I heard the story of his recovery many times from my mother, his sister. At the time she was about 10 years old, and witnessed the miracle firsthand.
Every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur our Hineni organization is privileged to hold the most spectacular services. We take over one of Manhattan's grand hotels and convert the ballroom into a beautiful synagogue. The davening, the ambience, the entire atmosphere is something so awesome that there is no way that I could possibly describe it and do it justice.
As I was sitting at the computer writing about my dream baby, I suddenly wondered, "Where is she? She is too quiet." So I turned around to see what she was doing. I had left her sitting behind me with toys to keep her busy, and she had been playing nicely. As she was no longer there I went to look for her, and found her happily sitting on the bathroom floor, surrounded by a pile of ripped tissues. Okay, back to my story. Now you might wonder who "they" are. It's those folks who come up to me and say that my baby's feet are cold without socks; her head is baking in the sun without a hat; she's too hot with that blanket over her. Oh, the joys of living in Israel, where we are all family.
It seems like almost yesterday when, after the Camp David accords initiated by President Carter, former Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin, a"h, told me, "Rebbetzin, I have just returned from an American concentration camp. The pressure that President Carter exerted upon me was greater than anyone can imagine. And then, to top it off, he wanted to put Jerusalem on the bargaining table as well. When I vehemently objected, he tried to reassure me by telling me that we would not be negotiating, but merely 'discussing' Jerusalem." After all, the president added, 'There's no harm in discussing.'
In last week's column I related the story of a legendary city in which the harvest was poisoned and rendered people mad. The citizens were confronted by a hard choice -eat and become mad or die of starvation. After much deliberation, the king decided, "In order to live, we must eat, but we dare not forget that we have gone mad, so everyone must place a sign on his forehead reading, 'Don't forget, we are mad.' Thus, we will be able to gauge our actions and one day return to normalcy."
When my neighbor asked me if I was missing any jewelry, I immediately thought of the gift my husband gave me 25 years ago at our wedding. In the yichud room, he presented me with a beautiful three-tone gold bracelet with diamond chips. I treasured that gift until I lost it.
There's a legendary story about a kingdom, which was hit by tragedy one year. The entire harvest was poisoned and everyone who ate of it went crazy. The good citizens were at a loss, not knowing what to do. If they were to eat, they would become mad. On the other hand, if they refrained from eating, they would starve to death. What to do?
I recently received an envelope from Belgium, with legal documents informing me that I was found eligible to receive Holocaust compensation. I saw this as a symbolic rectification of a bitter injustice that seemed to represent the very essence of my life. As I flipped through the pages, my mind wandered back to my childhood.
I was about 11 years old and crying on the front steps of the Bluzhever Rebbe's house. It was the late 40s, and the Rebbe had recently arrived. He miraculously survived the Nazi inferno, but lost his wife and children.
In last week's column, I published a letter from a divorced gentleman of 52 who took exception to an e-mail written by a single professional woman who wrote that she regretted wasting precious years building a career rather than focusing on a home and family. She complained that at this point in her life, the shidduch recommendations made to her are very often men who are incapable of earning a living. She stated that she couldn't possibly consider such individuals for a husband and referred to them as "losers." It is this term, "loser," that prompted the gentleman's letter and his vehement objection.
Every bar mitzvah is special, but some are more special than others. Thirteen years ago, our son was born with a rare and life-threatening condition. The first few years were touch and go. Each milestone in his life carried extra significance.
A few weeks ago I published a letter from a 45-year old single professional woman who expressed regret at having placed career before marriage. She bemoaned the years wasted and the opportunities lost for bringing children into the world and establishing a true Jewish home. In my response, I told her that it's never too late - that rather than agonizing over the past, she should concentrate on the here and now. I told her to bear in mind the many miraculous happenings of our past as well as the amazing stories of today of all the singles who, through the many mercies of Hashem and modern medicine, do marry and have children later in life.
There is so much tragedy, so much sham in the world, that people no longer know how to make a distinction between emes - truth, and blatant falsehood - and we Jews suffer from this plague more than others. Israel is constantly under attack, constantly demonized by a world that has become increasingly anti-Semitic, by a world that would secretly be happy to G-d forbid, see yet another Holocaust unfold.
These days, even people with a bad sense of direction can travel with ease. Since the invention of the GPS, people have confidence that they will find their way.
It was the first Sunday in April when my son called with the following query: "Abba," he asked. "What's the name of the '80s music group that rediscovered one of Bob Dylan's greatest hits?" I immediately answered him. As it turned out, my son was in a car at the time with a classmate's father and the father's friend.
In last week's column I published a letter from a woman in her late forties, a physician, who, despite her success, is very unhappy in her personal life. She is the child of a troubled family. Her parents divorced when she was a teenager. The separation was traumatic and left much bad feeling in its wake. The young woman was determined to make a life for herself and, in doing so, somehow missed her opportunity to marry and build a family.