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Several weeks ago, there was back and forth “dialogue” in the editorial pages of the Jewish Press concerning the very subjective view as to who is the more “authentic” Jew amongst the various segments of the Orthodox community. The stomach churning (read sickening) “holier than thou” attitude coloring the remarks exchanged in the letters sadly triggered a memory of another stomach churning experience – both figuratively and literally - the day after I arrived in Israel this past Chanukah.
As a treat for an upcoming milestone birthday, and because I wanted to spend money in Israel, I stayed in an upscale hotel in Jerusalem, one with the “feast your eyes and eat all you can stuff into yourself” breakfast buffet that Israeli hotels are famous for.
When I went down for my first ever “hotel breakfast” – having arrived the evening before, I was overwhelmed by the fruits, cheeses, egg dishes, pancakes, hot cereals, smoked fish, breads, crackers, cold cereals, jams, marmalades, juices pastries, cookies and cakes that constitute a tourist’s morning meal.
But while it was about 9:30 am Jerusalem time, it was 2:30 am for my digestive system, a time I normally am fast asleep, and maybe dreaming of food, but not actually feasting on it.
After a coffee and some crackers with cheese, my stomach let me know enough was enough – literally. Knowing that I might end up having a jet lagged induced nap and wake up starving, I decided to take up some fruit and cookies up to my room. As I started to put a fig into a small baggie I had found on the table, I heard a female, yet no-nonsense type of voice behind me exclaim in English, “What are you doing?” Being trained from birth to be polite, I turned around and answered, ” I’m taking some food.”
“You can’t do that,” I was firmly advised by what I assumed was a self-appointed food police – (or else she would have been wearing a white blouse with a bow-tie.) The woman reprimanding me was tall, thin, and wearing a long robe.
“Why not?” I asked genuinely puzzled, adding in a moment of inspiration that I was a guest at the hotel – although I had concluded that since she was not a hotel employee, it was none of her business.
“Because you’re stealing,” she exclaimed in a self-righteous voice and with a nose quivering in a manner very similar to the way a nose would in a fish store during a blackout. Stunned equally by her accusation and her “holier than thou” aura, I could only look at her as she spun on her heels – and walked away. (Her nose by the way was up so high I thought she might scrape it on the ceiling).
Now, although I was new to eating in Israeli hotels, I had throughout my youth and adulthood been at kosher hotels in the Catskills and Florida. It went without saying that because there was no lunch served, guests would take fruits, pastries and other breakfast items up to their rooms “for later”.
As far as I’m concerned, doing so can almost be considered a minhag practiced by all streams of Judaism. Looking around me, I noticed that my fellow guests appeared to be quite machmir in this area, with a slightly different twist. Plates were piled high with a week’s worth of breakfast and not wanting to be wasteful, guests were taking the intact leftovers out of the breakfast room.
To this day, I ask myself what possessed a person – to approach a stranger and publicly accuse her of stealing? Even if it was true – that it was gnaiva to remove even a raisin from the dining room, why would she think that putting a fellow Jew in a situation where she could be embarrassed was preferable than letting the “thief” get away?
Based on her tone of voice and her body language – which was full of disdain, I felt that she looked down on me. Could it be that in her mind, I was not observant as she? (Maybe because I’m from Canada, any temperature above 50 F causes me to dress summerishly, meaning shorter sleeved shirts and open toe sandals.)
My aggrieved 2:30 in the morning stomach churned even more from the distress I felt that day. In the holy city of Yerushalayim, in walking distance of the most sacred site in the world, I had been exposed to sinat chinam that was responsible for our miserable exile and the remnant wall we wail at - when once we had a magnificent Temple that heralded Hashem’s Glory and ours as His Chosen People, blessed with the mission of being an example to the rest of the people of this world.
Good thing that Moshiach wasn’t a guest at the hotel. He might have left Israel for good!
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Rewind sixty years to 1953.
Television was considered kosher by most and featured the likes of Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, George Burns, Red Buttons, Perry Como, Arthur Godfrey, Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger, Dinah Shore, Red Skelton, Danny Thomas, Jack Webb as Joe Friday on “Dragnet” and many others who provided great memories.
Yet all are part of one neshamah, planted in rich, verdant soil, determined to grow. May our garden continue to produce a glorious assortment of flowers and trees, each attached firmly to its roots. Our diverse southern vegetation flourishes and grows into different trees, flowers, and fruits, and a rainbow of glorious shades and hues appears. Yet each shoot is rooted in the same soil, stretching its branches and blossoms heavenward in an endless pursuit of growth and connection to the One above.
This past Lag B’Omer, we were blessed to make our first upsherin, where we celebrate our son’s first hair cut. It’s a wonderful milestone that mimics the three years that we refrain from plucking a tree’s first fruits and symbolizes the entry of the child into the world of Torah learning. It’s a clear sign to everyone; this boy is no longer a baby.
Although there are more direct and faster routes to Beer Sheva and Eilat and all the sites and towns in-between, the Basor River is one of the beauties of the Negev that defiantly justifies a diversion.
The importance of death customs has been ingrained in me since birth. When I served as a shomeret for my grandmother, I was instructed not to eat, drink or perform a mitzvah in the same room. In the shock of death, it seemed rather inane to be told it would be considered mocking the dead. My grandmother was gone; she couldn’t do those things because she didn’t exist anymore, a fact that still makes me tear up.
I would have to say that one of the most annoying things about having a newspaper advice column, aside from all these people writing to me and asking for advice, is that they frequently don’t tell me WHY they’re asking.
Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, who passed away on 28 Tammuz, (July18) this year at age 102, spent all of his days and most of his nights learning Torah. He was the paramount leader of our generation, and inspired tremendous awe and reverence in everyone who knew him. Now, every woman has the stunning opportunity to do something in his memory. A Sefer Torah is being written in his memory and women around the world have the chance to dedicate a letter.
Due to her family situation, it is understandable that she will have more responsibilities than other girls her age, but she would benefit from having some free time and receiving more appreciation for her hard work.
For children, summer means outdoor sports, picnics, and of course, no school! Teachers and students work hard all year long – and everyone deserves a break from education over the summer. However, this two-month break can often have some pretty devastating consequences.
It was only after we celebrated the great news that we were expecting twins that we saw the first sign of problems. First of all, my wife was losing, not gaining weight, even as the babies continued to grow normally. Soon after, routine blood work revealed that my wife was suffering from gestational diabetes.
Rabbi Pinchas Gruman is the new rav of the Minyan at Aish Tamid.
One of the most respected Torah figures in Los Angeles, Rabbi Gruman has been described as “The Los Angeles link in the mesorah of the yeshiva world” by Rabbi Nachum Sauer. As a talmid in Lakewood in the 1950s, Rabbi Gruman received semicha from Rav Aaron Kotler, zt”l, and Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l. Soon after, he moved to Los Angeles.
A popular topic of discussion in newspapers, magazines and talk shows revolves around the management of personal finances – or rather the lack of them. In most cases, dealing with overwhelming debt is the topic de jour. Seems many people are drowning in it. Spending more than they have has mired countless consumers into a financial quicksand with maxed out credit cards and collection agencies knocking on the door. Speaking of doors, many face eviction and the loss of their home.
One of the subjects I was taught as a young child in school was Tefillah. Since we spoke only Ivrit during our Limudei Kodesh and secular Hebrew studies – literature, creative writing and Jewish history – we pretty much understood the words we were davening.
Shortly before Pesach, I received a rather agitated call from a long time reader of The Jewish Press who pleaded with me to write a column regarding what she insisted was the unwarranted high cost of Pesach food – in particular shmurah matzah – and how hard it was for young families to pay what she felt were over-inflated prices in order to keep strictly kosher.
The price of deliberate obliviousness is very high – emotionally, physically, socially, and financially.
How is it possible that a person of seemingly normal intelligence (nowhere does it say he is simple) not have the ability to ask a question – to not react and enquire as to the why of the hustle and bustle around him?
It was one of those cold, rain-soaked evenings – the kind that make you look forward to a hot drink, a good book and a soft couch to curl up on. With those happy thoughts in mind, I proceeded to cross to the other side of the street.
The other day I was shopping at a large supermarket and happened to go down the frozen foods aisle, past the endless freezers containing every imaginable flavor, shape and size of ice cream. I rarely buy. Rather I am like a tourist in a museum – gawking at wondrous objects that I know I can’t take home with me.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/a-churning-stomach-and-an-upturned-nose/2004/05/19/
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