Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being a guest at a Shabbaton hosted by Machane Chodosh in Forest Hills, N.Y. The shul, made up of refugees of Nazi Germany as well as Holocaust survivors, has been in existence for over 60 years, and its spiritual leader, Rabbi Manfred Gans, has led the congregation for many of those years. The shul’s continued vitality is a testimony to Jewish continuity.
The Scholar in Residence at the Shabbaton was Rabbi Rafael Grossman of the West Side Institutional Synagogue in Manhattan, a past president of the Beth Din of America and Jewish Press columnist.
Rabbi Grossman discussed two seemingly disparate, but actually connected themes: Jewish continuity, and the human emotion of love.
In speaking of Jewish continuity, the rabbi pointed out the tendency of many Jews to be somewhat uncomfortable, even apologetic, at the notion of Jewish intelligence or chosenness. But we are smart and dedicated to world betterment, and one need only look at our contributions to bettering the lot of mankind to prove this statement. Despite the fact that we comprise less than one percent of the global population – Jews have won over half the Noble Prizes in medicine. If history shows that Jews have been in the forefront of medical, scientific and technological progress – then yes – we are smart, and dedicated to the betterment of all mankind. Why not embrace that label with pride rather than embarrassment? Jews must value their Jewishness.
One of the reasons that there is so much assimilation and intermarriage in our midst is that many Jews are ignorant of the special role and gifts of the Jewish people. Worse than the apathy toward their Jewishness is the self-hatred that takes root in many Jewish individuals, who in their intense ignorance and dislike of who they are, go out of their way to side with the Hamans of the world who wish to destroy us.
Ironically, the descendants of Ishmael don’t seem to have this problem with loving themselves, even though considering their huge numbers – they have barely made any noticeable contributions to improve the human condition. They are inordinately proud of their one consistent “gift” to the world – global terrorism – and revel in their religious piety, which expresses itself in acts of suicide and homicide.
There are many minorities who celebrate and advertise their “uniqueness” (but really shouldn’t) such as gay groups. So why do we Jews – who have much to be proud about – have a problem with acknowledging that based on statistics - we are indeed special?
Rabbi Grossman, in another lecture later on Shabbat, presented what can only be described as an example of true love. The rabbi recounted his experience at his first funeral shortly after assuming his first pulpit. The niftar was a teenage girl who was born severely handicapped – physically and mentally. She needed around the clock care which was provided by her mother, a professional who put her career and social life on hold in order to care for her .
At the funeral, Rabbi Grossman was taken aback by the mother’s intense grief and distress over the loss of her child, as she literally clung to the coffin, wailing. At an appropriate time, Rabbi Grossman asked the mother about her anguished reaction. Understandably, she was upset to lose her child, but was there not some measure of relief, some solace that she could now live a normal life – working, going to simchas, visiting friends, after years of backbreaking care for a person who may have been unaware of her? The mother looked at him with wonder – “Don’t you understand? I loved her!”
That is what real love is – giving, with no expectation or need to get back. Putting someone else first.
For Jews, two of the many dimensions of love that I gleaned from Rabbi Grossman’s lectures can be found under one name – ahavat Yisrael. Loving who you are – as an individual and as part of a great people. Once you have self respect, you can go one step further – “Ve’ahavta l’reyacha kamocha” – loving your neighbor as yourself – and go the extra mile for your friend, your family, your people – unconditionally.
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Everyone is always looking for cute yet simple and inexpensive ideas to enhance their table at special occasions. Here are some attractive ways to create that festive look. Whether you use china or plastic, your guests will surely be delighted with your charming setup.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a chavrusa working with you, guiding and helping you in your work environment?
What made an M.I.T. scholarship student, taking time off from his doctorate in medicine, to backpack, and then decide to backtrack, chuck it all… and get a haircut? Perhaps it is easier to understand a Harvard law student becoming enamored with the logic of Gemara and settling down to struggle with the intellectual challenges of Aramaic acrobatics.
JetBlue flew an empty aircraft from Boston to JFK to assist us. The care and concern of the flight attendants was amazing. They were astounded by our group, so much so that at the end of the flight, the captain related for all to hear that he was truly impressed by the care that the HASC counselors provided for the special-needs campers – all of whom have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. We did our best to demonstrate a true kiddush Hashem.
Q: What does twice exceptional or 2e mean?
The battle over partnership minyans is just the latest scuffle in the war over women’s roles in the Orthodox community.
Last month’s column outlined some efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century to establish Jewish agricultural colonies in America. In only one case was a colony actually established.
According to Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish scholar, “Gifts for the poor [matanot l’evyonim] deserve more attention than the seudah and mishloach manot because there is no greater, richer happiness than bringing joy to the hearts of needy people, orphans, widows and proselytes.”
Having everyone home on a snow day can be a lot of fun – the first few times it happens. Once snow day number six hits, perhaps not so much and the real creativity has to come out.
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Never sacrifice the people who matter for anything of lesser importance…
Hannah believed that one must learn about the evils of the past so that they aren’t repeated.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that is precisely what almost always happens in situations where a reference knew someone had serious but hidden emotional issues, but did not reveal the information to the person making inquiries.
Time never stood still for anyone – why would I be the exception? In my hubris, I thought that somehow I would live forever – and I suspect we all have secretly felt that way, even though we know it’s a fantasy.
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Let me begin by congratulating my dear machatunim, Soraya and Jay Nimaroff, on being the recipients of the Community Service Award at the Sderot Hesder Institutions 18th annual anniversary dinner.
But even though their medical situations were similar, how they mentally dealt with their new status quo was often as different as night and day.
How confusing it was growing up with conflicting messages. On the one hand, we were told, even admonished, to eat everything on our generously piled up plates (it was a sin to waste food), yet we were made to feel like we were a lower form of human being if we were overweight.
While in New York recently, I was invited to see a performance of “Waiting for Godot” – a multi-layered play on the human condition that I was introduced to in high school. What was fascinating and unique about this particular production was that this renowned play was being performed in Yiddish – with English and Russian subtitles beamed onto a screen for non-Yiddish speakers. (Staged by the New Yiddish Rep, at the Castillo Theatre, and directed by Moshe Yassur, it stars Shane Baker, David Mandelbaum, Rafael Goldwaser, Avi Hoffman and Nicholas Jenkins.)
Now and then my Bubby would open up about what she went through in the camps, of what she witnessed… From time to time she would talk about her baby sisters – twins – and how she would sew them identical dresses and braid their hair the same way challenging everyone to guess who was who.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/a-lesson-in-love/2004/04/07/
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