After my son Moshe got married in Israel several years ago, I decided to keep in more frequent touch with my cousin Ruzah. I would call her on a weekly basis (a good opportunity to practice the Ivrit I learned in day school), speaking to a woman who was of an older, wiser generation - rendering her more like a mother. Ruzah, like all my first cousins was indeed my parents’ age, married with children before I was born. Her experiences mirrored my father’s generation, although she really was from mine. Her mother and my father were siblings and my unknown grandparents were hers.
The 21 days of semi-mourning that is collectively referred to as the Three Weeks, culminating with the fast day of Tisha b’Av - the ultimate day of mourning in the Jewish calendar - begins in a few short days. During this period of time Jews reflect on the myriad of tragedies that have befallen us since the destruction of the Holy Temple and our subsequent exile.
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.
With the semi-mourning period of Sefira behind us, and the festival of Shavuot as well (as evidenced by the tightness of our clothing due to over-indulging in irresistible versions of cheesecake that is an integral component of celebrating our receipt of the Torah), our community can look forward to participating in joyous engagement parties and weddings.
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.
He stood his ground despite the intense pressure to do what everyone else was doing. His integrity was more important to him than "fitting in."
There is a wise Yiddish saying that translates into this observation: "Yichus (illustrious ancestors) is like potatoes - they are both under the ground."
It truly defies logic when I am told by a relative’s machataynesta that on her block in Brooklyn there are a dozen girls in their mid to late 20’s and even 30’s who are waiting in vain for the phone to ring.
Last month, I had the privilege - and I do mean privilege – of attending an event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Toronto hosted by the Canadian Friends of Machon Lev, the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), at which an honorary degree was bestowed on John Baird, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister.
Throughout the long dark night of our exile, when we found ourselves at the precarious "mercy" of the inhabitants of the lands we were residing in, each and every Jewish community made it their utmost priority to rescue any man, woman or child who had the misfortune to be kidnapped, captured or unjustly thrown in prison. Whether these unfortunate souls were being held by bandits, landlords or greedy officials eager for ransom money, every effort was made to free them.
Chanukah is just about upon us and Jews across the planet are looking forward to family gatherings, delicious food (you can’t feel too guilty eating oily latkes and high carb donuts on the chag – hey, it’s practically a mitzvah to do so); giving and receiving gifts and in general celebrating our survival – our spiritual continuance as God-fearing Jews. (Our physical survival is an event we acknowledge on Purim.)
Dear Readers: The following short story is fictitious, but the situation of Jewish children during the Holocaust being raised by gentile families or in Catholic convents and orphanages is not. While some were re-united with family members who survived the death camps – many were not, and remain lost both physically and religiously. This story is in memory of all the lost children. May they be reunited with their families with the coming of Moshiach.
Some of you are looking at the title of my column and wondering two things - why I am writing about B'nai Brith Canada – arguably Canada’s version of the Anti-Defamation League and why would it be of interest to anyone who does not live in that country - as most of you don't.
Over the past few weeks, I, like many of you, have received wedding invitations, and I truly hope that the young couples-to-be have chosen wisely and will enjoy long and fruitful unions.
I recently read a disturbing news article about a social phenomenon that is tragic beyond words. The article stated that more people were losing their lives by committing suicide than by car crashes. This conclusion was based on a recent study by the American Journal of Public Health based on data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics from the years 2000-2009. Why are so many people killing themselves, or attempting to, since some try but fail? I can only imagine that they are looking for a way out of lives saturated with abject misery; they feel trapped in a cage of never-ending unhappiness.
Just days ago on Yom Kipper, The Day of Judgment, Jews gathered as one in shuls, shteibels and temples and desperately and profusely promised Hashem that we would reform our ways and improve our behaviors and actions towards Him, our Father and Creator, as well as towards our fellow man, who, being made in His image, is deserving of our respect and compassion, and of being treated as an equal, no matter their social or financial status, age or gender.
Just a few short days ago we were in summer mode, vacationing in the mountains, at the cottage, or on the road visiting family, friends or sightseeing. But with the start of September and school, we become all to aware that the Yamim Noraim - the Days of Awe – are upon us, that sobering period of time when a year's worth of our actions and activities will be evaluated by our Creator. His ultimate assessment and judgement will affect the quality and quantity of the days of our lives.
Dear Readers The grass is always greener on the other side. Or is it? Below is a fictional illustration of this human foible – focusing on the perceived benefits in another person’s life while failing to appreciate your own.
With the Three Weeks and its social restrictions as they pertain to simchas behind us, heimishe Yidden everywhere are "dusting off" their party clothes, taking their jewelry out of the safe and getting ready to attend a multitude of weddings - with some people invited out on an almost daily basis.
Dear Readers: The following short story is fictional. However, many of you will surely nod your heads in agreement as you recognize people you know - perhaps yourself - in the characters I have described. I hope in future articles, to touch on what I believe are the various psychological factors that contribute to the shidduch crisis.