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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Baruch Hashem’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

As a long time resident of Far Rockaway, I count my blessings that Baruch Hashem we’ve been spared flooding and water damage — though our power was down for a whole two weeks and was no minor inconvenience.

Rachel, it is so sad to see how many families have to pick up their lives again and rebuild. People lost washing machines, dryers, Pesach kitchens, furniture, and many memories that had been put away in storage. It breaks the heart to see piles of people’s belongings along the curb, waiting to be hauled away by the garbage trucks.

Cars were seen floating away; people’s back yard gyms were flung down the block; boats from Atlantic Beach landed in people’s yards and fallen trees are everywhere. The whole thing is totally mind-boggling!

And just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, a snowstorm felled more trees. People who already had their electricity restored went down again. What does Hakodosh Baruch Hu want from us? I think we all have to make a din v’cheshbon and look inside ourselves. What can we do better? How can we fix what needs to be fixed? What should we take upon ourselves to expand our growth in a spiritual sense?

Everything happens for a reason. We have to make sure that we draw some lesson from all of this destruction, devastation, and heartache — and increase our emunah and bitachon in Hakodosh Baruch Hu.

Just venting

Dear Rachel,

In response to your column’s recent letter from Mi k’Amcha Yisroel, I just want to say that it is just one example of the wonderful middos the effects of Sandy brought out in so many. And though there was much destruction and heartache, there were miracles at every turn and we have much to be grateful for.

I know of at least one man, a grandfather who lives in one of the “beach” boroughs that had a mandatory evacuation in place, who refused to leave. His wife heeded the warning, but he stubbornly insisted that he’d be fine staying put for the duration of the storm.

When the lights went out, he didn’t consider it a big deal. But when he looked out his window and saw the water covering the sidewalk and moving toward the front steps of his home, he sobered up. He called his son to come and get him, but at that point their street had already become inaccessible to cars, and so Dad was advised to don his boots and walk to the intersection to where his son would be waiting for him.

The homeowner decided to go down to his basement first, to pick some stuff up off the floor in case of flooding. As he was fumbling about with flashlight in hand, the wind suddenly blew the windows in and a flood of water gushed in to fill the basement knee high and was quickly rising.

The poor man could hardly catch his breath or see around him. He frantically searched for the stairs and luckily found them in time to scramble out of there. By the time he got out, the basement was completely submerged.

The prearranged spot where he was to meet his son was already deserted by then, but a patrol car picked him up and he was soon reunited with his family. Despite sustaining substantial material loss and damage, this man must realize how lucky he was to have escaped a worse fate.

One miracle of many

Dear Readers,

The stories of miracles and chessed abound and will no doubt fill a volume or more down the line. But as we ask ourselves how such a thing can happen and what is Hashem’s message to us, we should be reassured that the tremendous positive response set in motion by this horrific occurrence is exactly what is expected of us, and perhaps we were in need of that extra fix to prove ourselves worthy of G-d’s compassion in this topsy-turvy world.

No human being can pinpoint a cause for the disaster, as much as some cast the blame on climate change and global warming, and others draw a parallel to Sodom. With regard to the former, none but Hashem is in charge, and “climate change” can only affect us to the extent that G-d will allow it to. As for the correlation to Sodom… to the best of my knowledge, Sodom was so saturated with evil that Avrohom Avinu was hard-pressed to find any righteous individuals who might have saved the day.

My Miraculous Hospital Experience

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Since suffering from colitis as a teen, I finally adopted a strict diet in my 30s that ended my torment. It wasn’t easy to forgo white flour, white sugar and all chemical additives, but it meant that I spend the last 40 years pretty much free of doctors, medications and illness, thank God. Thus, I was surprised when two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, I began to experience increasingly severe stomach discomfort – until I was barely able to move. Despite what I was soon to endure, it helped greatly to focus on the moment-to-moment miracles. For example:

Miracle #1: My son Moshe, who is one of the busiest people on the planet, called on a Wednesday night to say, “I have a free morning, so let’s finish your new set of Sanity Cards,” a project to help children deal with stressful events in a positive manner. Miraculously I had no clients that morning, which is usually a busy time, and miraculously he has never before called with such an offer. So I immediately agreed. He came promptly at 10 a.m., as promised. His presence helped distract me from the pain, which I was sure would soon fade.

Miracle #2: We finished around 10:30 a.m., when he said, “Mom, this is ridiculous. You’re in too much pain! Get a doctor.” I promptly called the service that sends doctors to one’s home. The clerk at the health fund said that the doctor could not come until 3 p.m., but less than half an hour later, he showed up unexpectedly. After a brief examination, he promptly sent me to the emergency room.

Miracle #3: Since my son was with me, he was able to drive me to the hospital. He also stayed with me most of the time – returning home at 2.am.

Miracle #4: After sitting in terrible pain in the emergency room, a bed finally became available at around 3:30. I was able to lie down, which I hadn’t been able to do before, and was given an IV, which included a pain reliever. At 5:30, the results of the CT finally came back. A group of doctors determined that I had a massive infection, as well as three large blood clots near my pancreas. The nurse told me to not move around, as things looked grim. But I was relieved that there was no obstruction, as my greatest fear was that I would need to undergo intestinal surgery.

Miracle #5: I was given antibiotics and heparin intravenously to dissolve the clots. I was told not to move, lest the dangerous blood clots travel to my lungs or brain, God forbid. As I looked at the bags hanging from the poles, I thought to myself, “This is how I need to feel Hashem’s love, as if it is flowing into my veins 24/7.”

Miracle #6: At 2 a.m., I was transferred to the hospital ward. Although my roommate was having a hard night, her husband was the sweetest person imaginable, constantly soothing her with words of reassurance and helping her with all the little things a person needs right after surgery. Thus, the energy was very positive and loving. I was grateful that there were only the two of us and grateful for buttons that allowed me to adjust the bed myself.

Miracle #7: The next day my son brought me lots of reading material, including all the Mishpacha magazines that I hadn’t gotten to and a book I had been wanting to read for months – that he just “happened” to find. I was soothed and inspired during the long nights.

Miracle #8: On Friday afternoon, at around 3 p.m., a group of ten young men with guitars, flutes and drums entered my room singing Shabbos songs. They even asked for my favorites. Pure Gan Eden! After they left, a chassid walked in with a sweet two-year-old who was holding a basket of taffy candies. Her father motioned to her to give two candies to each patient. What a lesson in chesed! I disposed of the candies, as I do not eat sugar. But her smile will stay with me forever.

Miracle #9: At around 5 p.m., my brother walked in with a box of grapes, which I had asked him to bring – just in case I could eat something. Since my daughter, who insisted on coming to visit, had gotten mixed up and had gone to Ein Kerem hospital instead of Shaare Zedek, we had time to talk, which was important to us.

After A Few False Starts, A Match Made In Heaven

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

I almost never met the man I married.

No, I am not from a very strict chassidishe home where dating is taboo and a brief meeting suffices before the engagement is announced. My husband and I actually dated for a few months, by which time my parents were beginning to grow concerned and the neighbors were having a heyday gossiping about us. But if not for a significant helping of siyata dishmaya, we never would have managed to get together in the first place.

First of all, I was only redd to my husband on the rebound. My brother-in-law had been learning in Lakewood for many years and was in a prime position to scout out prospective chassanim for me. He did some research, came up with a very promising candidate, approached the boy, and suggested the shidduch. Bingo! The bachur was interested in pursuing the shidduch, except for one minor hitch: He had just started dating another girl. I was next in the queue – except that my turn never came. Baruch Hashem, he ended up getting engaged to the girl he was seeing.

So it was back to the drawing board for my brother-in-law. He mentioned the dilemma to his wonderful chavrusah of many years and the two of them brainstormed together. Actually, they just raised their eyes a row or two ahead of them in the huge beis medrash and spotted the chavrusah’s first cousin. He had serendipitously just returned to the U.S. from learning in the finest yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael, in order to start the shidduch parshah. After a brief interlude of “botteling,” the deed was done; they had decided to set up the sister-in-law with the cousin.

The bachur readily approved of the suggestion, and the ball quickly passed to my court. Ordinarily, after past dating blunders, I was generally very fussy and discriminating about the boys I dated, and usually came armed with an exhaustive list of questions and demands, one more trivial than the next. He should not be too tall or too short, too thin or too heavy, beards were definitely out, etc.

This time, however, I either forgot or skipped the interrogation, and accepted the suggestion without launching an FBI investigation. Had I followed my usual pattern, we probably would not have made it to the first step.

The next hurdle was the boy’s name. I had no problem with his unique and cool-sounding first name, but my two very yeshivish brothers were up in arms. That is, until they read that week’s sedrah and encountered that very name in black on white. They then offered a sincere apology along with their blessings.

I later found out that when my mother-in-law was in the hospital following my husband’s birth she had asked her mechanech husband to bring her something to read. He did. A Chumash! She read through several parshiyos and ended up selecting a biblical name that was far from run-of-the-mill.

Kishmo kein hu, like his unusual name, my husband had likewise always been unique in many ways. Following the orchestrations of the exalted Shadchan on High, he also became uniquely mine.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Stuff In The Fridge

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Among the many things we were tested with during Hurricane Sandy was the way in which we can preserve our food in the middle of a disaster.

My family spreads out from Flatbush to Boro Park, Staten Island, New Jersey and Monsey. Two of my sons, Baruch Hashem, had previously bought generators. They successfully used them to prevent loss of their food, while waiting for their electric to be repaired in their respective neighborhoods. However, many others have been without power for weeks now.

Whenever I do Tupperware demonstrations where I share my freezer tricks, I stress how important it is to always have a full freezer. In case of a blackout, an unopened full freezer will keep fresh for 72 hours before the food will have to be used or tossed out! If the freezer is not full, the food will only last 12 hours!

What do you do if you haven’t gone shopping or cooked enough food to fill your freezer? There is a trick I recommend to fool your freezer into “acting” like it is full.

Fill any container you have with water. Tear small strips of blank paper and tuck it in each container so most of it hangs out of the container and is visible to you. Once, frozen, they containers will fill up the air space in your freezer allowing it to work at full capacity. If you stand next to your refrigerator, you will hear the motor going on and off less often due as it will be working more efficiently!

Another quick tip, this one about ice crystals forming in containers, which is not unusual. It can happen as a result of rapid temperatures, the amount of moisture in the food being stored, and the amount of air space in the container.

When a sealed container is placed in the freezer, it undergoes a quick change in temperature. When it is coupled with the colder freezer air, it draws out the moisture from the air and surface of the contents. Should you wish to eliminate these crystals, place a sheet of crumpled wax paper directly on the food you are freezing. This uses up the air space. Several popular brands of ice cream now have layer of plastic wrap attached to the cover of the carton for this purpose.

Now, what about the food in the refrigerator food? Or how do you know if something has gone bad?

EGGS–When something starts pecking its way out of the shell, the egg is probably past its prime!

DAIRY PRODUCTS—Milk is spoiled when it starts to look like yogurt. Yogurt is spoiled when it starts to look like cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is spoiled when it starts to look like regular cheese. Regular cheese is nothing but spoiled milk anyway and can’t get any more spoiled that it is already. Cheddar cheese is spoiled when you think it is blue cheese, but you realize you’ve never purchased that kind!

BREAD—Sesame seeds and poppy seeds are the only officially acceptable “spots” that should be seen on the surface of any loaf of bread. Fuzzy and hairy looking white or green growth, are a good indication that your bread has turned into a pharmaceutical laboratory experiment.

FLOUR—Flour is spoiled when it has polka dots that wiggle!

CANNED GOODS—Any canned goods that have become the size or shape of a softball should be disposed of – carefully.

CARROTS—A carrot that you can tie a clove hitch in is not fresh!

RAISINS—Raisins should not be harder than your teeth.

POTATOES—Fresh potatoes do not have roots, branches, or dense, leafy undergrowth.

CHIP DIP—If you can take it out of its container and bounce it on the floor, it has gone bad.

UNMARKED ITEMS—You know it is well beyond prime, when you’re tempted to discard the container along with the food! Generally speaking, containers should not burp when you open them!

Going through a disaster, does give us a renewed perspective on keeping our families safer and our food storage intact and not spoiled.

What we can all use these days is lots of comfort foods and one of my favorites is Vegetable Barley Soup! I may have already shared this recipe with you, but it does bear repeating! I give credit to my daughter-in-law, Laya, for introducing the soup to use several years ago.

Thoughts On Hurricane Sandy

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

The following is a revised version of the speech Rabbi Rackovsky gave in his shul on November 10, Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah

Usually, when I begin a speech, I start with something interesting, lighthearted or funny – to get your attention and lead into the speech itself. Permit me to deviate from that this week, because there is nothing funny, lighthearted or interesting about what so many of us are experiencing, and if not us, than our friends, loved ones and neighbors, and if not them, than people a few miles away from us in Long Beach or Far Rockaway who have lost everything to 14 foot waves, or a little farther away where helpless Senior Citizens are living without water or power in high rises on the Lower East Side. The scope of the utter devastation, the loss of so much – property, money and memories – is too much to comprehend. So what is there to say when perhaps it is more appropriate to say nothing? I’ve been struggling with this for the past few days, so permit me to share some of what I’ve been thinking of that may give us a framework. I hope my words will be accepted, and apologize in advance if they are somehow simplistic, insensitive or inappropriate.

This morning, we read the incident of the Shunamite woman’s encounter with the remarkable prophet Elisha. On his way back from saving the family of the wife of one of the prophets, who was in danger of having her children taken into slavery by creditors, Elisha stopped in Shunam at the home of a self effacing woman who was so desirous of such an illustrious guest that she built an addition onto her home so he could rest there on a regular basis, and that is what he did.

On this particular trip, Elisha asked his assistant, Geichazi, to find out what this woman wanted. Geichazi perceived that she had no children so Elisha promised her that within a year, she would be hugging a child of her own. That is what happened. Then the Navi tells us that some time later, that child began to feel sick, and in his mother’s lap, he passed away. She lay him down and then sent for a young man and a donkey so that she could go to Elisha.

Her husband was surprised – after all, it was not a time that one would normally go to visit a prophet, but she said, “Good bye, I’m going.” The Haftorah ends with the child being resurrected by Elisha, but that is only in one tradition. If you look in your Chumash, there is another custom, that of Sephardim, Yekkies (German communities) and Chabad Chassidim. In their mesorah, they end the Haftorah reading when the Shunamite woman leaves to see Elisha.

I can understand the former custom, the one we adhere to here and in many other congregations. It brings the narrative to a satisfying resolution; a woman faced with the tragic loss of her only child is given that child back. But what is the meaning of the second custom? Why end there, right in the middle of the story?

My friend and colleague Rabbi Daniel Yolkut of Pittsburgh suggested that that is precisely the point of the pause. When we read biblical narratives, we know how they end. We know that Yitzchak, in the end is saved from the Akeidah, we know that Korach and his followers were all swallowed up by the earth, and we know that the Jewish people are saved from Haman. But we only know that because we have the benefit of hindsight, where we are privy to the entire narrative. But to really understand what the protagonists are feeling, we need to put ourselves in their place, and understand that to them, the narrative was far from over. The Shunamite woman was grasping at straws, and she had no idea how the story would end, whether Elisha would be able to help her at all during her darkest moments, but she turned to something and someone greater than her for help. It is in this unfinished ending, and where it leaves off, that we can learn some powerful lessons.

Our Friend, Adversity

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

It is painfully difficult to start and end the hectic day seeing my daughter wander, almost lifelessly, from room to room and sibling to sibling with no desire to venture out into the scary world of society. With her bundle of strengths and weaknesses, and despite my countless pep talks, our 27-year-old daughter chooses to spend most of her time in the comfort and safety of our home. That is until recently, when terrible loneliness finally pushed her out the door.

With many children in the family, our daughter could always manage to find a sibling, at one point or another, throughout the day to hang out with indoors. Her minor attempts in childcare employment were sporadic, as hurtful memories of jobs gone sour haunted her. She felt paralyzed and refused to take another risk at entering the workforce.

I decided to seek help from a kind community social worker who gave freely of her time away from her busy schedule to help improve our daughter’s quality of life. Meanwhile, during the summer months, two younger daughters traveled to Los Angeles and a younger son went away to overnight camp – leaving our older daughter painfully lonely.

Over and over again she called me at work and I would urge her to at least volunteer at the Center for Special Children, where she had once worked part-time in the afternoon so she would not have to be alone. Finally, one morning it happened. With the quiet at home too much to bear, my daughter called me to say that she was taking a taxi to the Center. I was overjoyed. The only thing worse for her than the challenge of being around other people was being absolutely alone at home.

The following days were filled with trepidation for all of us. Would she give up or would she forge ahead? Would the memories and fears destroy her desire and courage, or would she be able to take the risk and continue to show up at the Center? Would she be able to function despite the pains in her chest and the fear in her heart? I spoke to the directors at the Center a few times, encouraging them to make sure our daughter knew how much she was valued and liked. I bought her new clothes and coffee drinks to encourage her. She even went out to dinner with my husband and me on our wedding anniversary so we could help build on her success.

Baruch Hashem, a wonderful thing happened! She thought of bringing her keyboard and offered to play and sing for the children. They loved it. She was an instant success. Seeing my daughter smile and hearing her happy voice report the experiences at the Center are more nachas than I could have ever hoped for. It is a new life for us.

Adversity forced our daughter to confront the absurdity of doing almost nothing all day and relying too much on others for her own satisfaction. Hardship can lead to growth and change. Not everything should always be pleasant and easy. If we are to reach our potential we must be prepared to take adversity by the hand and see what is being asked of us. This is also help from Above, sometimes the best help of all.

I daven that my daughter will continue to play her many self-taught songs on the keyboard, which will give her the wonderful satisfaction that she has something worthwhile to contribute. Her joy lifts our family higher. May Hashem continue to guide us and help us achieve what we have been uniquely created to accomplish.

Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael: A Plea For Prayer

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Minutes after candle-lighting, sirens rang out in Jerusalem, disturbing the peace and tranquility ushered in by Shabbat. Earlier that day, my wife and I assured our parents that we are far from the rockets in our home in Har Nof, a quiet suburb nestled in the Jerusalem Forest.

But in the middle of Kabbalat Shabbat I found myself taking cover, together with other members of my community, near the stairwell of our shul. When the tefillah resumed, the tone was intense. Before Ma’ariv we recited Tehillim, a prayer for the IDF, and the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael (the Prayer for the Welfare and Security of the State of Israel).

Overnight, members of our kehillah were called up for reserve duty. And when we said the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael again Shabbat morning, it was with more kavanah than is usually the case.

After Shabbat we learned that rockets had fallen near Mevaseret and Gush Etzion, just miles from the heart of Jerusalem. Baruch Hashem, no one was hurt – but that is not the case elsewhere in the country. And while we can’t possibly imagine what our brothers and sisters in the South are going through, the feeling that no one is immune persists.

How can it be, I wondered over Shabbat, that some communities here in Israel and abroad do not recite the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael?

The text of the prayer first appeared in the religious newspaper HaTzofe on September 20, 1948, less than half a year after a nascent nation declared its independence. Written by Chief Rabbis Herzog and Uziel, together with author and Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon, it was adopted by many congregations in Israel and abroad. Even the famed rabbinic journal HaPardes (October 1948) published it and encouraged readers to adopt it.

Praying on behalf of the government is not a new practice. The prophet Yirmiyahu instructs the Jewish people, “Seek the peace of the city to which I have exiled you” (Jer. 29:7). And throughout Jewish history, we have. Halachic works from Kol Bo to Abudraham to Magen Avraham to Aruch HaShulchan codify the practice of praying for the king. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes that it is an obligation and mitzvah to express gratitude for the place where we live, and to pray for it.

We Jews have composed texts on behalf of everyone from the king of Spain to Napoleon. Sometimes, depending on how a ruler treated the Jews, the prayer took an ironic turn, asking for protection from the king. (As when the rabbi in “Fiddler on the Roof” asks God to “Bless and keep the czar – far away from us!”)

The Mishnah (Avot 3:2) stresses the importance of praying on behalf of the government: “Rabbi Hanina, deputy high priest, said: Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for fear of it, people would swallow one another alive.”

So why doesn’t everyone recite the prayer for the state of Israel?

Some object to the fact that the prayer calls the state the “first flowering of our redemption.” They are uncomfortable with the notion that a secular government, founded by secular Zionists, can be part of the redemptive process. But a little research reveals the truths of history: In the early years, following the founding of the state, many rabbis (not all of them Zionists) indeed believed that the state of Israel was the “first flowering” of redemption.

A letter titled “Da’at Torah,” later published in Rabbi M.M. Kasher’s HaTekufah HaGedolah (pp. 424-429), begins, “We thank Hashem for what we have merited, because of His abundant mercy and kindness, to see the first buds [nitzanim] of the beginning of redemption [atchalta d’geulah], with the founding of the state of Israel.”

This letter, encouraging participation in elections for the first Knesset, was signed by the leading gedolim of Eretz Yisrael, among them Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rav Yechezkel Sarna, Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. In fact, as David Tamar noted in a Jan. 2, 1998 article in HaTzofe, Rav Shlomo Zalman would stand during the recitation of the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael.

The Prayer for the State of Israel was not composed strictly for the Religious Zionist camp – it was composed for all Jews to recite. Perhaps it was written during a simpler time in history, when Jews of every stripe and political or religious affiliation fought for an independent Jewish state. They did not have the luxury of sitting back and being sectarian. How things have changed.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/tefillah-lshlom-medinat-yisrael-a-plea-for-prayer/2012/11/21/

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