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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Chazon Ish’

Title: HaMalach HaGoel and Other Bedtime Stories

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Title: HaMalach HaGoel and Other Bedtime Stories

Author: Yehudit Shulem

Illustrator: Estie Hess

Publisher: Feldheim

 

 

   The “Collection of Imaginative Stories” in HaMalach HaGoel and Other Bedtime Stories is a bit on the high-minded side with a few clich?s tossed in the mix. Nevertheless, the lap-sized hardcover explains to its readers how to become mature, responsible individuals of integrity. The life lessons are for children aged eight and up.

 

   The man walking out of and into another wall portrait picture in the chapter entitled “A Special Visit” uses a phenomenon out of the Harry Potter series. But the technique is used to deliver valuable insight from the Chazon Ish, a worthwhile experience. Optimism can be learned from “The Kite” story and self-worth from “The Gear Train.” Other stories deliver important messages, too.

 

   Though author Yehudit Shulem is a social worker, according to the back cover text, I find it curious that her tales are illustrated with significantly far more males than females. The air- and other-brushing out of female figures in Jewish literature is not a friendly phenomenon. The trend will reverse to include women and girls within benign and all-inclusive story illustrations. After all, we’re the reason that Am Yisrael endures.

 

   Yocheved Golani is the author of E-book “It’s MY Crisis! And I’ll Cry If I Need To: EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge” http://www.booklocker.com/books/4244.html).

Title: Bircas Hachammah/Blessing Of The Sun

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Title: Bircas Hachammah/Blessing Of The Sun

Author: Rabbi J. David Bleich

Publisher: ArtScroll/Mesorah

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   Of all the challenges to an author and publisher of a book of this genre, none may be as great as offering this brilliantly written, multi-discipline (mathematics, physics, astronomy, hashkafa and emunah) volume to a worldwide Jewish readership, comprised of different backgrounds, hashkafos and education.

 

   Normally, topics so diverse are geared to a specific audience, i.e., students, scientists, teachers, rabbis, etc. Yet ArtScroll and Rabbi Bleich have successfully blended all of these subjects into an elegant and compact volume that can be understood by most, and enjoyed by all.

 

   Most readers of The Jewish Press know that on erev Pesach, April 8, 2009 at 6 a.m., Jews throughout the world will publicly assemble outdoors to recite Birkas HaChammah, a blessing said once every 28 years.

 

   But how many understand what thebracha is all about, and why it is recited only once every 28 years? Moreover, what exactly are we commemorating with this blessing? The answers to these questions and so much more are found in this volume.

 

   I have no particular expertise in physics, mathematics, astronomy or philosophy, and was overwhelmed with Rabbi Bleich’s erudition in these areas. I was also delighted to discover, as I plowed ahead, that the book artfully harmonizes scientific fact with emunas Hashem ve’chachamim.

 

   The book is divided into three parts. The first section involves two overviews by Rabbi Nosson Scherman that relate to both emunas Hashem and some of the scientific aspects of Bircas HaChammah. The second features Rabbi Bleich’s text. The third features charts and tables that date back to Creation, but also extend to beyond the 6th millennium.

 

   This harmony between the overviews, text, charts and tables enables the reader to digest basic astronomical and calendrical phenomena, including physics, mathematics and the lunar/solar interaction called “lunisolar” by Rabbi Bleich – and at the same time marvel at the wonders of Hashem’s creation.

 

   The author cites our great teachers, including, among many others, the Vilna Gaon, Chasam Sofer, and Chazon Ish. Kepler and Newton are also cited to round out the scientific background necessary to understand the total scientific context of Bircas HaChammah.

 

   This review cannot convey to the reader the complex and multiple issues involved with this topic, but at as a result of my reading this book, I believe I now understand what the bracha commemorates, and why it occurs only once every 28 years.

 

   I quote Rabbi Scherman:

 

   On the fourth day God created the sun . Tradition teaches that the sun’s first appearance in the newly-created heaven is reckoned from Nissan, the month of Passover and springtime . Every 28 years, the sun would begin its spring season at the very same moment in time, when it was emplaced in the cosmos.

 

   Therefore, we say Bircas HaChammah to commemorate this anniversary. But why not, you can ask, every single year on Wednesday? Why must we wait 28 years?

 

   According to Rabbi Bleich:

 

The Gemara (Eruvin 56a) records the statement of Shmuel to the effect that there are always 91 days and 7

Is This Simcha Really a Simcha?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

You glance through your mail, and there it is – an invitation to a simcha. It could be a chasuna ora Bar Mitzvah. Your phone rings and you are invited to a bris, sheva brochos or a pidyon haben. No matter, these events are all simchas (s’mochos, technically) and the baal simcha wants you to attend. After all, we often hear people say, “We should meet only at simchas!” What greater joy than to participate in an event marking an important milestone in the life of a relative or friend?

 

However, for some, the idea of attending yet another simcha is not met with unqualified anticipation. After all, some of the things that have become “standard” of present day simchas do not add to the joy of the event. Indeed, there are those who come away from a simcha almost regretting that they attended. Why is this? Let us look at some of the negative aspects of our “joyous” events.

 

Time

 

Simchas are notorious for neither starting nor ending on time. There are, of course, a variety of reasons as to why people do not arrive on time to a simcha. Those with small children have to feed and put their children to bed; older children also require time in the evening; many men do not get home from work until relatively late; baby sitters sometimes show up late; one gets an important phone call that must be dealt with right away; and who knows what else can come up at the last minute.  However, the main reason for people coming late is that since they know that the simcha will start late, it makes no sense to get there on time. Of course, the simcha starts late, because the guests do not come on time. This has led to the vicious cycle that we now are living with.

 

An acquaintance once related the following concerning his first encounter with Rav Avigdor Miller, ZT”L. In the 1950′s this fellow was told that he really should hear Rav Miller speak. Since Rav Miller was scheduled to speak at a Melava Malka, he decided to attend. Well, the evening dragged on and on with speech after speech. Finally, when it was time for Rav Miller to speak, he got up, looked at his watch and said, “Rabosai, it is late and time for us all to go home and sleep. A Gutta Voch!” and sat down.

 

Rav Miller spoke more than once against the practice of having simchas that require people to stay up late. He felt that this could be injurious to one’s health, not to mention that eating at a late hour is not a good practice.

 

Sometimes an invitation states such and such a time “B’dyuk.”  Even this is often meaningless. Indeed, it was once pointed out to me, tongue in cheek, that “B’dyuk” stands for “Biz de Yidden Vellen Kummen!”

 

Pictures or a Chasuna

 

I know a mashgiach in the bais medrash of a Brooklyn yeshiva who attends many chasunas. Heonce told me, “People have a choice between pictures and a chasuna, and they invariably choose pictures!” He was referring to the common practice of the chosson and kallah and their families and relatives taking pictures after the chupah while their guests are kept waiting for an hour or more. The reason for this is because the chosson and kallah are supposedly not “allowed” to see each other for a week before the chasuna. The result is that when the chosson and kallah finally appear for the first dance, it is quite late. Many people who have to get up early the next day are anxiously waiting to be served their meal so they can leave.  Those guests who find it necessary to leave without eating are unable to participate in the mitzvah of being m’sameach the chosson and kallah. Those who do stay go to sleep at an unreasonable hour and may not be able to properly function the next day.

 

My acquaintance, the bais medrash mashgiach, told me that when asked, his rosh hayeshiva has said that there is no problem with taking pictures of the chosson and kallah together before the chupah. However, there are authorities who advise otherwise, insisting that the custom of the chosson and kallah not seeing each other be maintained.This may indeed heighten the emotional dimension to the chasuna for the chosson and kallah. However, adherence to a custom and/or the feelings of two people must be balanced with the inconvenience of so many others. Kovod habrios must be a concern. Therefore, in cases where pictures are taken after the chupah, every effort should be made to limit the time spent on picture taking. Rav Yisroel Salanter is famous for his dictum that, “The other person’s gashmius is your ruchnius.” Doesn’t keeping hundreds of guests waiting for an extensive amount of time fly in the face of this?

 

Music

 

I have been at chasunas where the music was so loud that I could not talk to the person sitting next to me without shouting. We simply could not hear each other over the music. Indeed, there are times when guests leave the hall to find peace and quiet. Why is louder considered better? Why can’t the decibel level be such that one can hear the music and carry on a conversation? Why does one have to risk damaging one’s eardrums to participate in some chasunas? Today it is the custom for young couples to bring infants to a            chasuna. I can only wonder at the irreparable damage that may be done to the hearing of these young children. Given this and other considerations, I simply do not understand why young couples think that it is appropriate to bring infants to simchas. Years ago this was almost never done. Has something changed that I am not aware of?

 

Where is the D’var Torah?

 

The “format” of our chasunas is also problematic. With rare exceptions there is no d’varTorah. Here we have a major religious event that is totally devoid of divrei Torah. I recall reading a story about how the Torah greatness of the Chazon Ish was “revealed.” While attending a chasuna, he sat at a table set aside for the poor. A famous and learned Rov began to speak and quoted a Mishna. He explained it in a certain way. The   Chazon Ish stood up and pointed out that this was not the correct way to explain this Mishna and offered an alternative explanation. The Rov was so impressed with the explanation of the Chazon Ish that he asked the Chazon Ish to come and sit next to him at the head table. Given his great humility, the Chazon Ish did not want to do this, so the Rov went and sat next to him. The point here is that there was a d’var Torah at this chasuna. Why don’t all of our chasunas feature at least one d’var Torah? Rav Dr. Yosef Breuer, ZT”L, wrote in the Aug./Sept. 1966 issue of the Mitteilungen, the congregational Bulletin of K’hal Adath Jeshurun, expressing his reservations about the “new” custom of Hasidic dancing: “While we are not used to the manner in which frequently also in our circles the joyous participation in weddings manifests itself, such ‘deviation,’ actually an imitation of other circles, is of no real significance. We are concerned with the custom that calls for vigorous ‘Mitzve dancing’ during the festive meal but does not provide an opportunity for a single D’var Torah (either under the Chuppa or during the meal). This practice directly contrasts with the admonition of our Sages which characterizes any meal, particularly a festive one, as a ‘meal of the dead’ that is not accompanied by words of Torah.”

 

Too Much of a Good Thing

 

Interesting enough, while divrei Torah are hardly ever given at chasunas, when it comes to sheva brochos and Bar Mitzvahs there is a plethora of speeches. Indeed, at some of these affairs one could come away with the idea that “The more speeches there are, and the longer each speech is, the better.” Even if the speakers are good, there is a point at which the audience loses interest and simply cannot absorb any more information, no matter how well presented. Furthermore, it seems that virtually everyone is considered to be a suitable speaker, despite the fact that it takes talent and training to speak well in front of a group. If a d’var Torah incorporates a considerable number of sophisticated Gemara concepts, then at least 50% of the audience (the women) will have no idea what the speaker is saying and be totally bored. This leads to talking during the d’var Torah, which leads to “shushing.” The net result is far from an edifying Torah experience.

 

The Bar Mitzvah Drasha should be a “golden” opportunity for a boy to learn how to make a verbal presentation before an audience. However, my experience has been that the presentation is made in a fashion that makes it either incomprehensible or unintelligible, or both. Sadly, this chance to teach a young person the skills needed to present material to others in a clear and logical manner is lost. While it may well be true that the average 13 year-old boy is not capable of delivering a polished talk, this does not mean that his Bar Mitzvah Drasha has to consist primarily of mumblings sprinkled with words like Rambam, t’phillin, Gemara, etc.  A 13 year-old can be prepared to give a Drasha that is comprehensible, interesting, and understood by all present. However, the boy must be properly prepared for this. Indeed, the baal simcha has to make sure that all those who  speak are capable of speaking well. Furthermore, the number of speeches and the length of each speech have to be carefully limited.

 

During the Fifties and Sixties, students in the Bais Medrash of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath had the opportunity to take a “course in homiletics”  from none other than Rabbi Moshe Sherer, Z”L.  The course met bi-weekly, and the assignment was to prepare a five-minute speech on a current event and tie it to the parsha of the week. Rabbi Sherer stressed what he called the “Three B’s of speaking:” Be prepared; be brief; be seated! This is surely good advice for anyone asked to speak at a simcha.

 

A Waste of Good Jewish Money

 

Last but not least is the lavishness of our present day simchas. At a talk given at the 55th National Convention of Agudath Israel entitled “Society’s Newest Pressures” and reprinted in Selected Writings, Rav Shimon Schwab, ZT”L,  said, “The ostentation that one sees, the flaunting of wealth, the big rings, the large stones, the colossal weddings, the tremendous bar mitzvahs – what has happened? Millions of dollars are wasted! Money with which we could feed all the hungry Yidden of Yerushalyem, with which we could maintain all the Yeshivos – all of it is wasted. There was once an inyin of t’memus, of pashtus, of simplicity. Where has that gone? Did this also perish in the flames of Auschwitz? One goes to a chasuna. Almost all chasunas look alike – except for the chosson and kallah. Each one represents thousands of dollars which could be used to support the young couple for years. Many a chosson could sit and learn day and night for the money which we spend on one chasuna. What a waste of good Jewish money.”

 

Years ago sheva brochos were a simple affair made in the home of a relative or a close friend of the chosson or kallah. A minyan of men and their spouses and perhaps a few more people gathered for these sheva brochos. This is often not the case today. A restaurant or hall must be rented to accommodate all the invited guests. At the Shabbos sheva brochos, three lavish meals are served to 80 or 90 or more people. Some even take guests to a hotel for Shabbos! Is this really necessary? I recall when an invitation to participate in Shabbos sheva brochos meant inviting people to come to one’s home after the seuda for desert. For some reason or other this is not good enough today. As Rav Schwab pointed out, “What a waste of good Jewish money.”

 

Conclusions

 

I am convinced that people can make simchas today that are truly joyous occasions for all who attend. It requires careful planning and the willingness (courage) to implement guidelines that avoid the pitfalls outlined above as well as others that I am sure the reader can think of. However, doing this is well worth the effort. Those who attend a simcha that is truly a joyous and meaningful experience will come away with a feeling of appreciation to the ba’alei simcha for his efforts and long remember the event with fondness and warmth.

 

 
Dr. Yitzchok Levine, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at www.llevine@stevens.edu.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, October 13th, 2004

Tentacles Of Destruction

The tentacles of death and destruction are seen in print on the front page every day. The world is now getting a taste of the intifada.

Death and destruction are being caused by the spread of Islamism worldwide. Do we nip it in the bud, Bush style, or cut and run and appease the terrorists as Spain and the Philippines have done? Would John Kerry be another Neville Chamberlain and allow the terrorist threat to push the Western democracies into submission ?

Harry Grunstein
Montreal, Canada



Divine Curse (I)

Reader Joe Bobker quoted from a specific statement by the Chazon Ish that we should no longer punish heretics and that G-d will not hold this against us (Letters, Sept. 3). Mr. Bobker?s letter was published the very week we read the second of the two Torah warnings (Leviticus 26; Deut. 28) that the response to widespread violation of G-d’s laws will be a Divine curse.

Mr. Bobker seems to generalize that in these times of “Divine Hiding” these warnings do not apply at all. I wonder, however, if Mr. Bobker feels that according to the Chazon Ish the custom of reading these verses in a low voice should be abolished and they instead should be read in a normal manner.

Yisrael Levi
(Via E-mail)


Divine Curse (II)

Several weeks ago a number of “scholarly” women cited my apparently poor reading comprehension skills. On the possibility that their assessment was correct, I would ask Joe Bobker to do some “serious ‘splaining.”

In his Sept. 3 letter to the editor Mr. Bobker quotes the Chazon Ish and apparently subscribes to the gaon’s “theory” that Divine Retribution no longer exists. They seem to believe that we are too far removed from the Shechina to be able to appreciate suffering as part of G-d’s judgment. According to this model, punishments are meted out in willy nilly fashion following no rhyme or reason.

The implication is that one may act capriciously, since we are no longer obliged by the laws of the Torah. I hope I misunderstood Mr. Bobker’s intent and ask that he do a better job of clarification for those like myself who might be considered “litererally challenged.”

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY



Pans Levine Op-Ed

Notwithstanding the condescending tone of Dr. Yitzchok Levine’s op-ed piece regarding supposed Orthodox distortion of historical fact (“My Mind Is Made Up; Don’t Confuse Me With the Facts,” Aug. 27), the article had the potential to be informative and thought-provoking.

Unfortunately Dr. Levine has taken oft-discussed differences of opinion between the Modern Orthodox and the not-so-modern Orthodox and subjected to attack the opinions of those who do not support his vision of modernity by noting the claims of the ignorant and their fallacies. Two of these claims are obviously expounded by those with a less-than-favorable feeling toward Yeshiva University, and the other two appear to be claims made by those
with a “yeshivishe” upbringing.

A discussion regarding the validity of these issues could be addressed in a responsible manner, but instead we are led to believe – on the basis of some claims made by those ignorant of the past – that the Modern Orthodox are the only ones with an appreciation of historical truth.

I look forward to a more wholesome approach to this important subject – an approach without such an obvious agenda.

David Kahn
Lakewood, NJ


Praises Levine Op-Ed

The Jewish Press is to be commended for going against the anti-intellectual tide in Orthodox circles by featuring the work of contributors like Dr. Yitzchok Levine. His Aug. Op-ed piece was a refreshing breeze for those of us who feel that Orthodoxy should not be automatically equated with know-nothingism.

Please do not back down from continuing to speak on behalf of those of us who refuse to bow to the chumra madness that has already achieved such a choke hold on the Orthodox world. There are plenty of us out here who still believe passionately in an enlightened Orthodoxy and who appreciate having The Jewish Press as a publication that stands for a vibrant modern Orthodoxy and a vigorous religious Zionism.

Zev Milgram
(Via E-Mail)


Divided We Fall

In “Turning Our Backs On Orthodox Education” (front-page essay, Aug. 4), Dr. Marvin Schick laments our abandonment of the traditional communal funding model for elementary Jewish education and the systemic crisis that now confronts us in consequence thereof. Dr. Schick has commented elsewhere (RJJ Newsletter, May 2004) on another factor contributing
to the current crises that also merits serious attention – namely, intra-Orthodox competition.

With the fragmentation of Orthodoxy steadily on the rise over the last half-century, discrete Orthodox sub-groups have established separate educational systems to reflect their supposedly unique attitudes, behavior and even dress, thus stretching scarce communal resources beyond the limit and undermining the mission of the flagship day school servicing, and thereby uniting, the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy.

Like our abandonment of the traditional communal funding model, the proliferation of factional schools represents a profound departure from both halachic norm and time-honored practice, as Hagaon Rav Yom Tov Schwarz, shlita, writes in “Eyes to See” (Urim Publications 2004), pp. 36-54.

Rav Schwarz observes that, in contrast with the unified Torah education systems that generally
prevailed in pre-Shoah Europe, the current splintered approach habituates children to separatism from their earliest youth, and substitutes a lifelong orientation of insularity and polarization for the Torah imperative of love and unity among Jews. In addition, as a matter
of practical halacha, Rav Schwarz rules that the fragmentation of Orthodox education violates the prohibition of lo sisgodedu (Devarim 14:1), which proscribes certain manifestations of religious factionalism.

David Nadoff
Chicago, IL



Author’s Query

I am interested in obtaining copies of old issues of Hedenu. Hedenu was a publication of the student body of the Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Seminary (RIETS/YU) that first appeared, I believe, in 1925. I know that it was still being published in the 1930′s. I am particularly interested in issues that appeared before 1935.

I have been asked by the YU Commentator website (http://www.yucommentator.com/) to write an article about the history of YU, and I would like to use these issues of Hedenu as sources for this.

Only one of the issues that appeared before 1935 (December 1928) is available from the YU archives. I ask anyone who has copies of these issues from this time period to please contact me at: llevine@stevens.edu.

Dr. Yitzchok Levine
(Via E-Mail)


Bush = Sheker?

As a yeiras shomayim, I don’t understand your strong support for President Bush. I’m not
suggesting you support Kerry; I simply question your passion for Bush.

The Torah regards emes as fundamental, yet Bush has distinguished himself with many acts of
sheker.

● During his first campaign, Bush belittled “nation building” – yet he now is nation building
in Afghanistan and Iraq to the tune of $250 Billion and climbing. Sheker.

● Bush promised a middle tax cut and delivered huge cuts to the wealthy, while the middle class now pays a larger share of the total budget, not less. Sheker.

● He promised to grow the economy by cutting taxes and regulations – yet his is the first
administration since Hoover to actually lose jobs; almost two million since he took office. Rather than help business, deregulation has been a disaster. Electricity prices were rigged in California, airlines are reeling, gas prices are soaring, and our electric grid is on the brink of collapse. High-paying jobs are outsourced, and jobs being created pay an average of $9,000.00 per year less. What small growth we’ve seen (144,000 new jobs in August) is
not enough to keep up with population growth. Sheker.

● Bush promised meaningful prescription benefits to seniors, and produced chaos. Drug
companies are canceling their discount plans, the “discount card” system is confusing and doesn’t work, and the plan that finally kicks in two years from now has a huge “donut” that results in huge consumer bills. Plus, seniors are barred by law from purchasing private insurance to close the gap – and Medicare is prohibited by law from negotiating lower prices from drug companies. On top of it all, the Bush administration lied about the cost of the bill, and forbade government analysts from revealing the true costs! Sheker.

● He promised to civilize discourse in Washington – yet he presides over the most polarized government in history, paralyzed by partisan bickering. And his current campaign is the most vicious ever, with the convention’s keynote speaker calling into question the very patriotism of all Democrats, and the vice president declaring that a Kerry victory will inevitably lead to more terrorist attacks. Chutzpah and sheker.

● Bush promised meaningful education reform - yet “No Child Left Behind” has created
confusion on the state and local level, with costly mandates that remain unfunded. All impartial
reports indicated millions of children are still being left behind. And Bush’s secretary of education is the same fellow who was superintendent of Houston’s schools during a famous “turn-around” based on falsified records, lies, and even intimidation and the demotion of educators who refused to go along. Sheker.

● He promised he would involve the UN in any possible war with Iraq, and build a true
coalition – yet he brushed aside UN pleas to wait for inspections to end with the serious support of Britain alone. Sheker.

● Bush rationalized the war by claiming Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” so dangerous he couldn’t wait for UN inspection teams to complete their work. After more than 1,000 dead Americans, 200 dead Brits, scores of murdered civilian coalition workers and uncounted thousands of dead Iraqis, there are no WMD. Sheker.

● He linked the war in Iraq to the war on terrorism, yet several Congressional investigations
and the 9/11 Commission report that there were no such links. Sheker.

● Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld belittled the Army chief of staff for claiming the
war would take more than 200,000 troops to capture and hold Iraq. They ignored State
Department warnings that the aftermath of war would be a problem. They made war hastily, with no real plan and on the cheap, without adequate troops to establish and maintain security. To make matters worse, they stood by during looting, and actually disbanded the Iraq army and police forces. As a result, Iraq today is a lawless hotbed of terrorism, with entire zones that aren’t under U.S. control. Incompetence, arrogance, malfeasance and sheker.

These are but a few examples of Bush duplicity and prevarication. It may still be rational
for a frumme yid to reluctantly choose Bush over Kerry, in spite of his record. But it seems to me that so much enthusiasm is unseemly, if not downright un-Jewish.

Michael R. Burr
Long Beach, NY

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-73/2004/10/13/

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