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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘dancing’

The Blessing In The Candles

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

It was erev Simchas Torah and I had just lit my Yom Tov candles. I was rushing to go to hakafos (dancing with the Torah) at my local shul.

Suddenly, there was a loud knock. Opening the door, I found a young friend, his wife, and several children waiting to be invited in. As they entered, I realized that there was only one dim light in the house emanating from a small lamp in the kitchen. Conditions were certainly not optimum for company. Moreover, I did not want to be late for shul.

I mumbled embarrassedly that I was on the way out, and they understood and turned to leave. That is, all except their oldest daughter, an adorable 18-year-old tzadeikes. She stood still, staring pensively at the candles burning brightly in the dining room.

She and I stood together for a few moments, staring quietly at the flickering flames. Then, she turned to leave and softly said, “Your candles are so beautiful.”

As she descended the front steps, she met her friend on her way to shul. That shul was in the opposite direction of the shul her family was heading towards. The friend convinced her to join her.

At the friend’s shul, a young man noticed the young woman and inquired about her. He discovered that their families knew each other from the Yeshiva world.

This lovely couple announced their engagement on Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan!

The candles we light on Shabbos, Yom Tov and Chanukah shed a miraculous light into a world of chaos, confusion and darkness. The glow of these candles impacts every life.

I am looking forward to this wedding with special excitement because there is something miraculous about this couple’s meeting. If this young lady had left my house immediately with her family and had not stopped to gaze at the holy candles, she would not have met the friend who guided her to her chassan.

Of course Hashem orchestrated the meeting. May He always guide us and light our paths with success, happiness, good health, and parnassa, as we continue to light our candles of blessings.

A Spiritual Night In Hebron

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Israel is a magical country, but to experience one of its greatest wonders you have to travel out to what the world calls the West Bank and the Bible calls Judea and Samaria.
 
There, its crown jewel is the city of Hebron, first capital city of the Jewish people and where its patriarchs and matriarchs are buried.
 

   Many Jewish and Christian tourists to Israel skip Hebron, declaring it too dangerous, and indeed four Israelis, including a pregnant woman, were killed there just a few weeks ago with another two shot last week. But terrorists dare not determine whether my children and I make pilgrimages to Judaism’s holiest sites; besides, terrorists incidents have declined dramatically and the city, comparatively speaking, is safe.

The first thing you discover about the residents of Hebron, whom the world derisively describes as settlers – as if Jews living in their own ancient capital are newcomers – is their warmth, friendliness, and hospitality. I arrived with twenty guests and our host, a wise and dedicated communal activist named Yigal, prepared a feast fit for a king. We ate in his sukkah surrounded by a tranquility and quiet that I, in my busy life, rarely experience. The night air was cool and enervating.

All around us children were playing, utterly carefree, on pristine playgrounds. So many Jews in Hebron have been killed in terror attacks over the years. Yet the residents in general, and the children in particular, live unafraid. They are also liberated from hatred. When their friends die they mourn them, bury them, commemorate them, and get on with their lives.

For nearly a thousand years, the Islamic rulers of the Holy Land forbade Jews from entering the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, allowing them to climb only seven steps into the tomb but beating them mercilessly if they rose any higher. When Israel liberated it in 1967, Jewish pilgrims came to Hebron swearing never again to be separated from their origin. Even amid the worst terror attacks, property values in Hebron and Kiryat Arba never decline. There are no fluctuations in the commitment to pray by the graves of those who gave the world monotheism.

Yet these residents have been demonized by the entire world. They face daily character assassination in the media by those who would decry their simple desire to walk in the footsteps of Abraham. World leaders regularly engage in extreme defamation of families whose only wish it is to raise their children in the Judean hills of King David. President Obama rises at the United Nations and calls for a further moratorium on building in the settlements, as if it’s a crime for peaceful people to have children and add rooms to warm and hospitable homes that welcome innumerable guests.

Worse, my Israeli friends in Tel Aviv tell me they hate the “settlers” because their children are forced to “defend a bunch of fanatics who live surrounded by 100,000 Arabs.”

I quickly remind them that, first, the residents of Hebron themselves serve in elite combat units of the Israeli military; second, if a nation can’t hold fast to the tomb of its ancestors (and remember that the tomb in its present form was constructed by King Herod 2,000 years ago from the very same stone as the Kotel) then it scarcely deserves to call itself a people; third, I know many Jews, particularly in Britain, who wonder why they should have to defend and raise money for the six million Jews who have “settled” in Israel proper, surrounded as they are by half a billion Arabs; and, finally, if we give up Hebron, as we discovered with Gush Katif and Sderot, we bring hostile forces to bear directly on Jerusalem.

It is not the deeply spiritual residents of Hebron who threaten peace but the death-groupies of Hizbullah and Hamas, who seek to make all Israel Judenrein.

   Just a few yards from the spot where Shalhevet Pass, a ten-month-old Israeli infant, was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper while sitting in her stroller in March, 2001, I danced with my children to celebrate the festival of Sukkot.

The streets of Hebron were alive with joyous residents dancing to the music of a mystical band whose flowing locks and mesmerizing music set my soul alight. I was electrified to be dancing in a city that in 1929 saw the massacre of 67 Jews and the destruction of nearly all synagogues and Jewish buildings.

We American Jews live with so many infantile worries, like our fear of not being able to keep up with the Joneses or suffering a decline in our standard of living during this recession. But dancing in Hebron I felt liberated, free of fear, and deeply grateful to the residents who live without material extravagance and who taught me that even in a place of stress and danger one can find inner tranquility and peace.

 

 

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the bestselling author of 23 books (his latest is “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life”) and founder of This World: The Values Network.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 10/02/09

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Dear Rachel,

My story is different than most (since I am not writing to complain about something or someone), but the moral may be worth sharing with your readers nonetheless.

I live in a bustling, large yet tight-knit chassidic community where, Baruch Hashem, multiple smachos are celebrated on just about every night of the week.

Needless to say, it would be impossible to attend each one that I am invited to, so my longstanding habit has been to just stop by to convey my mazel tov to the ba’alei simcha, and if my timing is right, to kick up my heels for a dance or two. I suspect that this works well not only for me but for the hosts as well, since the cost of feeding many guests at a simcha can be exorbitant.

Of course when it is a close family member, I am prepared to stay the duration.

Well, the other day I dropped in at the wedding of a friend’s daughter. This wedding was particularly moving since this friend has been widowed for several years now and has single-handedly been raising her several children.

As I looked around me, I saw the kallah’s siblings – younger sisters – all prettied up for the occasion, but with faces that betrayed an inner sadness. After dancing with the kallah, I took turns partnering with each young girl, twirling them around the dance floor in beat to the lively music.

Just before I was ready to leave, a long-time acquaintance approached me and paid me the ultimate tribute. She had been watching me and was impressed with the way I danced. It wasn’t so much my dancing expertise or style that she was taken with, she explained, but the feeling of genuineness – even as my feet were flying in tune to the accompanying musical rhythm, she recognized that it was my heart that was soaring.

Naturally I came away from that affair with a good feeling, which was nothing compared to the emotions that washed through me when I passed the somewhat reserved 11-year old sister of the kallah on the street later that week. She stopped to thank me for “uplifting” her at her sister’s wedding – literally and figuratively. She sweetly expressed her gratitude for my personal attention and participation.

I felt a need to contact the woman who had praised me at that simcha, to share with her this special encounter and the unexpected demonstration of appreciation that had so deeply touched me.

“If I may I ask you something personal ” remarked this woman (aged 30-something). “Were you always into dancing, even as a child ?”

Her question threw me… I realized that dancing was not only never one of my strong points, but that I had always been quite clumsy on my feet, as were my siblings who had always kibitzed about us all having “left feet.”

To this revelation the woman commented, “Well, it would seem then that your wonderful dancing ability is a gift from Hashem Who has perceived your true intentions by seeing straight through to your heart ”

Believe it or not, Rachel, I do not write this to pat myself on the back, but rather to express my amazement at this young woman’s way of thinking. In this day of materialism and competitiveness, when most of what is written concerns our worries over where this generation is headed, I think it is important to be aware that there are clear-headed, serious-minded individuals in our midst who are not only grounded but are constantly aware that there is a G-d watching us and guiding us.

Thank you for stressing this very point time and time again in your column and for letting us, your devoted readers, have our say.

It’s the heart of it that counts

Dear Heart,

Thank you for uplifting us with a truly heartwarming story and its multiple messages.

Kudos to you! It is indeed a mitzvah to be m’sameach chassan v’kallah and you not only seem to know it, but are doing a marvelous job in performing it. Yours is furthermore a lesson in how much one individual can accomplish all by herself, time and time again. How many of us are truly mindful of the mitzvos that are right there in front of us for the taking?

Your friend’s observation is profound, though the premise is certainly not new. We are taught, “B’derech she’adam rotzeh leileich molichin oso ” – the way a person wants to go is the way Hashem will lead him.

Shlomo HaMelech, in Koheles, writes that there is a time for everything, including “a time of dancing” (eis rikud). Why didn’t he state “l’rikud” – a time to dance, like where it says “a time to love and a time to hate, etc.?”

The Imrei Emes explains that when it comes to being mesameach chassan v’kallah, there is no deliberate forethought to dance – rather, as the heart is overcome with feelings of joy, the feet lift themselves off the floor of their own accord, and that is what is meant by “a time of dancing.”

May the merits of our ma’asim tovim (good deeds) speak volumes on our behalf and drown out our shortcomings as we beseech our Father above to take pity on His children and grant us a year filled with simcha and the health and wherewithal to delight in His beneficence.

Wishing all our readers and Klal Yisroel a sweet, mitzvah-filled and inspiring Sukkos!

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

Title: Living from Convention to Convention: A History of NCSY, 1954-1980

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Title: Living from Convention to Convention: A History of NCSY, 1954-1980


Author: Zev Eleff


Publisher: Ktav Publishing Inc.


 


 


   Living from Convention to Convention: A History of NCSY, 1954-1980 by Zev Eleff charts the history of NCSY since its inception. These formative years allowed the national youth organization of the Orthodox Union to become what many say is now the largest force in bringing Jewish teens closer to their heritage and religion.

 

   Eleff wrote the magnum opus as an undergrad student at Yeshiva University. Eleff’s hard work is a thorough and detailed examination of the challenges facing NCSY in its early days and the politics that were present behind the scenes, a given in almost any national Jewish organization.

 

   One of those initial disputes was over the nature of certain activities NCSY sponsored for the young and unaffiliated Jews it hoped to bring closer to Orthodox Judaism. While NCSY was founded with the intent to follow halachic standards, it also needed to attract secular teens to its events. And yet, despite its refusal to cave to protesters and sponsor activities such as mixed dancing beginning in 1961, after Rabbi Pinchas Stolper assumed NCSY’s top position, NCSY was successful in attracting teens who may have otherwise balked at participating in social activities such as “separate workshops in ‘singing and Israeli dancing’ for boys and girls,” part of the program agenda for the 1960 NCSY National Convention.

 

   Eleff attributes this to NCSY’s “serious effort to give NCSYers a feeling of ownership of the youth ownerships,” owing to the movement’s malleable nature when it was first starting out. “Teenagers began to flock to NCSY because they considered themselves partners in its inception and development,” he writes.

 

   Another difficulty the young movement saw was in maintaining close ties with right-wing rabbinical figures, which Rabbi Stolper felt was crucial to NCSY’s survival and continued success. Eleff suggests that this was due to the fact that in previous decades, Modern Orthodox Jews were more lax in their religious observance. Thus, “Modern Orthodox rabbis of the 1970′s tended to validate their outlooks outside a halachic framework.”

 

   Because Rabbi Stolper hope to attract more right-wing youth to NCSY, the many endorsements of those Modern Orthodox rabbis would not go a long way towards convincing more right-wing teens to attend. However, as more right-wing rabbis had trouble giving approval to a movement that sponsored co-ed activities – even if they did not involved mixed swimming or dancing – appealing to more yeshivish students proved difficult.

 

   A further blow came when the Lubavitcher Rebbe, one of the most seminal figures in Orthodox outreach, criticized both Yavneh and NCSY as groups that fell outside the realm of acceptable Orthodox outreach organizations. Due to a misunderstanding, the Rebbe was led to believe that NCSY may have made dispensations for its followers at the cost of strict adherence to Torah law, which he found wholly unacceptable.

 

   “In the end,” writes Eleff, “the episode’s residual effects were minimal [but] the incident speaks to the caution exercised by the already well-established NCSY to mollify right-wing Orthodox leaders to whom NCSY administrators felt obligated to justify the ideals of the youth movement.”

 

   Eleff touches upon a significant change that faced NCSY beginning in the late 1970′s, when the majority of teens attending NCSY events and involved in its programming came from single-sex and co-ed yeshivas and day schools. Eleff accredits this to two things: to NCSY’s belief in “demographic studies [in the 1980's] that suggested Orthodoxy was losing thousands of neglected young people reared in observant homes, and “the disappearance of Jews from the small towns that had once been the hallmark of the youth movement.”

 

   Many small-town families that had once been the stronghold of NCSY were now moving to more mainstream Jewish communities or becoming more assimilated into the general population. It was at this time, writes Eleff, that NCSY established intensive study programs and kollel programs in Israel, recognizing that the typical NCSYer was now most likely to be from an Orthodox background.

 

   The aforementioned episodes only highlight the numerous anecdotes and historical reminiscences that are so abundant throughout this crowning achievement. Eleff is to be commended for the painstaking research he conducted to compile this definitive history. The serious historian and the casual reader alike will both benefit from his devotion to producing a comprehensive history accurate in its minutest details. This slim volume contains a wealth of details.

 

   Perhaps the greatest value of this book is that it illustrates a number of important halachic and hashkafic principles regarding how one does effective kiruv on the individual and mass scale without sacrificing one’s integrity, personal or institutional. In that sense, this book reads like a primer of kiruv, one that kiruv practitioners today would be well advised to read and follow.

 

   The times, conditions, and challenges facing outreach workers in the 21st century might have changed in certain details – iPods, Internet, cell phones, etc. – but the principles for connecting effectively and communicating eloquently the beauty of Torah remain remarkably constant, and the heroic men and women who presided over the birth of NCSY have much to say to our modern kiruv workers. And given the realities of the Jewish world and our responsibility for our fellow Jews, aren’t we all outreach workers?

 

   Rabbi Burg writes an afterword, praising Eleff’s work in tackling “the seemingly insurmountable task of documenting NCSY’s formative early years.” Rabbi Burg described the ways NCSY has changed in more recent times, as teens themselves have changed since earlier decades of NCSY. “… as of the close of the era covered by this volume, NCSY’s story has just begun. I look forward to the eventual, inevitable sequel, detailing how NCSY continues to carry the torch into the new millennium and beyond.”

 

   The book is available in major Judaica stores and through the OU’s online store, www.shopou.org.

Photojournalist’s Testimony: Photographs By Jerry Dantzic

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Trailblazing in the Rebbe’s Footsteps


Chassidic Art Institute


375 Kingston Avenue


Brooklyn, New York 11213 


718-774-9149


Noon-7 p.m., Sunday-Thursday 


Zev Markowitz, Director


 


Lag B’Omer is a communal sigh of relief. Historically the plague that consumed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students in the second century did not include the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. The Talmud relates that this terrible scourge was caused because “they did not act respectfully toward each other.” Therefore one aspect of the holiday of Passover (when the counting begins) celebrates the healing theme of ahavas Yisrael, the imperative to love and respect our fellow Jews.

 

Another reason to express joy on Lag B’Omer is the commemoration of the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, one of the most illustrious of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples and a fierce defender of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Following his instructions to his students, it is celebrated with outings, parades, bonfires and communal celebrations − especially at his grave in Meron in northern Israel.

 

Known as the author of the Zohar, his influence continues to this day in the practice of Kabbalah and many Chassidic customs. Not the least of which is the annual Lubavitch Lag B’Omer parade, in which Shimon bar Yochai’s lifelong crown of Torah study is proudly celebrated on the streets of Crown Heights. As a 1973 poster proclaims: “American Jewry! Join 50,000 Boys and Girls Saluting Judaism!” On that Sunday, May 20, 1973, the photojournalist Jerry Dantzic captured much of the spirit and happiness of that Lag B’Omer, seen in a stunning series of photographs at the Chassidic Art Institute until September 2.

 

Jerry Dantzic (previously reviewed here in April 2003) was a lifelong photojournalist, whose long career documented the arts, music and the vast diversity of New York life.  He freelanced for the New York Times and Life and Look magazines, among other major publications. He also taught photography at Long Island University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

 

In 1971 he rediscovered the Cirkut camera that could take panoramic 360-degree pictures. His tour of all 50 states exploring the creative possibilities of this unique camera resulted in two Guggenheim Fellowships, an NEA Fellowship and, finally, a Museum of Modern Art exhibition in 1978.

 

The black and white prints shown here (all about 17 x 25 inches) are a curious mix of old and new technology. They were shot using Dantzic’s dependable Leica camera with Kodak Tri-X film. He took about 200 shots of the Lag B’Omer parade in May 1973, but didn’t print any of them because the funding sought for “The White Ethnic Project” that they were to be part of was never granted from the Guggenheim Foundation.

 

 



Grand Lag B’Omer Parade; Black and white photograph by Jerry Dantzic. Courtesy: Chassidic Art Institute


 


 

In preparation for this current show Dantzic’s son and archivist Grayson Dantzic, along with curator Zev Markowitz, chose the images for this exhibition and had them printed using the latest digital technology by Gamma One Conversions. They are brilliant, crisp prints, preserving all the qualities of the original black and white glossy technique.

 

The first half of the show consists mainly of photos of a Grand Farbrengen, celebrating the 46th anniversary of the 12 Tammuz release of the sixth Rebbe from Soviet prison and reversal of his death sentence for “counterrevolutionary activities” that included organizing an underground education network that helped Judaism survive the Communist suppression of religion. Seated prominently on the dais is Israel’s President Zalman Shazar, seen toasting Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson at the 1973 event.  All of these images were previously shown in the 2003 exhibition.

 

The Lag B’Omer photos begin appropriately with Eli Lipsker and his Drum Corp, a spirited 25-member marching band, setting the celebratory tone of the day’s festivities. Lipsker is seen proudly leading his band across an Eastern Parkway filled as far as the eye can see with men, women and children – and dozens and dozens of signs proclaiming a cacophony of messages: “Put on Tefillin,” “We’re From Boro Park,” and “Enjoy Torah, It’s the Real Thing.” In a more stationary mode, the six-man Neginah Orchestrais playing their tunes to an equally enthusiastic crowd.

 

The three images of the Rabbinical Grandstand move from conventional piety to an unexpected pictorial insight. The first image (actually number 3) captures at least 14 elders, almost all with long white beards and many bespectacled, appreciating the proceedings.

 

 


Rabbinical Grandstand #1; Black and white photograph by Jerry Dantzic. Courtesy: Chassidic Art Institute

 

 

The next image from a slightly different angle sees the same men a few moments earlier, but now includes a back row of “ordinary” Jews. One man in the upper left is quizzically looking up at the sky, as if to seek a Heavenly sign of approval of the celebration. 

 

And finally, the last image in this series (number 1) pulls back from the Rabbinical Grandstand to reveal the wooden bleacher on which the sages are seated. Behind them in clear focus is the corner of Kingston Avenue and Eastern Parkway, with the building at 770 Eastern Parkway overseeing the entire scene. The first two rows of the bleacher are empty, creating the illusion and perfect metaphor of Rabbinic elevation and perhaps even levitation.

 

The notion of an event that somehow transcends the mundane world is further explored in another image of the Kingston Avenue/Eastern Parkway corner. The fire escape of the four-story building at 788 Eastern Parkway is packed with young men overlooking the parade. On the second floor a banner proclaims, “The Torah Times: its what’s happening!!” under a six-foot size “pocket watch.” On the floor above, another banner simply proclaims, “Keep Shabbos!” And finally, the top-floor fire escape supports four or five Chassidim appreciating what they think is the best viewpoint. 

 

But the image continues to give more and more precious information the longer the viewer lingers. The fire escape crowd is exclusively men, while the packed crowd on the street below is discreetly mixed with men and women. Everybody is straining for a view of the parade, perhaps none more precariously than the eight men we suddenly notice all the way at the top of the image on the edge of the roof above.

 

Finally, just when we think the image has taught us everything we might want to know about this happy moment in time, we see the two women in the window at the extreme right edge of the print. Their presence peering out of the open window, almost secretively in the otherwise all male building, reanimates the scene with a diversity and excitement that make us want to continue scouring the photograph for more secrets and insights.

 

The combination of an intense crowd scene, the layered placement of 40 figures dressed remarkably alike and integrated with the architecture of an ornate building façade begins to express the complexity and transformative nature of this religious celebration.

 

The heart of this Lag B’Omer celebration may be found in what is the oddest, and yet most exciting, image in the entire exhibition: Dancing Rabbis. The location is suddenly strange and unfamiliar, an open field and bleachers with distant institutional buildings in the background. A line of six couples − all male − are seen dancing across the field with the clumsiest elegance imaginable.

 

 


Dancing Rabbis; Black and white photograph by Jerry Dantzic. Courtesy: Chassidic Art Institute 

 

 

The Lubavitch men are filled with the incredible spirit of the day’s joyousness without the necessary dancing experience – and yetdance they must! One seems to be telling the other, “Just prance and jump, that’s all there is to it!” while another drags his partner in happy excess. The innocence of man dancing with man as couples, not in an anonymous line dance, pushes the image into a transcendence of the moment that perfectly captures the ineffable spirit of Lag B’Omer, a day of release from sorrow; a day of immersion in the holy Torah, and love and joy of our fellow Jews.

 

It is said that photojournalism does not aspire to the refined status of art photography. Its job is relatively simple; just describe in pictures what happened and bring back the story for the uninitiated. We can see from this exhibition that Jerry Dantzic was a first-rate photojournalist who clearly went beyond simple reporting, as his work becomes a testimonial to the Jewish community – its joys and beliefs.

 

At this Lag B’Omer parade, he turned his lens not on floats, banners and spectacle. Rather it was the crowd that mattered to him, since he instinctively knew that the audience − the people who faithfully traveled and participated by their very presence − was the real subject of this celebration. As a proud Jew, he knew it was the Jewish people that ultimately mattered. So too, the banner quoting the 133rd psalm at the top of 788 Eastern Parkway proudly says that where Jews are this united, “For there Hashem has commanded the blessing, May there be eternal life!”

 

Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com.

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Friday, October 1st, 2004

(Names and situations have been changed)

How we see ourselves and what we think we are capable of doing are very powerful forces. If we feel we can accomplish something, we are motivated to pursue it. Motivation can move mountains. Motivation has been known to reverse negative medical predictions and enable people to do what was thought impossible.

How a person perceives his abilities and disabilities strongly influences how a person acts, what he participates in, and what he accomplishes. How a person thinks he is seen as opposed to how we actually see him can make all the difference in what he strives for. His perception of himself has a strong influence on his future.

Simon was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Before this diagnosis, he swam, cycled in a seniors’ cycling group and loved to hike. He had noticed that he had slowed down, began to gravitate to the back of the hikers’ group, and often found that he could no longer keep up at the front of the cyclists. Still, he saw himself as capable of participating. He felt part of the group, and this was part of his identity before the diagnosis.

One day, a member of the hiking group who had not been there for months returned. When he saw Simon and noticed his deterioration he yelled, “What happened to you? Did you have a stroke while I was gone?” Simon was not only embarrassed, but suddenly realized that people
were seeing him in a very different light than he thought they were. That day, he went home and asked his wife if he looked as if he had a stroke? Was he as disabled as the fellow had indicated?

At that moment, Simon saw himself differently. He saw himself as a sick man who could no longer enjoy the activities he had enjoyed until the moment of the comment. He stopped participating in these groups. With his withdrawal came a loss of social interaction and physical participation. He decided that the disease would not let him be the man he had been before. At that moment, Simon lost his motivation to do anything and decided he was just a sick man. At that moment the disease won.

Louis liked to dance. He may not have been the best dancer, but he could certainly hold his own on the dance floor at weddings. He too had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. While adjusting to the diagnosis, he decided not to share the bad news with anyone just yet. At a recent wedding, while he thought he was dancing up a storm, a friend yelled across the room, “Hey Louis, can’t you dance anymore? Pick up the pace man!”

At that moment, Louis stopped dancing, walked off the dance floor, began questioning his abilities, and started taking stock of his losses. At that moment, Louis began to see himself differently. He now saw himself as a person who can’t as opposed to a person who can. At that moment, the disease won and Louis’ life changed forever.

Marvin’s chronic illness had taken him on a sudden downhill spiral. He had been confined to bed for months, and as a result his muscles had weakened from inactivity. Because of the long hospital stay and the nature of the illness, Marvin received notice that his driver’s license was revoked pending passing a driving test.

The doctor’s told Marvin’s wife that the chances of his regaining his muscle strength was highly unlikely. Marvin’s wife asked the doctors not to share this news with Marvin. She felt that he was very suggestible and that the information would devastate him and force him to lose his motivation to get better. She constantly agreed with Marvin about his recovery, encouraging him to exercise and do whatever he could for himself. Today, Marvin is driving once again.

Bella was told she should get her affairs in order as she had little time left on this earth. When pressed by Bella, the doctors told her she had three months to live. Bella died exactly three months later.

Morris was told he had three months to live. Marvin had a fighting personality. He told the doctors they were fools and that he had no intention of passing away in three months. Ten years later, Morris is still alive, and the doctors don’t understand it.

Your perception of yourself defines the boundaries you live with. How you see yourself is influenced by many factors. Not the least of these factors is how others perceive you and the message they give you about yourself. More importantly, though, is what we choose to tell ourselves, what we choose to believe about ourselves, and what we challenge. Motivation and a realistic belief in ourselves and our abilities have been known to move mountains. Letting someone outside yourself define your limitations moves nothing, least of all yourself.

Q & A: Getting Married During Sefira (Conclusion)

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004
QUESTION: My friends are getting married on Rosh Chodesh Sivan. I tried to convince them to do otherwise, as many people have a minhag (custom) not to attend weddings until three days before Shavuot. They told me they spoke to rabbis who allowed it. Is this right? May I attend?
Name Withheld by Request
ANSWER: Last week we began our discussion with the clear answer that yes, you may attend the wedding. The source for observing mourning customs during the Sefira period is the Gemara (Yevamot 62b), which explains that 12,000 pairs of R. Akiba’s students died between Passover and Shavuot. The Geonim based their restrictions on showing excessive joy – such as getting married, cutting hair and listening to music – on that Gemara. The mourning customs do not include engagements and betrothals, which are permitted during that time.We also explained that the mourning customs are observed only during 33 of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot since the deaths occurred for 33 days, until Peros Ha’atzeret, calculated as 16 days before Shavuot (see Tashbatz Vol. 1, Responsum 178). Lag BaOmer, lit. the thirty-third day of the Omer, marks the end of the deaths and the mourning customs.

According to some, the 33 days of mourning customs are observed from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until Shavuot.

* * *

From the statement of the Mechaber that it is wrong to have one’s hair cut on Rosh Chodesh Iyar, many have drawn the conclusion that according to either minhag, Rosh Chodesh is included in the mourning period. However, the Aruch HaShulchan (ad loc.) clarifies that this only applies to those following the first minhag, observing aveilut (mourning) from the second day of Pesach until Lag BaOmer.

There are other minhagim, and the Rema in his Darchei Moshe commentary on the Tur (ad loc.) notes that it is wrong to say that any of the customs is incorrect. Rather, we should not follow two leniencies at the same time.

The Magen Avraham (ad loc.) rules that we observe the mourning during the entire period because, in his opinion, R. Akiva’s students died during the entire period, but we subtract the days on which we don’t say Tachanun, which are: the six days of Pesach, starting from the second day of Pesach, when Sefira commences; the two days of Rosh Chodesh Iyar; one day of Rosh Chodesh Sivan; and the seven Sabbaths of those weeks, which add up to 16 days; on Lag BaOmer we are lenient due the significance of that day.

We also find the view in Shulchan Aruch HaRav (ad loc.) that one who has not yet accomplished the mitzva of Pru U’revu, or one who cannot manage living alone, may marry even in the midst of his aveilut for his father or mother, for whom it is rabbinically incumbent upon him to mourn. Here, where it is only a minhag, he may marry where the need arises. Nevertheless, “we are more stringent in this regard in our lands.”

We find a similar conclusion in Responsa Beit Yisrael (R. Yisrael Zev Horowitz, zt”l, Av Beit Din in Ujhely, Hungary, and later in Tiberias, Israel) that it is a kal vachomer, an inference from minor to major, to permit marriages where there is a clear need to marry during those days.

R. Yitzhak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Vol. 8, Minhagei Yemei HaSefira 34) permits a marriage during Sefira where the need is great. He emphasizes that performing such a marriage on Rosh Chodesh Iyar is preferred. He then adds (contrary to the minhag of the Beit Yosef) that the groom may also cut his hair for the wedding.

Regarding the statements of the Tur and the Mechaber that if one “went ahead and married, we do not mete out any punishment,” the Mishna Berura explains that this only applies to marriage, for he has fulfilled a mitzva, but if one had his hair cut, there was a custom to levy a fine as punishment.

This issue is addressed in the wonderful encyclopedic Bein Pesach LeShavuot by R. Zvi Cohen, shlita (8:8). There we find a discussion based on Tur Bareket (siman 493) regarding the custom of forbidding the cutting of hair, which was instituted earlier than the custom of forbidding marriages [in this period of time], the latter coming “on the heels of” the former. The fact that we are accustomed not to marry between Pesach and Shavuot until Lag BaOmer is a new custom. It was instituted because there was no hair-cutting on those days. It was thought that the reason was the mourning for the deaths of twenty-four thousand students of R. Akiba. However, “according to those with understanding of Kabbalah, whose every action depends on sound motives, the main reason is that we do not cut our hair on those days because of a specific hidden reason, not because of mourning.”

R. Cohen notes that Tur Bareket is cited by Birkei Yosef (493:10) and points out that there are obviously others who dispute this view.

We find another view in Responsa Chatam Sofer (Orach Chayyim, Responsum 142). The Chatam Sofer cites the Gaon R. Meshulam, who states: “Here the custom has evolved to marry on Rosh Chodesh Iyar [obviously both days], on Lag BaOmer, and on the three days of Hagbala [the three days preceding Shavuot]. And this should not be done because it appears as ‘tartei de’satrei,’ two contradicting positions. Therefore, as a set rule we will prohibit weddings on the three days of Hagbala.”

The Chatam Sofer notes that the only problem R. Meshulam had was not to create ‘tartei de’satrei,’ and that applies only to the mesadder kiddushin, the officiating rabbi who performs weddings on all these days. The individual is not wed on all these days – he gets married only once.

He also notes that the stringency of haircutting seems to be more severe than that of marriages. Nevertheless, any difficulties in behaving one way or the other stem from the fact that in the same city we do not subscribe to customs that are diametrically opposed one to the other.

The Gaon R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggrot Moshe, Volume I, Orach Chayyim 159) states clearly, as he does in other responsa, that here – in “New York” and in “Brooklyn” – where people have come from places with different customs, each may do according to his custom, as these places would be considered as one city with two batei din. In such a case there is no violation of “lo titgodedu.”

We find (Iggrot Moshe, Volume II, Orach Chayyim 94) that he was asked the following question: “What should a person do whose custom is not to have his hair cut from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until the [three] days of Hagbala and he has to go to a wedding on Rosh Chodesh Sivan?”

R. Feinstein sets forth that if one knows of this situation at the onset of Sefira, he could change his minhag, for whether he follows one minhag or the other, there would be 33 days on which he does not cut his hair.

However, if one had no knowledge of the impending wedding, what should he do? From R. Feinstein’s discussion we see that the main issue during Sefira is tisporet (haircuts), not weddings. He states that if one is able to attend a wedding without having his hair cut, he should refrain from cutting his hair. If refraining from cutting his hair will cause him embarrassment, he would be permitted to cut his hair even if he does not have a close relationship with the hosts, as there is a mitzva of simchat chatan vekallah at every wedding.

This is unlike a circumcision, where we only allow the father of the child, the mohel, and the sandak to have their hair cut. For a wedding, all are duty-bound to celebrate, which includes attending the wedding and personally making the new couple happy.

As for dancing and music, they too are not prohibited as they are part and parcel of the wedding celebration. If one makes the wedding on Lag BaOmer or erev Rosh Chodesh Iyar, dancing and musical instruments are also permitted during the seven days of Sheva Berachot that follow.

R. Feinstein then concludes that everyone is permitted to be present and partake in the joy.

Thus, to answer your question, there would be no doubt that a wedding is permitted on Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Whether you have your hair cut or not would depend on R. Feinstein’s guidelines.

It is important to understand that Jewish weddings are dependent upon the bride securing a date and the availability of a hall, and that leaves a very narrow time period during any given month. Therefore, we must be very considerate of the couple’s needs.

In conclusion, send back your response card indicating that you will attend, and perhaps we will soon participate in an even greater joy – dancing in the streets of Jerusalem as we celebrate the arrival of Melech Hamashiach speedily, in our days.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-getting-married-during-sefira-conclusion/2004/06/02/

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