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December 5, 2016 / 5 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘davening’

It’s Not Just About The Internet… We’re Creating Apathetic Robots

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The Orthodox Jewish world continues to seesaw back and forth about the pros and cons of the Asifa on Technology at Citifield in New York.  Debates abound about on the best Internet filters, blocks and technological band-aids to which will surely repair the dangerous environmental influences of the outside world. Let’s ban or block the Internet and suddenly our children will be less distracted, our communities more heimish and our learning and davening more for the sake of Heaven instead of rote blabbering to get it over with.

In 1944, Rav Eliyahu Dessler said in Strive for Truth (v.3, p.143) “Human beings believe, in their arrogance, that if they continue developing the world on the basis of ever expanding technology they will eventually achieve an environment that will afford everyone unlimited gratification of the senses and a life of ease and pleasure. So long as people remain ‘takers,’ their efforts will inevitably be directed toward selfishness…”

With the advance of technology and the ease of availability, the temptation of distraction has become a daily struggle for Jews across the spectrum to remain upright, even in their own homes. But the Internet is only part of the problem. Go into almost any shul today and you’ll find congregants reading their emails on their cell phones and leaving davening to answer their phones, tallis over their heads and tefillin perfectly squared. Attend any d’var Torah, graduation ceremony, wedding or bar mitzvah and you’ll find people distracted with texting.

The real problem is chutzpah and selfishness, and parents are teaching it to their children by their own actions, and then wondering… what went wrong.

Rabbeinu Bachya asserts in Duties of the Heart: “Their evil inclination induces them to abandon the spiritual world wherein lies their salvation… it makes self-adornment more attractive to them… it impels them to gratify their desires for self-indulgence… until they are sunk in the depths of its seas.”

In the rush to satisfy our thirst for instant gratification, information and acceptance, we’ve created a Jewish society devoid of cohesiveness and spirituality, full of chutzpah and apathy. As Rav Dessler predicted 68 years ago, “They persist in thinking that soon, very soon, they will hit the right formula, and if not in this generation, then in the next, universal happiness will come. And so they bring up their children to study nothing and think of nothing but technological advancement…” (Strive for Truth, pg. 152).

It seems that children and adults 68 years ago were also steeped in the excesses of technology, although it was not as insidious as in our generation. Unfortunately, Jews today are becoming apathetic robots. In their quest to look frum, with their starched white shirts and impeccable Borsolino hats, and in keeping up with the Goldbergs, they have truly collapsed into a materialistic society, all “for the sake of Heaven.”

Consider the case of Yaakov, who goes to the store to buy a pair of expensive shoes on sale at a department store, known for its lenient return policy. There he meets his friend Shimon, who has just bought the same pair of shoes Yaakov wants. Shimon relates to Yaakov that he “purchased” the $300 pair of shoes for only $200 by switching the price tag while no one was looking, and that Yaakov can have them for $250, thereby saving him $50 while Shimon makes some money on the deal.

Shimon is proud of himself and Yaakov gets a bargain.

Where I come from, this is called stealing.

Or consider Reuven’s practice of going to an outlet store to buy fancy white shirts for Shabbos, in order to sit and learn in one of America’s finest yeshivos, where he wouldn’t dare stand out wearing a blue shirt. Lo and behold, Reuven ends up at the local Nordstrom return counter, telling the clerk the shirt is imperfect and he wants to exchange the shirt or get a refund.

Why would religious people, steeped in Torah learning, resort to lying and stealing?

The Orchos Tzaddikim in Sha’ar Hasheker says, “Alchemists turn copper into gold where even the experts cannot tell the difference. So it is with the mind of the charlatan. He rationalizes and justifies his lies until they appear even to him as truth.”

Allan J. Katz

Light In The Face Of Darkness

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

As I write these words I am still in my new adopted home. Originally I came to my wonderful friends’ warm apartment with the intention of staying just overnight and I did not even bother packing. My children kept pressuring me – “Ima, you have to go!”

My daughter who lives just a few blocks from me was going to move in with a friend who had a generator and she asked that I come with her. But I planned to wait Hurricane Sandy out. I was confident that while it would be a very intense storm it would not require evacuation. Just the same, all my children kept pressuring me. “Ima,” they pleaded, “you cannot stay in the house.”

My son who lives in a neighboring community was going to Brooklyn to my children there. Baruch Hashem, they all have large families, children and grandchildren. Their houses were full but they lovingly insisted I join them. I was debating in my mind what to do when my very kind talmidah – my Torah daughter – called and begged that I come to her. Not wanting to place added pressure to my children, I decided to accept her loving invitation.

When morning came it was not the dawn’s light that awakened me but the nightmarish news that my community and countless others were under attack by the merciless Frankenstorm that was leaving total devastation in its wake. I heard that ten feet of water flooded the lower level of my home but that was the least of my concerns. There was only one concern in my heart, and that was for my children who stayed behind and the countless other children and families there. I kept repeating to myself, “Ribbono shel Olam, Ribbono shel Olam.” Every few minutes I called my children, though usually I could not get through.

So it was with a trembling heart and tears flowing down my face that I davened and then davened some more. As the days passed and more and more painful and horrific stories emerged, my tears and my fears also increased.

Many of you know that every Thursday night I teach Torah at the Hineni Heritage Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was now Wednesday and the immediate dilemma facing me was whether we should close down or keep our doors open and the classes going.

It wasn’t a hard call. Of course we would have to stay open. If ever there was a time we had to gather together, it was now. It did not matter how many or how few would come. We had to raise our voices in prayer, with Tehillim and the study of Torah. No matter what is going on around us, davening and Torah study must continue. Those are our only weapons, our only salvation, our only hope for help.

I have had good training; I know from whence I speak. I learned in the best of universities that majored in cruelty – Hitler’s concentration camps. My daughter once said, “Ima, no matter what the topic, no matter what the situation, you always go back to those days of Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen.”

I had never been consciously aware of it, but as soon as she mentioned it I realized she was so right. Sadly, most of us who were there are no longer here to tell the story, and most of those who are here are elderly or infirm and can no longer speak out. So yes, I do go back and I do tell the story and I can never forget.

In that dire darkness, in that pit of hopelessness, my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, taught me to never to give up, never to forget that prayers can awaken the dawn and Torah can be brighter then the sun. Through Torah and prayers the sun can shine again and our worlds can be illuminated.

Our Sages teach us “ein doma – there is no comparison to that which you hear and that which you see.” My daughter, who was there with her family, saw the terror and devastation with her own eyes and experienced it with her own heart and mind. Next week I will share excerpts from her diary.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Talking to Myself

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Ever since I started this question-and-answer column, people have been coming over and asking me questions.

Baruch Hashem, right?

Unfortunately, most of these questions have been about my column. That’s helpful. I can’t just spend every single column writing about my column. But this time, in honor of my first anniversary writing for The Jewish Press, I decided to see how many of them I can get in to one article:

Where did you grow up? And where do you live now?

I haven’t actually grown up yet, but I spent most of my childhood in my parents’ backyard. They live in Monsey, which is nice, because there are actually nice backyards where you can do things like torture insects and dig holes to China.

These days I live in New Jersey, because I wanted the feel of living in a punch line. Particularly, I live in Passaic, which is closer to New York City than most of New York State is. Not that I work in the city. I work mostly in my house with my kids hanging off my arm, because these days you can’t just let your kids play in the backyard unsupervised. What if the Chinese invade through a hole in the ground?

What do you do for a living?

You mean besides write for the Jewish Press? Actually, newspapers don’t really pay enough to live on, unless you don’t have kids and you don’t really need to eat or live anywhere. The Jewish Press is more of a side hobby that pays just enough to keep me from leaving. Other side hobbies that I have that pay just enough to keep me from leaving include writing for Hamodia, Aish.com, The 5 Towns Jewish Times, The Lakewood Shopper, The Queens Jewish Link, The Brooklyn Weekly, and various other magazines, writing a comic strip for The 20s and 30s, putting out books, teaching Language Arts to a bunch of high school kids who don’t really want to learn Language Arts as much as they want to go to recess, and writing and sprucing up speeches, web copy, scripts, and various other things for people who need it. Oh, and stand-up comedy. At the end of the day, I don’t really have time for a job.

How did you get started in writing?

I think I got started in Pre-1A. (For non-New Yorkers, this is the year between kindergarten and first grade. We need the extra year over here, for social reasons.) The teacher sat us down and made us write an “A”, and then a “B”, and so on. And the rest was history. And math and science. And recess.

Also, I used to make up stories with my action figures back then. As I got older, the stories got more sophisticated, and the reason I was still playing with action figures got flimsier and flimsier. Luckily, I’m the oldest of a truckload of kids, so my official reason was “babysitting.”

But eventually, I started actually writing things down, and got into the lucrative field of being rejected by newspapers using self-addressed stamped envelopes that I paid for. And the rest is davening.

What types of readers do you hope to reach?

Anyone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. If the little things offend you, then this column is probably going to make your head explode.

Do you have any plans to write a book, or if you already have, to write another one?

At the moment, I have three books with Israel Book Shop Publications, and have a fourth coming out in May. My first book, Don’t Yell “Challah” in a Crowded Matzah Bakery! is about the stresses of putting together Pesach. My other two books, A Clever Title Goes Here and This Side Up, are mainly collections of articles that I’ve written — short spurts on random topics that are great for people who have Attention Deficit Dis-Let’s go ride our bikes.

This Side Up is also the first book ever to have been purposely printed upside down. That we know of.

Do you want to continue to integrate writing into your life in the future? How?

Like I said, it’s already pretty integrated. My entire life at this point, 24/6, is either writing, teaching people how to write, or thinking of things to write. Actually, if you include that third thing, it’s 24/7. I always get my funniest ideas on Friday nights, and then I have to try to remember them until after Shabbos. The worst is when I get them on the first night of a 3-day Yom Tov.

Mordechai Schmutter

The Ever-Amazing Reb Elimelech (Part XIV)

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

As has been noted in a previous column, Reb Elimelech – like the Baal Shem Tov before him – asserted that pessimism and depression cause sin and spiritual apathy. Repentance (yes, even repentance!) that causes depression and sadness distances the Holy Presence.

Joy is absolutely essential for Jewish life. And although Reb Elimelech was determined to infuse all Jews with a state of simcha, he was especially concerned over the plight of orphans, and devoted special energy to arrange marriages for them.

The Baal Shem Tov was thoroughly foreign to the concept of evil. Indeed, when a despairing father inquired, “What shall I do with my son? He is so wicked!” the Baal Shem Tov, who shunned reprimands, characteristically counseled, “Love him all the more!”

This was a lesson that Reb Elimelech incorporated and would find essential in dealing with the unschooled and non-observant masses. Like those that preceded him, Reb Elimelech viewed his mission to be the spiritual elevation of the people – whether or not they were affiliated with chassidus.

The chassidic masters (Reb Elimelech is the perfect example) never remained cloistered in their homes or in the synagogues. They went out to the people and implored them to repent. “One cannot arrive at the proper and complete service of the Lord,” instructed Reb Elimelech, “without a guide that will direct toward the path to faith.”

Reb Elimelech championed emunah temimah (pure belief) above everything in the service of God. Like his predecessors, he focused on the importance of emunas tzaddikim (trusting the righteous) and what the responsibilities of a rebbe are. Namely, to raise the spiritual level of the masses who are mired in the pits of poverty – both materially and spiritually. It is the job of the leader to never seclude himself from the world and to be located among his people, so that he can hear their troubles and ease their burdens.

Reb Elimelech explained that some people serve the Almighty and perform good deeds under the impression that they are doing the Lord a favor, and accordingly deserve a reward. A consequence of this perverted thinking is that people need not work on themselves because they are assumedly good, benevolent individuals.

To counteract this mindset Reb Elimelech encouraged that before performing a mitzvah one should recite: “ha’reini oseh zos l’shem yichud kudsha b’rich hu u’shechintei, la’asos nachas ruach l’borei olami – I am engaging in this deed for the sake of the Almighty, so that I may cause pleasure to my Maker.”

For the very same reason he felt that serving God must be anchored in deep, not superficial, Torah learning. This includes Gemara with Rashi, Tosafos and the meforshim, and Shulchan Aruch and the poskim. Learning in depth and with diligence frees one from egotistical thoughts and cleanses the soul.

He instructed, “One should arise and pray, ‘May it be Thy will that my learning will motivate me to act with proper character and Torah knowledge. Spare me from interruption – even the slightest little disruption.’ ”

Among Reb Elimelech’s rules were: A Jew should guard himself against hating any of his folk, except for the wicked for whom no excuse can be found. He should not engage in any conversation at all before prayer, as it is a hindrance to concentration during davening.

One should speak gently to all men and see to it that one’s clothes are always clean.

Reb Elimelech pointed out four customs of zehirus (caution) that have becomes pillars of chassidus:

I) From the moment people arise in the morning, they must quickly wash their hands and accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven. Their very first steps must be with sanctity and purity, and this will set the tone for the rest of the day.

II) “Chassidus,” as mentioned in the Gemara, means not walking four cubits with an uncovered head, and to live with the awareness of what the yarmulke symbolizes – namely that there is a Ruler above.

III) “Purity of the Home” mandates a staunch religious education for boys and girls so that tradition is never in jeopardy of being abandoned.

IV) One must learn Torah in order to observe and fulfill the commandments. Even those who are not enrolled in a yeshiva are obligated to learn on a steady basis, each and every day.

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

The Anonymous Eliezer: A Tribute to Zev Wolfson, Z”L

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

“And the servant said to him…” (Genesis 24:5).

The biblical portion of Chayei Sarah comprises two chapters in the Book of Genesis. The first (chapter 23) deals with the death and burial of Sarah and the second (chapter 24) deals with the selection of a suitable wife for Isaac.

The connection between these two themes is indubitably clear: with the loss of his beloved life’s partner, a bereft Abraham understood both the tremendous significance of the role played by Sarah in his life as well as the awesome responsibility that lay before him to find such a suitable mate for his heir to the covenant, Isaac.

For this formidable and momentous task he chooses Eliezer, “his trusted servant, the wise elder of his household, who controlled all that was his” (Genesis 24:2).

The choice of Eliezer was indeed an excellent one. Eliezer demonstrated great skill in understanding what was primarily required for the wife of Isaac.

He understood she must be a member of the Abrahamic family and not be dwelling among the accursed Canaanites. He further understood the young woman had to be willing to live with Isaac in Abraham’s domain rather than removing Isaac to the home of her family – in other words, Rebecca had to come under the influence of Abraham.

Most of all, he understood the young woman had to have the character of Abrahamic hospitality, to the extent that she would not only draw water from the well for him (the messenger) but also for his camels.

And of course he needed to arrange for the young woman to take the journey to Isaac and live her life in the land of Israel under the tent of Abraham.

All of this Eliezer executed with wisdom, tact and sensitive understanding. He arranged a shidduch that would determine the destiny of God’s covenantal nation. Indeed, the Bible itself bears testimony that Eliezer set out for his mission “with all the bounty [goodness] of his master in his hand” (Ibid 24:10).

Rashi takes this to mean that Abraham gave Eliezer an open check; he would pay any price for the right wife for Isaac. Rav Moshe Besdin gives the verse a very different thrust: all the bounty and goodness that had been accumulated by Abraham was now placed in the hands of his most trusted servant since the future of Abraham was dependant upon Isaac, his heir apparent, and the future of Isaac was dependent upon the wife he would marry.

Strangely, throughout this lengthy biblical tale the name Eliezer is not mentioned. He is referred to as “the servant” (eved) ten times and as “the personage” (ish) seven times – but never once by his name, Eliezer. Would one not think that such an important individual entrusted with such a significant mission was deserving of having his name in lights for everyone to see and remember?

I believe this is exactly the point of the biblical record. Eliezer the individual has been completely overwhelmed by the enormity of this task: he is the servantof Abraham, committed to performing the one act which will determine the continuity of the Abrahamic vision; in this sense it is similar to the biblical description “and Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab….” (Deuteronomy 34: 5). In fact, the Midrash even suggests that Eliezer had a daughter of marriageable age whom he had always expected would marry Isaac, giving him grandchildren who would inherit the Abrahamic dream and wealth.

Eliezer forgets any of his personal ambitions or goals; he is the consummate servant of Abraham, using all of his innate wisdom and ingenuity in order to carry out the will of his master Abraham.

To be sure, Eliezer in his own right was a magnificent personage of rare ability. In this fashion the Bible declares, “And this is the blessing that Moses the personage (ish) of God bestowed upon the children of Israel before his death” (Deut. 33:1). But Moses utilized all of his spiritual and intellectual prowess in the service of his Master, the Lord God of Universe. And just as Moses was an eved and ish at the same time, with his individual personality having been totally given over to God’s will, so was Eliezer an ish and eved at the same time.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

Contemplating the Divine Together

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

We live on the first floor of a Netanya apartment building, which means that our living room panorama window overlooking the street below is about 15 feet high.

Our girl cat, Lightening, sits in the window much of the day, basking in our Mediterranean sun. She wasn’t for the move to Israel initially, but by now she’s very happy, grooms regularly and even put on some weight.

When I come home from shul Shabbat morning, around 10:30-11:00, I walk up the paved path from the street and whistle at Lightening and she recognizes me. She stiffens up, shocked at the notion that someone who is usually inside the house is now, by some unexplained miracle of science, on the other side of things.

Then she calls back, arches her back and rushes to the door to greet me. When I open the door, she’s there, demanding a thorough back scratch (and tummy).

She’s a lot like a dog that way.

But while dogs worship their masters, I believe Lightening sees me as an equal, who is sometimes frustrating when he doesn’t get what she’s asking for.

And I believe that this picture, of a cat davening alongside his co-equal, proves my point.

Yori Yanover

New Home For Kollel

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Rav Yochanon Henig, mara d’asra of the Los Angeles Chassidishe Kollel, speaking at the Chanukas Habayis. Photo Credit: Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

The Kollel Yechiel Yehuda Menlo Family Building recently celebrated its move to its new beis medrash at 444 N. La Brea with a Chanukas Habayis.

The kollel is known to attract chassidim, misnagdim, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, ba’alei teshuvah, charedim and the Modern Orthodox. The kollel offers davening, learning with a chavrusah, and hearing a shiur from a visiting rebbe or rosh yeshiva, among other things.

The Chanukas Habayis program began with Minchah, followed by the kevias mezuzah. Rav Yochanon Henig, mara d’asra of the Los Angeles Chassidishe Kollel, thanked the kollel’s supporters and all the participants for attending – and for making the kollel a makom Torah. Singing and dancing followed.

Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/west-coast-happenings/new-home-for-kollel/2012/10/18/

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