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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘davening’

In The King’s Presence

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

We all know that there are some synagogues that, unfortunately, only reach full capacity several days a year. There is something about these days that arouses even many unaffiliated Jews to attend High Holiday Services. In fact, each one of us also feels the holiness, and it helps us to be on our best behavior. We make sure to come on time to davening and we daven slower than usual. We are extra careful in our observance of halacha and how we treat the members of our family. Indeed, in Shulchan Aruch (OC Siman 603) we find that during the ten days of repentance, even those who usually eat “Pas Palter” (i.e. bread from a non-Jewish bakery that is kosher), should now be stringent and refrain from doing so. However, a thought may sneak into our minds – is this all just a game? Who am I kidding? Hashem knows exactly how I have been acting until now, so why should I put on a show?

But in truth, this approach is our salvation, as the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (16b) states. “Rav Yitzchok said, a person is judged according to his actions at that moment. As it says concerning Yishmael, ‘ki-shama Elokim el-kol hana’ar ba’asher hu-sham – because Hashem has heard the boy’s voice, there, where he is’.” Rashi cites the Midrash Rabba that before Hashem caused a well to miraculously appear in order to save Yishmael from dying of thirst and fever, the angels in heaven protested. “How can You perform a miracle to save the one who’s descendants will cause Your children to die of thirst?!” To which Hashem answered, “since at this moment he is a tzaddik; I will not look at anything else.” On Rosh Hashanah, Hashem also judges us based on how we are at that time. Our past is not examined, nor our future. However, all this is quite perplexing. We all know that in a normal judgment the judge takes every fact into consideration. Why on the great Day of Judgment does Hashem ignore everything besides the present moment?

The Costume Or The “Real McCoy?”

Let us explain with the following parable. There was once a successful Jewish businessman named Getzel who had many dealings with non-Jews. On Shabbos he would don his streimel and bekeshe and walk down the street. “Hey Getzel,” one of his business associates called out to him. “What is that rabbit doing on your head? I thought you were from our day and age – not one of those Jews from the shtetel!” Greatly humiliated, Getzel lowered his head and ran home. This continued week after week until he decided to stop wearing his special Shabbos clothing. When he went to his Rebbe, though, he was too embarrassed to show that out of shame he had forsaken the ways of his forefathers. He would take out his streimel, dust it off and once again look like all the other Chasidim. One year he decided that this game had gone on long enough and he will show the Rebbe who he really is. When he came to the Rebbe for a brocha, wearing his weekday clothing, the Rebbe exclaimed, “Getzel, what happened to your Shabbos garb?” “Rebbe,” answered Getzel, “I’ll tell you the truth, this is how I always dress on Shabbos. I decided that it is time to act honestly and show you who the real ‘me’ is.” “Getzel, Getzel,” chided the Rebbe, “do you really think I didn’t know how you dressed every Shabbos? But until now I thought that Getzel in a streimel is the real Getzel and all year long you were dressed up. Now you tell me that the opposite is true!?”

This is what the above Gemara is teaching us. Even though we may have distanced ourselves from Hashem all year long, and not acted as befitting sons of the King, there is hope. If on this day we raise ourselves to where we are supposed to be, we will have shown that until now it was just a costume, and now the real “Me” is showing. Hashem will therefore judge us favorably, as we now deserve special treatment. True, we still need atonement for our past sins, but we will deal with them during the Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur.

Mentioning Rosh Hashanah In Davening

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The Mishnah in Rosh Hashanah 32a lists the Yom Tov’s berachos and the order in which we must daven on Rosh Hashanah. The Mishnah says in the name of Rabbi Akiva that we begin with the berachah of avos. We then recite, in this order: gevuros (atah gibor); kedushas Hashem; kedushas hayom (we incorporate malchuyos in that berachah); zichronos; and shofros. This is followed by avodah hoda’ah and birchas kohanim (sim shalom). The Gemara there brings a beraisa that cites a source in the Torah for reciting each one of these berachos.

The Achronim discuss two basic questions on this Gemara: First, why does the beraisa need to bring a special pasuk to tell us that we must recite a berachah on the kedushas hayom of Rosh Hashanah? The Gemara in Sukkah 46a derives from the pasuk, “Baruch Hashem, yom yom,” that we must always mention in our davening and bentching the kedushah of that day. Why then would Rosh Hashanah differ from every Shabbos, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh when we always mention the kedushas hayom?

Second, why does the beraisa that is discussing the source for reciting the berachos of the Rosh Hashanah amidah need to bring pasukim that are the source for reciting the first three and last three berachos of the amidah? We only change the middle berachos of the amidah, while the first three and the last three are always recited and never change. Why then did the Mishnah have to mention that we recite those berachos, and why did the beraisa deem it necessary to cite a pasuk as the source for it?

The Pnei Yehoshua, in Rosh Hashanah, suggests that the Gemara in Berachos says that one is forbidden to add praise of Hashem to his davening; rather we can only recite the praises that Chazal, based on pasukim, instituted. Since the Torah commanded us to recite malchiyos zichronos and shofros on Rosh Hashanah, one may have thought that we should omit the general praise that we recite in the amidah and only recite the praises of malchiyos zichronos and shofros. Therefore the Mishnah and the beraisa felt that it was necessary to teach us that we do indeed recite the first three berachos of the amidah – even on Rosh Hashanah.

The Aruch LaNer points out that the Pnei Yehoshua’s answer does not explain why the beraisa also included the source for the last three berachos. I would suggest that perhaps once the beraisa must mention the first three and the middle berachos it is not strange for it to continue to mention the last three berachos. The Aruch LaNer suggests that the beraisa is in fact a Tosefta (Rosh Hashanah 2:11) and there the Tosefta does not mention any of the first three or last three berachos – only the middle ones. The Gemara here in Rosh Hashanah added the source for the other berachos based on the beraisa from the Gemara in Megillah, since it was mentioning the source for the other berachos.

The Aruch LaNer concludes that at a later point in time he received the Ritvah’s commentary on Rosh Hashanah and noticed that the Ritvah asks this same question. The Ritvah answers that the Mishnah wrote the first three and last three berachos to teach us that we may not add to those berachos; rather we must recite them as we always do. The Ritvah adds that this is contradictory to our custom to add zachreinu l’chaim, mi kamocha, vekasveinu, and b’sefer chaim. However, he says that our custom is based on the Masechta Sofrim, which is implicit that we should add those prayers into those berachos.

The sefer, Harirai Kedem, suggests that the opposite can be deduced from our Mishnah and beraisa. Maseches Sofrim says that each berachah on Rosh Hashanah is different from the rest of the year. Our Mishnah and beraisa are teaching us that very same idea. Thus it was necessary to write about those berachos as well, in order to teach us that there is a new obligation to add to those berachos.

Regarding the question of why the beraisa needed to write the source for why we mention the kedushas hayom on Rosh Hashanah when we should have already known that we must mention it (as we do on every other Shabbos or Yom Tov), the Harirai Kedem offers this beautiful explanation: It is clear from this that there is a new and separate halacha that requires us to mention the kedushas hayom of Rosh Hashanah on Rosh Hashanah – aside from the general halacha. Based on this we can explain a discrepancy that is found between the mentioning of the kedushas hayom of Rosh Hashanah and that of all the other Yamim Tovim. On all other Yamim Tovim we do not mention the particular Yom Tov; rather we conclude the berachah with “mekadesh Yisrael vehazmanim.” On Rosh Hashanah we conclude the berachah by mentioning the actual essence of the day, for we say, “melech al kol ha’aretz [malchuyos]… mekadesh Yisrael v’Yom Hazikaron.” This exclusive mention of the actual kedushah is only done on Rosh Hashanah because there is a new halacha on Rosh Hashanah to mention the kedushas hayom.

The Intricacies Of Selichos

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

There is a custom to say Selichos before Rosh Hashanah. Sephardim have the custom to say Selichos during the entire month of Elul, while Ashkenazim follow the custom of the Ramah (Orach Chaim 581:1) to only say Selichos for a minimum of four days prior to Rosh Hashanah – beginning with Motzaei Shabbos. The Ramah quotes from the Kol Bo that certain communities had the custom that the ba’al tefillah should also be the chazzan for the remainder of the day. The Magen Avraham explains that this is because of the general rule that when one begins a mitzvah he should complete it.

The Magen Avraham adds that the chazzan for Selichos should also serve as the chazzan for Ma’ariv. Several Achronim took issue with this ruling, for Ma’ariv is part of the davening of the next day and is not connected to the davening of the day before. The Chasam Sofer, in his commentary to Shulchan Aruch, explains that the Gemara in Berachos 26b says that the Ma’ariv tefillah was instituted in correspondence with the burning of the eivarim (sinews), which were left over from the korban tamid of the evening that the tefillah of Minchah corresponds to. Therefore, even though the tefillah is technically part of the next day’s davening, it is nevertheless connected to the tefillah of Minchah that precedes it.

Many Achronim were bothered by the explanation of the custom that the ba’al tefillah for Selichos should also be the chazzan for the rest of the day because he must complete a mitzvah that he began. They asked the following questions: What connects the rest of the day’s davening to each other and to Selichos? Do we apply this rule to one who davens Shacharis and thereby tell him that he should also be the chazzan for Minchah? Certainly not. The rule is only applicable to parts of one mitzvah; davening Selichos for the amud and davening for the amud the rest of the day are separate mitzvos. Thus this rule should not apply.

The Livush suggests a different understanding for this custom. He writes that in the place where this custom was practiced they also had a custom that the chazzan for Selichos would fast the entire day. Therefore, as it would be too difficult for the general chazzan to daven everyday, they would alternate; the one who was fasting would daven all of the tefillos of that day.

The sefer, Binyan Shlomo, disagrees with the Magen Avraham and offers an alternate explanation for the custom. He suggests that we often find that we offer encouragement for people to do certain services that they might be hesitant to do. For example, the Gemara in Yuma 22a says that the person who did the terumas hadeshen would be granted the honor of arranging the maracha, which was more desirable to do. Similarly people do not regard Selichos as being an honorable tefillah in which to serve as chazzan; therefore we must give them an incentive and grant them the position of chazzan for the remainder of the day. The Binyan Shlomo adds that today, when most people say Selichos on their own and the chazzan must only finish each paragraph, it is no longer too burdensome in people’s eyes – and thus it is unnecessary to continue this custom today.

The sefer, Harirai Kedem, suggest that in order to understand the Magen Avraham we must first understand what the essence of Selichos is. He says that the essence of Selichos is an introduction and an addition to the day’s regular tefillos. That means that if one only davens Selichos and does not daven any other tefillah that day, he has not even fulfilled his obligation to recite Selichos. This is because the Selichos are additions to the regular tefillos.

Based on this we can explain the reasoning of the Magen Avraham. Since Selichos are additional prayers to the davening of the day, they are connected to all of the davening of that day. Therefore, when one serves as chazzan for Selichos (the addition to all of the day’s tefillos) we tell him to finish the mitzvah by also davening the rest of that day’s tefillos. On a day when Selichos are not recited, we do not tell the ba’al tefillah for Shacharis to daven Minchah since they are not connected in any way.

Routes And Roots To The Truth

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The five-year-old boy was in a church in Puerto Rico with his parents. As they and his grandparents were Catholics, that made him Catholic – as far as his young mind could figure.

With an independent mind at such a young age the boy would not do as his parents did, namely bow down to a statue. Looking back decades later, he would say, “It seemed ridiculous” to do. But to avoid his parents’ probable spanking, he had to do something to appear as if he was interested in what was going on. So he moved his lips, pretending to pray.

Child number 10 of 19, he would not eat the pork his mother would cook. He would say later, “All my brothers would eat it and I wouldn’t.”

Why not? Why not just go with the program? Was he just a rebellious kid trying to be different from everyone else?

After many years of seeking his own way, he arrived at some startling facts and recalled certain remembrances. Research into his family background revealed that his ancestors on his mother’s side came from southern France. A key recollection was having seen his mother’s mother light candles on Friday night. When he asked her why she did this, she said she didn’t know.

After more research the fateful day arrived when, at the age of 40, he contacted a cousin in Florida who was also trying to understand his family history. She asked him, “Did you know we’re Jewish?” A short time later he confirmed his cousin’s statement, and after spending some time learning about his heritage he has been living the life of a shomer Shabbos Jew for nearly 15 years.

What a path the life of “Reuven” has taken! Brought up as a Catholic in a very religious home, his goal throughout that time was to search for Hashem. “I wanted the truth,” he said.

He read the New Testament and discovered that some central characters were Jewish but deviating from the right path. “They were trying to deviate from the path,” he said. “No one’s going to deviate from my path.”

The searching and learning processes went on. In the years before learning he was Jewish, Reuven went from being Catholic to being a Seventh Day Adventist in California. He kept learning from their leaders but they could not answer certain questions, raising his suspicions about what they were telling him.

Reuven felt like he was finding the truth when he began studying Jewish sources. “My family was very upset with me,” he said. “Some of them didn’t want to talk to me. I didn’t care. This is my life and I live it as I want. But it wasn’t easy.”

Of course it wasn’t easy. He was leaving behind the very foundation of his life’s first decades. And he was leaving it for what? For the joy of learning that he’d been Jewish all along.

While he lost some contact with his family, he found a new family among the people who warmly welcomed him in Brooklyn. It was there that he continued to investigate even more into his religious roots. And how has he taken to his new lifestyle of religious discovery and commitment? “The best part of being a Jew is that you know this is what Hashem wants.” Quite a statement from someone seeking the truth!

Reuven has faced many challenges along the way. Before ascertaining his Jewish roots, he was married with children – with whom he now has limited contact. In his new setting, rabbis urged him to undergo a bris milah. He complied.

And then there was the significant amount of property in Puerto Rico to be managed (before attempting to sell it). This forced him to live there, cutting him off from being involved in any type of meaningful Jewish life. Shabbos after Shabbos was spent sitting alone in his apartment – davening, eating and learning. But instead of this challenging period being a negative part of his experience, it strengthened his resolve and commitment to religious Judaism.

Things changed for the better and thankfully, over time, this gregarious and friendly man found a small religious community in San Juan. Warmly received there, he now spends Shabbos and other parts of the week in the company of fellow Jews.

Back To School Made Easy

Friday, August 31st, 2012

The new school year is just around the corner, and as the summer days wind down the air is filled with the anticipation of the approaching back-to-school season. During this time, students and their parents often feel the apprehension and worry of preparing for school. Of course, we’d rather take advantage of these final warm vacation days and really enjoy ourselves, but the nervousness of the new school year is palpable. The best cure for this anxiety is to help ease the fear of the unknown by preparing for school. Set your children up for success by helping them prepare for this transition smoothly. Here are some tips to help you and your children experience this season bump-free.

* Display interest and excitement as the school year approaches. If you are enthusiastic and confident about the new experiences your children will have, they will be too. It’s contagious.

* Feelings of nervousness and worry about the new school year are common and expected. Take the time to discuss which areas your child is concerned about. Listen to his/her worries and talk about what to expect on that first school day.

* Another great idea is to specifically discuss with your children the various aspects and schedule of the school day. Some scenarios to discuss include the morning bus ride, what davening will be like, different subjects you anticipate they will learn, and the change of teachers during different subject times. You can make the discussion very detailed and really paint the picture of that first day of school. For example, chat about which familiar faces they will see walking into the classroom, who they will sit with on the bus and at lunch, what they will eat during lunch and recess, what activities will they opt for during recess time, and most importantly what to expect at the end of the day. Will they be picked up from school or take the bus home, what will your children find when they walk through the door – you waiting with a smile, a snack and a note on the table from you or a sibling or neighbor to play with. Remember, knowledge and familiarity is the sure way to extinguish the jitteriness of a new school year.

* Help your children acclimate to the school year routine and schedule. Have your children go to bed at “school-night bedtime” for a few nights prior to the first day of school and get up at the time they will need to on school days. This process will ease the adjustment and transition from summertime to school year schedule.

* Create a predictable routine during the first week of school that you will stick with throughout the school year. You and your children should prepare school clothes, book-bags, lunch, and snacks each night for the following school day. Also, have a set routine for after school hours. For example, decide how much time will be allotted to play and unwind after school; when dinner will be served; when homework will get done and a consistent bedtime and routine.

* Find out what materials will be needed for school and make sure your children are prepared with it on the first day. This may seem like common knowledge, but often in the rush to get everything done for school vital materials are forgotten until well into the school year. Having your children prepared with the necessary materials will help prevent anxiety, and empower them on the first day of school to succeed. Moreover, shopping for school supplies can be a fun experience if done with enough preparation (and without the stress that comes with last-minute tasks). These excursions are a great way to turn your children’s nervousness into the similar feeling of excitement for the renewal of the school year.

* If this is your child’s first time attending school, have him/her explore the classroom and school grounds before the first day. This will familiarize your child with the school setting and help reduce his/her nervousness.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy school year.

How Bais Yaakov Almost Ruined my Life

Friday, August 31st, 2012

It started when I was in first grade. I was an active kid with bright orange curls, and I’d never sit in one place long enough for my mother to even attempt to brush my hair. I was six years old, the youngest in my class, when my teacher called me to the front of the room. “This”, she informed the rest of the class, “is what a Bas Yisrael does NOT look like.” She then proceeded to braid my hair in front of everyone else as I did my best to hold back my tears.

That was the first time I realized that I was not going to fit in. That there was an “us” and a “them”, and “they” were not to be trusted.

I attended Bais Yaakov for ten years. I participated in their day camp every summer. All of my friends were from school. This was my whole world, and I was prepared to be an outsider for a long, long time.

As we got older, we were split into two classes. The “high” class and the “low” class. Premeditated or not, the “high” class all had fathers in Kollel and lived in the same religiously insulated community. My daddy was a doctor, and it didn’t matter that he finished all of Shas and had a chavrusah every night. My house was a mere ten minute walk from the neighborhood the other girls lived in, but that didn’t make a difference. I wasn’t “Bais Yaakov” and that was it. I pretended to own it – yeah, I was a rebel – but the truth is that everyone just wants to be accepted. I tried, but it was clear that I was never going to be. I wasn’t a bad kid. I never did drugs and I didn’t drink, I hardly talked to boys and I dressed more or less the way I was supposed to. It was other things. It was the fact that I’d go bike riding with my family, that we listened to the radio in the car, that I was a dramatic, sensitive kid who just couldn’t accept religion the way it was given to me. I always needed to understand why, why I had to keep Shabbat, why the boys had to put on tefillin but I didn’t, why saying Shema at night would protect me from all the evil in the world. I needed to know why, and the only answer I ever received from my teachers was “because Hashem said so”. I would get frustrated and angry every time I hit that wall, and at some point they stopped calling on me and I stopped caring. Clearly, I was too dumb and too unconnected to understand what everyone else seemed to accept. Clearly, I was just bad at being religious.

I have ADD to an insane degree, and davening was basically impossible for me. I had a system with my friends where we would all leave at different points and meet up in the bathroom until it was over. We got caught a few times, but no one ever spoke to me to find out why I was skipping it. I just got in trouble over and over, reinforcing in my mind the idea that there was something wrong with me. I just wasn’t ever going to be good at being religious.

In Bais Yaakov, you were either they way they wanted you to be, or you were wrong. Until I left the school – until I was sixteen years old – I actually thought that wearing short sleeves meant that you were irreligious. I thought that by skipping davening, I was “off the derech”. The girls who were wearing nail polish, jeans, even sandals – they were either already a lost cause or close to it. It took me a long long time to break out of that mindset, to realize all of the colors and shades and layers there are in Judaism.

Now, thank God, I’ve left that world behind me. The only valuable lessons I’ve taken from those years are memories of all of the things that I will never tell my children, memories of feelings I will never allow them to feel.

One Is Hashem: Imbuing Your Child With Emunah And Bitachon

Friday, August 31st, 2012

There’s an old song in which a child asks, “Father, please tell me, what should I believe?” If all you had to do to instill emunah in your children was just tell them what to believe, the task would not be nearly so daunting. “It’s very easy to train little kids–they’ll believe whatever you tell them,” says Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey and director of Project Y.E.S. “The challenge is to convey messages in a way that allows [children] to grow into it, so that it’s not a superficial bitachon but one that will really last.”

We asked several experienced mechanchim for their insights on how to shepherd children from their first “Modeh Ani” to the understanding that Hashem alone holds the key to every aspect of their existence. Here are the key principles they shared.

Keep Hashem Front And Center

The first imperative is to make Hashem part of your daily vocabulary. “Let them hear Hashem on your lips,” says Goldie Golding, early childhood director at Yeshiva Shaare Torah in Flatbush and author of several Artscroll children’s titles. “If you can’t find your car keys, say ‘Hashem, please help me find them!’” If you find a parking spot, thank Hashem out loud. And if you miss the bus, acknowledge that Hashem didn’t want you to be on that bus. “Gam zu l’tovah” (this too is for the best) is a great catchphrase, but you need to put Hashem into the equation: Why is it for the best? Because Hashem sent it. “What at first might seem like [they are] just repeating what the parent says, with time, with daily occurrences, over and over and over again, becomes true bitachon,” Golding says.

On an intellectual level, emunah and bitachon begin with the knowledge that Hashem is the Creator, says Malkie Machlis, principal of C32rown Heights Yeshiva Day School of Mill Basin. Many years ago, when she was a teacher introducing first graders to Parshas Beraishis, she would ask them: “If I give you crayons and paper, could you make me a picture?” “Of course,” they would answer. “What if I gave you nothing? Nothing at all? Then could you make me something?” “No,” they had to concede. “Hashem can!” she would explain. “Once they understand that Hashem can do that, then they can have emunah and bitachon,” she says.

Most young children will struggle with the concept of Hashem at one point or another–what is He? What does He look like? However, no one can really explain what Hashem is, says Rabbi Chaim Finkelstein, a second-grade rebbe at Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem on the Lower East Side, storyteller, and author of the Burksfield Bike Clubseries (Judaica Press). Trying to do so by comparing Him to any other being can lead children down the wrong path. The better approach, says Rabbi Finkelstein, is to stress Hashem’s omnipotence, His love for them, and His ever-presence in their lives.

Lead By Example

On one hand, we want to get our kids used to doing mitzvosdavening, making brachos, wearing tzitzis–in such a way that observance becomes ingrained as a habit, says Rabbi Peretz Hochbaum, director of Ohel’s Camp Kaylie and a longtime educator. In that sense, doing mitzvos by rote is a positive thing. On the other hand, there is so much more–understanding the words of tefillah, performing mitzvos with kavanah, feeling close to Hashem–that we want to cultivate in our children.

We want them to appreciate that each of us has a personal relationship with Hashem which continues even when things get tough, says Rabbi Hochbaum, whether it’s Cheerios spilled on the floor, the car breaking down or the loss of a job. By remaining steadfast in your observance, and handling life’s ups and downs with bitachon, you model for your children how to do the same.

Showing enthusiasm for mitzvos is another important way to model closeness with Hashem. “We need to imbue our children with how wonderful it is to be Hashem’s chosen nation, how lucky are we that Hashem gave us the Torah, how it elevates us,” says Machlis. When you do mitzvos, show your kids, she says. “Don’t bake that cake for a neighbor while the kids are sleeping.” Golding agrees. “They have to see the love that you have for Hashem. Every mitzvah you do, say ‘Hashem gave us this mitzvah, He gave us such a gift.’” And don’t be heard complaining what a long Shabbos it is!

Let The Questions Flow

“Today for sure kids are going to ask you questions,” says Rabbi Horowitz. “Assume that everything you say is going to be challenged later in life.” Before you worry about having answers, make sure your home is a totally safe environment for your children to ask questions, even those that go to the core of yahadus. Suppressing your child’s questions, says Rabbi Horowitz, is a lot more dangerous than giving imperfect answers.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/back-to-school/one-is-hashem-imbuing-your-child-with-emunah-and-bitachon/2012/08/31/

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