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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘everything’

How to Say “Beg Persistently” in Hebrew

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

To beg, in Hebrew, is לְהִתְחַנֵּן .

But there’s a certain type of begging that doesn’t let up. To beg in such a manner is לְהַפְצִיר .

This word is used, albeit in a different verb form, in Biblical Hebrew, in contexts where the speaker is imploring someone to accept a favor.

An example from the Torah portion read last week:

קַח נָא אֶת בִּרְכָתִי אֲשֶׁר הֻבָאת לָךְ, כִּי חַנַּנִי אֱלֹהִים וְכִי יֶשׁ-לִי כֹל; וַיִּפְצַר בּוֹ, וַיִּקָּח. (בְּרֵאשִׁית ל”ג:י”א) Please take my gift (literally, blessing) that is brought to you, for G-d has graced me and has given me everything; and he begged him, and he took. (Genesis 33:11)

And an example in Modern-Hebrew usage:

מַנְהִיגִים רַבִּים מַפְצִירִים בְּרֹאשׁ הַמֶּמְשָׁלָה לֹא לְהַתְקִיף. Many leaders are begging the prime minister persistently not to attack.

להפציר, in its modern usage, is an active-causative הִפְעִיל verb. In its Biblical-Hebrew usage, it’s an active-simple פָּעַל verb.

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His and Hers Ballot Boxes

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu cast his vote yesterday, November 24, 2012, together with his wife, Sara, at the Likud primary elections. I suppose he voted in the box marked 1 and she in the box marked 2.

The primaries ended up being such a holy mess, the Likud is considering a suit against the computer company that organized them. Our own Malka Fleisher was there and reported on the three-ring circus scenes. But I watched Netanyahu speaking to the TV cameras early in the day, saying everything was going smoothly, problem-free. He was bright eyed and jolly, leader and commander in chief.

I suppose after coming out of the Gaza pillar of whatever explaining how everything went really well there, all our initial goals achieved, mission accomplished, describing a crazy out of control mess at the polls as problem-free should be no challenge at all for our prime minister.

Hey, and no one got killed at the Likud primaries! Well, so far, anyway.

To paraphrase the late Abbie Hoffman, Netanyahu gives cynicism a bad name…

Hashem’s Power

Friday, November 9th, 2012

On October 29th, the verdict was revealed
As we faced what was destined as the Din was sealed
With a storm that echoed the words we know to be true
of B’Rosh Hashanah Yikaseivu.

We saw the power of wind, the power of a rain
A power that some had mockingly thought to be inane
A power destined to show itself and let out its wrath
To destroy houses, alarm cities, and clear everything in its path.

It shook full-force upon the neighborhoods that experienced its fury
And left no family in vulnerable areas without question or worry
The sea reached the consumed towns, as though struck by His rod
Turning all of our established places left to nearly an esplanade.

It thundered and damaged without stoppage or yield
Leaving no stone unturned, not a crop in the field.
Through its insatiable storm, its rush and its wind
A work He had predestined and didn’t wish to rescind.

Many mocked its prediction, denied the truth
Of that which effected all from the elderly to the youth
We underestimated its severity, yet soon saw the waters
Upon our tunnels, our houses, our sons and our daughters.

Flooding our highways, flooding New York
Leaving mouths gaped in horror at the magnitude of its torque
It left all religions and races with respect and with awe
From experiencing something so mighty like the world has never saw.

‘Twas a work of only His hand, His might, His word
That shook up each person, each animal, each bird
Stabbing and damaging, as though a loose pack of knives
And taking along with it so many lives.

We saw a power so strong; a force that’s so vast
An overturning exertion poured upon us so fast
Something so unimaginative; something so odd
A clear indication of fury from the hand of G-d.

The Most Beautiful Picture of Israelis Ever Shot

Friday, November 9th, 2012

The two men in this picture are Chief of Operations for the Southern Front Yitzhak Rabin and Southern Front Commander Yigal Allon, in 1949. It’s a cold day somewhere on the dunes east or south of Gaza. Neither man has slept much, which is evident from Rabin’s messy hair.

Alon, four years older and considered deeper than his lieutenant, is looking at Rabin with a kind of fatherly gaze. The burden of war, the weariness of daily engagements, are evident in their posture. Neither one looks particularly happy or even content.

But it’s a beautiful picture in my eyes, because it depicts a moment so suffused with potential in our history. There’s the thinker, Alon, and Rabin, an anti-intellectual if ever there was one, and at that frozen moment in time you can’t yet tell that all their efforts to lead the Jewish experience in the Land of Israel to a benign, normal, familiar, civilized conclusion would crash, one after the other, against the harsh realities of the Middle East.

Neither one of them was a fool, neither one was kidding himself that our neighbors are bursting with joy at the idea of accepting, much less embracing us into their midst. Both died having done everything humanly possible, including countless times putting their lives on the line, seeking that acceptance.

There is beauty in failure. It is quiet, hidden, humble. The beauty of two young men in the middle of a battle outside Gaza, hair blowing in the wind, eyes red from lack of sleep, daring to hope.

The boys and girls of my generation have grown up with that image emblazoned in our retinas as the best that an Israeli person could be.

I’m glad that phase is over. I’m looking forward to images of new, beautiful Israelis, like the famous young paratrooper at the Kotel in 1967. Or, better yet, a young windsurfer at the Olympic games. I’m totally open to suggestions.

The Prison Cell Of Laziness

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

“And he delayed, and the men held him, his wife, and his two daughters by the hand because of the mercy of Hashem, and they took them and left them outside of the city.” — Bereishis 19:16

Hashem appeared to Avraham and told him that the people of Sodom were wicked and would be destroyed. The only ones who would be saved were Lot and his family, because of the merit of Avraham. Hashem then sent two malachim, Gavriel and Michoel, to accomplish this task.

When they arrived on the scene they explained to Lot that they were on a mission to wipe out the city, and he was to take his family and flee. Yet he didn’t move. “He delayed.” While he clearly understood the consequences, he remained glued to the spot. Finally, the malachim grabbed him by the hand and pulled him and his daughters away to safety.

The Sforno notes that there is an apparent contradiction here. It is clear that Lot was being saved because of the merit of his brother-in-law Avraham. Yet in this pasuk it says he was saved because of “the mercy of Hashem.” Which was it – the merit of Avraham or Hashem’s mercy?

The Sforno answers that both are true. Initially Lot was to be saved because of the merit of Avraham. However, he wasted that opportunity. The malachim told him to flee and he didn’t. The merit of Avraham was now used up. However, Hashem still had mercy on him because “it wasn’t out of rebelliousness that he delayed, rather out of being overwhelmed by the situation and out of laziness.”

This Sforno is difficult to understand. The two reasons given are: 1) being overwhelmed and 2) laziness. Aren’t these two concepts contradictory?

If Lot was “overwhelmed by the moment,” that means he understood the gravity of the situation. The entire city – and every man, woman, and child in it – was going to be annihilated. That understanding is enough to evoke terror in any man’s heart, and we can certainly understand why he didn’t move. He went into emotional overload. He froze out of fear.

But Sforno said there was a second reason: laziness. If he was gripped by fear, how could he be too lazy to move? Is it possible a man could be standing in a burning building, knowing this life is in danger, and be too lazy to move?

To understand this we need a deeper perspective on the human personality.

When Hashem created man, He took two diverse elements and brought them together. One part of man is pure intelligence, the nefesh ha’schili. The other part is animal instincts, the nefesh ha’bahami. Together, these two make up the “I” that thinks, feels, and remembers. The nefesh ha’schili only wants to do that which is good, proper, and noble. It aspires for holiness and growth. More than anything, it desires to be close to its Creator. The nefesh ha’bahami is made up of all of the instincts, drives, and passions in the human. Each part has its own nature; each has its own inclinations.

To better understand the animal soul of man, we need to look for its corollary in the animal kingdom.

The King of Beasts

Living at the very top of the food chain, the mighty lion is known as the king of the beasts. You would imagine that his life would be idyllic, until you watch his daily routine. In the African Serengeti, the male lion will wake up in the noon sun, let out a monstrously loud yawn, roll over and go back to sleep. A few hours later, he will wake up for bit, and then go back to sleep again. Not long after that, he will stir, let out another earth-shaking growl, and go back to sleep yet again. On average, he will sleep twenty hours a day. When there is no food to eat and the pride is not under not under threat, there is a heaviness to his nature that is almost depressing to watch.

Part of the human has that tendency. We know it as laziness, but it is actually a sluggishness that is part of his inner nature. As the Mesillas Yesharim describes it: “The nature of physicality is thick.” There is a part of me that just doesn’t want to move. It is a weightiness that makes we want to just stop and remain inactive – not out of tiredness, not out of fatigue, but because of a lazy streak that makes me just wants to vegetate.

The Storm that United a Divided Nation

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

I’m sitting here with my kids on Monday night and, aside from the glow of the laptop, the Sabbath has come early this week. Outside Hurricane Sandy is pounding our New Jersey town of Englewood. Earlier in the day we saw trees bend like twigs and wind gusts tearing pieces of our roof clear off. This evening we said Psalms for all the people of the Northeastern United States to be safe and studied the Biblical portion of the day, appropriately, Abraham arguing with G-d to protect the inhabitants of his area condemned to destruction through the elements.

Just yesterday I was fully engaged in my campaign for the United States Congress. Winning, elections, and victory were on my mind. Boy, what a difference a day can make. Today, I just want my family and the 50 million people in the storm’s path to be safe. We just read of a man of 30 who lost his life when a tree fell on his house in Queens, NY. We read of two boys in New York State who lost their lives in similar circumstances. We’ve seen photos of people’s homes blown away. In Manhattan, a giant crane dangles and there is no telling whom it might hurt.

Does winning matter now?

As the storm approached I wondered what it all meant. I am a religious man and believe all to be providence. There are no coincidences. A freak storm, hitting New Jersey of all places, in late October, is so rare as to seriously raise eyebrows. And just a week before such momentous elections that will determine the future of our nation and who will be our President?

I cannot divine the mind of God and we would obviously all have been much better off without this storm. And while, by far, the most important thing is for everyone to be safe, and for the families of those who lost loved ones to be comforted, the storm’s arrival does suddenly put everything in perspective.

For the past few months America has been bitterly consumed by an election that has torn the country asunder. To an extent it’s understandable. While the tone has been at times quite negative, the stakes in this election are very high and the consequences for whichever visions wins very great. It’s understandable that passions are so intense.

Yet, along comes Frankenstorm, just days before the election, and knocks everything about the election clear off TV, newspapers, and the internet. Just try to find a candidate anywhere campaigning. President Obama and Governor Romney have both suspended their campaigns. Our own efforts here in New Jersey are focused on how we can help those who have most suffered in the storm. The only thing that matters now is people’s safety and wellbeing. Suddenly there is no talk of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, tax cuts and entitlements. There are no attack ads and there are no advocacy ads. All the talk is about protecting life, keeping people safe, and being there for each other.

In my book that’s coming out next month, The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering, I reject any belief that suffering is redemptive. I will not dignify human agony with according it some higher purpose. All suffering is awful and any good that comes by its means could be achieved far more effectively through something positive. Better there be no storms, better there be no danger. But to the extent this awful thing is here, perhaps God, in His providence, is telling us that unity is what life is all about and we’re just too darn divided.

Yes, I would prefer that we come together in the wake of something positive than negative. We don’t need hurricanes, we don’t need 9/11’s, we don’t need the murder of American Ambassadors in Benghazi to remind us that we’re one nation, one people, with one heart. Much better to unite around a man walking on the moon, a space shuttle lifting off, and Americans winning gold medals at the Olympics. Better to unite around inspirational stories of diseases being cured, people in danger being rescued, children who are hungry being fed. But to the extent that our country is way too divided, let’s internalize the message, just before one of the most partisan elections of all time, that there is nothing in life as special as unity, nothing more beloved by God than oneness among His children, nothing more inspirational that differences being put aside as humanity unites to protect life.

It’s A Boy’s World, You Know

Friday, October 19th, 2012

You’ve gotta settle, stop being so choosy, it’s a boy’s world after all
And you’re just one of the millions who think their worth something, have the gall.
You’ve got to start looking better, so that you’ll be noticed when you walk through town
And perhaps you can lose a few pounds too, so we can pull your resume dress size down.

‘Tis a boys market, you know, so stop being such a case
Fess up and accept the reality that you’re being forced to face.
You can’t just tell a shadchan “no” because the guy’s very bummy
For it’s the reality that all girls are gold while all the guys are crummy.

Shadchan after shadchan tells you this, their words sting like an open wound
Your hopes of ever finding Mr. Right for you, suddenly shattered and ruined.
Their conversations were so similar, that they all seem like one big blur
And the sad reality is that your parents seem to side with him or her.

They convince you to at least try to date him, with “no” “ifs” “ands” or “buts”
So what if he’s missing a screw or two so what if he’s completely nuts?
So what if he recalculates his every move, so what if he’s weird and nerdy?
So what if he looks disheveled, his hair all loose, his suits all dirty?

It’s a boy’s world you know, and girls come a dozen a dime
So you have to be on your best behavior, always and graduate college on time.
You have to do everything right, from high school, to work-life to sem
You always have to look great at weddings and portray yourself as a gem.

You always have to act nicely to people; you always have to act stable
You can never act moody or vent, but rather have to empower and to enable.
You have to act sweet and happy, and if you’re not, you just have to pretend
Otherwise, how on earth do you expect your singlehood to ever end?

Yet he can do as he wishes and pleases, and nobody says a peep
He can sit around and klutz all day, and arise at 12p.m. after sleep.
He can flunk out of school and take his time with things, because there’s simply no rush for guys
Despite how completely messed up he turns out to be, they’ll be flocking to him like flies.

Because it’s just a boy’s world you know, so he can act like a jerk
Date hundreds of women and live it up, and then dump them for every quirk.
He can still be warming the bench in yeshiva, and so what if he’s 24?
There will somehow still be a million girls lined up, knocking on his door.

Hang out in the coffee room till 12 a.m. comparing Chock-full to Nescafe
Daven three times without a minyan and not go to shul all day.
He’s few and far between, you know, so why should he bother to try?
He’ll be easy to marry off anyway for his chromosome is XY.

It’s a boy’s world, so I better get used to it, for I’m a mere commodity
Valued by how many thousands my parents will give if he so chooses to marry me.
Perhaps I may be a top girl, but I’m defective merchandise nonetheless
Simply because I’m not wearing pants, but instead put on a skirt or a dress.

So what if I’m pretty and fun to be around, so what if I’m in Columbia law?
So what if I come from the most charming family and can make the prettiest cakes you ever saw.
So what if I have the best track record, while his is far less than great?
He’s one of those hard-to-find yeshiva bochurim, so I better accept the date.

So what if he appears to be obnoxious, wants to marry a slave to him, get a free ride
So what if his ego’s humongous, and nothing can ever shatter his pride.
So what if he looks like a monkey, and is 4’11 and rates a Tanner II
So what if he takes his life easy and parties, as though he’s got nothing better to do.

The Home-Run Hitter

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Twenty-five years ago, when kiruv was still a relatively new concept, a group of four young rabbis left Ner Yisrael with families in tow to head down south to Atlanta, Georgia. Rabbi David Silverman was one of those pioneers who founded the Atlanta Scholars Kollel. He is a powerhouse of kiruv – his charisma, sincerity and broad knowledge have helped him inspire thousands of Jews, including this writer. Though he is already a grandfather, his youthful looks and stamina have given him an entrée to reach college and high school students, while his wisdom has endeared him to their parents and grandparents. And yet he is the first to admit that his success has come from far above himself.

Himself a ba’al teshuva, Rabbi Silverman learned at Ner Yisrael for eleven years before moving to Atlanta. Over his many years in kiruv he has received many challenging questions, and the most complex ones are always asked only at the end of a class. It sounds something like this:

“There are just a few minutes left to our discussion group…Any questions?”

“‘Rabbi, how do you explain the Holocaust?”

“What is Kabbalah?”

“Do we believe in life after death?”

“As they’re putting their coats on, I’m trying to explain hashgacha pratis,” Rabbi Silverman exclaims.

Rabbi Silverman has developed clear, succinct answers to these recurring questions. However at one class he was asked a completely new and challenging question on a specific topic related to the Holocaust. Without thinking Rabbi Silverman delivered a perfect answer, and yet he had no idea where it had come from.

A few days later while driving in his car, he was listening to a tape of a study group he had been part of seventeen years earlier with Rabbi Yaacov Weinberg, ztz”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael. Rabbi Silverman slammed on his brakes and had to pull over when he heard someone ask the exact same question on the Holocaust. As he heard the Rosh Yeshiva’s words, he realized he had given the identical answer that he had heard in the group! He rewound the tape to listen again and strained to try to identify who had asked the question. To his astonishment he realized, it was himself!

“The answer was obviously inside me on a certain level, but I was not consciously aware of it,” Rabbi Silverman said. “I clearly felt Hashem’s hand – I needed that experience to know how to answer the question. I felt that HaKadosh Baruch Hu wanted me to do it. It was so validating.”

A few years after moving down South, another episode clearly reminded him and his family that all comes from Hashem. Today, after growing up with guests in and out of their house, the Silverman children are pros at hosting newcomers and introducing them to Judaism. The oldest children have already grown up, married and have begun their own involvement in kiruv. But twenty years ago, when they were still young, getting them to understand the finer points of kiruv was harder.

One week, Rabbi Silverman invited a new family to come for Friday night dinner. It was their first taste of Shabbat. The Silvermans tried to do everything to make it a perfect dinner. Before the meal Rabbi Silverman tried to explain to their children that they could make a Kiddush Hashem by acting like little angels at the Shabbat table, saying divrei Torah and acting respectably.

“I wanted to make a good impression. I was concerned about how the food would taste, that my dvar Torah would be meaningful and it would be a real beautiful, enriching, uplifting experience.”

Things didn’t go quite as he had hoped.

“Every possible thing went wrong. At one point we had one kid in the bathroom yelling, ‘I’m done!’ Other kids were fighting. One kid got on the table, crawled across it and spilled grape juice everywhere. Anything and everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.

“I was standing in the bathroom changing a kid’s diaper, trying to get another kid to say a dvar Torah when there was a knock on the bathroom door.

‘I’m sorry we have to go,’ the wife said.

(‘Oh no,’ I thought to myself. ‘We blew it!’)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/judaism-101/the-home-run-hitter/2012/10/18/

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