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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘father’

A Nation Of Ballerinas

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Readers are always asking me how I have the strength to open my heart, to tell my personal story, my struggles, my pain. My saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, taught us that whenever we have difficult challenges we should share them with others, so that they will be strengthened in dealing with their own tests. My father learned this from our Torah, which relates to us all the painful struggles of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. “Ma’aseh avos siman la’banim – that which befell our forefathers is a sign for the children” – so that we too might be fortified.

Ours is a generation that has been overwhelmed by “tzarus” – real problems. And yet ours is the “me” generation. We are absorbed with ourselves. We see only our own needs. Very often it happens that when we hear about the tzarus of another, we shrug our shoulders and dismiss our neighbor’s pain.

Here is another lesson we learned from our forefathers: No matter how terrible their pain, no matter how much suffering they endured, they felt the hearts of others, prayed for them and shed tears for them. That too is part of ma’aseh avos siman la’banim. Their responses are our guiding light, teaching us that when we feel despair we are to focus on the needs of others, and this will help us to resolve and deal with our own crises.

Many of you will recall that back in April I wrote an article from my hospital bed in San Diego titled “I Will Keep Dancing.” In it, I described how the nurses had dubbed me a “prima ballerina” as they observed me take my first painful steps.

I asked myself, “Are they mocking me?” But no, they couldn’t be, they were so kind and respectful. They were non-Jews who reverently called me Rebbetzin, and made every effort to pronounce that foreign word properly.

I thought about it and it occurred to me that Hashem was sending me a message. “Esther bas Miriam – don’t you know you are a ballerina? Yes, you may be in a valley but you must skip your way to the mountaintop. Hold on, don’t lose control. Swallow your tears and keep going.”

My daughter reminded me, “Ima, you rose from the ashes of Hitler’s inferno, and so of course you are a ballerina. You will rise again, keep on dancing.”

And so I did. We Jews are all ballerinas. We may fall, but we rise with glorious strength.

I share with you now my new dance. I was on a European speaking tour. My first stop was Paris. Thousands came to listen. We had an awesome Kiddush Hashem. Jews young and old, male and female, secular and observant, all gathered under one roof. The audience was standing room only. Hearts were reawakened to a greater commitment to Torah and mitzvos.

And then there was also the pain, the terrible test that faces Jews of every generation. Our brethren in France are in need of a lot of chizuk – strength. The hatred of Jews is constantly escalating. Tragically, I found the same conditions in communities throughout Europe. Europe has become “Eurabia.”

My last stop before returning to New York was Budapest, where I had the zechus – the merit – to conduct a Shabbaton. Incredibly, three hundred seventy-five people showed up – a spectacular achievement in Hungary. After Shabbos, I was on my way to the gravesites of my holy ancestors, going back many generations, when suddenly my dance was put on hold. I became ill and ended up in a hospital in Budapest. Need I tell you, a hospital in Budapest wouldn’t have been my exact choice as far as hospitals go. But then I remembered yet another teaching from the Patriarchs.

Our father Jacob was finally on his way back to Eretz Yisrael after twenty-two years in exile. He suffered, struggling and going through all manner of trials and tribulations. And yet he never gave up his faith. He was the ultimate “ballerina.” Finally, he came home to Eretz Yisrael. He hoped, he prayed, that now in his old age he would have peace, tranquility and serenity.

But no sooner did he arrive than the most awful calamity occurred – his sons sold their brother Joseph into bondage and told their elderly father that he had been killed by a wild beast.

Bittersweet Chanukah For Aging Lehi Fighters

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

They are in their 80s and 90s now, but when the British ruled Eretz Yisrael they were teenagers, or maybe in their 20s. Their faces were on “wanted” posters and those who were caught went to prison or were exiled to Africa. They are the remnants of the most feared Jewish militia that fought the British – Lehi, commonly known as the Stern Gang. Every Chanukah they met in Tel Aviv, lit candles, shared some doughnuts and watched their numbers dwindle.

They chose to meet on Chanukah because it commemorates the victory of the few against the many. They, too, began as a group of a few dozen “extremists” in 1940 – and even in 1948, when they all joined the Israeli army, they numbered under one thousand.

Since 1932 Abraham Stern, their future leader, had been writing songs about “anonymous soldiers” who would “live underground” while fighting to liberate the homeland. By 1941 his followers were killing officials of the British regime that had promised to make the holy land a Jewish home but more or less reneged, and bombing the British offices that were preventing Jewish immigration. By then Stern was on the run and many of his men were in jail. His imprisoned troops crafted an olivewood Chanukah lamp and smuggled it to him with a note: “To our day’s Hasmonean, from his soldiers in captivity.”

Chanukah was a special time for the fighters. Stern wrote, “We are a handful of freedom fighters, possessed with a crazy desire for sovereignty, and according to our detractors of little strength. But this is not so. The little strength is much greater than it appears. Like the Hasmoneans’ oil, the fire of zealousness and heroism burns in the temple of our hearts, a divine flame. The day is coming soon when we will use this flame to light the candles of our Chanukah, the Chanukah of the Hebrew kingdom, in a free Zion.”

Stern was captured by British police in a rooftop apartment in south Tel Aviv and shot to death. The veterans held their Chanukah gatherings in this hideout, now an Israeli museum. They were joined every year by Stern’s son, Yair, now 70. He was always the youngest “veteran” in the room. Though he was six years old when the British left and Israel was established, he paid the price of being his father’s son.

During the War of Independence, an Israeli army unit drove past his house on its way to battle. The commander jumped out of a jeep and ran to Yair, who was playing in the yard. “We have an army and a state thanks to your father,” he said, then drove off.

“If I hadn’t heard that, I don’t know how I would have turned out,” Yair said recently. He became a sports reporter and ultimately the director of Israel Television. Now retired, he promotes the memory of his father and the 127 Lehi members killed by the British or in the 1948 war with the Arabs.

Over the years the number of fighters attending the party dropped and the number of grandchildren rose. One regular was Hanna Armoni, now 87. In the 1940s she brought food to the underground’s prison escapees and blew up bridges. Her husband, Chaim, helped blow up some British oil refineries and was one of 19 Lehi fighters sentenced to death for the deed. Hanna took out an ad in a local paper to inform Chaim that he’d become a father, but before he could meet his daughter he was killed while trying to escape from Acco prison. The daughter attended last year’s party with her own children.

“Lehi was violent,” Hanna says, “but in all the years of our war with the British, Lehi never targeted a woman or child. Our targets were British police, soldiers, and government officials.”

Tuvia Henzion, 92, was a synagogue choirboy who had studied auto mechanics. He fought with British Colonel Orde Wingate’s raiders before joining Stern’s militia. When Stern was killed, Henzion reorganized some of the remaining fighters into secret cells of three or four members; Lehi kept this structure for the rest of its war. One of the young people he drafted into Lehi was Armoni. In recent years, the two organized the Chanukah parties.

Stern himself liked parties; he was considered the life of any he attended and usually led the guests in songs and dances. When he died he was hated by the British and almost all of Palestinian Jewry, which did not understand his insistence on throwing the British out of the homeland, especially during a world war. Today, Stern has been honored by the Knesset and has streets and even a town named for him. His followers, once “the few against the many,” are today the consensus in Israel.

But every year fewer of the original “few” met on Chanukah, because fewer survived. This year they decided not to spend the time and money on invitations and refreshments. Instead, they appealed for contributions and have hired someone to put their literature online and revamp an old website. They haven’t given up hope and plan on having a party next year.

Perhaps Judah Maccabee’s troops gathered on Chanukah to celebrate their victory, too, until finally none of them was left and their stories and legacy were left to history.

It is Great to be Jewish in the Land of Israel

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai and Malkah discuss the tenth yahrzeit of Yishai’s father, Alexander Fleisher.  Yishai shares some memories of his father along with talking about the get together that was recently held in his honor.  They move on to talk about the announcement by the Israeli government to approve additional housing units in Jerusalem and what good news this is, including presenting a piece from PBS about construction in section E-1.  They end the segment by talking about Alanis Morissette’s visit to Israel and how more around the world should feel for the current situation in Syria.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

My Soul Is On Fire (Part I)

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Allan is a very troubled nineteen-year-old who has been coming to see me since August. Actually, I’m never sure if Allan will make it to the next appointment. Since we first met, I have been amazed at the amount of emotional turmoil and pain he is in. Every appointment seems to bring another “cry” for help. His anguish is noted by his constant crying and threats of harm to himself and others. In fact, he doesn’t seem to filter his words and randomly ensures that I know about his aggressive thoughts. Just last week he told me that nobody ever believes him when he is in pain and so he feels the need to show them – he says that he doused his hand in a flammable liquid and set it on fire just to show others how much pain he is in. (I don’t actually believe he did this, as there was no sign of his hand being burned).

Allan’s life is full of inconsistent events. He seems to have a support system in his parents but I have only met his father, who is very concerned about Allan. On the other hand, his father often feeds into Allan’s overly dramatic behaviours and, at times, seems to compete with him in regards to histrionic scenes.

Recently Allan said to me, “I’m in such agony; my soul is on fire.” What a telling statement – he feels overwhelmed, lonely, humiliated and like a failure. Now you know why I say I don’t know if he will make it to the next appointment. As it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss his situation further, I would like to focus on childhood and teen feelings of distress.

Telling kids that their teen years are the best years of their lives is not necessarily true. In fact, I often say that I would not like to be a teenager today. There is so much stimuli bombarding them at every moment, they so many decisions to make, and they deal with so much stress and expectations – with limited resources at their disposal.

A local Toronto radio station has as its motto, “Beautiful music for a crazy world.” I’m almost surprised with their honesty. It really is a crazy world we live in and it tends to make some people crazy, or at least feel as if they are. We are all bombarded with changes – some good, some not so good and others just difficult to understand. We struggle to the best we can.

For kids, often the level of stress or distress they deal with is dependent on their familiarity with the situation. When our environment is chaotic or fear inducing, we may have a hard time separating ourselves emotionally from what is going on around us. In fact, internally we become part of the chaos. We all adjust better to more familiar situations. That is, we learn to cope best with situations as they become more familiar to us.

Dealing with personal or family challenges is difficult in the best of times. For children and teens it’s even harder. Life for many young people is a painful tug of war filled with mixed messages and conflicting demands from parents, teachers, coaches, employers, friends and themselves. Growing up—negotiating a path between independence and reliance on others—is a tough business. It creates stress, and it can cause serious depression for young people ill-equipped to cope, communicate and solve problems.

Some experiences are more severe or long lasting, while some kids may react to setbacks in different ways. Children and teens may indicate to their parents or others that they are distressed or unable to cope directly, or more often, through various hints. Most common for a teen is to show his or her distress through changes in mood or behaviour, at home, at school or with friends.

The teen years are emotional, fascinating, tumultuous, exciting, fearsome, lonely and social at the same time and filled with angst over the ultimate question, “Who am I.” What I’m about to say is difficult for adults to hear as well as comprehend. Nevertheless, here it is: I believe that much of an adolescent’s rebellion is, in fact, part of the developmental transition from childhood to adulthood. Almost by definition, adolescence is a time of chaos and struggle for one’s self identity: He or she is no longer the dependent child. Teens go from relying on us (and most of us enjoying that role) to learning to make life changing decisions, becoming independent and a self-fulfilled adult. As they push us away and ask to be allowed to make their own decisions, and mistakes, they are using the only tool they believe they have to become self-actualized.

Q & A: The Sandak (Part V)

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Question: I was at a brit where the father and grandfather of the boy argued over who should be sandak. The grandfather had served as sandak once before, but he persisted and, as they say, “might makes right.” I am curious as to your view on this matter.

M. Renkin
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Midrash (Tehillim pg. 723) contains the term “sandikus,” a Greek word meaning “companion of child” or “advocate.” Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dinov explains that sandak is an acronym of “sanegor na’aseh din kategor – the defense emerges victorious vis-à-vis the prosecutor,” referring to the brit’s function as a protection from Satan.

The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) writes that the sandak is given the first honor of being called up to the Torah, even before the mohel. The Rema explains that the sandak is compared to a kohen who offers incense in the Beit Hamikdash. All kohanim wished to benefit from the blessing of the incense, which enriched the one who offered it. Therefore, a lottery was established to assure that all had an equal opportunity to perform it. Similarly, it is customary not to give the role of sandak to someone more than once.

The Shach (Yoreh Deah ad loc. sk 22) clarifies that the Rema does not mean that a person may not serve as sandak more than once. Rather, he should not serve as sandak for more than one boy per family.

The Rema also talks about the honorary role of the kvaterin and kvater, the female and male messengers who bring the baby to the synagogue for the brit.

We quoted Rabbi Ari Enkin’s discussion of sandika’ot in his new sefer, Shu’t HaShulchani. He writes that serving as a sandak enriches one with material wealth, as well as long life full of spiritual wealth. Rabbi Enkin cites several authorities who argue that a person may serve as sandak twice; he states that the custom not to do so certainly does not apply to relatives. In fact, a father shouldn’t hesitate to serve as sandak for all of his children should he so desire. In some communities, the local rabbi is designated as the exclusive sandak for all children.

Rabbi Enkin concludes his discussion by pointing out that the custom of restricting someone from serving as sandak more than once is not found in the Talmud, and therefore is not truly binding.

Last week, we returned to the original question about the dispute over who would serve as sandak. Proverbs (3:17) states, “Deracheha darkei noam vechol netivoteha shalom – Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace.” A mitzvah should bring about pleasantness and peace; if it doesn’t, it has not been fulfilled properly. Therefore, strife over the sandika’ot detracts from the full fulfillment of that mitzvah. The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) refers to sandika’ot as an actual mitzvah that one should actively pursue.

The Mechaber (supra, Yoreh De’ah 260:1) states that the right to bestow any honor or segment of the mitzvah of brit belongs to the father alone. Thus, a grandfather may not “grab” this honor for himself if it goes against the father’s wishes. Even the mitzvah of kibud av has limits, and a parent is prohibited from insisting on specific honors from his child.

* * * * *

Rabbi Moshe Stern, the Debreciner Rav zt”l, discusses a similar situation where the mitzvah of kibbud av v’em and the mitzvah of sandika’ot came into conflict (Responsa Ba’er Moshe vol. 1; 60:9). The case concerned an individual who was ready to accept an offer to serve as sandak, but his father protested in the strongest terms that he did not want him to. Rabbi Stern was asked if the son must listen to his father.

In his response, Rabbi Stern cites the Knesset Yechezkel (Responsum 35), who was asked the same question. The Knesset Yechezkel answered that the son need not listen to his father and cited Kidushin 32a as his source. In that Gemara, Elezar b. Masya states: “If my father requests, ‘Get me a drink’ and there is another [passing] mitzvah to be done, I will put aside my father’s honor and perform that other mitzvah because both my father and I are obligated in that mitzvah.” Isi b. Yehuda says, “If the [passing] mitzvah can be done by others, then let them do it and I will do my father’s honor.”

In Memory Of My Abba, Dr. Ivan Mauer

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Recently I went to a shiur on Yitzchak Avinu and found that it applied in many ways to my own father whose name was Yitzchak.

Yitzchak, the most ambiguous of the forefathers, is hard to describe. Avraham is closely associated with hachnasat orchim and chesed, and Yaakov is the father of our nation, B’nei Yisrael. Yitzchak is often described as serious, exacting, din, and yet his name is Yitzchak, to laugh, which seems to be a contradiction in terms.

How do we resolve this dichotomy?

Yitzchak was the paradigm of one who sees his existence as miraculous, as something that shouldn’t have been, someone who came into this world against all odds. Besides his parents having been too old to have a child, midrashim state that Sara didn’t have a womb. The laughter comes from the unexpected fact that he even exists. This keen sense of existence is balanced with an ability to laugh at the pure intensity of life. Yitzchak teaches us to laugh at ourselves, not to take ourselves too seriously, since life is almost too serious to comprehend. Yitzchak achieved the balance of knowing that the world was created for him yet we are all but dust of the earth.

Yitzchak came to teach us how to temper Avraham’s unlimited kindness, chesed. He introduced gemilut chasadim – limiting kindness. He was the first one in Tanach to be weaned, gemila, which teaches us in many aspects of our lives (relationship with our spouse, parenting, etc.) how we can wean ourselves from too much. Too much kindness, and too much giving which in many cases leads to being overwhelmed, frustrated and burnout.

And lastly, Yitzchak shows us the true meaning of laughter, a confident, mature laughter that comes from knowing that what you’re doing is right and that you’re on the right path. If someone chides you, be it on an individual level or on a national level, it is just that, a lighthearted, ignorant laughter.

As I focused on the healing powers of Yitzchak, I thought of my own Abba, Yitzchak ben Tzvi and Leah.

As a doctor, he was well aware of the fragility of life and yet cherished every moment and was able to “laugh” at the absolute miracle of living in this precarious world.

He taught me to enjoy each moment that is given to me and taught me through his example to persevere no matter what, since it’s G-d who gives life. And my father knew what was right even if it wasn’t popular or wasn’t the thing to do, like moving to a settlement in Israel. How proud he was of that. He would say don’t worry what other people say, “You’re doing the right thing.” Let them laugh. It’s not true laughter.

And like Yitzchak our forefather you were always filled with hakarat hatov.

I miss you terribly, every day. But like Yitzchak Avinu, your legacy lives on in your children and grandchildren who love you and continue to draw strength and laughter from you.

IDF Reservists: “It’s Only a Question of Time Before We Are Called Up Again”

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

50,000 IDF reservists were called up for duty over the course of Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’. They left their families, their jobs, their lives, and rallied to their country’s call to duty.

A cease-fire was announced on November 21st, before a ground incursion occurred, the next stage in the operation in which the reservists were supposed to participate. The reservists expressed their willingness to endanger their lives for this mission, understanding the necessity of such an action.

Now that they have been ordered to stand down, they feel disappointed and degraded. Thousands of reservists still in service have signed a petition calling on the government to initiate the ground incursion with the intent of eradicating all terror infrastructures in the Gaza Strip.

Yahel, 29, a father of two, a banker and a combat medic in the reserves was called up early Friday morning. “They fired on us, we fired on them, nothing was achieved at the end. It’s only a question of time before everything starts up again. Meantime, in Gaza they are rejoicing at their victory, while we are still dug in. I feel an unpleasant sense of disappointment. We have been humiliated,” he told Tazpit News Agency. Even though the operation is seemingly over, he doesn’t expect to go home until sometime in the middle week.

Oriyah talks about a general feeling of disappointment, but takes a more calculated stance. He is 32 years old, a father of four, who left his legal practice to man his position as an armored personnel carrier driver. He states he is not completely in unison with the general feeling of humiliation. “A ground incursion would have its costs. The test now is a simple one: when will the fire be renewed, and it will be renewed. The other point is the magnitude of the Israeli response when it is renewed. Only then will we really know if we have achieved anything now. There are political issues to take into consideration. Ultimately, we will have to wait and see how things develop in the future.” He raises another fundamental question. “The timing – why did they wait tell Wednesday to agree on a ceasefire. What have we gained over the past days that we couldn’t have a few days earlier? If they wanted a ceasefire, why wait so long?”

Major N. (name undisclosed for security reasons), a senior IDF officer in the reserves, offered a more in-depth analysis of the situation. “We need to view the situation in context. Militarily, we could have brought Hamas to their knees in a short time. For what ever reason, we did not receive the order from the political echelon, and that is a source of disappointment for me. Militarily, this was not a tie, as many people feel. We have complete domination of Gaza; we seriously crippled their military capabilities; we took out many of their military commanders and command posts, and in that aspect Hamas was completely defeated. The Iron Dome defense system completely negated Hamas’s rocket abilities, and in a sense gave Hamas life, because without the system the Israeli civilian casualties would have been much higher, forcing the government to respond much more harshly. The Iron Dome defense system prevented a further escalation and gave the Israeli political leadership leeway and time.”

“I am disappointed by the fact that we did not achieve a clear and decisive victory, one which could not be interpreted in any way. We did not clearly deter the Hamas from attacking Israel ever again. In the near future Hamas will try to develop new capabilities, such as anti-aircraft capabilities, and surface-to-sea capabilities with the intent of creating a new balance of power with the IDF. They have managed to open the land passages through the recent rounds of diplomacy, and will try to open a passage through the sea as well. The big question is how Israel will respond to these advanced capabilities.”

He too feels it’s a question of time before the firing is renewed. “The next time, it will be much more difficult and complex for Israel to operate. Egypt will not serve as Israel’s watch dog, will not stop the arms smuggling into Gaza and will not try to contain or be able to contain the various terrorist organizations. President Morsi is going to face a very difficult period in the near future, and should beware of the terrorist organizations.”

The Sensitivity Of A Tzaddik

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

When Yaakov met Rachel at the well, he experienced conflicting emotions. He felt tremendous joy at having finally met his bashert, yet he raised his voice and cried. Rashi explains that he cried because he came empty-handed. He said, “My father’s servant came with ten camels laden with gifts and finery, and I come with empty hands.”

Rashi goes on to explain why Yaakov didn’t bring a gift for Rachel. When Yaakov found out that Eisav was plotting to kill him, he fled from his father’s home. Eisav sent his son Alifaz to chase down Yaakov. Alifaz was a tzaddik, and when he approached Yaakov he said, “I can’t kill you because you are an innocent man. On the other hand, what will be with the command of my father?” Yaakov said to him, “A poor man has the halachic status of a dead man. Take my money, and it will be considered as if you killed me, so on some level you will have fulfilled your father’s words.”

As a result, Yaakov came to the well empty-handed. When it was time to propose to Rachel, he didn’t have the gifts that would be expected, and so he raised his voice and cried.

This Rashi becomes difficult to understand when we focus on who these people were. The Avos may have walked the same planet as do you and I, but they lived in a very different orbit. Their every waking moment was occupied by thoughts of Hashem. They lived and breathed to attain closeness to Hashem. That was the focus of their lives and existence. It was the only thing that mattered to them.

For many years, Rachel knew she was to marry Yaakov and be a matriarch of the Jewish people. You have to assume that when she finally met her bashert, she was overcome with joy. Here was the man she had waited for. Here in front of her was this great tzaddik, the man of her dreams, offering to marry her so she could fulfill her destiny. Her very life’s ambitions and desires were now coming to fulfillment. It is hard to imagine that at that moment she was concerned about glitter and trinkets.

Yet Yaakov cried because he didn’t have a diamond ring to give her. The question is – why? All that Rachel really wanted was being delivered to her. If so, why did Yaakov cry?

It seems the answer is that the lack of gifts may not have bothered Rachel much but the bottom line is that it wasn’t respectful to her. When you come to your kallah, you bring her a gift. That is the way dignified people act. That is the way of the world, and it isn’t proper to come without a gift. On some level, it is treating her without the kavod due to her, and that caused Yaakov pain – so much pain that he raised his voice and cried.

Everyone Hungers for Recognition

This is a tremendous lesson to us because the people among whom we live aren’t on the level of Rachel. A slight to their honor causes them real pain. People will go to great lengths to protect their reputation and dignity because these things are very important to them. And for that reason we need to develop a real sensitivity to other people’s dignity and honor.

But this concept goes much further. The reality is that there are few people who get enough recognition and respect. We humans have many needs. We need food and drink, shelter and protection, friends and companionship – and most of those needs are met. The one need that that is almost never met is the need to be appreciated. It is something we hunger for, something basic to our success and vitality. Yet there is no store in which it can be bought, no marketplace in which it can be acquired. And a person often can go around with a deep hunger, not even realizing what is amiss.

One of the greatest acts of kindness I can do for another person is to treat him with honor. If I find your currency and can acknowledge you in that vein, I can give you that which you deeply crave – and it costs me nothing.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-sensitivity-of-a-tzaddik-2/2012/11/22/

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