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July 2, 2016 / 26 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘father’

The Holocaust as an Expression of Kindness? Seriously?

Monday, August 5th, 2013

One of the things that never fails to upset me is when people of stature start trying to explain the Holocaust. There are some rabbinic figures who have tried to do so, both past and present. It seems like there is a new addition to those ranks in the person of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, a venerated Rabbinic personality of the 20th century.

I do not say this to disparage him. He is a man who garners tremendous respect from observant Jews from all walks of life. There are people who consider his Hashkafos about Judaism their guide to life. He has a wide following, perhaps greater today posthumously than when he was alive.

My introduction to Rabbi Avigdor Miller was when I read his book, Rejoice O’ Youth which was an unsuccessful attempt to refute the theory of evolution.  For many years that book angered me. But I have mellowed in that regard and now believe that he has every right to his views on that subject and to promote them in a book. Just as others do to refute it.

I recall also being upset at something I once read about him where he strongly disparaged Modern Orthodoxy. I will be Dan L’Kaf Zechus that he was not disparaging observant Jews that are modern but meticulous in their observance and respect the Mesorah. He was probably referring to those I like to call MO-Lites. Jews who are not so meticulous about their religious observances and are more assimilated into the culture than they are into their Judaism. Or those Modern Orthodox Jews that are on the extreme left and try to innovate practices that depart from the Mesorah.  Like Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) and Yeshivat Maharat.

According to an article in Mishpacha Magazine, his son, Rav Shmuel Miller, has published a book posthumously written by his father  that in my view is unconscionable. The thesis of the book is that the Holocaust was actually a Chesed… a kindness from God in the way of a wake-up call! It is called  ‘A Divine Madness’ – Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s Defense of HaShem in the Matter of the Holocaust.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller did not want to publish this work during his lifetime. He felt that so soon after the Holocaust it would upset survivors. His son has decided that enough time has passed and published it. Rabbi Avigdor Miller is certainly entitled to his views. But I am entitled to totally reject them.

He is not the first one to put forward the theory that the Holocaust happened because Jews were abandoning the Torah and observance in droves in the period prior to the Holocaust. But what is so upsetting about this particular thesis is that he considers the Holocaust a kindness. I understand his point. Which he tries to illustrate using an example once cited by the Chofetz Chaim as follows.

If someone is in the coldest region on Earth like the North Pole and falls asleep, he will freeze to death in short order. If someone is there next to him, he will try to wake him up from his slumber. If calling out to him, won’t work, he will shake him. If that doesn’t work he will smack him. If that doesn’t work, he will take a stick and hit him. An onlooker might see this as being cruel and not understand that he is trying to wake him up in order to save his life. In other words what looks like a cruelty to another human being – is actually a kindness meant to save his life.

This is such a bad analogy that it boggles my mind that it was even attempted let alone published in a book.

There are 6 million individual stories of savage slaughter that happened in the Holocaust. And that is just about Jews that were systematically killed. There could be as many as another six million stories about horrors experienced by survivors.

Just to cite 2 personal examples.

My father escaped the Nazi death camps by hiding in 3 different bunkers with other families until his city was liberated by the Russians.

When the first bunker was discovered, the escape route planned in such an eventuality via the town sewer system enabled an escape by my father and my 3 older brothers (who were in their early teens at the time). But my father’s first wife (my brothers’ mother) never made it. She was captured while trying to escape. The next bunker was a makeshift one in the forest. That too was discovered, but my oldest brother got caught while my father and his two younger sons escaped. My father heard his oldest son screaming as he was being carried off by the Gestapo.

My wife’s uncle was an Ish Tam – a Gerrer Chasid; kind and sincere; simple  and pure in his devotion to God. He had not an ounce of evil in his bones. He had a beautiful family – a wife and children – prior to the Holocaust. They were all slaughtered by the Nazis except for him. He was captured by the infamous Josef Menegle for purposes of medical experiments. That left him without family and sterile after the war… never able to rebuild his family. Although he did remarry and made Aliyah.  He was a truly good man who never questioned God.

You can multiply these two stories by the number of victims and survivors. How many stories like this and far worse have we all heard?!

If this is God’s Chesed, I’d like to know what it’s like when He gets angry! How dare anyone say that God decided to torture innocent people in order to wake us up? Rabbi Miller does not make understanding the Holocaust any easier. He makes it even more difficult to understand, in my view.

Many great rabbinic figures were slaughtered by the Nazis. It is said that the great people of any given generation are punished because they did not protest the increasing rejection of Mitzvah observance of their time. Even if that’s true, how can such inhumanity to the average Jew – innocent people who are not Gedolim – be explained?

How can anyone say that being tortured by the likes of Mengele is the same as being hit with a stick at the North Pole?! How can anyone say that forcing Jews to dig mass graves for themselves and then being shot into them is the same as being hit with a stick?! How can anyone one say that the millions of Jews marching into the ‘showers’ at Auschwitz and Buchenwald is the same as being hit with a stick. Such analogies are an insult to not only the six million who died, but to all the survivors and their children, of which I am one!

Wake up call?! How exactly did all the torture endured by survivors wake up all those who lost their faith after the Holocaust?

My negative attitude about the Satmar Rebbe is well known here becauseof his antipathy towards the State of Israel and his disparagement of Rav Kook. But there is one thing I do agree with him about. The Holocaust cannot be explained.  And all victims of the Holocaust including survivors have earned an automatic place in the world to come – even if they did not remain religious.
I therefore object in the strongest possible terms the publication a book which espouses the view that the Holocaust was a ‘wake-up’ call. His right to publish such opinions should not trump the hurt such views have upon survivors and their children.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Harry Maryles

Self Esteem And Its Impact On Marriage

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Self esteem is one of the most important factors influencing human behavior. Despite what some people believe, self esteem can be a critical issue in marriage, where unresolved identity issues from childhood can place unwanted stress on a relationship.

Low self esteem can be very painful and difficult to overcome. Our sense of self is something we come into the world with and it follows us through life like a shadow. If we lose it, we are lost. If we have we it, we can face all of our trials and tribulations and maintain our sense of satisfaction and emotional well-being. Most parents understand the role self esteem plays in childhood. When children grow up, we teach them how to take losses in stride and how to win and lose with grace. We teach children that it’s them, and not just their grades, that matter.

Once childhood passes, unresolved self esteem issues can last for a lifetime. For example, in marriages where one person suffers from low self esteem, both parties may feel that their spouse never properly fulfills their emotional needs. And, where both suffer from feelings of low self esteem, there may be perpetual disappointment in the relationship.

Expectations make this issue even more complex. Couples tend to enter marriage with the belief that any hurt they may have experienced in the past will be healed by their spouse. They may also hope that their spouse will somehow make them feel good about themselves and nurture their self image.

A couple once came to talk with me about difficulties they were having in their marriage. The issue burning in their minds was the negative behavior of their teenage son. The father found it difficult to parent his rebellious teenager with confidence, and the wife had given up hope in her children and in her marriage as well. Overall, they were both visibly angry at one another, withdrawn and disappointed in their relationship.

I sensed there was more hiding below the surface. The husband, it turned out, had lost his mother at a young age and was raised by his father, who was too preoccupied with their financial survival to pay much attention to his son’s emotional needs. The wife had also had a very difficult childhood. She grew up with a father who had a temper and would often yell at her without reason. Early on, she had learned how to adapt and “disappear” from the house when he was around.

Years later, these two individuals would continue their childhood patterns and be caught in an endless cycle of emotional turmoil. Here is how the self esteem issues spiraled out of control: whenever he sensed that his wife was not responsive to his emotional needs, he would start yelling at her. His wife, who was mistreated by her father and had learned how to avoid conflict, would physically and emotionally withdraw from him and try to hide. This would intensify his feelings of rejection and make him even angrier.

To break the cycle, I suggested that both work on their self esteem. They could begin by exploring how their childhood traumas were now influencing their present-day behavior. Through becoming aware of these inner issues, they would be better equipped to respond to their deeper emotional wounds and start healing their feelings of rejection and neglect.

Here is a list of childhood family issues that may be interrupting your ability to have a happy marriage as an adult:

* Divorce
* Learning disabilities
* Lack of friendships
* Illness
* Physical or emotional abuse
* A sick parent
* A death in the family

Children who are exposed to conflict at home (which tends to coincide with a negative and hostile relationship between the parents) are more at risk for aggression, internalizing by withdrawing, depressive symptoms, and feelings of low self esteem.

Also, an adult who lost a parent when he or she was a child may feel a sense of loss that can carry on for a lifetime. Losing someone at a young age can diminish self-confidence, create feelings of despair, and leave individuals with feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

Part of the healing process is to become aware of these inner issues and to begin discussing them with one’s spouse. Talking about them in an honest and open way can help them become aware of each other’s feelings of abandonment. Here are some tips on how to nourish each other’s level of self esteem:

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch

Q & A: The Sandak (Part VI)

Thursday, December 6th, 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.

We then 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.

Last week we cited a case discussed by Rabbi Moshe Stern, the Debreciner Rav, zt”l (Responsa Ba’er Moshe vol. 1, 60:9), in which an individual accepted sandika’ot, only to be faced with his father’s strong opposition. Rabbi Stern cites the Knesset Yechezkel (Responsum 35) who rules that a son is not duty-bound to accede to his father’s demands in such a case. The Knesset Hagedolah writes in the name of the Ohr Zarua that if a father tells his son to disregard a mitzvah without offering an explanation, the son should not to listen to him. He cites Tosafot (Bava Metzia 32a sv “d’kavod”) as a source for this ruling.

Rabbi Stern explains that in case of sandika’ot, a father might object because, as the Mechaber states (Yoreh De’ah 257:7), in any situation that involves the assumption of financial responsibilities, a mishap can occur, perhaps leading to false accusations. Rabbi Stern suggests that a father might worry that by his son serving in the capacity of sandak he is taking on some sort of financial responsibility, such as when appointed a guardian for orphans.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

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.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

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.

Zev Golan

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

Moshe Herman

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.

Edwin Schild

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/my-soul-is-on-fire-part-i/2012/11/30/

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