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Posts Tagged ‘father’

The Sandak (Part IV)

Thursday, November 22nd, 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.

* * * * *

Let’s address your original question regarding a dispute between a father and grandfather over who should serve as sandak.

The Gemara (Sukkah 32a), in seeking to determine if we may use something other than the traditional palm for a lulav, discusses the possibility of using flowered palms. Abaye rejects this idea because flowered palms are prickly to the touch and Proverbs 3:17 states, “Deracheha darchei noam vechol netivoteha shalom – Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.” The Metzudas David explains: “In no way or manner is it possible for a mishap to come from one’s observance of Torah dictates.”

This rule applies to all mitzvot. Performing a mitzvah is supposed to bring both pleasantness and peace. If there is strife involved, then the entire act is marred. For example, one who steals a lulav cannot properly fulfill the mitzvah since a mitzvah that is performed through a sinful act is tainted (Sukkah 29b).

The same is true of sandika’ot. The brit milah itself is of course valid no matter how bitterly a father and grandfather may fight over who should serve as sandak. But the sandika’ot – which the Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) refers to as a mitzvah that one should actively pursue – will not have been properly fulfilled because of the strife; pleasantness and peace did not surround it.

The grandfather in your scenario acted wrongly because the right to bestow any honor associated with the brit milah belongs to the father, as the Mechaber (Yoreh De’ah 260:1) notes. Thus, neither the grandfather nor anyone else may “grab” this honor if the father wishes otherwise.

What about the mitzvah of kibud av, of honoring one’s father? Naturally, all sons have this obligation, but the Mechaber (Y.D. 240:19) is emphatic that parents are prohibited from weighing down heavily on their children and being exacting on the honor due them so that they not create a stumbling block for their children (i.e., tempting them to disobey by making excessive demands).

Ride To Forever

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The taxi driver was old and rather shriveled, with a crop of white hair fringing his head.

Ah, I recognize this one, I thought with relief, hurrying to open the door. If I recall correctly, he knows Lakewood. You would think that a taxi driver, being that his/her job is, well, driving, and being that the town they are driving in is, well, Lakewood…Well, I would tend to think that knowing how to drive around Lakewood would somehow come along with the job; if not before, then at least afterwards. The reality, unfortunately, is that I am usually forced to keep a sharp lookout for turns in the opposite direction of which I am supposed to be going.

This time I lay back in relief and closed my eyes. Maybe I could catch a quick power nap before my appointment.

The car jolted to a stop and my eyes popped open. Oh, it was this corner. I had to admit that even I was often caught off guard by the intersection’s unusual traffic patterns, so I would have to forgive even a veteran driver for this one. Cars were coming and going busily to and from all directions, and mistakes were almost inevitable here. When it was quiet you could get away with it, but…

“Why is it,” the gravelly voice of the driver reached me, “that this town goes crazy every day at two o’clock?”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “You’re from Lakewood, right?”

“Seventy years in Lakewood,” came the gravelly response.

“Seventy years in Lakewood, and no one ever told you what happens here at two o’clock every day?” A taxi driver, for heaven’s sake?

“Nope.”

Wow, was this a teaching opportunity. A historic moment. I mentally rubbed my hands in glee and attacked my subject with gusto.

“You know the yeshiva, right?” I wasn’t taking anything for granted, but the guy wasn’t blind. Well, I would assume not.

“Yep. But it’s back there.” He motioned vaguely towards the center of town.

“Right. But this town, it revolves around the yeshiva. And, you know what the yeshiva’s schedule is?”

“Nope.”

“Well, they start between nine thirty and ten in the morning. And they get out between 1:45 and 2:00 in the afternoon!” I nearly crowed with triumph. A seventy (well, almost) year old mystery, solved by yours truly!! “So at two o’clock, until four o’clock, when everyone is back in yeshiva this town is on wheels!!!”

I was about to launch into a description of babysitting schedules, moms at work, and dads with strollers, when another gravelly comment cut me short.

“I was here before the rabbi came here.” Well. Maybe bein hasdarim was different in those days, then. Talk about time warp.

“I used to drive him to Brooklyn.”

I nearly jumped out of my seatbelt. Well, I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, to be honest. But if I had been…

“You drove Rabbi Kotler? To Brooklyn??”

“Yep.” He said this in the same tone of voice he would have used to tell me that the price of eggs was down, or that the real estate market was nonexistent, or that his neighbor had died.

“They should interview you for The Voice!” I exclaimed excitedly. “What’s your name?”

“Ed Skinner.”

I was on it. Reporter on the scent. “Ok, I gotta hear this. So, did you ever talk to him?”

“Well, yeah. Not much. About prices, and where we were going…”

I tried to pump as much as I could. Apparently, Rav Aharon had often had to go into Brooklyn, I imagine for simchos, fund raising, etc. Mr. Ed Skinner, who had then worked for a limousine service, had had the distinct honor of being the driver called upon to convey the rosh yeshiva to his destination.

“Was a good price in those days, too,” he added.

Unfortunately, I could not tease out any more juicy tidbits of information. I was hoping for a Genuine Gadol Story. If it existed in the memory of Ed Skinner, however, it was not making itself known to me. Still, I couldn’t get over it. I felt like I was touching history.

“He was the man, you know,” I tried to impress upon the driver. “He created this town. I mean, not the town, but the Jewish community. He was a holy man, and a brilliant man.

Letter to Our Son After Shabbat

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Dear Son,

I hope you had a Torah scroll with your platoon for Shabbat, and that you heard the Torah reading. The Parsha of Toldot begins, “These are the generations of Yitzhak, Avraham gave birth to Yitzhak.” Now this is very strange. When the Torah says, “These are the generations of Yitzhak,” we are ready to hear about the offspring of Yitzhak – Yaakov and Esav – yet the verse continues, “Avraham gave birth to Yitzhak.” Why talk about Avraham? He’s the father not a son! From this, we learn that the father is in the son. The father is passed down to his son and grandchildren from generation to generation. That’s how I feel, right now, as if I am with you on the outskirts of Gaza, waiting for the orders to wipe out Hamas and the other hornets’ nests of terror based in schools, mosques, hospitals, homes, and underground tunnels under the city, where they are hiding like cockroaches in the dark.

Over Shabbat, I remembered back to the Gulf War. Just before the missiles started falling on Tel Aviv, I had been called to milluim and was doing reserve military duty in the all Arab city of Tulkarim. You were maybe nine months old at the time. When the first missiles were launched, soldiers with beards received an order to shave, so that gas masks would fit better in case the missiles were armed with chemical heads. So I shaved. I didn’t tell your mother, thinking I would surprise her when I came home on leave, and sure enough, when I knocked on the front door several days later, the second she saw me, she gasped and retreated back into the living room, startled, as if some strange frightening caller was standing at the door. But the minute you saw me, you called out, “Ba!” and came crawling like a rocket, recognizing me immediately, even though I didn’t have a beard. When I picked you up, you were as happy as could be. “These are the generations of Yitzhak, Avraham gave birth to Yitzhak.” Father and son. Son and father. We’re the same.

So know that I am with you. So is your mother. The whole Shabbat, she waited for the moment she could turn on the radio to learn what was happening. Of course, when the warning siren suddenly sounded in Yerushalayim on Shabbat evening, and a distant boom shattered the tranquility, that brought the war even closer for your mother. More reservists were called up during Shabbat, and we heard rumors that troops would be sent to the north as well, but wherever you are, and whatever you end up doing, know that ever role is vital, whether it be that of a pilot, or the soldier that loads the bomb on the plane, the controller in the computer room, or the “jobnik” who folds the emergency parachute. King David made sure that everyone in the army of Israel received the same share of the booty, the soldiers that fought in the front, and those who stayed behind to guard over the camp.  “All for one, and one for all.”

Because I am in you, like Avraham was in Yitzhak, I know many of the things you are feeling. Even though you have received the finest training, going into battle is not an easy thing. You have a sensitive and caring soul, and even though you are as big and strong as Samson, in civilian life you wouldn’t hurt a fly. But as we learn in this week’s Torah portion, sometimes Yaakov has to dress in the clothes of Esav to bring blessing to the world. At his mother’s urging, to receive his father’s blessing, Yaakov puts goat skins on his arms, so that when his blind father embraces him, he will think it is indeed his eldest son, the hairy hunter Esav.

Rabbi Kook explains the story represents the victory of the forces of good over the forces of evil. Yet to triumph over the wicked Esav, the holy and righteous Yaakov is forced to resort to cruelty and deception.  Though it goes against his inner nature, Yaakov takes up the characteristics of Esav, the hunter, murderer, schemer, and warrior, to insure that the blessing of Avraham comes to the world through its proper channel.  Like today, when the Nation of Israel is forced to adopt Esav weapons of killing and war, it goes into battle not for the sake of destruction, but to bring an end to all killing and wars. Not out of a beastly passion for killing and war, like that of our enemies in Gaza, but out of the knowledge that this is the only way to make the world a better place. The arms and armies are like the arms and armies of Esav, but the voice is the voice of Yaakov. We fight when we have to, not for the sake of killing, but to put an end to all killing and bloodshed.

When we have to, we take up the rifles of Esav, but we are still Yaakov inside, guided by the light of the Torah. We have no other choice. In a world that lives by the sword, we have to take up the sword too. We cannot merely sit and pray for miracles. One of the commandments of the Torah is “Milchemet Mitzvah,” the mitzvah to go to war to defend Jewish life and to conquer the Land of Israel and keep it under out own Jewish sovereignty. You, my dear son, are engaged in a “Milchemet Mitzvah” twice over – defending the lives of the million Jew under rocket fire, and fighting enemies whose goal is to conquer our Land.

Not only am I and you mother with you. Our whole nation is with you. The Torah is with you. Avraham and Yitzhak and Yaakov are with you. The G-d of Israel is with you. Uproot the evil, my son. Go with a clean heart and a clear conscience. For G-d’s honor. For the honor of Israel. For the sake of the world.

Hazak V’Amatz,

Abba

Easing The Trauma Of Divorce

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

I am currently involved in a yearlong custody battle over my three children, who are all under the age of 10. I did not want or provoke this situation. My wife – with limited success – continues to enlist the children over to her side in her declared war on me. I, on the other hand, advise them that this fight is not their problem and that they should stay out of it. I tell them that they are totally innocent, and that they should honor and love both parents.

During my visitation time, I play with them, read to them, cook for them and do school work with them. In short, I do everything the children need, even those things that are traditionally done by mothers.

The children appreciate what I do for them. However, their mother is constantly trying to get them to see things her way. She tells them that they should help her get their visits with me curtailed because, in her words, “fathers don’t know how to take care of children,” and “mothers know how to better take care of children.”

What amazes me most is the percentage of people that share that line of thinking. Rabbis who are affiliated with batei din and marriage counselors who ought to know better have this underlying, forgiving attitude toward mothers – in spite of the children’s needs. Statements like “it is not right to take children away from a mother,” or “children need a mother,” or “children always go with the mother,” or the famous “mothers take better care of children” are commonly offered as so-called self-evident truths. This even applies to fathers who have always been thoroughly involved in their children’s development. Custody is only given to a father (very reluctantly) when there is absolutely no alternative. And when that happens, people see it as unfair.

I find that women almost blindly sympathize with the mother in these situations and are not interested in the facts. They immediately assume that the husband, the beis din, the courts and the lawyers are a bunch of clever villains while the poor mother and her lawyer are the victims.

I wonder if all these people know what divorcing mothers frequently do. They destroy the fathers’ image in the children’s eyes, in order for them to be totally dependant on the mother. They teach their children to lie to, and steal from, their father. They coach them into making false accusations against their father, saying, “The more bad things that you say about Tatty the better.” They inform the children of accusations made by the father against the mother in court and sometimes even show them court papers, in order to arouse their sympathy and sway them to their side.

In a nutshell, many mothers teach their children to betray their father.

My goal in writing this letter is to remind people that when they judge a divorce situation – which really should never be done – they need to consider the best interests of the children more than is sometimes done and to remember that there are no “self-evident truths” in divorce cases.

Sincerely,

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

I hear your pain and feel for you. While much of what you say is true, unfortunately, there are many fathers who play the same game and speak negatively about the mother of their children – to their children. No parent should use a child as a pawn in a divorce situation. To better the odds that a child from a divorced home will become more successful in future life endeavors, couples must work on keeping things amicable rather than stormy. The research of Wallerstein and Kelly makes this point very clear.

It is unfortunate that there are situations in which divorce is the only option. However, the process is incredibly painful for the children involved and parents must make every attempt to ensure that the children feel safe and secure – and that their needs are the priority for both parents.

In our practices, both Orit and I have seen the devastating effect of the trauma on children. For my part, I counsel parents on how to be more effective with their children in all situations. We work hard teaching parents how to imbue derech eretz in their children. Nonetheless, all these wonderful techniques are often ineffectual in a home filled with pain and strife.

The Age Of Disrespect

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

And Lavan and Betuel answered and said, “It is from Hashem that this has come forth. We can speak neither for nor against it.” – Bereishis 24:50

Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, went to find a wife for Yitzchak. He approached the city of Charan, waited at the well, and asked Hashem for a sign. “Let it be that the girl who not only gives me water when I ask for it, but says, ‘Not only will I give you to drink, but I will give your camels as well.’ She should be the one that is right for Yitzchak.”

No sooner did he finish speaking than Rivka, the daughter of Betuel, came upon the scene and fulfilled his request exactly as he specified. Eliezer knew that he had found the right one.

He then asked Rivka to take him to her father. As they neared the house, Rivka’s brother Lavan saw the camels laden with treasure and ran out to greet the new guest and usher him in. Eliezer described the miracles that happened and then asked for approval of the marriage. Lavan and Betuel exclaimed, “It is from Hashem! How can we stop it?”

Rashi comments that from here we see Lavan’s wickedness. Why did the Torah mention his name first? To teach us that he spoke before his father. This shows us that he was a rasha.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. Why does Lavan’s speaking before his father show that he was wicked? Disrespectful, yes. Rude, certainly. But a rasha?

The answer to this can best be understood from a historical vantage point.

A yeshiva student learning in Israel found himself on a bus, sitting near two secular American Jews. Noticing that one was a bit older than the other, he was surprised to hear them calling each other by their first names. “Bob, did you notice that?” said one. “Hey, Joe, what do you think?” said the other. His surprise deepened when in the course of conversation it became clear that the two were father and son. Dad explained, “I don’t want barriers between us, so we call each other by our first names.”

That isn’t the way that it used to be. Not all that long ago in America, a teenager wouldn’t dream of calling an adult by his first name, let alone his father. And certainly a child wouldn’t dare open his mouth when his father spoke. It didn’t matter how foul-mouthed the child was, and it didn’t matter how unpolished the father was. Children knew their place, and the idea of a child speaking back to an adult was unheard of.

Things have changed. The countercultural revolution of the 1960s brought new attitudes and ideas. And while much of the hysteria of those times has passed, one of the relics is that respect is no longer part of the culture. Gone is respect for leaders. Gone is respect for the clergy. Gone is respect for elders. In its place is the cynicism of a new age – an egalitarian age – where we are all equals.

We no longer need to treat institutions with reverence, and we no longer need to treat authority with deference. And so we argue with our doctors. We argue with our lawyers. And we argue with our parents, who don’t really know that much anyway. Welcome to the Age of Disrespect.

This seems to be the answer to this Rashi. In the times of Lavan, society was still relatively normal. Workers respected bosses. Students respected teachers. Younger people respected older people. As such, there were things that were done and things that were not done. In that world, for a child to answer in his father’s presence was outrageous. It simply didn’t happen. The only time such a thing could occur was when the child had veered way off course – had become deviant. And so Rashi tells us that Lavan’s response shows just how wicked he was.

This is especially illustrative because Lavan wasn’t known as a paradigm of virtue. He died trying to poison Eliezer in order to steal his money. Yet even in his home, for a child to answer before his father did was so out of the norm that it could only happen if that child was wicked.

Q & A: The Sandak (Part III)

Wednesday, November 14th, 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 one individual more than once.

The Shach (Yoreh Deah ad loc. sk 22) clarifies that Rema does not mean that one may not be a sandak more than once. Rather, if a person has served as sandak for a boy, he should not serve as sandak for any of his brothers in the future.

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.

Last week we continued with Rabbi Ari Enkin’s discussion of this matter in his new sefer, Shu’t HaShulchani, which we now conclude.

* * * * *

Rabbi Enkin continues his discussion of whether someone should serve as sandak twice (Shu’t HaShulchani 154-156):

“There is also a variation of this custom, seemingly of Turkish and Greek origin, in which one refrains from honoring the same person to serve as sandak twice in a single year – should another boy be born to the family within that time – but allows him to serve as sandak once again after a year has passed.

“There is also an opinion that the custom does not apply to relatives. According to this approach, one can invite a relative to serve as sandak more than once. This is especially true with regard to the baby’s father. Indeed, a father shouldn’t hesitate to be the sandak for all of his children should he so desire.

“Although the custom of restricting a sandak to once per family is widely observed, there are some exceptions to the rule. In some communities, the local rabbi is designated as the exclusive sandak and this includes serving as sandak for multiple children from the same family. It is explained that such an arrangement is not truly a deviation from the supposed custom, for the community rabbi can be compared to the Kohen Gadol, who was indeed permitted to perform the incense offering over and over. Similarly, very prominent, world-renowned rabbis are often repeatedly invited to serve as sandak for the same family.

“It is also noted that the custom to restrict someone form serving as a sandak twice likely originates from Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid, whose rulings are often understood as being optional in nature. So too, the custom of restricting someone from serving as sandak more than once is not found in the Talmud. As a general rule, though there are many exceptions, a restriction that doesn’t have its origins in the Talmud is not truly binding.

“Indeed, the conclusion of most halachic authorities is that one may indeed serve as a sandak more than once for the same family should one be invited to do so.

“There is also a view that it is the mohel, not the sandak, who is comparable to a kohen offering the incense in the Beit Hamikdash. Even according to this approach, however, there is no restriction on using the same mohel more than once.”

(To be continued)

On Being Sandy

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

It was William Shakespeare who posed the question “What’s in a name?”

These days, if someone calls you “Shakespeare” it probably means he or she thinks you are pretty bright, or at least can write well.

But a name can take on a whole new meaning when you find yourself sharing an identity with the most destructive storm ever to strike the East Coast.

My first inkling of Hurricane Sandy came approximately six days before the actual winds blew into town, when a friend jokingly e-mailed me a weather map showing the storm’s track.

I admit I was intrigued. When the National Weather Service issues its annual list of hurricane names for the year, they are arranged alphabetically. Honestly, I never realized the list went all the way through the alphabet and had never heard of a hurricane with an S-name. Hurricane Sandy? It sounded pretty cool.

By Thursday I had changed my Facebook profile picture to a graphic of the impending hurricane and got plenty of “likes” on my new photo persona, as well as lots of teasing from my friends. With the projected forecast of Sandy colliding with two other weather systems and during a full moon, which meant really high tides, they were calling me “the perfect storm.”

By Sunday night, my father, who had already been experiencing Sandy’s rain and winds, called me from Florida.

“How could they name such a terrible storm after someone so special?” he asked me in a way that only a loving father could. I told him not to worry. He had always said that if I was going to do something I should do it with a full heart – and it sounded like Hurricane Sandy was going to give her all as well.

And indeed she did. But not in a good way.

Four days after Sandy wreaked destruction, havoc and unparalleled devastation on the Eastern Seaboard, I was ready to change my profile picture on Facebook. How could I, even jokingly, associate myself with something that claimed the lives of innocent victims, washed people’s houses out into the Atlantic, and caused so much heartache to so many?

For those who weathered the storm with minimal adverse effects, it will be just a memory of taking in the lawn furniture in advance of a rainy night accompanied by howling winds. For others, Sandy will go down in the record books as the mega-storm that took out the electricity, leaving us shivering in the dark as we waited for the power to go back on and prayed that our freezers wouldn’t defrost on us.

I consider myself one of the fortunate ones. But in far too many instances, Sandy turned out to be a life-altering experience resulting in catastrophic losses.

In some ways Sandy took me back to 9/11, when we walked around in a daze wondering how something like this could have happened here. We all looked at the pictures of Breezy Point, Sea Gate, and the Battery Tunnel in disbelief, unable to comprehend that this was no movie set, that this was in fact very real, and realizing how in an instant our lives can crumble before us.

Did anyone imagine that the New York City subway system could be brought to a grinding halt? That entire portions of midtown Manhattan could be without power or that lower Manhattan could be submerged? How crippled we would be if we no longer had access to cell phone service or the Internet?

As time goes by and the repairs and the healing take hold, perhaps we may be able to see Sandy not only for the epic catastrophe she turned out to be but also as an opportunity for people to show their true colors, as they turned out in force to do everything within their power, and then some, to help those who bore the full brunt of the storm’s wrath.

But of course it is way too early for those who are suffering to even contemplate looking for the silver lining in clouds that are undoubtedly darker than most of us have ever seen.

Ultimately, Sandy will come to represent many different things to many different people.

For me, Sandy is a sobering reminder that while our lives are, thankfully, so rich and so full of advances and comforts, we haven’t earned them or created them on our own. All that we have we have only through the benevolence and kindness of Heaven, and we must appreciate and value them every single day of our lives.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/on-being-sandy/2012/11/14/

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