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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘father’

We Are All Children Of One Creator

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

It was the mid ‘60s and I was living with my mother and brother in public housing on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. We moved there from Brooklyn a decade earlier to be near my mother’s family when my father died suddenly of a stroke.

Next door to us lived an Italian family with whom I spent a lot of time visiting. The mother was divorced from a husband who preferred using his fists rather than talking to her. I played with Mary, the youngest of the children, who was my age. However, I now wonder if I really went there to hear Mary’s mother tell me stories of her life growing up in Italy. She was a great storyteller. I felt drawn into another world and could relate to those stories because they were about family life. And many of her stories had morals.

The family at the other end of the hall consisted of Mr. and Mrs. R. and their three children. I had a close friend in Rosa, the middle child; Sonya was the oldest, Paul the youngest. I had a warm and happy relationship with each one. The mother was always chirpy and smiling. I spent hours playing Scrabble with the father, a very kind and caring person. Rosa once confided that her father was concerned because he saw me spend so much time alone looking out the hall window. Sonya was like the older sister I always wanted. When some girls stole my bike, Sonya went with me and got my bike back. She was tall and strong looking, and all she had to do was yell at the girl riding my bike in order to bring it over. The girl rode over with her two friends and silently handed it back. Sonya was my hero.

Paul, the youngest R. family member, spent a lot of time in my apartment. He visited me on many Friday nights and watched my mother light the Sabbath candles. I told him that his Hebrew name would be Pinchus. As much as he tried, he could never get the “ch” sound right. Looking back, I have no idea how we had so much to talk about, but we spent lots of time exchanging ideas. Most of the time, I felt closer to Paul than his sister Rosa.

A few years passed and I was in college. Paul moved on to other friends and no longer visited me. I remembered that he dreamt of becoming a doctor.

My mother had many friends who often visited her. One afternoon I came home and saw my mother sitting at the dining room table with Fanny, her closest friend. They both looked at me as I walked in, but neither one said a word. The room was heavy and I felt uneasy. My mother’s face had a disturbed look, both troubled and angry at the same time. Fanny was a clown and loved to make me laugh – but not on that morning. She abruptly left with just a “goodbye.” Not knowing what I was dealing with, I started some small talk with my mother, but she cut me off. It seemed that the very sound of my voice was too much for my mother to bear.

What was going on? What happened to my world? My mother made it obvious that she had nothing to say, something that never happened before. The next day was just as bad, making me glad to leave for school. On my way home, I thought that things would be better. However, it was just as awful. I pleaded with my mother to tell me what was going on. Finally she told me that the day before a lady who lived in the next courtyard heard a knock at the door. She asked who it was and heard “Western Union.” When she opened the door, a bunch of wild teenage boys rushed in. She was tied up and repeatedly attacked. By the time her husband got home, she had been mentally and physically destroyed.

My mother continued, explaining that she got a call from our neighbor, Paul R. He told her that he was calling from a payphone. He wanted to give her a warning, but before he could go into detail, he said that she must not call the police or tell anyone that he had called her – because “they” would kill him. “They,” it turned out, were the gang he belonged to, the boys who had brutalized the woman in the next courtyard. It was the first time my mother heard about the horrible attack. Paul said that the gang was going to try the same thing with her. She must not answer the door.

So Many ‘Things’: A Personal Account of Hurricane Sandy

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

There it was, a backyard full of my basement furniture, and bags and bags of waterlogged papers. There is something very humbling about seeing your “things” laid out on the grass. Of course, my home in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, is just one of many in the region devastated by Hurricane Sandy. But since possessions are by definition personal, it gives one no comfort to know others have the same problem.

In my case this is just the beginning, because the water that flooded my house rose above the basement and came up to the first floor, causing major damage. So over the next few days my daily living items will also be making their way outside.

As I stood on my porch, many thoughts came to mind. Leaving aside the enormity of what I have to deal with, I couldn’t help but think of how much we accumulate over the course of years. I am not by any means a hoarder – but I was quite surprised to see how much I had saved. Whose lock of hair is that in the water-soaked bag? My sons are in their forties with children of their own, but I guess I couldn’t part with that little lock from a long-ago upsherin. Now I would have to.

The table and chairs sitting outside were connected to a chesed I had done a while back. Actually, it was only the first part of the chesed. That probably is why we are told that if one starts a mitzvah, one has to finish it. I will not be able to finish that one.

I suppose some of the things in the basement were junk, but so many others were dear to me. There was the set of my father’s machzorim with larger print for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that my mother gave me after my father died, with a beautiful inscription that only my mother was capable of writing. I still remember what she wrote, and that will have to be the memory I hold onto now that I can no longer hold those machzorim.

As I stood there, another memory came to me. It was about thirty-three years ago that my dear Aunt Sylvia died, and while my mother sat shiva it fell to me to empty out Aunt Sylvia’s small apartment. Everything Aunt Sylvia owned was in those two and a half rooms. And there I was trying to figure out what was valuable and what was not. Then again, valuable to whom?

I picked some things I thought my mother and my sister would like and I took some of the things that had special meaning to me. Much of the rest I discarded. But it wasn’t easy. I was crying as I worked on it. And when I was finished I promised myself I wouldn’t save so many things. Now, all these years later, I ask myself how it is that I indeed saved so very many things.

I think the answer is that while we live, different things have meanings to each of us. I saved the little card my son Zevie made for me when he was three years old in nursery school because I never could forget the joy on his face when he presented it to me.

I saved my children’s report cards, from first grade on, even those of the daughters who are now grandmothers themselves because – well, just because. I saved some of the birthday cards my parents gave me over the years because, as I mentioned above, my mother had such a wonderful way with words. And the list goes on and on.

My husband’s medical school diploma and other items related to his medical achievements were in the basement along with some of his other things. In a strange way I would feel a sense of comfort in touching them. It will soon be his second yahrzeit, and I miss him very much.

My eyes filled with tears as I stared at what was in those clear garbage bags, but then I quickly admonished myself. How could I tear up over “things” when I have my life and my health? But I stopped beating myself up about it almost as soon as I started.

When All Else Fails, Play Gin Rummy

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

He recognized me before I recognized him. We were in Yerushalayim on different sides of the street. He was six foot two waving and yelling my name. “Noach, Noach, Noach Schwartz, the social worker! It’s me Yechiel Klein! Don’t you remember me?” He was wearing a hat, white shirt and suit and looked like a regular bochur from the Mir or Brisk. He did not look like the Yechiel I had met ten years earlier at a clinic in Boro Park.

I was the new clinician, right out of school, at my first job. I had so much to learn, no experience and no time. It was on the job training. I was still trying to make heads and tails out of goals and objectives when my supervisor explained that my goal was not to get fired and my objective was to finish my notes daily in order not to get fired.

On a cold January afternoon, an angry couple in their late fifties came in for an intake. They had with them a 15-year-old teenage boy who looked like he was nine. He looked bored with this whole thing. They told me that they were here because Yechiel’s yeshiva was threatening him with expulsion. They painted a picture of a defiant teenager who missed classes often, and was caught smoking, stealing and hanging out with the wrong crowd. His father, a rabbi, told me that until six months before Yechiel was at the top of his class both in Limudai Kodesh and Limudai Chol. He told me he gave up on him and it was now my job to find out what was bothering his son and to fix it. Thank you.

I prepared for my first session with Yechiel and thought I had a good plan. I would tell the kid that I too had been a troublemaker in high school and had also been threatened many times with suspension and look at me now. I figured that Yechiel would relate to me, and change immediately – because I told him to. He would become an A student. His parents would send me a big mishloach manos, the yeshiva would write a letter to my boss, I would not have to write notes and Schwartz would be the greatest psychotherapist since Freud.

I awoke from my dreams pretty quickly. Yechiel did not talk. Our sessions were forty-five minutes of silence. It was brutal. At first I talked, but even people like me get tired of hearing themselves talk. By week five our sessions were limited to games of gin rummy. It was extremely difficult writing notes on silent sessions. However, the kid was a good gin player. I could not win a single round. One day, out of desperation, I told him he should play gin rummy with his mom, and beat her too.

He then told me his mom was dead. He began to talk. He said the lady that came with his dad for the intake was his father’s new wife. He told me she slept in his mom’s bed. Gin!

Yechiel told me his mom died of cancer. She came to his bar mitzvah and then passed away. Slowly, he told me the story of her life and her death. He told me that he had six older siblings – all married. He told me that his mom loved him, because she told him so three days before the levaya. He told me that his mom was dead for eleven months when his father remarried. Gin!

He told me he did well in school through out his mom’s illness and even after the aveilus. He told me he davened for the amud daily in yeshiva and never missed a kadish. Gin!

Yechiel said his father’s second marriage was more devastating to him than his mom’s death. The pain of his mother being gone, and his father having a new roommate was just too much for him to handle. He told me he was trying alcohol and drugs and skipping school. He said he had a morbid joy witnessing the pain of his father and stepmother. He said he had a fantasy that his father would divorce his wife in order to prevent Yechiel from going completely off the derech. Gin!

Keep Up The Good Work

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I feel extremely guilty about my elderly father and am filled with anger toward my sisters and brothers in regards to his care.

First the latter: My five siblings give me, the youngest child and one of three daughters, little help in caring for our father, instead they provide me with constant advice and criticism. Unfortunately I am the only one who takes care him (I visit every day); my father lives near me and has a full-time attendant. Some of my siblings live nearby and others further away, but they only visit him occasionally – and basically expect me to do everything.

My three brothers feel that as sons, they are obligated to do less. My two sisters claim that they are busy with their married children. Well, I also have married children but somehow find the time for our elderly father. One of the things that angers me is the remarks they make. For example, they’ll say that since I was his favorite child, I am the one obligated to care for him. As our parents were wonderful to all of us, I cannot understand how they can turn their backs on him now – just when he needs us most.

At the same time, I feel guilty that I don’t do more for him. My father complains a lot, causing me to sometimes become angry with him. I find it hard to spend a lot of time with him, although I visit every day, take him to doctors, cook his favorite foods, and make sure he has everything he needs.

I need your advice on how to deal with my anger toward my siblings and guilt about my father.

Angry and Guilty

Dear Angry and Guilty:

It is amazing that one father is able to care for six children, but six children cannot care for one father.

I am impressed by your devotion to your father and your adherence to the mitzvah of kibud av. What I would suggest is that in dealing with your father’s complaining try to validate his feelings. You may find that this helps decrease his complaining. Often when people complain, the natural response from the person forced to listen is to say, “It is not so bad, so stop complaining.” This usually makes them complain more. Saying to your father, “I know how you must feel; it is not easy to feel that way,” may make him realize that he’s being heard and understood. As a result, he may complain less.

With respect to your siblings, you should confront them in a nice manner. At a minimum, you will feel better having told them how upset you are and why. They may be rationalizing to themselves that you enjoy having all of the responsibility.

Use the “I feel” message, as others are usually less defensive when confronted with that strategy. Say something like, “I know that you all have busy lives, Baruch Hashem, and you probably do not realize that I feel I end up having to take care of most of Daddy’s needs. Let’s make a schedule whereby everyone can chip in, so that none of us feels overwhelmed.” If they don’t increase their involvement in your father’s care, at least make it clear that you feel bad when you receive their advice and criticism, especially when you are the one handling most of the heavy lifting. Unfortunately, it is generally the one who does the most who winds up receiving the most criticism. But please take solace in the sechar that you are receiving for honoring your father.

If you validate your father’s feelings and he continues to complain, validate your own feelings. This does not mean that you should limit your visiting time with him and beat yourself up for sometimes feeling annoyed and frustrated. Remember that taking care of an older person is very difficult, as he or she often does not feel well and thus may be more critical and irritable. With this in mind, let yourself off the hook when you are feeling upset.

While it is certainly important to treat your father with loving care and not show him your annoyance in any way, if you sometimes feel that way (which is only normal), do something nice for yourself instead of feeling guilty. Also, remember two things: your reward may not be evident in this world, and your children will probably accord you the same respect that you are demonstrating to your father.

Q & A: The Sandak (Part I)

Friday, November 2nd, 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 source of the word “sandak” is important to our discussion, as is an examination of what exactly the sandak’s role is at a brit. We find the following in the Midrash (Tehillim pg. 723): “With the tender [young infants] I do sandikus at the time of milah and priyah.”

“Sandak” is clearly a Greek word, as are many words found in the Midrash. It means “companion of child” or “advocate.” Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dinov explains that it is an acronym: “Sanegor na’aseh din kategor,” which means “The defense emerges victorious vis-à-vis the prosecutor.” This is explained in the Zohar (Parashat Pikudei pg. 255b): “At the time that a person is cut [circumcised], the sitra acher, the one on the other side [Satan], is broken and no longer empowered to cause any harm because the defense of Israel has been performed.”

In answer to your question, we find that the Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) writes as follows: “It is customary for one to pursue this mitzvah to hold the infant at the time of circumcision. And the sandak is considered even greater than the mohel in that he is given the honor of being called up to the Torah even before the mohel. This is because every sandak is compared to a kohen who offers ketoret [Temple incense]. It is customary not to give sandika’ot to someone more than once, as we find in regards to offering ketoret.”

The Rema is referring to the mishnah (Yoma 26a) and Gemara (ad loc.) that relate that the ketoret was never offered by the same individual more than once since it enriched the one who offered it, and everyone wished to benefit from this blessing. The Temple used to conduct a lottery for kohanim who had never offered ketoret to ensure that everyone had an equal share in this avodah.

The Shach (Yoreh Deah, ad loc., sk 22) clarifies that the Rema does not mean that one may not serve as a sandak more than once. Rather, he means that a father should not give the honor of sandika’ot to the same person more than once.

The Rema notes the possibility of a woman serving as sandak and cautions against it, especially where a man is available. He explains that it is immodest for a woman to serve as sandak. Rather, he writes, the woman serves as the companion to her husband as she is given the honor of bringing the baby to the synagogue where she hands the infant to him. (This husband and wife are commonly referred to as the kvater and kvaterin, which mean, respectively, “in place of the father,” his messenger, and “in place of the mother,” her messenger.)

(To be continued)

A Labor Of Love

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

I recently interviewed Mrs. Tziporah Lifshitz of Maaleh Adumim, Israel about the posthumous publication of the book A Day Is A Thousand Years, Human Destiny and the Jewish People, authored by her late father, Dr. Zvi Faier, and edited by Tziporah and her mother, Chaya.

I knew Tziporah as a young child when our families lived around the corner from each other in Far Rockaway. I had not seen her for many years and I was looking forward to this interview.  I also remembered her father, whom we called Herschel, all those years ago.  He was a “scholar and a gentleman,” brilliant, but warm and approachable.  I was saddened when I learned of his death and thankful that with the publication of this book, his thoughts would remain for posterity.

Tziporah, please tell me a little about your father.

My father was born in pre-war Poland. His family fled Nazi occupied Poland and lived in Southern Russia. In 1948 through the help of an aunt they immigrated to Montreal, Canada where he attended yeshiva and received a Bachelor of Science degree. He then moved to Chicago where he received a PhD from Northwestern University, in theoretical physics. In Chicago he met and married my mother, Chaya and also met his mentor, Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman, who was the head Rabbinic scholar at the Hebrew Theological College.

In 1973 our family made aliyah. My father maintained his Talmudic studies with Rabbi Zimmerman at the Harry Fishel Institute, where he received Smicha in 1976.

Recently, when I asked a relative how he would best describe my father, he said, “ He was always striving towards deeper understanding and truth.” My father was above all, a man of Torah, but he was also a man of science.

What was your part in this book?

I was very close to my father. He wrote and then we discussed many pieces together, especially during the last three years of his life. Upon his death, I assumed the editing of the manuscript, together with my mother. But he completed the manuscript. On the one hand the book is very personal and yet it is a book of lofty ideas.

What is the theme of the book?

I think I would say, what being “the Chosen People” means and what it implies for non-Jews. My father believed in the goodness of mankind. He wanted this book to be read by Jews as well as non-Jews, because what is at stake is nothing less than the future of mankind. He relates his own life experiences, the Holocaust, because this tackles the question of the relationships of Jews and gentiles. He also discusses Christianity and anti-Semitism. A key word in his world is striving. Man at full stature, is a being that strives higher and higher. Not only mundane everyday survival and managing life, but striving to reach deeper truths and new horizons. This was how he viewed mankind and history and this is how he lived his own life.

Tell me a little about yourself.

I’m a mother of 8 children, all born in Israel. I live in Maaleh Adumim, which is about 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem. I teach Jewish philosophy at Ulpana Tzvia, the local girls high school and I am studying for my doctorate in the Talmud department of Bar Ilan University.

You mentioned Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman as your father’s mentor. How does this relate to the book?

Rabbi Zimmerman was a part of the Brisk dynasty, and was considered a giant in Torah. My father was his student for many years and he had a profound influence on his life. Some of the concepts explored in this book are things that my father discussed with Rabbi Zimmerman and he is mentioned often in the footnotes.

Tell me a little more about the book.

My father quotes Chazal, offering his own analysis and illuminating a new dimension, especially to those who are not so familiar with the words of Chazal. He brings new insights suitable to a broad educated audience, Jew as well as non-Jews.

This book is not a coffee table book, nor is it a quick read. It can be picked up often to read a few pages and then put down, but come back to again and again.

Will the US Help the Muslim Brotherhood Take Jordan?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

It might be helpful now to start wondering what sort of ideas Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, and its leader, Controller General Sheikh Hamam Sai’d, will advance if they seize power in Jordan — possibly with the blessing and encouragement of the United States.

Sheikh Sai’d, of Palestinian origin, was elected to the leadership of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood in 2008 by its hardline faction. They support a partnership with Hamas and the overthrow of Middle Eastern leaders who side with the United States.

The prominent Jordanian journalist, Osama Al-Rantisi, published an article on July 14, 2011, in the Jordanian daily newspaper, Al-ghad, in which he alleged that Sai’d had held a meeting in Turkey with “recently-retired officers from the CIA and the internal counter-intelligence and security agency, the MI5.”

This was followed by Al-Arabiya TV Network, which also ran an article on its website on May 22, 2012, detailing allegations made by Al-Rantisi that:

Dr. Hammam Sai’d and former Egyptian Brotherhood leader Dr. Kamal Halbawi had met last June [of 2011] in Istanbul, Turkey with former CIA deputy director Steven Kappes, and former MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller.

Al-Rantisi goes on to say that both Kappes and Manningham-Buller pledged in the meeting that, “The U.S. government and its intelligence services will support the Muslim brotherhood goals of coming to power,” and “urging them [Muslim Brotherhood members] to fight terrorism and to establish peace with Israel.”

Presumably, each side thinks it will co-opt the other, and neither side will budge. After all, if the U.S. has tolerated the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, why not also in Jordan?

Not surprisingly, the Muslim Brotherhood dismissed Al-Rantisi’s claims and sued him for damages. Nonethless, Al-Rantisi stuck by the claims he had made when questioned by Al-Arabiya, alleging his information was based on “unofficial minutes of that alleged meeting” between Hamam Sai’d and the officers mentioned above.

Sheikh Sai’d’s son, Anes Sai’d, recently released a video on YouTube speaking of his woes with his father and with the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. The video provides a nightmarish glimpse of the Muslim Brotherhood’s top man in Jordan, and only intensifies the fears of the liberal and secular Jordanians of an Egyptian-like Muslim Brotherhood takeover.

In the video, Anes describes his father as “an unfair, licentious and corrupt person;” he also details cruelties to which his father allegedly subjected him. He goes on to describe the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan as “trading in religion.”

Anes starts by affirming his identity and exhibiting his academic qualifications:

Peace on all, my name is Anes Hammam Sai’d, an architect. I graduated top of my class from the University of Jordan in 1996; I run a design office with a partner and I have passed the qualifications exam of the Union [of Jordanian Engineers].

Anes then describes himself as a Baathist – from the secular pan-Arab nationalist movement, which shares the Islamists’ hatred for Israel, but opposes the establishment of an Islamist state.

Shortly after that, Anes starts criticizing the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization his father in Jordan controls.

The Muslim Brotherhood movement in Jordan is political child’s play; in Egypt they [the Muslim Brotherhood] were tortured, executed, beaten and imprisoned; here the Jordanian Muslim brotherhood uses the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the Jordanian regime’s tolerance for them, to gain popularity…In Egypt, the basic thing to do is either to stay at home or do something useful that changes things for the best. But here, joining a protest or a march to say, ‘I am the Muslim Brotherhood, I am the opposition,’ this is the utmost stupidity, nonsense and children’s play; it is trading with religion, they [the Muslim Brotherhood] are trading with religion, they have not been elected, they were appointed.

Anes concludes by affirming that he thinks he would be hurt by the Muslim Brotherhood:

All that I said here, they [the Muslim Brotherhood] know is true. I swear to God if I am to say this in public I would be hanged, they would hang me in downtown Amman; all the harsh conditions I have endured and the hard days I have been through have made me cling more to life, and God is my witness that I forgive the Muslim Brotherhood in this life and the afterlife.

To verify the video, the author contacted one of Hamam Sai’d’s family friends, who now resides in the United Kingdom, and who went to school with Anes. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he confirmed that the person in the video was actually Hamam Sai’d’s son, Anes, and added that he was not shocked at all by the video: “His father has always been harsh and crude to him and everyone else who enters his circle, and he is indeed a very manipulative man who plays well on words.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/will-the-us-help-the-muslim-brotherhood-take-jordan/2012/10/31/

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