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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘grandfather’

Eighteen…

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

By the time I started this blog, Elie was 19, almost 20 years old and about to enter the army. By the time I really introduced Shmulik, he was close to entering the army as well. Somehow, with the lull between Shmulik leaving and Davidi entering, I have more time to share who Davidi is, long before he will enter the army.

He turned 18 this past week (though his English birthday is actually next week), full of school and wanting to start driving lessons and one other major milestone that will change who he is. He is going to Poland in a few weeks. If you’ve never been there, you can’t imagine the impact standing in a gas chamber will have on you. You just can’t imagine seeing ashes and ashes, ovens that were used to burn the remains, cemetery after cemetery, and so much more. To go as a Jew to Poland is to focus, for a time, not on those who walk the earth today, but those who are buried beneath it (if they were lucky enough to be buried).

Right before Amira was going into her last year of high school, she told me she wanted to go to Poland. Her school has a policy not to take students out of Israel and so they don’t organize a trip to Poland. It was something, this pilgrimage, that was very important to my oldest daughter but she was afraid it would be too much for her and so she asked me to come along, told me she needed me.

What could I do? I went. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done…for many reasons. I left in Israel, tiny Aliza – only 2 and a half years old. Amira’s son is now 2 and a half years old and I think Amira now realizes how hard it was for me. I missed the others terribly, but somehow, my arms ached to hold Aliza most of all. My husband was amazingly supportive. I wish, sometimes, I had gone with him. I felt bad crying in front of Amira and had I gone with Lazer, we would have cried together. But his parents were Holocaust survivors; he has no interest in going back to the places where they lost so much.

I dreaded the trip that would take me out of Israel, away from the others.Once I landed in Poland, I realized that it would be impossible for me not to see, not to feel. I had thought I was going to support Amira and yet, in many ways, she supported me. It was a brutal trip, agonizing in so many ways.

As I sat this week, listening to the itinerary of where Davidi will go, my eyes filled with tears. I know the route they will take, the places they will see, and the agonies he will feel. He is supposed to tell them if we had relatives in one of the cities where they will visit. My great-grandmother lived in Cracow with my grandfather’s two sisters. They will spend Shabbat there; walk on roads my grandfather once walked. I know only the names but not where they lived. My mother has copies of letters that her grandfather wrote to her father. I’ll have to ask her if she has copies of the envelopes…if she has an address. Do I want my Davidi to go there?

When my mother-in-law and father-in-law went back to the small village where my father-in-law had grown up as a child – many years after the war had ended – he was greeted with a knife by the woman who had moved into his father’s home. It seems Lazer’s father, had lent her some money and she thought his son had come to call in the loan. When my father-in-law explained he only wanted to show his wife and daughter the home in which he had grown up, the woman allowed him to enter.

He Murdered his Daughter

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Guest Post by Suzzane Handler

Mental Illness is one of those subjects that is still pretty much taboo to talk about in the Orthodox Jewish community. And that can lead to tragic consequences. No more tragic than what happened in Cheyenne, Wyoming almost 80 years ago.

I think it is high time we start the conversation. I can think of no better time to do so than during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva. The following was sent to me by Catherine Goldberg whose opening words introduce Suzzane Handler. She wrote a book about her Orthodox grandfather – a man who murdered his own daughter.

My name is Catherine Goldberg. I’m a big fan of Emes Ve-Emunah and look forward to learning something new everyday every time you post. It always makes me think. I just wanted to share something I’m working on and I thought your community may be interested in.

I found this book called The Secrets They Kept. (It is) about an Orthodox Jew who murdered his youngest daughter who was schizophrenic instead of having her committed.

I got in touch with the author (whose) name is Suzanne Handler and she’s fabulous. We talked about how there’s a big stigma in the Jewish community that bad stuff like schizophrenia or abuse doesn’t happen to us. We both agreed this is not a safe way to think. There’s a lot of guilt and shame associated it with and when that’s internalized that can be really dangerous.

Secret keeping, especially throughout generations is devastating. (T)his book… says it’s OK to talk about this, and by sharing your story we can begin to move forward.

We also talked about what this has to do with forgiveness and Yom Kippur. Suzanne had to forgive her family for keeping this horrible secret from her. I think once she did forgive her family her quality of life improved significantly.

Maybe Yom Kippur is a good time to talk about this and how it relates to mental illness in the Jewish community.

In hopes of raising awareness, Suzanne sent me a little piece that she wrote about her story. She’s hoping that her story will get people talking.

The reason why I was so drawn to this is because a good friend of mine was schizophrenic and committed suicide during our senior year of college. He was Jewish too and I was really torn between this idea that Jewish law says you can’t mourn a suicide and realizing this kid was sick. We’ve made a lot of progress on how we approach mental illness but not enough. It would be amazing if by spreading Suzanne’s story I could raise awareness and money for schizophrenia research or something.

The following was written by Suzzane Handler:

What would compel a devout Jewish father to take the life of his own child?

On June 28th of this year, The Intermountain Jewish News (IJN) ran a feature article detailing the dramatic events contained in my book, The Secrets They Kept: The True Story of a Mercy Killing That Shocked a Town and Shamed a Family. For your convenience, I have provided the link to that piece below. Chris Leppek, assistant editor of the IJN and the person who wrote the article, has granted permission for his story to be reprinted, with the caveat that his name and that of the paper be appropriately cited. He does so in the hope that thoughtful discussions regarding the stigma of mental illness in our society will follow.

Here is a brief summary of the story: In 1937, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, my maternal grandfather, Sam Levin, shot and killed his 16 year-old daughter. The girl, Sally, had been diagnosed with dementia praecox (mid-century term for schizophrenia) and was to be sent to an insane asylum, presumably for the rest of her life. Declared incurable and a danger to herself and others, Sally begged her father to end her life, as well as his own, in a joint murder/suicide pact. On August 16,th of that year, my grandfather, exhausted and desperate from grief and indecision, finally agreed to Sally’s last wish. The girl died within the hour; my grandfather lived and carried the burden of his shame and sorrow to his grave.

Due to the stigma of mental illness then, as well as now, and the nature of my grandfather’s unimaginable crime, this story remained a secret in our family for over 70 decades. Following years of research and soul searching, I have now, at long last, come to the place where understanding meets forgiveness.

I am humbled that The Secrets They Kept: The True Story of a Mercy Killing That Shocked a Town and Shamed a Family, has sold over 8,000 copies and is currently #1 in Mental Health and #7 in Jewish Interest in the Amazon Virtual Book Store.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Henry Shaw & Names

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

What’s in a name? My late father had an only sibling called Henry Shaw. We loved our Uncle Hashy as we called him. He was huge, almost six-and-a-half feet tall, and had to stoop to get through the doors of our house. He had a deep but soft bass voice and a wonderful sense of humor. He was a marvelous raconteur, steeped in Yiddish culture and the intricacies of internal Jewish political warfare in Eastern Europe. His greatest impact on my life was the range of experiences he introduced me to, from Chazanut to Verdi’s Requiem, from Hillel Zeitlin to AJP Taylor, from Martin Buber to Bertrand Russell. He was less charismatic than my father, less combative, but a much more approachable person.

He qualified in social studies at London University and spent his life devoted to the Jewish Community, first in London in the Association of Jewish Youth, then running Hillel House in Endsleigh Street, London. He and his devoted wife, Sybil, provided a home from home for thousands of Jewish students from around the world for over twenty years. I saw most of him in my own student years and he was very supportive and encouraging. But then they ‘disappeared’ from my life and went off to Australia to take over the Hillel Foundation of Victoria which involved the Melbourne and Monash Universities. Five years later Henry switched to academia to help establish a Jewish studies program at Prahran College. His work eventually morphed into the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Monash. Sybil died in 1978, but Henry flourished until 1996.

I am writing this piece because this week is his Yahrzeit. But also because I am embarrassed to admit that I never found out why he adopted the surname Shaw. Which leads me to the issue of Jewish surnames. We Jews never really took them very seriously. Napoleon’s civil reforms insisted that everyone had to have a surname. Previously non-Jews had Christian names (yes, that’s what first names were called in Britain until the sixties) and Jews had Jewish names on to which occasionally one added a location or a profession. When the law of the land insisted on surnames Jews usually took their profession, the town they came from, or a Latin version of a Hebrew word like Benedict or Priest. Amongst themselves they invariably used only Hebrew names, until the process of acculturation took hold. This explains why Jews tended to be rather cavalier about changing their civil names or having them changed by others.

My paternal grandparents came from Radomsk. My grandmother was a Bialystock, the name of a Polish town. My grandfather’s family name was a more Russian, Rozrasowski . During the great migrations of over a hundred years ago, lots of migrants took or had simpler or more western names given to them as they came through immigration. You have heard of the old Jewish gentleman called, improbably, Shawn Fergusson because when he arrived at immigration in a state of exhaustion and shock and was asked his name he said in Yiddish, “Shoyn Fergessen“ (“I forgotten.”). Or the Chinese man called Moishe Greenberg because as he came through after a Jewish migrant and gave his name as Sam Ting, they thought he meant “the same thing”.

Seriously, when the Rozrasowskis came to London in the early part of the twentieth century the family simplified its name to Rosen. They must have thought it would sound more English! There were five girls and four boys. The boys decided that they’d rather be known by their first names, so as to differentiate themselves. That was how my Grandfather Shlomo came to be known as Mr. Solomons. Indeed his tombstone in Dublin (where he moved during the Depression) gives his name as “Mr. Sydney Solomons (Rosen)”.

My father was always known as Rosen, but his elder brother Hashy became Shaw. Was it to sound more English, or actually Irish? Shaw is a popular Irish name. When his parents moved to Ireland this was an era in which when getting a job or an apartment with a Jewish name was as difficult as getting one with an African name fifty years later. Or was it just a play on Henry’s nickname Hashy? One family tradition had it that he had lost his papers and got an Irish passport on the black market. The most improbable was that he had accidentally killed an anti-Semitic drunk in a fight and carried his name as a penance. Who knows? He never gave me a straight answer.

But if you think this story strange, let me tell you about my maternal grandfather, Moishe Yaakov Cohen, known as MJ. He was born Moishe Shumacher in Uman in the Ukraine. As a boy he emigrated to Tredegar in Wales. There he was taken under the wing of a relative whose name was Cohen, who had become the godfather of Jewish peddlers servicing the isolated Welsh mining villages of the Rhonda with haberdashery and other supplies that the miners paid for in installments. The peddlers went out on foot on a Sunday with goods provided by Mr. Cohen and did not come back till Friday to spend Shabbes together and make up the minyan. It was suggested to Moishe that if he had the same name as the boss it would inspire confidence. So Moishe Shumacher, the Levi from Uman, became MJ Cohen. Soon he did well enough to set himself up in business on his own in Manchester as MJ Cohen, General Draper (a fancy name for selling odds and ends). Later he transferred to Cardiff. One day he sent a letter back home on his notepaper inviting relatives to come and join him. When they read the invitation they had no idea who MJ Cohen was, but they did recognize the word “General” and assumed he’d been promoted in the army and had changed his name to Draper. Which explains why we once had relatives in Manchester called Draper.

All these people I have mentioned here only had one Hebrew name from the beginning to the end, names that linked them directly to their heritage of millennia. Their surnames were secondary, like a chameleon’s skin. But they, like my Uncle Hashy, were and are all proud and contributing members of the Jewish people. As far as I am concerned that’s what counts.

Zechut Avot : An Eternal Birthright

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The first time was many years ago. I had just concluded explanations about Yeshivat Knesset Yisrael” which arrived in Hebron from Slobodka, in Lithuania in 1924. The Hebron Heritage Museum at Beit Hadassah features an exhibit about this illustrious Torah-learning academy, nicknamed the ‘Hebron Yeshiva,’ which includes a ‘class picture’ from 1928.

As I finished my brief account, an older man approached me, put his finger on a picture of one of the yeshiva students and asked me, ‘do you see him? That’s me.’

That was Rabbi Dov Cohen, a phenomenal Torah genius, who, following my tour, came back to Hebron and gave us his tour.

I always thought that this was a ‘once in a lifetime event,’ having someone point themselves out in a photo taken so many decades ago, here in Hebron.

But it happened again.

On Friday afternoon the Farbstein family came into Hebron for Shabbat. Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, today dean of the ‘Hebron yeshiva,’ now located in Jerusalem, arrived with his wife and many grandchildren. And his mother, Rabbanit Chana Farbstein.

Chana Farbstein was born in 1923. Her father was Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna, a Torah giant. Her grandfather was the legendary Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, dean of the yeshiva, located then located in Slobodka, which, a year or so later, moved to Hebron. Chana lived in Hebron until the 1929 riots, in an apartment next to Eliezer Dan Slonim and his family.

Friday afternoon, before Shabbat, the Farbsteins took a short tour of Hebron, which began in the museum. When we approached the Hebron Yeshiva exhibit, she moved, as hypnotized, to one of the photos on the bottom row, stared at it, and then pointed to a small girl in the right corner, saying, ‘that’s me.’ To her right, a young woman had her hand on little Chana’s shoulder. ‘That’s my mother.’

A ‘once in a lifetime event.’ And it happened to me for a second time.

Chana later told us that she must have been about four years old at the time the photo was taken.

Even though she was barely five and a half at the time of the riots, she remembered them quite clearly: “I remember a big truck going through the streets. They were throwing rocks at our house and calling out my father’s name ‘Chezkel.’ They were looking for him. It was our good luck, he was in Jerusalem.”

“Do you remember what was told to you, what was going on?”

“No one had to explain. We knew exactly what was happening.”

She said that on Saturday afternoon, her family was removed from Hebron and taken to the ‘Strauss Building’ in Jerusalem, across the street from ‘Bikor Cholim hospital. Asked when she ‘left’ the city,’ she replied: “We didn’t leave. The British came, on Shabbat, and took us to Jerusalem.”

Later she also spoke about remembering the pain of having to pray at the 7th step at Ma’arat HaMachpela, not being allowed to enter the structure. “We would stand there for a few minutes, and then leave.”

Were relations with Arabs always poor? “No, when we went shopping in the market an Arab with a large round basket would go with us. We would put the produce we wanted into the basket, he would carry it and later bring it to our home.”

Chana Farbstein is a phenomenal woman. She also stood with us on Friday afternoon, at the cemetery in Hebron, where 59 of the 67 massacre victims are buried. Her son, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, recited two Psalms at the site, his voice breaking, sensing the atrocities and pain of the events occurring 84 years ago.

The next morning, Mrs. Farbstein walked from Beit Hadassah to Ma’arat HaMachpela for morning prayers, and later in the afternoon, to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood to attend a special class presented by her daughter-in-law, Dr. Esther Farbstein, an expert on Holocaust studies, author of the book, “Hidden in Thunder.”

After Shabbat, as I arrived to interview her, I found her sweeping the floor.

Her son, Rabbi Farbstein, told me that that last winter she had been very ill, and there was grave concern that she might not recover. But recover she did, and despite only meeting her for the first time, her inner strength and iron will were quite obvious.

US Lawmakers in Bolivia to Press for Ostreicher’s Release

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Two members of Congress are in Bolivia to press for the release of an American Jewish businessman who has been jailed there without charges for 18 months.

Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) arrived this week to seek the release of Jacob Ostreicher, a haredi Orthodox father of five and grandfather of 11 from Brooklyn, N.Y., who has been held in Bolivia without formal charges and bail since June 2011.

In a release Thursday, Smith, who has led congressional efforts to win Ostreicher’s release, said that according to Bolivian law, persons may be held without charges for no longer than 18 months.

Last month, authorities arrested seven people, including top government officials, for attempted extortion in the case.

Ostreicher has said since his arrest that corrupt Bolivian officials desired to keep him in jail in order to sell for their own profit the 18,000 metric tons of rice they confiscated from him and to extort him for money in exchange for promises to help get him released.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-One: Reunion

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

The journey from Zichron Yaacov to Jaffa took almost three days. For Tevye, it was a chance to see another part of the Land of Israel, the sandy, swamp-infested coastline bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the landscape was barren, with only an occasional settlement along the way. The colonies of Hadera, Kfar Saba, and Petach Tikvah were like oases where the Jews could find a prayer minyan and stock up on supplies. Otherwise, the land lay in abandonment and ruin. Toward the end of the third day, the movement of ships out to sea told them that they were nearing the busy port city of Jaffa. In the distance, they could see the hill overlooking the harbor and the tower of the citadel which had been built during the Crusades. At the outskirts of the city, a new village consisting of rows of wooden houses and tents was being constructed on the beach. Someone said it was called Tel Aviv.

“Are they Jews?” Tevye asked.

“Free thinkers,” one of the winery workers said in a deprecatory tone.

“Free-thinking Jews,” Lishansky, the Zichron work foreman added, out of respect for all pioneers.

“You can’t be free thinking and still be a Jew,” the religious wine worker said.

“You can’t be a Jew without being free thinking,” Lishansky corrected, enjoying a little intellectual debate to pass the monotony of the journey.

“A Jew is obligated to do what God instructs him to do,” Tevye argued.

“That may be true,” Lishansky agreed. “But that in itself is the greatest freedom.”

The clang and pounding of hammering punctuated their talmudic discussion. Stone buildings and wooden frames were being erected along a dirt roadway, which was to become Tel Aviv’s main thoroughfare, Disengof Street. Within a short time, they reached the clustered dwellings of Jaffa, passed Rabbi Kook’s neighborhood, and continued on to the Rothschild wine warehouse. Tired from the journey, Tevye decided to spend the night sleeping between the rows of barrels. For a wine connoisseur like Tevye, he couldn’t have found a better hotel. The mosquitoes were merciless, but after purchasing a wholesale bottle of a vintage red brew, he managed to drift off to sleep. In the morning, Tevye and Goliath said so long to their comrades and kept heading south with the children. As they left the port city, a few settlers from Rishon hopped on the back of the wagon with bundles of food and supplies.

“Thank the Almighty,” Tevye said, “for sending us angels to help guide us on our way.”

“We are only simple Jews,” one of them answered.

“Can there be such a thing?” Tevye asked, in a philosophical mood. “Aren’t we all sons of the King?”

Moishe climbed into the front seat of the wagon and leaned sleepily against his grandfather. The mosquitoes in the warehouse had kept the boy awake all through the night. Not wanting to be left alone in the rear of the wagon with the strangers, Hannie followed after her brother and rested against Goliath’s secure, sturdy frame. Soon they had left the bustling port city behind.

Arriving in Rishon LeZion after sunset, they found Ruchel and Nachman at home in their small wooden cottage. How ecstatic the young couple was to see them! Since their wedding, it was the first time that family had come for a visit. While Ruchel hurried to set freshly baked cakes on the table, Tevye and Goliath carried the sleeping children to a corner where a spare bed was waiting.

“I have ordered another bed from the carpentry shop,” Nachman said, beaming with the happiness of a man who had found his niche in life. He even looked a little rounder around the belly, in praise of Ruchel’s cooking.

“Sit, Abba, sit,” he said to Tevye, motioning him to a chair. “You must be tired from the long journey. Please, by all means, take some cake. Ess, ess. Eat. Honor our house with a blessing over the food that God has so graciously given us.”

The guests sat down at the small table to eat. The sweet, creamy pastry was just what Tevye longed for after the long dusty trail. A picture of the past flashed in his eyes as he remembered his wife, Golda, and the delicious cakes she always had waiting when he trudged home from work.

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.”

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).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/the-sandak-part-iv/2012/11/22/

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