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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘grandfather’

99 Year Old Man Becomes Bar Mitzva

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

At age 99, Isaac Volinsky was given the opportunity to put on tefillin for the first time in his life, the Australian J-Wire reported. He did it at the “120 Club” for elderly expatriate Soviets in Sydney.

With more than 50 club members looking on, Lubavitch Rabbi Eli Schlanger helped Volinsky put on the tefillin.

Rabbi Schlanger told J-Wire: “It was an amazing scene. The first time a Jewish boy puts on tefillin is regarded as his Bar Mitzvah and all the club members treated it as a simcha. They were all standing and singing Siman tov u’mazal tov. Isaac told me he remembered his father and grandfather putting on their talit and teffilin in his native Odessa.”

Volinsky, who studied science and technology, was a colonel in the Russian army before moving to Australia. His wife passed away a few years ago. He has two children, one in Sydney and the other in Odessa.

His 100th birthday celebrations are just six months away.

Mazal tov!

Q & A: The Sandak (Part II)

Thursday, November 8th, 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: Last week we examined the source of the word “sandak” as well as the sandak’s role at the brit.

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.

* * * * *

I am very fortunate to have recently received the newly published sefer, Shut HaShulchani, a collection of very relevant halachic responsa in English authored by my esteemed chaver, Rabbi Ari Enkin of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. (The sefer is available directly from the author. Contact Rabbi Enkin at rabbiari@hotmail.com or call 011-972-52-579-1773.)

Rabbi Enkin discusses the matter of the sandak in great detail. He writes as follows (pg. 154-156):

“The sandak is the individual honored with holding the baby during the brit milah ceremony and it is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon at a brit. Although sandak is often translated as godfather, it likely comes from the Greek word suntekos, which means companion. The sandak is seated during the brit ceremony and holds the baby on his lap while the mohel performs the circumcision It is taught that when the sandak holds the baby on his lap, thereby including his knees and thighs in the performance of the mitzvah, he embodies the verse (Biur Hagra, Yoreh De’ah 265:44) ‘All my bones shall say, Who is like You, G-d?’ ”

Rabbi Enkin discusses the custom not to honor the same individual as sandak more than once within the same family. He agrees with the sources that compare the sandak to the kohen offering incense in the Beit Hamikdash and explains: “A kohen was only given the opportunity to perform this mitzvah once in his lifetime. This is because whoever offered the incense would become wealthy. Therefore, in order to offer as many kohanim as possible the opportunity of becoming wealthy, it was decided to appoint a different kohen to perform the incense offering every day.”

Likewise, the sandak, who represents the kohen offering the incense, will become wealthy. In addition, Rabbi Enkin continues, it is “a segulah for a long and good life. Therefore, we offer the opportunity of serving as sandak to as many different people as possible.”

Rabbi Enkin explains that once a certain individual is invited to serve as sandak, the baby’s parents should not renege and give the honor to another person. However, if the original offer was made before the child was born, and once the child is born the parents decide to honor a different person instead, it is permitted to do so.

There are a number of authorities who disagree with the restriction against appointing the same sandak twice. Rabbi Enkin discusses their reasoning as follows:

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)

Making Amends

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Where I now work, there is a small kitchen where workers can have lunch. We take our lunch breaks at different times, and I usually take mine at the same time as an unassuming young man named Benny Green, a 25-year-old who works in the company’s stockroom.

In conversation, he asked me if I am a ba’alat teshuvah. I answered in the affirmative. He then said that he was a ba’al teshuvah.

“At what age did you do teshuvah?” I asked.

“Thirteen,” he said. “At the end of seventh grade.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Thirteen is kind of young to do teshuvah,” I commented. “I mean, it’s hard by yourself.” He agreed but said that his parents were okay with his decision, and even sent him to a religious school upon request.

“It started with your bar mitzvah?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, recalling that his mother always knew he would become religious because he told her so when he was just four years old.

Certain children, from a young age, display sensitivity to religion whether or not they are raised in religious homes. Benny’s mother attributes it to zechut avot. Her father, the grandfather he never merited to know, had been an illui at the Chochmei Lublin Yeshiva in Lithuania before the war. After the Holocaust, he came to Israel and left some of his faith behind.

Benny started attending shul Friday nights while learning for his bar mitzvah.

“It felt good,” he said. He was happy to be there. “There was this old man, Naftali; I think he must have been 90 years old. There wasn’t a place on his face that wasn’t wrinkled, but it’s his fingers that I remember. He used to show me the place in the siddur. I remember always watching his hands.”

Naftali, who has long since been collecting his reward for turning Benny on to prayer, not only influenced a young bar mitzvah boy but all of Benny’s family eventually followed in his footsteps and are now at least partially observant.

That’s the first part of the story. Benny took me aside a few weeks after our conversation and told me the rest of it.

His grandfather had left a diary. Benny’s cousin recently found it and was perusing it when he came across an interesting entry. It seems that his grandfather had transferred Benny’s mother from a religious school to a secular one that was closer to home. That was a decision, he wrote, that he regretted his entire life. He described it as his worst mistake and hoped that he would one day be able to make a tikkun. The cousin, intrigued, asked Benny when he had switched schools. Benny told him that it was around the time of his bar mitzvah, at the end of seventh grade. His cousin told him that it was at that age when his grandfather transferred his mother to her new school.

“But there’s more,” Benny told me. The reason his mother had wanted to change schools was because of social problems related to being overweight. Benny had wanted to change schools for the same reason.

Apparently Benny’s grandfather wasn’t as much at peace with his decision as his family had thought.

Today, Benny’s mother is quite thin (and has been for years) and Benny has managed to shed the unwanted pounds that caused him discomfort as an adolescent in a secular school.

And Benny’s mother and brothers have followed in his footsteps – and are now religious.

Benny’s grandfather never did personally get to see his tikkun; instead he got it with the help of another grandfatherly figure – literally pointing the way.

The symmetry of Divine Providence never ceases to amaze me.

It’s My Opinion: Precautions

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

A dear friend recently shared a family story. Her grandfather had come to America before World War II to test the prospects of relocating his family in the new country.

Before grandfather left Hungary, he had heard whispers of what was happening in Europe. He assumed the stories were exaggerated. The accounts were hard to accept. After all, it was the 20th century in a civilized world. What kind of delirium was this?

Grandfather knew there was always some vestige of anti-Semitism floating around, but he felt that the most recent wave would pass. He could not believe there was any grave danger.

It is human nature for decent people to have trouble accepting the existence of indecent evil. Ugly reality is often met with denial. It just doesn’t seem possible.

Life in America had many unexpected trials and difficulties. The streets were not paved with gold. Grandfather returned home. He and nearly all of his family perished in the Holocaust.

Anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents continue to take place throughout the world. What else is new? We hope this wave will pass.

The Jewish community is now preparing to celebrate the new year and high holiday season. There will be large groupings of Jews, gathered together and potentially vulnerable, attending services in synagogues.

My dear Jewish brothers and sisters, what are the security precautions in your synagogues and neighborhoods? What safeguards are in place in your children’s schools and yeshivot? Does your family have a plan in case of emergency?

It is forbidden to rely on miracles. We have an obligation to visit the doctor, take medicine, drive with care, look before we cross and certainly to take measures in order to ensure security.

It is difficult to wrap our heads around the idea that there could be danger lurking. Yet every life is valuable and even a small incident can be devastating to those who are involved.

Pay attention. Take preventive measures. Have a contingency plan, and then sit back and have beautiful and safe yom tovim. Shanah tovah!

Pakistani Owner of Swanky Santa Monica Hotel: “Get the [expletive] Jews out of my Pool”

Monday, July 30th, 2012

An upscale hotel on a Santa Monica, California, beach is an odd place to be singled out from a crowd and removed because you are Jewish, but that’s what happened to 18 young professionals who are telling their story to a jury in a discrimination trial taking place in Santa Monica Superior Court this week.

Ari Ryan is the grandson of a Ukranian Jew who lost most of his family in the Holocaust and narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Nazis.  Ryan’s grandfather moved to Israel in 1942 and served as a captain in the Israel Defense Forces.

Seventy years later Ryan says he got a small taste of what his grandfather lived through, but rather than in the forests of the Ukraine, it took place at an upscale hotel in Santa Monica.  Ryan and more than a dozen others have brought a lawsuit alleging anti-Semitic discrimination against them by a multi-millionaire Muslim American hotel owner.

Two years ago Ryan and other twenty- and thirty-something Jews planned to raise money to send children of fallen IDF soldiers to camp with a charity event at the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, California.

On the morning of July 11, 2010, Ryan and others arrived at the hotel and began setting up Friends of the IDF banners, literature and piles of shirts for the event guests.

But the event was aborted after, according to one employee’s sworn testimony, the hotel’s owner told staff members, “Get the [expletive deleted] Jews out of my pool.”  Then the hotel security and other employees began removing the materials and ordering the guests to leave.

Ryan said,  “Anyone wearing a blue wristband,” which identified them as being with the Friends of the IDF, “was asked to get out of the swimming pool and the hot tub.”  In fact, no one who was identifiable as Jewish was so much as “allowed to dip their feet in the water.”

Tehmina (Tamie) Adaya, a Pakistani-American Muslim, is the owner of the Shangri-La.  Her father, Ahmad Adaya, was a founding partner of the California real estate company IDS Real Estate Group.  He also was a founder and benefactor of the New Horizon School for Muslim religious education in Southern California.

The father bought the Shangri-La Hotel in the 1980‘s and the daughter took it over in 2004, investing $30 million to renovate the property into a design award-winning opulent destination. In addition to the hotel, Adaya runs an upscale artist collective called the Crown Jewels which she blogs about at her site “Culture Shock to Culture Architect.

In the cross-complaint she initially filed, Adaya claimed Ryan and his friends were trespassing on the Shangri-La property and became unruly.

“Not so,” said James Turken, managing partner of the California office of the DC-based law firm Dickstein, Shapiro, attorney for the plaintiffs.  He explained that Adaya withdrew her complaint after he interviewed her, under oath, and she was unable to substantiate any of the allegations she had made.

Turken told The Jewish Press that witnesses will testify that, in addition to cursing the Jews and yelling at her staff to remove them from the pool, Adaya was heard saying, “my family will disown me,” and that her “investors will be furious,” if the plaintiffs remained on site.

The defense claims there was no discrimination and that, instead, the promoters of the event had failed to properly schedule the event with the hotel, and therefore they were trespassing.

According to Turken, however, all the necessary arrangements had been made in advance, as evidenced by the initial assistance provided by the Shangri-La employees, which included putting up a rope and stanchions and a check-in table.  What’s more, he said, the day before the event “the head of hotel security gave a briefing to the staff to prepare them for the crowd of 150 that were expected to attend.”

The removal from the pool of Jews who were wearing Jewish-identified wristbands evokes a similar selection process of seventy years ago.  Ryan, recalling his grandfather’s legacy, said “I felt the weight of standing up to what he had to live through.”

The plaintiffs are seeking $ 1 million from Adaya and the Shangri-La Hotel for emotional distress, attorneys’ fees and other statutory damages.

My Zaidy

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

When I think of how to describe my Zaidy to someone who has never met him, I find myself at a loss. I don’t know how to put my grandfather’s presence into words in a way that will sufficiently describe the picture I have of him in my mind. The fact that my most vivid memories are from when I was quite young make the task no easier. He was, simply, “Zaidy.” Regardless of profession, history or future, he just was. His presence was one of the few things I was fortunate enough to take for granted as a little girl, in a way that marks the very sweetness and innocence of childhood – that I was important to the adults around me.

The memories I have of my grandfather are quite jumbled and out of order. He was very much the stereotypical grandfather, tall and thin, who I can easily imagine on the threshold of a country house, side by side with grandma, waiting to greet the grandchildren who are visiting for the weekend.

From the time I knew him; he had white hair and walked with a cane. He was a respectable figure, a successful stockbroker and active community member. Most important to me, however, was the grandfather figure he filled so well.

I have many fond memories of the lessons my grandfather would teach me, among them geography and basic multiplication. Other memories include the songs he would sing to me as I sat on his lap in the den, the coloring books he would buy for my sisters and myself, and the prayers he would say with us as he’d put us to bed when we slept over. I remember many early mornings when I’d wake up to the comforting sound of my grandfather going about his morning routine, which included the hum of his electric shaver and the newscaster’s voice from the radio. I remember the delight I felt when I met my grandfather on the avenue when I was out with my parents, and how important I felt walking home with him, hand in hand, while he taught me the meaning of the postal zip code.

From when I was quite young, my grandfather tried to teach me about the workings of the stock market, perhaps as a response to my asking him about his work. At five years old, I couldn’t quite understand any of it, and when he tried me again at eight years old I didn’t do much better. I have a vague memory of a family trip to the New York Stock Exchange, where my grandfather most likely gave the family a tour, or at least some explanations, which I just as likely didn’t understand.

Tied in with all the intellectual lessons I learned, or was meant to have learned from my grandfather if I could have understood at that age, are several stories, which, when put together, give me a vague sketch of my grandfather’s life.

My grandfather was born in Holland, where his parents had moved with their children for hope of greater financial opportunity than that which was available in their original hometown. When my grandfather was a young boy, the family moved again, from Holland to America, where they lived in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. I believe he worked at a local grocery or general store some time during his young adult years, after which he built himself up further with lots of hard work and some luck.

My grandfather had three siblings, all of whom I met, though one died when I was quite young. I am told that my mother brought me to see him when he was sick in the hospital, but I can’t clearly picture the scene. His sister and remaining brother both look somewhat like him, a resemblance I became more aware of after my grandfather died. It was quite a shock for me to notice that; seeing my great-uncle at a wedding ceremony of a cousin, looking like my grandfather – with the addition of a white beard. The closest my grandfather ever came to having a beard was when he was sick in the hospital at the end of his life, but that is not the image that first comes to mind when I think of my Zaidy.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/teens-twenties/my-zaidy/2012/07/22/

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