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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘His Torah’

Leiby’s Legacy

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Note to readers: When I heard the words, “You give us seven minutes and we’ll give you the world” on the radio at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, July 13, I never thought that what I was about to hear would shake me to the core and change my world forever. I could not come to myself – and I’m sure most of klal Yisrael couldn’t either. So I sat down and the following poem spilled forth. Because it is written in a simple style, simple enough for any child to understand, I hope it does not seem to trivialize what happened; it is just my humble reaction to an earth-shattering event.

 

*  *  *

 

A tzadik was born, to perform a tafkid so rare,

To make klal Yisrael express that they care.

Barely nine short years later, his mission fulfilled,

He returned to his Maker, as was willed.

 

The decree from Above seemed a harsh fall.

Why should one family take the burden for all?

But as the details unfolded, unimaginable, unreal,

It reminded me of an earlier time, when Hashem made a deal.

 

Like to Avraham about S’dom, now Hashem made a vow.

“If the klal could show achdus, then maybe somehow

The g’zar will be lifted, and you’ll all return

To the way it was before, the decree will adjourn.”

 

If in seven short minutes, every Yid would perform

A mitzvah bein adam l’chaveiro, the decree could be torn.

If in the seven minutes Leiby waited, any Yid really looked

At the lost look on his face, he would have been hooked.

 

If an onlooker had asked, “Need help? Are you waiting for your mother?”

Leiby might’ve asked him for guidance, instead of the other

But we hurried on by, didn’t volunteer to assist,

The clock ticked on, the surveillance camera hissed.

 

And the monster paid his bill, and emerged to the boy

Did he come with a promise of a TV or a toy?

Leiby followed behind, like no father would ask,

Cause the man’s mind was focused on his dastardly task.

 

The seven minutes we wasted, not looking not seeing;

The seven minutes he waited while we were too busy “me”ing.

An opportunity lost to set Leiby on a good path,

Away from the monster, away from his wrath.

 

Now there’s no turning back, no way to undo,

Just trust in Hashem as an ehrlicha Jew.

And we must surrender and beg Hashem to forgive,

Though we’ll never understand as long as we live.

 

Don’t you all remember in yeshiva we learned

Of magefos and troubles and Jews that were burned?

And the pasuk just prior described all their bad deeds

And all of the mitzvos they neglected to heed.

We all read aloud and said to ourselves with a smirk,

Didn’t that generation realize they were acting like jerks?

Why couldn’t they see just one pasuk behind,

That their deeds and actions were causing this bind?

 

And we, our history yet unrecorded, we too don’t look within,

We point and we blame someone else for our sins.

Hashem, He asks only that we follow His Torah,

And then we will see, “LaYehudim Ha’yesa Orah.”

 

We too are blind to the warnings, we are blind to our plight,

We don’t see our own monsters hiding in the dark of night.

And so Hashem creates a tzadik to show us the way,

To really look at each other every night and every day.

 

To weed out the monsters, not hide them from view,

And help protect our children from what they could do.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 4/09/10

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Unfaithfully yours… continues to stir Yiddishe Neshamos (see Chronicles 2-19-10)

Dear Unfaithfully yours,
You say you are happily married. You feel that you and others need some sort of adventure or that spouses do not care or respond emotionally or physically to the needs of one another.
Well, happily married or not, if you are frum, you should fear Hashem and not act on impulses or plan physical rendezvous with members of the opposite gender.

Despite your claim to the contrary, you cannot really be happily married if you dwell on other women.

You shouldn’t be encouraging others to commit adultery just because they have similar interests to yours or just because they make you feel that you are not alone. Everyone has a yetzer hora —the trick is not to let it get the upper hand.

You need help. I hope your children were all born before you started “partnering” outside your marriage. Otherwise, a married woman engaging in extra-marital relations can beget mamzerim (illegitimate children) — a whole other complicated mess.
Please stop your actions.
A Caring Reader

 

Dear Rachel,

It is impossible to be happily married and cheat. There is something missing. I venture to say it is fear of Heaven. Where there is no fear of Heaven, there is no fear of sin.

Happily married people do not hurt one another physically, emotionally or financially. The cheat is a thief and a fraud who is deceiving no one but himself.

May no one be tested!

A sad reader…

 

Dear Rachel,

Although you’ve always impressed me with the sound advice and on target replies you’ve transmitted to your writers, I was mortified that you would feel compelled to give exposure to the blasphemous and lewd corruption of this person! Why would you publish the letter of someone who has stooped way below even secular moral standards? In addition, this man is justifying and even promoting his behavior by publicizing and enticing others.

Furthermore, why allow him to put the blame squarely in the laps of pious sincere Chassidim? Those who unfortunately have gone astray are certainly not the representatives of their communities; and to attribute their shidduchim customs as the reason for the prevalent downfall of the traditional harmonious marriages is downright narrow minded and ludicrous.

Allow me to suggest that other communities where free mingling with the opposite gender from early childhood to teenage years is not only accepted but also clearly encouraged cannot claim pure and unadulterated (no pun intended) fidelity in their marriages. Although they are friendly with many of their peers from the opposite gender and have many options available, is there less of a breakdown in marital bliss in their communities? I venture to say that their marriages are in as much jeopardy, if not more.

We were not created to experience a stress-free life replete with all our desires fulfilled. Our calling is to uplift ourselves and use our potential and time in this world to enjoy that which is permissible by Hashem and to adhere to the decrees of His Torah.

May we and all our brothers and sisters do complete teshuvah and may we merit seeing the day when the truth will be revealed and we will greet Moshiach speedily in our days!

Mortified

 

Dear Rachel,

I was born and raised Chassidish and feel the need to educate both Unfaithfully yours and other readers. We never force our children to agree to a match, regardless of how impressive the shidduch may come across to us, the parents. Yes, we screen the boy or girl for compatibility, and, based on our findings, arrange to meet with him/her for a personal up close assessment.

If we, the parents, come away with an unfavorable impression this is taken as a sign that the shidduch is not appropriate. Our children couldn’t fathom having it any other way and happily rely on us to exercise sound judgment and to spare them from having to be exposed to unsuitable shidduch dates.

Even when a potential match is viewed as a “could be,” it does not at all mean that it is a “must be.” The final say is left to the boy/girl when they meet. Most families, by the way, encourage more than one ba’show (meeting) between them and our children are urged to be honest with themselves and to speak up if they should be feeling any negative vibes.

One of my married daughters has a close childhood friend who is in her late thirties and still looking. This friend’s family is not Chassidish and she has met with and dated over 100 boys, without exaggeration. She often expresses her admiration for our “system” and has many times told my daughter how she would have loved to be spared the anguish and torment of wasting time on dates that were completely not for her — among the many others whom she could not make up her mind about.

This friend is convinced that had her family been into our way of doing shidduchim, she’d have been married long ago. In reality, most young people have a hard time deciding who is right for them, and having their parents vet all shidduch candidates is of enormous help and benefit — as thousands upon thousands of happily married chassidishe couples demonstrate and would attest to.

I’d also like to commend The Jewish Press for allowing “unspeakable” topics to be spoken of, as this is the only way to educate the naïve among us. Hopefully, by raising awareness, we can be more guarded when coming up against the harmful elements in our midst.

For the record

Nothing Is As Simple As It Looks

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

In my last column, I published a tragic letter from a young woman who, after a painful bout with terminal illness, departed from this world. She attributed her plight to her abandonment of the Torah way of life, specifically to the laws of tznius. Her letter evoked much response. One of the writers wrote that she had a similar experience, but Baruch Hashem, with a positive ending. She too, had been rebellious, she too, had turned a deaf ear to the pleas of her family, but she never had to struggle with illness. Her sister however (an embodiment of everything that a yeshiva girl should be), was in a very serious car accident and had to undergo several surgical procedures and rehab, which plagued her with feelings of guilt and made her feel somehow responsible.

Fortunately, as I said, her story had a happy ending. She ultimately altered her lifestyle and her sister recovered . Today, Baruch Hashem, her sister is married while she herself is now a kallah, soon to go under the chuppah. This entire incident however, left her with a troubling question. “Why would G-d punish my innocent sister because of me? How can anyone justify that?” she asked.

The following is my reply:

My dear friend:

It would be presumptuous for anyone to tell you exactly “why.” Indeed, why do the innocent suffer? And why would a Merciful, Compassionate G-d inflict such suffering on your sister, or on the first letter writer, who sadly, never made it?

In the classic sefer, Derech Hashem, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato teaches that there are many diverse reasons for what befalls us that are beyond the scope of our finite understanding. One thing is for sure however… Divine Providence guides our lives and there is a higher plan for everything that happens even if we do not comprehend it.

Having said that, allow me to share with you a story, which I was privileged to hear many years go from the teacher par excellence, Nechama Lebowitz. As a young girl she attended a religious school. Nechama related that one morning, she overslept and realized that she wouldn’t be able to daven if she were to arrive to class on time. As she ran off to school and crossed the street, she didn’t notice a horse and buggy galloping at full speed in her direction.

Little Nechama was knocked to the ground unconscious, and when she awoke, she found her family physician hovering over her while her mother was saying Tehillim and crying. But what frightened Nechama the most was the presence of her father in the room. It was a family rule that her father was never to be disturbed at business unless there was a dire crisis.

Lying on her bed, she was convinced that she was breathing her last and would soon face her Maker. Tears flowing down her cheeks, she asked to speak to her father privately. When everyone left the room, she whispered “Father, I know why Hashem is punishing me! I got up late this morning and I didn’t daven!”

At this point in the narrative Nechama Lebowitz paused and told us that, as long as she lived, she would never forget her father’s response to her cry. In a very stern voice, he said, “How dare you! How dare you believe that Hashem, who is all Rachamim – Compassion, should send a horse and buggy to run over a little girl because she didn’t daven one morning! How dare you desecrate Hashem’s Holy Name in such a trivial manner? Never ever reduce Hashem to such a level. Never forget this lesson, my daughter!”

There are many good and righteous people who undergo trials that are often difficult and painful. Then there are many mean-spirited people who, to all appearances seem to be at ease. Regardless where life takes us, our commitment to Hashem, to His Torah and His mitzvos, transcend all other considerations.

In poverty as in wealth, in sickness as in health, in war as in peace, we remain Jews, loyal to His Torah. In the course of life, many things happen that are inexplicable and incomprehensible, but no matter what fate befalls us, our faith in Hashem, His Torah, and His mitzvos, must remain constant and uncompromising.

At the same time, however, our sages teach us not to take anything for granted, but to regard everything in life as a wake-up call – a test. In Mesillas Yesharim (The Path of the Just) it is written, “All events in life are wake-up calls – tests.” Indeed, there are no random happenings. We have a choice. We can see Hashem at the center of our lives, or we can view the world as a cruel, senseless place where things “just happen” without rhyme or reason, and such an outlook leaves us crushed and destroyed.

In your letter, you asked why. In my writings and teachings I have often said that there is no sense in asking “why” because there are no good answers to that question. Rather, we must ask “why” in Lashon HaKodesh – the holy tongue, for that is the language of G-d in which every word is definitive.

In Hebrew, there are two expressions for “why” – madua and lamah. Madua means Mah dei’ah – What do I learn from this? And Lamah means “L’Mah? – To what end?” How do I grow and become better from this?

But even as we ask these questions, we would do well to remember that G-d’s discipline is never punitive, but rather, corrective. It is written in the Torah that G-d chastises us even as a father chastises his children. This is especially important to remember at this season when we turn to G-d who is not only our King, but Avinu Malkeinu – our Father, our King.

So if as a result of your sister’s accident, you changed your way of life, turned in prayer and contrition to Hashem and re-committed yourself to Torah and mitzvos, then surely you proved to be a merit for your sister’s recovery. Our sages teach that when we are challenged by trials and tribulations, we should examine our lives and see where we may have erred and where we can improve and elevate ourselves. So, in short, while no one can tell you why your sister suffered, if, as a result of that suffering, you changed your life and rededicated yourself to Torah, then that was an enormous zechus for her recovery.

In our generation there is almost no family or individual that is not suffering in some way – be it financial, marital or personal. And then there are the collective trials confronting our nation – global escalation of anti-Semitism and the demonization of Israel. What must we do to alleviate our pain? The answer is simple. It is that which enabled us to survive the centuries, and it is exactly what you did on behalf of your sister – turn to Hashem, for in the end we have no one to rely on but Him.

As we enter the year, 5770, let us place our trust in Hashem and beseech Him to help us walk through the darkness. May He have mercy on all of us; May He heal our pain, take our hand and help us walk through the darkness.

My best wishes to all our readers for a G’mar Chasimah Tovah – a Blessed New Year.

Don’t Sweat Over Small Stuff (Part One)

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

There’s a popular adage that tells us not to sweat the small stuff. I always thought that it meant we should not make an issue out of insignificant incidents that impinge on our kavod. When we are victims, we should categorize all this as “small stuff” and the best way to deal with it is to forgive, forget and move on.

Our sages teach us, “Everyone who overlooks and forgives his kavod will have his sins forgiven.” In our society however, it’s the reverse. When we are the victims who suffer a slight, we are quick to protest, declare our outrage, and indignantly refuse to forgive or forget. But if we inflict the hurt and are guilty, we wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, it’s all “small stuff” – why is everyone getting into a sweat? So we dismiss it all with a wave of the hand.

I bring this to your attention now because the Yamim Noraim are soon approaching – a season that demands that we do teshuvah, examine our lives, reconnect with Hashem, His Torah, and His mitzvos. This self-scrutiny requires that we evaluate our character traits and the manner in which we communicate with our fellow man – especially those who are nearest and dearest to us, for it is there that we tend to be most negligent. We are the generation of Ikvesa D’Moshicha – the generation that is destined to precede the coming of Messiah, when chutzpah will abound and the young will rise against their elders. This chutzpah will be so prevalent that often, we will not even be aware of it.

A mother and her teenage daughter came to consult me about a situation that was creating conflict at home.

“Would you like to tell me about the problem?” I asked, as they made themselves comfortable in my office.

“Problem?” the teenager repeated sarcastically. “I have no problem; it is ‘she’ who is making the problem.”

“Who is ‘she’?” I asked, pretending that I did not understand.

“She,” the girl insisted, pointing in her mother’s direction.

So again I asked, “Who is she?”

This interplay went on for quite a few minutes, with the girl stubbornly refusing to utter the word “mother,” and I, refusing to give credence to “she.” Finally, she grudgingly conceded, “Okay, my mother,” but even as she did so, she flippantly added, “Rebbetzin, I don’t know what you’re making all this fuss about. She/he, mother/ father, it’s all the same. I think you’re making a whole big hullabaloo about nothing!” And then, to add insult to injury, chutzpah to chutzpah, she muttered under her breath, “This is the craziest thing … wasting all this time on such nonsense!”

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Nothing, nothing. Let’s just finish…it doesn’t mater.”

“But it does matter,” I insisted. “It matters a lot. We can’t address your issues without first rectifying this grievous wrong.”

“I can’t believe this!” she responded sarcastically. It’s a grievous wrong to say ‘she?’”

“Yes,” I answered, “if that ‘she’ is a reference to your mother.”

“This is really sweating over small stuff,” she muttered, under her breath.

“What you consider ‘small stuff,’ I told her, “is a violation of the Fifth Commandment.”

“Give me a break! Everyone I know refers to their mothers as ‘she.’”

“But we are not everyone,” I told her. “We are Jews who stood at Sinai and have an imperative to live by the Law of G-d, and one of the basic tenets of our faith is to respect and honor our parents.”

“What does saying ‘she’ have to do with anything?” the girl continued to argue.

“Everything,” I said. “‘She’ is not a respectful way of speaking about a parent. ‘She’ is anonymous; ‘she’ can mean anyone. Your mother is not a ‘she.’ It is not a ‘she’ who gave life to you, cared for you and nurtured you. It is not a ‘she’ who agonized and continues to agonize over you. And it is not a ‘she,’ who is sitting next you, crying.

Just look and see the tears your mother is shedding. Tears like that cannot be shed by a ‘she.’ They emanate from the broken heart of a mother who loves her child more than life. …a mother who has no peace knowing that her child is troubled. No, such a person is not a ‘she’!”

For the first time, the girl was silent, but I wouldn’t let go. “I also heard you mumbling under your breath,” I told her, “that I was wasting your time! Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps the opposite may be true…. that you are wasting my time? But your chutzpadik feelings of entitlement have blinded you so that you see no one but yourself.

“If your eyes were open you would realize that there are many people waiting to see me this evening, and you would apologize for taking so much of my time. You would be humbled by the awareness that after our talk, you will be going home, while I will remain here until I see every individual. And yet, you dare to say that I am wasting your time. Never mind that I’m a little bit older than you. Never mind that common decency would dictate that you say thank you a thousand times.

“So why, you may wonder, am I doing this?” I challenged. “We are a people who sealed a covenant at Mt. Sinai and honoring parents is the root of all our relationships. The manner in which we relate to our parents will color all our interactions, so if you do not understand the difference between ‘she’ and ‘my mother,’ then you don’t comprehend the basics of derech eretz. Without derech eretz,” I told her, “you will never know how to live by that covenant. You will never know shalom bayis – a good marriage, and worse, your own children will suffer the consequences, for your chutzpah will define their lives.

We spoke a while longer, and she finally did listen, although I sensed that she still had a belligerent attitude. I got up from behind my desk and reached out to her, but even as I did so, I felt her resistance. Nevertheless, I enveloped her in my arms, gave her a brachah with a kiss, and said, “Now let’s start all over again,” and for the first time I saw tears in her eyes that told me that her Yiddisheh neshamah had awakened. And so it was that Baruch Hashem, we did start all over again.

To be sure, I could have avoided this entire confrontation and ignored her insistence on referring to her mother as “she.” Through bitter tears, her mother confided that “she” was a good word compared to some other terms her daughter used. Her mother also admitted that for a moment, she was nervous, wondering whether I had been too strict, making too much of “small stuff” rather than focusing on the major issues.

So I explained that it all starts with “small stuff,” which, if allowed to go unchecked, can poison all relationships. If a parent becomes just an object, then children will have license to say or do anything they wish. Children do not feel duty-bound to honor a “he” or a “she.” But when it is “my mother” or “my father” – it’s an entirely different story. In short, a breach of derech eretz leads to escalation of chutzpah, which leads to family breakdown.

Let us examine our relationships and pay special attention to areas that we consider “small stuff,” for we might just discover that “small stuff” is not so small after all.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/dont-sweat-over-small-stuff/2009/08/12/

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