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December 17, 2014 / 25 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘JP’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 9/16/11

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Dear Rachel,

I’m not sure this subject qualifies as a chronicle of crisis, but in the interest of all the people affected by this syndrome, I am hoping you will view my letter as worthy of publication.

I am B”H a mom and grandmother and so now have the leisure of observing nuances that may be missed in the course of child-rearing by an overwhelmed mother.

As I sit at the Shabbos table and delight in my extended family, I am reminded of my childhood and recall my younger sister being endlessly badgered by our father to eat with her right hand. I remember thinking at the time that it was a bad-luck habit my poor sister had picked up and apparently got stuck with, since she seemed to revert to using her left hand again and again, though she had to know she’d be scolded for doing so.

It is none other than my son-in-law who triggers my déjà vu recollection, by his insistence that his young son eat with his right hand, even as my grandchild demonstrates favoring his left.

My sister today blames many of her ills on the trauma she suffered as a result of being hounded in regard to her left-handedness. She is convinced that her natural inclination being messed with has left her physically and mentally impaired. She says, for instance, that her entire left side suffers from weakness and is more prone to achiness, pain and injury.

My point is that there seems to be quite a number of successful individuals who are by nature left-handed and that favoring left over right or vice-versa is not a choice. Education and a better understanding of the makeup and nature of the human being has enlightened our generation, but that nagging preference for right-handedness is still prevalent — especially when it comes to our own children, as indicated by my otherwise astute son-in-law.

Any light you can shed on this subject would be much appreciated and I’m certain would serve to further educate young parents who turn to your weekly column.

A Concerned Grandma

 

Dear Concerned,

There is no question that throughout history favoritism has leaned towards right-handedness across the board. To begin with, a left-handed Kohen was disqualified from serving in the Bais HaMikdash for his left-handedness was considered a blemish that would interfere in the carrying out of specific duties.

Among our people, even the father who would not necessarily be bothered by his child’s tendency of favoring his left over his right hand still needs to ascertain the actuality of such an inclination early on due to the effect this will eventually have on his son’s performance of certain mitzvos. Some examples: the placement of Tefillin (always on the weaker hand); the order of the three steps taken upon the start and conclusion of the shemoneh esrei (left-handers starts with the right versus left foot); the way the lulav and esrog would be held; etc.

In addition, ambidexterity (equal proficiency of left and right) needs to be ruled out or confirmed in order to make the proper determination as far as religious rites are concerned.

Statistically, about ten percent of the population is believed to be left-handed. In view of the fact that nine U.S. presidents fit the bill (James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), there may be something to the test results arrived at in one study at St. Lawrence University in New York that found higher IQs (over 140) in left-handed people.

The fact is that some of the world’s greatest talents and intriguing personalities happen to be members of the left-handers league. To mention just a few: Queen Elizabeth; Queen Victoria; Winston Churchill; Julius Caesar; Napoleon; Alexander the Great; Benjamin Franklin; Mark Twain; Albert Einstein; Charlie Chaplin; Jerry Seinfeld; Art Garfunkel; Paul Simon; Danny Kaye; John Lennon; Dick Van Dyke; Paul McCartney; Vincent Van Gogh; Bach; Rachmaninoff; Sandy Koufax; Babe Ruth; Benjamin Netanyahu; Nelson Rockefeller; Colin Powell; Oprah Winfrey and Michael Bloomberg.

The following are some fascinating tidbits on the topic of left-handedness: Women are more likely than men to be right-handed. The left-handed may be more allergy or asthma prone.

Older mothers (past 40 at her child’s birth) are much more likely to have a left-handed child than a woman in her 20s. Left-handers have a flair for math and architecture, while right-handers tend to be verbally talented. Left-handedness runs in families, as manifested by the British royals, which include the left-handed Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and Prince William. Left-handers are seen as pushier, more dominant, manipulative, and self-centered individuals (the makings of a good politician).

Research links an increased chance of being left-handed with trauma during gestation or birth. Connections between the right and left sides of the brain are faster in the left-handed, making them more efficient at using both sides of the brain more easily and in dealing with multiple stimuli.

Stuttering and dyslexia occur more often in left-handers (particularly when they are forced to change their writing hand as a child).

Last but not the least intriguing: Four of the five original designers of the Macintosh computer were left-handed.

In the course of gathering data for this column, I puzzled over being unable to unearth the trait of left-handedness in any of our eminent tzaddikim — and was duly informed that such detail was considered too insignificant to highlight or pay heed to.

The consensus is that a parent should not unduly force a child to use his or her right hand when it becomes apparent that s/he has an innate propensity for left-handedness. It is for sure a shame to create friction between parent and child over something the latter has no control over.

And, Grandma, if I were you, I would stay out of it where my son-in-law is concerned. If your daughter is a JP reader, she can show him this column.

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Q & A: Effort And Diligence In Torah Study (Conclusion)

Wednesday, August 20th, 2003
QUESTION: I recently read your Daf Yomi column (JP, June 13, 2003), where you cited the Chikrei Lev’s comments regarding the standard of ‘Sinai’ in Torah study, that is, having extensive knowledge of the Torah. He stated that this is not as important today because the Mishna has been recorded.
My question is: Was the Mishna not recorded in Rashi’s time? Commenting on the first verse in Parashat Bechukotai, Rashi notes (based on Sifra) that “Im bechukotai tele’chu” means “shetih’yu amelim baTorah.” In yeshiva I was taught that this means that one must toil with much effort to learn and understand Torah. If so, how can one not be expected to have an extensive knowledge and yet be amel baTorah?
Zvi Kirschner
(Via E-Mail)
ANSWER: Last week, we referred to Leviticus 26:3, where we are commanded, “Im bechukotai tele’chu - If you follow My decrees.” We concluded that this verse serves as the Biblical source for the requirement to be amel baTorah, lit., to work in Torah study. We also discussed the machloket (argument) in the Gemara (Horayot 14a) over whether the goal of “Sinai,” extensive Torah knowledge, or “Oker Harim,” sharp analytic ability, is the preferred method or goal of Torah study, taking into account that we now have the necessary sources available in print.

* * *

A discussion relevant to our subject is found in the newly released Shemen HaTov on Torah by the renowned scholar R. Dov Zev Weinberger. R. Weinberger is the rabbi emeritus of Young Israel of (Williamsburg) Brooklyn.

R. Weinberger is perplexed by the Gemara (Arachim 11a) discussing the singing required in the Holy Temple as the sacrifices were offered is discussed. The verse in Parashat Naso (Numbers 7:9) is given as a biblical source: “Veli’venei Kehat lo natan ki avodat hakodesh aleihem bakatef yissa’u – But to the sons of Kehat [of the Levite tribe] [Moses] did not give [wagons] because the service of the sanctuary was upon them; they carried on their shoulders.” Rashi (ibid.) explains that the burden of the holy items (i.e., the ark, the table) was upon them, therefore it is stated, “they carried on their shoulders.”

The Gemara asks: Since the verse specifies “on their shoulders,” is it not clear that “they carried”? What does the word “yissa’u” teach us? The answer provided is that “yissa’u” is another term for song, as we have the verse in Psalms (81:3), “Se’u zimra u’tenu tof ? Take up the melody and sound the timbrel.” Similarly, there is a verse (Isaiah 24:14), “Yis’u kolam yaronu – They raise their voice and sing,” which also refers to song with the word for carrying (yis’u).

Thus, the verse in Numbers serves as a Biblical source for the requirement of song in the Holy Temple.

R. Weinberger points out that the Gemara (ad loc) states that a Levite who sings, known as a meshorer, was not allowed to assist the sho’arim, the doorkeepers, and vice versa. Every Levite had his specific labor and duty and was liable for death if he went beyond his own requirement into that of his fellow Levite. If so, how could we say that those who carried also sang, or that the verse regarding those who carried can serve as a source for the requirement to sing?

In answer to his question, R. Weinberger cites Torah Temima (Numbers 7:9), which explains that the Sages did not intend this to be the simple explanation of the verse, but rather to be an asmachta, a support for the concept of song.

However, R. Weinberger finds this solution incomplete, as the Gemara (ibid. 11a) did seem to cite the verse in Numbers as the source of the requirement of song to accompany the sacrifices in the Temple.

To solve the difficulty, R. Weinberger points out that after the sons of Kehat carried the ark on their shoulders and were successful in that task, including refraining from any sin even in thought or manner of carrying, and reached their destination, they put down their loads and broke out in song. They had been in mortal danger (improper behavior while carrying brought severe punishment), and the joy upon completion of the task caused them to break out in songs of joy.

Similarly, after the service of the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest) was completed on Yom Kippur, he would exit the Holy of Holies to songs of joy and festivities. The tenseness of the wait to see wether the Kohen Gadol would come out alive gave way to celebration as he appeared. (See our Yom Kippur prayers for a description.)

We derive from the above an understanding that where the effort is increased according to the difficulty of the task, the resulting joy upon completion of the task becomes greater as well.

R. Weinberger describes an event of this kind. The Gaon R. Yitzhak Hutner, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbenu Chaim Berlin, met the Gaon R. Aharon Kotler, Rosh Yeshiva of the Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, at a wedding. R. Hutner told R. Kotler about a great scholar who was approached regarding a prospective marriage partner for his daughter. The young man was described as a matmid, greatly diligent in his studies, and of refined character. It was explained that he had the finest of traits; however, he was not a ba’al kisharon, that is, he lacked in aptitude and understanding at Torah study.

The scholarly father was in doubt as to whether to consider this young man for his daughter. Finally, the one who approached him reminded the father of what we learn in the Mishna (Avot 4:9), “R. Yonatan says, ‘He who fulfills the Torah in poverty will ultimately fulfill it in a state of wealth,’” and that the poverty mentioned in the Mishna does not refer exclusively to monetary poverty but to intellectual deficit as well.

The father was convinced, and the marriage took place. The young man labored with great diligence and perseverance in his Torah study, with encouragement from his wife and father-in-law, and emerged as a great scholar.

Shortly after relating this story, R. Hutner noticed that R. Kotler had disappeared. R. Hutner found R. Kotler crying in another room. When questioned, R. Kotler explained that he himself had never experienced such tribulations, and had never had to resort to such diligence and effort in his Torah studies. R. Kotler was sad that as a result of never undergoing the “poverty” he had lost out on the promised “wealth”.

R. Weinberger concludes that we might see from here how far these matters reach. [As we read in Avot (5:23), Ben Heh Heh states, "Lifum tza'ara agra - The reward is in proportion to one's pain (and effort required in the course of a task)." This, of course, can be applied to Torah study as well.]

We may now be able to understand the comments of Chikrei Lev – if one immerses himself in the analytical approach to study, even though one may not aim toward the goal of extensive knowledge of the Torah, one will end up accomplishing the standards of both Oker Harim and Sinai.

R. Kotler, who notwithstanding his emotional reaction to R. Hutner’s story, did study with due diligence, was just the opposite of the above. R. Kotler had vast knowledge of Torah as well as the great power of dialectic analysis. We see that diligence in Torah study will result in increasing both these attributes in the scholar.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-effort-and-diligence-in-torah-study-conclusion/2003/08/20/

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