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When Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch started dating his wife, they realized she was four years his senior. She, being a good German woman, suggested that maybe they call if off because she was older than him. He looked at her and said, "Lady, for what I have planned I need a mature woman."
The Torah is defined as flint, a hard stone that is sturdy and unbreakable. It is therefore ironic that the year 5770 saw the Torah stretched as a rubber band - with the extremes causing the fraying of the bonds of Torah and Klal Yisrael and with no respite in sight.
As much as we may scratch our heads in disbelief, the fact is summer is ending, (and with it hopefully, the heat). For Jews everywhere, this means that we are approaching the days in the Jewish calendar during which we take time out from the familiar flow of our daily lives to think about the things we would rather not think about, like illness, misfortune and death.
The ominous Nine Days, that culminate in the somber day of mournful remembrance called Tisha B'av, will soon begin. Most people in our community have, since childhood, been warned and exhorted to be extra careful and cautious during this period of time. We are taught that these particular days have a history of being especially tragic for Klal Yisrael, with many great misfortunes having taken place over the centuries during this time of year. To that end, for example, despite the oppressive summer heat, we are not allowed to go swimming, since the potential for injury or even death is increased. Traveling is also greatly discouraged, as is any activity that has an element of risk.
What could I possibly write to justly summarize the magnitude of my/our dear rabbi, the Rishon LeTzion Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, zt"l? I can't believe I am actually sitting and writing about him in the past tense.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. Even the seemingly smallest of occurrences has a purpose. I recently had a doctor's appointment in Yerushalayim. Once finished, I decided to do some shopping in a nearby grocery store. This spur-of-the- moment decision led to an encounter with someone from my past, who was to teach me invaluable lessons in life.
The Haggadah brings to our attention the "Four Sons," each of whom has a distinct nature that essentially represents the main types of Jews who cross our path. The one we most admire is the "wise" son. He is the kind of young man every parent, prospective in-law and teacher dreams of having come into their life. He is intelligent, sincere and inquisitive and has a thirst for knowledge. He knows where he comes from and embraces his Yiddishkeit.
We were very excited about attending our dear nephew's aufruf (ceremony in shul the Shabbos preceding a wedding). We didn't know where we were being put up, but somehow the address sounded familiar. When we got to the house, I recognized it immediately. It was the Brooklyn office of the Hebron community in Israel. The bar mitzvah of my son, of blessed memory, had been Parshas Chayei Sarah, the Torah portion that describes how Abraham buried his wife Sarah in Hebron. His bar mitzvah theme had been "Hebron."
Klal Yisrael lost a premier mechanech this past erev Rosh Hashanahwith the sudden passing of Rabbi Pesach Oratz, z"l. Rabbi Oratz's career in Jewish education spanned close to six decades, over which time he taught tens of thousands of students. One of the things that made Rabbi Oratz unique was the range of topics and of students that he taught.
Special Note: The letter written by the woman experiencing a financial crisis has evoked a strong response. Many people identify with her plight and still others have come forth to share their own experiences in confronting painful challenges. I am pleased to publish one of these letters.
The years move forward and your eighth yahrzeit (10 Shevat) will soon be here, my dear father.