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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Klal Yisroel’

Parshas Ki Sisa: ‘Don’t Panic’

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Klal Yisroel stood at Har Sinai and accepted the Torah in a state of supreme purity and complete unity. Every Jew reached a level of prophecy and witnessed an unparalleled revelation of G-d. Then Moshe ascended Har Sinai for forty days so G-d could teach him the laws and details of the Torah.

When the forty days had ended, Klal Yisroel thought Moshe would not return, and they panicked. The result was catastrophic; they created a golden calf and committed an egregious sin.

How did they reach such a low level? It began with a miscalculation. They thought Moshe was supposed to return that day. When six hours passed and he had still not returned, they began to worry. They knew Moshe was very precise – to him midnight was exactly midnight and midday was precisely midday. Now, they began to panic. If Moshe was really gone, G-d forbid, what would become of them? Who would lead them into Israel? Would they remain in the desert for eternity? Would the mahn continue to fall – after all it was only due to Moshe that it fell in the first place? And if there was no mahn what would become of their families? To make matters worse, the Satan showed them the image of Moshe dead.

The Satan did not succeed in totally convincing the Jewish people that he died, for the people only said, “we do not know what became of him.” However, they did allow their imagination to overpower their intellect. They were terribly frightened. If they had been completely logical they would have reasoned that G-d would not abandon them, even if Moshe did not return; perhaps Aharon would take over. The problem was that the people followed what their eyes saw, not what logic dictated.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz zt’l pointed out that in the Hoshanos recited on Hoshana Rabba we beseech G-d to save, “the ground from accursedness … the soul from panic.” In that paragraph we ask G-d to save the granary from “gazam” – a type of locust, and the crop from “arbeh” – another type of locust, for they are destructive forces.

By the same token the soul must be saved from panic, for it is a destroyer. This is precisely what happened in the desert. The people panicked and were so frightened they were not able to think logically. This led to decisions made in haste.

The lesson we must learn from their sin is not to allow ourselves to be immediately overwhelmed by what our eyes see. Our imagination can at times paint terrible pictures, but we must remember that it is only our imagination.

Why did the Jews panic so much when they thought Moshe would not return?

Let’s keep in mind that though the nation had just accepted the Torah at Sinai, a mere year earlier they were lowly slaves living in a brutal exile.

Servitude does not only destroy one’s physical sense of freedom, it destroys the one’s mental and psychological sense of self as well. A slave becomes completely dependent on his masters. There are no bills to pay or decisions to make. The slave forfeits his identity to his master and knows nothing other than the directions imposed upon him.

When the Jews marched forth from Egypt they had the difficult challenge of not only traversing the land of their captivity but also triumphing over the slave mentality that had infiltrated their conscience for so many generations. That reality was extremely daunting and immobilizing for the newly freed nation. They were frightened by the prospect that they had to make their own decisions and forge their own pathways in service to G-d.

So when they thought Moshe would not return they feared that they would be unable to lead their families and live up to their lofty potentials without an intermediary to guide them.

This mindset was an integral part of the sin of the Golden Calf. It wasn’t only what they did; it was also the feeling of turmoil and fear which caused their actions. They were held accountable for allowing their emotions to overwhelm them because they did not sufficiently believe in themselves!

With this in mind we can understand why the Torah repeats the importance of safeguarding Shabbos prior to its narrative of the sin of the Golden Calf. When Shabbos is observed properly it helps instill within us a sense of serenity and inner-peace. It is a day of connection when we remind ourselves of our priorities. On Shabbos we have the ability to contemplate life and our place in it in a manner that we cannot achieve during the other six days, which are more chaotic and fast-paced.

When one observes Shabbos properly he is protected from sins such as the Golden Calf.

Ahavas Yisroel and Compassion for Fellow Jews

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

It is hard to imagine someone else’s pain and react as if we really understand. My first job as a rav was in a nursing home, where I learned powerful lessons on how to react compassionately to the needs of others. Every Erev Shabbos, a woman came to spend the afternoon with her mother, who was suffering the devastating impact of dementia. Upon seeing her daughter, the mother would ask who it was. The daughter would patiently answer, “It’s me, your daughter, Sarah.” The mother’s eyes lit up and she would say, “Sarah, you made my day.” Sarah would spend 15 minutes telling her mother humorous stories about her grandchildren, when abruptly her mother would ask, “Who are you?” Her daughter would once again say, “It’s me, your daughter, Sarah,” and her mother would again beam with delight at seeing her daughter. The cycle continued for long periods of time. When one of the nurses asked Sarah how she had the patience to continue with this charade for so long, Sarah said it was her pleasure to be able to give her mother so many “first time” visits in one afternoon. “Besides,” she continued, “can you imagine how hard it must be to live in her state of mind; the least I can do is temporarily end her confusion and bring some happiness into her life.” As frustrating as it must have been for Sarah, sacrificing for others means understanding their needs and mustering the resources to help provide a solution.

We grow from our responses to difficult situations. When we make the proper decisions and use our potential to help others, we fulfill our purpose in this world. Esther was also known as Hadassah, as the verse tells us (Esther 2:7) “And he reared Hadassah, she is Esther.” The name Hadassah comes from the myrtle plant Hadas, which has an olive color similar to Esther’s complexion. The hadas plant is used by many as the besamim, spices, for Havdalah, as it has a beautiful sweet fragrance. This unique smell can only be released from the myrtle when it is squeezed hard and crushed. This symbolically represents Esther’s inner strength which emerged when she was being crushed by the pressure of Haman’s plans and the risking of her life to save Klal Yisroel.

We often hesitate to respond and react when we see others in trouble, in order to avoid the accompanying pressure and stress. The greatness of a Jew, however, is in being able to see others in difficult situations and respond by feeling their plight – and not remaining silent. The Talmud (Sotah 11a) tells us that Pharaoh had three advisers: Yisro, Iyov (Job) and Bilaam. Although Iyov did not want Pharaoh to destroy the Jewish people, he remained silent and neglected to voice his opposition to the plan. Perhaps he had a good reason for doing so; perhaps he was waiting for a more opportune time to intervene. Nevertheless, some say that he was punished for his silence because if he really felt their pain he should have screamed. I cry out in pain if someone steps on my foot; I should also cry out in pain if someone steps on my friend’s foot.

There are many possible reactions we can have to the many situations or little tests that occur over the course of a day. Each scenario is a nisayon, or test, that presents us with an opportunity to make choices and achieve growth. There are three levels of responses that could occur.

We could act out of habit or rote, without thinking, a response that generally does not allow us the opportunity to infuse meaning into our interpersonal interactions. For example, the feeling that so many are left with when we ask, “How are you doing?” and move on without waiting for a response, leaving the other party with the feeling that we don’t really care. Instead, we should give a warm and personal greeting and wait for a response to our caring inquiries.

Or we could do what we are supposed to be doing, but without the zerizus, alacrity, and exuberance.

However, the third and highest level of motivation occurs when the action is performed with a palpable level of excitement, enjoyment and meaning. For example, the same basic greeting will be performed at this level when we meet our future daughter-in-law for the first time.

This choice of “meaningfulness of response” can be seen each time we have the opportunity to do an act for others that requires our time or resources. Chazal tell us that we can increase the level of the mitzvah of charity by giving with a smile or warm comment, instead of simply, silently handing over the money. Many people in need of financial assistance would prefer receiving a little less while being treated with warmth and respect.

Reflections From A Yachad Parent

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

“Hi Tammy. It’s Penina. It was so nice meeting you and spending Shabbos with you guys last week.  It was such an amazing weekend. I wish we were going back on the shabbaton this coming Shabbos!” This was the message I received on my answering machine the Friday after the Yachad Family Shabbaton. It was from one of the friends I had made over the weekend, a mother of a special-needs child, just like myself. When I heard this message, it put a smile on my face. It also made me want to go on another shabbaton.

Every spring, Yachad, a division of the OU, runs a retreat for families of children with special-needs. As a mother of Tova, a thirteen year-old with Down Syndrome and four other children B”H, I have had to juggle the needs of my special-needs child with the needs of the rest of my family. There have been family outings where I’ve had a shadow come along with us; times I’ve left my daughter with others, and times where we’ve just stayed home.  The amazing thing about the Yachad Family Shabbaton is that there is nothing to juggle. You just show up and Yachad has orchestrated everything.

This year, when we arrived at the Hudson Valley Resort, Tova’s advisor came right up to us and introduced herself.  From that moment, I knew that Tova would be well taken care of for the duration of the weekend. From that point on, I knew Tova would always have a session to go to or an activity to participate in.  For a parent of a special-needs child, this is essential. Even if you have some respite on Shabbos, unstructured time can seem especially long for a child with special needs. This freedom allowed my husband, my other children, and me to use the hotel facilities and get ready for Shabbos with the comfort of knowing that Tova was in good hands.

Sometimes we don’t realize how much our other children need extra attention and special treats.  Yachad understands this and hence provides these things for all of my children on the Family Shabbaton. There were sessions and games for Tova, day camp for my younger boys, sibling sessions for my sixteen year-old daughter, separate swimming times, ping-pong, and a magic show on Motzai Shabbos for everyone.

When we arrived on Friday, I felt like I had come home.  Every family spoke our language. They all had a child with special needs.  All the masks came off.  There was nothing to be self-conscious about. We were able to let our guard down, even if it was for just one weekend.  It was so moving to see how excited the Yachad members, our daughter included, were to be at this shabbaton. It was equally moving to enter the dining hall on Friday night and see so many families with children just like Tova.  More than 600 people came together to share and learn from one another. Thanks to Yachad, we were able to connect with each other in a way that would have otherwise been impossible.

At the Shabbos meals, Yachad sat us with different families so we would have an opportunity to meet a variety of people from a number of different places.  Families came from all over the New York/New Jersey area, but also from as far as Baltimore, Boston, Montreal and Chicago.  The zemiros resounding in the dining room truly enhanced the Shabbos meals.

Throughout the weekend there were multiple sessions offered that were both educational and inspirational.  One particular session was given by Dr. Karen Summar, a developmental pediatrician who specializes in children and adolescents with Down Syndrome and their behaviors.  As we sat in this workshop and heard other families describe challenges similar to ours, we truly felt understood.

In Praise Of Bubby

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

The Gemara in Brachos says that one is not allowed to add his own praises of Hashem while davening. The Gemara explains that by doing so it could seem that what one added was the only praise missing, and that there are no more praises of Hashem. Similarly, Bubby, for one to try to mention all of your praises would be impossible. With that said I would like to mention a few points, without implying that this is all there is to be said.

 

In Shemos the pasuk tells us, “Vayakam melech chadash b’Mitzrayim.” Rashi explains that there is a machlokes as to whether it was a new king or the old king who made new laws. We can understand those that say it was an old king with new laws. However, how do those who say it was a new king explain that he did not know of Yosef? It was only a few years since Yosef’s death and he had saved the entire country from a famine. He was second in command and made Mitzrayim into a superpower. The answer is that, of course, he heard of Yosef but, because he had not witnessed Yosef’s greatness personally, he could not truly fathom it.

 

Bubby, this can be said of your greatness and of your chesed and maasim tovim, for they, too, were so awesome and great. Bubby, you were zoche to see five generations – for which it is said you will go to Gan Eden. But I’m worried that the next generation won’t be able to comprehend fully how great you were. For those who were fortunate to witness Bubby it is incumbent that we constantly review and remind ourselves of her great deeds, lest we forget. Hopefully, we will be able to properly pass down to our children who Bubby was.

 

When I got engaged, Bubby asked me whether I had mentioned to my kallah that we come from a long lineage of rabbis, including the Chasam Sofer, the Divrei Chaim, and the Aruch Hashulchan. I”yH, I hope to tell my children and their children, do you know who you come from, besides the above mentioned list I will tell them they come from you, Bubby and Zaidy.

 

We bless our children every Friday night, “Yasimcha Elokim k’Efraim uk’Menashe.” The question is: why do we ask that our children be likened to Efraim and Menashe over all the other shivatim? Rabbi Moshe Feinstein answered that, generally, there is an inherent yeridas hadoros. The further away one is, the weaker the mesorah. Yaakov Avinu felt that this was not the case with Efraim and Menashe. Although they were his grandchildren, he felt that they were on the same level as if they were his children, and the mesorah was not weakened.

 

Bubby, you were marich yomim and it was a zechus for everyone whose lives you were able to touch. You have helped keep the mesorah alive for us. I hope that we will be able to keep vibrant the mesorah that is from you.

 

I remember Bubby and Zaidy saying you should go m’chayil el chayil. Now it is our turn to wish it upon you Bubby, may you go m’chayil el chayil. However, I would like to add the end of that pasuk (from Tehillim), “yirah el Elokim b’Tzion.” The Gemara at the end of Brachos interprets this to mean those who go from multitudes of good deeds to multitudes of good deeds will merit to be mekabel pnei haShechina.

 

Bubby, you have definitely conducted your life in this manner – going from multitudes of greatness, good deeds, chesed and mitzvos to another. You shall now go and receive your reward, be mekabel pnei haShechina. May you bring with you your armies of zechusim and be a meylitz yosher for the family and for all Klal Yisroel and help bring the geula sh’leima b’karov.

Winning The Blame Game; Losing The War: Teaching Responsibility to Our Children

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Schools have long been grading students on responsibility. But in recent years, teachers report that marks in responsibility have been plummeting. This is an alarming phenomenon – but it is not a coincidence. Responsibility is becoming a rare virtue.

We live in a world where politicians, executives and professionals fail to act responsibly or take responsibility for their actions. Parents, teachers and students often follow suit. Instead of behaving with responsibility, people often are reckless and shift the blame for their mistakes onto others.

A senior politician who “forgot” to report income blames his Turbo Tax software. Homeowners who bought homes with risky mortgages blame the banks for taking them away. CEOs seeking bailouts for their companies travel in exorbitant private jets. Slowly, the very fabric of society withers into a total mess, as the culture of irresponsibility infiltrates our homes and lives.

According to expert mechanchim, this plague of irresponsibility lies at the crux of many chinuch problems. Children and adults are becoming less accountable and less responsible. They are blaming everyone but themselves.

“My child isn’t doing well because he doesn’t have a good rebbe.”

“I didn’t behave because another girl made me be chutzpadik.”

“I’m late because the bus came early.”

Maybe your child doesn’t have a good rebbe, but that doesn’t preclude his halachicobligation to learn Torah. Maybe the girl sitting next to your daughter is disruptive, but that doesn’t grant your daughter a license to misbehave. Maybe the bus came thirty seconds early, but you could have been at the stop sooner.

This culture of irresponsibility is extremely damaging, both on an individual level, and to society at large.

At the last Agudah Convention, Harav Mattisyahu Solomon shlita addressed the painful issue of “When Children Stray.” He said that the phenomenon of children rebelling is a reflection of Klal Yisroel’s rebellion. When the Ribbono shel Olam cried out in anguish, at the beginning of our galus, “Banim gadalti veromamti – I grew and raised children and they betrayed me,” Klal Yisroel should have felt that pain, and responded immediately, “Tatte, we are sorry and we want to return and be loyal to You.”

Unfortunately, Klal Yisroel did not hear the message. Hashem decided that the only way to bring them back is to let them personally feel the pain that kavayochal He is going through.

This refusal to apologize is blatantly irresponsible. A responsible person not only behaves correctly, but also admits errors, accepts blame and does whatever he can to repair the damage.

As Yidden, the ability to take responsibility lies at the heart of our existence. In Parshas Mikeitz, Yaakov Avinu refused to allow Binyamin to travel to Mitzrayim with his brothers. Although the family’s food supply was dwindling, and the Egyptian viceroy had made Binyamin’s presence a condition for purchasing more food, Yaakov feared for Binyamin’s life. Until Yehuda arose. “Anochi e’ervenu” – I will guarantee him, he said. I will take responsibility.” And so, the history of Klal Yisroel unfolded.

This was not the first time Yehuda accepted responsibility. When Tamar presented the staff, cloak and ring of her unborn child’s father, Yehuda said, “Tzadkah memeni” – she is expecting my child. He did this at great personal sacrifice. Yet it is of this union that Malchus Beis Dovid was born, and it is this sense of responsibility that characterized it. Dovid behaved similarly after the episode with Batsheva.

In contrast, when Shmuel Hanavi asked Shaul why he had not killed the animals of Amalek, as Hashem had commanded, he said, “chamal ha’am” – the nation had mercy on the animals, so that they could sacrifice them to Hashem.” He blamed his mistake on the people. This was a two-fold lapse of achrayus. First, Shaul acted irresponsibly by not eradicating Amalek in its entirety, as he had been commanded. Second, he refused to accept responsibility for his mistake, and instead blamed the people. This twofold mistake brought untold suffering upon the Jewish people and cost Shaul his kingdom.

What Is Responsibility?

In regard to chinuch, there are two main aspects of responsibility. The first is the ability to fulfill responsibilities. A person who fulfills responsibilities is answerable to himself, to others and to the Ribbono Shel Olam. His behavior is disciplined, and he follows rules and regulations. He understands that as a member of a family, class and society, there are things he must and must not do.

A responsible person won’t come late to Shacharis, because he believes that it would be wrong to a) himself, because he will miss out on part of the tefillah; b) other mispallelim whom he will disrupt with his entrance; and c) the Ribbono Shel Olam, because his tefillah will be rushed and he may miss out on several Ameins, Amein yehei shemei rabbahs and other chiyuvim.

The second aspect of responsibility is acknowledging the effects of an action or decision and accepting its consequences. A child who does poorly on a test should be able to assess his behavior and come to responsible conclusions. He should tell himself, “I should have studied harder”, “I need to learn how to take better notes” or “I’m going to listen better in class” as opposed to blaming the teacher, the test or the class.

Teaching Responsibility – Role Modeling, Duties And Consequences

There are many ways parents can inculcate responsibility in their children. The first is to be good role models. A child who lives in a disciplined, structured home will grow up to be disciplined and structured – essential middos for responsible living. A child whose parents exhibit a responsibility to others will likely grow up with that same trait. This is required of us. The Torah teaches us, kol Yisroel areivim zeh lazeh. Parents who pursue chessed, are involved in their children’s schools and contribute to tzedakah, model to their children that we do not live for ourselves alone. This attitude is a hallmark of responsibility.

Another way to teach responsibility is to assign age-appropriate chores. Here, parents must tread a fine line between overburdening children and challenging them. If all choices and decisions are made by adults, and children have no responsibilities, they will be dependent and incompetent. If we expect too much of them, they will feel overburdened and again, incompetent, because they won’t be able to fulfill expectations. So parents need to carefully consider the duties they give to their children. Parents should also create rules and enforce them.

Children must be taught not only to act responsibly, but also to accept responsibility for their actions. Parents can teach this by allowing children to experience the natural consequences of their behavior. Children should not get “bailouts” from their parents.

A chronic latecomer should not be given late notes. She should be made to experience the consequences of her lateness. Several doses of detention may be just what she needs to propel her out of bed in the morning.

Why Are People Irresponsible?

People behave irresponsibly because shifting blame is so easy and convenient. It is much easier to blame a person or situation than to acknowledge wrongdoing and change behaviors and habits. It is much easier for a parent to gripe about the rebbe than to learn with his child or hire a tutor. Sadly, in our easy-way-out society, the easy way usually wins.

This “easy way out” lifestyle stems largely from the plenty our community enjoyed in the past decades. Luxury homes, expensive vacations, designer clothing and $85 Kipling briefcases for children have become the norm. Ours is the “es kumt zich mir” generation, the era of instant gratification. “I deserve to get these curtains or buy this dress or take this break.” Even now, with so many amongst us struggling for parnassah, the trend continues. All this luxury comes with a very big price tag.

In Shiras Haazinu the pasuk says, “vayishman yeshurun vayiv’at” – Yeshurun grew fat and kicked [in rebellion]. Their rebellion was a direct result of the abundance that caused them to “grow fat.” Instead of thanking Hashem for His plenty, they attributed their blessings to talent and hard work. They said “kochi v’otzem yadi asa li es hachayil hazeh” – my power and the strength of my hand accomplished this great feat.

There is a certain sense of entitlement and power that comes from living on “easy street.” Children, who have every wish and whim fulfilled, may have a hard time telling themselves “no.” Incidentally, this phenomenon is not correlated to income level. The availability of cheap snacks and toys, bargain stores, and inexpensive clothing has created a society of low-income spendthrifts. Low-income children are just as easily spoiled as their wealthy counterparts.

Whatever their income level, parents must insist on withholding pleasures and giving children responsibilities, otherwise there is a very real danger they won’t develop the ability to do so – even when the pleasures they seek go against rules or societal norms, or could be harmful to themselves or to others. Such children also find it hard to acclimate to the demands of adulthood.

Parents who overly shield and protect their children do so in the name of love. But they are doing their children a great disservice.

When one girl felt pressured in high school, her father called the principal to complain. The menahelexplained that it was important for students to learn to cope with stress and pressure, because school is a training ground for life, and life is full of tension. The father answered -

“My daughter will not have any stress or pressure in her life. I will protect her.”

One can only marvel at the “kochi v’otzem yadi” mindset that brings a father to make such a statement. And one can only hope that his daughter is able to overcome her bewilderment when life hands her a challenge that is beyond her father’s protective reach.

Responsibility vs. Happiness

Not so long ago, all children had chores. It was a given that everyone who lived in a home had to help maintain it. Today, many parents believe that giving children responsibilities means robbing them of the joys of childhood. This attitude is also a reflection of society – where pursuit of happiness is a goal in life, and paradoxically, unhappiness and depression abound.

This unhappiness is largely the result of the lack of responsibility in our generation. Marketers would have us believe that we can purchase joy in a chocolate bar. But nothing could be more fleeting. Did anyone ever rejoice because he had really good chocolate two days ago? On the contrary, responsibility equals satisfaction, and satisfaction equals happiness. People are happiest when they are productive and responsible. Parents who wish to shield their children from responsibility because they want to grant them freedom and happiness, are withholding the keys to the very happiness they want to bestow.

Interestingly, every Jewish simcha is a celebration of responsibility. At a bris, we celebrate the entrance of a Jewish male into the Covenant of Avraham – a pact that brings with it the responsibilities of being a Jew. At a bar or bas mitzvah, we celebrate the entrance of a child into the responsibilities of adulthood. And at a wedding, we celebrate marriage – a union that again brings myriad responsibilities.

As a veteran teacher, I am in a unique position to track societal trends. Thirty years ago, when I would tell parents that their child had a problem, they would become attentive and apologetic. They would ask for advice, and work to improve the situation. Today, parents can’t accept criticism about their children. Complaints are met with disbelief or blame.

“Yanky can’t be misbehaving. It must be a problem in the class.”

“Menachem is not keeping up? He’s so bright. The material is way too hard for this grade level.”

“Of course he didn’t do his homework. You give them so much work, it’s impossible.”

So Yanky and Menachem and all the other sweet innocent little boys are never given the help or direction they need for proper chinuch and growth. Is it any wonder, then, that so many people in our generation are buckling under the responsibilities of adulthood?

It is time for us all to take responsibility for the way we live, spend money, and parent our children. Perhaps the current economic meltdown is meant to cure us of the societal ills that led to Vayishman Yeshurun vayiv’at – and perhaps our response to it will bring us to an era of achrayus, with the rebuilding of Malchus Bais Dovid.

An acclaimed educator and education consultant, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@verizon.net.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 7/16/10

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Infertility: Where do we draw the line?  (Part I)

The letter-writer signed, “Is tznius not the hallmark of our lifestyle?” (Chronicles 6-18-10) calls into question the ethical mores, as she perceives them, pertaining to the subject of infertility treatment. Indicating her disapproval of the depiction of “A healthy-looking smiling infant” (used by an organization for their ads and mailings), the author critiques the practice (“What do attempts at producing a life in a lab say for our belief system?”) as well as method (“taking all sorts of extreme measures, while being monitored and supervised by men and women in white coats”) utilized in helping couples alter their childless state.

The writer also takes exception to the lack of tznius (“I was always under the impression that the method by which to carry out the mitzvah of pru u’rvu is an intensely private one”) and what she considers to be an “in-your-face campaign” that she feels may pose an awkward dilemma to parents who would need to explain to their children what these ads allude to.

The following is a reader’s commentary in answer to “Is tznius not the hallmark of our lifestyle?”

Dear Tznius,

You are right. Indeed, pictures of healthy-looking, smiling infants are not the best way to solicit for an organization reaching out to help hundreds of couples struggling with infertility to realize their dream. I, for one – having been there, done that – often mused how effective a fundraising campaign might be if but a small percentage of our pain could be depicted on those posters and mailings.

How horrified would the average reader be to confront the size of the needles I had to subject myself to during treatment, and how much more of an impact would it make if organizations (such as the one you refer to) would opt to use the photographs of healthy embryos in a Petri dish instead of happy babies on their advertisements! As a follow-up, ads can perhaps illustrate how none of those beautiful embryos developed into the healthy-looking infants – the ones clearly causing you great distress.

You ask if G-d had meant us to have children, would He not have granted them the natural way.

As I try to understand where you could possibly be coming from in your letter, I am completely stumped by your query. Have we not learned since the beginning of time that G-d works in mysterious ways? Did our patriarchs and matriarchs not beseech the heavens for a child of their own when they were childless? Does our holy Torah not devote much narrative on this very topic, delving into the unimaginable difficulties faced by husband and wife and by women in particular who desperately hope for a child? Finally, is anything G-d does really “natural?”

To try and understand you, I must ask a question in return: Do you use a fax machine? How about a computer, a cellular phone, an iron, a radio, and just about a million other things modern technology has given us? If your throat hurts, do you not take a culture? If your knee is scraped and bleeding, will you not apply an antibacterial cream and/or dress it with a bandage?

Your logic would mean that G-d would want us to wear wrinkled shirts and get breaking news from history books. Laboratories are laboratories! Whether testing bacteria for strep throat or sugar levels for diabetes, the work done in medical facilities today is nothing short of a miracle – G-d’s blessing for our generation! A hundred and fifty years ago, the folks living at that time were blessed with the automobile. Should they have insisted that car manufacturers halt the assembly process and just let everyone walk, as surely G-d had intended us to?

Yes, the mitzvah and concept of having children is an intensely private one. And then, if G-d forbid calamity strikes, how is it to be handled if all is kept private? A couple needs the information in order to survive! They need to know, as soon as possible, that they are not alone, that there is help and that their story can G-d willing have a happy ending!

Because of the importance placed on privacy in married life, reaching out for help under such circumstances is often the most difficult step a couple must take. I often felt that I could tolerate everything relating to infertility, if only I didn’t feel so violated. Yet, I consciously chose, as did my fellow infertility sufferers, to “face the music” – the hope, the pain, the frustration and the bitter disappointment, time and time and time again, before we finally merited having a child of our own! The hope kept me alive, even if I had to “share” that hope with my whole family and my entire community! In the end, it seems a small price to pay to enjoy a beautiful, happy baby who is of my husband’s and my flesh and blood.

No, I don’t feel cheated that this blessed event took place in a laboratory, just as I don’t refrain from seeing the dentist when my tooth hurts. Everything G-d has put on this earth, including the brains and determination in medical science and progress in medicine, has the potential to be holy. We certainly have the ability to choose, but at a time when clearly thousands of beautiful couples in Klal Yisroel are faced with the devastating news that they must be treated medically in order to have children, who would suggest that they just “forget it and move on with life?”

Please understand that the desire to have children is pivotal to Jewish life and tradition – as are children themselves – which is the reason the organization has the kind of success it does! No parent, no grandparent or even a neighbor wants to see one of “us” – a Yiddishe daughter or son – remain childless!

To be cont’d

See You On Shabbos

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

   The idea of SeeYouOnShabbos.com popped into Rabbi Benzion Klatzko’s head one morning. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, he thought, if a website could be created that would allow Jews from all over the world to find a host or invite guests for Shabbos? He knew that there needed to be a concerted effort to connect individuals and families.

 

   “We, the Jewish people, have many, many resources, but we’re not always as organized as we could be. Everyone has good intentions, so if we can take everyone’s good intentions and put them on one site as a resource that everyone can use, we would have a tremendous amount of power.”

 

   The result, SeeYouOnShabbos.com, has begun to take off, with well over 5,000 people signing up since the site launched in January. Registrants include Jews from as far away as Ecuador, Indonesia, Ireland and Belgium, 38 countries and growing. What is also revealing is that nearly half of the guests who have signed up for the site are not traditional Orthodox Jews. They are simply Jewish people who are curious about Shabbos, and would love to learn about its meaning.

 

   They are saying, “If only someone would invite us, we would come and participate in a traditional Shabbos. Many have said they would love to do kiruv. They just don’t know many non-frum Jews, or they don’t know how to approach them. With this site all our excuses disappear. The onus is now on us,” says Rabbi Klatzko. In the first four months, more than 4,000 people have been invited through SYOS.

 

   What makes this site unique is that not only can a guest find a host for Shabbos, a host can actively search for a guest, invite them into their home, and share together a beautiful family Shabbos experience. What a wonderful opportunity to do hachnosas orchim, be involved in kiruv, look out for those in our community who have been neglected and ignored, and unite the Jewish people in a global mitzvah of chesed.

 

   In addition, since so many single people who sign up as guests are also actively looking for a shidduch, the site allows for that to be noted in the profile. They can then upload a short shidduch profile, making this site the largest free, open source shidduch data base in the world.

 

   One can then search for a shidduch using the filter on the side of the page, and find every available boy or girl on the site who is available, complete with references and personal description. This essentially puts the shidduch list in all of Klal Yisroel’s hands, making each person a potential shadchan. “The site does not have the stigma of a dating site, as it is simply a Shabbos hosting vehicle. Thus many singles who felt awkward signing up for one of those websites are finding their way to See You On Shabbos.”

 

   Rabbi Klatzko, a former campus rabbi at UCLA who has been nicknamed “The Hollywood Rabbi” due to the many stars who attended his classes, regularly hosts 50 people for Shabbos meals. “My wife, Shani, is the true hero; I wouldn’t be able to do it without her,” says the father of 11 who lives in Monsey.

 

   Shani grew up in a home in which her parents kept a large tray of chicken and a huge pot of soup on the table, and people would stream in all day long, he says. “To her, it’s a natural thing.”

 

   For the Klatzkos, Shabbos serves as a peaceful oasis of holiness and tranquility in these tumultuous times. “We appreciate the unique ability of Shabbos to bond together the Jewish people,” he says, calling the day of rest the Jews’ “built-in social network.”

 

   The site offers a number of features, including “Search for hosts in your area,” view “A host’s profile,” and “Proximity Search,” to name a few. Using location and other criteria like pet or food allergies, a registered guest can select a host family that best fits one’s needs.

 

   There is even a link called “Shabbos Facts,” which serves as an informative “Shabbos-101″ tool for first-timers. For registered hosts, the site outlines five security measures – like viewing a guest’s profile – that will help protect the families who partake in this chesed.

 

   Families thinking of participating should know how much the gesture of hosting one Shabbos meal can affect a Jewish neshama. “There are single mothers, widowed, divorced people. Single people and also travelers,” he said. “That’s why we include the entire community.” Megan Michaels, a 29-year-old social work student from Passaic, N.J., said Klatzko’s site has meant she’s never had to go solo on Shabbos.

 

   “As a single person, it’s harder to feel part of the community, and See You on Shabbos has opened up the community to me,” she said. “Through the website I’ve met new families who I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s a good feeling to be invited.”

 

   See You On Shabbos has been given a resounding haskama from the gedolim. Rabbi Aharon Feldman, rosh hayeshiva of Ner Israel, wrote, “It is a wonderful thing to be involved in this big mitzvah, and each family that can should sign up.” In the kavod Shabbos rally in Baltimore, the gedolim announced from the podium that everyone in the community should make it a priority to sign up.

 

   Rabbi Ilan Feldman, rabbi in Atlanta, Georgia, also requested from each and every member of the Beth Jacob Kehilla to list themselves as hosts. “I can’t tell you how long we have waited for a tool like this to reinvigorate outreach in our community.”

 

   A new feature of the site is “suggest a match” in which either a host or guest may be recommended to one another. Perhaps a guest is traveling and a previous host knows of a family who would enjoy his or her company. The host may suggest the guest to the host or vice versa. It is a way for both visitors to feel welcome to the community and for newcomers to meet their neighbors.

 

   Rabbi Klatzko has big hopes for the site, including adding a proximity search that would allow mobile users who are stuck on the highway minutes before Shabbos to locate a nearby host. The site will also eventually help Shabbaton organizers locate hosts within a community with just one click.

 

   Rabbi Klatzko’s vision for SeeYouOnShabbos.com does not end at Shabbos placements. “Ultimately, I am looking at this site becoming the epicenter of the Jewish worldwide web, where a person can go on and find places for Shabbos – shuls, kosher eateries, shidduchim, and eventually jobs as well.”

 

   “See you on Shabbos reflects the genuine desire of Jewish people all across the world to welcome other Jews into their homes,” says Sammie Goodman, from Merrick, NY, an alumna of Neve Yerushalayim seminary. “I think that this site will help create beautiful Shabbos experiences, connect people, and help to connect Klal Yisroel. As a baalas teshuvah who needs a place to spend Shabbos each week, the outpouring of people looking to host guests is very meaningful,” Goodman says.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/see-you-on-shabbos/2010/06/16/

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