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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘kollel’

Events In The West

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

On Wednesday, August 1, Dayan Aharon David Dunner will be the featured speaker at L.A.’s Siyum Hashas at the downtown Music Center Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. There will be a hookup with the tens of thousands of men at the national siyum in New Jersey.

More Summer Learning: Beth Jacob San Diego’s SEED program begins on Sunday, July 22… L.A.’s Anshe Emes will hold their annual Chofetz Chaim SEED program beginning at the end of July… The Valley Torah High School Alumni Association kollel continues through Monday, August 6.

Shul Update: After a protracted and controversial struggle, Chabad of North Hollywood, located in the Sherman Oaksarea of the San Fernando Valley, succeeded in obtaining approval from the Los Angeles City Council to proceed with the expansion of their current facility.

LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Bas Mitzvah: Baila Ertel, daughter of Rabbi Shmuel and Chaya Ertel.

Mazel Tov – Wedding:Michael Denise to Michal Backer.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Births: Moshe and Shifra Hager, a daughter (Grandparents David and Judy Hager)… Rabbi Dr. Raphy and Miriam Hulkower, a daughter (Grandparents Walter and Joann Hulkower)… Rabbi Eliezer and Beracha Cohen of Lakewood, NJ, a son (Grandparents Rabbi Gavriel and Grace Cohen; Rabbi Shlomo and Robin Goldberg)… Avrohom and Chany Stern of Lakewood, NJ, a son (Grandparents Rabbi Eli and Robin Stern)… Lavie and Amanda Klein, a son (Grandparents Shmuel and Tzipporah Klein; Isaac and Ahouva Shapiro)… Rabbi Avrohom and Russi Morgenstern, a daughter… Yoily and Leah Rosenberg, a son (Grandparents Meyer and Raizy Brief)… Shmuli and Ruti Berger, a daughter (Grandparents David and Carol Berger)… Zev and Naamit Nagel, a son (Grandparents Ronnie and Cheryl Nagel; (Great-grandparents Jack and Gitta Nagel).

Mazel Tov – Bar Mitzvahs: Samuel Ellenhorn, son of Joshua and Edith Ellenhorn… Mickey Cooper, son of Dr. Aharon and Odelia Cooper… Yossi Schlesinger, son of Fred and Clarisse Schlesinger.

Mazel Tov – Bas Mitzvah: Sivan Platt, daughter of Dr. Arthur and Yaffa Platt.

Mazel Tov – Engagements: Shimmy Bayer to Leeor Nahum… Ronit Derovan, daughter of Norman and Wendy Derovan, to Daniel Gorenshtein of Brazil… Tova Jacobs, daughter of Dr. Jerry and Ahuva Jacobs, to Moshe Lerer of Teaneck, NJ… Daniella Weiss, daughter of Isaac and Joyce Weiss, to Shami Reichman of Toronto.

Mazel Tov – Weddings: Phillip Marcus, son of Norman and Florence Marcus, to Pamela Kleinman… Avigdor Kessler, son of Hessel and Miriam Kessler, to Ariella Tzion… Batya Rotter, daughter of Dr. Arnold and Leah Rotter, to Gidon Winter of Melbourne, Australia… Daniel Kosberg son of Stephen and Miriam Kosberg, to Barrie Zigman, daughter of Arnold and Rosalie Zigman of Long Beach, CA… Tali Okrent, daughter of Dr. Derek and Batsheva Okrent, to Ted Smolar… Ilana Kellerman, daughter of Drs. Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, to Jordan Moss… Adam Silverstein, son of Neil and Leslie Silverstein, to Rena Kolom of Lincolnwood, IL… Daniella Wasserman, daughter of Steven and Karen Wasserman, to Eli Hami, son of Brouria Hami and the late Yosef Hami… Melissa Gellman, daughter of Meir and Robin Gelman, to Mark Genet.

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Births: Dan and Beth Nash, a daughter (Grandparents Carl and Sharon Nash)… Jay and Israela Kimche, a son (Grandparents Eli and Yona Sternheim)… Josh and Devorah Walker, a son.

Mazel Tov – Wedding: Michael and Elana Wenacour.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFIORNIA

Mazel Tov – Engagement: Jessica Attia, daughter of Albert and Mazu Attia, to Aaron Wolf of England.

Mazel Tov – Wedding: David Goode to Rifkah Krolikowski.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Birth: Shai and Robin Attia, a son.

Mazel Tov – Wedding: Heshy and Chaya Fried.

VALLEY VILLAGE, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Birth: Avi and Debbie Erblich, a son (Grandparents Baruch and Leah Erblich; Leslie and Michelle Levin of Las Vegas).

Mazel Tov – Bar Mitzvah: Aaron Mamelak, son of Dr. Aaron Mamelak.

Mazel Tov – Weddings: Ariella Tzion, daughter of Yonaton and Liora Tzion, to Avigdor Kessler… Dina Ackerman, daughter of Zoltan and Martha Ackerman, to Moshe Franklin of NY.

DENVER, COLORADO

Mazel Tov – Bas Mitzvah: Talya Schreiber, daughter of Alan and Judy Schreiber.

Mazel Tov – Wedding: Nurit Hirsch, daughter of Dr. Fred and Pia Hirsch, to Matt Rotbart, son of Dr. Harley and Sara Rotbart.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Mazel Tov – Birth: Gavriel and Avigayil Rudnick, a daughter (Grandmother Ruth Hyman).

The Draft Controversy In Israel

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

A comment by Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz the other day set us thinking about an element in the draft debate that could only manifest itself in an Israeli context.

Mr. Mofaz spoke at length on the issue to Israel TV’s Channel 2 , saying he believed the government could successfully put together a bill to replace the Tal Law, which largely exempts most full-time adult yeshiva students from army service but which the Israeli Supreme Court recently struck down. Then, in a follow-up interview with Channel 10, he added that service “is part of our DNA as Jews.”

Surely he was referring to the obligations citizens in a democracy have to their government and its institutions, particularly its military component. But non-Jews also bear that trait as well. Could it be that the devoutly secular Mr. Mofaz thinks the Jewish version is special?

Many are aware of the Jewish concept of areivus, which is loosely translated as the visceral tendency of Jews to take care of one another. In fact, it is more than that.

The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah says a person who keeps all the mitzvos but doesn’t share in the travails of Klal Yisrael “will have no portion in the World to Come.”

The famed Lakewood Rosh Yeshiva Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, alluded to that in a discussion of why someone who had already made Kiddush on Shabbos was still able to make it for someone else who had not yet heard it. It is not, he said, a berachah levatalah – a superfluous berachah – because all Jews are interconnected parts of a whole, so that the failure of someone to hear Kiddush constitutes an original obligation on the part of the person making Kiddush for him.

To those of us who believe that “Jewish DNA” is reflective of the Torah in every respect, we must accept that all Jews are entitled to each other’s protection. To be sure, part of the continuing draft conflict in Israel is the lack of universal acceptance of the notion that learning Torah provides protection for Jews even as does serving in the IDF. But both sides of the divide accept the obligation of areivus. And that is certainly notable.

It is interesting, and perhaps not coincidental, that the outlines of the agreement being seriously considered calls for a five-year draft deferment for all haredi young men learning in yeshivas with an additional delay or even a lifetime exemption available for exceptional students. One cannot fail to note how closely this formula tracks the typical conversation that prospective mechutanim have about how long their son or son-in-law will be supported in kollel.

This is an important development in terms of addressing the conundrum of dealing with the prospect that a Jewish state would institutionally limit the time a Jew can spend learning Torah. Relatedly, we hope it also reflects a willingness to provide full accommodation of the religious needs of haredim and others who are observant.

West Coast Happenings

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Summer Kollels: The Seattle Kollel offers a men’s evening SEED program from July 2-August 14. On those same dates, there will be a morning learning program for boys – grade 2 and up – which includes twice-weekly baseball in the park following the learning, plus a masmid ha’siyum program for boys in grades 3-8… The YU summer kollel at EDOS in Denver, featuring Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman and Rabbi Daniel Rapp, runs from July 1-August 15… Emek Bracha in Palo Alto is hosting a SEED program… Beth Jacob Beverly Hills summer kollel for men and women continues through July 27 with Rabbi Avner Shapiro as the rosh beit medrash.

Shul News: Residents of Sherman Oaks in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley are suing Chabad of North Hollywood to stop the renovations on their shul. Work on the partially built structure has been suspended until the case is settled. The residents say that the proposed 12,000-square-foot building being squeezed onto a 9,568-square-foot parcel zoned for residential use is just too big for the surrounding blocks of single-family homes.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Births: Daniel and Chavi Wintner, a daughter, (Grandparents Jacob and Francine Wintner)… Rabbi Matt and Sabrina Rosenberg, a daughter (Grandparents David and Esther Renzer)… Earl and Ali Weinstein, a daughter (Grandparents Dr. Max and Ronit Weinstein)… Yoni and Sara Barzideh, a son (Grandparents Mitch and Karen Parver)… Rabbi Yisroel and Sandy Gordon, a son… Yitzy and Daniella Bendkowski of Lakewood, a daughter (Grandparents Leo and Roz Eschwege)… Matthew and Chelsea Schames, a son (Grandparents Yossi and June Schames; Great-grandparents Esther Schames; Sanford and Hannah Edelman Deutsch)… Moshe and Malka Blitz, a daughter (Grandparents Abe and Eva Tashman Kaplan)… Shua and Malka Pancer, a son (Grandparents Meir and Sara Levin; Rabbi Yisroel and Leiba Kelemer; Great-grandmother Devora Levin)… Bentzy and Adeena Halberstam of Brooklyn, NY, a daughter (Grandparents Joe and Revital Kempe; Great-grandmothers Devorah Levin and Rachel Kempe)… Rabbi Effie and Sara Leah Goldberg, a daughter… Yaakov and Dassi Bess of Israel, a son (Grandparents Rabbi Gershon and Carol Bess)… Nussie and Dena Bitterman of Minneapolis, a son (Grandparents Tommy and Anna Bitterman; Great-grandmother Tobi Bitterman)… Shia and Tova Portowicz of Yerushalayim, a daughter (Grandparents Rabbi Chaim and Leah Tatel).

Mazel Tov – Bas Mitzvahs: Hadas Hirt, daughter of Dr. Darrin and Laurie Hirt… Emily Schoen, daughter of Jonathan and Brigitte Schoen.

Mazel Tov – Weddings: Lauren Berger, daughter of Mark and Rachelle Berger, to Daniel Parker, son of Ira and Sharon Parker… Chani Mirman, daughter of Dr. Julian and Linda Mirman, to Moshe Torgow of Detroit, MI… Ruchi Dear, daughter of Rabbi Moshe and Sara Lea Dear, to Ephraim Sternberg of Bayswater, NY… Ilan Graff, son of Dr. Gil and Robin Graff, to Veronica Rotemberg of Boston… Michael Pollack, son of Marty and Evey Pollack, to Talia Swergold of Woodmere, NY.

Congratulations: Bryna Kranzler on winning the 2012 International Book Award for Historical Biography and the Best Historical Biography for The Accidental Anarchist.

Graduation:Moorpark College – Brian Kaplun.

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Births: Andrew and Carolyn Nash, a daughter (Grandparents Carl and Sharon Nash)… David and Tzipporah Wallach of NJ, a son (Grandparents Marshall and Judy Wallach).

PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Birth: Shimon and Channi Laber of Bal Harbour, FL, a son (Grandparents Rabbi Yankel and Rochel Kreiman).

REDWOOD CITY, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Birth: Levi and Ella Potash, a son.

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Birth: Levi and Ella Potash, a son (Grandparents Rabbi Yoseph and Devorah Loschak).

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Births: Shmulik and Tzippy Friedman, a son… Richard and Tanya Solomon, a son.

Mazel Tov – Engagement: Joey Eckstein to Michal Cohen.

VALLEY VILLAGE, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Births: Tzvi and Lillian Haber, a daughter… Avi and Rachel Niman, a daughter (Grandparents Tzvi and Jennifer Niman; Rabbi Ronald and Beth Jawary).

Mazel Tov – Engagement: Sarah Maza, daughter of Rabbi Yisrael and Laki Maza, to Sammy Lemann of St. Louis, MO.

Mazel Tov – Weddings: Gideon Shiffman, son of Michael and Xianna Shiffman, to Jennifer Endzweig of Rosalyn Heights, NY… Jerry Burg to Jackie Jaffe.

DENVER, COLORADO

Mazel Tov – Birth: Avi and Sara Fried of Brooklyn, a son (Grandparents Yossi and Agi Fried).

My Machberes

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky Welcomed
At Torah Vodaath Dinner

On Sunday, June 17, Yeshiva Torah Vodaath celebrated its 93rd annual dinner at The Palace in Boro Park.

Having miraculously survived major medical emergencies, Rabbi Yisroel Belsky had been joyously welcomed by roshei yeshiva at his home, at the yeshiva, at the kashrus office of the OU, and now, dramatically, at the YTV dinner.

Rabbi Chaim Yisroel Belsky

His voice strong, Rabbi Belsky movingly told of Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Heshel Twersky, zt”l (1895-1987), Machnovka Rebbe. For many years in Russia he defied the Communist authorities by teaching Torah and chassidus. After World War II, he was asked by Soviet authorities to be the chief rabbi of the Soviet Union. He refused and was exiled to Siberia. In 1965, being the last chassidishe rebbe there, he received permission to leave the Soviet Union and emigrated to Bnei Brak in Israel.

Upon his arrival, thousands of chassidim welcomed him and joined with him in tefillah. At the repeat of Shemoneh Esrei, he turned toward the mispallelim. A chassid whispered to him that chassidishe rebbes, as opposed to ordinary shul rabbis, face the mizrach (Eastern) wall during tefillah. The Machnovka Rebbe whispered back that after 30 years of not having seen Jews praying, he would not be denied that pleasure.

Machnovka Rebbe, zt”l

Rabbi Belsky emotionally shared that he now knows how the Machnovka Rebbe felt. The spellbound audience of more than 1,200 people at the Dinner then knew exactly what Rabbi Belsky felt.

 

Fountainhead of Torah in America

With its long and distinguished history, Yeshiva Torah Vodaath stands out among the growing number of citadels of Torah learning in America. The yeshiva was established in September 1918 by a small group of observant immigrant parents in Brooklyn, led by Reb Binyamin Wilhelm zt”l (1886-1974), who were deeply concerned about Torah education for their children in their new country.

The United States was a true haven for the industrious, pioneering immigrants, offering every liberty and opportunity except that of a Torah education. The parents desired that their sons have the same opportunity to mature in traditional Torah learning as their counterparts in their old European hometowns and shtetls. Twenty students comprised the opening class. Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, joining in 1920, served as the yeshiva’s first menahel.

As Jewish immigration to America continued, Rabbi Shraga Feivel worked ever harder. The yeshiva quickly outgrew its temporary home at a small shul on Keap Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Other short-term lodgings were quickly outgrown until a new building was erected at 206 Wilson Street. In the years since the Yeshiva has become a true citadel of Torah in every sense of the word – with a campus on East Ninth Street in the Kensington area of Flatbush, a beis medrash facility in Monsey, an elementary school division in Marine Park, and two summer camps all serving a student body, from nursery to postgraduate kollel, that numbers nearly 2,000 students.

Since its inception YTV has had a profound effect on American Jewry. Its alumni continue to be found in every facet of life, as spiritual leaders of congregations, teachers in yeshivas, officers of religious organizations and businessmen and professionals. It continues to serve Klal Yisrael with its superlative Torah learning, led by gedolei Torah, as well as its superb elementary and high school departments of secular studies.

Dr. Bernard Fryshman, a professor of physics at Pratt Institute and the executive vice president of the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools (AARTS) Accreditation Commission (he was the first university professor to wear a yarmulke during his lectures) reported, in a now famous letter to Rav Pam, zt”l, that YTV alumni were found in the leadership of almost every observant Jewish organization in America.

The Legendary Rosh Yeshivas

The succession of roshei yeshiva that have taken part in YTV’s Torah glory, forming a golden chain of tradition, is truly impressive:

● Rabbi Uri Meir Kahanow, zt”l (1885-1960)
● Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l (1886-1948)
● Rabbi Nesanel Quinn, zt”l (1910-2007)
● Rabbi Dovid Lebowitz, zt”l (1889-1941)
● Rabbi Yaakov Kantrowitz, zt”l (d. 1945)
● Rabbi Moshe Dov Ber Rivkin, zt”l (1895-1976)
● Rabbi Nosson Eliyahu Gertzulin, zt”l (1919-2006)
● Rabbi Gedalia Schorr, zt”l (1910-1979)
● Rabbi Shlomo Heiman, zt”l (1892-1945)
● Rabbi Mordechai Wulliger, zt”l (1895-1995)
● Rabbi Moshe Steinmetz, zt”l (1912-2009)
● Rabbi Avrohom Pam, zt”l (1913-2001)
● Rabbi Elazar Kahanow, zt”l (1917-2002)
● Rabbi Aaron Yeshaya Shapiro, zt”l (1910-1981)
● Rabbi Simcha Sheps, zt”l (1908-1999)
● Rabbi Reuven Grozovsky, zt”l (1896-1956)
● Rabbi Elya Chazan, zt”l (1908-1982);
● Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l (1891-1986)
● Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Yoel Traube, zt”l (1918-2008)
● Rabbi Asher Katzman, zt”l (1916-2004);
● Rabbi Moshe Rosen, zt”l (d. 1957)
● Rabbi Shmuel Kushelevitz, zt”l (d. 1963)
● Rabbi Elya Moshe Shisgal, zt”l (d. 1973)
● Rabbi Reuven Fain, zt”l (1924-1993)
● Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Waintraub, zt”l

The names of these preeminent roshei yeshiva reverberate wherever Torah is treasured. Many of them authored sefarim that are ever present on the shtenders (book holders) of roshei yeshiva and Talmudic students around the world

They were the predecessors to and colleagues of Rabbi Chaim Yisroel Belsky, Rabbi Elya Katz, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Rabbi Yosef Savitsky, Rabbi Yitzchok Sekula, and Rabbi Moshe Wolfson, today’s roshei yeshiva at Torah Vodaath.

Honorees

The dinner’s honorees included Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Cywiak, Guests of Honor (in tribute to Mr. Cywiak’s mother, Mrs. Chana Cywiak, and in memory of his father R’ Elchonon Cywiak and Mrs. Cywiak’s parents, R’ Shlomo and Pessel Snow, z”l); Mr. and Mrs. Moti Davis, Parents of the Year; Rabbi and Mrs. Yosef Feit, Shearith Haplaitah Award; Mr. and Mrs. Avrumi Haas, Moreinu Harav Pam Ohev Torah Award; Rabbi Zalman Leib Hollander, Harbotza Torah Award; Dr. and Mrs. Harvey Rosenfeld, Professional Alumnus Award; Rabbi and Mrs. Joel Skurnik, Rabbinical Alumnus Award; Mr. and Mrs. Moshe Dovid Stahl, Alumnus of the Year Award; and Rabbi and Mrs. Shlomo Wilhelm, Moreinu Horav Yaakov Kamenetsky Memorial Award.

Rav Yitzchok Scheiner, rosh yeshiva Kaminetz in Jerusalem and member of the Moetzes Gedolei Torah of Israel, received the Kesser Torah Award.

Yeshiva Torah Vodaath’s 93rd Dinner

Born in 1922 in Pittsburgh, which at the time had no yeshivas, Talmud Torahs, or other organized Jewish education, Rabbi Scheiner was a student in the city’s public schools. Sent to the Catskills for health reasons, he was introduced to the yeshiva world at Camp Mesivta. He “enlisted” in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and became a student of Rabbi Shlomo Heiman, zt”l, and Rabbi Reuven Grozovsky, zt”l. Rabbi Grozovsky was a son-in-law of Rabbi Boruch Ber Leibowitz, zt”l (1864-1939), rosh yshiva Kaminetz. That relationship ultimately brought Rabbi Scheiner to his present position as rosh yeshiva Kaminetz in Jerusalem, which has an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, kein yirbu.

In addition to the recognition bestowed on the honorees, appreciation was given to YTV’s graduating classes of 1952 (60th Anniversary), 1962 (50th Anniversary), and 1987 (25th anniversary) with many graduates serving today as rabbis, rosh yeshivas, professionals, and dedicated laymen.

Gedaliah Weinberger, renowned Torah activist, served as Dinner Chairman, and Rabbi Yoel Ehrenreich served as Dinner Coordinator. Chaim H. Leshkowitz is YTV’s chairman of the board. Shiya Hollander, Gedaliah Weinberger and Moshe Zafir comprise the executive committee. Rabbi Yitzchok Gottdiener heads the YTV administration and is outstandingly assisted by Rabbi Moshe L. Shochet and other important staff members.

Why Help Build America When We Can Help Build the Land of the Jews?

Friday, May 11th, 2012

In his current article in The Jewish Press, “A New Song,” Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt advocates finding “a new rallying call, a new idea with which to inspire the troops and turn values into action.”

“Each generation speaks its own language and needs its own message,” he writes.

So far, so good. However, I would like to offer a different rallying call than the one he ultimately chooses.

“Hewed by Hashem into the core of our soul is the need to effect change in the world we inhabit,” he continues.

This too is very true. In my opinion, however, the question is, where should we, in this generation, focus our efforts? In strengthening Jewish life among the gentiles in a foreign land – as he proposes – or in striving to build a Torah society in the Land of Israel, as advocated by the Torah and the Prophets of Israel? What is the message that we should teach our children? That their future is in America, being productive American Jews, or in Eretz Yisrael being productive Jews in the Holy Land?

Rabbi Rosenblatt wrestles with this question in the course of his thought-provoking article, writing, “I feel a primal need for perspective, to understand who I am, who we are, and where our community is headed.”

In my mind, the meaning of “our community” should not only be America’s Orthodox/Haredi community, but the community of all of American Jewry, for, as our Sages teach, every Jew is responsible for his fellow. It is no secret that American Jewry is being decimated by assimilation. The longer the Jewish community remains in America the more the assimilation will grow. So I ask – what’s the point in working to strengthen something that is destined to dwindle out and end? The exile is a curse which is not supposed to continue forever. Now that Hashem, in His great kindness, has re-opened the gates to the Land of Israel and has given us our own Jewish State, isn’t it time to come home? True, for adults who are already established in their ways, moving to a new country is a difficult challenge, but our children have the wherewithal to fulfill the great mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel, a mitzvah which our Sages teach is equal in weight to all the commandments of the Torah (Sifre, Reah 80).

Encouraging Jewish youth to be accountants, or businessmen, or scientists in America, is well and good, but it can’t be compared with playing a part in the Redemption of Israel and becoming of a building of the Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael. In my humble opinion, this is the new call we need to rally and inspire our troops!

Yes, in recent generations, the Orthodox Jews of America have done wonders in guarding and strengthening the observance of Torah. As Rabbi Rosenblatt notes, his parents’ generation built Flatbush, and his generation built Lakewood. Certainly, these are praiseworthy achievements. But that was before the establishment of the State of Israel and shortly after its birth, when we didn’t have a choice. But in the face of the subsequent modernization and miraculous development of Medinat Yisrael, instead of adding on to Flatbush and Lakewood, or sending out battalions of Haredi “laypeople” to win a spot in the American marketplace, as the author of the article advices, why not put our efforts into re-locating these holy and talented young people to Eretz Yisrael?

This is especially true when the author writes: “As a result of our weak secular education and greater insularity, our generation is struggling to make ends meet. Parnassah options are often limited. If not employed in klei kodesh, most of us work for or start small businesses, frequently competing with each other to service the needs of our community. We are often recipients of governmental aid, a possibility our parents’ generation wouldn’t have considered.”

Rabbi Rosenblatt writes a great deal about Kiddush Hashem, but being dependent on handouts from the gentiles is the very opposite. In fact, as the Prophet Ezekiel teaches, the presence of Jews in the Diaspora is one big problematic disgrace:

“And when they came to the nations into which they came, they profaned My Holy Name, in that men said of them: These are the people of the Lord, and they are gone out of His land” (Ezekiel, 36:20).

This prophecy informs us that the unnatural situation of Jews living outside the Land of Israel is a desecration of God. Why? Because in the eyes of the gentiles, our presence in the Diaspora proclaims that God lacks the power to keep us in His Land. That was back then in Ezekiel’s days. Now, in our time, when God has returned the Land of Israel to the Jews, the situation is even worse, for it seems, in the eyes of the gentiles, that in clinging to our Diaspora communities, we prefer foreign lands to His.

From Feet To Amot: A New Jewish Units App

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

During my yearly visits to Australia to visit my wife’s family, I must endure the brutal calculations involved in switching from the imperfect Imperial system to the maligned-by-Americans (but clearly more efficient) Metric system. Pounds become kilos, Fahrenheit becomes Celsius, and feet become meters. Calculations are involved every day – and I don’t have a mind for numbers. Similarly, when I learn Gemara, I often come across ancient and archaic measurements that need conversion into modern numbers. This ensures that today’s average learner and I can better understand the amounts being dealt with. ArtScroll usually provides a formula, or tells us the conversion in the simplest terms. But now, thanks to Crowded Road CEO Adam Korbl and Rabbi Ronnie Figdor, there’s an app that helps us do just that.

The new Jewish Units app conveniently converts all Talmudic measurements (volume, length, time, area, weight, and currency) into their modern-day counterparts. And I literally mean all measurements. As someone who proudly learns an average of an amud of Gemara a day, I was flabbergasted to learn about how many types of measurements there are in Judaism. I had heard of a p’ras, a parsah and a perutah, but a pesiah, a pim and a pundeyon? And that’s just those beginning with the letter “P”!

All in all there are nearly 200 units of measure that can be converted. Perhaps that’s why I always had a hard time remembering the conversion amounts for biblical measurements. I remember thinking that a mil was about equal in length to a mile. But it turns out to be closer to a half mile (or 0.5666 to be exact). I recall the notion that a shekel (not to be confused with a New Israeli Shekel) was about equal to $1 – but it’s really about $18. And was I off regarding a kikar. One of those equals $54,119. And a kikar can be used for weight as well. So if your wife of 150 pounds thinks she’s putting on weight, you can simply say, “Honey, you’re not even 3 kikars.” (One hundred fifty pounds equals 2.668 kikars.)

If you don’t have a currency converter on your smart-device, the Jewish Units app also does basic currency conversions (e.g. dollars to euros). But the best aspect of the app, aside from its prime function, is its essential glossary that permits less learned people like me know that a pesiah is a regular footstep (about an amah) in length, or that a pundeyon was an ancient Roman currency. And if you’re wondering, one pim – a unit of measure in Sefer Shmuel – equals 80 pounds. My in-laws will also be happy to know that the app works in the metric system as well.

I showed the app to the people who will likely use it the most: kollel and yeshiva guys. It was as if I walked into a 7th-grade classroom with a (yet to be invented) Playstation 5. The app appeared to be the perfect combination of convenience and coolness. One boy who had recently completed a half marathon proudly noted that he had run 45,880 amot, about which one of his friends said: “Yeah, but that’s only 5.73 parsahs.”

In the near future Crowded Road will be offering the Jewish Units technology as part of their popular iTalmud and iMishna. “The ability to tap on a phrase in the Talmud or Mishnah that includes a halachic unit, such as daled amos, and instantly receive an explanation and modern-day conversion according to a rabbinic authority of choice should be a very powerful proposition,” says Korbl, the CEO of Crowded Road.

Perhaps the only negative aspect to the app that might dissuade some downloaders is its current $4.99 price tag. But that’s only 0.14 sela – a real bargain.

Bully To You, Haman

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Purim is just a few days away, and Jews young and old are gearing up to celebrate this most festive of holidays, during which all will eat, drink and nosh merrily and in great relief over our come-up-from-behind triumph against a vicious Jew hater whose goal was to annihilate the Jewish people, but who instead had the tables turned against him in a dramatic and unforeseen manner.

But there is another albeit unheralded aspect to Purim, one that is not so obvious, but nonetheless teaches a timeless lesson – that of standing up to and defying the bullies who try to intimidate you into subjugating your will to theirs. Often bullies are physically stronger than their victims; others can make your life miserable because they wield financial or political clout. Some bully out of a misguided belief that they are doing you a favor by imposing their agenda on you; some are so beset with low self-esteem that they need to push another down, so as to elevate themselves; others are just plain nasty and evil and get a perverse pleasure in seeing others suffer.

Haman’s descendants, the Nazis, are the undisputed poster boys for bullies. No person of goodwill can come away unmoved at the image of white bearded, refined rabbis scrubbing city sidewalks – with a rifle pointed at their head by a sneering, gloating SS guard.

Haman himself was a self-loving narcissist with a very high opinion of himself, who insisted that all inhabitants of the empire who crossed his path bow to him. Mordechai, the hero of the Purim story, refused to do so; he would not succumb to the whims of a bully whose extreme hubris dictated that he, a Jew, desecrate his religion. Jews only bow down to Hashem.

Mordechai, as the Maccabees of the Chanukah saga, was defiant of the pressure, both physical and social, to conform and submit to the demands of the gentile “machers” who were in control. This simple Yid could have taken the path of least resistance, the easy way out – simply by complying. What would be the big deal, after all, to bending your back? Mordechai could have even justified doing so by saying he was obligated to obey the law of the land – or could have even viewed doing so as pikuach nefesh.

But he instead refused to be bullied into doing what he did not want to do – and would not budge from his stance, despite the very likely dire consequences. Instead he fought back with the best weapon he had available to him, communal prayer, and his niece, Esther.

Mordechai, as we all know, ultimately triumphed and came out on top, thereby imparting the heartening message that going against the stronger, the richer, the more connected, is not necessarily a lost cause. Even if you fail to remove the bully from your orbit, you might make him/her think twice before he/she starts up with you.

My twin brother and I were quite small for our age, and often we were hit or pushed and shoved by classmates, the kids on the street, and the ones who endured the same long, boring bus ride to and from our distant day school. I very quickly learned that being picked on, teased (I had a very noticeable lisp) and even punched several days a week was inevitable – but it did not have to be a one way street. I gave back almost as good as I got, and I am sure that there are several paunchy, graying rascals with faded, fine scars caused by my fingernails, my most accessible weapon.

To this day however, I deeply regret that I only addressed the bullies who were my peers. We were a generation raised to respect our elders – it was unthinkable to stand up to adults. You had to be polite, quiet and never defiant, even if they insulted you or hurt your feelings by saying something derogatory, like calling you ‘fatty’. Even if they physically hurt you, a child had to pretty much grin and bear it.

I had and still have big bekalach (Yiddish for round cheeks) and for many years endured having them pinched and twisted until I could barely contain my sobs. (You couldn’t embarrass THE GROWNUPS, by letting on they were hurting you.) I don’t know why it was considered ok back then for men to grab a piece of your face with their thumb and index fingers and twist it as hard as they could. The more “discomfort” you showed, the harder they twisted, seemingly getting much enjoyment out of doing so.

How I wish I had thrust my kneecap in a way that would have immediately brought to their attention just how unpleasant pain can be. Perhaps that would have motivated them to keep their bullying hands to themselves. You could kickback a kid who kicked you, but you never defended yourself against a grownup in those days.

Balancing Respect And Reality

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael: My friend comes from a comfortable, balabatish home in the New York vicinity, and is married to an out-of-town boy from a very wealthy family. During the first few years of their marriage, the young couple managed to juggle visits to both sets of parents for the Yamim Tovim and bein ha’zemanim. As the family grew larger and the grandchildren got older, the amount of time they had to spend with either side of the family became more limited. However, the out-of-town parents would not agree to fewer visits. They felt that since they were still financially supporting them they were entitled to the bulk of the visits. The schedule of their son’s learning, the grandchildren’s yeshiva and their daughter-in-law’s work were disregarded. During all this time my friend’s parents were always supportive and helpful – but never demanding.

The young couple tried to keep shalom and travel out of town as often as possible, but felt that their efforts were not appreciated and that their visits were never enough. While it is obvious to me that some intervention is necessary, the young couple is reluctant to inflict pain and is uncertain as to how to approach the parents about their situation.

Perhaps you can discuss their problem in your column (the parents are regular readers), thus opening the door for a frank family discussion.

Thank you in advance. I am sure your positive input will help their situation. A Friend

Dear Friend: It is difficult for a couple to be put in this predicament.

Since this young couple is still financially dependent on the husband’s parents, they may feel uncomfortable having a frank discussion about this matter with them.

Unfortunately, money sometimes comes with strings attached. But it’s possible that these parents would expect these visits even if they did not support their son and his family. When parents live away from their children and grandchildren, they treasure the time spent together.

Is it possible for the parents to come to the New York area and stay nearby? Perhaps the children would enjoy these visits more, especially if they were able to minimize the work involved.

The best way for the couple to handle the situation is to speak to the parents directly – in a respectful, loving manner. If your friend and her husband tell his parents that they love them very much and appreciate all of their help, and then present ideas on how to deal with the scheduling issues, the parents may get some solace.

Another way to make the parents feel more valued is to call often, write letters and cards (especially from the children), and to try to maintain a close connection.

The message these parents need to get is that they are loved and appreciated. Additionally, though time constraints and work/school pressures may limit the children’s visits, the children must find ways to show their deep love and hakaras hatov. Hatzlachah!

Dear Dr. Yael: As a reader of all of your columns on hakaras hatov, here are my feelings as a child with loving parents.

My husband and I both come from good homes. Both sets of parents support us as my husband is learning in kollel. But my in-laws, who are much wealthier than my parents, give exactly the amount that they agreed to while my parents tend to give us more.

I realize that in life, it is not what is in one’s pocketbook that counts, but what is in one’s heart. Somehow generous people find a way to give more money, time and love to others – even when they have less money and/or time.

No one is obligated to give me and my husband any money, but as a young kollel couple, the support is needed and greatly appreciated. I do not, chas v’shalom, want to sound ungrateful to my in-laws. They are wonderful people, but in some way they make me and my husband feel that they are giving us money out of obligation. As I have gotten older, I have recognized that while many of my friends and I sought to marry boys from affluent homes, this was a misguided ambition. I am, Baruch Hashem, very happily married, and have come to realize that money and material things do not make a person happy. Rather, having someone who is caring and willing to give is paramount to true happiness.

I hope that young single men and women are reading this column, so that they can look for the right things in a potential spouse. I was lucky enough to have found an amazing husband, even at a time when I was swept up in materialism. Unfortunately, some of my friends were not as lucky and they regret having looked for the wrong things in shidduchim. I know now that all of my jewelry and clothes cannot take the place of a loving and giving relationship.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/balancing-respect-and-reality/2012/02/24/

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