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June 30, 2016 / 24 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘kollel’

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.

Cheryl Kupfer

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.

Dr. Yael Respler

Find A Solution – But Not On My Cheshbon

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Several days after the incident that caught the attention of Israelis and Jews – and non-Jews – the world over, in which an 8-year-old dati girl in Bet Shemesh was spat on and cursed at by a young chassid for not being dressed modestly (according to HIS standards), Israeli TV interviewed a number of chassidim and others in the community for their reaction. The words of one particular interviewee were extremely disturbing. This man, who looked to me to be in his early 30s and no doubt saw a pious, G-d-fearing man when he looked in the mirror, adamantly justified his peer’s rant and assault against this child by stating that ” I am a healthy male” and insisted that provocatively dressed females deserved to be spat upon and insulted until they dress in a Torah manner.

Even little girls, the newsman asked incredulously. The answer was an unequivocal yes. Had this interview taken place in North America, I feel fairly confident that this “healthy male” would have been investigated for possibly being a pedophile. What normal adult male reacts to the elbows and knees of a 3rd grader?

But on a different level, the man’s answer represents a very problematic mindset, one that is epidemic across the board – refusing to take responsibility for resolving one’s issues and expecting others to – usually at their own expense and inconvenience; on their cheshbon.

If someone is unhappy with a social, financial, or spiritual issue, he/she insists others fix it or change to accommodate the complainer’s demands. For example, if someone needs money (often because they live beyond their means) there is the expectation that those who are perceived as being “better off” such as parents, grandparents, strangers or taxpayers, should dig deeply into their pockets and pay his or her expenses. Working harder or being fiscally responsible and living on a budget is not the solution. There is a problem, and it is incumbent on others to “do something” about it.

Decades ago, there was a predator on the prowl on the streets of Jerusalem who was assaulting women. The attacks were so frequent and injurious that a member of the Knesset suggested that a law be passed that would forbid women from going out after dark. Israel’s prime minister at the time, Golda Meir, pointed out that “Men are attacking the women, not the other way around. If there is going to be a curfew, let the men be locked up, not the women.”

Likewise, if certain elements of the charedi community have issues with the way women are dressed, let them figure out a way to alleviate their obvious spiritual and mental distress in a way that does not encroach on other people’s rights. It’s their problem – they need to resolve it, instead of demanding that a huge segment of society change their lives and the way they do things just to accommodate them.

Since they might be a bit rusty in the “thinking outside the box” department. I have a couple of suggestions that I am happy to share.

I know of a very ehrlich young man, a long time learner who is genuine in his love of Torah and its precepts. Since the teumah of the world outside the kollel where he learns is diametrically opposite to the kedusha of the study hall, he decided to stop driving because being behind the wheel meant having to view what was in front of him. He could not avoid being exposed to inappropriate billboards, advertisements, and other problematic sights, especially in the hot summer months when pedestrians of both genders and of all ages were dressed in a manner that would make their great grandparents blush.

Instead of going to City Hall demanding that the municipality remove what he viewed as being offensive and toxic to impressionable minds – or insist that the city council pass a bylaw forbidding men and women to wear clothes that expose their bodies, accusing them of being anti-Semitic if they refused – this young man created his own solution. His wife, friends or neighbors drive him to where he needs to go, while his face is happily buried in a sefer. He is an example of an enterprising person who resolved an issue that was very important to him, but on his cheshbon, not someone else’s.

Having a private “chauffeur” is not an option for most people, but all is not lost. Perhaps a car pool can be created with drivers taking turns at the wheel, so that soul-polluting teiva is not a daily occurrence, rather, this toxic exposure can be cut down by a fifth or sixth, depending how many yingelach you can squeeze into the car.

Another option for this “healthy male” and like-minded fellows is to take the bus. And if there are any “uppity” females who “don’t know their place” and insist that they have the right to sit in the front, then there is a very quick and easy way for the pious to distance themselves from these femme fatales – especially the pregnant ones: The men can sit in the BACK of the bus.

Cheryl Kupfer

My Life, Your Decisions?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

A friend of mine recently came back from visiting her son and his family in Israel. As a bunch of her friends joined her for coffee and an update – several of them also have children who made aliyah – she shared with us her frustration at not being able to communicate with her school-age grandchildren. Since both her son and daughter-in-law grew up in English speaking countries, our puzzled expressions must have been obvious. “The children only speak and understand Ivrit,” she stated, shaking her head sadly, “and even though I can read and daven lashon kodesh, I’m not fluent in actual Hebrew.”

“Don’t their parents speak English at home?” someone asked.

No, our friend answered, explaining that her son had asked his rav after the birth of their first child whether they should speak English to her. The rav told him that only Hebrew should be spoken until their kids are older and in school. Something about English could be a “foreign” influence and might negatively impact the children’s love for Eretz Yisrael. Once the kids were entrenched in limudei kodesh, it would be OK to introduce English.

But now, with the passing of years, none of the grandchildren were interested in hearing and learning English, she lamented.

We all expressed our sympathy for her frustrating situation and went on to speak about other matters, but I was deeply disturbed by what I had heard. This idealistic couple who had made aliyah had deprived their children of a golden opportunity to effortlessly pick up a second language, simply by speaking to them. And even worse, the language was English, whose mastery is desperately sought by millions of people globally, despite its innate difficulty.

The day would perhaps come when as young adults, they would want to visit relatives or go touring, or attend school or look for work in Canada or the USA (since they are citizens through their parents) and knowledge of English would have been a priceless asset. The window of opportunity was closed since toddlers are especially adept at acquiring language, but not older children.

But what I found especially disturbing was that the decision to refrain from speaking English to their children was not the parents’ decision – but their rav’s. Rather than discuss the pros and cons of teaching their kids English between themselves, or with input from their parents and others who are in a similar situation they asked their rav, and of course, his opinion became the psak.

And this is what I find so disconcerting – what I rightly or wrongly perceive as a growing trend amongst too many people to cede decision-making on personal, not halachic or hashkafic, matters to the Rav.

In the not too distant past, heimishe people would call their rav when there were halachic issues that needed resolving, like what to do about a meat skillet that a cheese omelet was cooked in. At times, the rav also was approached to be a mediator, or an impartial participant in a dispute; or to give an eitzah to help someone make an informed decision on some important issue.

But nowadays, it seems that people are asking the rav to make the decision for them – on matters both big, small and in between.

One could almost conclude that there is a new form of co-dependence, with seemingly intelligent, capable men and women asking to have their lives micro-managed by a rav, and the rav unhesitatingly obliging them.

Getting advice or some clarity about an issue from a learned spiritual leader has been a time honored tradition in our community, but what is happening is that many individuals are abdicating their responsibility to make choices for themselves and their families.

My friends tell me of their 20- and 30-something year old single children, who when a shidduch is redd will run to their rav to ask if they should go out with that particular individual – often leaving the parents out of the loop.

I am not saying that a rav shouldn’t be asked for some input, but what is happening is that he will decide for the person. Why can’t young people, who for most part are mature, educated and bright – and highly decisive at work – formulate their own conclusion?

Whatever happened to taking responsibility for your own life? Why are more and more Yidden afraid to make the hard and even the easy decisions that can impact their day to day lives, and/or their future, preferring instead to “passing the buck” and defer to someone who though very learned, can never quite “walk in their shoes?” And why would a rav want to take on the tremendous responsibility of micro managing someone’s life? Why willingly put yourself in a position that has the potential to undermine someone’s emotional and physical well being, or a family’s shalom bayis or one’s kibbud av v’aim?

Cheryl Kupfer

Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy Launches Project

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

The RASG Hebrew Academy in Miami Beach recently launched Project Hemshech. The new project places young rabbis who primarily study in kollel to study with 12th grade students from local Jewish Day Schools. The students gain from the individualized learning in a small group with a young dynamic rabbi, and the rabbis have the opportunity to start off their careers in Jewish education.

Rabbi Josh Musicant works with Eliezer Barman and Shmuel Zidel (pointing) during a Project Hemshech study period.

The group at the Hebrew Academy began recently with three rabbis from the Miami Choshen Mishpat Kollel, headed by Rabbi Schoen and affiliated with Rabbi Yochanan Zweig and Talmudic University, and seven Hebrew Academy seniors. The students study the sections of Talmud in Hebrew Academy’s new beit midrash.

Rabbi David Wechsler, Hebrew Academy’s mashgiach ruchani, oversees Project Hemshech. Rabbi Wechsler said he hopes to “expand the program further with more senior student participation in the near future.”

The RASG Hebrew Academy is an Orthodox Jewish day school serving students from birth through grade 12. Its goal is to inspire and equip students to reach their fullest potential both academically and spiritually and instill eternal Torah values in a changing world.

For more information about Project Hemshech, contact Rabbi David Wechsler at dwechsler@rasg.org or call 305-532-6421.

Shelley Benveniste

Kamenitzer Rosh Hayeshiva In L.A.

Friday, November 25th, 2011

The Los Angeles Jewish community recently welcomed the Kamenitz-Yerushalayim rosh hayeshiva, HaRav Yitzchok Scheiner, for a five-day visit. Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz and his wife were the rosh hayeshiva’s hosts.

The Kamenitzer rosh hayeshiva delivering a hesped for Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, at Yeshiva Gedolah of Los Angeles.

The rosh hayeshiva spent Shabbos davening with various kehilos, many of whom support his Torah efforts. The rosh hayeshiva ushered in Shabbos at the Young Israel of Hancock Park, followed by Shabbos morning davening at Shaarei Torah. His Shabbos afternoon shiur took place at Kollel Los Angeles. He then proceeded for Minchah and Shalosh Seudos at Kehillas Yaakov. During his visit, the respected Torah figure also spoke divrei chizuk at the chassidishe kollel, Kollel Yechiel Yehuda.

A large throng heard HaRav Scheiner deliver a hesped for Mirrer Yeshiva Rosh Yeshiva Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, at Yeshiva Gedolah of Los Angeles. Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matityahu, also addressed the assemblage.

The rosh hayeshiva also visited the Pico-Robertson Jewish community, and addressed the members of the Kollel Merkaz HaTorah at Beth Jacob of Beverly Hills.

During his visits to the numerous yeshivos and day schools in Los Angeles, the rosh hayeshiva wished berachah and hatzlachah to all.

Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

Part I: The Beginning

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

This wasn’t supposed to happen, especially not to me.  I could give you all the stats: my great-grandfather learned in Radin with the Chofetz Chaim, my grandfathers learned in Slobodka and Novardik, and my father has smicha from Ner Yisroel in Baltimore.  Outside of the brief fantasy (which lasted a lot longer than I care to admit) that I would be the star player who takes the Chicago Bears to the Superbowl, I always saw myself in yeshiva.  It is what I had always planned to do, and I never really contemplated anything else.

I missed all the warning signs, too.  The fact that I really didn’t like to learn, and that that might have some impact on my plans, never crossed my mind.  After all, I was good at it, winning awards and learning competitions in day school (I definitely liked that) and shooting up through the ranks in high school to the highest shiurim.  I also failed to notice that as high school transitioned to beis medrash most of my peers really wanted to learn and didn’t play those silly “hiding from the Rebbe games.”  The truth is learning was something I did because I had to, not something I did because I wanted to or enjoyed it.

That fantasy world came crashing down on me after I seriously injured a high school boy in a football game that took place when I was supposed to be in seder (I guess I didn’t want to give up on that Chicago Bears fantasy so quickly).   Sometimes you just see things more clearly after an event like that, and I suddenly realized that I wasn’t really doing much of anything in yeshiva.  I still see that play, that tackle and the pain from his broken collarbone playing over and over in my mind.

Things were mostly a blur at that point, and even though I have a very good memory, I cannot remember the actual moment at which I decided that it was time to leave.   In all honesty, I probably thought that I’d just leave and start again in another yeshiva, somewhere else.  I also don’t remember the point at which I decided not to even apply for admission to another yeshiva, although the fact that I couldn’t give a decent accounting of what I had learned over the previous two years probably had a lot to do with it.   The football game was on a Sunday.  I was home by Tuesday afternoon with no idea what to do and what my future would hold.

I was only partially aware that for most people a quick exit from yeshiva without even an attempt to transfer someplace else was usually an indication of some serious offense.  While I had been guilty of no such thing, I didn’t feel comfortable telling people that I had never lived up to any of that potential they always thought I had in learning.

I must have been asked scores of times over the first few weeks, “Why aren’t you in yeshiva?”  It was a question I really couldn’t answer for myself, let alone anyone else.  Luckily, my response, “I lost my football scholarship,” made people laugh and walk away without pursuing the question any further.  In retrospect, I probably would have been better off trying to develop a real response to that question.  It may have given me some of the kind of guidance I really needed.

The point was I always had a vision of where I saw myself going.  Yeshiva as far as the eye could see, marriage and kollel and the likelihood that I would spend my life learning in the mornings and teaching history (my favorite high school subject) in a yeshiva’s General Studies department.

Chaim Shapiro

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/the-beginning-part-1/2011/11/16/

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