web analytics
July 29, 2014 / 2 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 

Posts Tagged ‘kollel’

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?

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.

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.

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.

Torah World Mourns Loss of Jerusalem Rosh Yeshiva Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

The streets of Meah Shearim, normally bustling with shoppers and yeshiva students walking to and from the iconic Mirrer Yeshiva, were filled with mourners on Tuesday as tens of thousands of people came to pay their respects to Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, the Mirrer Yeshiva’s rosh yeshiva, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 68 from a sudden heart attack.

In the 21 years that Rabbi Finkel served at its helm, the Mirrer Yeshiva, in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood of Jerusalem, grew to be the largest yeshiva in Israel with an enrollment of 6,000 students. While Rabbi Finkel was confined to a wheelchair and suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years, he continued to maintain a full schedule, and just hours before his death, Rabbi Finkel traveled to Bnei Brak to pay a shiva call to the family of Rabbi Yosef Aryeh Halpern. He then returned to the Mirrer where he delivered shiurim (classes) in both English and Yiddish.

Born in Chicago in 1943, Rabbi Finkel was named after his paternal great-grandfather, the Alter of Slobodka. Even as a child his prodigious intellect convinced many that he was destined for greatness. He married his second cousin, Rochel Leah Finkel, the daughter of Rav Binyamin Beinush Finkel and granddaughter of the last rosh yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Poland, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel.

Upon the death of his father-in-law in 1990, Rabbi Finkel succeeded him as the head of the Mirrer Yeshiva, and while the choice of a 48-year-old who already suffered from various ailments seemed questionable to some, Rabbi Finkel ultimately transformed the institution into the Torah empire it is today, with satellite branches in Beitar Ilit, the Brachfeld neighborhood of Modiin Ilit, and the Ramat Shlomo section of Jerusalem.

Despite his poor health, Rabbi Finkel, who enjoyed a reputation of being an inspiration to all who knew him, was known to travel abroad in order to personally raise much-needed funds for the yeshiva and its students. His daily schedule was filled with delivering shiurim, both in his home and at the yeshiva; counseling the many who came to seek his advice and blessings; and spending a sizable portion of his day immersed in his own personal Torah studies. Rabbi Finkel was vigilant to always daven in the yeshiva and gave a weekly shiur to thousands of students, in addition to giving frequent shiurim at the many satellite branches of the Mirrer. In his final monthly shiur given at the Brachfeld Mirrer two and a half weeks ago, he exhorted the students, “to learn and learn. It doesn’t matter if your learning is fast or slow, if it is in greater detail or lesser detail, the request that I am asking of you is to learn, not to dream.”

Stories about Rabbi Finkel have been filling the Internet, people’s homes, and the streets of Jewish communities around the world since his death. The following two illustrate his ability to find time in his busy schedule for his students:

A Mirrer student was going through a particularly rough stretch in his life, so his father called Rabbi Finkel asking him to speak to his son for a few minutes. Rabbi Finkel approached the student and asked him if he could personally learn with him every Shabbos in his house. They subsequently learned together every Shabbos for the next several months.

In another instance, Rabbi Finkel discovered that several American students in a Yiddish shiur could not follow the lesson. From then on, Rabbi Finkel, who spoke fluent English, would repeat every class in English for the American students.

As news of the unexpected passing of Rabbi Finkel spread, the entire city of Jerusalem was plunged into mourning with people crying in the streets, tearing their clothes as an expression of their grief, and trying to offer solace to one another. Prominent rabbis, including Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv and Rav Aryeh Leib Shteinman, ordered all haredi businesses closed and instructed kollel, yeshiva, and seminary students to take time off from their Torah studies to attend the funeral. Israeli news site B’chadrei Chareidim reported that two baby boys, one in Bayit Vegan and another in Bnei Brak, were named Nosson Tzvi Wednesday morning in honor of the rosh yeshiva.

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, a son-in-law and student of the legendary Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik – rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University for 45 years – is one of Modern Orthodoxy’s most prominent and respected personalities.

He graduated from Yeshiva College, later earning his semicha from YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and his Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard University. In l971, after serving as rosh yeshiva at RIETS for several years, he immigrated to Israel, answering a call by Rabbi Yehuda Amital to join him as joint rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shevut.

He currently serves as professor of Talmud at RIETS and rosh kollel and director of RIETS’s Gruss Institute in Jerusalem. Rabbi Lichtenstein will be honored at the RIETS Annual Dinner of Tribute on November 13 at The Grand Hyatt in New York City.

Can you discuss your early years at Yeshiva University and how you eventually became rosh yeshiva at RIETS?

Rabbi Lichtenstein: I attended YU from the age of 16. I was there for four years, and then I was at Harvard for four years, but under the aegis of YU. I went with the encouragement and enablement of the Rav [Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik], personally, and of the institution generally. When I came back from Harvard in 1957 and wanted to get a position within the Yeshiva, I ended up having the desire only partially fulfilled. Though there was no full-time position as a maggid shiur available, they needed someone as an instructor of English at Stern College, and I was asked to consider that.

Secondly, I was appointed to what was to be a new part-time position as an assistant to the Rav, which meant reviewing the shiurim for bachurim, grading examinations, etc. Since the Rav was only in New York for about a day and a half or two days a week, I was also available for those who wanted to discuss an issue. This had not been my first choice but it did mean getting a foot in the door, and after consulting with the Rav and with Rav Ahron Soloveichik about taking this combination, both encouraged me to do it, which I did.

The value of having a foot in the door turned out to be manifest, when in 1961, YU decided to reopen the kollel, which had been in existence for a couple of years, staffed and manned by older kollelnikim who had come over from Europe after the war, but was then shut down after about two to three years and was not really revived. This time it was, with younger people, American talmidim, and I was put in charge of that. I continued at Stern, while running the kollel and assistantship.

In 1963, my desire to get a shiur within the beis midrash was realized. From then, until we came to Eretz Yisrael in 1971 (I left Stern, with the exception of an occasional course), I devoted myself to the shiur – a first year shiur in the beis midrash – and to running the kollel, which also required about four hours a day in the beis midrash.

Why did you decide to move to Israel and join Yeshivat Har Etzion?

The idea of moving to Eretz Yisrael and getting a position there percolated for a number of years and was put on ice when my mother-in-law, a”h, took ill with cancer in about 1963.

Some people in Eretz Yisrael thought that I would be a correct choice to assume a position as a rosh yeshiva – with that term, in Eretz Yisrael, referring to the director of the yeshiva, not simply as one of the maggidei shiur. The founders of the yeshiva in Gush Etzion contacted me and wanted me to be involved. I explained that it was not immediately feasible, but we would keep in touch.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 4/29/11

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

A Gentleman Speaks Up…

In defense of “Community (lack of) values” (Chronicles March 18) — his wife, who complained bitterly about the “narcissistic behaviors among the younger generation” and whose letter generated scathing criticism in a follow-up column (Chronicles April 8).

 

Dear Rachel,

I am the husband of so-called “lack of community values” and I write this letter utterly appalled by the responses to my wife’s letter. Allow me to shed some light on the situation.

I don’t know how it works “in-town” as you would call it, but I’m from a smaller community in the Southern U.S. Where I come from, people welcome newcomers, invite them out almost every single week for the first few months they live in the community, and are generally welcoming. My parent’s shul – and the entire frum community as a whole – has a worldwide reputation for being one of the most welcoming in the USA. So excuse me for expecting the same of people my age.

The spiteful remarks were uncalled for. For the record, we live in Israel and do not own a car. We are also olim chadashim. We rented a furnished apartment, which means we didn’t own anything particularly bulky other than a table, chairs and mattresses — a one or two car trip, since I had already pulled everything apart and packed to go.

Since when did it become selfish to ask for help? I have helped numerous people move, without asking for pay. I wouldn’t dream of such a thing! I am a Baal Koreh who is always happy to fill in when needed — again, never dreaming of being paid. In fact, I get upset when people insist on paying me. Why? Because my parents taught me to help out when needed, regardless of whether you will be paid or not.

My wife is part of a group of women who prepare meals for people who are sitting shiva or have just had a child. She used to cook for her entire family because her parents needed the help. How dare any of the writers attack us! Talk about a lack of social graces. What happened to “Al tadin et chavercha ad sh’tagia limkomo?”

You cannot assume anything based on a letter. Why did we ask for help? Because I had thrown out my back two days before and my wife had a sprained ankle. These writers would have expected us to move everything ourselves, without a car?! First of all, there wasn’t enough furniture for it to be worth paying movers. Second, it is the height of chutzpah to expect two injured individuals to move things themselves without help.

My wife intentionally left out details to protect our privacy. The people who have belittled my wife and myself as being spoiled brats should be ashamed of themselves. I can hardly be considered spoiled; I’ve worked since the age of 16, never experienced sleep-away camp or any day camp, for that matter, and have never enjoyed the luxury of fancy family vacations, which my parents could never afford.

This is not to say that I am ungrateful. In fact, I dare say I learned more from my parents about how to behave than I did from my 13 years of schooling and one year of post-high school study in yeshiva in Israel. I dream of having the integrity my parents do. My wife’s family is better off, but not by much, and she, too, struggled financially. We still struggle now, even while we both work, and we do not mooch off of our parents like many of these responders’ children do when they learn in kollel in Israel indefinitely.

Again, I don’t know how it works in-town since I am apparently an uneducated, incapable Southerner (even though I speak three languages fluently and am nearly done with a Master’s program taught exclusively in Hebrew and Arabic), but it seems that my parent’s generation is just as rude. Must be a New York thing, because this behavior doesn’t fly in my neck of the woods.

I hope this letter is published — readers must know the other side of the story before writing letters half-cocked.

Hateful responses are unwarranted

 

Dear Rachel,

I happen to know the young couple referred to by readers who wrote to criticize Community Values. They made aliyah a year ago and have no close family there except Klal Yisrael. They have been struggling just to survive. The husband is studying at Bar Ilan and working part time; his wife has been unable to find a full time job as her degree is not recognized in Israel, and she has been told that they do not like her American accent. She has, however, been tutoring and is part of a group of women who prepare meals for families sitting shiva and for new mothers. The neighbors have not been very welcoming. The couple does not have a car and were only asking for a little help in moving a few large pieces.

When my husband and I lived in Israel, we Americans all helped each other out, but we were the generation before cell phones, computers, etc., and the current narcissism. If they were here in Atlanta, they would have been welcomed by the community and would have received the assistance they needed. Why did the husband ask for help? Because he grew up with neighbors always asking his parents for help. And it was always given, not only by them but by their children as well.

The responses they received in your newspaper are so typical of arrogant New Yorkers who don’t seem to help their own enough, so they have to come down here with their solicitations. We can always recognize NY transplants. They are the ones who can’t smile or respond to “Shabbat Shalom.”

 

A neighborly neighbor in Atlanta

* * * * *

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

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-336-2/2011/04/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: