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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘LIFE’

Life Chronicles

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I am so miserable and alone, and feel that no one understands the gut-wrenching pain I am going through.  I have been told that you respond to all those who reach out to you, so…

It’s not that I am a victim of any kind of abuse or being ostracized by my family or community, nothing of the sort.  My life, at face value, is almost enviable.  What I am going through, I have come to understand, stems from my broken heart and tormented mind and is a completely insular malady, one which is slowly killing me.

I am married to a wonderful man for the past thirteen years and we have, Baruch Hashem, five beautiful children.  We are not wealthy in the monetary sense; frugally comfortable would be a better description.

So, what could I possibly be lacking? What could be causing such a great hole to form in the fabric of this picturesque description?  Without meaning to be kafuy tov to Hakodosh Baruch Hu for all His blessings, I cannot get passed the one blessing He has not only withheld from me, but actually ripped away from me – the one thing I have dreamed about and davened for.

You see all of my children are boys, each one healthy, beautiful and perfect. The first two were twins and, although, I was extremely happy and busy with them, I wanted a girl in the worst way – both my husband and I have only brothers. Each consecutive birth of a boy dashed my hopes. When my youngest son was born four years ago, I was treated for post-partum depression and, though everyone assumed I had overcome it, I felt the deep sadness I had before intensify.  No one noticed because I covered it well, but I knew.  Then, a year ago I found myself pregnant yet again and I dreaded it.  For nine months I prayed constantly that this child be the daughter I longed for. And she was. I was beside myself with joy.

We brought her home and, floating on imaginary wings, I spent the first few weeks of her life cradling her to my heart. I will never know that joy again, because suddenly she was gone. We were told she died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), but no explanation could erase the shroud of blackness and bitterness that enveloped me. I felt that I had died as well, even wished it to be true, but did not reveal my thoughts to anyone.  It is now four months since her passing and I feel myself slipping away and unable to deal with the daily torment.  I have dark thoughts, not of harming anyone else, but of wanting to join her.  I love my husband and my sons, they are the only ones that keep me walking a straight line, but the desire to be with my baby daughter is beginning to overwhelm me.  Am I losing my mind and going crazy?

 

Dear Friend,

No, you are not going crazy, but you are in the midst of a depression that has sapped your strength and your will. You have suffered a terrible loss and you are bitter at what has been “ripped away” from you.  It may surprise you to learn that you are not alone in your grief. Many women have suffered such loss, myself included, so I genuinely feel the pain in your heart. I know, too, that this will offer you little comfort because you cannot see past the pain without help.  You have harbored this disappointment and sadness for a very long time and it has become like a vortex, pulling you down ever deeper into its bottomless depths, so much so, that you can no longer see the love and comfort that can pull you up.  But it’s not too late for you to return to health of mind, spirit and soul.

Children are a gift on loan to us by Hakadosh Baruch Hu, they are not an entitlement guaranteed to every parent.  When we marry, we hope and pray that Hashem will deem us worthy to be healthy parents to healthy children, but this is not in our control.  Hashem’s plans are beyond human understanding and we cannot know how He determines which parents will be blessed with souls for a short time. I say blessed because only the most special people are chosen to parent these little ones for however long their stay on this earth may be.

Dearest friend, you have a loving husband and five beautiful little boys who love you and need you as much as you do them.  In time, and with the help of a caring therapist, you will come to see how truly fortunate you are, but right now you are too blinded by grief.

For a moment in time, Hashem granted you the gift of loving and cuddling a baby daughter.  He knew you would be that special nurturing and adoring mother the little soul needed in order to complete her journey. And when her task was completed, He took her home and will keep her there until Moshiach comes and you are reunited.

You must find the will to wait, to live and to get healthy for the little ones who love you and miss your attention. You are in need of the guidance of trained mental health professionals who will help you find your way back up to the sunlight where you can see and feel more clearly Hashem’s love for His children and all the blessings that He has given to you.

It will take time.  But you are a special woman who was hand-picked to do a special task.  I know that you will rise up because you are one of the specially chosen parents to whom Hashem has entrusted one of His most precious souls.  I am here for you.  Please call.

Rachel Bluth

Life Chronicles

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I have a great job that I love working in a large public relations firm.  I have been there for about nine years and am friendly with almost everyone.

Recently, I noticed things missing from my desk, and from the pockets of my sweater or coat which I hang up in the coatroom.  At first, I thought it was my imagination, or that I had misplaced or even lost pocket change, a tube of lipstick or scarf, but just three weeks ago, something much larger vanished from my purse (which I keep in the bottom drawer of my desk) – my cashed paycheck!

I searched everywhere for the envelope, but it was nowhere to be found.  Some of the other women working adjacent to my desk noticed my panic and helped me look, but to no avail.  Two weeks pay had disappeared into thin air and I was beside myself, but there was nothing to be done – besides I beat myself up for being negligent. During our lunch break, a co-worker approached me and said the same thing had happened to her a few weeks before. She suspected that someone had gone into her purse when she stepped away from her desk to make some copies. I was horrified to think that anyone in our workplace could be stealing, so I put it out of my mind and wrote it off as a loss.

As time passed, I heard stories of similar disappearances: A ring removed when someone went to wash, designer sunglasses left on a desk top – small but significant articles left unattended momentarily, along with two or three missing pay envelopes.  This left me with a very bad feeling that there must be a thief amongst us, watching and waiting for a moment when no one was looking, then making off with something that didn’t belong to her.

I decided to be super observant, but it was horrible to constantly look over my shoulder to see if someone was watching me.  I became almost paranoid, to the point of suspecting everyone I’d worked with for so many years and it put a strain on my office friendships.  After all, the thief could be anyone!  I took to taking my purse with me anytime I got up from my desk and kept nothing in the pockets of the things I hung up in the coatroom.

Needless to say, our working environment became a tense and distrustful one and I knew we had to do something.  A few of us decided to chip in to buy a “nannycam,” a small video camera hidden inside a clock which we affixed to the wall high enough so as to cover a large portion of the room.  No one noticed it and we each took turns viewing the tapes to see if anything showed up.  Two days ago we caught our thief!  Now the six of us who partnered in the scheme are faced with the inyan of mesirah and what it would do to the entire core of women we worked with, if we expose a thief who we had considered to be a trusted friend.

We would appreciate direction as to which path to take in order to deal with this situation, without calling in the authorities to arrest her or causing her shame in public.

 

 

Dear Friend,

How sad to go through the pain of losing sentimental and treasured items and much needed salary, especially when the thief turns out to be a friend and work partner.  I admire your tact and great heart for trying to find a solution, while considering the how this will impact the life of the thief.  This is a rare example of “V’ahavta l’rayacha” and truly exemplary behavior on your part.

While not minimizing the crime, there are many reasons this woman may have been driven to steal.  She may be suffering from kleptomania, a mental disorder that causes the afflicted individual to compulsively take things for the sensation it provides. In some rare cases, the thief does not even recall taking the items, where they come from or how they came to be in her possession. She may also be in dire need of financial assistance and uses the stolen items and cash to offset her debts.  Whatever the reason, she has still committed a crime and must be dealt with.

My suggestion is that you pick one person who will speak with her and confront her with the fact that you have proof of her crime. Perhaps, if she still has any of the things she took, she will return them to their rightful owners.  Explain that you do not wish to see her arrested or even lose her job, but she must make restitution for what she took.  Hopefully, this will yield far more cooperation from this woman and encourage her to do the right thing.  Then, without hesitation or mincing words, tell her she needs professional help ASAP.  If she does this, she will not suffer any consequences and no one need be the wiser.  Very few people in her position would turn down such an offer to save face and not suffer any legal penalties.

I’m hoping this will do the trick and that you’ll recoup most of if not all of what was taken. Should it not, you’ll have to ask a rav or posek for an eitzah.

Rachel Bluth

Life Chronicles

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

My problem is a convoluted one that encompasses thirty-nine years of dysfunctional marriage, five children (three of whom are divorced), fifteen grandchildren (eight of whom I do not have contact with anymore because of the divorces) and a husband I no longer want to be with.  That being said let me start from the beginning.

I came from a yeshivish family and was a quiet, moody child who had to compete with two older brothers and four younger siblings; I often got lost in the mix. My parents were both teachers so, needless to say, there was not much money and we learned to live with very little. I wore hand-me-downs from neighbor children or a gemach, as did most of my siblings, except for the oldest two boys who got new clothes at the beginning of the year.  Inwardly, it made me angry that I had to wear other people’s shmattas which were either too big or too small on me. I also hated the responsibilities thrown on my shoulders because I was the oldest girl. I was forced to take care of the younger ones when my parents had to attend to school events and or do work. There was never any time to spend with parents and when they were home, on Shabbasim and Yomim Tovim, they treated us more like students then their own children, having us prepare divrei Torahs and testing us on the parsha or whatever we were learning.  I don’t recall any demonstrative love between my parents or from them to me. When I turned eighteen I saw getting married as an escape route to a better life and, sadly, chose the third young men I went out with because I couldn’t wait any longer.

“Max” was nice during the four months we were engaged and the fact that my parents didn’t like him made me want to marry him even more. My mother was always pointing out his failures and saying I could do better, but I held my ground.

The wedding was a small affair; Max was from out of town and had few friends and family. After, we moved into a small apartment several blocks away from my family and I rejoiced in my freedom. Max had trouble finding work and it was very frustrating for him. His anger soon turned towards me and he would often yell and scream.  I tried to not focus on this side of him thinking things would get better when he found work, but it only got worse as time passed.

Five months after the wedding, I found out I was pregnant, but decided not to tell anyone because I was afraid of losing my job. When I started feeling unwell, I finally told Max. I hoped he would be happy and feel more of an incentive to find work.

Unfortunately, the exact opposite happened.  He flew into a rage and yelled that without my paycheck we would not be able to cover expenses and then he shoved me against the wall. I was stunned, to say the least, but I also finally understood what my situation was and that I had no one to blame but myself.

I worked until the week before our son was born and went back to work four weeks after.  A kind older woman in my building agreed to care for the baby for a small sum; my parents never offered any help, nor did I ask, and the pushing and shoving matches turned into punches and beatings.  This is the environment in which I birthed and raised five children. As you can imagine, when our three sons got married, they continued the cycle of abuse, as did our two daughters who married men like their fathers.

Our three sons are divorced, but our daughters have chosen to stay in their abusive marriages for the sake of their children.  All of my children blame me for setting them up for failure by not divorcing their father and I have distant relationships with them.

However vile my husband was in his youth, he is that much worse now that he doesn’t have the kids to push around and I am once again the sole beneficiary of his abusive rages.  I have decided to do what I should have done thirty-nine years ago.  I just needed to hear an unbiased opinion.

 

 

Dear Friend,

Hindsight is 20/20, and often clear-vision comes too late to recoup a lifetime, but never too late to get a life.  It does little good to lament the past, both for yourself and for your children as the damage has already been done. However, you do have the opportunity to show your daughters that it is never too late to do the right thing. By this I mean that you definitely should pursue a divorce from your abusive husband and seek psychological counseling to build your self-esteem and self-confidence. Your sterile upbringing made you a perfect candidate for bad choices; there is no blame here only misfortune and bitterness.

Now, lets focus on what you can do.  You can value yourself enough to extricate yourself from this abusive union.  You can get the help you need to find yourself and to appreciate the person you are – one deserving of respect, love and appreciation.  You can find the simple goodness in each day and learn to enjoy being safe, secure and alive.  You can show your children that living the way you have been is not the right way, but can be changed. And finally, you can obtain a quality of life, even after thirty-nine years of suffering.

You sound like a strong woman, in spite of what you’ve gone through. I know you will succeed and that tough little girl who so desperately wanted her freedom will finally find her way to a safe and satisfying life.

Rachel Bluth

PA UN Envoy Threatening to Make Trump’s Life Miserable for Moving Embassy to Jerusalem

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

In a priceless demonstration of the Arabs’ 600-year long failure to appreciate new realities, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s UN Ambassador, on Friday warned President-elect Donald Trump that if he dared move the US embassy to Jerusalem, he and his ilk would “make life miserable” for the United States at the United Nations.

“If people attack us by moving the embassy to Jerusalem, which is a violation of Security Council resolutions, it is a violation of resolution 181 of the UN general assembly that was drafted by the US … it means they are showing belligerency towards us … If they do that nobody should blame us for unleashing all of the weapons that we have in the UN to defend ourselves and we have a lot of weapons in the UN,” Mansour said.

Mansour did demonstrate that he was still living on Planet Earth by conceding that the Security Council would not vote to condemn such a move by the US, because, well, the US is a veto wielding member of the Security Council. But that did not hold the PA rep back from warning the incoming president. “Maybe I can’t have resolutions in the Security Council but I can make their lives miserable everyday with precipitating a veto on my admission as a member state.”

Mansour, who served as the Deputy Permanent Observer of the PLO to the United Nations from 1983 to 1994, succeeded Nasser al-Qudwa as Permanent Observer for Palestine to the UN in 2005. On November 29, 2012, 65 years to the day after the Arabs forever ruined their chance for a legitimate state in the UN Partition vote, the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations was upgraded to “non-Member Observer State.” Now, it appears, Ambassador Mansour made sure no further upgrades may be coming. Especially when he promised Trump he would drag him to the International Criminal Court of Justice in the Hague.

Taking Trump to court — now, that’ll scare him.

Mansour warned that “it is illegal to defy Security Council resolutions that the US is party to it that the unilateral action by Israel annexing East Jerusalem is illegal and it is null and void. If the US administration wants to defy international law they are doing something illegal.”

Trump’s plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem sounds radically different coming from his key advisor Jason Greenblatt than from his other key advisor, Walid Phares. The former has spread enthusiastic promises regarding the move before the election, the latter has told the BBC that the move depended on there being a favorable “consensus.”

On Saturday night’s satirical show Back of the Nation, comic Rotem Abuhav said moving the embassy would be a nightmare, seeing as it would permanently clog the already jammed city traffic, making it impossible for Israelis to receive consular services. Abuhav suggested that from now on, instead of taking a trip to see America, she and her family would just take a trip to the US embassy to take the Visa Application ride.

David Israel

The Five-Star Hotel Called Life

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

After these matters, Hashem appeared to Avram in a dream and said, Do not fear, Avram. I will guard you. Your reward is great.’ ” – Bereishis 16:1

 

When Avraham Avinu was informed that his nephew Lot had been captured, he waged war against the combined armies of four kings. Miraculously, he was victorious and freed Lot.

After these events, Hashem appeared to Avraham and said, “Do not fear; your reward is great.” Rashi explains that Avraham was afraid that since this great miracle had been done for him, he had used up all of his merits and had no reward waiting for him in the World to Come. Hashem allayed those fears by saying, “Everything that I have done for you will not cost you. Do not fear; your reward is great.”

This Rashi is very difficult to understand. How is it possible that a man as great Avraham could have thought he used up all of his reward? After years of serving Hashem, surely the reward waiting for him was phenomenal.

The answer to this is based on viewing life from a different vantage point.

Pesach in Arizona

Imagine that your father-in-law invites you to join him for Pesach in Arizona. This is the ultimate Pesach extravaganza. No expense is spared; the guests are showered with every imaginable luxury and amenity. A five-star hotel, French chefs, an 18-hole golf course on premises – the best of the best. You graciously accept and are ready to have the time of your life. But as it turns out, by the time Pesach comes around, things at work aren’t going well, and lately you’ve been fighting with your wife. As a result, you’re in the worst mood you’ve ever been in. For the nine days you’re there, you barely leave your hotel room.

When the vacation is over, your father-in-law approaches the hotel manager and says, “My son-in-law hardly ate the entire time he was here. He didn’t come to a single gala kiddush. He didn’t use the golf course. Not once did he step foot in the spa. Normally, I am not the type to complain. But I just can’t see paying the regular rate, so I’ve decided to pay half the bill, and expect you to waive the other half.”

How do you think the hotel representative would respond?

This planet we occupy is a five-star hotel. We have every imaginable pleasure and amenity available to us. We enjoy majestic sights and experiences that constantly surround us. From magnificent floral scenes to exotic sea life, from the glory of the night sky to the clear aqua green of the ocean, from a flower in bloom to the plumage of a jungle parrot, this is a world created in Technicolor.

And more than that, we were given the tools with which to enjoy it. We have legs with which to walk and hands with which to hold. We have ears, a tongue, a nose, and fingers that bring us an astounding array of pleasures from the world around us. We have foods that explode with a burst of different flavors, aromas, textures, and colors. We are surrounded by untold pleasures and riches.

But more than anything, we have been granted the extraordinary privilege called life. We were given this golden opportunity to shape ourselves into what we can be for eternity. Is there any way to measure the value of life? Is it worth a million dollars? Ten million? A hundred billion? Is it even possible to put a value on our existence?

Whether we recognize it for its extraordinary value or not, we are the recipients of an unfathomable amount of good. And as such, we owe. From the moment we are born the clock starts ticking and the debt begins. For every breath we breathe, for every pleasure we enjoy, for every moment of our being, the bill increases. We owe our Creator for that which He has given us.

No Free Lunch

Somehow, we assume that all of the pleasures of this world are on the house. I certainly won’t be charged for them. However, the Chovos HaLevavos explains that in reality, we do owe for them. They were given to us by Hashem, and as a result we owe for them.

For this reason, Avraham was afraid. He made a calculation based on what he received from Hashem versus what he had given in return, and he came out only slightly ahead. “Now that Hashem has wrought this great miracle for me,” he thought, “what possible reward do I have left? Surely it has been all used up, and there is nothing left for me in the World to Come.”

Avraham Avinu wasn’t out of touch with reality. Quite the opposite. He was highly attuned to a part of the calculation we rarely think about; namely, that we are not entitled to anything. Hashem didn’t have to create us. Hashem isn’t obligated to shower us with good. Everything Hashem gives us is because He wants to share His good with us. Because of this, we owe a debt to Hashem that can never be repaid.

This perspective should be a major driving force in our service of Hashem, prompting us to attempt as much as we can to pay back the astounding good that He constantly bestows upon us.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Life Chronicles

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

Please don’t think this is a crank letter or a hoax; my situation is real and I am terrified!  I am writing to you in the hopes you will recommend a workable solution to a horrific problem.

I am a middle aged family man with a wife and children, who attends a shiur on a regular basis, is well liked and respected in my community and has never done or said anything to cause anyone to think adversely of me.  I take care of my health, jog in the mornings before Shachris, coach the neighborhood boys baseball games on long Fridays and Sundays after yeshiva.

Sounds like I have a great life, right. So what’s the problem? Recently, a new family moved onto our block, a young couple with young children and, as we have always done, my wife and I went over with a basket of food for Shabbos to welcome them to the neighborhood. They seemed nice and friendly and we all looked forward to their smooth integration into our community. On many mornings, I noticed the wife standing on her front porch in a robe, coffee cup in hand, as I ran by. She waved to me and thinking nothing of it, I waved back.

A week went by and one morning, as I took off on my run, I didn’t see her on her porch.  Again, I didn’t think anything of it until I sensed someone running up alongside me. It was Mrs. L, in a tight tank top and micro-shorts that drew stares and wolf whistles from the construction crews working in our neighborhood.  To be honest, I was probably guilty of doing the same.  I felt extremely uncomfortable in her proximity, as we passed other men I knew who were headed out to work, but there wasn’t much I could do, except abort my run and head for home to shower and change before minyan.  She, too, slowed down to a trot, conversing with me as we made our way back home.  I was glad her house was first, as I didn’t want my wife to get the wrong idea; when she said, “Goodbye, same time tomorrow” a red light went on in my head, but I told myself I was probably making too much out of nothing.

The next morning, sure enough, there she was, ready and waiting and wearing a jogging outfit that exposed more than it covered.  Now I knew I had to do something.   So when I stopped to take a drink, I told her that I didn’t mean to be unfriendly, but I didn’t think it was appropriate having her run alongside me. I thought she would understand. Instead, she looked me squarely in the eye and said she found me very attractive and, with her husband away most of the week on business, she thought we could “get to know each other better.”

I couldn’t believe what she was clearly inferring, but made it absolutely clear I was not interested. I hoped that would be the end of it; I even took to running different paths so she wouldn’t follow, but she waited for me to appear each morning, or if she missed me, she waited until I returned.  It felt like she was everywhere I went.

Last month, my wife went to Israel to visit with our children who live there. I drove her to the airport and when I came home, I found Mrs. L. waiting for me with dinner for two. She followed me into my home and began to set out the food. I was at a loss, but politely thanked her and tried to steer her to the door. When it was clear she wouldn’t leave, I went out on my front porch until she saw that I wouldn’t be joining her for dinner… or anything else.  As she left, she said I had made a bad mistake rebuffing her “friendship,” and that I would be really sorry.

Things seemed to quiet down and I was almost relieved at my newfound peace, until I bumped into a neighbor who seemed to be trying to avoid me.  Thinking he was having a bad day, or simply preoccupied, I let it go.  This scene repeated itself with other people I met until it became distinctly clear that people were avoiding me.  Erev Shabbos, I pinned a good friend of mine to the wall and made him tell me what was going on.  What he said froze my heart.

Mrs. L was spreading rumor that I was stalking her!  That I was possessed with her and she was terrified of me!  Everyone seems to believe her, even though they’ve known me for years and haven’t even asked for my side of the story.  And my wife was due to come home that Sunday.  I was paralyzed with fear, but decided to speak with this woman and try to reason with her.  I called her and asked why she was spreading lies about me, what did I do to her that caused her to want to decimate me so.  Her answer was that I shunned her advances and no one ever did that to her, so for this I was going to pay and then worst was yet to come!  I hung up feeling like a person anticipating death.  What with the talk on the street and my wife coming home, sure to hear it from someone, I am walking into walls.  Please help me!

 

 

Dear Friend,

What an unfortunate and horrifying situation!  My heart goes out to you, to say the least.  To repay kindness with evil is something I cannot understand and certainly will not accept, so here is what I think you need to do, post haste.

First, find out where this family lived before moving into your neighborhood.  I am almost one hundred percent sure this “Jezebel” has left many victims in her wake who refused to capitulate to her demands and suffered a similar fate as you.  I would wager they would be only too willing to stand up for you in your effort to clear your name and to see her finally get what she deserves.

In addition, you must sit down with your wife and tell her, from the beginning, what brought all this about and why you kept it from her.  I am sure that she will believe you and see that you meant to spare her from upset.  I am also certain that once your fickle neighbors, who were ready to throw you under the bus without even giving you a chance to speak out, see that your wife is at your side, they will have a change of heart.  But nothing will be the same; some residual damage will remain, perhaps as a lingering lesson to everyone.

Never keep an injustice to yourself for fear that the world will turn against you because you will only assist in incriminating yourself.  Speak Up!  Tell others to beware of what’s going on so that they won’t fall victim and you will be vindicated.  Silence is a killer that assists the abuser in tormenting and decimating his or her victim without retribution.  Never withhold damning information from your spouse and risk losing the most vital support system that can give you help and comfort in trying times.  Seeing spousal support in conjunction with hard evidence and sound proof will change the tide in your favor.  Hakadosh Boruch Hu will not abandon the righteous in favor of the evildoers so take heart.

To everyone who reads this column, please understand that all the ills that are present in the secular world can sadly be found in ours as well.  Be mindful that when we veer away from a Torah life, we are apt to fall prey to the pitfalls and traps. We live in dangerous times and need Hashem’s support more than ever.

Rachel Bluth

Rabbi Moshe Weinberger: Critic Of Jewish Life In America

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

In 1880 there were approximately 250,000 Jews living in the United States. Most of them were either immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Central Europe. However, beginning in 1881 large numbers of Jews began to arrive from Eastern Europe and Russia.

The assassination of Czar Alexander II in March 1881 sparked anti-Jewish riots and massacres. These were followed by the passage of laws that severely restricted the lives of Jews. This combination of economic, political, and physical persecution led to a massive immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia. Most of them came to the United States. Indeed, between 1881 and 1923 almost 2,800,000 Jews arrived here.

Coming to America did not, of course, solve all the problems of these immigrants. They were faced with daunting challenges in many areas, including those of earning a livelihood and maintaining their religious observance. The religious scene even in the large Jewish community of New York City was more often than not chaotic and bewildering.

To Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, things were so bad here that he felt the need to write a book encouraging Jews not to immigrate and to remain where they were. He was absolutely convinced that, religiously, they were much better off in Eastern Europe and Russia than in America.

Rabbi Weinberger was born in Hungary in 1854 and studied under several noted Torah scholars, among them R. Moshe Sofer (d. 1917, not to be confused with his namesake known as the Chasam Sofer), R. Shmuel Ehrenfeld, R. Elazar Loew, and R. Meir Perles. He was forced to leave Hungary in 1880 for unknown reasons and arrived in New York City.

“Whatever those reasons may have been, New York was the wrong place for him. True, the city then already had an Orthodox Jewish population estimated to number 10,000 people. It housed an impressive Hungarian congregation, Ohab Zedek, founded in 1872/3, as well as several other Orthodox synagogues, most notably Beth Hamedrash Hagodol (1852, reorganized 1859), Beth Hamedrash Livne Yisroel Yelide Polen (1853, later the Kalvarier Shul) and Khal Adas Jeshurun (1856). But these synagogues lived in relative poverty; most lacked the money to support a full-time rabbi. And if any did want a rabbi, they had little trouble luring one with distinguished European credentials, reports of ritual laxity in America notwithstanding.”[i]

Thus, despite his impressive scholarly background and staunch adherence to Orthodoxy, Rabbi Weinberger was unable to find a rabbinical position. So he made a number of unsuccessful forays in business.

In 1890 he became the rabbi of Congregation Bnai Israel Anshei Ungarn of Scranton, Pennsylvania, In 1893 he moved to Philadelphia, where he became the rabbi of Congregation Ohev Shalom.

In 1895 Rabbi Weinberger returned to New York to become the rav of Congregation Beth HaMidrash HaGadol Anshei Ungarn. However, his relationship with his congregants was often contentious. They felt he should devote himself to improving the image and fostering the growth of the shul, whereas he devoted himself to scholarship and education. Some were openly scornful of his effort to found a high level yeshiva. Others felt the congregation should move to a larger building in an effort to attract new members. “If that meant discarding a few time-honored traditions, they were prepared to pay the price.”[ii]

“For eleven years Weinberger kept his position, frequent quarrels and his own difficult economic plight notwithstanding. In August 1905 a dispute caused him to cut back on his classes, and some time later an effort was made to have him fired. But he had a contract and held on, calling all the while for reconciliation. Then, on the last day of Passover, April 17, 1906, accumulated tensions finally exploded. The Hungarian Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagodol erupted in rioting and police had to be called to quell the disturbance. The incident that occasioned the violence was Rabbi Weinberger’s entry into the matsah business. He claimed to need extra money. This divided the congregation (some congregants were in the matsah business themselves), led to catcalling during the rabbi’s Passover sermon, and finally resulted in blows being exchanged. In the aftermath, Rabbi Weinberger refused to resign his position, placed a ban on his synagogue, and never entered its premises again. Though later he sought reconciliation, he apparently spent his remaining years ‘in exile,’ producing matsah.

“On the surface, based on the limited data available, the Passover riot looks like a classic battle between traditionalists and innovators. Rabbi Weinberger stood for time-tested values; his opponents demanded change. But closer examination reveals a more complicated picture. Weinberger, by entering the matsah business, projected an entrepreneurial image far more characteristically American than Jewish. On the other hand, Weinberger’s opponents, seemingly more outwardly oriented, righteously cloaked themselves in the mantle of tradition, opposing the rabbi’s undertaking as both inappropriate and without precedent. Each side thus respected tradition and feared change, while both – albeit in different ways and for different reasons – also deviated from tradition and accepted change. The resulting guilt, anger, and confusion go far to explain the passionate violence that ensued. In rioting over Weinberger, immigrants partly expressed their frustration at the New World in general.” [iii]

Rabbi Weinberger spent the rest of his life earning his living from his matzah baking business. An ad in Hebrew for his matzahs says in part “Just as in previous years thousands crowed into the synagogue on Willet Street in order to delight in Rabbi Weinberger’s sermons, so too now thousands stand in line to buy Rabbi Weinberger’s kosher and tasty matzot.” [iv] In 1916 Aron Streit became Rav Weinberger’s partner. They originally baked only hand matzos. However, in 1925 Aron Streit and one of his sons opened up a modern (machine) bakery on Rivington Street, and this endeavor eventually grew into the well-known Streit’s matzah business.

“Weinberger dreamed of a united Jewish community and he agitated for the establishment of a chief rabbinate. His efforts in 1895 to found the first institution of higher learning in America patterned on the East European yeshivah were unsuccessful. While serving as a rabbi, he “repeatedly supported shochatim against charges of unfitness seemingly motivated more by personal and economic factors than by religious ones.” Weinberger supported Zionist endeavors and contributed to Hebrew journals.”[v]

“In 1887 Weinberger published his first and most controversial book, HaYehudim v’ha-Yahadut b’New York. Written in Hebrew and directed to his brethren in Europe, Weinberger scorned American society as materialistic, sorely lacking in appropriate family values, and a spiritual danger to religious Jews…. Weinberger cautioned his former countrymen about the poor standards of kashruth and Jewish education and the low level of Talmud knowledge of Jewry’s religious functionaries. He lamented America’s magnificent synagogues, which some Jews felt compelled to build, and chided Jews for the extravagance of luring cantors with inflated salaries to fill normally empty synagogue pews.”[vi]

In addition to the above mentioned book, his other writings include Kuntres Halacha l’Moshe (Philadelphia, 1894); Rosh Divrei Moshe (Philadelphia, 1895); Ho’il Moshe (New York, 1895); Halacha l’Moshe (New York, 1902); Divrei Shalom v’Emet (New York, 1908); Igeret Mishneh: An Open Letter to the Beth Hamidrash Hagadol (New York, 1909); and Dorosh Dorash Moshe (New York, 1914). He also published several articles in Ha-Ivri.

Dr. Yitzchok Levine

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/rabbi-moshe-weinberger-critic-of-jewish-life-in-america/2016/11/02/

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