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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘matter’

50 UN Members Did Not Support Palestinian Upgrade

Friday, November 30th, 2012

I agree that this is a little like the joke about the police commissioner who boasts that while there has been an increase in crime incidents in the city, there are millions of citizens who have not committed any crimes in the past quarter — nevertheless, a measure of sanity among the world’s nations must be acknowledged and even praised.

The UN General Assembly today voted 138 to 9, with 41 abstaining, to upgrade the PLO’s observer status to the same level held by the Vatican, that of a “non-member state.”

An email sent out last night by UN Watch notes that although the number of Yes votes may appear large, in fact it amounted to the usual automatic majority for any resolution attacking Israel — and the proposal actually won 28 fewer votes than a pro-Palestinian resolution adopted last week, and fewer than is usually received by such resolutions.

Moreover, as UN Watch also reported — in a Tweet reposted by Canadian Cabinet Minister Rona Ambrose among many others –  the PLO won 38 fewer than the 176 votes the U.N. General Assembly gave to genocidal Sudan when recently electing it to a principal U.N. body that oversees human rights.

Let’s be grateful for small favors. Think of it, there are 50 whole nations out there that are not sure they want Israel to be erased from the map, and 9 of them are actually against the idea at this time!

Although mostly symbolic, the statehood designation, as President Abbas boasted last year in a New York Times op-ed, paves the way for the “internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter,” enabling the PLO to pursue claims against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Incidentally, just so you wouldn’t be completely overcome by euphoria, the UN Human Rights Council is planning to release a massive report in early 2013 — by a commission of inquiry modeled after the one that produced the notorious Goldstone Report — which is likely to recommend the ICC prosecution of Israeli officials for “war crimes” in connection with the settlements.

Boys And Reading: Is There Any Hope?

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

In a recent New York Times article, Robert Lipsyte, a sports author, posed the following question: “Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?” For years, I have been dealing with this question in my office. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education’s reading tests for the last thirty years show boys scoring worse than girls in every age group, every year.

A few months ago, a boy who I will call Mordechai came to my office with his mother. Mordechai was struggling with kriyah and English reading and his mother wanted to know if there was something deeper going on.

After a thorough evaluation, I was able to rule many things out. Mordechai did not have dyslexia, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), or sensory processing disorder (SPD). What Mordechai was exhibiting was not a difficulty with reading, but rather a reluctance to read. He simply saw no value in the enterprise and was therefore not interested in learning the skill. Even as a second grader, he had decided what his priorities were: sports and math. Sports was not only physical, but social as well and math factored into his everyday life in a way he felt reading did not.

Now, came the tricky part. How can you get someone to learn something if they have decided that they do not want to? After all, as Robert Lipsyte points out, “boys’ aversion to reading, let alone to novels, has been worsening for years.” First, we should discuss why it is that boys feel that reading has little significance in their lives:

Fiction vs. non-fiction. Many English teachers, who also happen to be female, teach reading through works of fiction. Unfortunately, studies show that boys tend to relate better to non-fiction. Thus, during the formative reading years, children are exposed to reading materials that are better suited to one gender over the other.

Role models. Boys will often see their mothers reading on Shabbos afternoon or in the evenings, but many rarely see their fathers engaged in a book. This is not because their fathers do not read. Rather, frequently, this is because their fathers will be learning in shul or with a chavrusah – experiences that boys do not have until they are beyond the elementary stages of reading.

Biology. On the whole, boys develop fine motor skills (such as hand-eye coordination) slightly later than girls. This can create difficulty with reading and writing at a young age.

Limited selection. Teachers don’t always know what is out there for boys that will engage them on to interact with a text with empathy and sincerity. Schools tend to work with books that are classics because they will encounter less resistance from parents. However, this sometimes means that books that boys might find engaging never make it into the classroom.

Filling The Reading Gap

Why do we care so much about reading? Why is it important to get our boys reading to their greatest potential? The most basic reason is that reading is the most important skill that people have in order to enhance their intelligence. Through reading, people improve their vocabularies and memories, become better writers, and even relieve stress. On a more practical level, literacy levels are correlated with financial success. In sum, we need to ensure that our boys are reading because their lives will be more fulfilling, relaxed and comfortable.

Therefore, how can we help boys learn to read? Below are some time-tested solutions:

Instruction tailored to boys’ learning style. Teachers should create lessons that have clear, structured instruction with short bursts of intense work. When teachers set specific goals and praise students for their success, the boys will be more likely to push themselves in the future. In addition, hands-on learning models that are coupled with a sense of humor are great tools for getting boys involved in reading.

Role models. Young boys need to see male role models who are reading. Remember, any text is reading – including fathers studying Gemara at the dining room table after lunch on Shabbos or reading the newspaper on a weekday morning. The idea is that boys see their fathers reading and understand that this is an activity valued by both male and female role models.

Thanking Our ‘Squantos’

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

It’s the classic image – the pumpkins; the berries; the squash, the turkey. It’s the beginning of a season that brings with it a sudden, exciting feeling. It’s the crisp fall air turning to gray winter; the strings of perfect, colorful leaves decorating doors and houses, the bright hues of reds and oranges. It almost feels like the cinnamon in the pumpkin pie is somehow in the air.

It’s Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving. It’s a time of gratitude. Gratitude for the freedom we have in the United States. So many Jews celebrate this holiday, thankful that after so much oppression, Jews can live peacefully in this great country.

The theme of the season forces me to think back to the very first Thanksgiving. This was a celebration the pilgrims made when they first came to America. After so many hardships in the New World, they finally harvested food and had a chance of survival. They were thankful for Squanto, a Native American, who helped the early settlers through.

These thoughts overwhelmed me with a sense of gratitude I feel the need to express. Have you ever thought about who holds up our Jewish communities? Who keeps the world turning? Whose zechuyos keep us alive? Have you ever stopped to thank the people who keep our chinuch system going?

What about thanking our gedolim?

I once heard a teacher say, “At a certain point in my life I knew more names of actors and singers than I knew of Gedolei haTorah.” It struck me. We spend our lives chasing after a society and culture which have so little to do with us, and we never stop to notice what is right in front of us. Do we ever stop to contemplate and appreciate the people who devote their lives to disseminating Torah?

Your son’s Rebbe deserves respect; no matter what grade he gave your son on his Gemara test. The rav of your shul deserves a lot more respect than chatter during his short lecture. The Gedolei HaDor deserve much more than a careless shrug of the shoulder at the news of their illness or petirah.

Most of the time we do not focus our appreciation on the talmidei chachamim in our neighborhoods – that includes the young men sitting in kollel, the balabatim who run to shiur before or after work and the retired men who after years of working are now spending their time in a yeshiva setting. How much do we appreciate the rabbanim who lead our communities? Do we thank them for their time, for their hours of service?

What generation has had access to so much – shiurim on a variety of levels, website where one can download divrei Torah, at no charge? When in our history were there any so many schools to choose from? When did we ever have so many interesting speakers, teaching Torah on a daily basis?

There is so much knowledge available, and yet, many of us don’t even stretch out a hand to grab onto it. So many opportunities, yet we don’t care. So many lessons, yet we never take them in. We chase after a government. We chase after their way of life. How many names of gedolim do you know?

This lesson is clearly evident in the Purim story. The spiritual leader of the time, Mordechai, advised the Jews not to attend to royal party. The Jews scorned his opinion, claiming he was “an old Rabbi, stuck in ancient times and unaware of the political dues they had to pay.” Then tragedy struck, and all the Queens connections were worth nothing; what saved them was following the “old leader’s” suggestion to pray and fast.

We can chase after all the political leaders we want, but at the end of the day, what will save us is the Torah learning of our talmidei chachamim and of our young children.

It’s the season. It’s Thanksgiving – let us give thanks for what we have that actually matters: our Squanto, the people who throw away careers, throw away sleep and are there, twenty four hours a day, supporting our world with Torah.

Chazal teach, “Asay licha Rav”; I’ve heard it paraphrased numerous times to, “Asay licha Rebbetzin.” Each of us needs a guide or a mentor who can see clearly when we can’t.

Ceasefire a Poor Outcome for Israel

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Today, the IDF announced that it had “accomplished its pre-determined objectives for Operation Pillar of Defense, and has inflicted severe damage to Hamas and its military capabilities.”

It is embarrassing to read this statement, which includes the fact that 130 rockets slammed into Israeli towns on the last day until the ceasefire came into effect at 9 PM. It does not even mention that 20 more struck between 9 PM and midnight.

While many Hamas rockets and launchers were destroyed, clearly many were not. Hamas has been building fortifications since 2009, and much of this infrastructure escaped the air bombardment. Hamas was certainly dealt a serious blow, but not a knockout punch. Its Iranian weapons suppliers will soon re-equip it, and it will probably get millions in ‘humanitarian’ aid from its friends in Europe.

Israel’s operation is estimated to have cost 3 billion Israeli Shekels (about $770 million). Each Tamir interceptor fired by Iron Dome cost $40,000. Now there is a ceasefire, and 30,000 reservists (cost: $60 million) will likely be sent home.

Hamas established that it can hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with missiles that can only improve in the future. It established that — by launching a large number of rockets at once, as it did in an attack on Beer Sheva today — it can overwhelm the Iron Dome system. It established that it can withstand a concentrated air attack and still fire rockets.

Palestinians understand quite well what happened, both the people in the street and their leaders.

As always, Israel’s overwhelming military might can’t stand up against the ‘persuasive’ powers of the White House, and yet again defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory. There will be another round, and another, and another.

But what do you expect? Israel is addicted to US weapons systems and spare parts — and now, to the Iron Dome system, developed in Israel but funded by the US. Saying no is unthinkable.

One question that Israelis are asking is this: why didn’t Barak and Netanyahu expect this? Did they have assurances from the Obama administration that they could go into Gaza, assurances which were later withdrawn? It doesn’t make sense to call up 30,000 reservists just to scare the other side.

We’ll probably never know exactly what happened. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t interpret this as a positive outcome for Israel.

Visit FresnoZionism.

The President And Operation Pillar Of Defense

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

True to his word, President Obama has demonstrated that when it comes to Israel’s security, he does indeed have the country’s back. In the current confrontation with Hamas, he has from the start unequivocally laid the blame on Hamas and said Israel has the right to defend itself and that for the crisis to end Hamas must stop firing rockets at Israel.

Further, his robust support for Iron Dome has resulted in the saving of countless Jewish lives, and the military aid he has authorized over the past four years has enhanced Israel’s ability to strike back at Hamas. Moreover, his staunch, and very public, support of Israel has certainly hobbled the attempts by the usual suspects to press the charge of “disproportionality” against Israel.

So there is much for which to be grateful. But at the same time we have to wonder whether the president made any promises or commitments to those adversaries of Israel he enlisted in the effort to bring both sides to a cease-fire. And were any inducements dangled in front of Hamas?

Just consider the following exchange between State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland and reporters concerning the parade of foreign dignitaries visiting Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip:

Ms. Nuland: We appreciate the fact that [Egyptian] Prime Minister Kandil went personally to try to ameliorate the situation. And will continue to work with them on the efforts that we can all take to try to de-escalate.Question: Have they coordinated the visit with Washington or with the Israelis?

Ms. Nuland: Well, I think both we and the Israelis were aware that the prime minister would make this visit….

Question: …I don’t understand. Two weeks ago you said it would be a bad idea for [Turkey’s] Erdogan to go to Gaza. You were not particularly enthusiastic about the emir of Qatar going to cost. And now all of a sudden it’s a wonderful thing that the Egyptian prime minister went there?

Ms. Nuland: … [W]e have a different situation, obviously.

Question: Okay.

Ms. Nuland: We are in the process of trying to de-escalate a very, very dangerous situation between Gaza and Israel. So the purpose was completely different in this case, and can be helpful, we think.

Question: It can be helpful because they’re talking to Hamas.

Ms. Nuland: Because they’re talking to Hamas, they’re talking about the danger of this kind of situation.

Question: So the way that Hamas gets a stamp of U.S. legitimacy in terms of being an interlocutor is to fire lots of rockets into southern Israel, and then you’re okay with people going to talk to them?

Ms. Nuland: We have a – we have an extremely dangerous and volatile situation. We have a dangerous situation inside Gaza, we have a dangerous situation inside Israel. It is not a matter of legitimating violence. This is a matter of supporting diplomacy to get this to end, which is a different thing than what the visits were intended to do before this.

Question: Okay. Through the mediation with your good friends the Qataris, the Egyptians, and the Turks, Hamas moderates tremendously and gives up on rockets and so on. Will that be, like, an opening with direct contact with Hamas, with the United States?

Ms. Nuland: With our direct contact with Hamas?

Question: Yes, ma’am.

Ms. Nuland: You know what our conditions for contact with Hamas have been. They have not changed; they will not change in this circumstance. They need to recognize Israel’s right to exist. They need to renounce violence and take those other measures that we’ve always called for.

Prudence requires vigilance.

The Age Of Disrespect

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

And Lavan and Betuel answered and said, “It is from Hashem that this has come forth. We can speak neither for nor against it.” – Bereishis 24:50

Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, went to find a wife for Yitzchak. He approached the city of Charan, waited at the well, and asked Hashem for a sign. “Let it be that the girl who not only gives me water when I ask for it, but says, ‘Not only will I give you to drink, but I will give your camels as well.’ She should be the one that is right for Yitzchak.”

No sooner did he finish speaking than Rivka, the daughter of Betuel, came upon the scene and fulfilled his request exactly as he specified. Eliezer knew that he had found the right one.

He then asked Rivka to take him to her father. As they neared the house, Rivka’s brother Lavan saw the camels laden with treasure and ran out to greet the new guest and usher him in. Eliezer described the miracles that happened and then asked for approval of the marriage. Lavan and Betuel exclaimed, “It is from Hashem! How can we stop it?”

Rashi comments that from here we see Lavan’s wickedness. Why did the Torah mention his name first? To teach us that he spoke before his father. This shows us that he was a rasha.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. Why does Lavan’s speaking before his father show that he was wicked? Disrespectful, yes. Rude, certainly. But a rasha?

The answer to this can best be understood from a historical vantage point.

A yeshiva student learning in Israel found himself on a bus, sitting near two secular American Jews. Noticing that one was a bit older than the other, he was surprised to hear them calling each other by their first names. “Bob, did you notice that?” said one. “Hey, Joe, what do you think?” said the other. His surprise deepened when in the course of conversation it became clear that the two were father and son. Dad explained, “I don’t want barriers between us, so we call each other by our first names.”

That isn’t the way that it used to be. Not all that long ago in America, a teenager wouldn’t dream of calling an adult by his first name, let alone his father. And certainly a child wouldn’t dare open his mouth when his father spoke. It didn’t matter how foul-mouthed the child was, and it didn’t matter how unpolished the father was. Children knew their place, and the idea of a child speaking back to an adult was unheard of.

Things have changed. The countercultural revolution of the 1960s brought new attitudes and ideas. And while much of the hysteria of those times has passed, one of the relics is that respect is no longer part of the culture. Gone is respect for leaders. Gone is respect for the clergy. Gone is respect for elders. In its place is the cynicism of a new age – an egalitarian age – where we are all equals.

We no longer need to treat institutions with reverence, and we no longer need to treat authority with deference. And so we argue with our doctors. We argue with our lawyers. And we argue with our parents, who don’t really know that much anyway. Welcome to the Age of Disrespect.

This seems to be the answer to this Rashi. In the times of Lavan, society was still relatively normal. Workers respected bosses. Students respected teachers. Younger people respected older people. As such, there were things that were done and things that were not done. In that world, for a child to answer in his father’s presence was outrageous. It simply didn’t happen. The only time such a thing could occur was when the child had veered way off course – had become deviant. And so Rashi tells us that Lavan’s response shows just how wicked he was.

This is especially illustrative because Lavan wasn’t known as a paradigm of virtue. He died trying to poison Eliezer in order to steal his money. Yet even in his home, for a child to answer before his father did was so out of the norm that it could only happen if that child was wicked.

Q & A: The Sandak (Part III)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Question: I was at a brit where the father and grandfather of the boy argued over who should be sandak. The grandfather had served as sandak once before, but he persisted and, as they say, “might makes right.” I am curious as to your view on this matter.

M. Renkin
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Midrash (Tehillim pg. 723) contains the term “sandikus,” a Greek word meaning “companion of child” or “advocate.” Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dinov explains that sandak is an acronym of “sanegor na’aseh din kategor – the defense emerges victorious vis-à-vis the prosecutor,” referring to the brit’s function as a protection from Satan.

The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) writes that the sandak is given the first honor of being called up to the Torah, even before the mohel. The Rema explains that the sandak is compared to a kohen who offers incense in the Beit Hamikdash. All kohanim wished to benefit from the blessing of the incense, which enriched the one who offered it. Therefore, a lottery was established to assure that all had an equal opportunity to perform it. Similarly, it is customary not to give the role of sandak to one individual more than once.

The Shach (Yoreh Deah ad loc. sk 22) clarifies that Rema does not mean that one may not be a sandak more than once. Rather, if a person has served as sandak for a boy, he should not serve as sandak for any of his brothers in the future.

The Rema also talks about the honorary role of the kvaterin and kvater, the female and male messengers who bring the baby to the synagogue for the brit.

Last week we continued with Rabbi Ari Enkin’s discussion of this matter in his new sefer, Shu’t HaShulchani, which we now conclude.

* * * * *

Rabbi Enkin continues his discussion of whether someone should serve as sandak twice (Shu’t HaShulchani 154-156):

“There is also a variation of this custom, seemingly of Turkish and Greek origin, in which one refrains from honoring the same person to serve as sandak twice in a single year – should another boy be born to the family within that time – but allows him to serve as sandak once again after a year has passed.

“There is also an opinion that the custom does not apply to relatives. According to this approach, one can invite a relative to serve as sandak more than once. This is especially true with regard to the baby’s father. Indeed, a father shouldn’t hesitate to be the sandak for all of his children should he so desire.

“Although the custom of restricting a sandak to once per family is widely observed, there are some exceptions to the rule. In some communities, the local rabbi is designated as the exclusive sandak and this includes serving as sandak for multiple children from the same family. It is explained that such an arrangement is not truly a deviation from the supposed custom, for the community rabbi can be compared to the Kohen Gadol, who was indeed permitted to perform the incense offering over and over. Similarly, very prominent, world-renowned rabbis are often repeatedly invited to serve as sandak for the same family.

“It is also noted that the custom to restrict someone form serving as a sandak twice likely originates from Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid, whose rulings are often understood as being optional in nature. So too, the custom of restricting someone from serving as sandak more than once is not found in the Talmud. As a general rule, though there are many exceptions, a restriction that doesn’t have its origins in the Talmud is not truly binding.

“Indeed, the conclusion of most halachic authorities is that one may indeed serve as a sandak more than once for the same family should one be invited to do so.

“There is also a view that it is the mohel, not the sandak, who is comparable to a kohen offering the incense in the Beit Hamikdash. Even according to this approach, however, there is no restriction on using the same mohel more than once.”

(To be continued)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-the-sandak-part-iii/2012/11/14/

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