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January 24, 2017 / 26 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Menachem Av’

A Watershed Moment

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Fifteen years ago, on a Shabbos Mevorchim leading up to a new month, my husband was leading the davening. I heard him intone, “Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av will be on…” But it wasn’t the month of Av, as the upcoming month was Mar Cheshvan. An audible gasp swept through the shul, and he immediately corrected himself.

Everyone soon forgot the mistake and continued with the services. But I was shaking with fear. Was this just a mistake, or was Hashem warning us of a calamity ahead? Here’s some background:

Our first grandchild, a boy, had just been born in Yerushalayim. The phone rang as we were cleaning the kitchen. My husband was in the sukkah folding chairs and tables, and our two youngest children were helping him.

Our daughter had had an emergency C-section because the baby was in distress. He was born weighing only three and a half pounds. I didn’t realize then that he was considered small for his gestational age. That night he seemed to be doing well, and we were ecstatic.

I had planned to help my daughter in Israel. Since the baby arrived early, I figured that the Bris would not be on time, giving me a few weeks to get ready. But the next day my son-in-law called and asked me to come immediately. The baby had developed an infection, and they needed my support. Concerned, I made an immediate reservation.

The Shabbos before my trip, my husband made the mistake of calling out the month of Av instead of Cheshvan. My mind immediately flooded with thoughts of foreboding and mourning, as Av is the month of tragedies for the Jewish people. Would my family now be experiencing a personal Tisha B’Av? Suddenly the seriousness of the baby’s condition seemed ominous, and I flew to Israel that night with a sense of apprehension. I was like a racehorse with blinders, running a race against the odds. I kept hearing my husband’s slip of the tongue – “Menachem Av.”

Babies aren’t supposed to die – and especially not my grandson. But my terrifying thoughts gained momentum.

Arriving in Israel, I busied myself encouraging my daughter and giving her strength and hope. But I found it harder to muster up positive feelings within myself.

For 28 days, we were on a roller coaster. We were swept from euphoria when the baby was stable to the type of sinking feeling when a roller coaster plunges. Our personal Tisha B’Av finally came when my grandson passed away at the end of Cheshvan.

The thought that my husband’s slip of the tongue had been a sign of what was to come remained with me for several years. Even though we experienced the joys of new grandchildren, a bar mitzvah and weddings, I couldn’t shake that incident from my mind.

Then something happened, and the thinking pattern that had haunted me from that Shabbos long ago shifted. I experienced a watershed moment that brought me to a new level of clarity and faith.

One summer afternoon after my mother had passed away, I was feeling especially melancholy. As tears came to my eyes I decided to say Tehillim, both for my own comfort and as a merit for my mother’s soul. The words in Tehillim made me cry out to Hashem, and reminded me of other times when I had turned to prayer for strength. I thought of the loss of my grandson. I remembered all the Tehillim we had said. And then it hit me that my thought processes all these years had been off track.

Although that month of Cheshvan was mar (bitter) and we experienced mourning, I now saw that the message in my husband’s slip of the tongue years earlier had been one of nechamah (comfort). After all, he had announced the month of Menachem Av (the comforting month of Av). I was now able to see past the pain, to the promise of nechamah.

It is said that Hashem sends the refuah (healing) before the makah (illness). And indeed Hashem had sent a message of nechamah to help me through a difficult journey. If only I had understood this from the beginning.

We all go through hardships that test our faith. The real test of our emunah is to see the promise within the pain.

Do you have a story to tell of a “watershed moment” in your life? This would be a story of a life-changing event that gave clarity to a challenge in your life. I am collecting these stories for possible publication in a book. Please send your original stories to watershed.moments@hotmail.com.

Name Withheld Upon Request

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, November 10th, 2004

Unite Behind The Winner

During a Thursday morning interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Boston Red Sox pitching star Curt Schilling looked into the camera and said, “Tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week.” Many were excited to hear this beloved pitcher endorse President Bush.

Well, the people have spoken. Our democratic electoral process is far from perfect, and improvements may well be needed. But as President Lincoln reminded us, government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” constitutes the best hope on earth. Once the people have spoken on Election Day, no matter how close the call, it behooves us to come together in unity behind the winner. Otherwise, the old saying “united we stand, divided we fall” just may prove to be literally true.

President Bush understands, like John Stuart Mill understood years ago, that war is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. President Bush understands that there can indeed be such things as a bad peace and a just war. We are fighting a just war today, the most important of wars – a war that will determine the existence or demise of the free world.

Brian J. Goldenfeld
Woodland Hills

The Sagacious Edgar

It’s fascinating how muddled one’s thinking can get when trying to justify aberrant behavior. Edgar Bronfman, head of The World Jewish Congress, proposes that Jews deem intermarriage permissible as long as “they … bring up their children as Jewish” (“Tevye the Milkman and the Clueless Mr. Bronfman”, editorial, Nov. 5).

If you’re going to permit intermarriage, which is against probably the most fundamental commandment responsible for our endurance as a nation for thousands of years, you’re not very likely to instill much respect for any other Torah commandment. So what exactly does Mr. Bronfman mean by bringing children up Jewish? That is, once you eliminate every
vestige of Judaism from your life, what have you got left to bring your kids up Jewish with?

During Chanukah, you’ll put latkas into your kid’s ham sandwich? At the Passover Seder, you’ll tell your kids stories about how we used to be a persecuted people – until G-d gave us the Borscht Belt?

Did G-d go through the trouble of gathering us at Mt. Sinai just to give us a Torah that’s optional? And what about the Ten Commandments? Are they multiple choice?

We have Jewish laws that are not applicable in the absence of the Temple and we have laws that do not apply to Jews outside the Land of Israel. If we had laws that ceased to have relevance in modern times, as Mr. Bronfman and other Reform Jews seem to believe, I’m quite confident the Torah itself would have informed us of this. It does not.

Furthermore, the notion that considering anyone a Jews as long as they marry a Jew would “double the amount of Jews” is not supported by any evidence that I’m aware of. If anything, statistics probably suggest the contrary; intermarriage in greater numbers would more than likely cause a reduction in identifiable Jews through assimilation.

Besides, if you’re going to include people as Jews in such an arbitrary, whimsical, non-Torah- compliant manner, why stop at marriage? Why not declare that all those living on the same block as a Jew are Jewish? We could go from a minority to a super race overnight. Eventually, we could upgrade our laws to include extraterrestrials. Imagine – we could have Jewish galaxies!

What a brilliant idea. Mr Bronfman, thank you for enlightening us.

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY

Rebbe’s Advice To Sharon

Thirty-five years ago, the Lubavitcher Rebbe advised Ariel Sharon to stay out of politics. The directive came at the beginning of a two-page letter dated 18 Menachem Av, 5730.

At this moment, when Sharon is wreaking havoc in Israel with his push to withdraw from Gush Katif, signaling weakness and defeat to our enemies and perpetrating pain and grief on our brothers and sisters, the time is right to publicize the Rebbe’s directive. Below is an excerpt. For a full copy of the letter, please call (718) 493-4848 to have it faxed.

Basha Oka Botnick
(Via E-Mail)

18 Menachem Av 5730

“As we discussed when you were here, it is my opinion that your proper place is in Tzahal, and it is there that with G-d’s assistance you are successful and will continue to be so. Of course, this is in addition to the benefit derived thereby by the general public – the Jewish Nation, the Holy Nation that dwells in the land of Israel, the Holy Land, which G-d has blessed you with the privilege of protecting by means of your exceptional abilities, effort and vigor.

… Based on the above-stated, one can readily appreciate my opinion, that it makes no sense at all for you to switch to a different occupation, and most certainly not in the political arena – even to become a government official – for that is not your mission, and you will not utilize your talents and experience thereby. Quite the contrary.”

In Defense Of Chumros

Dr. David Berger (“On the Prohibition of Water: An Appeal to Poskim,” op-ed, Oct. 22) implies that current religious leaders are adapting unwarranted stringencies and essentially playing “frummer than thou.” Did Dr. Berger speak to one of the poskim in order to get an answer to his question?

Dr. Berger tries to convince the unsuspecting masses that the p’sak is unfounded, but reader Michoel Strauss goes one step further in his Nov. 5 letter to the editor. He posits that this ruling is simply the latest manifestation of what he describes as a climate in the Orthodox community of “mindless ritualism and a ‘can you top this’ chumraism.” This is a particularly insidious approach, as Mr. Strauss derisively labels recent edicts chumros – which he clearly believes need not be followed.

For argument’s sake, let’s accept that the decision about New York City water is nothing more than a chumra. Mr. Strauss and those of his ilk should understand that chumros are an essential element of Judaism. Consider just a few examples – waiting six hours between meat and dairy meals, avoiding rice on Pesach, even the way we keep Shabbos. As my rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Zelig Friedman, shlita, has explained, the observance of Shabbos 2,500 years ago bore little resemblance to our present-day practices. Kiddush over wine had not yet been instituted, and people did not as a rule go to synagogue to daven with a minyan. The Gemara tells us that Avraham avinu kept the entire Torah including chumras which would later be instituted by our Sages.

Basically, chumros are legislated for one of two not necessarily exclusive reasons: either as a safeguard to mitzvot or to enhance our observance. The Gemara relates that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because the people “properly kept the Torah,” explaining that a Jew cannot be satisfied with simply keeping the Torah but must act “lifnim mishuras hadin” – beyond the letter of the Law.

Please consider that the rabbis being criticized are internationally and universally accepted poskim as well as men of impeccable character. That their opinions could be subjected to scrutiny boggles the mind. If this p’sak is rejected, just what role do Dr. Berger and Mr. Strauss expect gedolei Yisrael to play in the future of our nation? Would they like to set up a lay board which would approve all halachic decisions before they are promulgated?

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday, September 15th, 2004

Beware The Greens

The article on Ralph Nader (“Ralph Nader’s Curious New Allies,” front page essay, Aug. 13) comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Green Party, from which Nader now pretends to distance himself. The Green platform is Judeophobic and pro-Palestinian and Muslim. It calls for the withdrawal of Jews from liberated territory as well as the dismantling of Israel’s security wall and the disarming of Israeli citizens. It also demands the discontinuance of U.S. aid to Israel. (Just Israel, not any other country.)

If any of your readers doubt this, I suggest a visit to the Green Party website. If we Jews don’t start to expose and oppose groups like the Green Party, we will wake up one day and realize it’s Berlin, 1937.

Ira H. Margolis
(Via E-Mail)

Preaching To The Converted?

Dr. Yitzchok Levine once again enhanced the pleasure of my Shabbos reading with his cogent op-ed article of July 30, “The World As It Actually Was.” Unfortunately, those who most need to read material like this are precisely the ones who won’t read it – or who, if by chance they do read it, will never grasp its message.

Baruch Werschel
(Via E-Mail)

Dislikes ‘Wonder Bios’

Although I agree with Dr. Levine that the book The World That Was: America 1900-1945 is somewhat more mature in its approach than the usual ‘wonder biographies’ of Torah personalities that monopolize the Jewish market, it still manages to dance away from several areas of controversy that raged throughout the period covered in its pages.

Alas, the intellectual rigor that Torah Jews supposedly value in their studies is nowhere to be found in the biographies of Torah giants put out by frum publishing companies.

Susan Lampel
New York, NY

Practical Advice Needed

Thank you for putting Marvin Schick’s cry of alarm on the front page where it belongs (“Turning Our Backs on Orthodox Education,” Aug. 6). Now I would like to know what I, as a parent and longtime grant writer for yeshivas, can do to rectify the situation. Is there some sort of protest, a letter-writing campaign, or high-level meetings going on?

Because this issue adversely affects so many families in our community, we must do something. I hope Mr. Schick can advise us on what to do.

Yocheved Aron
Brooklyn, NY

Curmudgeon’s Corner

You could have blown me away with a feather. Imagine anyone suggesting that Orthodox Jews eschew the world’s Pesach pleasure palaces and use the money instead to pay their children’s yeshiva bills.

Well, that’s just what Rabbi Moshe Shochet proposed (Letters, Aug. 13) in response to Marvin Schick’s sobering assessment of the financial state of yeshiva education. Rabbi Shochet’s letters always contain rational and lucid arguments befitting a true Torah personality. While his positions may not jibe with popular opinion, they are correct – and unlike a certain well-meaning curmudgeon (that would be me), he delivers them with nary a scintilla of malice.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Puzzled By Rabbi Epstein

Rabbi Benjamin Epstein’s July 23 column on the weekly haftara was a real puzzle to me. For a moment, I thought I was reading a column written by a Reform rabbi castigating the Orthodox for imposing halacha on Jews. But no, this was The Jewish Press, not the Jewish Week.

Rabbi Epstein obviously has a hard time accepting mussar. When an invited rabbi spoke ”fire and brimstone” at a Torah dedication, it was too much for him to bear, so he proceeded to ridicule this rabbi as a ”rocket scientist” peering into a microscope looking for bugs in the water.

For your information, anyone can see the bugs. By holding a black cloth under the faucet for several moments you can actually see the little white bugs yourself. No need for a microscope and hardly an unimportant halachic issue. Rabbi Epstein’s condescension and mockery are totally misplaced.

Then Rabbi Epstein goes further. He is bothered by those who put signs in synagogues stating, ”If you talk during davening you deserve lashes.” Again he demonstrates an inability to accept mussar. But in this case he equates davening with talking when he writes, ”How can prayers be answered if those who pray are declared punishable for doing so?” Did the sign say, ”If you pray during davening you deserve lashes?” Rabbi Epstein equates his talking to davening and doesn’t want anyone deriding him for that.

It might interest Rabbi Epstein to know that many gedolim of the past generation felt that the Holocaust was brought upon European Jewry because of the talking and socializing that was prevalent in European synagogues. Sephardim, on the other hand, who demonstrate tremendous respect and utmost silence in their synagogues, were largely bypassed by the Holocaust.

What a sad commentary on Orthodoxy when a rabbi dismisses and denigrates those who attempt to bring Jews to a higher level in their observance.

Yoseph Gross
Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Epstein Responds: Thank you for taking time to express your feelings. I have heard mussar shmoozin from the greatest of the previous generation (I only feel bad that my children can never learn from them). R. Benzion Bruk of Novardik’s Elul shmoozin were so heart-rending that in the middle of his shmooze the lights would go out so that nobody would be embarrassed in front of his friend. Multitudes would gather for R. Chaim Shmulevitz’s shmoozin. At the end of his Kol Nidre shmooze there was not a dry eye in the yeshiva. Neither R. Chaim Shmulevitz nor R. Benzion Bruk would entertain the thought of say these shmoozin at a Torah dedication – an event which should be a simcha to everyone involved. If it would be your sheva brochas you wouldn’t appreciate it. Why should Hashem?

I will stick with what I said and what I saw by gedolim. “There are ways to accomplish everything, and there is a time for everything. If your message is derogatory, condescending or inappropriate, you are accomplishing nothing.”

Next, the rocket scientist was not the rabbi. The rabbi is too involved in learning to have time to put his food under a microscope. I do not know how you, Mr. Gross, drink water, but I let the water settle in the glass and do not see bugs. However, since you apparently do see bugs, are these the ones the Shulchan Aruch says are permissible? Space limitation doesn’t allow a halachic discourse, but I haven’t seen any current written responsa explaining the New York water system and showing how it deviates from the Shulchan Aruch. Have you checked the air filter in your house to see if you can breathe the air?

The problem with talking in the synagogue was originally noted by the Tosfos Yom Tov who composed a special prayer for those who refrain from talking. Since his time (over 500 years ago), the gedolim (including the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Yisroel Salanter and others) did not debase a shul with these signs (which are probably created on Madison Avenue).

Finally, I am glad you think you know why the Holocaust happened. Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, said he did not.

May we both witness the building of Jerusalem with mercy.

The Meaning Of Menachem Av

In last week’s Letters section, Rabbi Marshall Gisser reiterated his criticism of my July 16 Expounding the Torah column, wherein I stated that the month Menachem Av also means that we console Hashem, our Father in Heaven. Rabbi Gisser noted in this and in his previous letter to the editor that Hashem has no human form or human emotions, and He needs nothing from His created beings. Certainly this is true. I responded by stating that there are various Talmudic and other sources which speak of Hashem’s painful feelings for Am Yisrael in exile, such as Shechina B’golusa – the Shechina is in exile. I also noted that all Jewish souls are ”a part of Hashem from Above,” which is stated in Tanya (ch. 2).

Also in last week’s Letters section, Rabbi Joshua Maroof criticized my article by stating, ”It is blasphemous to suggest that the Creator of heaven and earth – a being with no weakness – would turn to His creations for help or fulfillment.”

My statement that Menachem Av means we console Hashem is brought out by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Likkutei Sichos (Vol. 23, p. 215). (Being a talmid and chassid of the Rebbe, I usually do not cite specific references from the Rebbe’s extensive writings.)

It is true, on the one hand, that ”If you sin, what do you effect against Him” (Job 35:6). Yet, due to the deep, innermost relationship between Jews and Hashem, there is a strong and direct link between our service and Hashem.

Thus the Talmud asks (Yevamos 64a): Why were our Patriarchs barren? Because Hashem desires the prayers of tzaddikim (certainly not a human desire but a ”desire” of Hashem).

Thus Tanchuma (Naso 16) states: Hashem desires to have a dwelling place in this low world (in the Mishkan and in every Jewish heart).

Further (Moed Katan 16b): Hashem decrees and a tzaddik nullifies it.

In Sanhedrin 106b: Hashem wants the heart of a Jew (i.e. his feelings and emotions). Besides this, Hashem wants our mitzvos and good deeds, as seen in numerous places in Chumash. As I noted from the Shaloh, our service is also for the needs of Hashem.

Hopefully, this clarifies my original article on Menachem Av.

Hashem created the world in a way that, through Torah and mitzvos, we enhance Hashem’s pleasure. May we strengthen our Divine service and outreach to our fellow Jews, and thereby elicit Hashem’s blessings for a kesivah v’chasimah tovah – a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

Rabbi Abraham Stone
Brooklyn, NY

Shul Member Ticketed For Speeding

I couldn’t believe what I saw and heard at our morning minyan. I knew that unmarked police cars were out on Route 95 to catch speeders – but at shul? And yet I saw a davener being ticketed for speeding! I recorded the confrontation between the law and the offender.

Speed Patrol Mashgiach: I had my eyes on you since you started as chazan to lead the second Shachris minyan. I followed your speed in my glatt kosher radar-equipped siddur. I clocked you traveling far in excess of normal speed in an Orthodox davening area. You were so far ahead of all others that they appeared tense, anxious and under constant pressure to catch up to you. Many hoped that the shul’s safety patrol would banish you from the tefilla highway as a menace to those wanting to pray to Hashem with dignity and kavana. So, although you are a member in good standing, I must do my duty and ticket you for dangerous driving (davening).

Speedy Driver: I don’t know why you’re picking on me. First, it’s my mother’s fault. My uncle, Yankel Freud, will verify that even during my toilet-training stage she was always pushy, expecting me to be far ahead of everyone. Second, I’m not the only one at shul who’s a speed addict when it comes to davening. And, third, I saw no warning signs near our shul reading -Slow down – entering davening area.”

I had to leave the scene and am unaware of further developments. But the experience etched itself deep in my mind. I thought of my revered grandfather and what he would have advised. I can visualize him saying, ”When someone is permitted to serve as a sheliach tzibbur (leader of the service), it is to be seen as a distinct honor. It becomes his holy responsibility to conduct the davening with dignity, derech eretz and at an appropriate pace. It is surely disrespectful to race through the most meaningful and inspiring words of our holy prayers. All daveners can share together in unity as a tzibbur – a congregation united in prayer.

Whether on the highway or at our shul’s davening, let us resolve to obey the speed laws.

Dr. Simon L. Eckstein
Hollywood, Florida

Letters to the Editor

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