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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘mitzvah’

The One Chapter Book – Ovadiah

Friday, November 30th, 2012

I always wonder about Jewish names. Some make it and some don’t. Some have mazel and others don’t. Some Biblical personalities’ names are very popular amongst the members of Klal Yisrael and then there are those personalities whose names never seem to be used.

Know anyone named Merari? Neither do I. But why should one of the sons of Levi, Gershon, be popular, and another remain ignored? I don’t know. It’s all hashgacha.

But I do have a sense that if not for this week’s haftorah, and the amazing fact that it is an entire sefer of its own in Trei Asar, the book of the Twelve Prophets, though it is a one perek sefer, my sense tells me that the name Ovadiah would not be the semi-popular name in Klal Yisrael that it is now.

Who was Ovadiah? Chazal tell us, as brought in the first Rashi, that Ovadiah was a convert to Judaism from the nation of Edom, the descendants of Esav. Actually, he was not only a righteous convert but a person who reached such as to amazing spiritual heights that he become a navi, a prophet in Klal Yisrael!

Rashi wonders about the phenomenon that is Ovadia. He prophesizes just once in Tanach—in our haftorah. HaKadosh Baruch Hu sent him to deliver a message to the nation of Esav, Edom, that because of their spiritual failure as a nation, manifested by their being a thorn and sword in the side of Bnei Yisrael, Hashem was going to punish them.

This is the basic thrust of our haftorah. Ovadiah is a person who came from a wicked nation and grew up in an evil environment, saw the light and came close to Hashem and Torah. This is the type of person who can go out and lecture his former nation about their failings.

As mentioned, sefer Ovadiah is but one perek.

Question: Why did Chazal give Ovadiah, with his one perek-long nevuah, the status of a complete sefer in Trei Asar? It could easily have been a perek in one of the other sefarim? Why have a one chapter sefer?

This question is reminiscent of another similar phenomenon.

Rav Yosef Karo spends an entire siman, an entire section in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 300) describing the concept of Melava Malka. Now, it could be because of the length of information the mechaber wanted to discuss. But there is only one se’if, one sub-section, and only one sentence in that section! For those of you who do not know, there are many simanim in the Shulchan Aruch which are very long. Sometimes there are 30-40 different se’ifim, sub-sections, all in one siman. The Shulchan Aruch could have easily put the brief halacha of Melava Malka at the end of the siman about Seudat Shilishis. Yet, despite its brevity, Rav Yosef Karo decided to give Melava Malka its very own siman. Why?

Explains Yalkut Gershuni (brought in Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa, Volume 2, Chapter 63), Rav Karo understood that already in his times, people were not careful iin fulfilling the mitzvah of Melava Malka. It was for this reason that he gave the mitzvah its very own siman in the Shulchan Aruch so it would get “prime-time” attention.

The same can be said about the mitzvah of seudas Rosh Chodesh which also has its own siman (419) and is also a very brief one sentence. Whenever the Shulchan Aruch felt that there was a weakening of a particular important mitzvah, he would give that mitzvah its own siman no matter how short it would be.

In B’Mechitzas Rabeinu, brief Torah thoughts and anecdotes from the life of Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky z”tl, (page 127), Rav Yaakov mentioned a sharp statement (derech tzachus) in relation to this. The pasuk says (Melachim 1, 18:21) “Ad masai atem poschim al shtei hase’ifim, for how long will you jump between two ideas.” In that pasuk Eliyhau HaNavi is criticizing Bnei Yisrael, asking how long they will continue to go from Hashem to worshipping the idol Baal. But, Rav Yaakov says, it can also refer to these two se’ifim, the se’if regarding Melava Malka and the se’if of Seudas Rosh Chodesh. How long will you Jews skip over these two mitzvos which the Shulchan Aruch hoped to focus attention on by giving each one its own siman?

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Missed the boat? Readers think not…
See Chronicles of Nov. 16

Dear Rachel,

As I was reading the letter written by “Missed the boat,” I was taken back in time to when our second to youngest daughter fell in love with a young man whom she met at a summer job. She was eighteen years old at the time and certainly didn’t need to rush into marriage.

She also had two still single older siblings and was sensitive to their feelings. At first we all thought that over the course of the following winter the young twosome’s ardor would cool, but that didn’t prove to be the case.

We couldn’t even be upset at our daughter because she was a good girl and up front about her relationship, and the boy who courted her was a serious and decent young man whose parents were casual friends of ours.

Extended family members chimed in with their varied opinions, but Grandma said it best: You can’t let a good thing go in this day and age when shidduchim are not so easy to come by. Grandpa agreed but for different reasons: It’s not healthy to date for so long. Let him do right by her and marry her.

I believe that in our particular situation, having more than one older sibling helped ease the discomfort, for it couldn’t be said or thought that the older was taking her time, etc. Obviously this was all about the younger, not the older. Still, the kallah-to-be sought her siblings’ whole-hearted approval before making it official and made sure that they played an active role in all the preparations for the big day.

Should I assume that there were no hard feelings to speak of? I can only say that there was no outward indication of any, and for that I am most grateful.

What became more complicated with time was that one of the older siblings was eventually skipped over and over, and that was hard on everyone. Despite that, she was a good egg, a doting aunt to her nieces and nephews, and she never blamed anyone for her loneliness or frustrations.

You were right on, Rachel, when you said, “thirty is hardly the end of the world.” My daughter who married past that age would back you up. She is today, baruch Hashem, blissfully happy and Hashem has blessed her with beautiful, delightful children of her own.

Relieved Empty Nester

Dear Rachel,

I read the letter written by Missed the boat with great interest. Years ago I lived near a chassidic family whose firstborn, a male, got engaged, married and divorced in quick succession. The next one up was a girl who was getting to be “of age” and there was much hope that her older brother would soon find the zivug meant for him.

Well, if pairing zivugim is said to be hard work, trying to find a shidduch for someone who had already been married can be at least three times as difficult. The point I’m getting at is that these parents saw no sense in holding up the rest of their brood, and a good many of them were married off before the oldest finally found his match.

Of course this is somewhat of a different case since he had already gotten married once, but it was painful regardless.

A nosy bystander

Dear Readers,

If the reaction via incoming mail is any indicator, it would seem that “younger skipping older” on the way to the chuppah is not all that uncommon — at least if one leaves the chassidic sect out of the equation. So why are the latter so adamantly opposed to such practice?

I posed the question to a chassid who seemed surprised at my naiveté and explained that the Torah’s injunction to honor one’s father and mother – kabed es avicha v’es imecha – encompasses the command to respect one’s older siblings. (This is not his personal view but is brought down by the Talmud.)

According to the Arizal, each sibling from the firstborn down is a link in the chain that connects their souls to their parents and from them to G-d, and thereby the mitzvah to respect parents extends to all older siblings.

Daf Yomi

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Do Not Add To Them! ‘Shabbos is not a Time for Tefillin’ (Shabbos 61a)

The Gemara cites a machlokes about wearing tefillin on Shabbos. As we all know, the accepted custom is not to wear tefillin on Shabbos. However, what is not clear is whether it is simply unnecessary to wear tefillin on Shabbos or actually forbidden.

Elsewhere, the Gemara cites two reasons for why tefillin are not worn on Shabbos (Eruvin 96a; Menachos 36b). One reason is based on the pasuk in parshas Bo, “They shall be for you as a sign upon your arm” (Shemos 13:9). The Gemara explains that tefillin must be worn as a sign on weekdays. Shabbos, however, is also referred to as a “sign” in the Torah; therefore tefillin are not worn as they are not necessary.

The Maharsha explains that according to all opinions this is the primary reason (see Aruch Hashulchan 30:3). The Rishonim (Smag, positive commandment 3; Rabbeinu Bachaye, parshas Lech Lecha) add that on weekdays, we have two “witnesses” who testify that we are servants of Hashem: bris milah, the sign of the covenant that Hashem made with us, as well as tefillin, which serve as a sign of our servitude to Hashem. Shabbos is also a sign of the unity of Hashem and the Jewish people, as the pasuk says, “It is a sign between Me and you,” (Shemos, 31:13).

No Bris Milah, No Tefillin On Shabbos

The Terumas Hadeshen (Teshuvos 2:108, cited in Birkei Yosef 31) asks whether an uncircumcised Jew must wear tefillin on Shabbos. Halacha dictates that if two brothers die as a result of bris milah, it is forbidden to circumcise a third brother. On a regular weekday, this third brother has only one “witness,” that of tefillin. On Shabbos, he would have an opportunity to have two: Shabbos and tefillin.

The Terumas Hadeshen states that this Jew should nevertheless not wear tefillin on Shabbos. He explains that the Smag drew the metaphor of two witnesses as an aggadah. He never intended it to be the basis for halachic conclusions. Therefore, an uncircumcised Jew is also exempt from tefillin on Shabbos.

The Radvaz (Teshuvos 2:334) adds that even according to the metaphor of the two witnesses, an uncircumcised Jew is exempt from tefillin on Shabbos. Why? The Gemara (Nedarim 31b) states that if a person makes a neder not to let uncircumcised people benefit from his possessions, he is forbidden to allow benefit to a gentile but he may allow benefit to an uncircumcised Jew. This is because the very mitzvah to perform bris milah, even if one is unable to, is a sign of the covenant between Hashem and the Jewish people.

Interestingly, the Rokeach (30, cited in Aruch HaShulchan) explains that bris milah alone is an insufficient sign since it testifies only to the covenant Hashem forged with us. Tefillin testify also to yetzias Mitzraim, as does Shabbos. Therefore, the sign of Shabbos can take the place of tefillin.

The Mechaber And The Zohar

The Mechaber (O.C. 31:1) rules quite clearly that it is forbidden to wear tefillin on Shabbos. “Shabbos is itself a sign,” the Mechaber explains. “By wearing a different sign, one denigrates the sign of Shabbos.” The Vilna Gaon (ibid.) points out that there is no source for this ruling in the Rambam or Tur. Rather, the Mechaber draws this ruling from the Midrash Ne’elam, the Zohar’s commentary on Shir HaShirim, which is cited at length in the Beis Yosef. This is one of the very few halachos that the Mechaber draws from the Zohar rather than Shas.

Tefillin On Shabbos Is Bal Tosif

According to the Mechaber’s explanation, wearing tefillin on Shabbos is not a Torah prohibition (see Aruch Hashulchan; Levush, ibid). However, the Magen Avraham (ibid.) cites the Rashba that wearing tefillin on Shabbos is a violation of bal tosif, the prohibition against adding mitzvos.

The Magen Avraham adds that this applies only if a person wears tefillin with the intention to fulfill a mitzvah. If he puts them on without this intention, he is not violating bal tosif (see Eruvin 96a). Nor is he demeaning the sign of Shabbos since he does not intend to wear them as a sign.

Mountains Hanging On Hairs

Friday, November 30th, 2012

You arrive home after shul on Friday night. All the dishes washed before Shabbat are locked in the dishwasher. You have no other eating utensils and you want to retrieve them for the Friday night meal. In order to take them out you have to unlock the door by turning the lever lock to the left. The action of the lever to unlock the door automatically turns off the panel indicator lights that advise you the dishwashing cycle is complete. So you cannot open the door without turning off the lights. What do you do?

Clearly, the act of retrieving the dishes from the dishwasher is, in itself, a permissible act on Shabbat. The problem is that it inevitably causes the melachah of switching off the indicator lights. This melachah is the inevitable and unintended result of retrieving the dishes, though it is of no use to its performer. An inevitable melachah that is of no use to its performer and that arises out of a permitted act is known in halachic terminology as psik reishe de lo neecha leh. We shall refer to it as the “inevitable, unwanted melachah.”

If one performed an inevitable, unwanted melachah, one is patur, which means exempt from any biblical liability. The question is whether one is allowed under rabbinical law to deliberately perform an inevitable, unwanted melachah such as, for example, turning the indicator lights off in order to retrieve the dishes.

The answer to this question depends on the classification of the inevitable, unwanted melachah and the existence or absence of any mitigating circumstances. If the inevitable, unwanted melachah is biblically prohibited, then according to the majority of halachic opinions one may not deliberately perform the permitted act that causes it. There is a minority opinion – that of the Aruch – that permits it, but the halacha does not adopt this minority opinion.

Accordingly, one may not, for example, wash one’s hands over a public lawn because even though washing one’s hands is permitted on Shabbat, it causes the inevitable, unwanted result of watering the grass. And watering the grass on Shabbat is classified under the biblical melachah of plowing and sowing.

Similarly, one may not open a door to the street on a windy day when the inevitable, unwanted result of the permitted act will be that lighted candles placed next to the door blow out.

What if the inevitable, unwanted melachah is not biblically prohibited but only rabbinically prohibited? Still, according to the majority of opinions, one may not deliberately perform the permitted act that causes the rabbinical melachah, except in a limited number of mitigating circumstances. Physical pain or discomfort or the performance of a mitzvah are examples of mitigating circumstances that might permit one to deliberately perform the permitted act that causes the inevitable, unwanted rabbinical melachah.

For example, trapping a bird inside one’s home is rabbinically prohibited. Yet if a wild bird flew into one’s house in winter, one would be allowed to close the windows to avoid the cold. This act is permitted even though it causes the inevitable, unwanted rabbinical melachah of trapping.

If the red berries on the hadas, the myrtle branch, are more numerous than the myrtle leaves, the hadas is invalid for arba minim. Yet if a friend of the hadas owner picks off the berries on Yom Tov for food, the owner of the hadas would be permitted to use it for the mitzvah of arba minim. Picking the berries in this way is permitted even though it causes the inevitable, unwanted melachah of fixing something for use – makeh bepatish – because it enables the performance of a mitzvah.

Is the inevitable, unwanted melachah of turning off the dishwasher indicator lights a biblical melachah or a rabbinical melachah? The biblical melachah of extinguishing fire was performed in the Sanctuary to produce glowing embers needed to smelt metal. Extinguishing fire for any other purpose not used in the Sanctuary is called a melachah she’eina tzericha legufa. Although biblically exempt from liability once performed, a melachah she’eina tzericha legufa is rabbinically prohibited and should not be deliberately performed. The majority of modern poskim agree that turning off an electric light involves the act of extinguishing fire and is therefore prohibited under the category of melachah she’eina tericah legufa. It is further accepted that the rabbis are less lenient with the melachah of extinguishing fire than with other rabbinical melachot.

Q & A: The Sandak (Part V)

Thursday, November 29th, 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 someone more than once.

The Shach (Yoreh Deah ad loc. sk 22) clarifies that the Rema does not mean that a person may not serve as sandak more than once. Rather, he should not serve as sandak for more than one boy per family.

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.

We quoted Rabbi Ari Enkin’s discussion of sandika’ot in his new sefer, Shu’t HaShulchani. He writes that serving as a sandak enriches one with material wealth, as well as long life full of spiritual wealth. Rabbi Enkin cites several authorities who argue that a person may serve as sandak twice; he states that the custom not to do so certainly does not apply to relatives. In fact, a father shouldn’t hesitate to serve as sandak for all of his children should he so desire. In some communities, the local rabbi is designated as the exclusive sandak for all children.

Rabbi Enkin concludes his discussion by pointing out that the custom of restricting someone from serving as sandak more than once is not found in the Talmud, and therefore is not truly binding.

Last week, we returned to the original question about the dispute over who would serve as sandak. Proverbs (3:17) states, “Deracheha darkei noam vechol netivoteha shalom – Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace.” A mitzvah should bring about pleasantness and peace; if it doesn’t, it has not been fulfilled properly. Therefore, strife over the sandika’ot detracts from the full fulfillment of that mitzvah. The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) refers to sandika’ot as an actual mitzvah that one should actively pursue.

The Mechaber (supra, Yoreh De’ah 260:1) states that the right to bestow any honor or segment of the mitzvah of brit belongs to the father alone. Thus, a grandfather may not “grab” this honor for himself if it goes against the father’s wishes. Even the mitzvah of kibud av has limits, and a parent is prohibited from insisting on specific honors from his child.

* * * * *

Rabbi Moshe Stern, the Debreciner Rav zt”l, discusses a similar situation where the mitzvah of kibbud av v’em and the mitzvah of sandika’ot came into conflict (Responsa Ba’er Moshe vol. 1; 60:9). The case concerned an individual who was ready to accept an offer to serve as sandak, but his father protested in the strongest terms that he did not want him to. Rabbi Stern was asked if the son must listen to his father.

In his response, Rabbi Stern cites the Knesset Yechezkel (Responsum 35), who was asked the same question. The Knesset Yechezkel answered that the son need not listen to his father and cited Kidushin 32a as his source. In that Gemara, Elezar b. Masya states: “If my father requests, ‘Get me a drink’ and there is another [passing] mitzvah to be done, I will put aside my father’s honor and perform that other mitzvah because both my father and I are obligated in that mitzvah.” Isi b. Yehuda says, “If the [passing] mitzvah can be done by others, then let them do it and I will do my father’s honor.”

Operation Pillar Of Defense Becomes A Cloudy Pillar

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

As I write this, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has just announced, during a televised press conference, his decision not to run in the coming elections and to leave politics.

There is jubilation in Gaza, as Hamas is selling the idea that Israel’s defense minister admitted defeat.

And there is jubilation on the right side of the Israeli political spectrum, with Minister Yuli Edelstein, a resident of Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion, expressing his joy at the departure of a man who recently suggested a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.

My daughter Sara and her husband, and all the residents of Bat Ayin Bet, certainly breathed a sigh of relief. Her house was destroyed one night during Netanyahu’s building freeze. (Her husband, a builder, put up two houses in its place.)

With this as a preface, let us analyze the outcome of the eight-day military campaign dubbed “Pillar of a Cloud,” based on a biblical image but mistranslated into English as “Pillar of Defense.”

We must ask: How did Pillar of a Cloud end up a very cloudy pillar?

The Hamas terrorists have been given credibility by achieving a cease-fire with Israel, through the efforts of the new president of Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate and anti Israel activist Mohamed Morsi.

In other words, Hamas is now a recognized political entity – one that will never rest until Israel is erased from the map. We have turned them into a pillar – a cloudy pillar, but a pillar just the same. This after Netanyahu had been so outspoken before the last election calling for the dismantling of Hamastan in Gaza.

And Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister and head of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, had said, upon joining the government, that one of Israel’s goals must be the end of Hamas rule in Gaza.

So what went wrong?

I think the choice of a holy name like Ahmud Anan, Pillar of a Cloud, demanded a ferocious biblical response to the years of constant rocket fire inflicted on the people of Israel.

God spoke to us from a pillar of a cloud (Tehillim 99). He appeared in a pillar of a cloud to Aaron to rebuke him for speaking badly about our teacher Moshe (Bamidbar 12:5).

The very first time we read of this pillar of a cloud, it guided the Jews as they left Egypt.

But our Pillar of a Cloud military campaign led Israel right back to Egypt because our leaders agreed that they must go to Cairo to complain about any violations of the cease-fire.

Once we dared put a Torah name to this campaign, we should have followed through to keep two rabbinically taught mitzvos. If someone comes to kill you, arise and kill him first. And when the opportunity comes to do a mitzvah, take immediate action. (We need to be quick in matzah-baking lest the matzah become chametz; Rav Osheya taught: replace the word matzah with mitzvah. Respond quickly.)

In the early stages of Pillar of a Cloud, Israel neutralized the chief of the Hamas military wing. The IAF bombed strategic sites, destroying most of the M75 long-range missiles in an initial blow. Reserve soldiers were called into action on the third day and were ready to start the ground battle – just when the Egyptian president demanded the opportunity to draw up a cease-fire agreement.

But the sudden tragic death of his sister caused him to become preoccupied with family matters, and that was our opportunity to quickly send in the troops and carry out the two above-mentioned mitzvos.

Benny Ganz, the IDF chief of staff, said his “solders are motivated, they are ready. It’ll be dangerous to leave them waiting at the border; they’re sitting ducks.”

Whose decision was it? The prime minister’s? He’s not the commander in chief. Lieberman’s? He’s only the foreign Minister. Ehud Barak is the defense minister, so it was his call, but he’s a man ready for unilateral withdrawals.

So in the first eight days of the month of Chanukah – when, for eight days and eight candles we celebrate the greatest ground battle in Jewish history, the victory of the Maccabees – we allowed ourselves to be pushed into a cease-fire that solves nothing and allows Hamas to rearm.

Petter Chamor In L.A.

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

More than 1,200 members of the Los Angeles Jewish community gathered recently to witness the observance of the mitzvah of petter chamor. Organized and led by Rabbi Yehuda Lebovics, a Los Angeles mohel, the event was held in the immense outdoor courtyard of Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu.

Rabbi Lebovics explained the mitzvah of petter chamor, which dates back to the time of yetzias Mitzrayim. As a reward for helping Bnei Yisrael carry their belongings out of Egypt, the donkey is rewarded with a mitzvah of its own; it is the only non-kosher animal whose firstborn is considered to be sacred.

Redeeming a firstborn donkey is first mentioned in Shemos 13:13. A Jew must take his firstborn donkey to a kohen and offer a lamb to the kohen as a redemption, or ransom. One of the basic ideas behind petter chamor is to show hakaras hatov by recognizing the roles that donkeys played during yetzias Mitzrayim. Most kohanim have never performed this ceremony during their lives, and most rabbanim have never had the opportunity to participate in this mitzvah.

Barry Weiss recited the berachah of “…al mitzvas petter chamor” and Rabbi Doron Jacobius, representing the Kornwasser and Hager families, recited the berachah of “…shehechiyanu.” Heshy Jacobs was the honored kohen who accepted the seh for the petter chamor. He then formally acknowledged acceptance of the lamb.

Singing and dancing followed the ceremony. As one person said: “I just had to come. Participating in such a rare mitzvah inspired me, and I’m sure many others, to come.”

The Doll’s Tale

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Dear Readers:

The following short story is fictitious, but the situation of Jewish children during the Holocaust being raised by gentile families or in Catholic convents and orphanages is not. While some were re-united with family members who survived the death camps – many were not, and remain lost both physically and religiously. This story is in memory of all the lost children. May they be reunited with their families with the coming of Moshiach.

The Doll’s Tale

Nine-year-old Ruchi was not at all upset when her brother and cousins nicknamed her “Ricki.” She liked the sound of it and it certainly suited her – had it been up to her, she would have been a boy. Boys had more fun and never had to wear dresses and other girly clothes. Her brother Dovi got to wear pants, giving him the freedom to hang upside down on the monkey bars in the park, and to turn cartwheels – while she was prohibited from doing such fun things – because hanging upside down while wearing a skirt was not tznuisdik. After all, she wasn’t three anymore!

And then there was the matter of the ridiculous gifts she got on her birthday or from out of town guests. Dovi would always get a fun toy like a truck, while she, without fail, would be given a useless doll with a smile plastered on its plastic face. Ruchi’s only consolation was that forthwith, the dolls would become perfect targets for Dovi’s water guns or darts. Often they would play “barber” delighting at the pale, pink head that would surface, the outcome of the doll’s “haircut.”

Yet Ruchi was to gain a deeper appreciation for these plastic entities than she would ever had imagined.

The 180-degree change in her attitude took place when she and her family traveled to Israel for the bar mitzvah of the grandson of Bubbi’s older half-sister, Malka. Malka was a rare entity, a child survivor of the Holocaust. She had been born in Poland – unlike Bubbi, who had been born in Israel several years after the war had ended.

Sadly, Malka had passed away three years earlier, at the young age of 65, just months after her and Bubbi’s father. Malka had had a massive stroke, brought on, it was said, by her extreme distress upon losing her father.

Erev Shabbos, Ruchi watched in wide-eyed astonishment as the bar mitzvah boy’s mother lit the candles, hugging a very ragged, ripped up cloth doll. After her tefillah, she kissed it, as did her children.

“What was that all about,” she asked her 11-year-old cousin, Chana, as they lay in their beds that evening. “Why did your mom do that – is that a family minhag? It’s weird!”

It was then Chana told her the story that would forever change Ruchi’s view on dolls.

It was 1942, in Nazi-occupied Poland, and their great-grandfather, Shimon, was beside himself. It was only a matter of days before he, his wife and daughter would be taken out of the c transported to the camps. A former employee of Shimon’s dry-goods store, a Polish girl who appreciated her kind and generous boss, had sent word that her aunt, a highly-placed nun at the convent on the outskirts of town, would hide his child.

Shimon was torn between his desperate desire to save his child’s life, and the horrible thought of placing her in this completely foreign environment.

Two days before a mass deportation, Shimon surrendered his three year old, blond haired daughter, Malka, into the waiting arms of a nun. He and his wife had left her crying inconsolably, fiercely clutching a Raggedy Ann doll – a gift from a relative in America and her constant companion.

Three years later, a gaunt and battered Shimon returned to his town, alone; his beloved wife Zisel had starved to death. While he was incarcerated in Auschwitz, thoughts of finding his little Malka were what kept him alive.

Shimon had been hearing horror stories of Polish families that had been entrusted with Jewish children deliberately disappearing with them. Sometimes, even if the child was found, he, or she, refused to leave the only home he knew, denying any connection with the walking scarecrows who showed up claiming to be kin. The child would make the sign of the cross to protect himself from the sickly looking vagabonds who belonged to the people who had killed the beloved savior.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/on-our-own/the-dolls-tale/2012/11/22/

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