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September 1, 2016 / 28 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘mitzvah’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

In your column of Oct 26th you published a letter written by B’Ahavat Yisrael (really??) who attacked you for being soft on the candy issue. Actually, she sounded hyper, like someone who overdid the sugar, in her stinging criticisms of the people she (in her signature) professes to love.

She claims that we have lost our “sense of Yiddishkeit” and lists a whole host of grievances she has against us. Besides our “obsession with sweets,” she takes issue with the way we give mishloach manos, the type of music we enjoy and the expense we go to when making a simcha, and to add insult to injury she cites our frum culture as mirroring that of a non-Jewish society.

With all due respect, I would like to address her faulty analysis. Regarding her criticism of the way we give mishloach manos, she’s apparently never heard of hiddur mitzvah (the beautifying of a mitzvah by embellishing it). An example of hiddur mitzvah: some of us go all out to decorate our sukkah, which of course doesn’t mean that a plain looking sukkah does not cover the bases.

The same with the esrog; most men vie for a beautiful esrog, despite the increase in expenditure, and some even use a magnifying glass to check for the tiniest blemish. Would she consider this to be in excess or a sign of materialism? It is neither.

Giving more than the traditional two mishloach manos and getting enjoyment out of applying our own personal touch to them is hardly frivolous. On the contrary, it is putting our G-d given talents to good use. She can present hers without flourish and stick to the minimum required if she so desires, but she is not right in begrudging others their indulgence in a hiddur mitzvah.

She might also keep in mind that those in a position to go all out in celebrating occasions like weddings are mostly the same people who dispense charity to the needy with a generous hand. One should not dictate to others how their money should be spent. There have always been rich people, those of moderate means, and the less privileged. Naturally their different lifestyles reflect their resources; this is the normal way of the world and always has been.

As for overloading on sweets, the subject that led to B’Ahavat Yisrael’s rant in the first place, most of us are aware of the boundaries of unhealthy eating. In fact, overeating altogether (doesn’t have to be sweet junk) is detrimental to our health. Education may be what’s needed; we must talk about it – as we are doing here – and schools would do well to emphasize and promote the value of good nutrition. If we drum it into our kids early on, they’ll be more likely to live that way down the road.

Another disturbing condemnation by B’Ahavat Yisrael concerns summer camp for children. “When did that start?” she asks with incredulity. Would she really rather that they stayed home with nothing to do? Summer camp happens to be a wonderful outlet for children and a healthy way for them to unwind from their rigid school year, make new friends, and learn in a more relaxed atmosphere. Day camp is a lifesaver for those uneasy about sending their children to overnight camp or who cannot afford anything but.

No, summer camp does not spoil our kids, as B’Ahavat Yisrael implies. It offers them healthy physical and emotional outlets in a structured environment. She opines that they should stay put and “earn a little money.” At what age does she suggest they go job-hunting? At eight? Ten, maybe? Thirteen? The enterprising adolescent can, by the way, earn a few dollars by working in camp while still enjoying the benefits of being on camp premises.

As for B’Ahavat Yisrael’s contention that home is the best place for children to be in the summertime, I’m sure those mothers who can’t afford to send their children to camp of any kind would be willing to straighten her out as to the pitfalls of having children at home with nothing to do but play computer games, watch TV, annoy the heck out of their sibs, and eat. Mostly junk. Sweet junk. Lots of it.

Rachel

Q & A: The Sandak (Part II)

Thursday, November 8th, 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: Last week we examined the source of the word “sandak” as well as the sandak’s role at the brit.

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.

* * * * *

I am very fortunate to have recently received the newly published sefer, Shut HaShulchani, a collection of very relevant halachic responsa in English authored by my esteemed chaver, Rabbi Ari Enkin of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. (The sefer is available directly from the author. Contact Rabbi Enkin at rabbiari@hotmail.com or call 011-972-52-579-1773.)

Rabbi Enkin discusses the matter of the sandak in great detail. He writes as follows (pg. 154-156):

“The sandak is the individual honored with holding the baby during the brit milah ceremony and it is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon at a brit. Although sandak is often translated as godfather, it likely comes from the Greek word suntekos, which means companion. The sandak is seated during the brit ceremony and holds the baby on his lap while the mohel performs the circumcision It is taught that when the sandak holds the baby on his lap, thereby including his knees and thighs in the performance of the mitzvah, he embodies the verse (Biur Hagra, Yoreh De’ah 265:44) ‘All my bones shall say, Who is like You, G-d?’ ”

Rabbi Enkin discusses the custom not to honor the same individual as sandak more than once within the same family. He agrees with the sources that compare the sandak to the kohen offering incense in the Beit Hamikdash and explains: “A kohen was only given the opportunity to perform this mitzvah once in his lifetime. This is because whoever offered the incense would become wealthy. Therefore, in order to offer as many kohanim as possible the opportunity of becoming wealthy, it was decided to appoint a different kohen to perform the incense offering every day.”

Likewise, the sandak, who represents the kohen offering the incense, will become wealthy. In addition, Rabbi Enkin continues, it is “a segulah for a long and good life. Therefore, we offer the opportunity of serving as sandak to as many different people as possible.”

Rabbi Enkin explains that once a certain individual is invited to serve as sandak, the baby’s parents should not renege and give the honor to another person. However, if the original offer was made before the child was born, and once the child is born the parents decide to honor a different person instead, it is permitted to do so.

There are a number of authorities who disagree with the restriction against appointing the same sandak twice. Rabbi Enkin discusses their reasoning as follows:

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

The Ever-Amazing Reb Elimelech (Part XIV)

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

As has been noted in a previous column, Reb Elimelech – like the Baal Shem Tov before him – asserted that pessimism and depression cause sin and spiritual apathy. Repentance (yes, even repentance!) that causes depression and sadness distances the Holy Presence.

Joy is absolutely essential for Jewish life. And although Reb Elimelech was determined to infuse all Jews with a state of simcha, he was especially concerned over the plight of orphans, and devoted special energy to arrange marriages for them.

The Baal Shem Tov was thoroughly foreign to the concept of evil. Indeed, when a despairing father inquired, “What shall I do with my son? He is so wicked!” the Baal Shem Tov, who shunned reprimands, characteristically counseled, “Love him all the more!”

This was a lesson that Reb Elimelech incorporated and would find essential in dealing with the unschooled and non-observant masses. Like those that preceded him, Reb Elimelech viewed his mission to be the spiritual elevation of the people – whether or not they were affiliated with chassidus.

The chassidic masters (Reb Elimelech is the perfect example) never remained cloistered in their homes or in the synagogues. They went out to the people and implored them to repent. “One cannot arrive at the proper and complete service of the Lord,” instructed Reb Elimelech, “without a guide that will direct toward the path to faith.”

Reb Elimelech championed emunah temimah (pure belief) above everything in the service of God. Like his predecessors, he focused on the importance of emunas tzaddikim (trusting the righteous) and what the responsibilities of a rebbe are. Namely, to raise the spiritual level of the masses who are mired in the pits of poverty – both materially and spiritually. It is the job of the leader to never seclude himself from the world and to be located among his people, so that he can hear their troubles and ease their burdens.

Reb Elimelech explained that some people serve the Almighty and perform good deeds under the impression that they are doing the Lord a favor, and accordingly deserve a reward. A consequence of this perverted thinking is that people need not work on themselves because they are assumedly good, benevolent individuals.

To counteract this mindset Reb Elimelech encouraged that before performing a mitzvah one should recite: “ha’reini oseh zos l’shem yichud kudsha b’rich hu u’shechintei, la’asos nachas ruach l’borei olami – I am engaging in this deed for the sake of the Almighty, so that I may cause pleasure to my Maker.”

For the very same reason he felt that serving God must be anchored in deep, not superficial, Torah learning. This includes Gemara with Rashi, Tosafos and the meforshim, and Shulchan Aruch and the poskim. Learning in depth and with diligence frees one from egotistical thoughts and cleanses the soul.

He instructed, “One should arise and pray, ‘May it be Thy will that my learning will motivate me to act with proper character and Torah knowledge. Spare me from interruption – even the slightest little disruption.’ ”

Among Reb Elimelech’s rules were: A Jew should guard himself against hating any of his folk, except for the wicked for whom no excuse can be found. He should not engage in any conversation at all before prayer, as it is a hindrance to concentration during davening.

One should speak gently to all men and see to it that one’s clothes are always clean.

Reb Elimelech pointed out four customs of zehirus (caution) that have becomes pillars of chassidus:

I) From the moment people arise in the morning, they must quickly wash their hands and accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven. Their very first steps must be with sanctity and purity, and this will set the tone for the rest of the day.

II) “Chassidus,” as mentioned in the Gemara, means not walking four cubits with an uncovered head, and to live with the awareness of what the yarmulke symbolizes – namely that there is a Ruler above.

III) “Purity of the Home” mandates a staunch religious education for boys and girls so that tradition is never in jeopardy of being abandoned.

IV) One must learn Torah in order to observe and fulfill the commandments. Even those who are not enrolled in a yeshiva are obligated to learn on a steady basis, each and every day.

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

The Berachah On Kiddushin

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

In this week’s parshah we learn of the episode whereby Avraham sent his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. Eliezer met Rivka and decided that she was right for Yitzchak. After discussing matters with her parents and her brother, Lavan, Eliezer was ready to return with Rivka to Avraham and Yitzchak. Prior to their departure Rivka’s family blessed her, saying that she should become “thousands of myriad…” and may her offspring inherit the gate of its foes.

Tosafos, in Kesubos 7b, quotes Maseches Kallah that derives from this pasuk that says the following: they blessed her and recited the berachah on kiddushin. Tosafos concludes that this is not a complete drasha since the actual wording of the pasuk is that their blessing was that she should have a lot of offspring. The Gemara in Kesubos 7b says that the berachah that we recite on kiddushin is “…asher kiddeshanu b’mitzvosav v’tzivanu al ha’arayos v’asar lanu es ha’arusos v’hitir lanu es hanesuos al yedei chuppah v’kiddushin – who commanded us regarding the forbidden relationships, and forbade us the betrothed, and permitted us to be with women who have had kiddushin and chuppah.”

There is a machlokes Rishonim as to whether the berachah that we recite on kiddushin is a birchas hamitzvos or a birchas hashevach. The Rambam, in Hilchos Ishus 3:23, says that one must recite a berachah on kiddushin just as one recites a berachah on all other mitzvos. It is implicit that the Rambam is of the opinion that the berachah is in fact a birchas hamitzvos.

The Rush, in Kesubos 1:12, asks several questions on those who opine that it is a birchas hamitzvos. One point that is perplexing to him is that the wording of the berachah of a birchas hamitzvos is generally short and to the point, i.e. “…asher kiddeshanu b’mitzvosav v’tzivanu al mitzvas…” However, the wording of the berachah that we recite on kiddushin is much lengthier, implying that it is not a birchas hamitzvos but rather a birchas hashevach. Additionally, he asks why we mention in the berachah what has become forbidden to us. After all, we do not mention the fact that we may not eat from an animal before it is shechted in the berachah that we recite on the mitzvah of shechitah. So why do we mention it by the mitzvah of kiddushin?

Note: As mentioned earlier, these questions must be addressed in accordance with the Rambam’s view that it is indeed a birchas hamitzvos.

Another question that one can ask on the Rambam is based on what the Rambam writes at the conclusion of that halacha. The Rambam writes that one must recite the berachah prior to performing the kiddushin. If one does the kiddushin without reciting a berachah, he may not recite the berachah thereafter. The Rambam wrote all of the halachos of berachos in Hilchos Berachos. There, he wrote the halachos as to when one performs a mitzvah without reciting a berachah. Generally the Rambam does not repeat halachos regarding the halachos of berachos, as they relate to each mitzvah. Why then does the Rambam repeat here the halachos of when one does not recite a berachah on the mitzvah of kiddushin?

I think that the answer to both of these questions lies in the Rambam’s wording of the mitzvah of kiddushin in his Sefer Hamitzvos. The Rambam writes in mitzvah 213 that we are commanded to “livol b’kiddushin – to only have relations after kiddushin,” and give the woman either an item of monetary value or shtar. It is evident from the Rambam that the mitzvah is not simply to perform kiddushin; rather the mitzvah is to live with a level of kedushah and to only have marital relations after performing kiddushin. Perhaps we can even say that if one dies immediately after giving a woman kiddushin and did not yet live with her, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah.

The Rambam, at the beginning of Hilchos Ishus, writes that prior to mattan Torah a person would meet a woman and if they both agreed to marry, they were married. After the Torah was given we were commanded not to act in that manner, but rather to first give the woman kiddushin. Hence this mitzvah is different in that its essence is not to conduct oneself without kedushah. Therefore it is not at all superfluous to mention the fact that we are forbidden to arayos, and that we are only permitted to have marital relations with a woman that has had kiddushin – for that is the mitzvah.

Rabbi Raphael Fuchs

So Many ‘Things’: A Personal Account of Hurricane Sandy

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

There it was, a backyard full of my basement furniture, and bags and bags of waterlogged papers. There is something very humbling about seeing your “things” laid out on the grass. Of course, my home in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, is just one of many in the region devastated by Hurricane Sandy. But since possessions are by definition personal, it gives one no comfort to know others have the same problem.

In my case this is just the beginning, because the water that flooded my house rose above the basement and came up to the first floor, causing major damage. So over the next few days my daily living items will also be making their way outside.

As I stood on my porch, many thoughts came to mind. Leaving aside the enormity of what I have to deal with, I couldn’t help but think of how much we accumulate over the course of years. I am not by any means a hoarder – but I was quite surprised to see how much I had saved. Whose lock of hair is that in the water-soaked bag? My sons are in their forties with children of their own, but I guess I couldn’t part with that little lock from a long-ago upsherin. Now I would have to.

The table and chairs sitting outside were connected to a chesed I had done a while back. Actually, it was only the first part of the chesed. That probably is why we are told that if one starts a mitzvah, one has to finish it. I will not be able to finish that one.

I suppose some of the things in the basement were junk, but so many others were dear to me. There was the set of my father’s machzorim with larger print for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that my mother gave me after my father died, with a beautiful inscription that only my mother was capable of writing. I still remember what she wrote, and that will have to be the memory I hold onto now that I can no longer hold those machzorim.

As I stood there, another memory came to me. It was about thirty-three years ago that my dear Aunt Sylvia died, and while my mother sat shiva it fell to me to empty out Aunt Sylvia’s small apartment. Everything Aunt Sylvia owned was in those two and a half rooms. And there I was trying to figure out what was valuable and what was not. Then again, valuable to whom?

I picked some things I thought my mother and my sister would like and I took some of the things that had special meaning to me. Much of the rest I discarded. But it wasn’t easy. I was crying as I worked on it. And when I was finished I promised myself I wouldn’t save so many things. Now, all these years later, I ask myself how it is that I indeed saved so very many things.

I think the answer is that while we live, different things have meanings to each of us. I saved the little card my son Zevie made for me when he was three years old in nursery school because I never could forget the joy on his face when he presented it to me.

I saved my children’s report cards, from first grade on, even those of the daughters who are now grandmothers themselves because – well, just because. I saved some of the birthday cards my parents gave me over the years because, as I mentioned above, my mother had such a wonderful way with words. And the list goes on and on.

My husband’s medical school diploma and other items related to his medical achievements were in the basement along with some of his other things. In a strange way I would feel a sense of comfort in touching them. It will soon be his second yahrzeit, and I miss him very much.

My eyes filled with tears as I stared at what was in those clear garbage bags, but then I quickly admonished myself. How could I tear up over “things” when I have my life and my health? But I stopped beating myself up about it almost as soon as I started.

Naomi Klass Mauer

Love Of Fellow Jews

Monday, November 5th, 2012

The kinship and love between Jews is one of the cardinal principles and hallmarks of Judaism and none could match Rav Eliezer-Lippa, father of the two great chassidic leaders Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk and Reb Zusha of Hanipoli, when it came to this particular characteristic.

Rav Eliezer-Lippa would spare no money or effort when it came to helping out a fellow Jew who was in desperate straits. Above all, he took a special interest in those poor Jewish tenants-farmers who were constantly being harassed by the feudal landlords because they fell behind in the staggering tax payments imposed on them.

Redeeming A Prisoner

It was the custom of the landlords to take these poor Jews and throw them into prison until they or someone else paid the debt. Rav Eliezer-Lippa was one who gave all that he owned for the mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim (redeeming the prisoners).

One time he heard that in a nearby town a certain Jewish tenant-farmer had been imprisoned by the landlord because he was unable to pay his rents and taxes. Leaping into his wagon, he took all of his money and drove off to see what he could do. When he arrived at the landlord’s home, however, he was told that the amount owed was twice as much as he had.

He pleaded with the landlord to accept the money that he had in payment of the debt and free the prisoner. His pleas were effective and the man was freed. Following this, the landlord turned to Rav Eliezer-Lippa and said, “I see that you are a truly good and righteous man and I am sure you are also an honest man in business. I have a business proposition you might be interested in.”

“What is it?” asked the rav.

The Proposition

“I have a certain relative who is a wealthy landlord in a town not far from here. He has a great deal of agricultural produce – wheat, barley, flax – that he is interested in selling, but he has been looking for an exceptionally honest merchant whom he can trust.

“I am sure you would be the perfect man and I will give you a letter to him so that he will sell you his merchandise.”

When Rav Eliezer-Lippa heard these words he replied, “I thank you very much for your trust in me but I am afraid that I have no money with which to buy the merchandise. You see, every available penny that I had, I gave you to redeem the prisoner.”

An Offer

When the landlord heard this, he said, “In that case, I will do this. Here is the money back and use it to buy produce. When you have earned your profit I am sure that you will come back and repay me.”

“I appreciate this very much,” said the rav. Taking the money and the letter he set off for the town to buy the merchandise and realize a handsome profit.

Arriving at the merchant’s home he explained why he was there and showed him the letter. The landlord read it and said, “My relative speaks very highly of you and he recommends that I do business with you. Since I have great respect for his judgment, I agree to it.”

The two men sat down and worked out a price and all the other necessary details. Then Rav Eliezer-Lippa went down to the granaries to look over the produce.

As he was walking with one of the servants he heard a terrible groan coming from one of the nearby buildings.

“What is that?” he asked in horror.

“Oh, that is a Jew who has been imprisoned by the landlord because he is behind in his debts. The landlord has decided to starve him to death.”

When Rav Eliezer-Lippa heard this he rushed back to the landlord and cried, “I wish to pay the Jewish prisoner’s debt immediately. Here is the money so you can release him.”

Prepare To Leave

When the Jew had been released, Rav Eliezer-Lippa prepared to leave. Where are you going?” asked the landlord in surprise. “What about the business deal that we have?”

Rav Eliezer-Lippa stood straight and stared at the landlord directly in the face saying, “I will be quite frank with you. Since I have seen with what cruelty you behaved towards this Jew, I have decided that I have no desire to do business with you in any way even if this means losing enormous profits.”

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Keep Up The Good Work

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I feel extremely guilty about my elderly father and am filled with anger toward my sisters and brothers in regards to his care.

First the latter: My five siblings give me, the youngest child and one of three daughters, little help in caring for our father, instead they provide me with constant advice and criticism. Unfortunately I am the only one who takes care him (I visit every day); my father lives near me and has a full-time attendant. Some of my siblings live nearby and others further away, but they only visit him occasionally – and basically expect me to do everything.

My three brothers feel that as sons, they are obligated to do less. My two sisters claim that they are busy with their married children. Well, I also have married children but somehow find the time for our elderly father. One of the things that angers me is the remarks they make. For example, they’ll say that since I was his favorite child, I am the one obligated to care for him. As our parents were wonderful to all of us, I cannot understand how they can turn their backs on him now – just when he needs us most.

At the same time, I feel guilty that I don’t do more for him. My father complains a lot, causing me to sometimes become angry with him. I find it hard to spend a lot of time with him, although I visit every day, take him to doctors, cook his favorite foods, and make sure he has everything he needs.

I need your advice on how to deal with my anger toward my siblings and guilt about my father.

Angry and Guilty

Dear Angry and Guilty:

It is amazing that one father is able to care for six children, but six children cannot care for one father.

I am impressed by your devotion to your father and your adherence to the mitzvah of kibud av. What I would suggest is that in dealing with your father’s complaining try to validate his feelings. You may find that this helps decrease his complaining. Often when people complain, the natural response from the person forced to listen is to say, “It is not so bad, so stop complaining.” This usually makes them complain more. Saying to your father, “I know how you must feel; it is not easy to feel that way,” may make him realize that he’s being heard and understood. As a result, he may complain less.

With respect to your siblings, you should confront them in a nice manner. At a minimum, you will feel better having told them how upset you are and why. They may be rationalizing to themselves that you enjoy having all of the responsibility.

Use the “I feel” message, as others are usually less defensive when confronted with that strategy. Say something like, “I know that you all have busy lives, Baruch Hashem, and you probably do not realize that I feel I end up having to take care of most of Daddy’s needs. Let’s make a schedule whereby everyone can chip in, so that none of us feels overwhelmed.” If they don’t increase their involvement in your father’s care, at least make it clear that you feel bad when you receive their advice and criticism, especially when you are the one handling most of the heavy lifting. Unfortunately, it is generally the one who does the most who winds up receiving the most criticism. But please take solace in the sechar that you are receiving for honoring your father.

If you validate your father’s feelings and he continues to complain, validate your own feelings. This does not mean that you should limit your visiting time with him and beat yourself up for sometimes feeling annoyed and frustrated. Remember that taking care of an older person is very difficult, as he or she often does not feel well and thus may be more critical and irritable. With this in mind, let yourself off the hook when you are feeling upset.

While it is certainly important to treat your father with loving care and not show him your annoyance in any way, if you sometimes feel that way (which is only normal), do something nice for yourself instead of feeling guilty. Also, remember two things: your reward may not be evident in this world, and your children will probably accord you the same respect that you are demonstrating to your father.

Dr. Yael Respler

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/keep-up-the-good-work/2012/11/02/

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