Yiddishkeit on Vacation
Though we all assume a somewhat more relaxed lifestyle during the summer months, our unique Jewish attribute of living lives of halachic exploration, questioning every aspect of our religious experience, continues unimpeded. So if one is in the Catskills, or if his rabbi is there, where should both routine and special sheilos be directed?
As a genuine annual service to the observant community, the Hisachdus Horabbonim, the chassidishe rabbinic organization headquartered in Williamsburg, issues its contact list of qualified rabbis who stand ready to receive and respond to sheilos during the summer months. An army of Torah respondents stands ready to respond to halachic inquiries as well as to explain the meaning of a critical word in Daf Yomi.
This is in conjunction with a number of general guidelines issued by the Hisachdus relating to proper conduct and religious observances incumbent during the entire year, including the summer months. The Hisachdus issues its list of directives every year. The list has been developed through long years of hard experience and is continually updated. The following conveys the Hisachdus spirit:
Summertime Erev Shabbos
Many camps, bungalow colonies, and hotels begin Shabbos earlier than the standard 18 minutes before sunset. In scheduling Friday departure times to the Catskills, or to anywhere else for that matter, confirm when exactly Shabbos begins at your destination. Under no circumstances should anyone begin to travel late on Friday afternoon. In addition to a long list of ongoing construction projects, highways and roadways are routinely congested at such times, even when the weather is nice. When heavy traffic opens up and begins to move, one might be tempted to speed and drive dangerously to make up lost time, something that must be absolutely avoided. If your drivers license is not in order, suspended, or revoked, your may very well spend Shabbos in jail. If in doubt, call 518-474-0841 to confirm validity of your drivers license. Also, do not forget the rule requiring drivers to move over for emergency vehicles.
Unavoidable delays may encroach on proper Shabbos times and create great difficulty in proper Shabbos observance. Many rabbis recommend that Friday travelers take with them candles, challahs, and a bottle of wine or grape juice. Those traveling to be with chassidisherebbes cannot rely on Divine intercession and must take all precautions and make all necessary preparations. In addition, last year several leading rabbis issued a proclamation advising that in the Catskills, because of its altitude, sunrise and sunset are a few minutes later than indicated in most directories and calendars. Therefore, they ruled, Motzaei Shabbos times are actually five minutes later.
Every camp, hotel, and bungalow colony must ensure that its eruv was properly designed and securely installed. A rabbi renowned for expertise in eruvin should be consulted to guarantee the eruv meets all halachic criteria. The Hisachdus, without charge, will dispatch such a rav upon request. A reliable, learned individual should be appointed to assume the responsibility of checking the eruvevery Friday to ensure it remains in full and exacting compliance with the instructions of the overseeing rav.
Kashrus on Vacation
While on vacation, one must maintain the kashrusstandards adhered to all year. Every food item purchased must be checked for a familiar kashrus certification. If unsure, use your cell phone to call your rabbi, or any rabbi listed here, or a rabbi known to you to be reliable. Kashrus Magazine’s summer issue is highly recommended as a great source of information.
Lakes and Swimming Pools – Strict Guidelines
Swimming pools must be secured to prevent toddlers and young children unauthorized entry. The gate must be locked and inaccessible at all times a supervising responsible adult is not present. When the gate is open, an adult, preferably one with life-saving training, must be present and in charge. Every swimming pool must have one individual designated as responsible to oversee all pool matters. Those swimming in lakes must be accompanied by at least one other person. Swimming pools must have appropriate partitions to preserve modesty.
The issue of life insurance for family breadwinners (usually husbands) and family caretakers (usually wives) is a non-negotiable need and applies all year round. The advertisements and flyers seeking contributions to maintain families that have lost a parent sadly abound. One such tragedy is one too many. No one is immune. No one is exempt. The cost of term life insurance of $500,000 for a healthy man age 30 is approximately $20 per month. The obligation and necessity for life insurance must be taught at chassan-kallahclasses. Insurance acquired at an earlier age is considerably cheaper; hence the younger one begins the better. This is not only mandatory for a yeshiva rebbi; it is an absolute necessity for every family breadwinner and caretaker, regardless of profession.
Find a Mikveh
In selecting a mikveh during your vacation, ascertain that a qualified rabbi has approved it. No one should ever use a mikveh without another person present. A lake or a swimming pool does not constitute a kosher mikveh. In the Catskills and summer resorts, the following mikvehs are functioning and are under qualified rabbinical supervision: Bethlehem, NH 603-869-3336; Ellenville 845-647-4472 and 845-647-6846; Fleischmans 845-254-6349 and 845-254-4880; Liberty 845-292-6677; Monsey 845-371-0211; Monticello 845-794-6757 and 845-794-8470; South Fallsburg 845-436-3333; Swan Lake 845-845-292-3703 and 845-292-8031; White Lake 845-583-9702; and Woodridge845-436-4987 and 845-436-7960.
Behave in Public Picnic Areas
When using public picnic areas, whether in a park or comfort station on a highway, one is required to always act properly, maintain cleanliness, and not use any public grill. Foods purchased at picnic concessions must also have an acceptable kashrus certification.
Torah Lectures and Shiurim
In order to continually refresh the soul as well as the body, every bungalow colony and hotel must endeavor to arrange and organize Torah lectures, shiurim, and study sessions for men, women, and children. These shiurim should be arranged for Fridays, Shabbos, Sundays, and every weekday.
Stumped? Call a Rabbi
As questions arise during the summer months when one is away from home or one’s congregational rabbi may be serving elsewhere in a summer capacity, qualified rabbis are standing by at the ready to respond to your inquiries. Do not hesitate to call. The following is the updated and expanded list of Hisachdus and other qualified rabbis by location, in alphabetical order, on call:Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum