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December 19, 2014 / 27 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘point’

A Thank You from JewishPress.com

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Dear Readers,

We would like to thank everyone who has opened their hearts and offered to open up their homes this coming Shabbat to residents of the south . We received close to 100 hosting offers, and given the short notice this is truly a great accomplishment and a tribute to all our readers.

We have worked very hard with many of the organizations taking part in this to match up households with guests, based on availability and other parameters such as family sizes, region, etc. There are many organizations working on this and we shared lists to try for the greatest chance of success.

If you were not contacted at this point than you will probably not be for this coming Shabbat (I may be wrong).

If you were contacted – lucky you – I am envious. Please write us and tell us how it was.

We will keep all your names on file for a few weeks in case the need is still there. Should you be needed in the future you will be contacted (you can always decline at that point).

Thank you again for being the wonderful people you are and for being loyal readers of the Jewish Press.

Shabbat Shalom

Dovid Schwartz
Publisher
JewishPress.com

Road To Recovery

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Dear Brocha,

As I write this letter I am overcome with emotions. Relief, fear, trepidation, elation…the feelings are all jumbled up inside of me.

Please allow me to back track.

My daughter, who recently turned 20, just left to rehab. After four years of denial, lies, manipulation, anger and chaos she finally admitted she has a problem with alcohol.

Her drinking started at a school Shabbaton. Some of her so called friends brought liquor and they drank that Shabbos away. Since then she has been continuously sneaking drinks.

It took my husband and me a considerably long while to fully grasp the severity of the problem. Eventually, we finally emptied our house of all alcoholic drinks, informed the local liquor store that she should not be permitted to purchase any alcohol (evidently, there are various frum liquor store owners who will permit under age children to purchase alcohol if they say it’s for their parents, without any verification) and limited her access to money.

At that point, out of desperation, she figured out how to replace straight alcohol with mouthwash. What a nightmare! The mouthwash abuse was impossible to control! Additionally, it seems that it was much more damaging to her liver than regular alcohol. Recently, with Hashem’s help and the involvement of both a rav and an interventionist, she was able to admit that she had a real problem and to enter rehab.

While I am hopeful and happy that she is in a rehab, I need to know if you can advise me on how to deal with the phone calls. My daughter keeps calling and telling me how awful the food is, how she doesn’t like the other clients, feels restricted and various other complaints. Almost every time I see her phone number on the caller ID I start to cringe wondering what the issue is going to be.

By nature I am a very giving person. When she complains about the food, I try to send her home cooked meals. When she gets into arguments with her roommates I try speaking to her counselors about switching her room. The list goes on and on.

I am unsure if I am helping or hurting when I try interceding on her behalf. I am hearing terms like co-dependent and enabler and am very confused. At what point does helping become unhealthy?

This has become a major point of contention between my husband and me. He is more of a disciplinarian and feels that I need to take a tougher stance with our daughter.

Please advise.

A Giving Mom

Dear A Giving Mom,

Congratulations!

You should be very happy that your daughter is finally on the road to her recovery! She still has a long and difficult road ahead of her. She will need to learn more about herself and retrain her self-perception. She needs to learn how to be real with her emotions and to be in control of them and not vice-versa. She needs to learn how to live, laugh and appreciate life again.

Most people enter the rooms of recovery kicking and screaming. They are usually upset that they “were caught” or “trapped” and now have to learn how to live sober.

It is hard work. Very hard work!

There is shame, guilt and various other forms of emotional pain they now have to learn to deal with as opposed to numbing themselves.

On the other hand, you should be using the time your daughter is in rehab to learn more about yourself.

For the past few years your daughter’s issues have been the sole focus of everything. If there are other children at home you should be spending considerably more time with them.

Additionally, you mentioned the terms co-dependent and enabler. The truth is that many loved ones who live with addicts inadvertently assume that role.

The addict becomes the drug.

Our “high” comes when there are no incidents and they appear to be doing well. Then, when they fall, we fall with them.

Your job is to learn how to live in peace and serenity, independent of the addict. You should be looking for Al-Anon meetings in your area. Your entire immediate family needs to find recovery.

A Small Jewish World

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Two recent experiences served to drive home the point to me that – with apologies to the popular Disney musical boat ride “It’s a Small World” – it really is a small Jewish world.

On August 23, together with five other members of Kesher Israel Congregation, my wife Layala and I attended the Cantorial Council of America’s 52nd annual dinner at Kutsher’s Country Club in New York’s Catskill Mountains. At the dinner, KI’s beloved cantor, Seymour Rockoff, was awarded the Dr. Karl Adler Memorial Award for the Preservation and Enhancement of Jewish Music Education.

Everything about the program was wonderful, especially hearing Cantor Rockoff’s childhood friends and cantorial colleagues reminisce about their shared yeshiva experiences of so many years ago.

The evening began with the Minchah service. I was a bit surprised when one member of our shul’s contingent handed me a Hertz Chumash instead of a siddur. Seeing my confusion, he opened it and pointed to the Kesher Israel Congregation dedication sticker on its inside cover.

What on earth was an old Chumash from KI (donated by one of our shul’s most beloved Sisterhood presidents, of blessed memory) doing in a Catskills hotel?

Then it hit me. About four years ago, the shul decided there was no reason why hundreds of our older Hertz Chumashim should remain unused and stored away in boxes. KI’s board authorized me to find Jewish institutions that might be able to put them to use. Eventually I found homes for most of those Chumashim in synagogues, college campuses, Jewish camps, and retreat centers across the country.

That night in the Catskills, KI’s contingent had chanced upon some of our old Chumashim, the pages of which were once again being turned by worshipers eager to follow the weekly Torah reading.

I know that books are inanimate, but it was almost as if our KI members heard those Chumashim saying, “Thank you for taking us out of those storage boxes and putting us back into circulation. We were meant to be held and used by Jews of all ages. We’re enjoying the Catskills, and some of our friends are having a great time at the Princeton Hillel. Thanks for realizing that we still have plenty of life left in us.”

That same month, my wife and I enjoyed a visit to the beautiful state of Colorado. The vistas around us were breathtaking, and it was wonderful to recite together a special berachah while gazing out at God’s magnificent Rocky Mountains.

Near the end of our stay, while taking in the sights of Cheyenne Canyon Park (near Colorado Springs), something caught my eye. There are so many sheer rock faces in Colorado that it attracts many rock-climbers, and we saw them everywhere.

But what was it I had noticed? We had just driven past a group suiting up to climb a canyon wall. Like all the other climbers in the park, they were loaded with gear: ropes, packs, carabiners, helmets, etc. However, each climber in this particular group was wearing an OD (olive drab) green military uniform. I knew right away that those uniforms were definitely not current U.S. issue. I had a hunch they were Tzahal (Israel Defense Forces) uniforms, but what would Israeli chayalim be doing in the middle of Cheyenne Canyon Park?

We turned the car around and pulled up to them. I quickly spotted the embroidered “Tzahal” tabs above their breast pockets. I jumped out of the car and began shaking their hands.

“I’m Akiva and this is my wife, Layala,” I said. I told them about my two brothers living in Israel; they told us where in Israel they lived, and we enjoyed a short, friendly chat.

We asked them why they were in the middle of Colorado. They were pretty tight-lipped; and all they told us was that they were in the park to practice rock-climbing skills. As they clearly were not able to share too much information, we wished each other well and parted ways.

I immediately called my brother Josh in Israel (he served as an IDF combat medic) to ask if he could make any sense of why we had just stumbled upon a group of uniformed Tzahal chayalim in the middle of Colorado. He told me that after a helicopter full of IDF personnel had crashed in Romania a few years ago, Israelis demanded to know why their husbands, sons and brothers were training in a foreign country. At that point word got out that the IDF sends select units of soldiers all over the world to train (unarmed) in the environments of friendly nations.

No! No! Don’t Rebuild Galut!

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

I know that I promised to lay the sledgehammer aside for awhile, but a few of yesterday’s news items made me batty. In one of them, the UJA-Federation of New York announced it was earmarking ten million dollars in emergency hurricane relief to its local network agencies and synagogues. Chevre! Chaval al hakesev!

Another thing that made me bonkers was the video appeal of Mordechai Ben David showing his damaged recording studio and asking people to donate money to rebuild his battered hometown of Seagate.

When will Diaspora Jews get the message?

Now, don’t accuse me of not having compassion. I sympathize with Sandy’s victims as much as the next guy, believe me. That’s not the point.

The point is that Jewish life in the Galut is supposed to come to an end. If Hashem has smashed things down, why rebuild them? The exile is a curse. A punishment. By definition, it’s not meant to last forever. We’re not supposed to make exile in foreign lands into our permanent home. So if Hashem knocks down a Diaspora community, or a recording studio, why rebuild them? So that the next hurricane, or earthquake, or pogrom can smash them down once again?

Brothers and sisters of New York and New Jersey– rebuild your washed-out communities in Israel! Mordechai Ben David, Avraham Fried, and Shwekey  – we have beautiful recording studios in Israel, as dry as can be! Instead of coming here for concerts on Chol HaMoed Sukkot and Pesach, come here to live, and give your holiday concerts in Brooklyn instead! It’s a lot safer living in Israel!

“It can never happen inAmerica,” they always claim when we warn them.

Pay attention, my friends. Hashem has many messengers. The Almighty can use anti-Semitism and persecution to shatter the fantasy of galut, or He can use fires, earthquakes, and floods to drive his recalcitrant children back home toI srael. The destruction that the shiksa Sand yhas left in her wake is just a warning. Brothers and sisters, we have been saying it all along. Life is much more dangerous in America than it is in Israel. Wake up! Read the writing on the wall before it is too late! Your bastions of Yiddishkeit, and friends in high places, and Jewish Federations won’t help you. Not in Seagate, Englewood, Long Island, or even in Boca. Don’t make the mistake by pretending that this hurricane was just a freak outburst of nature. Everything that happens in the world is from Hashem, and it’s all for the sake of the Jews. So take some good advice and sell your houses now before there is nothing left of them. Come home to Israel while you can.

Get the message?

So Now What?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

There it is: four more years of Barack Obama. What does it mean for Israel?

The bilateral talks with Iran run by Valerie Jarrett will continue. One can hope for the best, but it is very unlikely that an agreement will be reached that will include the effective dismantling of Iran’s bomb-building capability. It’s not at all comforting to think that Israel’s security will be in the hands of Jarrett, Obama’s Chicago fixer. One can speculate what Romney might have done differently, but that is not an option now.

It’s certain that the Iranian regime will not abandon the goal which will bring it geopolitical primacy in the region and for which it has striven (and its people have suffered) mightily, except if it is forced to do so by a credible threat of force. Will Obama make such a threat? What if the Iranians call his bluff? Will he be prepared to take action that would triple the price of oil, and destroy any chance of success for his domestic agenda? Will he be prepared to risk American lives in what would be called a “war for Israel?”

He will make a deal, a deal that will be satisfactory for the US and for Iran. For the US, it will have to appear as though the Iranian program has been derailed, or at least put on hold for the foreseeable future (a few years, in today’s world). For Iran, it will have to allow the regime to continue to put the pieces together to allow a rapid breakout as a nuclear power. It will naturally include a relaxation of economic pressure on Iran — the only thing more important for the regime than getting nuclear weapons is staying in power.

As far as Israel is concerned, nothing is as important as the Iranian question. It’s unlikely that a US-Iran deal will satisfy Israel, because Israel is not at the table. The question originally posed by Ehud Barak will remain: when will Iran enter the “zone of immunity,” when will it reach the point that no practical Israeli action can prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons? The deal may change the point at which this occurs, but it will not change the logic of the situation.

The deal will bring prestige to the Iranian regime — it will be played as though Iran forced the Great Satan to blink — and will improve their economy, thus making regime change less likely. Obama may have succeeded in holding off an Israeli strike against Iran so far, but it is still almost certain to occur.

I doubt that Obama will do much about the Palestinian issue  the short term. He must understand by now that there is simply no overlap between Israeli and Palestinian positions of such things as refugees, Jerusalem and the continued existence of a Jewish state. On the other hand, there is a danger that unfettered by electoral considerations, he and his advisers will give free rein to their undisguised pro-Palestinian ideology, and  move even further in their direction. I think it’s harder to predict what the administration will do in this area, because it is almost entirely determined by ideology, and not perceived interests. The administration does not appear to see the fate of Israel as especially relevant to practical US interests.

I do expect continued pressure for ‘regime change’ in Israel. Obama apparently feels that PM Netanyahu is an obstacle, and will do his best to help the opposition. His poorly-hidden dislike and disrespect for Israel’s Prime Minister is remarkable, especially compared with his attitude toward other foreign leaders, especially Islamists like Turkey’s Erdogan and Egypt’s Morsi — not to mention his remarkable obeisance to the king of Saudi Arabia, one of the countries whose political ideology and human-rights behavior is about as far from American ideals as can be imagined.

In these areas, I think a Romney victory would have made a significant difference. Romney clearly understands the Palestinian lack of interest in coexistence — he explained it eloquently at one point — and apparently has a warm relationship with PM Netanyahu. He does not appear to share the academic leftist view that characterizes the Obama Administration, one in which Israel plays the role of a colonial power, and the main cause of conflict is Palestinian ‘rights’ rather than Arab rejectionism. But again, this is not an option now.

Things You See from Over Here

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

A mega-popular song by one of Israel’s better female vocalists, Yehudit Ravitz, goes:

You took my hand in your hand and told me / Let’s go down to the garden / You took my hand in your hand and told me / Things you see from over there – you don’t see from over here.

I’ve been preoccupied by that notion since the crazy pictures of Hurricane Sandy started arriving here, in safe and dry Netanya, Israel. My initial reaction was a deep, overwhelming empathy. It’s people I know and love who are facing this monster of a storm, it’s the cityscapes of 37 years of my life which are being washed up and flooded; this is not a story about a tsunami in some anonymous far-eastern country where the images of terror and loss are somehow not completely real, unless the daughter or nephew of someone you know happen to be on a self-discovery journey over there, at which point that faraway tsunami turns very personal instantaneously.

I imagine that my friends in Israel experienced the horrors of 9/11 in a similar fashion. The friends who were most deeply affected were those who had spent quality time in NY City, and so they felt every bit of destruction on a very personal level.

It so happens that our daughter is back in the States, on a long trip to celebrate her 21st birthday, and so, naturally, our level of alertness and anxiety is that much higher. My sister lives in downtown Manhattan, in one of the Grand Street co-ops, close to where my wife and I lived for so many years.

We stare at the images of devastation, both to personal property and to the very shoreline of the Eastern Seaboard, and we are aghast. We receive the emails from all the local sources to which we still subscribe, out of habit, and we read about a life without power and water, with empty store shelves and gas pumps. We experienced something similar in the blackout of the summer of 2003, but the whole thing lasted a mere two days. I recall sitting on the porch on a Friday night and seeing how, neighborhood by neighborhood, the lights came back on. But today we read about whole neighborhoods who’ve gone a week without power and running water. That’s very scary and very personal.

Now we read of a new storm, a “nor’easter,” that’s about to hit the very neighborhoods that have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy. We cringe at the thought of what that would feel like. How can anyone just go on surviving one blow after another from “Mother Nature” – and winter has only just begun.

I don’t care, at this point, to engage in whether these disasters are the result of global warming, global change, or global everything is just the same. There’s no doubt in my mind that, for this and many other reasons, the United States of America is becoming a harsher place in which to reside. I must confess that I’m not seeing very good things happening in the near future in America. And I love America, I even believe in American exceptionalism – but one must be blind, or at least seriously nearsighted, not to see the writing on the wall.

My colleague Tzvi Fishman has been writing here for the past few months about how living in Diaspora is practically a crime against God (I’m stretching it a bit, obviously, but that’s the gist of it). I’m starting to think that living in Diaspora is plain foolish.

It used to be that Diaspora Jews were encouraged to come to Israel because Israel needed them. I don’t believe this is any longer the case. Israel is doing fabulously well at its current state. It has the highest employment record among all the Western democracies, it has one of the highest-growth GDPs, it has one of the best medical care systems, the finest highways, more institutions of higher education per capita than anywhere else in the world, more books published per capita than anywhere else, and fantastic produce. Despite some obvious security difficulties, it is damn close to paradise. Israel is doing fine.

It’s Diaspora Jews who desperately need Israel at this point. It’s a new concept to many. We’ve been used to thinking about Israel as the place where we look for spiritual experiences, where we discover our historic past, where we come to terms with our national feelings. But to view Israel as a much, much better place than the United States in terms of creature comforts – that’s not a widely shared notion. All I can say is, check it out.

The Making of a President and the Making of a Gadol

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

I must say that I was a little bit amused by the video featured on Aish.com. In about 3 minutes Mrs. Lori Palatnik proudly explains the difference between how Americans choose their leaders and how Orthodox Jews chose their leaders. Choosing a President in this great country of ours is a democratic process, but it is heavily influenced by money and power; ads and sloganeering; and smearing the opponent. Politics at its worst one might say. Certainly the best man available for the job may not be elected, or even running.

Contrast that with how Jewish leaders in Orthodoxy are chosen. Gedolim are chosen by rabbinic peers she said with pride. Those peers recognize that the greatest man of the generation is one whose Torah knowledge supersedes all others.

The example she gave is Rav Moshe Feinstein. He did not run for anything. He was not elected by the people. Rabbinic peers saw his responsa on Jewish Law and realized that the breadth and depth of his Torah knowledge superseded theirs. Hence he was chosen as the rabbinic leader of the generation – the Gadol HaDor.

I had to smile when I saw that. I’m sure Mrs. Palatnik is a very nice woman – sincere in her pride about how Jewish leadership is chosen. But despite the fact that in theory, the Gadol HaDor is supposedly chosen based on his level of Torah knowledge by people qualified to do so, it doesn’t always work out that way. Nor is Judaism unique in this regard. If I am not mistaken the Pope is chosen by peers qualified to do so too.

And is the process really as objective as Mrs. Palatnik indicates? Hardly. There are very often politics involved. The criteria considered for rabbinic leadership is not universal. A truly great leader whose Torah knowledge may supersede all others might never be considered for that position.

Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik is a case in point. There is almost universal agreement that his Torah knowledge was incomparable. I have been told more than once by Lakewood type Avreichim that if not for his connection with YU (or with Mizrachi; or his dissent on certain public policy issues with Rav Aharon Kotler; or the fact that he had a PhD in Philosophy- pick one!) he would have possibly become the Gadol HaDor. Again – politics!

When most Charedim think about who the Gedolim are, they think about who is on the Agudah Moetzes. That is after all where Rav Moshe Feinstein – the man she uses to illustrate her point – was chosen to belong as a Gadol. Of course R’ Moshe was a Gadol of that stature without the Agudah Moetzes. One could say that he graced the Agudah Moetzes by joining them and allowing them to call him their leader. He obviously supported the ideals and goals of Agudah. They did in fact choose him for the right reasons. But that is certainly not always the case.

How are people chosen by this group to become members? First of all they choose only Charedim. And their choices are not always based on Torah knowledge. Their choices are often based on religio-political affiliation. For example they will ask a rabbinic leader in the Yekke (German-Jewish) community to join because of they want to appeal to that demographic. The same is true for choosing a Sephardi Rav for membership. Or a Chasdic Rebbe. But are these people the greatest, most knowledgeable men of the generation?

Let us indeed look specifically at how a Chasidic Rebbe is chosen among Chasidim. The fact is they are not chosen by peers at all. It is Yichus that gets them there. They inherit their positions from their fathers or their fathers in law. They may be brilliant people, well trained for leadership by their fathers. But are they chosen by peers based on their highest level of Torah knowledge? Hardly.

It may be coincidentally the case that a Chasidic Rebbe who inherited his position is a truly brilliant and Torah knowledgeable person in his generation. That was certainly true of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who inherited his position from his father in law, the previous Rebbe. But the fact is that he was not chosen for his genius. He was chosen because of his relationship to his father in law.

There are people today who are great Torah scholars, geniuses without peer who lead generations of Orthodox Jews and yet would never be chosen as a Gadol on the Agudah Moetzes. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein is a case in point. There is little doubt in my mind about his greatness in Torah.

But he is virtually ignored, if not disparaged by his Charedi rabbinic peers. He has about as much chance of being invited onto the Agudah Moetzes as I do. The same is true about Rav Hershel Shachter. He too is one of the brightest rabbinic minds of the 21st century. And yet he too would never be chosen by his Charedi peers as the Gadol Hador – or a Gadol at any level.

The truth is that even R’ Moshe was not considered by everyone to be the Gadol HaDor. Satmar didn’t. Neither did Lubavitch. Nor did the thousands of students of Rav Solovetchik. Nor did most Israeli Charedim. They all had their own rabbinic leader whom they considered greater. I have been told that in Israel – R’ Moshe’s name was rarely heard. Certainly not in the context of Gadol HaDor.

So the bottom line is that I agree in theory that Torah knowledge is the most important factor in making one a rabbinic leader. And that Torah scholars are best equipped to recognize it and make those decisions. But in reality the best people are not necessarily the ones chosen to lead.

The factors considered by the voting public in choosing a President are not always the important ones. A President can for example be voted into office based almost entirely on his Charisma. I believe that this was very much the case with JFK, for example.

But Orthodox Judaism does not live up to the ideal Mrs. Palatnik says it does either. I’m sorry to say that politics and Yichus (in the case of Chasidic Rebbes and increasingly in the Yeshiva world) may very well be a greater factor in choosing a rabbinic leader than Torah knowledge is.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

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