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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Lamm’

Reflections on the Divine Image

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Editor’s Note: The following sermon was delivered by Rabbi Lamm on October 15, 1960. What’s truly astonishing is how relevant his remarks remain more than 52 years later; indeed, had we not just noted the date on which the speech originally was given, readers likely would have assumed it to be of very recent vintage.

This and 34 other lectures and speeches given by Rabbi Lamm between 1952 and 1976, while he served as a congregational rabbi in New York and Massachusetts, appear in a new anthology, “Drashot Ledorot: A Commentary for the Ages,” published by Maggid, a division of Koren.

The concept of man’s creation betzelem Elokim, in the image of God, is one of the most sublime ideas that man possesses, and is decisive in the Jewish concept of man.

What does it mean when we say that man was created in the image of God?

Varying interpretations have been offered, each reflecting the general ideological orientation of the interpreter.

The philosophers of Judaism, the fathers of our rationalist tradition, maintain that the image of God is expressed, in man, by his intellect.

Thus, Saadia Gaon and Maimonides maintain that sechel, reason, which separates man from animal, is the element of uniqueness that is in essence a divine quality. The intellectual function is thus what characterizes man as tzelem Elokim.

However, the ethical tradition of Judaism does not agree with that interpretation.

Thus, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his Mesilat Yesharim, does not accept reason as the essence of the divine image. A man can, by exercise of his intellect, know what is good but fail to act upon it. Also, the restriction of tzelem Elokim to reason means that only geniuses can truly qualify as being created in the image of God.

Hence, Luzzatto offers an alternative and perhaps more profound definition. The tzelem Elokim in which man was created is that of ratzon – the freedom of will. The fact that man has a choice between good and evil, between right and wrong, between obedience and disobedience to God, is what expresses the image of God in which he was born. An animal has no freedom to act; a man does. That ethical freedom makes man unique in the creation.

But how does the freedom of the human will express itself? A man does not assert his freedom by merely saying “yes” to all that is presented to him. Each of us finds himself born into a society which is far from perfect. We are all born with a set of animal drives, instincts, and intuitions. If we merely nod our heads in assent to all those forces which seem more powerful than us, then we are merely being passive, plastic, and devoid of personality. We are then not being free, and we are not executing our divine right of choice.

* * * * *

Freedom, the image of God, is expressed in the word “no.” When we negate that which is indecent, evil, ungodly; when we have the courage, the power, and the might to rise and announce with resolve that we shall not submit to the pressures to conform to that which is cheap, that which is evil, that which is indecent and immoral – then we are being free men and responding to the inner divine image in which we are created.

The late Rabbi Aaron Levine, the renowned Reszher Rav, interpreted, in this manner, the famous verse from Ecclesiastes (3:19) which we recite every morning as part of our preliminary prayers. Solomon tells us, “Umotar haadam min habehema ayin,” which is usually translated as “And the preeminence of man over beast is naught.”

Rabbi Levine, however, prefers to give the verse an interpretation other than the pessimistic, gloomy apparent meaning. He says: “And the preeminence of man over beast is ayin, ‘no.’ ”

What is it that gives man his distinction? What is it that makes man different from the rest of creation, superior to the rest of the natural world? It is his capacity to say ayin, his capacity to face the world and announce that he will not submit to it, that he will accept the challenge and respond “no.”

Book Review on The Megillah: Majesty and Mystery

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Title: The Megillah: Majesty and Mystery

Commentary by Rabbi Norman Lamm

Compiled and Edited by Joel B. Wolowelsky

Publisher: OU Press

 

The OU Press completes its presentation of Rabbi Norman Lamm’s teachings on the Jewish holidays with this new commentary on the Purim megillah, enhanced with a commentary on the Purim evening synagogue service and essays on Chanukah, Yom HaAtzmaut, Yom Yerushalyim and Thanksgiving.

Rabbi Lamm had written and preserved the hundreds of eloquent and inspiring sermons he had delivered as a pulpit rabbi in Manhattan for 25 years prior to becoming president of Yeshiva University, and Dr. Joel B. Wolowelsky has drawn from this treasure trove of Torah teachings to produce a coherent and flowing commentary, just as he did with Rabbi Lamm’s The Royal Table: A Passover Haggadah. Essays on the other Jewish holidays were collected and presented by Professor David Shatz in Rabbi Lamm’s Festivals of Faith: Reflections on the Jewish Holidays.

Rabbi Lamm is one of our generation’s great darshanim and Jewish thinkers. He is able to see the current in our ancient texts, and he has the uncanny ability to find the flowing and inspiring words to bring the past to life and help us focus on our own contemporary experiences. This volume helps make our Purim evening more meaningful and complete.

NIJH: Caring For The Terminally Ill Jewish Patient

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

It was at a UJA-Federation meeting twenty-five years ago when someone asked Rabbi Maurice Lamm, the first Orthodox rabbi to ever serve on the Federation’s board, how to care for a terminally ill individual. Rabbi Lamm, then a member of the rabbinate for thirty years and at the time serving as rabbi of Congregation Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills, California – one of the largest Orthodox synagogues in the U.S. – had no answer but vowed to find a way to address what was clearly a delicate and weighty issue.

 

With seed money from the Federation, Rabbi Lamm created a task force to address the unique needs of the terminally ill Jewish patient – and the Jewish Hospice Commission was born. Comprised of rabbis and community leaders from across the religious spectrum, the commission quickly ascertained that while the Christian community trained their priests and nuns to deal with end-of-life care and did, in fact, operate Christian hospice facilities, the concept of Jewish hospice care had never before been addressed. Vowing to dedicate his life to both dealing with and writing about death and the issues confronting the Jewish terminally ill, Rabbi Lamm began his work in Los Angeles, creating the Jewish Hospice Service. He asked rabbis nationwide for their support. Most of the responses Rabbi Lamm received said practically the same thing: “What took you so long?”

 

The National Institute for Jewish Hospice (NIJH) in North Woodmere, New York was formally established in 1985. It began with a small board of directors consisting of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis, with the goal of creating hospice care specifically for the Jewish terminally ill patient. Sadly there was a great need for hospice care within the Jewish community and in almost no time, the NIJH was running seminars and conferences geared toward offering on-site training at hospices. They began training caregivers and medical staff in the unique needs of the Jewish patient.

 

The demand for their services was so great that NIJH was forced to shift their training to one central location. Today their accreditation program, geared toward doctors, nurses, volunteers, social workers and others involved in the treatment and care of the Jewish terminally ill, educates caregivers about Jewish laws and customs. Over forty general society hospices are currently accredited by the NIJH, with locations in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Ohio, Florida, California, Texas, Virginia, Massachusetts, Colorado, Kansas and Wisconsin. Even today there are no Jewish hospices, and the NIJH has found that most terminally ill Jewish patients prefer to die at home, though there are those who choose to live out their final moments in a nursing home, a non-denominational hospice, or a hospital. NIJH trains their caregivers to understand and support their Jewish patients in any setting.

 

 

At a gala reception in 1992. NIJH awarded the

actor Alan Alda with the Hope Award.

Pictured (L-R): Arlene Alda (Alan’s wife), Alan Alda,

the playwright Neil simon, and Rabbi Maurice Lamm.

 

 

Shirley Lamm, Rabbi Lamm’s wife and executive director of the NIJH, explains that the training that is offered covers numerous nuances and sensitivities, many of which are specific to the Jewish community. Caregivers learn about Jewish medical ethics, and caring for both the patient and his/her family. They are also trained to encourage patients to write an ethical will, thereby creating their own legacy before their demise, and specifying which customs, practices and values they hope will continue to persevere in their family after their departure from this world. Not only does this give the patient an opportunity to be reminded of his/her accomplishments but, according to Mrs. Lamm, it is also very therapeutic for the patient.

 

“We all forget things,” she said, “but when a patient is lying in bed, waiting for pain medication to work, they spend much of their time thinking, ‘What have I done? What will my family do when I am gone?’ Remembering all that they have accomplished, passing on all that they value can be extremely comforting for the patient.”

 

According to Mrs. Lamm, calls come in all day, every day on the NIJH’s 24-hour toll-free hotline from patients, family members and caregivers seeking counseling. Mrs. Lamm recalled two phone calls from children, one who wanted to know if there was Chanukah in heaven and another from a boy who was sure that his brother’s illness was a direct result of his skipping school one day without permission.

 

The NIJH sells numerous books, CDs and articles with the goal of educating the public on Jewish customs of death, dying and mourning. Many of these are from Rabbi Lamm, including his classic work, The Jewish Way In Death and Mourning, a book that was hailed by the New York Times as “one of the ten best religious books of the year” when published in 1969. A living will, a legal document conveying the patient’s wishes that conforms to Jewish tradition and federal and state laws, is available on the NIJH website (www.nijh.org). Additionally, sixteen articles dealing with other related issues are available for download on the website at no cost.

 

NIJH’s annual Accreditation Conference has become a mandatory event for anyone looking to understand the needs of its Jewish clientele. The conference attracts non-Jewish caregivers and clergy. For many of the attendees, the NIJH conference is their first exposure to Jewish culture.

 

“We offer the basics,” said Mrs. Lamm. “Most of our caregivers are non-Jewish and they have never seen this stuff. We have sessions entitled Judaism 101 for Beginners, and Judaism 201 Advanced.”

 

The NIJH will be hosting its 25th Anniversary Accreditation Conference for doctors, nurses, social workers and other caregivers on Thursday, November 11 at the Renaissance Hotel in Newark, New Jersey. Featured sessions will include Jewish Traditions and Practices, Jewish Medical Ethics, Caring For Different Groups Within Judaism, and the Jewish Aspects of Consolation and Bereavement. Special keynote speakers include Rabbi Dr. Earl Grollman, an internationally recognized bereavement counselor and former chairman of the National Center of Death Education; Rabbi Dr. William Cutter, a founding member of the NIJH and founding member and former president of Academic Coalition for Jewish Bioethics; Dr. Barry Kinzbrunner, executive vice president and chief medical officer of Vitas Innovative Hospice Care in Miami; and Rabbi Joseph Lieber, founding executive director of The Yaktzan Center for Drug Rehabilitation in New York. Additionally, this year’s conference will feature an innovative session given by Mrs. Toby Katz, a noted Florida educator, on the subject of tahara, treating the body with dignity and purity. The session will include a video depicting the tahara process.

 

For more information on the NIJH or their upcoming 25th Anniversary Accreditation Conference, visit their website at www.nijh.org.

 

Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who has written for various Jewish newspapers, magazines and websites. She has also written song lyrics and scripts for several full-scale productions. She can be contacted at sandyeller1@gmail.com.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005

Baseball Fan

I’ve come to admire the depth of knowledge that Jason Maoz regularly displays in his Media Monitor column, but I had no idea he could write so eloquently and knowledgeably on baseball as well (“The Vanishing Jewish Baseball Player,” front-page essay, April 8).

You obviously timed the article’s appearance to coincide with the start last week of the new baseball season, and reading it certainly increased my enjoyment of the return of America’s Pastime after a long, dreary winter during which we sports fans in the New York area had to suffer through a season-killing hockey strike and the less than inspiring efforts of the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets.

Please feature more articles on Jews and professional sports. Readers like me can’t get enough of that stuff.

Ira Lekachman
New York, NY



Only One Subject?

Rather than feature articles about baseball, you should be screaming to the heavens every week about the betrayal of Israel by the disaster named Ariel Sharon. I’d like to see you have full coverage, front page to back, of the betrayal of Jewish settlers and the jettisoning of the concept of a complete Israel by the likes of Sharon, Olmert, et al.

That’s the only subject you should be talking about. Forget the other news stories, the Torah columns, the social register, baseball, agunas, and whatever else might occupy us – the upcoming disengagement plan should be the sole object of our concern. For the next few months, change the name of the paper to “The Gaza Press” and devote all your energies to reporting and analyzing the tragedy as it unfolds.

Some readers may laugh and call me obsessed, but I think there are others just like me. All I can think of right now is the looming Gaza disengagement, and I don’t have the time or the interest to concentrate on anything else.

Goldie Witkin
(Via E-Mail)



Come Home, Dr. Schick

God bless Marvin Schick and thank you, Jewish Press, for publishing Dr. Schick’s op-ed article (“Lead Us By Teaching,” April 8). I miss reading Marvin Schick in the pages of The Jewish Press – I vividly recall his many years as a weekly columnist for your paper – but I refuse to purchase the scandal-mongering paper that carries his subsidized column.

How good it was to read Dr. Schick’s thoughts in The Jewish Press, and I hope to see more of him in this paper. Dr. Schick: come home to The Jewish Press and leave that other paper to its Federation-worshiping, Orthodox-badgering, alternative Judaism-championing ways.

Zechariah Strasser
(Via E-Mail)



Eidelberg’s Tap

Paul Eidelberg gives us his usual excellent analysis in his April 8 column. Any rational, humane and civilized person reading with full understanding Professor Eidelberg’s assessment of the nature of Israel’s current enemy must shudder in revulsion and apprehension.

The tragic reality is that in such a perilous time, Israel is in need of leaders with the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of the Maccabees, and the love of Israel and the Jewish people akin to that displayed by our many tzaddikim down through Jewish history.

The reason I shudder in revulsion and apprehension is because I see instead an Israeli Supreme Court transforming the country into a secular state. I see a secular prime minister devoid of the courage and planning skills he once showed as a military commander. I see a prime minister foolish enough to reappoint Shimon Peres, whose legacy is a pathetic record of failure and disaster, and whose agenda has been overwhelmingly rejected by Israeli voters time after time after time.

We should perhaps regard all this adversity as a warning – a tap on the shoulder to get our attention. Mr. Eidelberg got mine.

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY



Views Misrepresented

It is most unfortunate that The Jewish Press chose to run an inaccurate article from Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) without contacting any of the rabbis who were maligned (“YU Rabbis Approve Disengagement,” April 8).

The panel discussion was an internal educational program allowing YU students to hear differing religious perspectives on issues in Israel. The questions analyzed were whether it is halachically permissible for the Israeli government to adopt a plan which it deemed necessary for Israel’s security and political needs – even if it involved giving away territory – and whether opponents of such a plan serving in the Israeli army should be mesarev pekuda (permitted to refuse orders).

I made the point at the outset of the discussion that being a rabbi does not me give any expert knowledge about security and that I would focus on the halachic status of Israel as a Jewish state.

Rabbi Charlop strongly denounced any plan that would include giving land to the Palestinian Arabs. Rabbi Lamm and I, with different formulations, said that Mitzvat Yishuv Haaretz is not an absolute (yehareg V’lo Yaavor) and is outweighed by pikuach nefesh. No one said that the Sharon disengagement plan met that criterion.

Siruv Pekuda, encouraged by rabbinical leaders, has serious consequences for the religious role in determining the Jewish content of Israel and Rabbi Lamm and I opposed it, while Rabbi Charlop did not believe that it would happen.

The views expressed have been said publicly by many prominent rabbis. The notion that there is only one religious perspective on these issues and any one who disagrees should be publicly attacked is not consistent with our tradition and is dangerous.

Rabbi Yosef Blau
New York, NY
 


Death Of A Pope


The Good That He Did

I must take issue with reader Avraham (John) Forcella, who winced at the comments of Jewish leaders towards the late pope (Letters, April 8). It is true that John Paul II made many mistakes, but as a person he was fallible. Certain mistakes will be remembered, such as the Nicaragua pilgrimage of 1983 or his stand on contraception and liberalization of certain aspects of the Roman Catholic church.

Unfortunately, the pope did live in a real world and he had to stand on the balcony with Pinochet, say nice things about Arafat and keep his mouth shut when Bashir Assad was spouting off. That is called diplomacy.

Past popes have not all been a particularly pleasant bunch. The attitude of Pius XII toward Jews was made quite clear in his reports from Poland right after the first world war. Yet only sixty years before this Jews had been locked in the ghettos by the popes while those outside the papal domains were free. One can also mention the Inquisition, Crusades, Catholic colonization of America and, of course, ultimate responsibility for the Shoah.

What John Paul II did was show the way forward, the path that the church needs to take in the future. While fighting liberation theology on one hand, he reached out to people of other faiths and went further than could ever have been expected in admitting past Catholic evil.

What really impressed me the most was the way in which the synagogue here in Warsaw was packed with non-Jews for the memorial service to the late pope. This indicates how his teaching has reached the hearts of ordinary people and demonstrates to me that there can be no turning back to the wrongs of the past.

Alan Heath
Publisher
Polish Business News
Warsaw, Poland



Right Tone

Congratulations for perhaps the most thoughtful comments I have read on Pope John Paul II and his relationship with the Jews (editorial, April 8). You carefully articulated the gratitude many feel for the historic changes the pope instituted in the approach of the Catholic Church to Jews. You also conveyed concern over the incongruity and significance of his embrace pf Arafat and Waldheim and his shocking silence in the face of Assad’s blood libel.

On the face of it, in terms of Jewish/Catholic relations we Jews are better off than we were before Karol Wojtyla’s ascension to the papacy in 1978. But there persists the nagging sense that at the end of the day, even to someone like him, we were not considered fully “regular” after all.

Herman Simons
New York, NY



Not Positive Enough

I strongly disagree with your editorial on the death of John Paul II. It is undeniable, as even you concede, that he made the world a safer place for Jews. Why, then, can you not bring yourselves to fully acknowledge that contribution? It almost seems as though you have some fear of appearing to legitimize the pope’s accomplishments.

I think the Orthodox community in particular should have seized on the pope’s death as an opportunity to show his successor – and the Catholic Church itself – that we know how to say thanks and that we are capable of viewing gentiles as sincere and decent human beings. All too often our attitude toward non-Jews is one of blanket fear and condemnation, combined with a sense of superiority that would put many a redneck bigot to shame. And then we wonder why that attitude is returned against us – in spades.

Moshe Goldman
(Via E-Mail)



Mr. Goldman, Meet Mr. Deutsch

Who made The Jewish Press the spokesman for the Jews? Did you ask a shaylah whether you are permitted to say nice things about an avoda zara? Who said you could publish a photo of a pope wearing a cross for all to see?

The world’s attention was gripped for days by the death of a leader of Christianity, and this will result in great problems for the Jewish people. I don’t care what political benefits he was responsible for, or whether he was good for Israel.

Berel Deutsch
(Via E-Mail)



A Finger In The Eye

It’s very nice that the pope apologized for what his church did to the Jews over the centuries. I happened to see the news clip of that event and was infuriated by the deliberate, flat and undramatic manner in which he read the statement off a piece of paper. A little more passion and emotion would have been in order.

And wasn’t this the same pope who was pushing to have Pius XII, of all people, turned into a saint? Given the raging controversy over what Pius did or didn’t do to help the Jews during the Holocaust, the effort to have Pius canonized was like poking a finger in our eye.

Boris Solomonov
Jerusalem

Title: Consolation, The Spiritual Journey Beyond Grief

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

Title: Consolation, The Spiritual Journey Beyond Grief
Author: Rabbi Dr. Maurice Lamm
Publisher: Jewish Publication Society, Phila., PA

 

The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning by Rabbi Maurice Lamm (1969, Jonathan David Pub.) has remained a staple on Jewish bookshelves for the past 35 years. In it, Rabbi Lamm discusses the many halachot and customs surrounding death and mourning; in his new book Consolation, he offers guidance to both mourners and those offering condolence, and provides pastoral advice to help comfort their grief, with insights for healing.

Maurice Lamm, who was one of Jewish Press publisher Rabbi Sholom Klass’s dearest and closest friends for much of his life, composed the earlier book to answer a need in our society.
The current volume arose from his need to put down on paper what he has learned from a lifetime of pastoral counseling – in teaching as well as practicing.

In 13 chapters ranging from specific advice on how to heal the emotions and fill an empty hole in the heart, to philosophic recommendations for how to connect with cosmic consciousness,
Consolation roams the universe of healing and Jewish spirituality to assist the efforts to bring the mourner’s thoughts back among the living without the necessity of forgetting the departed.

Especially poignant is the section “Words for a loss, When at a Loss for Words,” in which Rabbi Lamm provides a replacement for the banalities that are often uttered in our need to offer comfort and solicitude. He lists some of the things we should not say, as well as meditations and parables that show that we are not alone and others have traveled this road before us. Who among us has never been guilty of “foot in mouth” disease – but better an attempt at consolation than an abandonment of the mourner to his unrelieved grief.

Utilizing the language and thought processes of the psychiatrist or psychiatric social worker, Rabbi Lamm leads us through all the many emotions that we may experience, including anger, numbness, weeping, unraveling, abandonment, fear and grief. He compares the wounds of grief to that of the keriah, where we tear the garment and resew the tear – but if you look
closely you can still see the stitches. We mourn a loss and it leaves an indelible imprint on us emotionally, but eventually we get over it. This book is an instruction manual to help speed the
process.

It is a specific commandment to visit and console the mourner. At the time of grief the mourner suffers from a deep hole in his or her heart and needs to feel connected in order to escape the primal feeling of abandonment of someone close to them. Empathy is even more important at this time than sympathy.

We are reminded that our ritualized process of mourning serves as a process to help us connect to a community in which many events, including birkat hamazon and religious services,
require the presence of a specific number of people joining together. Rabbi Lamm refers to Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman, author of Peace of Mind, who affirmed that the halachic
observances of our mourning laws are validated by the findings of modern psychotherapy as being a remarkably good form of grief management.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-consolation-the-spiritual-journey-beyond-grief/2004/03/31/

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