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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabeinu Yona’

‘Frumer’ than God?

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Summer should be a time of relaxation, of allowing your body to get the needed rest from the harsh winter and yearly toil. While the majority of the Jewish world works through the summer, I am sure that some sort of vacation or time off is on the agenda as we would literally fall to levels of fatigue and overwork, not to mention not taking advantage of the summer warmth and sunshine.

Therefore, when a student asked to see me a few days ago, I assumed that she was intending to thank me, perhaps give me a gift and ensure that my blood-pressure remain stable, as should be during the summer months.

As you can already imagine, the opposite happened.

This former student met with me and was very disturbed. Her quandary revolved around her work in the Maternity Ward of one of Jerusalem’s hospitals. A woman was admitted after her contractions had become increasingly close and, in the midst of the pain and breathing, her “water broke.” At that moment, a moment that she would not only be allowed to violate the holy Shabbat [Code of Jewish Law, OC, 330/1] but must if she didn’t invite it and it was a necessity [Tractate Shabbat 129a],  this women began to look behind her, as if someone was following her.  About a half an hour later, this woman was…gone. All attempts to locate her were unsuccessful. The police were called, and finally, after a (long) hour and a half, she returned. When the aghast staff asked where had she disappeared to, her answer was “The Mikvah. When asked why, she matter-of-factly answered that she would never consider giving birth to a baby without immersing in a Mikvah first, as a segula for an easy birth!

This story, to my dismay, was not the only one that gave my former student cause for concern. She went on to describe other such events, asking if this was a form of higher religious observance, a sort of a מידת חסידות [acts of the pious].

As my blood pressure levels began to rise, I looked out to see the beautiful summer skies, and recalled a forgotten experience I had many years ago, when spending the summer in the USA. As a day camp counselor, my nights were fairly free, and therefore I joined a typical “Daf-Yomi” class that would meet after Maariv each night. Like any Tractate of the Talmud, this one dealt with real-life scenarios, amongst them a known discussion about the punishment administered upon a violator of a sin in the realm of inappropriate sexual conduct. The “Magid-Shuir” [teacher of the class] was a very sweet and modest Chasidic Rebbe, who would teach each “daf” clearly [in a mixture of simple English and Yiddish idioms], and devotedly taught us each night, even in the so-called summer “vacation” months of July and August.

Thus, to my surprise, upon stumbling on this particular folio of Talmud, instead of explaining it, he said: “Look in the English,” waiting about two minutes till all the participants did so. Being a bit “Israeli,” just visiting for the summer, I admit that I didn’t own a translated Tractate and thus a chunk of that evening’s page was left unlearned. As the class continued, I found it rather strange that a part of God’s holy Torah was relegated to “the English” rather than be learned. As I was about 20 years younger than the rest of the assembled, I stayed quite; while another participant, apparently as agitated as me, decided to speak: “Rebbe, why don’t we learn it together, it’s the Torah, after all?

The kind Rebbe smiled, and answered as follows; “When I was a kid, I asked my “Tatte” why don’t we Chasidim learn Tanach like the Litvaken? He answered that we don’t learn it because there are immodest episodes in Tanach that would not be appropriate.” Being young, perhaps (too) cynical, and surely naïve, but having just completed high school saturated in the study of the Bible, I just couldn’t contain myself; “Rebbe,” I asked, “Are you saying that we are frumer than the Bible? Are you suggesting that we are too frum to learn what God said to the prophets?”

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 7/09/10

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Dear Rachel,

 

             A couple of columns ago a reader was up in arms about some objectionable action of our youth, yet I’ve heard no commotion over their in-action.

 

Where is the outcry over the in-action of countless of adolescent and adult grandchildren who fail to make time to visit or call a grandparent to say hello or to inquire of his or her wellbeing?

 

In this world of ours it seems that everyone (our young, in particular) is involved in a zillion and one projects. Children who are not preoccupied with “texting” or “surfing” are juggling schoolwork and chessed assignments, and young adults are so self-absorbed with shidduchim and friends’ vorts and weddings (not to mention non-stop cell-chatting) that aging grandparents simply don’t fit into their crammed timetables.

 

No, I do not take the cause on for myself – I simply find it heartbreaking to see the elderly (particularly those who’ve lost their other halves) spending endless lonely hours surrounded by frozen-in-time framed photographs of their children and grandchildren. What an undeserved and cruel fate, to be left with only pictures and memories after years of toil and tears invested in raising their families.

 

So who is at fault, Rachel? These are not so-called teens-at-risk or underachievers, nor are they kids from broken homes or dysfunctional backgrounds. And yet the recent lament of a lonely almonah rings in my ear and tugs at my heart: This is why one needs to have children?

 

             As a relatively young (and grateful) grandma, I have my “senior moments” when I shudder as I contemplate what lies ahead.

Reassure me, Rachel

 

 

Dear Reassure,

 

On at least one day of the week, “texting” and “surfing” and all mundane acts are (miraculously) placed on hold as we strive to get in touch with our spiritual selves.

 

This season’s long Shabbosim give us the leisure to delve into the deeper meaning of our existence and to fortify our belief system – by drinking in the wisdom contained in Pirkei Avos, gleaned from Mishneh Torah.

 

Right there in the first perek, you may find the reassurance you seek: “Im lo achshav imassai – if not now, when?” (Utilizing the time now to do the right thing can prevent future heartache.) 

 

Rabeinu Yona’s interpretation of this saying strikes at the heart of the issue you address: Young plants (our children) are malleable and can be trained to grow straight, in an upward direction. Once they have grown crooked, it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to set them straight.

 

Grandparents – what an amazing gift! I must confess that to me, as a child, a “bubby” and “zeidy” were fictitious characters in fanciful tales. I could only dream of what it would be like to have a bubby who would love me and spoil me as only a bubby can.

 

What I’d have given to know my grandparents! How I’d have loved to impress them and do them proud, to make them smile, to confide in them and to know that my secrets would be as safe as can be, to hear stories of their own experiences and to learn from their age-old wisdom!

 

             Oh, we (my siblings and I) knew that our parents had parents once upon a time, but to us that was in another life, another world, before an evil man cut them down in their prime, making sure that they would not live long enough to realize grandchildren.

 

How foolish is the one who squanders G-d’s precious gift of Grand Parents, to say nothing of the wasted priceless opportunities to fulfill the mitzvah of honoring them!

 

And who could possibly care more about you than a grandparent? A parent’s love is tempered with discipline and the challenges of childrearing, whereas a grandparent is free to love pure and simple. 

 

Nobody can be a parent, teacher and best friend all rolled into one quite like a grandparent. Cherish them today, for nobody lives forever!

 

Confidential to “Esther”: It’s been a while since you went off to begin a new chapter in your life, with much hope and enthusiasm. Just to let you know that you are often thought of and to say how gratifying it would be to hear from you!

 

* * * * *

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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-261/2010/07/07/

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