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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rosh Hashanah’

Evesham School Board Member Quits over ‘J Word’ Scandal

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Rosemary Bernardi, a school board member from Evesham resigned Thursday, saying the uproar over what many perceived as her antisemitic comments had become a distraction for the school district, the Courier-Post reports.

“This local issue has become a distraction for the board to fulfill its mission, which is to provide our students with an educational foundation, in a safe, caring, supportive environment through a cooperative partnership with parents and community,” Bernardi wrote in her letter of resignation.

She also stepped down from her position of vice president with the New Jersey School Boards Association.

Evesham School Board President, aptly named Sandy Student, told the Courier-Post Bernardi resignation came under strong public pressure, which made her lose her ability to do her job properly.

“I’m very happy she made the right decision for the community,” said Student.

Jewish Press reader Carrie Lieberstein who lives in the area objected to The Jewish Press original report on the Bernardi affair, which started with a school board discussion of moving the first day of the next school year from Friday, Sept. 6, to Monday, Sept. 9, because the 6th coincides with the second day of the two-day Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah. Bernardi allegedly said that, since the board was comprised of 5 Jews and only 3 non-Jews, the vote was going to come out along ethnic lines – which it did.

In a talkback, Lieberstein wrote: “She humiliated Jewish school board members by addressing an election topic. She stated. ‘There are five Jewish seats and three open seats.’ Why did she have to draw attention to their religious/ethnic Jewish identities?”

Lieberstein, who said he had been instrumental in bringing the Anti Defamation League to the case, added: “Ms. Bernardi resigned today and the ADL informed me of this.”

Evesham resident Sue Wilder has been asking for Bernardi’s resignation since last month. She also filed an ethics complaint against Bernardi, according to the Courier-Post.

Others, like Evesham resident David Thompson, said that Bernardi’s comments were taken out of context.

“Something reprehensible happened that night,” he said of the May 23 meeting. “The reprehensible action was that five board members voted to change the schedule, after voting for it twice before.”

In a separate talkback, after accusing The Jewish Press of taking lightly that which is a very meaningful concern for the Jewish residents of Evesham, Liberstein advises: “By the way, it’s always okay to admit that perhaps you made a mistake. Humility is a good thing.”

I must say, living in a Jewish state, surrounded by nothing but Jews most of the time, it is possible that I’ve forgotten the more brittle quality of Jewish life in diasporah, and so I certainly apologize for that, especially if my callousness hurt a reader’s feelings.

I also have to say, it’s fun living in a Jewish state, surrounded by nothing but Jews most of the time.

Hint of Antisemitism, Hyper PC, in NJ School Board Vote

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Rosemary Bernardi, a 7-year member of the Evesham, NJ, school board, has issued an apology for remarks she made at the May 23 board meeting that were called insensitive and discriminatory, according to the website South Jersey Local News.

Bernardi emailed the following statement on May 27 to her fellow board members:

“Let me begin by expressing my heartfelt apology to the people of Evesham Township for my remarks at the school board meeting. Categorizing individuals on the basis of their religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation has no place in our society, and most especially in our public discourse.”

It all started, apparently, with a board discussion of moving the first day of the next school year from Friday, Sept. 6, to Monday, Sept. 9, because the 6th coincides with the second day of the two-day Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah.

First of all, like most of you, I’m sure, I have to say I didn’t realize Rosh Hashanah is coming so early this year. Second, it doesn’t look to me like such a big deal, starting school on Monday instead of on Friday. In fact, who starts anything on a Friday? Let the folks—Jews and non-Jews—stay on the shore until Sunday night, like human beings, and then make them drive home in bumper-to-bumper traffic the way God intended.

At the meeting, Bernardi objected to changing the school calendar, because she thought it would affect all the students just in order to accommodate a few students.

But the way Bernardi said it is what got the good people of Evesham all riled up. She has been accused of having singled out those few students by calling them “Jews.”

That’s right. She had the audacity to call students who attend Rosh Hashanah services by the J word.

As a person who has been addressed by that word so many times, I know how it must feel when a public official actually uses it to define an entire group of students. Shocking.

But that was not all. In a May 25 Philadelphia Inquirer article, Bernardi stated that she did mention at the meeting that there were five Jewish members on the board, which is why her attempt to keep school open on Rosh Hashanah “won’t happen on this board because there’s five members of the Jewish faith on this board. They have a majority.”

Incidentally, the school board vote on pushing the calendar to Monday resulted in two gentiles voting against, one gentile abstaining, and five Jews voting for the move.

At First There Was Chaos

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Chaos – that is how the world is described at its inception in the book of Beraishis (Genesis). Confusion. A lack of clarity and boundaries. Or, as I teach my kindergartners, “a mishmash”.

That has been my life recently, as I have grappled with the myriad of details that accompany moving from one home to another. There is an expression, “Go into chinuch (Jewish education) and see the world.” Our family has not had to crisscross the map too many times (we’ve lived in three out-of-town communities), yet somehow we’ve lived in nearly ten different homes in three decades. And for me, well, this has posed a great challenge. The first is remembering our phone number. I remember standing in a store and being asked what my telephone number was. Meanwhile I was trying desperately to remember what my new area code was. Once, when I was faced with a third move in five years, I felt it was too much to have to meet new people once more. One wonderful woman reminded me that as a result of the moves, I had been given the opportunity to meet a great variety of people, and deepen my ahavas Yisrael (love of fellow Jews).

The challenge of moving is to do it without losing all of one’s possessions, and one’s mind. Not long ago, I brought over a plate of cake to welcome a new family to our community. Though it had been but a few days, I will never forget how the house looked. All the curtains were hung and the kitchen totally organized. There was not a box in sight. Floating flowers were in a giant vase on the dining room table. I stepped out, bewildered at the site, knowing that this newly-moved into home was much more orderly then my own.

One of my daughters used to complain when she was young about her lack of talent. She believed that each sibling had something special, whether being artistic, athletic, musical, or even adorable. “But you’re so organized!” I said. She sighed. “That is not a talent”. “Honey,” I answered, “when you get older you’ll realize that it is the best talent of all!” And now she does, as she is able to keep her family and possessions organized while living in a small Israeli apartment. She works outside of her home, but never loses papers or searches for socks, because of her ability to stay organized.

My husband and I asked daas Torah (Torah advice from a scholar) about which neighborhood in our current city we should move to. Should we live where most of the shomer Shabbos people (Sabbath observers) lived, next to one shul or to the neighborhood with only a handful of families, next to the other shul?

There was not a kosher mechitza in the shul with the larger group of people, we told the rav, but my husband intends to daven in the other shul no matter where we live. “No,” the rav told us, “You cannot live near a shul without a kosher mechitza.”

So we moved far away from the shomer Shabbos population, until the day the mechitza was finally made kosher. Our kids were thrilled. Now they could live within the main community, and no longer have to walk a ½ hour each week to see their friends. Those Shabbos afternoons had been hard on us too, as we wouldn’t see the kids until we picked them up after Shabbos.

My husband agreed that we should move closer to the other neighborhood, but still felt obligated to help the minyan in the smaller shul. So, we moved closer, but not to the heart of the community; we stayed on the outskirts, but our kids were able to walk to their friends.

Unfortunately, it was time to move once again. This time we were desperate to find a suitable house, and grabbed the first one we saw. We were relieved there was the right amount of bedrooms and lots of storage space. However, once more we were a long distance away from any shomer Shabbos families. Once more our children would leave the house Shabbos afternoon and not to return till after Havdalah.

My Miraculous Hospital Experience

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Since suffering from colitis as a teen, I finally adopted a strict diet in my 30s that ended my torment. It wasn’t easy to forgo white flour, white sugar and all chemical additives, but it meant that I spend the last 40 years pretty much free of doctors, medications and illness, thank God. Thus, I was surprised when two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, I began to experience increasingly severe stomach discomfort – until I was barely able to move. Despite what I was soon to endure, it helped greatly to focus on the moment-to-moment miracles. For example:

Miracle #1: My son Moshe, who is one of the busiest people on the planet, called on a Wednesday night to say, “I have a free morning, so let’s finish your new set of Sanity Cards,” a project to help children deal with stressful events in a positive manner. Miraculously I had no clients that morning, which is usually a busy time, and miraculously he has never before called with such an offer. So I immediately agreed. He came promptly at 10 a.m., as promised. His presence helped distract me from the pain, which I was sure would soon fade.

Miracle #2: We finished around 10:30 a.m., when he said, “Mom, this is ridiculous. You’re in too much pain! Get a doctor.” I promptly called the service that sends doctors to one’s home. The clerk at the health fund said that the doctor could not come until 3 p.m., but less than half an hour later, he showed up unexpectedly. After a brief examination, he promptly sent me to the emergency room.

Miracle #3: Since my son was with me, he was able to drive me to the hospital. He also stayed with me most of the time – returning home at 2.am.

Miracle #4: After sitting in terrible pain in the emergency room, a bed finally became available at around 3:30. I was able to lie down, which I hadn’t been able to do before, and was given an IV, which included a pain reliever. At 5:30, the results of the CT finally came back. A group of doctors determined that I had a massive infection, as well as three large blood clots near my pancreas. The nurse told me to not move around, as things looked grim. But I was relieved that there was no obstruction, as my greatest fear was that I would need to undergo intestinal surgery.

Miracle #5: I was given antibiotics and heparin intravenously to dissolve the clots. I was told not to move, lest the dangerous blood clots travel to my lungs or brain, God forbid. As I looked at the bags hanging from the poles, I thought to myself, “This is how I need to feel Hashem’s love, as if it is flowing into my veins 24/7.”

Miracle #6: At 2 a.m., I was transferred to the hospital ward. Although my roommate was having a hard night, her husband was the sweetest person imaginable, constantly soothing her with words of reassurance and helping her with all the little things a person needs right after surgery. Thus, the energy was very positive and loving. I was grateful that there were only the two of us and grateful for buttons that allowed me to adjust the bed myself.

Miracle #7: The next day my son brought me lots of reading material, including all the Mishpacha magazines that I hadn’t gotten to and a book I had been wanting to read for months – that he just “happened” to find. I was soothed and inspired during the long nights.

Miracle #8: On Friday afternoon, at around 3 p.m., a group of ten young men with guitars, flutes and drums entered my room singing Shabbos songs. They even asked for my favorites. Pure Gan Eden! After they left, a chassid walked in with a sweet two-year-old who was holding a basket of taffy candies. Her father motioned to her to give two candies to each patient. What a lesson in chesed! I disposed of the candies, as I do not eat sugar. But her smile will stay with me forever.

Miracle #9: At around 5 p.m., my brother walked in with a box of grapes, which I had asked him to bring – just in case I could eat something. Since my daughter, who insisted on coming to visit, had gotten mixed up and had gone to Ein Kerem hospital instead of Shaare Zedek, we had time to talk, which was important to us.

Who Performed Avraham’s Bris?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

In this week’s parshah Hashem commands Avraham Avinu to perform the mitzvah of bris milah. The pasuk tells us that Avraham was 99 when he performed the bris milah on himself. The Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer (29) and Tosafos, in Rosh Hashanah 11a, say that Avraham’s bris was performed on Yom Kippur. The Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer adds that Shem, Noach’s son, performed the bris on Avraham. There are several explanations as to why Avraham had Shem perform his milah.

Some opinions suggest that since the milah was to be performed on Yom Kippur, Avraham did not want to perform the milah himself since this would violate the laws of Yom Kippur. One may only perform a milah on Shabbos or Yom Tov if the bris is on the eighth day. Since Avraham’s milah was not on the eighth day after he was born, it was considered not in the proper time – and thus Avraham could not perform the milah. Since Shem, however, did not keep the Torah he could perform the milah. Therefore Avraham asked Shem to perform the milah.

But there is a medrash (Bereishis 49:2) that says that Avraham asked Hashem as to who would perform the milah on him. Hashem told Avraham that he should do it himself. Avraham immediately took a knife and was about to cut, but hesitated because he was worried about his age. Hashem sent His hand and held onto Avraham – and Avraham cut. The medrash’s source for this is the well-known pasuk from p’sukei d’zimra: “vecharos imo ha’bris – and he cut with him the bris.”

As according to Tosafos and the Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer the milah took place on Yom Kippur, we must then ask the following: since according to the medrash that says that Avraham performed the milah together with Hashem, how can this have been done on Yom Kippur – since Avraham kept the entire Torah even prior to matan Torah?

This question is based on the assumption that the milah of Avraham Avinu was considered “shelo bizmano – not in the correct time.” For if it was the correct time (the eighth day of a boy’s life) then one is permitted to perform a bris on Shabbos and Yom Tov. There are some Acharonim (the Yehudah Yaleh in Yoreh De’ah 254 and the Sdei Chemed, 7:2) who answer that, in fact, Avraham Avinu’s bris was considered to be done on time since he performed it on the day that he was commanded to perform it. Even though he was 99 years old, the bris was still considered to be on time and therefore permitted to be performed on Yom Kippur. Other Acharonim suggest that the reason Avraham’s bris was considered on time was because the commandment was for him to perform the bris on that very day, as the pasuk says: “b’etzem hayom hazeh, nimol Avraham v’Yishmael b’no – on that very day, Avraham and his son Yishmael were circumcised.” Since the bris was performed at the intended time, it was considered to have been done on time – and permitted to have been done on Yom Kippur.

Yet this is not the general understanding. Most consider the bris of Avraham Avinu to be shelo bizmano and therefore not permitted to be performed on Yom Kippur. It is quoted in the name of Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik, shlita, that it is for this reason that there is no mention that Avraham made a seudah by his or any of his household’s bris milah – with the exception of Yitzchak. This is because the Sha’arei Teshuvah (551:31) says that one only should make a seudah for a bris that is on time. We only find that Avraham made a seudah for Yitzchak’s bris because that was the only bris that was performed on time.

Another solution is that even though Avraham kept the entire Torah (as the Gemara says), certain discrepancies existed. Generally a bris milah that is not on time is not allowed to be performed on Shabbos or Yom Tov. However, since Avraham was not yet commanded to keep the Torah – and, for that matter, he was not commanded to keep Shabbos or Yom Tov – they were treated differently concerning this matter. Since they were not yet commanded to keep Shabbos or Yom Tov before matan Torah, a bris could be performed on Shabbos or Yom Tov even if it was not on time. Thus Avraham was allowed to perform his bris on Yom Kippur.

Baltimore Sun Features Sports Fans’ High Holidays Dilemma

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

An article in the Baltimore Sun featured the conflict fans of the Baltimore Orioles have with the yearly Yom Kippur observance, showcasing how lovers of baseball keep their finger on the pulse of sports as the Day of Atonement takes place.

Some observant Jews leave their iPhones on at home during the service, according to the Sun article, with app alerts posting to their screens without causing them to break the Jewish law against operating electronic equipment on holidays.

The Sun sited a frequent problem of postseason or important late-season games falling out on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, and sites the head Rabbi of the Beth Am Synagogue of Baltimore, who recommends congregants record games they want to follow, so they can enjoy them after important Jewish holidays.

The article also included an anecdote about a Conservative rabbi who would update congregants on the scores during the service, so they would be attentive and their curiosity alleviated, and discussed which games the rabbi would announce during services, and which he would not.

One man, an avid sports fanatic, said he would not be checking on the game at all, because of his concern for maintaining the sanctity of the day.

Yom Kippur Guide for the Perplexed 2012

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

1.  Yom Kippur is observed on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishrey, whose astrological sign is Libra (♎). Libra symbolizes key themes of Yom Kippur: scales, justice, balance, truth, symmetry, sensitivity and optimism. Libra is ruled by the planet Venus (Noga, נגה, in Hebrew), which reflects divine light and love of the other person.  The numerical value of Venus, נגה, is 58 just like the numerical value of אזן, which is the Hebrew root of “balance” and “scale.”

2.  Three holidays - Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot (Tabernacles) - are celebrated during the month of Tishrey. The number 3 is identified with balance, stability and The Essence.  The triangle is a symbol of stability.

3.  On the first day of Tishrey, the first human being, Adam, was created. Each year on the tenth day of Tishrey, Yom Kippur, human beings are accorded an opportunity to recreate themselves spiritually. Tishrey and Libra are dominated by the Hebrew letter ל, which is the tallest Hebrew letter, consisting of 3 parts, aiming upward, reflecting the need to elevate-oneself morally, self-enhancement. Yom Kippur is not driven by punishment, but by behavioral-enhancement.

4.  Yom Kippur’s central theme is the plea for forgiveness – directly and not merely via prayers - from fellow human beings.  It highlights humility (admitting fallibility), faith, soul-searching, thoughtfulness, being considerate, compassion, accepting responsibility, magnanimity.  Speaking ill of other people (“evil tongue” in Hebrew) may not be forgiven.

5.  The Jubilee – sanctifying each 50th year by proclaiming liberty, as also inscribed on the Liberty Bell – is announced by blowing the Shofar (a ritual ram’s horn) on Yom Kippur. The Jubilee liberates people physically and spiritually. The word “jubilee” (יובל) is a Hebrew synonym for “Shofar.” Yom Kippur and Jubilee highlight liberty and the subordination to God.

6.  Yom Kippur culminates the ten days of genuine, heart-driven atonement/repentance, which begin on Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrey - an Acadian word for forgiveness and Genesis. It is observed on the tenth day of TishreyTen has special significance in Judaism: God’s abbreviation is the tenth Hebrew letter (Yod - י); Ten attributes of God – Divine perfection – were highlighted during the Creation; the Ten Commandments; the Ten Plagues;  Ten reasons for blowing the Shofar; 10% gift to God (tithe); The Ten Martyrs (Rabbis who were tortured/murdered by the Roman Empire); Ten generations between Adam and Noah and ten generations between Noah and Abraham; a ten worshipper quorum (Minyan) is required for a collective Jewish prayer;  etc.

7.  Yom Kippur is a Happy Jewish Holiday, replacing vindictiveness and rage with peace-of-mind and peaceful co-existence between God and human beings and, primarily, among human beings.  Yom Kippur emphasizes God’s Covenant with the Jewish People, ending God’s rage over the sin of the Golden Calf.

8.  The Hebrew word Kippur כיפור (atonement/repentance) is a derivative of the Biblical words Kaporet כפורת - which covered the Holy Ark at the Sanctuary – and Kopher כופר, which covered Noah’s Ark and the Holy Altar at the Temple.  Yom Kippur resembles a spiritual cover (dome), which separates between the holy (days) and the mundane (rest of the year), between spiritualism and materialism. The Kippa כיפה (skullcap, Yarmulke), which covers one’s head during prayers, reflects a spiritual dome. 

9. Yom Kippur calls for repentance – Teshuvah, תשובה, in Hebrew.  The root of Teshuvah is similar to root of the Hebrew word for Return שובה – returning to positive values – and Shvitah שביתה – cessation (strike) of mundane thoughts and actions and eating.  It is also similar to the root of Shabbat שבת. Yom Kippur is also called Shabbat Shabbaton – the supreme Sabbath.  The last Sabbath before Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Teshuvah (based on Hosea’s prophesy, chapter 4).  While the Sabbath is the soul of the week, Yom Kippur is the soul of the year.

10.  The Hebrew spelling of “fast” (צם/צום) – abstinence from food – reflects the substance of Yom Kippur.  The Hebrew word for “fast” is the root of the Hebrew word for “reduction” and “shrinking” (צמצום) of one’s wrong-doing.  It is also the root of the Hebrew words for“slave” (צמית) and “eternity” (צמיתות) – enslavement to God, but not to human-beings. ”Fast” is also the root of עצמי (being oneself), עצום (awesome),  עצמה (power), עצמאות(independence), which are gained through the process of fasting, soul-searching, spiritual enhancement and trust in God.

11.  The prayer of Veedooi-וידוי (confession/reaffirmation in Hebrew) is recited ten timesduring Yom Kippur, re-entrenching genuine repentance and the plea for forgiveness. The prerequisites for forgiveness are the expression and exercise (talking and walking) of repentance; assuming full-responsibility for one’s (mis)behavior, and significantly altering one’s behavior.  King Saul sinned only once – ignoring the commandment to annihilate the Amalekites – but was banished from the crown and killed, because he shirked responsibility, while responding to Samuel’s accusation.  King David sinned twice (The “Bat-Sheba Gate” and the “Census Gate”), but was forgiven, because he accepted full-responsibility and the death sentence (as proclaimed by Nathan the Prophet), which was promptly rescinded.

Rosh Hashanah: A National, Not Personal, Holiday

Friday, September 21st, 2012

We are used to assuming that Rosh Hashanah is a holiday of repentance and atonement, a holiday of judgment, and the holiday when our fate for the coming year is determined. The Selichot prayers before and after Rosh Hashanah add to the sense of personal days of judgment, an obvious truth.

But from a simple look at the prayers, we can see that the focal point of the days is completely different. The main thing that we are supposed to be doing on Rosh Hashanah is crowning the Creator as King of the world. This is also the main reason for the central mitzvah of the day: the blowing of the shofar. That is first and foremost an announcement that the coronation is about to take place.

How did the focal point of Rosh Hashanah turn into something private? The answer is simple: The Torah states, “Due to our sins we have been exiled from our land and we have become distant from our earth.” Just as the entire Torah has transformed into a religion that hovers above reality, not really a part of it, so Rosh Hashanah no longer expresses our national aspirations. When we lost our sovereignty and we lost Jerusalem, when the royal palace on the Temple Mount was destroyed, the nation of Israel also lost the possibility to actualize the purpose of its existence – to perfect the world in the Kingdom of Heaven. From a national holiday, Rosh Hashanah morphed into a personal holiday, just as Judaism as a whole became a system of personal reminders outside of reality.

Even now, after we have returned to our land and after we received the Temple Mount during the Six-Day War (six days of miracles), we continue with our private – not national – Rosh Hashanah ritual.

However, we who have declared our goal to perfect the world in the Kingdom of Heaven and who are working toward that goal politically – from within reality – can make the coronation of the King of the world a palpable event.

May we perceive G-d’s rule over the entire world, and may we merit a year during which we are favored and loyal tools to make that happen.

I wish all of you a sweet and blessed year.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/moshe-feiglin/rosh-hashanah-a-national-not-personal-holiday/2012/09/21/

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