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August 28, 2014 / 2 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Shabbat Shalom’

Majestic Destroyer

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Reader Jonathan Kahanovitch sent us this amazing image of Ms. Liberty under a canopy of ominous clouds.

Destruction can be so pretty.

Hope you’re dry and safe and that you have electricity and Internet. Otherwise, we probably won’t be having this conversation.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat: A Time for Menuchah V’simcha

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

I remember going to shul with my mother and always being slightly puzzled when we left to go home after the tefillot. My mother would wish and be wished a Shabbat Shalom, but she always added something extra that left all who encountered her with smiles on their faces. She would compliment everyone she met with something personal. It might be about the clothes they wore, the inspiring way they davened, or a comment on the wonderful behavior of their children during the prayer service.

I remember asking my mother why she always felt the need to do this. She replied that while it didn’t cost her anything imagine how those few words of recognition would add to someone else’s Shabbat joy.

My brother Yehudah, a”h, would emulate my mother’s trait. He would add his own personal touch – in a literal way. He would put his arm on a burdened shoulder, and tell a joke to leave yet another person with a smile on his face.

There are many other ways to make someone feel special and noticed, and thus add to their good feelings on Shabbat. For example, there are people who make note of someone who did not come to shul on a particular Shabbat. These absentees would either receive a surprise visit that day, or a phone call after Shabbat, or even a mention of having been missed the week before when the next Shabbat arrived. I have been the recipient and doer of such an act of chesed.

A few weeks ago, I lit my Shabbat candles with a heavy heart. I had received some difficult news about someone I care about, and found that I was just not in the mood for Shabbat. What a terrible feeling! Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Three little children stood there with a paper bag in hand. “For Shabbat,” they said, as they shyly proffered the warm bag. I looked inside and found freshly baked challah, an unexpected gift from a neighbor. Suddenly, my Shabbat looked so different to me. I was able to find the joy of Shabbat in this small gesture of kindness.

When I encountered my neighbor the next day, I told her how her challah had not just added to the ta’am of Shabbat in a physical sense, but it had also returned to me the very essence of the true taste of Shabbat.

Shabbat is a time of menuchah, of rest. It is also a time of simcha, of happiness. We are often too busy during the week to stop and think about how we can do something simple to bring simcha into someone else’s life. When we can combine the menuchah of Shabbat together with its inherent simcha, we can bring ohr laYehudim, light to all of us.

Hand In Hand

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

I was walking home from my weekly Tehillim group when I encountered a very worried-looking young woman. She told me she had been standing outside her apartment when she encountered an old man. He seemed lost, and did not respond to her offer of help. She noticed he was not wearing shoes.

As she stood there, not knowing what to do next, another neighbor came along. This man lived directly across the street from our house. He decided to take the old man into his home. There, he gave him something to drink and a place to rest. Meanwhile, the young woman was busy knocking on people’s doors, asking if anyone knew who the old man was. I joined her for a while, and then I ran home to ask my family to help us out.

My son, Rafi, had just woken up from his Shabbat nap. When I described the general appearance of this old man to my family, Rafi’s face lit up.

“Wait here! I think I know who he is.”

He raced across the street and knocked on our neighbor’s door. When Rafi asked to see the old man in question, he knew without a doubt whose family the old man had been visiting. He would bring the man’s grandson over to escort the weary man home. When my son got there, the family had not yet realized the old man was missing. They assumed he was still napping in the other room.

The old man’s family was new to the neighborhood, and we really did not yet know them. My son, however, had exchanged “Shabbat Shalom” greetings with them as they passed each other on the way to shul that morning. Rafi had noticed that the old man was walking slowly with them.

A few months later, we hosted our married daughters and their families for Shabbat. My younger daughter and I took all the grandchildren to a nearby park, while their mothers rested. As it got darker, we went to round up the children. Where was Meir? My three-year-old grandson was nowhere to be found. We checked the whole park and then checked the shul, calling out his name. Where was he?

Though it seemed like forever, a tear-stained Meir reappeared a short while later holding his father’s hand. Meir had decided to join the men in shul, but got confused in the ever-darkening day. He found himself on a path leading out of the park, not knowing where to turn.

“Abba! Ima!” he cried.

Suddenly, a young woman came out of her house and went over to the distraught little boy. Somehow, she knew which house to bring him to. She must have seen us passing by on our way to the park, just like my son had seen her family walking to shul with their grandfather so many months earlier.

Klal Yisrael is all connected. We must all watch out for each other, hold each other’s hands and love each other as the family we are.

The Prime Ministers: I Liked The Book So Much, I Had To Speak With The Author

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

I had just finished reading The Prime Ministers (Toby Press) and enjoyed every one of its 700-plus pages.  Yahuda Avner’s “fly on the wall” account spans the governments of Levi Eshkol (Six-Day War), Golda Meir  (Yom Kippur War), Yitzhak Rabin (Entebbe, Oslo), and Menachem Begin (peace treaty with Sadat, attack on Iraqi nuclear reactor, Lebanon invasion), describing sensitive, frightening and sometimes hilarious events, mostly of the kind you will never read in a newspaper.

Avner had served in various capacities – adviser, speechwriter, ambassador, consular diplomat – to all of the above-named prime ministers and as such was present at meetings and privy to conversations between Israeli officials and their counterparts around the world.

I thought it would be instructive to speak with Avner; though aware that The Jewish Press had published a lengthy interview with him shortly after the book was published a little more than a year ago, I was curious as to how the book had been received since its publication.

He agreed to set aside some time to meet with me while on a visit to New York. The ambassador is a genteel man. His demeanor is that of an elegant European diplomat, equally comfortable at an official state function and at a humble beis medrash.

Avner disclosed that he was able to remain as the senior Foreign Service officer on “loan” to the Prime Minister’s Office through four administrations because he had become the “institutional memory” of that office. He was always apolitical, walking out whenever the discussion turned to parochial politics. He recorded every conversation using his own shorthand, and after every meeting dictated the minutes of the proceedings for posterity.

When I asked him about the reaction his book had garnered, he told me he was besieged by demands on his time for speaking engagements all over the world, to the extent that he had to hire a publicist who handles his speaking engagements and schedule.

I wondered whether there had been complaints from any of the individuals mentioned and/or quoted in the book.

“To the contrary,” he replied. “I made it a policy that before I published any incident or quoted any person, I would send a draft manuscript to the protagonist for his or her comments, but only as it related to the accuracy of a particular incident or quote.”

Thus, every story and quotation was “vetted” by those involved, and the reaction has been very favorable.

Avner has heard from readers from every part of the globe who have praised him for his candor and his remarkable ability to quote, verbatim, occurrences of a half a century ago.

I asked Avner how he could quote persons on the other side of a phone call while he was present in the room on the Israeli side. He told me a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, who happens to be a good friend, shared with him notes he had sent to the State Department based on conversations on the other side of these phone calls which had became known to him through his own channels.

We discussed the challenge of Avner’s being strictly shomer Shabbos in an environment that, at least until Menachem Begin became prime minister, was not particularly sensitive to “Shabbos” issues.  Avner noted with a laugh that he found that most political and governmental crises occurred Erev Shabbos. He cited as an example the time Henry Kissinger and Yitzhak Rabin engaged in a rather stormy meeting in Jerusalem late one Friday afternoon.

Kissinger stormed out, slammed the door to the Prime Minister’s Office, and prepared to complain to the world press about Israel’s obstinacy. Rabin immediately ordered Avner to prepare and distribute a press release relating Israel’s version of the collapsed talks. On the grounds that “a press release was not a vital Israeli security matter but only hasbara” – public relations – Avner said he would not desecrate Shabbos by writing one.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 10/07/11

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Dear Rachel,

The year was 2002. It was July and we were in the midst of a heat wave. I arrived in shul in the most modest, yet Shabbos’dik, outfit I owned (at the time): a black A-lined skirt with black floral sequins along the bottom, topped with a matching black sequined sweetheart, sleeveless top.

Of course the Rebbetzin had taught me the laws of Jewish modesty, and at her suggestion I made sure to wear a long sleeved, high neck shirt underneath, one I had specially purchased for this occasion. My skin-toned long sleeved shell was perfect!

Also, since the skirt only covered my knees and was not a long one, I wore my black, flower-patterned panty hose, making my feet look ridiculous in my high-heeled black peep-toe dress shoes. But these were the laws of modesty I was now trying to follow and I assured myself that since I was all covered up it must be okay. (Looking back, I can’t believe I considered this “modest.” But I’ve come a long way since.)

The Rebbetzin had told me that the feelings of “nerdishness” would fade. She sympathized with the difficulty I had in being a big-chested blond (okay, I’ll admit I was addicted to dying my hair, but that’s really irrelevant since I could be a frum modest blond) who grew up on the beachfront and was now trying to return to my roots.

After the davening was over, I made my way through the crowd (there was a Bar Mitzvah that Shabbos) towards the Rebbetzin. This was our first face-to-face meeting and I happily introduced myself. Though she was polite, she did not seem to return my enthusiasm.

I’m a pretty intuitive person and immediately sensed her uneasiness. Maybe it was the way her eyes flickered in surprise when she saw me, or the way she shifted awkwardly when I hugged her… I’m not sure what exactly gave it away, but one thing was certain: she was extremely uncomfortable. After giving me directions to her home, where I was to come for lunch, she hurriedly excused herself, mumbling something about having to set up.

Maybe she just didn’t feel well, I reasoned. As I made my way out of the sanctuary towards the hall, everyone just stared at me. Did I suddenly grow horns? Was my red 24-hour lipstick starting to fade, I wondered? Instead of proceeding to the hall where the Bar Mitzvah Kiddush was taking place, I went to the bathroom to check myself out: No horns, no lipstick on my nose; even my eyeliner and mascara weren’t smudged.

Just then a beautiful, dark-skinned woman in a navy blue suit and floral blue and navy scarf wrapped around her head appeared out of nowhere. She was adorned with a friendly smile. “Shabbat Shalom!” she greeted me. “Shabbat Shalom,” I smiled back. Her warmth lit up the room.

“Are you new here?” she asked. So I told her about my big decision to take the long walk to shul this Shabbos and my plans to eat at the Rebbetzin’s house and stay there till Shabbos was over.

I guess she sensed how big that was for me and expressed her encouragement and delight over my big decision.

I felt compelled to say something nice and complimented her head wrap (yet secretly wondered why on earth she was wearing that in this heat). I then asked her straight out why she was wearing it. (Still not sure what made me do that.) She explained to me that Jewish women are required according to the Torah to cover their hair when they get married.

Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. She apparently took my shock to be a lack of understanding and briefly explained that since the hair is considered the beauty and crown of a woman (oh, how well I was able to relate to that!), once a women was married it was to be designated solely for her husband.

Wow! How much sense that made! Given my background and the countless “couples” I’d seen breaking up because one of them insisted on flirting, often by flipping her gorgeous hair or acting provocatively in the presence of other girls/guys, the sensitivity the Torah had to marriage made perfect sense to me!

After she left, I was left wondering why on earth the Rebbetzin did not cover her hair. She was so knowledgeable, how could she not know this? I put the thought aside for the time being.

Actually I was in for an even bigger surprise when I arrived at the Rebbetzin’s home. She was outside waiting for me. She smiled warmly and in her kindhearted way explained that my top really was not appropriate. Even though I had a shirt on underneath, it gave the impression that I was bare since it was the same color as my skin.

Okay, that made sense and I felt stupid for not having had the sensitivity to realize this on my own. She understood and was kind enough to lend me one of her daughter’s tops that was appropriate. She was very nice about it. (I guess in shul she reacted to the initial shock of seeing me the way I was dressed.)

At the Shabbos table I did not say much and was still trying to figure out why she did not cover her hair. Perhaps the lady in shul was mistaken about it being a law. Maybe it was just something she did on her own.

Finally Shabbos afternoon I asked the Rebbetzin and she said it was indeed the Law. She explained that she was wearing a wig and that her hair was 100% covered.

My respect for the Rebbetzin did a nosedive. A WIG?! If the point was to save the hair, the crowning glory and beauty of a woman, solely for the eyes (and enticement) of her husband, how was it okay to deceive the rest of the world? (Had I not just received a speech about my deceptive skin-toned shell and about how it made me look uncovered though technically I was, I’d maybe have been more receptive to the “wig” concept.)

Rachel, I am now a totally frum, married woman with a few little ones, baruch Hashem, and I still don’t get it. It makes no sense to me! I don’t buy the fact that a woman feels like her hair is covered when she wears a long, beautiful 100% human hair, custom wig. I tried on a few as a joke when I was engaged. I felt sexy as anything. The wig was way nicer than my own hair.

And any woman who says that tichels fall off and wigs cover more either doesn’t know how to wear a tichel properly or is making a poor excuse. Maybe both. I feel that not only is a wig completely untznius’dik, it is very deceitful. Maybe you can explain it to me.

A tichel-wearing LA girl

 

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We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

No Place Like Home

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Last month, I took a quick, five-day trip to the Unites States to visit my grandfather at the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital, an assisted living facility in North Miami Beach where he is (hopefully) recovering from several strokes. While I was pleasantly surprised by the generosity shown to my grandfather by complete strangers (staff members and volunteers) and the extreme emotions exhibited by our family’s usually unflappable patriarch, I was simply stunned by my own feelings toward the “Old Country.”

Though I was born, raised and spent some of the happiest times of my life in the U.S., something felt unnatural about my return.

As my flight from Tel Aviv touched down in Newark International Airport, a quick pit stop before I resumed my journey to Miami, I stretched my legs, took a glimpse out the window and felt nothing.

I was not emotional about being back within driving distance of my old New York City neighborhood, and I did not yet feel pangs of homesickness for my Israeli life. I just went through the motions and followed my fellow passengers out of the plane and into the arrivals terminal. It was normal. After all, I had made this trip more times than I could remember. But as I wended my way through the airport, Newark’s industrial parks came into full view through the terminal’s massive windows and I shuddered. My body actually shook from head to toe.

While I’m fairly certain that viewing the Newark skyline triggers violent reactions in most well adjusted individuals, it was clear that there was more to my response than an aversion to New Jersey’s infamous pollutants. But it wasn’t until I returned home to Israel that I realized what had occurred: I had actually been “rewired” in the 18 months since our young family made aliyah, and I sparked and sputtered in response to what was now a foreign frequency. My Zionist body had blown a fuse.

Because I spent most of my time in America by my grandfather’s side, my interactions with other human beings were kept to a minimum. Still, my brief encounters with taxi drivers, cashiers, airport security officers, flight attendants and other travelers made me uneasy. Not because I thought they harbored any ill will toward me. Rather, I always caught them stopping mid-sentence to stare at my big knit kippah and ponder why I chose to be so different.

No, it wasn’t paranoia. They were looking — just as they always had. I was simply no longer accustomed to it.

In the same vein, the abundant English-language signage in the airports and on the roadways, coupled with a complete lack of kosher dining options just about everywhere I went, made me feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. Not because those were the intentions of the American businesses that commissioned those signs and chose to open non-kosher establishments, but because I just wasn’t used to it anymore.

What I discovered was that, for a Jew, living in Israel means allowing yourself to feel comfortable in your own skin. By its definition, Israeli nationalism, or “Zionism,” means identifying with (and, if necessary, defending) the Land of Israel as the historical birthplace and spiritual, religious, and cultural soul of the Jewish people as well as the sovereign Jewish national homeland.

But it also means creating an environment in which Jews can simply (and unapologetically) live their lives just like everyone else. No long-winded explanations to employers about the religious significance of your weeklong vacation during busy season, no need to pack a lunch for a family trip to the fair, and no qualms about wearing a big knit kippah. Ever.

As I waited to board my flight from Miami International Airport to Newark, the first leg of my journey back to Tel Aviv, I spotted only one other Israeli standing among the crowd gathered at the gate. Though we had never met before, we greeted each other like long-lost friends. Smiling from ear to ear, we began to chat in Hebrew (our language) and breathed deep sighs of relief to finally be with someone else who “got it.”

We were thrilled and grateful to be making our way back to a place where public television shows entertain our children with stories and songs about our land, our holidays, and our history; where supermarkets stock their shelves with menorahs, Seder plates, and sukkah decorations and planned their sales around our calendar; and where encounters with taxi drivers, cashiers, airport security officers, and flight attendants would inevitably end with a hearty and synchronized “Shabbat Shalom.”

Shabbat Lights

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I was thinking of my mother today. I realized that I still have much to learn from this wise woman. G‑d blessed me with my special mother who serves as my role model, my caretaker, my friend, and above all, my inspiration.

My mother was a chemist by profession in Morocco. She gave it all up to migrate to the United States for a better life for her children. Her parents lived with us and she took care of them to their last days. As I grew up, my mother was a dressmaker, a plumber, an electrician, a chef, a dancer, a doctor, a psychiatrist, and most of all she was the best wife and mother a family could ask for.

Why am I telling you all this? I grew up in a traditional, kosher and G‑d fearing home. As I started my family, I became more observant. I started teaching my mother about the beauty of Shabbat and of reading Tehillim.

Once, as we escorted the Shabbat away and welcomed back the week, the phone rang. My mother was calling, excited to tell me what had happened to her Friday afternoon, half an hour before candle lighting time.

“Now I know that G-d puts us in circumstances solely to help others grow spiritually,” she said.

That Friday afternoon, my mother had decided to go downstairs to get her mail. She grabbed the keys, put on her slippers, and headed downstairs. As she turned back to her apartment, she looked for her house keys and realized that she had taken the wrong set. She panicked and hoped that her next-door neighbor was home from work. She started knocking. Her neighbor opened the door and was kind enough to call the maintenance worker to help open the door.

The neighbor then turned to my mother and asked her if she lit candles Friday night.

“Of course,” my mother replied. She then asked my mother to help her set up the candles and teach her the prayers so she could start lighting candles every Friday night.

My mother was overjoyed with this mitzvah. They both stood close together, reciting the Shabbat prayers. Within five minutes, the maintenance worker showed up and miraculously opened my mother’s door without a problem. My mother kissed her teary-eyed neighbor and they wished each other a Shabbat Shalom.

The best-kept secret in this lifetime is not the best spa, the best chocolate, nor the best diet centers. It is Shabbat. I had a friend who used to tell me that if Hashem would tell her that it was all right not to observe Shabbat, she would be very upset. Family time, rest and spirituality come full circle. During these 25 hours, we are suffused with appreciation for our loved ones and for the Divine.

If you want to experience a sense of peace and connection to the Al‑mighty and to your family, light candles this Friday night and pause. Carefully gaze at the flames and praise Hashem and bless your loved ones.

Was my mother’s story just a coincidence or a wonderful miracle? You be the judge!

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/shabbat-lights/2008/06/25/

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