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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Sheva Brachot’

Matisyahu: The Man, His Music, His Following

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

   In late August, Jewish music sensation and Shlomo Carlebach/Bob Marley hybrid Matisyahu released “Light,” his third album. Having enjoyed his first two albums immensely, and already humming some of Matisyahu’s new tracks, I began to wax philosophical while listening to his newest compilation. I asked myself: Can we define ourselves by what we think of Matisyahu and his music?


   I think so. First the music part. When I first heard him several years ago, I thought Matisyahu was unique and interesting, and cool! The more I listened, the more I began to appreciate him. Matisyahu takes the music that was a part of my past and sanctifies it to some extent. And in his cover versions of songs by Bob Marley and Sting, Matisyahu seems to channel the voices of these music icons with his authentic renditions. In a recent interview, Matisyahu said: “Shlomo’s music was not for the masses. It was beautiful, soulful, and deep but it was mainly in Hebrew and was born out of Jewish experience. My music is coming out of the non-Jewish world and therefore it resonates in the world at large.”


   For me, Matisyahu’s comments ring true. Shlomo’s music is beautiful and deep, and I have always loved it. I was honored to have my first Sheva Brachot at Shlomo’s shul on the Upper West Side, and my mother is one of Shlomo’s original devotees. Every type of Jewish person loved Shlomo’s music. Observant, non-observant. very Orthodox, very modern. And people, for the most part, were able to separate Shlomo the person from Shlomo the musician. Even if haredim rejected some of his methods in reaching out to other Jews, they would never reject his music. His music was, using Shlomo’s words, “the holy of holies.”


   Matisyahu is markedly different. As he says about himself, his background is secular and he grew up experiencing music in its most non-Jewish form. Maybe that’s what draws me to him. I love that his music is informed by the secular influences that shaped me, because no matter how religious I become I will still enjoy that type of music. I may not listen to it as often now; I may listen to Shwekey instead of the Doors if I put music on in the car, but it’s not because I like the Doors any less. I just feel more comfortable at this stage of my life with “Ben Bag Bag” on my CD player than “Hello I love you,” especially when I do carpool to yeshiva for my kids.


   I was proud to hear Matisyahu singing “King Without a Crown” on Z-100 in New York a couple of years back. I was happy when my brother, who is not Orthodox, wanted to find out more about Matisyahu and asked me questions about him and his brand of Judaism. I like seeing Matisyahu on TV, on talk shows, even the Tonight Show last week. It’s exciting.


   I didn’t go to too many rock concerts in my classic rock heyday, and I haven’t been to a Matisyahu concert yet. But I am impressed that he goes out, as an Orthodox Jew, and has become an expert at his profession, making great music and energizing concerts. He tries to inspire everyone. Not just Jews, but everyone whose soul he can touch. He tries to be a “light unto the nations.”


   In my informal research, I have found that Matisyahu cuts across levels of religious observance, and even across families. Maybe it’s because his personality is so unique. I love his music because it resonates with me. But I think I admire him personally because I feel that I am like him in some important ways. I originally described Matisyahu as a Shlomo Carlebach/Bob Marley hybrid, and perhaps as a religious Jew he is a hybrid, as well: Just like a hybrid car engine can power a car as effectively as a standard gas engine, it’s just powered differently at times, so too Matisyahu is a religious Jew, powered by both his non-religious musical past, and his present Torah true life.



   By Jonathan Jarashow is the publisher of Diabetes Digest, the nation’s largest circulation diabetes magazine.

A Wedding, A Funeral And My Child’s Song

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

The incongruity of the two events was too glaring to overlook.


Our participation in the Sunday morning Sheva Brachot brunch celebrating the marriage of a close friend of my husband’s was planned well in advance. We went to sleep the night before with the babysitting, transportation and other miscellaneous arrangements all set. We woke, however, to the news of an impending funeral for a friend’s mother, scheduled at just that hour.

On the one hand, there was a celebration marking the promise of a new beginning – of a joint life replete with potential, dreams and hopes. On the other, a ceremony marking a loss, an ending of life, as we know here in our world, an impenetrable separation between loved ones.

Just the day before, this friend had made a Shabbat learning gathering in her home commemorating the yahrzeit of her father, who had passed away a year ago to that date. She requested that the Torah studies also be a merit for her mother, for a speedy recovery from her illness. She spoke about how one year had passed since her father’s death, providing something of a closure to the searing wound of his passing.

Now, just as the pain of her loss was somewhat subsiding, the wound was being ripped open afresh, as she faced the finality of her mother’s death. Just yesterday, she was full of hope for her mother’s recovery from her illness, while today she would be feeling the dumbfounding shock of her irreversible loss.

On this Sunday, I would be juggling these two events. I would leave behind the smiles, buoyant spirits and jovial laughter of a bride and groom, to try to find empathy and compassion to share with the grief, tears and bereavement of mourners.

I stood in doorway of my home bidding goodbye to my baby.

“Mommy go bye-bye,” Sara Leah announced, surprising me, once again, with her newfound talent of combining more than one word to form simple, but complete sentences. A short while ago we were celebrating Sara Leah’s first word, “Mamma,” and now, she was progressing so rapidly to a greatly enlarged vocabulary and language skills.

Intuitively realizing how proud her mother was, and striving to keep my attention focused on her and not headed out the door, Sara Leah astutely continued her cute dramatics and in a sing-song voice pronounced, “Torah, Torah, Torah siva”

Sara Leah was singing to one of our favorite songs – a song we sing together each morning, as do many thousands of Jewish parents and children throughout the world. The words are from a fundamental verse of the Torah, Torah tzivah lanu Moshe, morasha kehilat Yaakov – “Moses taught us the Torah; these teachings are an inheritance for the children of Jacob.”

Hearing Sara Leah sing our special song reminded me of another friend, Rachel, who had angrily reprimanded me upon hearing me teaching my baby this verse.

“Chana, you are an open-minded woman,” Rachel began her tirade. “How can you brainwash your child with this propaganda. and at such a young age, no less? At least let her get a little older and think for herself first! Do her first words have to be these memorized slogans of faith?” my friend chided.

As I stood now in the entrance of my home, full of a mother’s pride in her child’s growing abilities, preparing to leave for a sheva brachot only to rush midway through it to a funeral, I thought about how fragile our lives are.

We are full of hope and expectation at one moment, only to experience feelings of despair and futility the next. Our joyous laughter and smiles transform far too quickly into tears of disappointment and cries of loss.

Every parent wants to protect her child from life’s woes. From that first moment in which we hug their tiny bodies close to ours, we vow to guard them from the blows and defeats of life, even as we realize how limited our power to make good on our promise actually is. Despite our best intentions, the winds of life will continue to blow fiercely, bringing with them the good as well as the bad, the fulfilled dreams as well as the losses.

Standing there in the doorway together with my child, about to experience the incongruity of those two contrasting events, it dawned on me just how important it was to impress this Torah verse upon my child. While I can’t safeguard my baby, or any of my children, from life’s inevitable losses, I can inculcate her with the power of faith - a faith that will deepen her appreciation for the good times and will provide her with the power of endurance for the difficult ones.

I can instill within her the confidence, the surety, the absolute certainty, that there is a G-d who orchestrates the funerals and the celebrations. In her most tender years, as her mind forms its most basic axioms, I can help her define herself as an integral child of G-d, whose ways she may at times not understand or agree with, but whom she, nonetheless, knows is there watching and protecting her, at all times, in all circumstances.

As a mother, armed with a parent’s fierce protectiveness, I can’t fathom anything better to gift to my baby than this eternal inheritance of Jacob.

It is an inheritance that will be with her wherever life leads her an inheritance that endures in a world where a sheva brachot can be followed by a funeral.

Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, the latest, Divine Whispers – Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul. To book a tour for your community or for information on her books or speaking schedule, please contact: Weisberg@sympatico.ca  

A Son’s Wedding: A Slap In The Face Of Our Enemies

Wednesday, November 10th, 2004

My first-born son’s recent marriage was a huge simcha for the family, but the wedding was actually the culmination of a simcha that began years ago – at his bris. At the time, I remember the guests at the shul asking me how I felt. I knew that they were asking me ? a first time kimpeturin (a woman who had just gone through and was in the process of recovering from the strength-sapping ordeal of childbirth) how I felt physically. But I couldn’t help internalize the question from an emotional viewpoint. I myself wondered how I actually felt about what was happening around me.

For months, I had gone about feeling “out of sorts” – unable to tolerate everyday, normally pleasant smells like roasting chicken or perfume without feeling nauseous. For weeks, I waddled like a penguin instead of walking. I was unable to find a comfortable position in which to sleep, though I desperately needed the rest, and was even unable to tie my shoes.

I eventually went through an excruciating 25 hour labor being “uncomfortable,” as the nurse so diplomatically informed the doctor. And finally, after swearing this would be an only child – a vow that was not binding because women in childbirth are not held accountable for any of the babble that comes out of their mouths – I was presented with a brick-red, wrinkled creature that resembled a water-soaked chicken more than a human being – and it was love at first sight! At that moment, I made an unsolicited promise that as long as I drew breath, nobody would hurt him … And then eight days later, here I was surrendering this dependent, totally helpless being who was beginning to trust me – to a man with a knife!

So when I was asked, “How do you feel?” I had to do some serious self-examination. I was sleep-deprived and exhausted, rather sore, nervous, petrified (what if the mohel makes a mistake) and basically ready to pass out. But when I heard a cry from across the room, and then the name “Menachem Mendel ben Shmuel” being called out, an incredible joy and pride flooded me, totally washing away my terror and anxiety. Every fiber of my being was filled with an intense happiness and an overriding sense of accomplishment.

Mendel was named after his paternal grandfather’s father who had perished in the Holocaust, and as his name was proclaimed for the first time, I had a vision of a celestial hand cutting through Gehennom – and slapping Hitler’s face.

Mendel is the grandchild of four Holocaust survivors from across Europe – Poland, Romania, and Hungary. For thousands of years, the Jew haters of Europe, Asia and the Middle East have tried – in vain – to eradicate the Jewish people. Hitler, a descendant of Amalek, had tragically been extremely successful. Millions were brutally butchered on his orders. But despite his best efforts, he, like his evil peers throughout the millennia, had been unsuccessful. Their determined efforts were for naught. This eight day old baby boy, who had just been entered into the holy covenant between G-d and the children of Israel – was indicative of this failure. This child, who bore his ancestor’s name and was his continuation, was spiritual and physical evidence of the Jewish nation’s existence.

A new link in the timeless chain that stretched out from Har Sinai, this infant would embrace the holy heritage that his grandparents and millions of his kin had been murdered for. His very existence was triumphant proof that Jewicide was an unmitigated failure.

Thirteen years later, the simcha entered its second stage, as Mendel, upon reaching maturity as defined by Jewish law, became a full-fledged member of the congregation of Israel.

And now, the simcha has reached a new height as he and his wife Shira, whose multi-generational American family survived another insidious enemy of Israel - assimilation – proceed to build a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael. With Hashem’s blessing, the young couples of today are producing offspring who, in turn, will carry the spiritual torch that has been handed down through thousands of years of Jewish continuity.

No doubt, every birth, every bar/bas mitzvah attained by a Jewish child, every chuppah and the subsequent birth of a new generation make Hitler and his ilk feel the flames of Hell more intensely. Every neshama, every soul, that was prematurely separated from its earthly body by the enemies of Israel rejoices and celebrates in its heavenly abode.

How fitting then, that during the Sheva Brachot celebration of this grandchild of the Shoah, the descendant of four sons and daughters of Yaacov who survived extermination by a vile son of Esau – that another blood-soaked enemy of Israel was summoned to the Heavenly Court for his Day of Reckoning. No doubt as this hate-filled son of Ishmael was escorted to the One Judge, his ears rang with the deafening shout of the souls of his victims – who, looking down at the simcha – roared in unison, “Am Yisrael Chai!!”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/a-sons-wedding-a-slap-in-the-face-of-our-enemies/2004/11/10/

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