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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘shul’

Syria’s Eliyahu HaNavi Synagogue Destroyed (Video)

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

The 400+ year old Eliyahu HaNavi Synagogue, one of the oldest surviving shuls in Syria, was flattened and destroyed by Assad’s forces in Syria over the weekend. The synagogue is located in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus. Eliyahu HaNavi Synagogue Destroyed Exclusive full-size photos of the destroyed synagogue are available on The Daily Beast.

Syria used to have a large, vibrant and ancient Jewish community.

Here is a video of the synagogue before it was destroyed:

Italian Police Find Pig Culprit

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Italian police have identified the man who sent the pig heads to Rome’s main shul, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post.

The man was identified as Ernosto Morosini, and he wanted to create an Antisemitic movement, and sent them to build a following.

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.

Vending Change

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Yosef, Gad and Benjy headed down to the dining hall in their high school. As they walked along the corridor they noticed a new vending machine had been installed. The three admired the machine, and eyed its beckoning display of treats.

“I wonder whom the machine belongs to?” asked Yosef. “Do you think it belongs to the school?”

“I doubt it,” said Gad. “Look, the name of the company that owns the machine is on a label. Let’s return after lunch and get a snack for desert.”

After they finished eating, the three boys returned to the vending machine. They browsed the selections: candies, chocolates, cookies, gum, potato chips, and other nosh.

“I’m going to get a large chocolate bar,” declared Yosef. “We can all share it.”

Yosef inserted two dollar-coins in the machine and made his selection. The chocolate bar fell to the bottom, and he heard two quarters drop into the change compartment, “Clink, clink.” He reached in to take out his two quarters and was surprised to find two additional quarters there.

“Wow! There’s extra change,” he exclaimed. “That saved me fifty cents!”

“Who says you can keep it?” asked Gad. “You need to place a sign for hashavas aveidah.”

“What’s the point of hashavas aveidah?” asked Benjy. “There’s no identification on the money, anyway.”

Other students joined in the discussion, debating whether Yosef could keep the money.

“Maybe you should give the money back to the vending operator,” added Benjy. “Someone said he comes on Tuesday mornings to restock the machine.”

A bit of a commotion began.

While they were arguing, Rabbi Dayan walked by. “What’s going on?” he asked. “Sounds like an earnest debate!”

“I found extra change in the vending machine,” said Yosef. “We were arguing what to do with the money?”

“It is usually permissible to take the change for yourself,” replied Rabbi Dayan, “but in some limited cases, it is proper to contact the vending operator.”

“Why can I keep it?” asked Yosef.

“At first glance, this seems to be a case of hashavas aveidah (returning lost property) to the previous customer, who lost his change,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “Since we presume the customer already became aware that he left his money, and likely does not know the exact permutation of the change or abandoned hope of retrieving it (yei’ush) – the finder is permitted to keep it.” (See Hashavas Aveidah K’halacha 12:8)

“Wouldn’t the vending operator automatically acquire the lost money that sits in his machine?” asked Benjy.

“A person’s property can acquire a lost item on his behalf, even without his knowledge,” said Rabbi Dayan. “However, this is only if the property is secure and the owner is likely to find the item left in his property. [C.M. 268:3] Here, the change compartment is not secure, nor is the operator likely to find the money, since it will probably be taken by someone else first.”

“Why did you say, ‘At first glance?…’ asked Gad. “Is this not a typical case of lost money?”

“Actually, though the change was dispensed for the previous customer, he never acquired it, since he did not take possession of it,” explained Rabbi Dayan. (C.M. 203:7) “Therefore, upon further reflection, this case is similar to a borrower who placed the money he is returning before the lender, with his permission, but the lender did not take the money. While the lender has no further claim on the borrower, what is the status of the money? R. Akiva Eiger [C.M. 120:1] writes that the money becomes hefker, since the borrower relinquished his claim to the money and the lender did not take it. Here, too, the untaken change becomes hefker.”

“In truth, the Nesivos [123:1] disagrees with R. Akiva Eiger and maintains that the money does not become hefker, but remains owned by the borrower,” continued Rabbi Dayan, “but even he would likely agree here. Since the vending operator expects the machine to dispense the change to an unsecure place, where it can be taken by anybody, he effectively renders it hefker or expresses yei’ush [C.M. 260:6, 261:4; Shach 261:3]. Thus, it is permissible to take the extra change.”

“Either way, I can take the money,” said Yosef. “What’s the difference whether it’s lost by the customer or became hefker from the vendor?”

Help Save the Stanton St. Shul!

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The Stanton Street Shul on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, at 180 Stanton Street, is a historic, intimate, and vibrant Orthodox congregation serving the diverse Jewish population of Lower Manhattan. It attracts and welcomes Jews of all religious, educational, and cultural backgrounds. Today, it is one of the few tenement shuls still left of the 700 Lower East Side congregations that were recorded in 1918 as serving the Jews of Lower Manhattan.

It was my own spiritual home, along with my family, for six years. Believe me when I tell you it’s a warm and wonderful place.

I just received their SOS email: the roof is leaking and time is running out, is, basically, what they wrote. Here’s the rest:

If you’ve noticed the leaky roof at Shul, you know that the Shul building is in dire need of repairs, a pre-existing need that was exacerbated by Hurricane Sandy. Now you can help by supporting the Stanton St. Shul in an exciting, crowd-sourced fundraising campaign by Lucky Ant to raise $10,000 for our building’s much-needed repairs, including a now leaking roof.

THE CATCH: if the Shul doesn’t reach its $10,000 goal by Dec. 19th, it gets NOTHING. With 15 days left in the campaign we have already passed the $3,000 mark, so we are making progress but still have a long way to go to reach our goal. That’s why letting YOU, friends and new potential donors, know and spread the word is critical. This will ALSO help the Shul meet its 2012 matching fundraising goals for the prestigious Heritage challenge grant the Shul was awarded. The Lucky Ant campaign will be the first building block in raising $30,000 toward that matching grant received from the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

The desperately needed money will go to fixing the roof. While the Shul has a laundry list of needed repairs, Hurricane Sandy exacerbated the already-severe water damage to the building and forced the Synagogue’s fundraising efforts to get aggressive.

Lucky Ant works by helping small businesses and not-for-profits get the funding they need from their local communities. In exchange for funding, donors are offered “thank you” gifts from the Shul, including special misheberach (be blessed) prayers, Stanton St. Shul notecards, LES tours, theater tickets, and more. Donors also have the option of taking a tax-donations for charitable gifts, a standard benefit this time of year.

Remember, if we don’t reach our $10,000 goal by December 19th, we get nothing.That’s where you come in! Please tell your friends, families, and broad social networks about our campaign, explain why the shul is important to you, why these funds are so urgently needed, and please consider making a donation of your own, of any amount. Make your donation through Lucky Ant today by clicking here.

And in case any of the above links don’t work, here’s the URL one last time: http://www.luckyant.com/nyc/lower-east-side/index.html
Folks, if you were looking for a worthy cause for your mitzvah gelt this Chanukah — I heartily recommend the Stanton. And go join them on a Shabbat night or morning. Their Friday night Carlebach Kabalat Shabbat are fabulous.

Thoughts On Hurricane Sandy

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

The following is a revised version of the speech Rabbi Rackovsky gave in his shul on November 10, Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah

Usually, when I begin a speech, I start with something interesting, lighthearted or funny – to get your attention and lead into the speech itself. Permit me to deviate from that this week, because there is nothing funny, lighthearted or interesting about what so many of us are experiencing, and if not us, than our friends, loved ones and neighbors, and if not them, than people a few miles away from us in Long Beach or Far Rockaway who have lost everything to 14 foot waves, or a little farther away where helpless Senior Citizens are living without water or power in high rises on the Lower East Side. The scope of the utter devastation, the loss of so much – property, money and memories – is too much to comprehend. So what is there to say when perhaps it is more appropriate to say nothing? I’ve been struggling with this for the past few days, so permit me to share some of what I’ve been thinking of that may give us a framework. I hope my words will be accepted, and apologize in advance if they are somehow simplistic, insensitive or inappropriate.

This morning, we read the incident of the Shunamite woman’s encounter with the remarkable prophet Elisha. On his way back from saving the family of the wife of one of the prophets, who was in danger of having her children taken into slavery by creditors, Elisha stopped in Shunam at the home of a self effacing woman who was so desirous of such an illustrious guest that she built an addition onto her home so he could rest there on a regular basis, and that is what he did.

On this particular trip, Elisha asked his assistant, Geichazi, to find out what this woman wanted. Geichazi perceived that she had no children so Elisha promised her that within a year, she would be hugging a child of her own. That is what happened. Then the Navi tells us that some time later, that child began to feel sick, and in his mother’s lap, he passed away. She lay him down and then sent for a young man and a donkey so that she could go to Elisha.

Her husband was surprised – after all, it was not a time that one would normally go to visit a prophet, but she said, “Good bye, I’m going.” The Haftorah ends with the child being resurrected by Elisha, but that is only in one tradition. If you look in your Chumash, there is another custom, that of Sephardim, Yekkies (German communities) and Chabad Chassidim. In their mesorah, they end the Haftorah reading when the Shunamite woman leaves to see Elisha.

I can understand the former custom, the one we adhere to here and in many other congregations. It brings the narrative to a satisfying resolution; a woman faced with the tragic loss of her only child is given that child back. But what is the meaning of the second custom? Why end there, right in the middle of the story?

My friend and colleague Rabbi Daniel Yolkut of Pittsburgh suggested that that is precisely the point of the pause. When we read biblical narratives, we know how they end. We know that Yitzchak, in the end is saved from the Akeidah, we know that Korach and his followers were all swallowed up by the earth, and we know that the Jewish people are saved from Haman. But we only know that because we have the benefit of hindsight, where we are privy to the entire narrative. But to really understand what the protagonists are feeling, we need to put ourselves in their place, and understand that to them, the narrative was far from over. The Shunamite woman was grasping at straws, and she had no idea how the story would end, whether Elisha would be able to help her at all during her darkest moments, but she turned to something and someone greater than her for help. It is in this unfinished ending, and where it leaves off, that we can learn some powerful lessons.

Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael: A Plea For Prayer

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Minutes after candle-lighting, sirens rang out in Jerusalem, disturbing the peace and tranquility ushered in by Shabbat. Earlier that day, my wife and I assured our parents that we are far from the rockets in our home in Har Nof, a quiet suburb nestled in the Jerusalem Forest.

But in the middle of Kabbalat Shabbat I found myself taking cover, together with other members of my community, near the stairwell of our shul. When the tefillah resumed, the tone was intense. Before Ma’ariv we recited Tehillim, a prayer for the IDF, and the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael (the Prayer for the Welfare and Security of the State of Israel).

Overnight, members of our kehillah were called up for reserve duty. And when we said the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael again Shabbat morning, it was with more kavanah than is usually the case.

After Shabbat we learned that rockets had fallen near Mevaseret and Gush Etzion, just miles from the heart of Jerusalem. Baruch Hashem, no one was hurt – but that is not the case elsewhere in the country. And while we can’t possibly imagine what our brothers and sisters in the South are going through, the feeling that no one is immune persists.

How can it be, I wondered over Shabbat, that some communities here in Israel and abroad do not recite the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael?

The text of the prayer first appeared in the religious newspaper HaTzofe on September 20, 1948, less than half a year after a nascent nation declared its independence. Written by Chief Rabbis Herzog and Uziel, together with author and Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon, it was adopted by many congregations in Israel and abroad. Even the famed rabbinic journal HaPardes (October 1948) published it and encouraged readers to adopt it.

Praying on behalf of the government is not a new practice. The prophet Yirmiyahu instructs the Jewish people, “Seek the peace of the city to which I have exiled you” (Jer. 29:7). And throughout Jewish history, we have. Halachic works from Kol Bo to Abudraham to Magen Avraham to Aruch HaShulchan codify the practice of praying for the king. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes that it is an obligation and mitzvah to express gratitude for the place where we live, and to pray for it.

We Jews have composed texts on behalf of everyone from the king of Spain to Napoleon. Sometimes, depending on how a ruler treated the Jews, the prayer took an ironic turn, asking for protection from the king. (As when the rabbi in “Fiddler on the Roof” asks God to “Bless and keep the czar – far away from us!”)

The Mishnah (Avot 3:2) stresses the importance of praying on behalf of the government: “Rabbi Hanina, deputy high priest, said: Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for fear of it, people would swallow one another alive.”

So why doesn’t everyone recite the prayer for the state of Israel?

Some object to the fact that the prayer calls the state the “first flowering of our redemption.” They are uncomfortable with the notion that a secular government, founded by secular Zionists, can be part of the redemptive process. But a little research reveals the truths of history: In the early years, following the founding of the state, many rabbis (not all of them Zionists) indeed believed that the state of Israel was the “first flowering” of redemption.

A letter titled “Da’at Torah,” later published in Rabbi M.M. Kasher’s HaTekufah HaGedolah (pp. 424-429), begins, “We thank Hashem for what we have merited, because of His abundant mercy and kindness, to see the first buds [nitzanim] of the beginning of redemption [atchalta d’geulah], with the founding of the state of Israel.”

This letter, encouraging participation in elections for the first Knesset, was signed by the leading gedolim of Eretz Yisrael, among them Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rav Yechezkel Sarna, Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. In fact, as David Tamar noted in a Jan. 2, 1998 article in HaTzofe, Rav Shlomo Zalman would stand during the recitation of the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael.

The Prayer for the State of Israel was not composed strictly for the Religious Zionist camp – it was composed for all Jews to recite. Perhaps it was written during a simpler time in history, when Jews of every stripe and political or religious affiliation fought for an independent Jewish state. They did not have the luxury of sitting back and being sectarian. How things have changed.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/tefillah-lshlom-medinat-yisrael-a-plea-for-prayer/2012/11/21/

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