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February 10, 2016 / 1 Adar I, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘shul’

It’s Not Just About The Internet… We’re Creating Apathetic Robots

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The Orthodox Jewish world continues to seesaw back and forth about the pros and cons of the Asifa on Technology at Citifield in New York.  Debates abound about on the best Internet filters, blocks and technological band-aids to which will surely repair the dangerous environmental influences of the outside world. Let’s ban or block the Internet and suddenly our children will be less distracted, our communities more heimish and our learning and davening more for the sake of Heaven instead of rote blabbering to get it over with.

In 1944, Rav Eliyahu Dessler said in Strive for Truth (v.3, p.143) “Human beings believe, in their arrogance, that if they continue developing the world on the basis of ever expanding technology they will eventually achieve an environment that will afford everyone unlimited gratification of the senses and a life of ease and pleasure. So long as people remain ‘takers,’ their efforts will inevitably be directed toward selfishness…”

With the advance of technology and the ease of availability, the temptation of distraction has become a daily struggle for Jews across the spectrum to remain upright, even in their own homes. But the Internet is only part of the problem. Go into almost any shul today and you’ll find congregants reading their emails on their cell phones and leaving davening to answer their phones, tallis over their heads and tefillin perfectly squared. Attend any d’var Torah, graduation ceremony, wedding or bar mitzvah and you’ll find people distracted with texting.

The real problem is chutzpah and selfishness, and parents are teaching it to their children by their own actions, and then wondering… what went wrong.

Rabbeinu Bachya asserts in Duties of the Heart: “Their evil inclination induces them to abandon the spiritual world wherein lies their salvation… it makes self-adornment more attractive to them… it impels them to gratify their desires for self-indulgence… until they are sunk in the depths of its seas.”

In the rush to satisfy our thirst for instant gratification, information and acceptance, we’ve created a Jewish society devoid of cohesiveness and spirituality, full of chutzpah and apathy. As Rav Dessler predicted 68 years ago, “They persist in thinking that soon, very soon, they will hit the right formula, and if not in this generation, then in the next, universal happiness will come. And so they bring up their children to study nothing and think of nothing but technological advancement…” (Strive for Truth, pg. 152).

It seems that children and adults 68 years ago were also steeped in the excesses of technology, although it was not as insidious as in our generation. Unfortunately, Jews today are becoming apathetic robots. In their quest to look frum, with their starched white shirts and impeccable Borsolino hats, and in keeping up with the Goldbergs, they have truly collapsed into a materialistic society, all “for the sake of Heaven.”

Consider the case of Yaakov, who goes to the store to buy a pair of expensive shoes on sale at a department store, known for its lenient return policy. There he meets his friend Shimon, who has just bought the same pair of shoes Yaakov wants. Shimon relates to Yaakov that he “purchased” the $300 pair of shoes for only $200 by switching the price tag while no one was looking, and that Yaakov can have them for $250, thereby saving him $50 while Shimon makes some money on the deal.

Shimon is proud of himself and Yaakov gets a bargain.

Where I come from, this is called stealing.

Or consider Reuven’s practice of going to an outlet store to buy fancy white shirts for Shabbos, in order to sit and learn in one of America’s finest yeshivos, where he wouldn’t dare stand out wearing a blue shirt. Lo and behold, Reuven ends up at the local Nordstrom return counter, telling the clerk the shirt is imperfect and he wants to exchange the shirt or get a refund.

Why would religious people, steeped in Torah learning, resort to lying and stealing?

The Orchos Tzaddikim in Sha’ar Hasheker says, “Alchemists turn copper into gold where even the experts cannot tell the difference. So it is with the mind of the charlatan. He rationalizes and justifies his lies until they appear even to him as truth.”

Rockets on Gush Etzion – A Personal Story

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

On Friday night, I was walking to shul with my kids when the air-raid siren went off. I quickly had to debate which was closer, my home or the shul, because there wasn’t much of a particularly safe place in between the two.

To digress for a second, on Friday, Hamas claimed they were going to hit the Knesset in Jerusalem with a rocket. Personally, I didn’t take that threat very seriously, mostly because they were just as likely to hit an Arab village or Al Aqsa, so why would they take that chance?

And out here, in Gush Etzion. Not likely at all. Right?

But still, before hockey practice in the afternoon, the coach made a point of telling all the kids where the closest bomb shelter was. You know… just in case.

Like every Shabbat, I had my security walkie-talkie with me. And when the sirens went off, it started shouting too about the incoming rocket.

This was real.

I decided we were going to try to run home. My wife was there with the newborn along with my mother, and they would need help too.

But little kids can only run so fast, and when it became clear we weren’t going to make it home in a reasonable time, I hid us under a semi-enclosed garage (the building the garage was attached to was unfortunately locked). I wasn’t going to keep us out in the open for much longer. It wasn’t safe.

We got there, as did a few other people, and we waited. And a minute later – “Boom”.

I’ve been through rocket attacks in Lebanon, and during the Gulf War too, so I knew what to expect. But I didn’t know how my kids would react.

My kids couldn’t stop laughing when they heard the explosion in the not far enough away distance!

They apparently practice running to the bomb shelter all the time in school, so they knew what to do, and were excited they could finally do it for real.

We waited another minute, and then rather stupidly, we ran the rest of the way home. Then there was a second, and perhaps fainter boom.

Turns out you are supposed to wait 10 minutes in your safe area, because they fire them in groups. Who knew.

I went back to shul. Alone this time.

Anyway, the parks were pretty empty on Shabbat afternoon, and we kept our kids inside for the rest of the day.

The kids have been making siren sounds all day long and building Lego rockets.

Go figure.

 

————–

The following was posted on Facebook by Eli Birnbaum

Surreal story from Eli Birnbaum in Tekoa:

Erev Shabbat in Tekoa (like most places) is a contradiction of tension and relief. This time the arrival of Shabbat was accompanied by warning sirens for a missile attack. Surprise and unbelief “Missiles here in the Judean desert?” Before we can really grasp what was happening, there came the resounding boom of an explosion echoing in the hills reflecting the shock in our faces. The security van careens through the streets calling people to find shelter. Within minutes another siren warning. This time prayers are halted . “Quickly under the shul,” someone commands. Within the confusion we grab our children and grandchildren in our arms and climb down to the open area under the synagogue which affords more protection. We all move quickly in the darkening evening finding space on the floor . I hold one of my grandchildren talking to him softly . He thinks it is a great game. We begin to sing and wait for the next boom.

It was at that moment that my son Pinny’s cell phone rings. As a member of a search and rescue team it is not uncommon for him to get calls even on Shabbat. But this call was different “Shabbat Shalom” . It is a familiar voice with a very distinct accent. “ Pinny, its Muhammad, what do I do? What’s happening? I heard your sirens”. There is real panic in his voice.

At first this may not appear to be an abnormal situation, but Muhammad is an acquaintance/friend who happens to live in the Arab village of Tuqua which the army will only enter in large numbers. Pinny quietly explains that we were being rocketed from Gaza and the best thing he could do is to remain in doors and stay away from windows. Muhammad thanks Pinny profusely apologizes for calling on Shabbat “ Shabbat Shalom Pinny – B’Emet todah!”. So this Friday night , a “Palestinian Arab” called a “Jewish Settler” for help regarding a rocket attack from Gaza – Surreal!

 

Golan Heights Wind Farm

Monday, November 12th, 2012

The Golan Heights Wind Farm is located 3,150 ft. above sea level on Mount Bnei Rasan, three miles south of Quneitra in the Golan Heights.

In other words, just a stone’s throw away from the bloodiest civil war raging in the region.

It was the first wind farm ever built in Israel, back in 1992. It perates 10 Floda 600 wind turbines generating 6 MW for the Mey Eden mineral water bottling plant, the Golan Heights Winery and 20,000 local residents, give or take. The surplus is fed into the electrical grid.

Several more wind farms are planned in the Galilee, the Negev, and the Aravah regions.

Walking to shul on the shore of the Mediterranean in Netanya, holding on to my yarmulka against the crazy gale, I wonder why they haven’t filled up the horizon with off-shore wind turbines. Altogether, it’s nuts that a country with this much sun and this much wind has to keep looking for oil and natural gas in the ground.

You know why the off shore rigs Israeli companies keep building are yet to yield a drop? Because the midrash says there was no deluge in Eretz Israel. No deluge – no oil or natural gas. It’s scientific…

But, like I said, we’re blessed with so much wind and sun, we should be able to make with it more than just hot air…

Rains of Blessing

Friday, October 26th, 2012

It’s not an easy translation, the Mishna’s notion of “gishmei bracha.” Midrash Rabah (Vayikra 35:10) suggests that the blessing of “I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit” (Lev. 26:4) is fully realized when those rains come down at night.

During the days of King Herod, who endeavored to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, it would only rain at night, and come morning the clouds would disperse, the sun would come out and the workmen would go out to do their labor knowing their actions are favored by their Father in Heaven.

A slightly different view suggests the verse is fully realized when it rains on Shabbat nights (meaning Friday nights). The midrash relates that in the days of Shimon Ben Shatach and his sister, Queen Shlomtzion, the rain would come down only on Shabbat nights, until the wheat grains became the size of kidneys and the rye the size of olive pits and the lentils the size of gold dinars. The sages then harvested and preserved those huge yields for the coming generations, so they would realize how much good they can receive if only they didn’t sin.

It rained early this morning throughout Israel. We received our share in Netanya. Strong, hard, rain, which went on for about an hour and then stopped just before 7 AM, so we could go to shul.

Shabbat Shalom.

Highland Lakes Jewish Center/Chabad Chayil’s Classes And Programs

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

The Highland Lakes Center/Chabad Chayil, located at 2601 N.E. 211 Terrace in North Miami Beach, is again holding “Secrets of the Hebrew Alphabet.” The popular class will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday nights. The course is deep, lots of fun, very informative and open to all backgrounds. Get the inside scoop on Hebrew letters, their meanings, shapes and numeric values according to the Kabbalistic tradition.

The center will also begin a new kids’ program from the Discovery Chanel on Wednesday afternoons at 4 p.m. Children will have the opportunity to take Discovery Kids computer classes at Chabad Chayil.

Family Film Night will take place Saturday evenings. The first film of the season was, “Your Grandpa Abe,” the true story of young Avraham, brilliantly animated for adults and children and a thoroughly enjoyable educational big screen experience.

Highland Lakes Jewish Center/Chabad Chayil suggests that South Floridians reserve these dates:

November 11 – Jewish Leadership Conference
November 23 – Hebrew School Shabbaton
December 12 – Chanukah Production/Shul Party
January 21 – Community Cruise

For more information e-mail the shul at office@ChabadChayil.org or call (305) 770-1919.

Modern Orthodox Dropouts

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

There has been a lot of discussion about young people abandoning Mitzvah observance (going OTD) over the past few years. A lot of that discussion took place here.

Indeed it has been declared a crisis by some. The focus of this issue in the religious media has been primarily in the Charedi world. Many theories have emerged as to why children go OTD. Among them: being sexually abused and the negative reactions to it by family and community, dysfunctional family situations, faulty educational environments, teachers unprepared to deal with questions of faith, or being overly sheltered from the world so that rebellion occurs when they are exposed to it unprepared.

I’m sure I missed a few reasons, but suffice it to say there are many reasons or combination of reasons to explain the phenomenon in the Charedi world. This problem is non discriminatory and touches even the best of households. Much ink has been spilled on horror stories of good and decent parents who have one child who has completely crashed and has become – not only OTD, but even a societal outcast (e.g. use of hard drugs and generally dropping out of society).

What has not been discussed much is the phenomenon of Modern Orthodox children going OTD. As though it wasn’t a problem for them. Of course that isn’t true. MO kids go OTD too. But I was amazed to find out the rate. According to an excellent blog post by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky there is an unpublished study claiming that 50% of Modern Orthodox high school graduates go OTD within two years of their graduation!

That is a shocking statistic. It almost justifies claims I often hear by the right that whatever problems they have with OTD, it is a drop in the bucket compared to our problems with it. My answer to them is that their drop is a very large drop which has been declared a crisis by many of their own leaders. But their point is well taken if that 50% statistic is anywhere near true.

But let us examine what is really going on with a statistic like this. Just as is the case by Charedim, there are many reasons why someone may abandon his religious observance. Some of them probably overlap. But there are definitely reasons that are unique to Modern Orthodoxy. One very plausible explanation is that many of the children attending MO schools are not from religious homes. When a child doesn’t see and live at home what he is taught in school, there is little chance of him remaining observant – if he ever was. But I don’t think anyone believes that is the entire reason.

Rabbi Pruzansky proposes another reason which I think is completely valid – although I don’t think it is the only reason by far.

He says that one has to look at the home first. What kind of role models does a child see in his or her parents?

I have long ago contended that the many MO Jews are what I call MO-Lite. This means that they are socially religious. They live in MO Neighborhoods and go to MO Shuls. But they are not really all that into their Judaism in any serious way. They observe Shabbos and Kashrus because that is how they were basically raised. But their observance is more social that idealistic – and outside of those two main Mitzvos – picking and choosing what they do and do not observe.

MO-Lites pay as much (if not more) attention to their lifestyle choices than they do religious choices. So when the two conflict – the lifestyle choice may win. Not that they will purposely violate Halacha, but they don’t look at their Judaism as the primary part of their lives. As Rabbi Pruzansky points out:

Children who see their parents prioritize shul – not once or twice a week, but every day – see shul as a value. Children who see their parents attend shul once a week and primarily socialize and converse while there see shul as a place to meet their friends. When older, they can just bypass the middleman and just go straight to their friends.

Similarly, children who see parents learning Torah during their leisure time perceive learning as a value. Children whose Shabbat is different than the other days of the week – the Shabbat table is different, the conversation is laden with talk of Torah, ideas, values, and zemirot instead of idle chitchat, sports, and gossip – experience a different Shabbat. It’s just a different day. When Shabbat is not observed as a different day, it stops being a different day.

It’s A Boy’s World, You Know

Friday, October 19th, 2012

You’ve gotta settle, stop being so choosy, it’s a boy’s world after all
And you’re just one of the millions who think their worth something, have the gall.
You’ve got to start looking better, so that you’ll be noticed when you walk through town
And perhaps you can lose a few pounds too, so we can pull your resume dress size down.

‘Tis a boys market, you know, so stop being such a case
Fess up and accept the reality that you’re being forced to face.
You can’t just tell a shadchan “no” because the guy’s very bummy
For it’s the reality that all girls are gold while all the guys are crummy.

Shadchan after shadchan tells you this, their words sting like an open wound
Your hopes of ever finding Mr. Right for you, suddenly shattered and ruined.
Their conversations were so similar, that they all seem like one big blur
And the sad reality is that your parents seem to side with him or her.

They convince you to at least try to date him, with “no” “ifs” “ands” or “buts”
So what if he’s missing a screw or two so what if he’s completely nuts?
So what if he recalculates his every move, so what if he’s weird and nerdy?
So what if he looks disheveled, his hair all loose, his suits all dirty?

It’s a boy’s world you know, and girls come a dozen a dime
So you have to be on your best behavior, always and graduate college on time.
You have to do everything right, from high school, to work-life to sem
You always have to look great at weddings and portray yourself as a gem.

You always have to act nicely to people; you always have to act stable
You can never act moody or vent, but rather have to empower and to enable.
You have to act sweet and happy, and if you’re not, you just have to pretend
Otherwise, how on earth do you expect your singlehood to ever end?

Yet he can do as he wishes and pleases, and nobody says a peep
He can sit around and klutz all day, and arise at 12p.m. after sleep.
He can flunk out of school and take his time with things, because there’s simply no rush for guys
Despite how completely messed up he turns out to be, they’ll be flocking to him like flies.

Because it’s just a boy’s world you know, so he can act like a jerk
Date hundreds of women and live it up, and then dump them for every quirk.
He can still be warming the bench in yeshiva, and so what if he’s 24?
There will somehow still be a million girls lined up, knocking on his door.

Hang out in the coffee room till 12 a.m. comparing Chock-full to Nescafe
Daven three times without a minyan and not go to shul all day.
He’s few and far between, you know, so why should he bother to try?
He’ll be easy to marry off anyway for his chromosome is XY.

It’s a boy’s world, so I better get used to it, for I’m a mere commodity
Valued by how many thousands my parents will give if he so chooses to marry me.
Perhaps I may be a top girl, but I’m defective merchandise nonetheless
Simply because I’m not wearing pants, but instead put on a skirt or a dress.

So what if I’m pretty and fun to be around, so what if I’m in Columbia law?
So what if I come from the most charming family and can make the prettiest cakes you ever saw.
So what if I have the best track record, while his is far less than great?
He’s one of those hard-to-find yeshiva bochurim, so I better accept the date.

So what if he appears to be obnoxious, wants to marry a slave to him, get a free ride
So what if his ego’s humongous, and nothing can ever shatter his pride.
So what if he looks like a monkey, and is 4’11 and rates a Tanner II
So what if he takes his life easy and parties, as though he’s got nothing better to do.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/teens-twenties/its-a-boys-world-you-know/2012/10/19/

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