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October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘shul’

Hoshana Rabbah Rocks

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Sukkot is by far the most mystical holiday in the Jewish holiday cycle, with the four species and the sukkah and the daily hakafot in shul.

Every day on Sukkot, except on Shabbat, we walk in a circle around a guy holding the Torah in shul, we all hold up our lulvim and hadassim and aravot and—with considerable difficulty and dexterity—the etrogim, and we recite verses, a special group of verses for each day of the seven-day holiday. On Shabbat we also recite special verses, but we don’t do the circle thing.

Then, on Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day of Sukkot, everything reaches a crescendo and we recite seven groups of verses, and we circle the shul and the Torah sever times, and then we take a bunch of aravot and smack them five times against the floor – and we feel really weird but at the same time strangely liberated and actually quite content if not outright happy.

So today was Hoshana Rabbah in my new shul in Netanya, and I was recalling my special Hoshana Rabbah minyan on East Broadway, in Rabbi Heftler’s shul, where all the guys who were too impatient to endure the 4-5 hour deal up at the Boyan kloyze (the holy place where the first chassidic rebbe in America lived) would go for a shorter, but very uplifting version nonetheless.

In my new shul they don’t blow the shofar at all between the hakafot (those are the circling of the shul). At Rabbi Heftler’s shul they blow the shofar, and during the verses about the fire and everything we’ve lost in the fire, his voice would break down in a tearful cry that rattled my spine like a well honed lulav.

Granted, my new shul was a whole lot more crowded than Rabbi Heftler’s, where getting a minyan even for Hoshana Rabbah is a considerable task. But our rite today was tamer than I’m used to. And no shofar. I should probably try a chassidish minyan next year.

Have a fabulous two-day yom tov and think of us, here in Israel, getting the second day to tend to our cars and our smartphones…

Chag Sameach, dear friends.

Yori Yanover

Road to Recovery

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Dear Brocha,

Thank you so much for your honesty! Since you have bared your soul, I now feel I can do the same. While growing up, the Yomim Tovim were always my favorite times of the year. On Sukkos we always went sukkah hopping, to Simchas Bais Ha’Shoeva, and boy did we dance on Simchas Torah. On Purim we went collecting in fancy cars, danced in the streets to the leibedike music, and had a mesiba in yeshiva where we danced with our rabbeim. On Pesach we ate lots of delicious food and yet we still complained that we had so little to eat. We went on fun Chol Ha’Moed trips and made good wholesome memories together as a family.

Today, I am a father of six bochurim b”ah. While I love and appreciate all of my children, unfortunately the Yomim Tovim aren’t filled with the good memories as in the days of yore. You see, one of my sons got involved with the wrong crowd, and at 16 he looks forward to Shabbos and Yom Tov as simply another opportunity to drink. Now that Sukkos is almost upon us, instead of joyfully anticipating, I am cautiously fearful about what Simchas Torah will bring.

Simchas Torah is a celebration of Klal Yisroel’s completing and re-commencing the cycle of reading the heilige Torah. It is a time when we can reach great heights in our closeness to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. It is a time for parents to enjoy their sons getting an aliyah, dancing with them and watching them be showered with candies to symbolize the sweetness of the words of the Torah. All of this is greatly encouraged!

However, my 16-year-old son has graduated from candies to liquor. Last year someone had to call Hatzolah because he appeared to be so inebriated, we thought he might have had alcohol poisoning. Some of the members of our shul were concerned about adults getting into trouble for giving liquor to minors, so instead he was taken to a local pediatrician who instructed us on what to look for so he wouldn’t have to have his stomach pumped. I was hoping that this scare would make him abstain from liquor for good. Yet now, he simply recounts that incident with pride as if it’s his rite of passage to adulthood. Unfortunately, most of the young adults pat him on the back and give him high fives over this “great accomplishment.”

Just last week, my wife and I told him, in no uncertain terms, that his behavior was unacceptable. We also told him that while we try to look the other way when he takes a drink on Shabbos, we would not permit him to get drunk on Simchas Torah. We also told him that if we saw him drinking, we would be forced to take him home. Boy was I shocked by his reaction! He told us that if he were offered a drink, he would not refuse it. He said that while he will not drink on his own, if others offered him a drink, he would partake.

I know that liquor flows freely in our shul on Simchas Torah and I can’t stop it from happening. I went to discuss this with the rov, who was empathetic, yet said he can’t enforce a change to this tradition. My wife and I even considered going to our married son for the second days of Yom Tov so there would be no temptations, however, our son informed us that in his shul there are plenty of l’chaims on Simchas Torah as well. We have desperately been searching for an alcohol free or alcohol reduced shul and are unable to find one. Why do people think they need alcohol to attain a level of simchas hachaim? Why can’t we get a spiritual high through the kedushas hayom? Where have the days gone, when our primary concern was that there was too much candy being given out in shul?

A Worried Father

Dear Worried Father,

What a terrible way to have to look at Yom Tov! I actually believe that the dilemma you face is far greater than just the issue of Simchas Torah. The teenage years are chock full of episodes of experimenting and asserting one’s independence. As teens transition into adulthood, they often become tempted to partake in what they perceive as adult activities. They want to follow their parents’ lead, try the activities already done by their friends and establish their own identities. Alcohol frequently becomes a factor in this struggle. Many teens will likely turn to alcohol or other substances during their teenage years. Seventy percent of high school students have had at least one alcoholic beverage, and they are often with their friends when they drink.

Brocha Silverstein

Now, This Is a Lulav

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Here’s an image of the Lubavitcher Rebbe benching his lulav and etrog.


Nancy commented, when she saw this image, how his eyes always look directly at you in all his pictures.

The etrog is upside down, which I thought meant the Rebbe is about to make the blessing, but reader JK was quick to correct me (from his iPhone) that the Rebbe never turned the etrog upside down and didn’t bench in shul.  He also added: “Get things right before writing to thousands.”

I was impressed by the lavish assortment of hadassim and aravot in his lulav bunch. Why haven’t I thought about it before? All these years I’ve been carefully counting them out, three of this, two of that – when I could have this big, fluffy hedge of a lulav.

This morning I plan to take my spare branches and add them to the ones that have so far survived the daily benching, see what that looks like.

Chag Same’ach!

Yori Yanover

Driveway Sukkah

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Sam Berger and Moti Farber shared a two family house, with a joint driveway in front. The Farbers had an extensive family, whereas Sam was relatively young and just recently had his fourth child.

For the past ten years, Moti had built a large sukkah that covered almost the entire driveway, whereas the Bergers would spend the holiday with their parents.

This year however, was different. As Sukkos approached, Moti saw Sam measuring the driveway with a tape measure and some wooden beams. “What are you measuring?” Moti asked.

“Our family is beginning to grow and it’s getting harder to stay at the parents for all of Yom Tov,” said Sam. “We’re planning to build a sukkah this year.”

“How big a sukkah?” asked Moti.

“Eight feet square,” said Tom.

“Is there enough room left in the driveway with our sukkah?” asked Moti.

“That’s what I was checking,” replied Sam. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem so.”

“So where will you build it?” asked Moti.

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” said Sam.

“Why don’t you build your sukkah in the back of the house?” asked Moti.

“It’s not convenient there,” replied Sam. “It means walking around the back all the time.”

“What’s the other option?” asked Moti.

“I’m going to have to ask you to make your sukkah somewhat smaller,” said Sam, “and leave me room in the driveway.”

“But I can’t do that,” protested Moti. “Even with the big sukkah we’re tight, and our married daughter and son are both coming for the first days with their seven children.

“I’m sorry about that,” replied Sam, “but I’m entitled to my share of the driveway just as you are.”

“But you allowed me years ago to build the sukkah there,” argued Moti. “I’ve been building this sukkah for ten years!”

“I never said I gave you permission forever,” answered Sam. “I was happy to allow you to build your sukkah there so long as I didn’t need the space, but not when I also need the space.”

“But I’m established there,” said Moti. “You can’t make me move!”

“The fact that we didn’t need a sukkah in previous years,” replied Sam, “doesn’t mean that we relinquished our rights!”

“If you had no other place I’d understand,” said Moti. “But just because the back is not as convenient is no reason to ruin our Sukkos plans. It’s going to be very hard to fit into a smaller sukkah.”

“You can make it a little smaller and squeeze a bit,” said Sam. “It’s not fair to expect us to use the backyard.”

“We need to discuss this with Rabbi Dayan,” said Moti.

“Agreed,” said Sam. “Let’s make an appointment with him. I’ll give him a call.”

The following evening, Sam and Moti met with Rabbi Dayan in his study and presented their case.

“Uncontested usage of a property for an extended time can indicate ownership or usage rights of that property,” said Rabbi Dayan. “This is known in halacha as chazaka. Everybody agrees that to indicate ownership of the property requires three years of steady use and a legal basis for the claim of ownership. Usage or squatting alone does not make something yours.” (C.M. 140:7)

“I am not claiming sole ownership of the driveway, though,” said Moti, “just usage rights to continue building my sukkah as is on the joint property.”

“That is true,” said Rabbi Dayan. “Typically, though, one partner does not protest if the other partner makes temporary use of the joint property. Therefore, the fact that you used the driveway for many years to set up your sukkah does not establish a chazaka of usage rights. Only if you were to build a permanent wall or affix anchors in the driveway could you possibly establish a chazaka.” (140:15; SM”A 140:22; Shach 140:20)

“There is an additional reason why building a sukkah cannot serve as a chazaka without some permanent element,” added Rabbi Dayan. “Sam continued to use the driveway for the rest of the year. Many authorities maintain that one cannot establish even a chazaka of usage rights when the other party also uses the area.” (See Ketzos 140:3; Nesivos 140:19, 153:12; Emek Hamishpat, Shechenim, p. 39.)

“There was nothing permanent put up all these years,” said Sam. “The sukkah was constructed and completely dismantled each Yom Tov, and we share the driveway the rest of the year.”

Rabbi Meir Orlian

Teddy Bears

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Shimon looked up at me with a serious look in his bright green eyes as he earnestly told me, “I’m going to measure which one is heavier, my mitzvos or my avayros.”

I couldn’t help but smile at his five year old virtues and watched as he took down the toy scale and took little teddy bears, moving them from side to side, looking for the correct balance.

Maybe I should’ve shared my snack? A teddy bear goes to the other side. I davened so nicely with Morah. Another teddy bear on the other side. I watched as Shimon moved teddy bears from side to side, wondering whether he even remembered his original statement. He seemed to be mesmerized, barely noticing anything around him. Just moving teddy bears from side to side.

I didn’t play with Eli even when he asked me to. Teddy bear on the other side. I helped Morah clean up before running to go swimming. Teddy bear. I didn’t forget any clothes by the pool. Teddy bear. I listened to Morah nicely when she told us that story. Teddy bear. I answered questions about the parsha. Teddy bear.

Fifteen minutes later Shimon looked up again, his smile shining from ear to ear, his face radiating pure innocence.

“Yay! My mitzvos are heavier!” he exclaimed happily as he put away the scale. His smile was contagious and I couldn’t help but beam in response.

Since we were young children we have been told by our teachers and parents what Rosh Hashanah means. It means Hashem has a big scale on which He measure your right and wrong. Do you think about what that means? Have you ever stopped and weighed your actions? Do you ever step out of your comfortable box, and take a pause while you think about the impact you make on the people around you?

Children often can teach us lessons that are more powerful than any teacher or speaker. A young child’s innocent simplicity can often shed be a ray of light on a matter that seems so dark and gray. Adults are clouded with biases while children see things in black and white. When a child looks you in the eye and sincerely and naively asks a brutally honest question, it almost knocks you off your feet, reminding you what you really should see clearly.

Wipe off your stained lens, and take another look at the world. Hashem has a scale sitting up in Shamayim, and teddy bear after teddy bear are piling up. How humbling it is to watch a five year old sit and weigh his own mitzvos and avioros. How often has your sixth grade teacher suggested a cheshbon hanefesh to you? Yet now, caught up in our jobs and lives we never stop to think how many teddy bears are on each side.

The seat you gave up on the city bus. A teddy bear on the right side. The penny you dropped in the tzeddakah box in shul. Teddy bear. The phone call from your mother that you carelessly ignored. A teddy bear on the left. The coffee you never made a bracha acharona on. Teddy bear on the left. The smile you offered the passing old lady. Teddy bear. The mincha you missed sitting in the office. Teddy bear on the left. Teddy bear. Teddy bear.

When you look back up, counting teddy bears, moving them from end to end, which side is heavier? When you take a bear off the left side, did you smile happily, knowing the right side was so much heavier?

Have you ever stopped to think that perhaps there would be so many teddy bears you’ve neglected to notice? So many teddy bears you just disregard, dismissing them with some weak rationalization.

If you stopped and started moving teddy after teddy, would you look back up, your eyes a twinkling green, and smile, happily, as you announce, “Yay my mitzvos are heavier?”

Alti Bukalov

Gulliver’s Sukkah

Friday, September 28th, 2012

A Toldos Aharon child is playing with the frum equivalent of a doll house in Jerusalem. And, as you can see from the dangling power cord, his little marvel of a sukkah even has light in it at night. Perfection.

Nancy and I received delivery on our first “eternal sukkah” yesterday, and since it was too much of a schlep to take it upstairs, we decided to start building it right there and then, in the parking lot behind our building.

Following the instructions on a crumbled piece of paper, we put the thing together the wrong way so many times, until a kind neighbor—who also attends my shul—and his son, a crafty boy—couldn’t stand seeing our suffering and offered a helping hand.

It was a little like the Amish barn raising, I suppose, where all the neighbors get together and help a newlywed couple build their first barn.

We continued to do everything twice and three times – tied down the wooden slats for the roof schach, then took them down to wrap the frame first with the tarp that came with the sukkah. Then, seeing as we connected the door upside-down, we had to make adjustments there.

The sun was beating on me, I drank one of those useful little supermarket water bottles in a single gulp and move on to the next one, my entire body ached, I stood tall on a ladder where I had no business doing a balancing act – but in the end we did it, with the door right side up and the window finally not facing the wall, and the schach nicely spread on top.

For 30 years we’ve been celebrating Sukkot in the communal sukkah at 577 Grand Street, where you share the sukkah meal experience with a hundred neighbors. And while we have are some lovely memories from those meals, it will be a thrill to have our sukkot in Netanya, in our own sukkah.

The neighborhood cats have been showing a keen interest in the new structure and are trying to figure out a way to get in. We hope the tarp zippers will hold… Also, there’s a guy parked right next to our sukkah. He has the whole, near-empty parking lot, but, no – he has to park next to our little candy box picture of a sukkah.

Friday I’m going to park our own Chevy there, to block him. All I need is for some semi-conscious driver to back into my precious… No…

A gut yontif!

Yori Yanover

I Lashed a Guy

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Here’s a Lelov chassid in Bet Shemesh, outside Jerusalem, getting 39 lashes on the eve of Yom Kippur. It’s part of the process of atoning for sins which used to be in wide practice even by non-chassidic Jews and is now not nearly as popular.

We spent Yom Kippur in the holy, kabbalistically saturated city of Tzfat, where I davened with a dear, old friend at a chassidish shul, overlooking mountains and valleys and a tiny bit of the Kinneret.

Right after Mincha, on the eve of the holiday, this nice gentleman approached me asking if it won’t be too much trouble to lash him in honor of the coming Day of Awe.

It took some persuasion, I’ll tell you. I’m not the aggressive type, I don’t recall the last time I was engaged in any incident of violent confrontation. Like every decent human being, I channel all my aggression to watching really awful action movies where other people do all the hurting for me. So it took some persuasion. But I finally consented because, hey, you have to try everything at least once.

So the guy handed me his leather belt, leaned over a bench and waited. He told me not to go too easy on him, not to fake it, hit like a man.

So I smacked him one across the back and he quickly changed his initial instructions and asked for a little less hard.

I finally found my groove and started hitting quite expertly, one on the left shoulder, one on the right shoulder, one across the back, 39 altogether. In the end the guy was happy, and I found something new I could do if the writing thing doesn’t work out.

This is Yori Yanover with another report on Jewish life today…

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/i-lashed-a-guy/2012/09/27/

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