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Posts Tagged ‘tefillin’

Fighting In The South Pacific

Friday, September 14th, 2012

My name is Eli Freundlich. I was 18 and had just graduated Torah Voddath in Williamsburg. America had entered the war a few years before. I wanted to be drafted so was happy when I received my notice. It was July 1943 – July 27, 1943 to be exact – when I was sworn into the American Army.

My parents were not happy. They would have rather me stayed in yeshiva than be in the trenches. In my day you either went to college or went to work after high school. The yeshivas, though, set up a system where you could register as a divinity student and that way get out of being drafted.

In front of a downed Japanese plane

On August 18, I reported to Camp Upton in Long Island. We received our inoculations and uniforms and then we were sent to Camp Croft boot camp in South Carolina. This is where I received my basic training. I learned things like how to fire a gun, get around at night, dig foxholes and how to march.

Our day started with reveille at 6:00 a.m. – roll call, exercises and clean up. But I would always manage somehow to hole myself up in a corner to daven before breakfast. After breakfast, we “fell out” in formation.

There was another religious soldier in my barrack. He was a German refugee named Yitzchak Goldschmidt. He didn’t carry his weapons or any muktza item on Shabbos and did his training over on Sunday, which was our day off. He also made an arrangement with the guys in the barrack. Every Friday night we had to spotlessly clean the barracks, with a toothbrush, we would joke. We called it the “floor show.” Yitzchak agreed to clean all the windows by himself throughout the week so that Friday night he could go to chapel.

At the end of the training period, he came over to me and said, “They offered me an honorable discharge because my religious practices are incompatible with the army. I don’t want to take it because it might cause a chillul Hashem. The goyim will think I used this shtick to get out of the army.”

Firefight in the night sky over the Philippines

Later he was sent overseas to Europe. The last letter I sent to him was returned – killed in action. He stepped on a booby trap set by the Germans. I believe he was an only child. Yehi zichro baruch.

The army didn’t supply kosher meals in those days so I did not eat any meat and tried to stay away from anything mixed with meat. This was difficult as everything was fried in lard. I also made it my business to daven every day and put on my tefillin. As a matter of fact, once overseas, I spent a lot of time in the jungles of the Philippines looking for a quiet, private place to daven. I finally found it at the end of the war, in Japan. I asked the Catholic chaplain there if I could use his office to pray.

“By all means.” He said.

So I covered the crosses and finally got my privacy!

After 4 months of basic training, we were sent overseas. I hoped to be assigned to Europe but was sent to Asia instead and so I resigned myself to thinking that wherever Hashem would send me, that’s where I would fight.

Why was I so bent on being in the army in the first place? It’s true that I and most Americans had no idea at that time the extent to which the Jews in Europe were being exterminated. We just knew there was a lot of anti-semitism and sporadic Jew killings. Nevertheless it was enough for me; I wanted my chance for nekama– revenge.

In the Pacific Theater

Up until then I had been regularly sending letters home. I knew as long as my mother thought I was safe in South Carolina, she wouldn’t worry about me. So I prepared a batch of letters to be sent out weekly by a fellow soldier who was staying behind so she would continue to think I was in the States. I’m not sure how long she was fooled but I know it did work for a while.

Missing Florida Millionaire Left Tefillin on Abandoned Boat

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Guma Aguiar, a Florida businessman and philanthropist who went missing in June, left his tefillin on his abandoned boat.

All of the life jackets also were accounted for, the Coast Guard reported, according to the Sun-Sentinel, after getting the records through a Freedom of Information Act request. His wedding ring and watch were left at home.

Aguiar, the CEO of Leor Energy who lived in Fort Lauderdale, left his home on June 19. His empty 31-foot boat washed ashore in Fort Lauderdale the following morning.

Aguiar’s wife reportedly had asked for a divorce just before he left the house. Aguiar had a history of ill mental health, according to reports citing family members. The disappearance remains an open missing persons case.

In 2009, Aguiar gave $8 million to the pro-aliyah group Nefesh B’Nefesh and $500,000 to March of the Living, which takes high school-aged Jews to Poland to see Holocaust sites. He also became a fixture of Israeli sports pages when he became the main sponsor of the Israeli Premier League soccer team Beitar Jerusalem.

While Aguiar, who has a Jewish mother, did not grow up with much of a Jewish background, he later returned to Judaism and has made large gifts to Jewish and Israeli causes. He made his fortune when he discovered huge natural gas reserves in Texas.

Keeping the Faith

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

I am wholly inadequate to deal with this subject. That said I cannot leave it untouched. There is a phenomenon taking place that is highly disturbing to a believer and a rationalist like myself. The phenomenon I refer to is that of an increasing number of Orthodox Jews that are questioning their faith. Emunah has never before been tested like it is now. At least in my lifetime.

It used to be a bigger problem in the more open world of Modern Orthodoxy. That is where Rabbi Eliyahu Fink suggests the majority of the problem lies. But with the advent of the internet, everyone is at risk.

Tablet Magzine has an article by Ari Margolies, an 18 year old that is going through this. He was raised in a religious home. He was someone that loved his Judaism as a child. But then after his Bar Mitzvah he started asking the difficult questions. Questions that are difficult to answer. Thus he has become a skeptic – joining the community of skeptics who have had the same questions.

These are not people who went OTD because of dysfunction in their lives. Nor are they particularly the ones whose educational needs are not met because they are not up to the fierce completion in Yeshivos, whether it is in the area of Limud HaTorah or in the area of academic studies. These are the bright kids. These are the good kids from good families. And in some cases these are adults who at some point in their lives ask hard questions that end up leading them into becoming skeptics.

I have dealt with this topic in the past. I have offered my own views as to why I have Emunah. But I fully admit that I do not have satisfactory answers to all the questions asked by these highly intelligent people. For example it is almost impossible to answer a question put to me many times by different people – and one that precipitated Ari’s descent into the world of skeptics. From the article:

One morning, I woke up and a thought fell on me like a ton of bricks. I realized I was only an Orthodox Jew because it was what I had been taught since birth. I knew no other way. If I had been born into a Christian family, I would have been on the Jesus train. If I’d been born into a Muslim family, I would’ve jumped on the Allah bandwagon. If I had been raised in the splendor of the flying spaghetti monster, then I’d have spent my mornings praising his noodle appendages. I was an Orthodox Jew by chance, I realized, and the realization shook me to my core.

I honestly do not know how to answer a question like this. And yet I have complete faith in Judaism as it has been handed down to me by my forefathers. Am I lucky to be born a Jew in a religious home? Yes! You bet I am. But that does not answer the question of why I get to be so lucky.

One of the things I deal with here (which my last post touched upon) is the fantastic stories of faith that strains credulity. As described by Ari:

I would hear stories of people who had their lives saved by their tefillin. One guy was praying while driving and got into a car accident; the only thing that stopped his head from smashing through the windshield was his headpiece. Another devout man, about to board a plane, realized he left his tefillin at home and missed the flight while retrieving them, and—you guessed it—the plane crashed. It all sounded like a bit much.

These kinds of stories tend to bring out the skeptic in me as well. Not that they are impossible to believe. But that they are so frequently used to prove that a miracle occurred because of an act based on one’s religious belief… Or taken a step further, because one participated in one of those Segula Tzedaka campaigns.

When people start questioning their faith, stories like this only accelerate the process.

I don’t have any answers to this increasing problem. But at the same time, there is absolutely nothing being done to address them in a communal way. At least not as it pertains to nipping it in the bud in one’s formal educational experience.

‘Personally Unique’

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Phil and Mike were part of a team of construction workers building a skyscraper in the middle of the city. When it was time for their lunch break they sat down together with their feet dangling twelve stories from the ground. Phil opened his lunch box and peered in, “Peanut butter and jelly?! Again peanut butter and jelly! I have had enough! If I get peanut butter and jelly again tomorrow, so help me I’m going to jump right off this structure.” Mike then opened his lunch box and peered in, “Tuna fish?! Again Tuna fish! I can’t take it anymore. If I have tuna fish for lunch one more time I’m going to jump off with you.”

The next day when it was time for their lunch break, the duo sat down together and opened their lunch boxes. Phil was aghast, “Peanut butter and jelly again! That’s it!” With that he leapt off the building. Mike then looked in his lunch box. “Tuna fish again! That’s it!” And before anyone could stop him, he too jumped off the building.

The families decided to hold a joint funeral for Phil and Mike. Before the eulogies began Mike’s wife walked up to his casket sobbing, “Michael, I didn’t know you didn’t like peanut butter and jelly. If I would have known I never would have given it to you for lunch.” With that she walked away crying bitterly. Then Phil’s wife walked over to his casket, “Phillip… you made your own lunch every day!”

It sounds like a silly inane joke. But perhaps there is more truth to the joke then it may seem. The sefer Sha’ar Bas Rabim[1] relates a powerful insight: He explains that every person wants to be created exactly as he/she is created. Before a soul descends into the body of a newborn baby, it is shown what it needs to rectify and what its unique role will be while it is alive in this world. The soul then decides what it requires – i.e. its familial, social, economic, intellectual, and physical state, and G-d responds accordingly.

Thus when challenges arise in life and one questions G-d, “Why me? How could You do this to me?” the question is really misdirected. In truth it is not G-d who has determined the situation, but rather the person himself, from the pure vantage point of heaven, before descending into this world. Essentially, we make our own lunch.

The Torah instructs (22:5), “A woman shall not wear the garments of a man, and a man shall not wear the dress of a woman, for it is an abomination of Hashem, your G-d, anyone who does these things.”

Targum Yonason explains the verse: “The clothing of tzitzis and tefillin, which are affixed for men, should not be donned by women… for it distances one from before Hashem, your G-d, anyone who does these things.”

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz zt’l commented that the Torah is reminding us that each person has his own mission to fulfill in life. For one person performing a certain task can be extremely holy, while for another person performing that same task can be considered an abomination. Every person needs to foster feelings of joy and appreciation for his own uniqueness and abilities. How can one compare himself to another if his role is so vastly different? A man needs the constant spiritual injections of holiness that are garnered through wearing tefillin and tzitzis. A woman however, does not require those measures[2], and therefore for her to wear tefillin and tzitzis can be deemed an abomination.

There are many conscientious students in school who struggle with the notion that their peers have superior scholastic acumen than they do. They work and struggle much harder for grades and do not score as well as others who achieve high grades with minimal effort. Those students must be taught that G-d gives every person what he needs. [Truthfully, those who are trained to struggle and expend effort to reach levels of success are better suited and prepared for the challenges of life. Often it is the students who did not have to work hard during their formative years who are in for a rude awakening when they step into “the real world.”]

The Modern And The Old Jew

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The name of the Gaon, Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor, was known to Jewry throughout the world. He was also well know to Russian royalty, having visited the Czar many times to plead for his fellow religionists.

Once, while traveling home from St. Petersberg he was on the same train with a prominent merchant, one of the Maskilim or free thinkers. When the train stopped at Vilna for an hour, a large throng of Jews gathered at the station. The merchant had never seen such a large crowd this station and he inquired as to the reason for their gathering.

“Don’t you know?” He was told, “the world famous Gaon, Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor is on this train and we are hoping for the honor of at least getting a glimpse of him.”

The freethinker was impressed and decided to meet the Gaon. He inquired of the conductor of the first class coach if the prominent Jew was in the car. The conductor had neither heard of him nor had he seen him in his car. The merchant was a bit taken aback. A man who visits often with royalty surely travels first class.

Seeks The Gaon

He then inquired in the second-class coach and again he could not find him. Only when he entered the third class coach did people know of him.

“Will you please direct me to the chief rabbi of Kovna, Rabbi Rav Yitzchok Elchonon?” he asked the conductor.

He pointed to an elderly Jew with a long white beard who was at that moment praying in his tallis and tefillin.

The free thinker couldn’t believe his eyes. This old man, praying in public, was supposed to be the important representative of the Jews who was friendly with the Czar of Russia?

He waited until the Gaon had finished praying and then approached him saying, “Greetings unto you Rabbi. I am one of the freethinkers in Russia, a prominent merchant in my city. We have often spoken of you and your ideas. But I am somewhat taken aback, I had always figured you to be a modern Jew, especially since you visit the Czar. Imagine my surprise to see that you are one of the real old fashioned Jews.”

The Gaon looked at him and smiled. “On the contrary,” he said, “I am of the modern generation but you are of the old fashioned generation.”

“In what way?” asked the freethinker.

“Simply,” answered the Gaon, “on Pesach we read in the Hagaddah, ‘In the beginning our ancestors were idol-worshippers…”

Never Scold A Jew

Rav Yitzchok Elchonon was known for his humility and kindness towards his fellow Jews.

Once on Shabbos, while walking in the park in company with his secretary, Rav Yaakov Lipshitz, he saw a member of his congregation approaching him with a cigarette in his mouth. When the man saw the Gaon, he hastily threw it away.

“Good Shabbos to you,” said the Gaon to him, pleasantly.

“Good Shabbos,” answered the transgressor in a guilty tone as he hurried away.

The secretary could not contain himself. He turned to Rav Yitzchok Elchonon and said, “Rebbe, why didn’t you scold that man when you saw him violating the Shabbos? That way he’ll never do it again. Instead, you greeted him in a friendly manner as if you approved his actions.”

“On the contrary,” answered the Sage. “If I would have scolded him he would have felt offended at my interference in his personal life. Whereas, he now thinks that I didn’t see him and he’ll never smoke in public on Shabbos for fear that he may meet me again.”

Helping The Poor Woman

Once, a woman came to Rav Rav Yitzchok Elchonon with a difficult sheilah on an Erev Yom Tov. The Gaon paced the floor of his room, absorbed in deep thought. He then turned to the woman and said, “All is kosher.”

When the woman left, he told those present in the room that the woman’s husband was a poor melamed in a small town. He sent her only four rubles for the upkeep of the family. The poor woman had to pay one ruble for her son’s Hebrew tuition, leaving her only three rubles for all her Yom Tov needs. Then this sheilah arose. No heter could be found.

Daf Yomi

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

No Cell Phones Please!
‘A Kerchief That One Designated For Storing Tefillin’
(Berachos 23)

R. Chisda on our daf cites the following halacha: If someone designates a kerchief for storing tefillin and then does in fact store his tefillin there, he may not store his money there too. However, if he designated a kerchief without actually storing his tefillin in it, or stored his tefillin in a kerchief without designating it for that purpose, he may also store his money there.

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 42:3) codifies this halacha, and the Rema adds that this rule also applies to other tashmishei kedushah. For example, it is only forbidden to write on a piece of klaf if it has already been both designated and used for tefillin, a mezuzah, or Sefer Torah – whatever the case may be.

Tallis Bag

The Magen Avraham (ad loc. s.v. “ve’da d’chol zeh…”) notes that talleisim are not considered sanctified items but tashmishei mitzvah. Therefore, this rule about “designating and using” does not apply to them. Thus, we may store keys, reading glasses, and cell phones, for example, in a tallis bag.

A Designation How To

How does one formally designate a tefillin bag as a tashmish kedushah? The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. sk 10, 24) writes that one may 1) verbally designate it; 2) manufacture it [or improve upon an existing bag] for the sake of tefillin; 3) actually place tefillin in it with the intent to permanently use it for storing tefillin; or 4) repeatedly use it for one’s tefillin.

The Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. sk 4) argues that “repeatedly use” means three days. After that, the bag assumes the status of tashmishei kedushah. However, if one openly stipulates that he does not intend to use this bag for tefillin on a regular basis, then the bag does not acquire the status of tashmishei kedushah even after three days.

This week’s Daf Yomi Highlights is based upon Al Hadaf, published by Cong. Al Hadaf, 17N Rigaud Rd., Spring Valley, NY 10977-2533. Al Hadaf, published semi-monthly, is available by subscription: U.S. – $40 per year; Canada – $54 per year; overseas – $65 per year. For dedication information contact Rabbi Zev Dickstein, editor, at 845-356-9114 or visit Alhadafyomi.org.

Can Somebody Tell Me Why?

Friday, August 17th, 2012

If a Jew is thrown into prison and he doesn’t have tefillin, then he can’t perform the mitzvah of putting on tefillin. But the mitzvah of tefillin isn’t cancelled because of this. The very first morning that he gets out of jail, he once again must perform the mitzvah of putting on tefillin.

In the same way, during the almost 2000 years that the Jewish People were in the prison of exile in foreign lands, we didn’t have the means to re-conquer and resettle the Land of Israel in a national way. However, as soon as the means returned to our hands, as it has in the last one hundred years, then we are obligated once again to conquer and live in the Eretz Yisrael.

It says in this week’s Torah portion, “Re’eh”:

“These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall observe to do in the Land, which the Lord God of thy fathers gives thee to possess it, all the days that you live upon the earth” (Devarim, 12:1).

Can anything be clearer than this verse from the Torah? First, we are told that the Jewish People are to perform the commandments in the Land of Israel. Then the verse goes on and emphasizes that this is not something reserved to the time of Moshe and Yehoshua, but for “all the days that you live upon the earth.” That means that the Land of Israel is the place where the Jews are to live and practice the Torah forever.

What can be confusing or unclear about this?

It is true that for the almost two thousand years that the Jews were expelled from the Land of Israel in punishment for our sins, we had no way of returning to Israel en masse, and we were thus physically prevented from living there in a national way. Individual Jews and small Jewish communities always continued to live in the Holy Land, but without ships, weapons, and a practical way of re-conquering the Land, we were compelled to exist in galut as foreigners in foreign lands. Like a Jew in prison without tefillin, we couldn’t do the mitzvah of living in our Land.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook said that this situation resembled what happened many times in Jewish villages in Russia, when the Jews couldn’t obtain etrogs on Sukkot. Without the etrogs, they couldn’t perform the commandment of waving the lulav, but this did not cancel the mitzvah. The mitzvah remained. Come the following Sukkot, if the Jews had etrogs in Russia, they continued performing the mitzvah just as before.

So too with the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel. If we are physically prevented from doing so because we lack the financial, economic, and military means necessary to establish Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael, then the mitzvah is not in our grasp. However, living in Eretz Yisrael, and putting it under Jewish control, remains a mitzvah, and the minute the capability returns to our hands, the Jewish People are beholden to do so.

In the past century, the Almighty gave us the capability of returning to our homeland. Disguising His guiding hand behind a curtain of seemingly natural, historical events like World Wars and international declarations and agreements, and through people like Herzl, Balfour, Jabotinsky, Rabbi Kook, Ben Gurion, and Allenby, and through an awakened Jewish spirit that led to the fighting forces of the Jewish Brigade, the Hagana, Etzel, Lechi, and Tzahal, the State of Israel was reborn. Metaphorically, the etrog and tefillin returned to our hands. The mitzvah to live in the Land of Israel became reactivated for all the nation.

Hundreds of thousands have come. But many others still wallow in jail, even though the gates of the prison have opened.

I don’t understand. These same people will examine the tip of a lulav with a magnifying glass. They will pay a small fortune to acquire a beautiful etrog. They will pay large sums of money to send their children to Jewish schools. In supermarkets, they will search out all the tiny OUs they can find. What’s the difference with the mitzvah of living in Israel? Why don’t they rush to fulfill it with the very same zeal?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/can-somebody-tell-me-why/2012/08/17/

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