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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Yomim Tovim’

Tasting the “Heat” of the Torah

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

As a Baal Teshuva who discovered the “emes” about eight years ago, I am often asked by my FFB friends in my very FFB neighborhood to describe what inspired my wife and I to take the plunge and more specifically, what it feels like to lead a Torah observant life after so many years of living on the “other side.”  After enlightening them with our story, which I must admit never seems that awe inspiring to me, I can almost always predict where the conversation will go from there.  “You are so fortunate” is usually how the next sentence begins followed by something along the lines of  “I can never feel what you feel” or “Having grown up this way we just do what we do because that is what we were taught.”  On cue, I feebly attempt to describe the feelings I have when I daven, learn, celebrate Shabbosim or Yomim Tovim, or take our children to yeshiva.  I use words like “inspired,” “true happiness” or “fills a void” yet in each instance I feel like I failed to appropriately and adequately capture the true essence of what it feels like to be a novice at Torah observance.

I am always struck by the irony of this exchange.  After all, I would give anything to have been brought up frum from birth!  The thought of never having to ask, “What page are we on” during davening or learning, or have my best friend translate a yeshivish colloquialism during the rabbi’s shiur would be shamayim on earth.  Yet those who can easily answer these questions somehow envy my position, since I am able to feel something they simply cannot.

This past Shabbos I finally had the chance to help my friends experience the sensation I feel in regards to yiddishkeit.  I will admit that it occurred, at first, inadvertently, but it played out like a charm…

Like many communities in the frum world, ours is passionate about food, and specifically, a tasty post-Shabbos morning davening kiddush.  In the rare instance when our shul does not have a community simcha kiddush planned, a few of us rotate hosting a kiddush in our homes. What began as a few men getting together for chulent and a l’chaim has, baruch Hashem, blossomed.

One of my weaknesses, or perhaps it is a strength, is my appetite and passion for extremely spicy foods.  So much so, in fact, that I dedicated almost an entire garden this summer to growing jalapeno and habanero peppers.  Most are familiar with the green jalapeno and the punch it packs when added to salads, sauces, or served on top of nachos and cheese.  Well the habanero is the stronger, meaner and much more intimidating “big brother” to the jalapeno.  In fact the habanero packs 10 times the heat level of the garden variety jalapeno…with just a morsel of this pepper causing even the most experienced “hot foodie” to recoil.   I have found that a tiny slice of habanero adds an incredible edible kick to a chulent and decided to share my discovery with my chevra last Shabbos.

Almost lost on the large table of cakes, kugels, herrings and bowls of chulent was the small plate of finely chopped bright orange habanero peppers, courtesy of yours truly.  In response to the many, “hey, what are those” questions I received, I let my friends know what was on the plate, where they came from and attempted to describe the powerful punch they pack when added in miniscule doses to the chulent.  I stood back as the initial daring few took a small pinch and added them to their plates.  The even more courageous, despite my warning, popped a small portion directly onto their tongues!  Slowly but surely the plate of peppers disappeared, and the shock induced tears increased.  Yes, my friends were experiencing a “sensation” they never experienced before.

Title: The Spirit of the Seasons: Insights into the Yomim Tovim

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Title: The Spirit of the Seasons: Insights into the Yomim Tovim

Author: Rabbi Jonathan Shooter

Publisher: Feldheim

 

 

   Jews around the world are reflecting on the Jewish New Year season that recently passed. It seems that everybody is struggling with their resolutions to be better and to do better. All of us are worrying about the daunting lead-up to life’s next chapter: Thanksgiving season. Xmas parties. Awkward situations, she’elot that make you blush to ask them. Bills. More bills. Tempers. Fourth quarter reports. Bosses cut losses by firing staff. Fear. Panic. You wonder what was gained by going through the Yamim Noraim. I have good news for you: The Spirit of the Seasons by Rabbi Jonathan Shooter can show you insights into the Yamim Tovim to soothe your soul and psyche.

 

   The 287-page hardcover graciously takes you through the Jewish year with thoughtful reflections and information. Shooter lets us listen in on the Chafetz Chaim’s resonating remark about self-sacrifice in the Kislev chapter. Ponder the tragedy of Asarah B’Tevet when you read what Reb Nachum Chernobler said about tikkun chatzot and its deeper meaning (page 138). Add all that to the rest of this fascinating read to become a more informed Jew who keeps up with the class that HaKadosh Baruch Hu began 5771 years ago.

 

   The Spirit of the Seasons: Insights into the Yomim Tovim belongs in your hands and on your reading table.

 

   Yocheved Golani is the author of the highly acclaimed E-book, “It’s MY Crisis! And I’ll Cry If I Need To: EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge”  (www.booklocker.com/books/4244.html).

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 10/31/08

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

The Sun Has Come Out For ‘Esther’
(See Chronicles 5-16, 5-23, 5-30, 8-1, 8-8)

Readers will surely recall the heart-tugging letters from “Esther” who was ridden by guilt for having rejected a fine young man based solely on their differing cultures and background. When the rebuffed suitor had taken ill and passed away shortly after Esther married another, our young lady was inconsolable. To augment her heartbreak, she found herself in an abusive marital relationship. And while she was mourning a tragedy that she was certain she had caused, her husband absconded with their two little sons.

For some 20-odd years, Esther has berated herself for her foolishness and callousness with which she had spurned “Aaron” and was convinced that losing her children was G-d’s way of punishing her for her sin.

In the column that featured Esther’s last letter (Chronicles 8-8), she was advised to put the past behind her. To quote from our reply, “Though we are taught to do teshuvah every day of our life here on earth, we are also admonished to serve Hashem with happiness and to believe that He is a merciful Father eager to forgive our wrongdoings. Having suffered so unbearably for so long, you must surely believe that G-d has forgiven you for the foolishness of your youth and that your ocean of tears has by now more than wiped your slate clean.”

Esther was further encouraged never to give up on her children whom she would be likely to meet up with one day. ” Now that you have finally allowed your oppressive pain to seep out, your story is being read by countless people globally. Anyone recalling an incident similar to the one you have described will alert “a someone else” and so on.

“It is well documented that adopted children generally grow up with an innate curiosity about their roots. That craving is even more prevalent among our people and many have left no stone unturned in trying to unearth details of their birth mother. G-d has instilled in the human heart of a parent a special bond to his/her child and in the heart of a child a special feeling for his/her parent – a kesher not easily broken.”

Just before Rosh Hashanah, this column heard from “Esther” again. With the advent of Mar Cheshvan, a month designated as mar (bitter) because it is devoid of holy days, I delight in bringing some sweet joy to you, our dear reader, who will certainly feel along with Esther once again.

Dear Rachel,

I wanted to update you on a number of recent occurrences in my life. I leave out much because it will take too long. However, I will continue to update you after the Holidays, bli neder, if you wish.

Rachel, it seems that the letters made huge waves everywhere.

I got a phone call one late night, shaking me out of another restless sleep. A gentle, male voice asked if I am so and so. I reacted with suspicion and demanded to know who was calling. The phone number had about 15 numerals, so obviously the caller was out of the U.S.

He managed to calm me down some and asked me to sit down, and then he said that he read the letters in The Jewish Press and became convinced that the writer must be me, “his mother,” and that he is my younger son (he gave me his TWO names).

I didn’t allow myself to be swayed and threatened to have the police trace the call. He reacted by telling me exactly where he was calling from. I then asked him to describe a distinctive physical mark of his, and he DID!

I screamed, stuttered, yelled and ran around the room like a devil possessed. I cried hysterically and he shushed me again and again. To make a long story short, he was now married and living in another country. He promised to come visit. I couldn’t sleep for the next two weeks!

He was coming to visit for five days so I took a week’s vacation. Two weeks later I waited for him at the airport, pacing nervously back and forth through the terminal. (I think I wore a hole in my shoes.) When they announced the arrival, I thought I swallowed my heart!

Rachel, he is tall, slim, dark, and was wearing a suit, looking typically Yeshivish. I recognized him immediately. I must have fainted because I suddenly felt someone washing my face and opened my eyes to see HIM bending over me and holding my head.

After the commotion and getting to my apartment, we talked and talked and talked. We tried to bridge the gap of so many years. Again and again I hugged and kissed him and he did the same with me. We’d go on talking till we were exhausted. We talked about everything under the sun. And then he had to fly back.

For two days after he left, I cried like a baby.

Rachel, I am suddenly ALIVE!

My boss graciously told me to take off the entire Yomim-Tovim season to go spend with my son. Next Thursday I will be flying to him and staying with his family (he has a little daughter) until after Simchas Torah.

Thank you, Rachel! You saved my life and brought me back not only a son but a full- fledged family!

I am suddenly very aware that there is happiness and joy in the world and the tears of both keep mingling. I’m sure (I hope?) that Aaron is happy for me and I will pray on Yom Kippur for his neshamah to find peace and tranquility.

Have a Ketivah V’Chatimah Tovah, a year of blessings. You have no idea how you are helping people by printing their story and by giving them your heartfelt advice and sympathy. You save many more lives than you can ever imagine.

You sure saved mine!

Readers, stay tuned

Take A Child To Shul… Please: Emulating The Ways Of Hashem

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

A terribly sad version of the expression, “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” often comes to mind whenever I am approached by single parents (usually mothers) asking me to assist them in finding a caring, responsible adult to take their child or children (usually their son or sons) to shul on Shabbos and/or Yom Tov.

I am very well aware that many of our decent, caring readers may find it incredulous that people in our vibrant, bustling communities are struggling with this dilemma. Trust me, though, when I say that this is a very real challenge for many of the brave and frightened single parents in our kehillos. I’ve lost track of the number of times in the 11 years since Project Y.E.S. was founded that I was approached by single mothers who requested that I help make arrangements for someone to take their son(s) to shul. Countless others have asked me for an eitzah regarding the appropriate response to their son who categorically refuses to go to shul alone.

I am fully aware that the data may be skewed upward in my particular instance due to my family background. My father passed away shortly before my fourth birthday and my amazing, resilient mother raised my two siblings and me as a single parent for two years before remarrying. And since I have mentioned this in my lectures and writings, I assume that many single parents may feel more comfortable discussing these issues with me – as they suppose I will be more sensitive to their reality. But even factoring in that information, there are still far too many children in our communities who fall into the subset for whom Shabbasos and especially Yomim Tovim are very challenging times.

From my vantage point, there are a number of societal factors that contribute to this growing phenomenon. Our communities have, Baruch Hashem, expanded, as has the size of our families. The divorce rate is rising and there at least seems to be a spike in the number of people who are, r”l, passing away and leaving younger children behind.

Another significant sociological factor is that a far greater percentage of frum people nowadays (especially younger couples) are abandoning smaller communities and deciding to live in metropolitan areas with large Jewish populations. Lost in the anonymity of big-city life, many individuals in our community who need a personal, nurturing touch are finding that it is an elusive quest in the bustling setting that is big-city life.

There is much you can do to help single parents and their children:

· Invite a single parent and his/her children for a Shabbos/Yom Tov meal or two.

· Offer to take the boys (and perhaps girls) to shul, and have them sit with you.

· Before or during Yom Tov, please consider offering childcare for a single parent so that she/he can unwind, go for a walk, or just have some precious quiet time. With school out, single parents are on call literally 24/7.

· Please afford single parents and their children privacy and dignity by doing your best to avoid asking them uncomfortable questions. After my father passed away, b’shem tov, all I ever heard during my formative years was people telling me what a wonderful person he was. Nevertheless, all these years later, I still remember my discomfort and the feeling of what-in-the-world-am-I-supposed-to-say listening to all sorts of comments made by well-intentioned people.

I cannot even begin imagining what it is like to be a child whose parents are in the middle of a messy divorce. Our rich and timeless tradition mandates that we begin the Seder by inviting guests to join us at our Seder table. I suggest that we broaden that concept this year, and as we approach the child-centered holiday of Pesach, we look around our neighborhoods and see what we can do to ensure that all our children experience true simchas Yom Tov in the welcoming embrace of our communities.

A recurring theme in the stirring words of our nevi’im (Yeshaya 1; Yirmiyahu 9) is that the Jews of those times were concentrating far too much on spiritual trappings (bringing karbanos) and not enough on the essence of Hashem’s Torah (honesty, integrity and kindness). It was certainly a great mitzvah to purchase and bring karbanos to the Beis HaMikdash. But as the navi relates, those mitzvos were mere adornments to the core values of our Torah. And the navi clearly describes what the Jews needed to do in order to redeem themselves. “Strengthen the victim, and take up the cause of the yasom/almanah” (Yeshaya 1:16-17). After all, supporting those among us who are weak and who find it challenging to conduct their lives with simchas hachayim is the very essence of Hashem’s Torah.

In these troubling times, we ought to strive to fulfill the timeless charge of Yirmiyahu, “Become wise and [get to] know Me [contemplate how to better emulate the ways of Hashem], for I am Hashem who does kindness, justice and righteousness” (Yirmiyahu 9:23).

In the zechus of our efforts to comfort Hashem’s children, may He comfort us with the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash – where we can participate in the korban Pesach in all its glory.

Long Term Care Insurance (Part 1)

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007


(Names and situation changed as requested)


 


         We live in a generation where it is expected that the parents will continuously help their children. Whether it is financial and emotional support after marriage, hosting the next 20 years of Yomim Tovim or having the child move in with you (along with her large family) from before the birth of a grandchild until a month or more after; the expectation is there. And we, the parents, have bought into this. I am not at this time going to go into the pros and cons of this support. Instead, I want to discuss what I feel is a greater gift to our children. That is making sure we are cared for, independent of them, as we become too ill or too old to care for ourselves.

 

         Recently something called Long Term Care insurance has come on the market. This insurance (which I will discuss in more detail next week) ensures that you will have the money to hire help should you need assistance in any of life needs such as bathing, walking, dressing, eating etc. It can mean the difference between a private room and a four-bed room in a facility. It could certainly enable most people, though infirmed, to live the rest of their years in their own home. Being able to stay in your own home, being cared for physically by others and not your children is the greatest gift, I feel, I could give my children and myself. Most well spouses I have talked to, having been caregivers for so long, feel the same.

 

         Though the insurance is expensive, many of us could afford it if we did not take on the task of caring for our children in the presently expected way. Instead, our funds could be invested in our future well-being and that of our children.

 

         Rhoda was not wealthy. In truth, she had trouble making ends meet. Thank G-d her children were all grown and married, and though they struggled financially, they too were able to put food on the table. It was Rhoda’s dream to someday be able to help her children the way her neighbors did. She’d love to help her daughter to buy a house and her son to get a new car. She wanted to give a vacation to this one and a chance to “learn” to that one. But it just wasn’t possible.

 

         Then, Rhoda was unfortunately in a bad car accident. Once she recovered, she discovered the settlement would enable her to help her children in the way she always dreamed about. Rhoda was thrilled and joyously went about fulfilling each of her children’s dreams. She didn’t care that she left nothing for herself. She felt wonderful just doing for her children. Rhoda’s friend Chava was a well spouse. Not only had Chava cared for her husband for most of her married life, but now that she was aging she saw that she too might someday need assistance. It was simply part of the aging process. She talked to Rhoda about putting some of the money into a Long Term Care Policy so she would not need to be dependent on her children as she aged. But Rhoda wanted nothing for herself, and so she gave her children everything she had gotten from the settlement.

 

         Several years later Rhoda had a stroke. She was left unable to care for herself in many ways. The care-giving was left to her family, most of whom were juggling two jobs and large families. They tried their best, but care giving is tedious, stressful and hard work. It takes its toll. The children argued among themselves that not all of them were doing their fair share. The good terms between the siblings started to become a faint memory. Of course, none of this could be hidden from Rhoda who suffered the most by what she felt she was imposing on her children. Had she taken some of the settlement money and provided for illness, should it happen, perhaps they would all have been better off.

 

         It is very hard for many of us to go against what is expected in our communities. Those that can’t meet the expectations often feel inadequate and guilty. But what is expected is not what is always best for the children and or the parents. It is up to each of us to decide for ourselves, what is best for our family as a whole. Sometimes what is really best for our family is to take care of our own needs and wants. It requires courage along with forethought, but it may be the very thing that holds our family together long into future generations.

 

         You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com 

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 9/27/07

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories by e-mail to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

To all women, men or children who feel that they are at the end of their ropes, please consider joining a support group, or forming one.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to help agunot, please send your tax deductible contribution to The Jewish Press Foundation.

Checks must be clearly specified to help agunot. Please make sure to include that information if that is the purpose of your contribution, because this is just one of the many worthwhile causes helped by this foundation.

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear Rachel,

My friends and I recently had a compelling discussion on a subject that I thought might be beneficial to share with your readers. Some of us admitted to having a very tough time balancing the need for family privacy with the desire to have invited guests over to share our Shabbat and Yom Tov meals.

My friends complained that when they tried to divide the time evenly, no one would cooperate, least of all their husbands. The only accepted notion is to invite (anyone and everyone), or to be invited (as guests in someone else’s home). No time is set aside to be alone with one’s immediate family.

And if one meal is “available” there is a mad rush to invite someone. (Heaven forbid that they should take the time to interact with one another!)

While I am not anti-social by any means and know that the mitzvah of Hachnassat Orchim is very important, there is a limit to this very special mitzvah. And I am sure that when Hashem created Shabbat as a day of rest physically and spiritually, He did not mean for us to wear ourselves out.

Why can’t we find a healthy balance in inviting guests to our homes and being alone with our families? Are we so fearful of getting close to one another?

These same friends also complained that they are pressured to attend mid-week simchas, leaving no time to help their kids with homework or sometimes even to prepare for Shabbat and Yom Tov. I know attending simchas is a mitzvah, and we should only be blessed by Hashem with mitzvot and simchas, but there is a time for everything.

How do we deal with this issue and still maintain shalom bayit? I myself have a very small family and not many events to attend, but I feel for those who can’t bring themselves to say no, as well as for those who don’t find time to enjoy their own families at home.

According to the Pirkei Avot, we should dedicate our lives to Hashem, Torah, and to family – one another. The Torah/Kabbalah says that the partners in creation of a human being are Hashem, husband and wife, and this connection needs to be maintained in all our actions in Jewish Life. We can’t neglect our duties to these partners.

Who’s missing out?

Dear Missing,

Your friends (those perpetually “on the go”) are missing out. Their own gardens may be in need of tending. In order for blooms to flourish, they require far more nurturing than an occasional spritz of water – unlikely to yield a healthy growth.

The act of always running to simchas or constantly seeking social companionship outside of one’s immediate family is usually symptomatic of an underlying problem that is in desperate need of fixing.

Rather than suggest that there is a limit to the mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim (can there be a limit to the actual performance of a mitzvah?), let’s explore the definition of this particular one.

An orach is one who is in need of accommodation, of a place to eat or rest; a person who is in need of a respite, such as an overworked/exhausted mother (who may happen to be your daughter/daughter-in-law/mother/sister/friend/neighbor), a lonely person (single/divorced/widowed), or a baal(as) teshuvah seeking to learn/integrate, etc.

Getting together for meals in each other’s homes for purely the social/entertainment aspect of being in the company of friends is an indulgence that should not be confused with the true connotation of the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim.

A get-together that deprives children of their parents’ attention and/or imposes on another family’s private time, or is a burden on an already overstressed/overworked wife/mom/homemaker, can furthermore be defined as a wrongdoing!

Even to secular society’s way of thinking, dinnertime is conducive to family bonding – consider how much more we stand to gain by spending quality family time at the Shabbos table!

Those who fret about being deprived of the mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim can relax. Each Friday night we are privileged to greet the exalted guests who accompany the male members of our family home from shul – yes, the malachim, whom we herald with the singing of Shalom Aleichem.

And, ultimately, the dignity and holiness of Shabbos is brought home to us when we welcome our most prominent visitor, the Holy Shechinah, embracing His presence in our midst with the singing of Lecha Dodi. (Can one begin to fathom how much nachas our Father reaps when He perceives how we treat our own, whom He has entrusted in our care?)

The way we conduct ourselves on Shabbos directly affects our weekday and impacts on our overall shalom bayis. Shabbos is not about having a good time – it is a special interval, a divine gift accorded us as a means of getting in touch with our lofty essence.

This is not to imply in any way that multiple families getting together cannot enjoy a spiritually uplifting Shabbos. There are many simcha’dik occasions that lend special meaning to the holy Sabbath. But to fritter away the ideal time for connecting with one’s own and oneself is a shame, if not downright sacrilegious.

As with most everything, moderation is the key. The average family should be able to maintain a healthy balance between having guests over and spending quality family time with one another. Yomim-Tovim, it should be said, are ideally suited for extended family visits and for having others, who would be grateful for the invitation, join you. The important thing is not to lose sight of who we are, why we’re here, and what Shabbos and Yom-Tov are really all about.

Chag Sameach to one and all!

Pursuing Your Dreams – The Money Issue and Other Problems

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006


(Names and situations changed when requested)


 


Like my previous story of Irv and Chaya, Seymour and P’nina were both beginning second marriages and they too had grown children who were married and had children of their own. Seymour and his new wife also decided to pursue their lifelong dream of living in Israel and had decided to liquidate their possessions, leave their families and make aliyah. Seymour was a well spouse who had nursed his chronically ill wife for years before she died. His decision to follow his dreams at this point in his life upset his children. They too, like Irv’s family, began to feel abandoned by their father and concerned about this quick romance. They did not know their stepmother very well and felt she was taking him away from them.


 


Seymour, though not wealthy, was financially comfortable. He and his first wife had lived well. They had their own home, two cars, had always paid full tuition, took family vacations once a year and had even supported all their children through a few years of kollel (learning full time after marriage). Though all his children were now self-supporting, they were just beginning to have their own large families and finances were not as easy as they had hoped. They were not poor by any means. They were all well dressed, had domestic help periodically and there was never a shortage of food at the table. However, they had all dreamed of owning their own homes and now, that did not seem feasible.


 


When I was told about the children’s many concerns with the new marriage, one of the anxieties mentioned was that their mother had told each one privately that she would help them with the down payment on a house when they were ready to purchase one. They were all now concerned that, with their mother gone, would their father honor the pledge their mother had made? In fact, did he even know of it? What would having a stepmother and step-siblings mean for their future, financially and otherwise?


 


Second marriages bring with them all sorts of problems. Feelings of abandonment and favoritism arise in our children (just as they did in adolescence – when they felt that “you obviously, loved ‘his sister’ or ‘her brother’ more”). As the newly married couple decided with whom to spend the Yomim Tovim (holidays) this year, her family or his – negative feelings arose among the children. What if a simcha on both sides of the families occur in the same week or, G-d forbid, on the same day? How would the parents handle it?


Our children seem to have a short memory and forget that only a few years ago, when they were newly married, they too were making these same decisions of choosing between parents and in-laws. Forgetting the difficulty and pain any controversy or ill feelings their decisions made back then, they now inflict their desires on the newly married couple, to have the parents at their table.


 


But the financial issue is often the hardest. Whose money is it anyway? Aren’t the parents entitled to spend the money they worked for as they see fit? Why shouldn’t Seymour shower P’nina with gifts and make a good life for themselves in their golden years? Wasn’t raising their children, educating them and supporting them until they got on their feet, enough? Does Seymour still need to put his children’s needs and desires ahead of his own?


 


But what of the promises made? Most young adults today cannot afford to buy a home without their parents’ help with the down payment. Haven’t we told our children and shown them repeatedly, that they can rely on us? But now, there may not be enough money for both. Seymour may have to decide between his dreams and those of his children. How will he decide? Is there a right way to deal with this?


 


Seymour and P’nina welcome your ideas and experience. If you have been in their situation and have worked it out successfully with your children; or if you’d like to air your comments about this difficult but all too common situation Please write me at annnovick@hotmail.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/pursuing-your-dreams-the-money-issue-and-other-problems/2006/07/05/

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