Keeping Up With the minyan
This is not a question for Rav Schachter but rather a comment brought to my mind from his response about keeping up with rapid davening (Halachic Corner, July 16).
Different people arrive at different solutions to solve this problem.
For many years I davened with the 6:00 a.m. minyan at The Bnai Reuven Shul in Chicago. At 6:30, almost all of the mispalelim were out the door. That included many donning Rabbeinu Tam and saying Tehillim (although probably only one chapter).
It took me about ten to fifteen minutes longer to finish.
My table mate was a young man, Stanley (Shmuel Leib) Wolf. He was and is a ba’al middos. In order to say Shemone Esrei with the congregation, he would start davening ten minutes or so early. He did this for many years.
I stopped attending this minyan about ten years ago when my business was Obamaized. Stanley has since retired from work, and attends a later minyan.
You may ask how I can refer to Stanley as a young man when he is retired? Young is comparative.
Gravestones Show Respect For the Deceased
An anonymous reader submitted a letter to Rabbi Yaakov Klass in his “Question and Answer” column relating that a gravestone had not been placed for a close relative who had died a year and a half earlier. The writer asked about the obligation of children or other close relatives to honor the deceased by placing a stone on the grave. Rabbi Klass answered in three installments; in the last two installments he spoke at length of the law of sitting on the grave.
This is a very hot-button issue for me. I find it the height of disrespect for a family to leave the grave of a loved one unmarked, as though the deceased had never existed.
My parents had three children together. The oldest, a daughter, was born in 1947 and died at the age of five months. My sister and I never knew her, for she had died before we were both born. After my father’s death, when I was 13, I asked my mother about my oldest sister’s grave. Without giving me an explanation, she told me that she and my father had never put up a stone on her grave, something that had always bothered me. When I was in my early 30s, I located my sister’s unmarked grave and ordered a stone. I asked my remaining sister whether she wanted to go in on half of the cost of the stone, but she refused. I was fine with that; the mitzvah would be all mine.
My oldest sister was buried in my hometown of Chicago, and we were living in Los Angeles at the time, so the gravestone was put up without anyone being present. However, the engraver did send me a picture of the stone after it had been placed on the grave. I sent a picture of the gravestone in a letter to my mother telling her that my oldest sister finally had a gravestone. I thought my mother would be grateful. Instead, she called me and in anger berated me for having brought up bad memories for her.
Other examples: My grandfather was married and had three children with his first wife. She died of tuberculosis at age 29. The following year my grandfather married his second wife, my grandmother. My mother told me that neither my grandfather nor his three older children had ever put up a stone for their wife and mother. Again I was bothered by what I considered gross disrespect. Around 25 years ago, I asked my uncle, the one remaining child of my grandfather’s first wife, whether he would allow me to put up a gravestone for his mother, who had been lying in an unmarked grave since 1915. He agreed. I put up a stone for her and we did have an unveiling ceremony in Chicago that my wife and I attended.
My mother had a cousin in Los Angeles with whom we were all close. Her name was Ita and she was the youngest of seven children. Whenever she took a trip to Chicago, she would stop by the Jewish cemetery there and clean the graves of her parents and sister, who had died young. One of Ita’s sisters and her husband also in Los Angeles had never had children, so when Ita bought plots for her and her husband, she included two additional adjacent plots for her sister and brother-in-law. Of the four mentioned, Ita was the last to die. Of course, before Ita’s death she handled the gravestones of the other three. Around six years after Ita’s death, my wife and I happened to be in the Jewish cemetery in Los Angeles when I mentioned that I wanted to visit Ita’s grave. We were horrified to discover that Ita’s grave had been lying unmarked for six years. Her only son died around a year-and-a-half after her. Without hesitating a minute, I ordered a stone for Ita similar to the other three.
Forty years ago my best friend, a bachelor in his 30s, died of complications of a brain tumor. A few years after he died, I ran into his mother on the street and she told me that since her son’s funeral, she had never been to the cemetery once. In amazement, I asked whether they had put up a gravestone for their son; she smiled and said that I was more religious than they (whatever that meant…). A few months ago, in honor of his 40th yahrzeit, I put up a gravestone for him as well.
For over a decade I send a small donation every month to the Hebrew Free Burial Association, which sees that every Jew has a proper burial and a grave marker.
My opinion is that erecting a gravestone has the same obligation as saying Yizkor and observing the yahrzeit. Every niftar deserves that z’chus and respect.
Climate Misinformation’s Terrible Toll on Families
Dennis Prager’s column “What The Media Tells You To Believe” (July 30) is one of the most important pieces on climate change I have ever read, because it focuses on the individuals, not the science.
Almost all pieces written about climate change or global warming debate the science: whether the earth is really warming or not, and if so by how much and who are the real culprits, whether predictive models have any validity, whether global warming can cause floods and droughts as well as heat waves and cold snaps all at the same time, etc.
These are technical issues that very few laypeople, politicians, and even scientists not grounded in climate science adequately understand, yet all have such definite opinions on its causes and remedies. Hence, with the cheerleading media leading the way, most of the information reaching the public is wildly speculative, politically and economically motivated, self-serving, or pure rubbish.
Prager’s column describes the human toll of families in anguish, despairing of their and their children’s future, believing they only have a short time to live, their way of life will be drastically altered, and there is little hope in the future. They don’t understand that the earth has been in existence for over 4.5 billion years and has successfully survived countless climate upheavals, some much worse than the ones we see now.
The gravest danger to the earth’s inhabitants are the leftist authoritarians seeking control, not the climate which always adjusts for any imbalance.
Max Wisotsky, Ph.D.
Highland Park, NJ
Our Freedoms Must Be Defended
Appreciating the past is a necessary step to move on in life. When someone starts a new job, the specifics of the jobs are likely new, but the skill set and the experience achieved before is what indicates one’s success in the future. Moving from one stage of life to the next is an inevitable reality of the cycle of life, but the result is up to the mindset.
This year, I will be privileged to be learning in a yeshiva in Israel. Moving temporarily from an American environment to an Israeli environment is transformational, but worth it. At the same time that I am excited for the upcoming year, reflecting on the 18 years of living in the United States are vital to moving on.
The United States is a country that many identify as a land of freedom and opportunity. The freedoms enumerated in the Constitution, including freedom of speech, religious liberty, the right to bear arms and so forth are all rights that were denied to most people throughout human history.
Learning from our history, the good and bad that the United States has done, brings us to fully understand the amazing, free country we have today. The development of a country with its ups and downs is similar to the development of a person. The foundational belief and goal of the country are what navigated the United States throughout history.
Keeping a check on even a democratic republic is vital to safeguarding its core beliefs. The United States has always been a beacon of freedom to other nations, but we should all make sure that the country stays on this course. We are living in a time where free speech, medical freedoms, public and private safety, and other vital elements are all under threat by a naïve ideology. The foreign, tyrannical ideology currently encroaching on American society is a massive threat to the country’s existence as we know it. Israel is an amazing country and nation, but the events in the United States have ripple effects throughout the entire world. We all have to actively defend the freedoms and essential beliefs now under threat from this ideology, in order to ensure the existence of the free United States of America.
Donny Simcha Guttman
North Woodmere, NY