Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Celebrity’s Extra Responsibility

In response to the article last week by Rabbi Uri Pilichowski defending Jennifer Garner along with other parents who should not be judged by their children’s choices: Rabbi Pilichowski mentions the well-known photo of Jennifer Garner accompanying her daughter Violet wearing a shirt that symbolizes to many the phrase “From the River to the sea.”

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I find it extremely offensive. Anyone with 15 million followers has a responsibility to be careful when appearing in public. Jennifer Garner is a very popular celebrity and has been in the limelight for many years. I for one have admired her ability to be a hands-on mom, great and caring daughter, actress, cook, and business owner. She is often seen on a tractor working on her farm. She is all over social media.

All that is to say that she is not just a regular parent but one who is looked upon as a role model with millions of followers and has the ability to influence many.

Because of that, despite the points that Rabbi Pilichowski makes, Garner has an added responsibility.

Dr. Renee Fishweicher
Fair Lawn, N.J.

 

More Than the Fish Dish

In Rabbi Enkin’s column “Why Do We Eat Fish On Shabbat?” (Jan. 5) he alludes several times to the idea that fish preceded meat in the order of creation. I think there may be a broader correlation between our Shabbat meals and the Torah’s account of all creation.

Jews inaugurate the beginning of Shabbat in a generally consistent manner. They go to shul, eat a festive meal, and then rest. However, there may be more to this Friday night ritual than a routine, and it may indeed have a more religious significance. Particularly striking is the correspondence between the Friday night routine and the Torah’s account of Bereshit, the creation of the universe. There are numerous commentaries on the Torah’s account, so I am commenting here only on the sequence of events.

Day One: In the beginning of Hashem’s creation of what would become the universe, only a dark void existed and Hashem separated the light from the darkness.

Ritual: As the sun sets, the women light the Shabbat candles.

Day Two: Hashem separated the heavens from the earth, i.e. the spiritual from the physical.

Ritual: The men go to shul and to daven, separating the weekly mundane activities from those of Shabbat.

Day Three: Hashem separated the waters from the land and brought forth vegetation, trees, and fruit.

Ritual: When we start our meal we make Kiddush over wine, wash our hands with water, and make a hamotzi over challah made from wheat flour.

Day Four: Hashem made the sun and the moon and the stars, to separate day from night.

Ritual: This can also be related to the initial candle-lighting, especially when one considers that women often light more candles depending on the number of children they have, invoking Hashem’s promise to Avraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. The reason why more candles are not lit at this point, of course, is that they cannot be lit after nightfall.

Day Five: Hashem stocked the seas with all manner of fish and winged fowl, which were to increase on the earth.

Ritual: A typical Shabbat evening dinner starts with an appetizer of fish like gefilte fish, herring, or salmon. That is often followed by some sort of fowl dish like chicken, duck, turkey, or as I even remember, pigeon.

Day Six: Hashem brought forth on the earth all manner of animals, like beasts and cattle. And then He made Man to rule over them all.

Ritual: The typical main dish at a Shabbat dinner is some species of meat that man has raised for his use.

Day Seven/Shabbat: The Torah is clear that Shabbat is a day of “rest” but enigmatic about what that means. Did Hashem “complete” His work, or did He only “abstain” from further work?

Ritual: Shabbat is certainly a day of rest. However, that does not necessarily mean a day of leisure, but rather a pause in the mundane activities of our lives, in order to daven and learn, before embarking on the new week.

In conclusion, our typical Friday night meals can be viewed as symbolically experiencing or reenacting the creation of the universe, as described in Bereshit. And I think that comparisons like this, may give a different dimension to some of our other daily activities, and elevate them above merely standard routines into something more spiritual or meaningful.

Max Wisotsky
Highland Park, N.J.

 

Correction

I am constantly amazed at how you bring Jewish history and the personalities who have made history to life, especially with your photos, which are always fascinating.

Respectfully, I think your article on page 56 of last week’s Jewish Press should be corrected, as Rabbi Hirsch’s philosophy was “Torah Im Derech Eretz” and not “Torah Umaada,” as you wrote.

Daniel Retter
Miami Beach, Fla.

The editors and Mr. Singer thank Mr. Retter for his keen eye.

 

Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov Reines and Today’s Reines Shul

Thirty years ago, I began studying at the Chabad-Lubavitch mesifta (high school) located at 417 Troy Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. At the time, neither I nor the other students and possibly our teachers were aware that our yeshiva building was named for and dedicated to the memory of the illustrious Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov Reines. This was even though his name was carved prominently on the façade of the building above the entrance that we passed through hundreds of times during our yeshiva education.

The large synagogue and study halls were constructed in the 1920s by Crown Heights Jews who saw themselves as followers of Rabbi Reines, Zionistic and worldly. Besides the impressive sanctuary on the ground floor and a large women’s balcony, the shul also had a half dozen classrooms for its Talmud Torah program.

In the early 1970s, as the Crown Heights community became almost exclusively Lubavitch, the building was acquired by the Chabad Educational Institute Oholei Torah. As such, it was used as a synagogue on Shabbos and a Chabad yeshiva for hundreds of boys during the week.

As an inquisitive yeshiva student, I began to wonder who was Rabbi Reines and what did he stand for. After researching the history of Rabbi Reines, I came to understand that he believed in a form of Torah and Derech Eretz, which combined Torah and secular knowledge for practical purposes. To this end, as your lengthy article well describes, he founded a new yeshiva curriculum in Lida. Since my Chabad yeshiva, Oholei Torah, taught only limudei kodesh, consisting entirely of Talmud, Shulchan Aruch, and Chabad theology, the irony of the situation became obvious. In a twist of fate, a synagogue building dedicated to Rabbi Reines and his unique blend of Torah and madda became the home of my yeshiva, which completely rejected everything Rabbi Reines stood for.

Your detailed and scholarly article sets the record straight. Even though Rabbi Reines may be overlooked today, his influence is still felt in the Mizrahi Movement and many other yeshivas around the Jewish world. He was truly a trailblazer and ahead of his time.

Rabbi Yossi Newfield
Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

Between Chanukah and Purim

As we are now between Chanukah and Purim on the calendar, so are we between the forces we confronted on those occasions in real life. On one side we have the forces that seek to disrupt our spirituality – the Seleucid Greeks then, the Marxist/Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist elements that now dominate the social institutions of the West, including the U.S. And we have the forces that seek to exterminate us physically – Haman, the vizier of Persia then, and the Islamo-nazis led by Iran, the modern successor state to Persia, now.

In confronting the red-green alliance of bnei Eisav and bnei Yishmael, we need to bear in mind Yaakov Avinu’s threefold strategy of prayer, appeasement and preparation to fight, except that appeasement is no longer an option. Our enemies now cannot be appeased but must be fought, as the IDF is doing in Gaza. At the same time, we need to strengthen ourselves spiritually.

I recently found myself on the subscription list for Fabia Preminger, whom an Internet search identified as an activist with the Jewish International Connection of New York. She introduces a concept I had never heard of before, “the 6-8 week period of Shovavim (TaT when leap year, as this year)” beginning with Parshas Shemos. She writes, “ShOVaVIM TaT is an acronym whose Hebrew letters comprise the first letters of each of the following upcoming parshiyos: Shemos, Va’era, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro, Mishpatim, Trumah, Tetzave.

She writes, “Shovavim is an auspicious time to repair ourselves and guard against depression, anger, and arrogance (Toldos Aharon); for personal teshuva, introspection, yiras Shamayim; and to strengthen the observance of the laws of family purity, modesty… Tikkun Habris; for more regular learning of the Arizal’s writings as they serve as segula for tikkun pgamei habrios.

“During these days there is even more importance to keeping tznius (Israel l’sgulaso).

“It’s habitual to learn more Torah and recite more Tehillim. The Arizal also suggests giving tzedakah daily during this period.”

Sounds like good advice to me. As we were granted deliverance from the forces of both spiritual and physical destruction in ancient times, may Hashem grant us deliverance from them today, and may we be worthy of the Geulah, the Final Redemption, speedily in our day.

Richard Kronenfeld
Phoenix, Ariz.

 

Violence Unchecked Leads to More

The violent pro-Palestinian protests around the country are the result of Bill de Blasio’s policies. By allowing the violent rioting in 2020 to go on, it sent a message that this kind of violence is tolerated. What followed are widespread smash-and-grab incidents, so serious that many retail businesses have closed down. Now it’s the pro-Palestinian protesters who seem confident that there will be no price to pay for their violence. And so far, they’re right. If history is any indication, if this violence is not stopped, it will get worse.

David Balsam
Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

South Africa’s Betrayal

I was saddened and upset by the action of South Africa in the World Court and its motion of genocide against Israel. Israel sent flyers to the Palestinians in Gaza, made over 70,000 cell phone notifications, and delayed their entrance into war so that civilians could leave.

No other military notifies the civilian population of its intentions. The retired British Colonel Richard Kemp and military expert has repeatedly said that in the history of the world no nation has done as much as Israel has done to prevent civilian deaths.

Israel has a long history of assistance and trade with Africa. For example, almost all of the coffee used in Israel comes from Africa. In addition, Israel has aided South Africa in solar technology, clean water, agricultural knowledge, and medical information and medicine. Teva, the Israel pharmaceutical corporation, sold affordable life-saving antibiotics across Africa as well as other poor nations. It is disgusting to see this lack of appreciation by South Africa’s support in this motion.

My respect for the South African government has been greatly reduced. I hope to see a reversal and apology for this misguided policy.

Lastly, I want you to know that my daughter and her family were recently tourists in South Africa. After this troubling action, I must say until that government’s terrible policies improve, we will not spend any money in that nation.

Charles Winfield
Princeton, N.J.

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