Mar 31, 2012

Approaching Torah Study Systematically

I've been intrigued by learning programs such as the one described in "The Meister Plan" (Artscroll) by Tuvia Meister and "The One Minute Masmid" by Jonathan Rietti.  The gist is that you have focused daily learning sedarim and like water on a rock, your persistence pays off in material covered in a timely fashion in a way that enables you to retain it. 

It's marvelous because of the systematic approach to learning instead of the usual open-ended, no-goals approach in which a person can learn for years and not have much to show for it.  It can be adapted for all parts of Torah and although geared for boys and men can certainly be used for girls and women too.

Mar 30, 2012

Shaar Ha'Bechina with Rav Miller's commentary

I am in the middle of reading-learning the Chovos Ha'Levavos-Duties of the Mind, Shaar Ha'Bechina-Gateway of Reflection.  This is a wonderful edition which has the text in Hebrew (a translation from the Arabic) and a translation and commentary based on the lectures of Rabbi Avigdor Miller z"l. 

If I had to guess, I would think that Rabbi Miller's favorite subject was Shaar Ha'Bechina and that of all his thousands of shiurim, it is the topic that came up the most often.  Shaar Ha'Bechina is about reflecting on the world around us and recognizing that everything in the world teaches us that Hashem made the world with wisdom and kindness, with purpose and planning, and that the end result is for our benefit.  This is what engenders love for Hashem.  For those of us who heard Rabbi Miller, whether in person or on tape, we can hear his voice as we read the commentary, his unique manner of conveying the truth and wisdom of Torah.

I have been in touch with the publisher which is the Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, the yeshiva Rav Miller founded.  He told me that the way to purchase the sefer is either to buy it from Torah Treasures on Ave L and Nostrand in Brooklyn or from Rabbi Brog on 1474 E. 10th St in Brooklyn, phone number 718-998-5996.  Alternatively, it can be bought online:

click here to order sefer online

Mar 26, 2012

Guarding His Zeide's Path

Rabbi Thumim, the Alshtadter Rav of Boro Park, arrived in New York in the early 1940's and attended yeshivas Torah Vodaas.  This is a memory from those early years in yeshiva as recounted in an interview in Mishpacha magazine:

"I was a frumme bochur and I didn't want to eat the yeshiva's food since the shochet had no beard.  R' Heiman called me over and told me that he felt I was being too stringent and that I needed the nourishment of wholesome meals.  I said, "Rosh Yeshiva, with all due respect, I am a bochur who is all alone in this country.  If I drop the minhagim of my father's house, I am lost.  I have to maintain the beard, the chassidishe shechita, all of it, if I hope to guard my zeide's path." 

R' Heiman said he was right.  As to what he ate, his mother sent him sardines which he would share with another chassidishe bochur who also did not eat the yeshiva's meat, Levi Yitzchok Horowitz, son of the Bostoner Rebbe.

Mind you, Torah Vodaas was an exemplary yeshiva! The food was 100% kosher.  And yet, a bochur had the pride and backbone to forgo good meals in order to preserve who he was and what he stood for.  What sort of chinuch creates teenagers like these?

Mar 23, 2012

Put It Back Under the Rug!

I had a good laugh today when I was discussing Jewish magazines with someone.  Way back when, a magazine with frum content was a rarity and it was treasured, said S.  Now we have so many of them and they're writing the same material.  How many times can I read a mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, discovery about bi-polar, should I tell the secret - kind of story? Let's put all the problems back under the rug where they came from; a nice big rug. 

Mental illness is an important subject and S was wasn't minimizing that.  It was the highlighting and harping on it that has become annoying, at least in S's opinion.  I said - why not write a letter to the editors and tell them? S said it has been done before and it usually prompts three letters in return saying how vital it is to raise awareness, with one letter saying that a particular article saved someone's life. 

To renew or not renew the subscriptions is something the S couple discusses.  It provides material of Jewish content for the family, so they will probably renew, but other than a poignant memoir about a unique individual or a particularly nice "slice of life," S is tired of the magazines.

I still read them.  Not that I subscribe though.  I get them as hand-me-downs.  I think it's wonderful that there is much worthwhile Jewish reading material around.  I would also put in a request for less of the problems in our communities and more about the "healthy good stuff" that is going on, but I'm not tired of them yet.

Mar 22, 2012

Still No Privacy

It's almost a year later and nothing has changed.  We are subjected to photos of Eva Sandler, mother and wife of three victims slain in Toulouse, at the funerals.  Did anyone ask the mourners whether they wanted to be photographed in their grief? Is that a question that should be asked of mourners or should the media have some red lines that they do not cross?

previous post on privacy

Mar 9, 2012

Yearn to Learn

How many times do we hear about boys who are "not cut out for learning" and how they need a program that is not academic to meet their needs?

The Steipler writes that even someone who has a hard time understanding Torah will merit the siyata dishmaya to become great in Torah even though he is not naturally gifted, provided he puts in the effort.  He then quotes from a sefer about a 16-17 year old boy who went to the Chasam Sofer and told him he desired to learn Torah.  He was young and hadn't seriously studied before, so the other bachurim thought this was a silly idea.  Nevertheless, the Chasan Sofer accepted him and told his talmidim to learn with the boy who, it turned out, was not only a late starter but was not a smart boy.

He applied himself and he later became outstanding in Torah and was appointed a dayan in Mattersdorf under the Chasam Sofer.  He is often quoted in the sefarim of the Chasam Sofer.

Makes me wonder whether, instead of modifying (= dumbing down) the yeshiva curriculum for those who don't have the intellectual ability and/or interest in learning, efforts should be made from the youngest years to imbue talmidim with a love for Torah.  With songs, with stories, in an atmosphere where they hear that "Torah iz de bester s'choira" (the best merchandise), perhaps they will acquire a love for Torah that will motivate them to work hard.  And then we are told, "yogaata u'matzasa taamin" - if you try hard and are successful, believe it."

Mar 5, 2012

Statistics Don't Apply to Us

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef (Yaakov Chai ben Margalit), son of the well-known posek, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, is seriously ill.  I read an article about him and his positive attitude about his illness and how he is doing his best to keep up with his daily schedule and fortify his bitachon. 

He says that his doctor explained the slim odds of surviving this disease and how the chances of recovery are between 3 and 5%.  This irreligious doctor then told him a most astonishing thing.  He said, "In the Torah-observant community, the statistics are completely different.  These numbers have no effect on you.  You have your faith and your prayers, and your chances of recovery are different.  We see more miracles in your sector of the population than with any other patients."

May he have a refuah shleima.