Jun 30, 2013

That Shabbos Feeling

I've been thinking about things that make it feel not 'Shabbosdik' for me, that don't have an actual halachic or minhag-based connection to Shabbos.

For example, we had a guest for Shabbos who wanted the hall light to be on.  I never have that hall light on, on Shabbos.  Seeing it on, gave me a "weekday feeling."  Likewise, one Shabbos when we were home but had a simcha we were attending elsewhere, and I did not use the blech, it was odd to see the stovetop.

So for me, a routine in how my home is physically set up on Shabbos, makes a difference.  I don't know if they sell them anymore, but many years ago, Bubbies had toaster oven covers, blender covers, phone covers, that they used for Shabbos.

I think many people feel that way about food (as in this post: here about Pesach food ).  There are those who make the identical Shabbos menus week after week, because in their communities these traditions are important.  For the rest of us, we have all kinds of dishes that nobody in our past history ever ate on Shabbos or even on weekdays.  And yet, there are certain dishes that, to me, are weekday fare.  They don't seem 'Shabbosdik' to me (see here about whole wheat challa). 

I shut the ringer on my phone every erev Shabbos.  If I am in someone's home on Shabbos (or Yom Tov) and hear their phone ring or their answering machine, I find it a jarring, unpleasant intrusion into the aura of Shabbos.  Similarly, but to a lesser degree, when I hear loud music playing outside, usually from a car driving by or waiting at a light, it's an encroachment on my Shabbos space.

Walking in a non-Jewish area where stores are open would be another example. 

And one more - I asked someone what makes it not Shabbosdik for them.  The answer pertained to Rosh Hashana: seeing someone reading a novel Rosh Hashana night.

Do you have any examples?

Jun 28, 2013

The Spark

I found The Spark interesting for a few reasons.  Here they are in no particular order:

- Geniuses, especially child geniuses, are fascinating to me for the things they can do that are way beyond the rest of us.  The abilities this boy had as a young child were extraordinary and are still extraordinary as he grows up.

- His mother chose not to believe the experts who were certain her child could learn to do not much more than tie his shoes.  She was right.  The experts were wrong.  What does that tell us about how seriously we should take the pronouncements of experts?

- His mother came up with her own program for her son as well as for other kids.  Without special education training (which did the experts no good), she was able to mainstream her own and other children into kindergarten.

- The mother encouraged her son to pursue his passion while making sure he did kiddie things too and developing his social abilities.

It's reminiscent of Son-Rise, a book from the 80's, about a family who also devise their own program for their son in which they enter his world, rather than attempt to draw him out of his own world.  There too, there was a happy ending in that their son emerged and left his diagnosis of autism behind.

Jun 27, 2013

Jews Helping Jews

In the spring issue of OU's Jewish Action magazine, there was a special section with articles about Hurricane Sandy.  The theme was how Jews from all walks of life came together with beautiful acts of chessed.  The link is: here

There is a follow-up article from the same magazine about how to foster achdus when we don't have crises to deal with: here

Jun 26, 2013

Out with the Old, In with the New

There is a new trend in our frum schools in which younger teachers are hired.  A relative of mine who is a rebbi in his 40's told me in astonishment how he is regarded as old.  This is certainly not the way he sees himself which is why he is nonplussed.

I read an interview with a rosh yeshiva (himself a zaidy) in which he was asked:

Many yeshivos these days are hiring younger staff members so that they can better relate to the students, which is a good thing, but isn't this at the expense of the experience of older teachers? Is the perspective of younger teachers broad enough and are they the ones to whom we should be entrusting the chinuch of our children?

His response:
"This is definitely a good move. There are yeshivos today that are built from the outset with young blood, and even old time yeshivos are incorporating young teachers. Young teachers provide a lot of energy, creative thought and they are able to understand young people.

"An older staff member, who lacks what the younger ones have, may need to consult with those younger than him. Chazal say 'the destruction of the elders is construction and the construction of youth is destruction', but when they work together, you have the best of both."

It is possible that I am out of touch with the needs of today's students for if I had the choice of an experienced teacher or a newbie, I would pick the experienced teacher.  There is something I find very disturbing about the favoring of young teachers.  Maybe it's the mishna in Avos 4:26 Mishna 26: "Rabbi Yossi bar Yehuda of K'far HaBavli said: One who learns from the young, to what is he compared? To one who eats unripe grapes and drinks wine from the press. And one who learns from the old, to what is he compared? To one who eats ripened grapes and drinks aged wine." True, mishna 27 goes on to say, "Rabbi Meir said, do not look at the flask but what is in it. There are new flasks filled with old wine and old flasks which do not even contain new wine." So it is possible that young teachers can be superb and that old teachers can be dismal. 

It used to be that those from previous generations were respected because they were closer to the revelation at Sina.  What chinuch message are we sending our youth when we say out with the old and in with the young?

Jun 25, 2013

Yearning for Galus

Compare this quote:

"In the next world, it will be umol'a ha'aretz de'ah, the world will be full of wisdom of understanding, but it'll be too late. Then people will look back and say, "Oh, for the good old days when there was darkness in the world," when it was a test and a trial and it was difficult. That's why it says (Koheles 12:1), u'zechor es Borecho, remember your Creator ... v'hegiu shanim, before the time comes, asher tomar ein li bahem chefetz, when I don't have any desire to live.

The Gemara says, when are those days when you say there is no use in living? Ailu Yemos haMoshiach, because then it'll all be over, there won’t be any struggle. The struggle is right now, that's why it pays to live right now. The darkness is what makes life worthwhile."

to this quote:

“When Moshiach will come, speedily in our days amen, all will yearn for the days of galus.  Then we will truly feel distress at our having neglected working at avoda; then will we indeed feel the deep pain caused by our lack of avoda. These days of exile are the days of avoda, to prepare ourselves for the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our time, amen.”

Is there a difference in the message or are they saying the same thing? Perhaps I see it as different messages because I know who articulated each message.  One was a Litvishe rav and the other, a Chassidic Rebbe.

In the first case, he is expressing the idea that we will rue the day that we did not take advantage of galus as a time to gain credit for Olam Haba.  There will no longer be free choice as we know it, so reward and punishment in the next world will no longer be factors to contend with, and what a loss that will be.

In the second case, he is expressing a feeling of inadequacy.  Like showing up for a test and realizing that you studied the wrong material.  Or being in the midst of a trip when you realize that you forgot to pack some essential items.  That feeling of being unprepared.  Of wishing one had taken better care in advance.

Do you think the quotes express the same idea?

Jun 24, 2013

Learning from Everyone

In a post one year ago: here a rosh yeshiva is quoted as saying, "Anyone who tells you they are religious because of the next world is fooling themselves and fooling you."

I wonder how he would respond when asked, why is it that Paradise motivates a Moslem to kill himself, or does he not believe that Moslems are firm believers in reward in the next world and live, or die, as the case may be, to attain it?

It is rather incredible how Arab family men say goodbye to their wives and children and then blow themselves up. 

In the spirit of learning from everyone and everything we see, if Arabs are that motivated to drastic action because of belief in the Next World, we need to strengthen our own belief in the Next World.

Jun 22, 2013

Help for Osteoporosis?

Yeshaya 66:14
"And you shall see, and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall bloom like grass ..."

Metzudas Dovid says that since worry and sadness dry up bones, the verse says at a time of simcha, the bones will be strengthened.

Do doctors recommend simcha and bitachon as ways to strengthen bones or only exercise and Vitamin D and calcium?

Jun 20, 2013

Children Today

R' Shneur Aisenstark (see previous post about him: here) makes a very interesting point in a recent issue (May 22, 2013) of Mishpacha magazine.  He talks about the relationship between parents and children and notes how the respect mixed with love and awe is lacking.  He believes this is the reason for the rebellion we are seeing.

He tells a story that is related by Avi Shulman about a rebbi who was teaching his class about how Yaakov gave Yosef the special garment and this caused the brothers to feel jealousy and hatred towards Yosef.  A boy in the class asked, "What did Yosef do wrong by accepting the coat from his father? It was Yaakov who showed favoritism, so why weren't the brothers angry at their father rather than at their brother?

The rebbi had no answer.  He searched through sefarim and found nothing and he finally asked R' Chaim Kanievsky.  R' Chaim said that it was only in this generation that someone would ask such a question.  In previous generations, the question would not occur to them because they could not imagine that a son would question or have complaints against his father, let alone be angry.  That is why no commentaries address the question.

He ends the article with questions such as: Do our children have a relationship with us that would make them definitely listen to us? Do we convey the message to our children about the imperative to be a good Yid in a way that will have a lifetime impact? Do we convince our children that nonconforming to our mesorah is unacceptable?

Jun 10, 2013

The Sanitation Man's Observations

A sanitation man who works in Boro Park, finally satisfied his curiosity by asking his questions of a local frum man.

First, he wondered about the large quantity of garbage in the area, more than anywhere else.  The frum man told him that religious Jews have large families and they don't eat out in McDonald's, hence, the numerous bags of garbage.

Second, why do the men carry those pillows in the morning?

Do you know what he was referring to?

He sees frum men in the morning holding large square embroidered bags.  You know ... tallis and tefillin!

I wonder how long he saw men coming and going, holding those "pillows," as he wondered and thought up all sorts of reasons why they would be carrying them.

Then, enlightenment Idea.

Jun 4, 2013

Let's Take Care of our Own!

So I see the headline, "Ten Year Old Palestinian Boy Saved by Israeli Doctors, Jewish Kidney Donor" and I'm disgusted.  Both by the fact that Israeli doctors treat our enemies (including those who attempt to kill us), and by the fact that a Jewish body was desecrated to achieve this.

It doesn't help that earlier this week there was a news item which stated, "PA President Mahmoud Abbas has made the resumption of peace talks with Israel conditional on the release of roughly 120 “heavy-duty” murderers."

A typical news item of this kinds states:

A Hizbullah guerilla who was moderately wounded in battle early Sunday morning was airlifted to an Israeli hospital for treatment.

Dr. Daniel Shani, executive director of the hospital in Nahariya, said the guerilla arrived in good condition. "He was brought to us by ambulance at around 5:30 a.m., and his condition was, generally speaking, good. He had an open wound in his right soldier," and other shrapnel wounds elsewhere on his body.

With regards to the type of treatment he was receiving, Dr. Shani insisted that it was no different than that of the average Israeli patient. "The ethnicity of the wounded is not important," he said.

Oh really? Rather than being the "am chacham v'navon" (the wise and discerning nation), we make fools of ourselves and put ourselves in danger, solely to garner praise and admiration from our enemies which are not forthcoming anyway.  Let the Arabs take care of their own people in their own hospitals with their own doctors!

There shouldn't be the slightest chance of a Jew being put in danger in order to help our sworn enemies!

"He who has compassion when he should be cruel, will be cruel when he should have compassion"!

As one person put it, "I'm waiting to see the headline: Arab doctor treats Jewish boy." Who is guaranteeing that this child won't grow up as brainwashed as the rest of them and seek to harm those who saved his life?


Jun 3, 2013


I first saw this video six and a half years ago.  I was reminded of it today and watched it again and love it as much as I did the first time I saw it. 

Tens of thousands of Jews live in Azerbaijan, which is one of the few Muslim countries which allows Jews to live in peace. It is one of the few countries of the world where Jewish blood has not been spilled.  The Moslems take pride in being good neighbors and in the authentic Jewish traditions. Rabbi Bruk, the Chabad rabbi of the community, produced this music video as a way of expressing the community's gratitude to the government officials for being allowed to live in peace.

This video clip was shown on all the television stations in Azerbaijan dozens of times.  It made a big Kiddush Hashem.  Many Jews, who had forgotten their Jewish identity, began coming to shul, sending their children to Jewish schools and attending shiurim.

Here's the video