Aug 31, 2014

Timing is Everything

I found out yesterday that someone I know is sitting shiva.  I looked on the Misaskim page today and saw that she gets up from shiva tomorrow.  So today is the only day to be menachem avel.  But it's hot and humid and it's not pleasant walking in this heat.  Should I go now when it's not as hot or wait until later when it's even hotter but I could combine it with something else?

I called a neighbor to ask if she knows about the shiva and would be interested in going.  She was in a rush because she and another person were about to go be menachem avel these very same people, did I want a ride? Yes! When she confirmed the address with me, it turned out she had the wrong address.  I provided the correct one.  So I got a ride and they got to go to the right address and she provided a ride (air conditioned) back home and boruch Hashem, a mitzva was done by the three of us.

Aug 27, 2014

A Tip for Optimal Growth


In a lecture I heard, the speaker told about being in a fish store and seeing a huge goldfish.  Upon expressing surprise at its size, the proprietor told him that it grows as big as its tank.  The speaker found this remarkable and wondered how this works, how does the fish know (see below *). 

Regardless as to the explanation, the speaker derived the following interesting lesson from the phenomenon:

You grow as big as your vessel, like the clothes growing with the people in the desert. What is a person's spiritual vessel? If a person does a lot of mitzvos, attends a lot of classes, etc. he has created a vessel around him.  If he never exposes himself to anything he can only go so far, which is not far at all.  As much as you expose yourself to things, the broader your horizons, and the larger you can grow. 

* Upon doing some research on the subject I read: When properly cared for, goldfish will not stop growing. Most fish are in fact what are known as indeterminate growers. This means that, unlike humans, they grow until they die. What really stunts a fish’s growth is poor water quality and improper care. In smaller aquariums or bowls, water quality is typically very poor. With little or no filtration and infrequent water changes, goldfish suffer. The stunting that results is not a good thing. Rather, it is a sign of ill health.  It is important to know what size your fish will attain before purchase and to make sure you can provide it with the proper care it requires.

Aug 26, 2014

We Need Hashem Watching Over Us

A 4 year old in Ashkelon was killed by a mortar shot from Gaza on Friday, Aug. 22.
Two days later, a 5-6 year old was killed in the Catskills after being hit by a car.
Two days later, a 5 year old was killed today in Bnei Brak after being hit by a car.

After the child was killed on Sunday, the thought went through my mind: Even when not in the line of fire in Ashkelon, even when vacationing in the Catskills, a child was killed.  Not that we are allowed to put ourselves in danger, but we shouldn't think we are in control, that if we go to the right places and do the right things, nothing can happen to us.  But I didn't think I should write that here.

Then I saw the news item today that a child was killed in Bnei Brak.  Apparently the Steipler Gaon promised that rockets and missiles will never fall in Bnei Brak because they are protected by Torah.  And the thought went through my mind, people feel safe in Bnei Brak because of their emunas chachamim and their belief in the Steipler's promise.  Here again, if there is a feeling of being in a safe zone, Hashem sent a reminder that just like a child can be killed in Ashkelon, nebech, a child can also be killed in Bnei Brak.

It's not just their problem, those who live over there, within reach of missiles, mortars and rockets, and we, who live in normal places, are safe.  We need Hashem watching over us wherever we are.  We need to take care of ourselves because that's a mitzva, but we are not in control.  And I thought it was worth writing.

Aug 25, 2014

Where are my Glasses?

I woke up this morning and felt for my glasses on the night table in the usual spot.  They weren't there.  I felt around on the floor in case they fell.  They weren't there.  Did they fall under the bed? No.  Did they fall into a bag near the bed? No.  Where are they?

At some point, as I looked at the clock on the night table, I realized ......... I had never taken out my contact lenses the night before! I had slept in them but was focused on looking for my glasses since that is what I always do. 

It's astonishing to me that something that I do every single night, i.e. take our my lenses, wasn't even a thought last night.  Nor did I notice that I hadn't taken off my glasses.  And it took me quite some time to realize I was wearing the lenses.  What does that say about supposed engrained habits?

Is there a nimshal here? Something about our thinking we can't see (we don't understand, we don't know what to do) and because we think we can't see, we act accordingly (confused, unsure, do the wrong things).  But we really can see.  It takes awareness to know this.  "Ata chonein l'adam daas."

Aug 22, 2014

Daycare Postscript

One of Rebbetzin Feige's daughters, a working mother, wrote an article about the ins and outs of daycare and concluded by reassuring parents that their children will turn out fine despite being sent to daycare.  She wrote that her parents traveled for speaking engagements and she turned out just fine.

Someone wrote a letter to the editor asking whether mother and daughter disagreed on this topic.  The daughter responded and said she wasn't actually in daycare.  When her parents were away, which was not on a daily basis, she was under the care of a dear family friend who was like a surrogate grandmother.

She said, "My mother has counseled scores of women who, as a result of being a breadwinner, have no energy for homemaking and mothering and are struggling to be functioning wives.  I can personally attest to the struggle and strain caused by attempting to simultaneously balance one's career and motherhood.  None of us [Rebbetzin Twerski or her daughter] believes that sending your children to daycare will turn them into dysfunctional adults, but it is inarguable that children who are raised by other people, in conjunction with a mother who is distracted, barely there, and stressed out, are likely to reflect those limitations.

"My mother's article was about the ideal and mine was an exploration of the daycare system for when the ideal is not an option."

I wonder how "likely to reflect those limitations" manifests.  She and her mother don't think the daycare kids will become dysfunctional adults, but ... but what? Something is "inarguable" but she does not spell it out.  What limitations will these children have and why is she afraid to spell it out? Also, living in Israel, the daughter is in a society where daycare is considered the norm.  Children are sent to the metapelet and to the ma'on from infancy and then to gan.  Raising your own children is not considered the ideal.

Aug 21, 2014

More from Rebbetzin Feige

In the previous post, Rebbetzin Feige Twerski quoted roshei yeshiva about the importance of chinuch taking place at home, and mothers and extended family raising children.  In a more recent article from last month, I was pleasantly surprised to see her begin her weekly column in Ami with:

"My daughters know that I am a big advocate of mothers staying home and personally raising their children."

Rebbetzin Twerski is a rebbetzin, a public speaker, a writer, a counselor, all in addition to her being the mother of 11 children and numerous grandchildren.  When someone as bright and accomplished as she advocates mothers raising their children, it makes an impact. 

Of her seven daughters, not all of them are homemakers, she says.  She describes one of her daughters as multi-talented and exceedingly bright who stays at home to raise her children with great mesirus nefesh.  She doesn't describe what the mesirus nefesh entails.  I assume financial gain as well as the forgoing the utilization of her brains and talents in more challenging ways than changing diapers, toilet training, cooking meals and running her home.  Many women feel that hired help can do the work just as well if not better. 

Aug 20, 2014

The Reason for Yeridas Ha'Doros

In the Pesach 2014 issue of Binah, Rebbetzin Feige Twerski writes:

"At a Torah Umesorah convention some years ago, R' Aharon Feldman, rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel, observed that children of our generation are not of the same caliber as those of his generation.  The reason for that, he asserted, is that children today are not being raised by their mothers.  They are, for the most part, consigned to a variety of daycare situations.  He quickly added that economic reasons necessitated this phenomenon that has affected the quality of offspring who, by right, should be in the loving environment provided by parents, grandparents, and extended family."

She goes on to say that in an address to mechanchim, R' Hutner spoke about Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla who instituted formal education.  Up until that time, Torah was transmitted directly from father to son while daughters learned from their mothers.  It came to a point where many children were uneducated which is why R' Yehoshua instituted a yeshiva system where children were taught outside the home.

R' Hutner pointed out that although R' Yehoshua is praised in the Gemara for doing what he did and he saved the day, it was nonetheless a tragedy for Klal Yisrael.  Why? Because ideally the Torah, "the art of living should flow from the same source as physical life.  The same parents who brought the children into the world, the parents, should be the ones who provide the Torah path in life."

R' Hutner gave an analogy to a country where, because the air was polluted, all babies had to be put in incubators if they were to survive.  This is not the ideal situation, of course, but if children can't breathe the natural air, we have to be grateful for incubators.

"Relegating our children to others to educate, shape, and form them is akin to placing them in incubators.  This is not the ideal, but we have no choice.  The Gemara praises R' Yehoshua ben Gamla.  Given the change in times, his was a heroic act."

Rebbetzin Twerski pointed out that Hashem puts us in a situation for the good, and the point is not to pine for yesteryear.  It's to acknowledge the reality of our situation and figure out how best to deal with it.

Aug 18, 2014

In Gantzen Nisht Nohrmal

In the Pesach 2014 issue of Mishpacha magazine, R' Henoch Plotnik, a rav and maggid shiur in Chicago, tells the following story:

"Before we decided to move from Lakewood to Chicago, over 25 years ago, I had the opportunity to visit with R' Elya Svei and chart out our plans.  What he said shook me to the core, and I have shared it with my own children and anyone else willing to hear it.  At the time, we were anticipating the birth of our bechor, and my wife was traveling from Lakewood to New York to work every day. 'What you are doing is in gantzen nisht nohrmal!" (completely abnormal) R' Elya admonished me.  He encouraged us to retain a semblance of normalcy in our respective roles and consequently our priorities."

What I find astonishing about the story is that this was before they had any children.  It wasn't even about abandoning one's babies with strangers.  It was the commuting pregnant wife that R' Svei considered crazy.

to be continued

Aug 17, 2014

Lecture Roundup II

Charlie Harary on achdus -

He says we think unity is smiling at others and doing acts of kindness which are great, but not achdus. Achdus is when the name on the front, “G-d”, is more important than the name on the back.  This is a sports reference to the jerseys that hockey (and other sports) players wear with their personal name on the back and the team they're playing for, on the front. 

He told the story of Herb Brooks, the US Olympic hockey coach  of 1980 whose team won the gold.  Brooks worked hard to take a bunch of guys from different places and meld them into a team whose focus was on winning for the USA. 

Every day we put on a jersey called G-d, says Harary, and the only question we ask all day is whether the name on the front is more important than the name on the back. Is it all about me or all about Hashem?

When G-d becomes more important, then I don't have to like you or accept you, because I recognize that we need every single Jew to represent Hashem in this world!  Acceptance of others is not what it's about. There is a reason why we're here and we are being used by G-d to represent Him to the world.
No matter who we are, no matter the name on the back, we all have the same thing on the front.  G-d.

Aug 16, 2014

Lecture Roundup

Since, as of this writing, we still don't have the third Beis Ha'Mikdash, it's still timely to post a summary of some of the points various lecturers made recently about sinas chinam and unity.

R' Akiva Rutenberg - He said sinas chinam is apathy; I don't think so.

R' David Fohrman did an excellent 5 part video presentation here in which he maintains, based on the Kamtza-Bar Kamtza story, that sinas chinam is disproportionate anger.  Not convinced that's what sinas chinam is.

R' Benzion Klatzko - He spoke bluntly about our lack of unity.  Unlike many other speakers who extolled the unity of the Jewish people over the past two months, he says he doesn't see that the Sefardic-Ashkenazic, religious-secular, Chassidic-non-Chassidic divide has been bridged.  He highlighted and praised the dozens of chesed organizations that we have but said he didn't see unity at the Siyum Ha'Shas, i.e. he did not see it bringing together all kinds of Jews. 

I agree with him.  So much chesed is done and it crosses lines, i.e. we don't only do chesed for our "own kind," but there still is very much that feeling of "us" and them."  Who is us? Whatever group you affiliate with.  And who is them? The other people out there.  I wrote about it here

to be continued

Aug 15, 2014

Brownie Bar Ad

"Take one for the road! Wherever the craving hits, treat yourself to our delicious snacks and taste the quality in every bite."

Whenever the craving hits? Vos far a lashon iz dos?! (What kind of language is that?)

And people have been noticing and commenting about the grubbe, full page, steak ads with close-ups of slabs of raw meat.  And the close-ups of scoops of ice cream, cones and bars.

For that matter, I have been noticing my adverse reaction to many close-ups of food, whether it's an article about an event or simcha online or a recipe.  There is something about these photos that I find unappealing, maybe not even for religious reasons.  After all, in real life we do not look at food in that magnified way.  Maybe more distance between us and the food is necessary in more ways than one.

Aug 12, 2014

"Food Glorious Food"

It's just what we need (sarcasm), another upscale store which will work hard to entice frum people to upgrade their gashmius.

Some quotes from their promotion:

"The sandwich bar itself is a new concept; high-end sandwiches have thus far been available exclusively at upscale restaurants." (High-end sandwiches - live and learn)

"Artisanal bread was something we took very seriously; it's something really lacking for the kosher consumer.  We want to be able to provide that experience." (G-d bless him, we were so lacking without it)

"Made to order specialty Italian coffees, too, had yet to be available in the kosher market." (How did we manage?)

"New offerings in general are a big concept." (because yesterday's offerings are boring)

"A big element [at this store] is education.  There's so much depth to food - different cuisines, different techniques - there's always more to learn and we're excited to offer those flavors, those tastes, those lessons." (Would that be before or after I learn the daf/the parsha ...?)

Aug 10, 2014

Old News

It can be edifying to read old news.  I was reading an old issue of Ami in which Dichter, the former Shin Bet director was interviewed by the editor about the search for the three kidnapped boys.  He was asked whether he has reason to hope the boys are alive.

Dichter's response was, when you're trying to get the kids back, the assumption is that they are alive.  He said nobody is allowed to think differently unless he has detailed and accurate information and "that's why I think everyone from the prime minister, etc. and the people in the field all have to work under the assumption that the three kids are alive.  As long as we don't have any contrary information, those kids are alive."

And yet it turns out that those in the know knew almost immediately, that the boys were murdered. 

I was told a story about a woman in Ashkelon who reported hearing voices and was put on psychiatric medication for two years.  Then the tunnels were discovered and her claim of hearing voices was justified.

Problem with this story is, there are no tunnels to Ashkelon, it's too far from Gaza.  So perhaps the story is true but the location is wrong.  But the story sounds peculiar anyway.  Couldn't the woman have other people hear the voices when she heard them?

Aug 7, 2014

Ramifications of the Disengagement-Expulsion

Regarding the previous post, the military rabbis declared Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, dead, apparently with DNA and perhaps other evidence.  A big funeral was held for Goldin but not for Shaul.

There was a news item which said Netanyahu asked the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross for help in recovering the bodies of the two slain soldiers.  What does that mean? Another situation in which soldiers' bodies were snatched by the enemies? Then how were they declared dead? Apparently by what was left behind, see this.  But if the enemy has the bodies, why aren't we making a big deal about retrieving them? Because then the enemy uses them as bargaining chips?

Some of the soldiers who fought in this war and some of those who were killed were of the age to have been drafted back in 2005.  Someone made the chilling observation to me - were any of those who fought now responsible for demolishing Gush Katif nine years ago, thus necessitating their fighting this war now?