Nov 29, 2014

Reb Leizer

I just finished reading a book about a remarkable man, R' Leizer Geldzahler a'h.  He was an incredible talmid chacham and an incredible personality who died at the age of 46 after an accident.  He was a rosh yeshiva of a chassidishe yeshiva who inspired the bachurim to learn on the highest of levels and infused them with his bren and geshmak for life and Yiddishkeit which were one thing to him.  He was funny and brilliant and sensitive to others, a one of a kind chevraman to whom Torah learning was of supreme importance.  If every yeshiva had a Reb Leizer at the helm, our bachurim would be fortunate indeed.
This is an article that his mother-in-law, the well-known Reb. Feige Twersky of Milwaukee, wrote about him: here

Nov 27, 2014

Soaking in Cool Water

Just as a public service, not so much a "proper" blog post - do you know what to do if someone should get a serious burn, ch'v?

No, don't remove the item of clothing.

Immerse in cool (not cold) water for a LONG time, like two hours.

Hatzala must take a burn patient to the hospital.  This is not in the patient's best interests.  The best thing is long immersion in cool water.

I've read first hand accounts several times in which this mitigated the burn to such an extent that it seemed miraculous, with barely a mark.

Hashem yishmor.

Nov 26, 2014

Then and Now 2

continued from previous post

When the frum world talks about the tremendous changes in our society, technology is usually the focus.  And cell phones and the Internet have certainly drastically changed our lives.  But the shift in life at home is not often discussed.  It is deemed too sensitive a subject.  Working mothers will feel bad. 
And yet, the reality hasn't changed from R' Weiss' description back in 2000 of unavailable mothers.    The yiras shomayim and emotional well-being of children being raised in frum homes today haven't improved since 2000.  As someone who attends Lakewood yeshiva said, there is an off the derech child in most homes in Lakewood.  Is this true? An exaggeration? I can't tell you.  But even if it's not accurate, it's prevalent enough to seem that way.
There was an impressive article a while ago in Mishpacha in which a woman related that she and her husband decided that one of them will always be available to their children.  It's a priority for them and they do what it takes to make it work.  Most people can't or won't live this way.

The word that is commonly used to describe today's mother is "juggling."  They juggle home and work and community commitments.  It is hard to see how we can go back to women's primary focus being the home, but then I read an article (Binah Jan. 2014) about a courageous woman who did just that. 

Financial security was important to her since she was a child.  She worked as a preschool teacher and supported the family.  Then her family grew and her husband left kollel to open a photography business.  It was a hard field to break into but between her steady income and his occasional jobs, they managed.  Financially.

But she faced the reality that although she was a superb teacher, she was a mediocre mother since she did not have the energy for own children after taking care of other people's children.  She just did the basics but no longer sang with them, read them books, or did craft projects with them.

This bothered her and she thought of quitting her job.  But she knew they needed her paycheck and could not manage on what her husband earned.  She asked other preschool teachers how they managed and found that some had more energy than she did, some had different parenting goals, and some confessed that they also felt guilty.

She ultimately decided to quit.  She knew they could always hire another teacher but her children had just one mother.  It was tremendously scary for her to let go of the financial security of her job but she was convinced she was doing the right thing. 

One week before school started, her husband received a terrific job offer from one of the most prestigious photographers in town with a salary that equaled their previous combined income.

It seems to illustrate the principle ( Gemara Makos 10b), ‘B’derech sh’adam rotzeh leilech buh, molichin oso’; the path that a person chooses to follow they bring him (and allow him) to go down that road. 

Nov 25, 2014

Then and Now

R' M.M. Weiss, a rav in Staten Island and teacher at Machon BY seminary, wrote an article in the year 2000 discussing why he thought the previous fifteen years (1985-2000) saw an unprecedented crisis among frum youth.

When he started teaching in 1985, he said that 80% of the mothers of the girls he taught were full-time homemakers. In 2000, he says, it's the other way around, with 80% of mothers working full time.

He understands that some have no choice, that was always the case. Whether for valid reasons or not (that was not the issue here), he was observing that parents, particularly mothers, are not available for their children as they used to be, not physically available (like not being home when their children come home from school, or even when home, not having time for their children), and not emotionally available because of having to juggle so many responsibilities.
Recently, Hamodia magazine presented the following numbers to compare a young family in Brooklyn in the 1970's versus 2014:

Salary for a professional in the 1970's: $15,000
Median starting salary for professional in 2014: $45,000

Rent for a two bedroom apartment in the 1970's: $200 a month
Average rent for a two bedroom apartment in 2014: $2000 a month

Tuition in the 1970's: $125 a month for one child
Average tuition in 2014: $425 a month for one child

Rent+Tuition in 1970 = approximately 25% of income
Rent+Tuition in 2014 = approximately 65% of income
to be continued

Nov 24, 2014

Precision in Torah

R' Dovid Kaplan of Ohr Somayach relates (Major Impact p. 22) that as the representative of the chemical company that supplied Colgate with one of the important chemicals used in their toothpaste, Mr. Adelman sat in on board meetings with the heads of Colgate and Procter and Gamble.

He told Kaplan that they would debate the use or non-use of one word in a label or advertisement for two or three weeks at a time.  Two or three weeks for one word!

They once printed up thousands of boxes and labels. One of the big guys at Colgate didn't like one word so they destroyed the entire supply, costing the company millions of dollars!

Kaplan says that as a teacher of Gemara he often hears people questioning the precision of the wording that those who learn Torah argue about.  He tells them that if boardroom meetings can focus on precise wording, then all the more so can we be sure that the wording of Torah is precise.

Nov 23, 2014

What Does it Mean to Serve Hashem?

R' Manis Friedman, a popular Lubavitcher public speaker, likes to tell of his night-long dialogue with a non-Chassidic kollel guy about whether Hashem needs us, whether we need to have rachmanus on Him for making Himself vulnerable to our freedom of choice. The kollel guy says Hashem is perfect, how He can need anything?!

MF says, needing a mitzva is not an imperfection. But let's say it is. What would you prefer that Hashem is perfect or that Hashem needs you?

Kollel guy said, that He's perfect.

MF asks, why do you need Him to be perfect?

Kollel guy says, because if He's not perfect, I won't serve him.

MF says, if you're right that Hashem doesn't need anything, what does it mean ivdu es Hashem – what kind of service can you do?

Kollel guy said that's the one thing I never understood ...  By telling me that Hashem needs my mitzva, you're turning me off. If He needs it, let Him do it!

Mf: If you did not need anything, you wouldn't be a human being. To say that Hashem needs, makes people uncomfortable because our needs are seen as weaknesses.

Yes, there are needs that are weaknesses like eating and sleeping, but a need like friendship makes us human. If Hashem needs something, that makes Him a living G-d.
Just because the Kollel guy never came up with an answer for what it means to serve Hashem, doesn't mean there isn't an answer that doesn't require G-d needing something.  In Chovos Ha'Levavos, written by a Rishon, there is an entire section on the Service of G-d - Shaar Avodas Ha'Elokim. 

In it (in the edition with R' Avigdor Miller's commentary, p. 66, 72), it says the definition of avoda is the feeling of humility of someone who receives a benefit. 

What can we do for Hashem? Nothing, because Hashem does not need anything.  But one thing we can do for Him is make something out of ourselves.  How do we do this? By working to show our gratitude for what He does for us. Avoda is the service of Hashem that comes from a feeling of gratitude.

We contemplate His greatness, His wisdom, and everything He has done for us.  It includes thinking of all the things He does in the world that reveal His presence.  All the mitzvos of the Torah are only an introduction to this career of avoda.

Nov 22, 2014

In His Final Moments

We now mark six years since the murders of four Jewish men and two Jewish women, including the shliach and shlucha, in the Chabad house in Bombay.

The shliach's Gavriel Noach's father said that ZAKA told him that they can now tell him what they saw in the video from the Chabad house.

After Gavriel Noach was shot and was bleeding profusely, he crawled to where the talleisim were and placed them over the bodies of the others who had been killed. That was an act of chesed that he did, for kavod ha'meis, in his final moments.

R' Holtzberg also related how in India they cremate bodies and give a very hard time about releasing bodies, even to be buried out of the country. An Israeli had died in prison and Gavriel wanted to send the body back to Israel, but the Indian government refused.  Gavriel stood at the bed and said he is not moving until the body is released.

Yehi zichro baruch along with the other kedoshim.

Nov 19, 2014

That numerous religious Jews attended the funeral of the Druze policeman is admirable and understandable.  He lost his life while trying to defend Jews and attending his funeral expressed appreciation.

What I don't understand as readily is when people pay shiva calls when they have no personal connection to the mourners and don't have a life story that is similar so that they can say, "We went through that and you'll see, you will be able to survive this and move on."

I could have easily gone to pay a shiva call to the Kletzkys following the tragic, grisly murder of their little boy, but I passed their building and didn't go in.  I could not fathom why my presence, as a stranger, would provide any comfort to the mourners.  I understand the feeling that we are all brothers and sisters, that we are truly one, but I think we need to do what's best, most comforting, for the people involved. 

I've read touching accounts of strangers visiting injured soldiers in the hospital and in most cases, it sounds like they really appreciate it.  So that's a great mitzvah of bikur cholim.  But unless a person knows that mourners are happy with strangers visiting them, it might be a good idea to be wary about doing so.  The mitzvah is to console them, not to rack up mitzvah points at someone else's expense.

Nov 11, 2014

Mean What You Say and Say What You Mean

No sooner did I finish listening to a shiur in which the speaker said this is an alma d'shikra (world of falsehood) in which words do not retain their true meaning, than I heard the following.  Someone with a son in shidduchim said her son told her that in the yeshiva world, when they refer to someone having "lots of yiras shomayim," those are code words for "lots of money!"

Ironically, this came up on the Shabbos of parshas Vayeira in which Avrohom said to Avimelech, "there is no yiras Elokim here!"

It's not the only code for money.  People say "balabatish" or "comfortable," but to use a term like "yiras shomayim" for money? Unacceptable!

Nov 2, 2014

Lucky 10 Cheshvan

I have been informed that, right now, Yud Cheshvan, is the birthday of Gad ben Yaakov Avinu.  When this child was born, Leah said, “Ba gad,” ‘a good sign has come,’ and therefore gave him the name ‘Gad.’ Rashi gives three interpretations of ba gad, one of which is good mazal.

Therefore, 10 Cheshvan is an auspicious day and a mazal'dige time to undertake anything, material or spiritual.

Good luck!