Apr 27, 2016

Beautiful Names

Sometimes you hear people say, "What a beautiful name!" when they hear the name of a baby or are otherwise told about a name. 

Question is, what do they mean? What makes a name beautiful?

I can think of two factors.  One is the significance of the name; it's not the name per se but what it signifies, maybe the person being named for.

Second is more mundane, that the syllables are pleasing to the ear.  Names with a ches sound are not mellifluous.  Names with a lamed are.  And if there is more than one name, it's how pleasingly the names sound together, if they "work" well together or just seem stuck together randomly (in which case usually only one of the names will be used on a regular basis).

Other reasons?

Apr 20, 2016

Experiencing the Seder

Rabbi Doniel Katz:
"Pesach is a 'get out of jail free' card, a jail break for your soul.  Every challenge that you have can be turned around in a few moments at the Pesach seder and this is the purpose of the Pesach seder.  It is not about going through the details.
"I remember Pesach seders in which all that was discussed was - is the matza enough, how big is the kos, I didn't lean - do I need to lean again ...  Our actions must be done according to Halacha because then we know we are maximizing the spiritual potency.  Halacha allows us to capture the 'lights' coming down from the spiritual world and create vessels with our thoughts, speech, and actions.  The gift of the Pesach seder is we move through a halachic process and this is in order to set up a spiritual opportunity and vessel.  The goal is to set things up so we know what we're doing, but we can't get into the spiritual small-mindedness of am I getting it right, did I eat enough matza at the right time.  Once we know we've gotten it halachically right, we need to open our minds and hearts to the experience.
"I Hate, with a capital H, giving over explanations of the Pesach seder at the Pesach seder, because you're not supposed to be there explaining things, what is this about, what is that about, you're not supposed to be reading the Haggada for the first time ('I can't wait to turn to the next page to see what happens' ...) You are supposed to know it all already, and now (at the seder) you are taking it from Head to Heart.  The Pesach seder is about Experiencing it ("chayav adam lir'os es atzmo ...").
"You have those individuals who are just trying to get through it.  Then there are those who are trying to get the maximum spiritual experience out of it and get OCD about it and many people get depressed at the Pesach seder because their expectations are so high and are not being met.  Sometimes, the more you hear about the spiritual potential, the more disappointed you get.  You may be enslaved to what you think the Pesach seder is supposed to be.  The best way to catch the energy of joy and freedom is to embrace the moment, not need it to be anything." 

Apr 19, 2016

Pesach: I am Grateful for ...

The following is based on an article by SC Radcliffe with some of her ideas and some of mine as applied to Pesach.  Feel free to adjust the list to reflect your circumstances and add yours in the Comments.
 I am grateful for the opportunity to do mitzvos.
I am grateful for having people to make Pesach for.
I am grateful for the numerous shiurim about Pesach available online.

I am grateful for all the reading material about Pesach.
I am grateful that I have a home that I need to make ready for Pesach.

I am grateful for cleaning help.
I am grateful for the help I get shopping, setting up before Pesach, and dismantling after Pesach.

I am grateful that we've done this before and have our routine in setting up for Pesach so we are not first figuring it out.
I am grateful we are healthy enough to make our own Pesach.
I am grateful to be Jewish and to have this Yom Tov.
I am grateful to be alive, safe, and free to make Pesach.
I am grateful about how it fell out, i.e. the days of the week.
I am grateful that we have guests.
I am grateful that I have siblings and that we siblings live near one another and get to see one another over Pesach.

Apr 18, 2016

Constant Creation

I'm reading this nice book, Adon Haniflaos - A Lesson a Day, which is about "opening our eyes to see the amazing wonders of Hashem's creation."
Day 105 is about the eyes and how the retina contains millions of special sensors called rods and cones.  Within the rods and cones there is a chemical that is sensitive to light called "purple visual," which responds to light by separating and converting light into electrical signals that are sent to the optic nerve in the brain.  The brain interprets the signals into an image of what was recorded by the eyes.
After sending the signal, the purple visual recombines and allows the cycle to begin again, thus giving us near continuous vision.  The whole process takes only a fraction of a second and it seems to us that we have continuous vision, that we are seeing motion without interruption.  Actually, we see a series of still images that give the impression of motion.
That's all from the book.  It struck me that this description of how the eyes work sounds like המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית  - Hashem's constant renewal of Creation.  Hashem created the world yesh m'ayin - something out of nothing.  When we take already existing material and shape it into something, a table out of wood, a cup out of silver, once the item is made it's finished.  There is no need to do anything further.  But something created out of nothing cannot continue to exist without continuous input from the Creator.  So although the world seems to us to exist continuously, in reality, Hashem is constantly recreating it.
This is a big and deep subject.  There is plenty of material in sefarim and in English too about this.  I thought it was nifty that we have something within our very own bodies, the eyes, that provide an example of this.

Apr 17, 2016

Attitudes about Giving

Dennis Eisenberg was interviewed by Mishpacha magazine.  He trains yeshiva administrators after having been a successful yeshiva executive director for decades. 

He discusses fundraising and compares fundraising in the 1980's to today.  He says, "When I started in 1983, the donor base was comprised of Baby Boomers who gave [tzedaka] out of a sense of duty, of obligation.  For them, tzedaka and maaser are mitzvos like all other mitzvos."

Times have changed and now:

"Donors wanted returns; some mosdos offered prestige, others promised segulos, but it became about 'what's in it for me?' Now, I don't mean that people are completely selfish, but it was clear that donors needed to identify and build a stronger kesher with the cause, and even altruistic, selfless donors wanted the feeling that they'd given to 'their' cause, a sense of pride of ownership."

How interesting.  In the 1980's the maala (advantage) was kabbolas ol, you gave because you were supposed to give.  The chisaron (disadvantage) was that when you do mitzvos solely out of a sense of obligation, there is no feeling there.

These days, the chisaron is a lack of kabbolas ol.  The maala is that people get personally involved and care.

Apr 16, 2016

A New Normal?

A recent issue of Mishpacha's Family First included the following:

1) a mother writing about her nine year old son who looks normal but behaves atrociously because of PDD (pervasive developmental disorder) which is on the autism spectrum

2) a woman writing about her bipolar condition

3) the ongoing "Family Diary" about a child who behaves terribly at home who, in this chapter, is put on Ritalin

4) a woman writing about her relationship with her ex-sisters-in-law following her divorce from their brother who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia

Is this the frum media's way of attempting to "remove the stigma" from mental illness? I think it's scaring the daylights out of us.

Apr 9, 2016

Unique Chesed

As a follow-up to this post I wrote five years ago here about what makes our nation unique, here is something I read today:
A woman who runs a gemach was called by a businessman who told her the following.  He often bought sodas in a small store near his office.  One day, the Hindu storeowner asked him if he would take about one hundred extra items that the store could not use, saying, "I know you Jewish people like to help each other, and you have organizations to do this."
The Jewish man said, "Doesn't your religion have such organizations?"
The Hindu said, "Your people are known to have charity organizations to help a variety of people.  We don't have anything close to what you have."
The variety of chesed ideas that Jews come up with is extraordinary as any perusal of gemach listings will show.  Some unusual ones are:
Bar Review Materials Gemach
Bed rest crafts and activities gemach
Books on Twins Gemach: Books on expecting and raising twins
Boredom Busters Gemach: Books, magazines, tapes, CD's, and DVD's for homebound due to surgery or illness and for women on bedrest.
Camping Equipment gemach
EZ pass gemach
Ladder Gemach: 15 foot extension ladder
21 foot extension ladder
longer ladder is available
For more, see this community's listings and know that there are numerous communities around the world that have their own listings:

Apr 3, 2016

Yet Another Reason

I'm learning more and more reasons that explain the uniqueness of the yeshiva in Volozhin, see here.
The first reason in my last post was the one I heard the most often.  It is only within the last year that I've been hearing additional and unique reasons.
Well, here is yet another reason I discovered, this one from Torah Tavlin, volume II, p. 239.  It says:
"R' Chaim Volozhiner went to his rebbi, the Vilna Gaon, seeking his consent for a new project.  Full of enthusiasm he excitedly described his plans for opening a yeshiva which would be the first of its kind.  Its goal would be to broaden the previously confined boundaries of Torah study not just to individual scholars but to masses of mevakshim - people who truly yearned to quench their thirst for Torah knowledge."

Masses? The yeshiva in Volozhin, over the decades, was not larger in size than other yeshivos.  Very few boys went on to learn in a yeshiva past cheder.  Most went to work and married.  You had to be determined, and usually very smart, to learn in yeshiva when you were in your mid and late teens and beyond.  No masses attended any yeshivos in Eastern Europe.

Apr 2, 2016

Love Yourself-Love Others?

Rabbi Dr. A. Twerski, in his work with addicts, knew a woman, Bonnie, who had stayed off alcohol for a year.  During the winter, her furnace broke and it took three days until it was fixed.

She slept in her freezing apartment for those three days.  When a friend heard about it, she was astonished and said, you could have called me or any of your friends and stayed with us.

She said, "I don't like to impose."

The friend mentioned this to Dr. Twerski who ran the 12 Step program that Bonnie was a part of.  He called her and said he was disappointed because he had planned on asking her to become a sponsor in the program.  She said, "You can call on me anytime; I'd be glad to help."

He said, "If you can't accept help, you can't give help."

This story was included in an Ami article about marriage to convey the idea that a wife who does not respect herself, who does not take care of her own needs, may do things for her husband but she'll do it with disdain and resentment. The rationale is, if you cannot admit and accept your limitations, you will look down on others for their limitations.

The points are made categorically, as though they are Accepted Truths, while I'm left wondering, really?

Bonnie's need was to be independent, not to impose, and Dr. Twerski turned this into a refusal to accept help, and he concluded that therefore, she could not help anyone.  She said she'd be glad to help and he would not even give her a chance.  Why not prove himself correct by letting her be a sponsor and seeing whether she could help someone or not?

One of the problems with this article is that it presents it as two choices: either you love and care for yourself or you don't.  Don't we all care for ourselves in some ways and neglect ourselves in other ways whether with sleep, exercise, how we eat, etc.?

And don't we accept help sometimes, in certain ways, but not in others? Did Bonnie never accept help ever, in any form?

And can it be proven that the more you take care of your own needs, the more you will respect the needs of your spouse and others?