Nov 30, 2016

Cultivating Emuna

In a discussion, someone said about emuna that knowing that we are maaminim doesn't help him.  It's a concept, not a reality to him.

Which led to the question - do we cultivate emuna or generate emuna?

Cultivate would mean to develop what is already there.  To generate would mean to produce it when it wasn't there before.

I was surprised he said what he said.  I think we think differently about emuna if we know it's inherent, and not something external that we have to acquire.  If I had some way of knowing about a latent talent that I have, for music or art or anything else, I would try to cultivate it! If I had some way of knowing that I had no ability in a certain area, I wouldn't put my efforts in that direction.

We are told that we are "believers, children of believers." That's who we are.  Emuna is not extraneous to us.  It's right here.

Nov 29, 2016

Kiddush Hashem

This post is for links to two recent Kiddush Hashem news items.  The first one you may have seen, since it has been posted many places.  The second is not as well known.
What I like about the first one is that it wasn't even an extraordinary act that made the Kiddush Hashem.  It was Jews doing what Jews do, in daily life.  Numerous Jews live this way.  We don't always realize how our Jewish routines make an impact, not only in the spiritual realms, but right here.
What's nice about the second one is the breaking of stereotypes.
Sometimes, a Kiddush Hashem is made when Jews return money that does not belong to them.  True, it's a Kiddush Hashem, but non-Jews also return money that does not belong to them.  These two stories are special because it is the very Jewishness of the protagonists that make it a Kiddush Hashem. 

Nov 28, 2016

OTD in Yerushalayim

In a Binah magazine interview with Rebbetzin Chana Weinberg, of the Slonimer family, a 7th generation Yerushalmi, a descendent of the Boruch Taam, a Baharan* einikel, I read a shocking thing.

She said that after World War II, when she was in fifth grade, she went to the first Bais Yaakov school in Yerushalayim.  One of the teachers was Chava Landsberg, a student of Sarah Schenirer.  They were approximately forty girls and only three girls remained frum.  "If I tell you their names, you will tremble ... daughters of roshei yeshiva, daughters of Rebbes, all went off the derech completely.  All of my friends and neighbors joined the movements of the Haganah, Etzel, Brit Chashmonaim and Beitar, singing patriotic songs and going to meetings.  The bachurim too joined the Haganah.  I would see boys in the streets, without hats, with guns, and then I would recognize them as bachurim from Yeshiva Eitz Chaim.

"Some of the youth left because of the extreme poverty, but many left because of their chinuch.  In some of these homes, the parents had come from Poland already influenced by the Bund.  Their homes were not whole and the children went searching for what was missing. They wanted excitement, they wanted enthusiasm!

"My friends laughed at me and said that I was na├»ve, that I didn't know what was going on.  I knew very well what was going on but I didn't ever want to go with them.  I wasn't interested at all.  There were many times I have asked myself why, why didn't I go?

"The only thing I can think of is that I had so much more at home.  I was fulfilled; I wasn't missing anything."

*Baharan stands for Ben HaRav Nachum.  Each of the five sons of Rav Nachum Shadiker (1810-1865) had a dream that they should move to Eretz Yisrael. Without knowing that the others had the same dream, each one packed to leave Poland.  They all met at the boat and traveled together to Eretz Yisrael.  They were known as the Baharan.

Nov 26, 2016

And Another Moshiach Fantasy

Another Moshiach fantasy I have (see here for the first one) is that all Jews will have a glowing yud on their foreheads and all Amalekites will have a black ayin.  Lots of people with that yud will be surprised, sad to say, since so many Jews do not know they are Jews.  This could be because they were never told and had no reason to think so, because they were raised by non-Jews, because they did not know that having a Jewish maternal great-grandmother, grandmother, mother makes them Jewish.
A smaller group of people, those who thought they were Jewish but aren't, and who won't have a yud, will be surprised too.
The precedent for my Moshiach fantasy is Bereishis 4:15 where Hashem engraves a letter of His name on Kayin's forehead.  But I think this idea came to me from the Lights video here that I first saw 23 years ago on Chanuka.  It tells the Chanuka story and uses flying, golden letters of the alef-beis to represent Torah-true Judaism and Greek letters that drop with a clang to represent the Hellenist philosophy.
Identity, who we are, who we belong to.  That's the first step.  Once we know who we are, then we find out what we need to do.

Nov 25, 2016

Sign of the Times?

My, oh my.  An item in a Chinese auction booklet goes as follows:
It is called "Glow of a Gadol" and says:
"Thousands have basked in his light, and thousands more would pay anything to gain access to his wisdom and blessing.  Choose one night of Chanukah to see Rav Chaim Kanievsky up close and personal for a transcendent experience of a lifetime.  Touch the holiness and awe as you watch the Gadol Ha'dor light the Chanukah lecht with otherworldly kavanos and leave a changed man.  Includes 2 round trip tickets."
Why is it that I cannot imagine a similar auction booklet entry for Rabbi Moshe Feinstein or Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky thirty years ago? Because it would have been unthinkable at the time.  For one thing, Litvishe greats were not treated like celebrities or Admorim.  For another thing ... do I really have to explain?

Nov 20, 2016

Gam Zu L'Tova

When you learn with someone who did not have a Jewish education, everything is new to them.  All the stories you heard a hundred times are new for them. 
One night, I told my learning partner the story of Nachum Ish Gamzu as related in the Gemara, how the jewels he was bringing to the emperor were exchanged for dirt by the thief of an innkeeper, and how it miraculously worked out for the best, gam zu l'tova.
The next day, I left the house and was a block away when I remembered that I left something important at home.  I said, "This is not good." I continued on my way, hoping I'd manage without it.
It later occurred to me that saying, "This is not good" is the antithesis of "gam zu l'tova." Not only do I know about gam zu l'tova, I had taught about it the night before! So I told the person I had said it to, "I need to make a correction.  I said, "This is not good, when I should have said gam zu l'tova."
We know lots of things but when it comes to integration, internalization, and what is instinctive to us, that's another story!