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The Short Vort- On Second Thought (6/29/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 12th of Tammuz 5775 and June 29, 2015

 

On Second Thought

 

This past Friday my wife and I headed on off to Manhattan to be Menchem Aveil (“pay a Shiva call”) at the home of a family friend.

As timing would have it, although our intentions were noble, when we reached the home, the family had already left to their Shabbos location.

Since we were already in the city and we had some ‘extra-time’, we stopped to purchase a cold drink before heading back to Jersey (what’s the rush to head back to Jersey anyway?).

As we sat for a rare moment of serenity and privacy, a woman approaches me.

“Excuse you for disturbing; however, you look like you might observe Kosher. Is that true?”

I wondered for a second what I should answer this roving reporter; however, I realized that neither of us were in mood for satire so I quickly answered in the affirmative.

“Yes I do. How can I help you?”

“My friend is coming to spend Shabbat with me and I have not ‘done’ Shabbat in a while. I agreed to buy the food, so I was wondering if you could direct me to the nearest kosher grocery.”

I knew the neighborhood and I answered her that there is a kosher store not far and provided her with exact directions.

She thanked me profusely and as she was about to leave, she again stated excitedly, “It’s been so long since I have done Shabbat and I am so ‘pumped’ to say the blessing on the wine and the hallah. I really miss ‘doing the Shabbat’.”

That was it! How could I allow this ‘kiruv’ moment to pass?

The lady is basically begging to experience Shabbat!

Who needs Esther Jungreis or Aish.com?

Even a novice kiruv amateur like me can handle this one.

I am reaching in my pocket for my card…..

I am getting my pen readied to write her phone number…

I am about to invite her to Passaic for next Shabbos….

I can see it all now…. In three months she is davening at the Ahavas… in six months she is off to Rebbitzen Holly Pavlov and the next year she is back in Passaic with a Shaitel, six kids and 6000 pound suburban hurtling down Dwasline while munching Sushi on her way to an OA meeting while listening to Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller on her TAG approved IPhone!

Instant Olam Habah!

What a Short Vort!

Rabbi goes to Manhattan to pay a Shiva call ends up being ‘MeKarev’ the great, great granddaughter of Rabbi Yisroel Salanter and saves a generation of Jews…..

I can do it!

I can also do Kiruv!

This is such Hashgacha Protis!! (Divine Intervention)

As I am handing her my card and my mouth is about to utter the invite….

She says, “Yes, I am so excited to do Shabbat again with my friend after all since I am Catholic it’s not often I have this opportunity!”

“Oh, so you are Catholic? Uh…That’s nice… enjoy Shabbat.”

And as my wife and I drove back to Passaic I continued to marvel about the ways of He who plans all.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort- “My Greatest Nechama” (6/26/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 9th of Tammuz 5775 and June 26th 2015

 

My Greatest Nechama

 

The text appeared on my phone at 9:10 AM.

 It was from my daughter in law.

It was a group text inviting the family for a birthday party in honor of my only American born grandson’s first birthday party in Monsey.

My daughter in law and other family members were surprised to see that within thirty seconds of receiving the text I had already answered that I would be there.

Sunday was usually a very busy day for me; so therefore many wondered, how and what motivated me to quickly and unequivocally answer in the affirmative with little and seemingly no pondering of the issue?

A congregant whose mother recently passed away asked me, “Out of all of the people who reached out to you after your mother passed away to offer Nechama (consolation), who or what was the most comforting of all?”

I was caught off guard by the question as I had never thought about what or who was the ‘most comforting person of all’?

I answered on the spot that I appreciated when people expressed to me how my mother had made positive impressions on them; however, I could not recall one specific remark or visit which offered me the ‘ultimate’ Nechama.

The question intrigued me and I continued to ponder his question all through the night and on my way to Shul, I was enlightened by an epiphany.

I realized – and this realization was as clear to me as the sun which was rising at that minute- that the most meaningful and most effective Nechama I had received and continue to receive from any single person was the Nechama imparted to me by my mother herself!

My mother who was diagnosed in May 2013, fought bravely for her life; however, during the last few months when the probability of recovery became remote, she would often tell me, “Remember the good times we shared. Remember the special quality time we enjoyed. When you are sad, recall those occasions you will be able to go on.”

I only realize now, two months after her passing how accurate she was.

I now know the answer to the question: my mother herself is my biggest Nechama.

No one wants to lose a loved one and no time is ever a ‘good time’; however, the reality is that death is as much a part of life as birth is and the time to prepare for our final journey is now.

I don’t mean just spiritually preparing by doing more Mitzvohs and learning more Torah, although, of course those are vital preparations.

What I am referring to is preparing your family for them to be comforted after you leave this world by equipping them with the best and most effective tools to deal with the loss, namely, give them plenty of warm and cherished memories.

My mother was my support and my succor during her life; that I knew.

Amazingly though, I never expected that she would be my greatest source of comfort during my mourning period for her.

I miss her deeply and every day I still reach for the phone to call her.

That being said, when I do miss her I have a treasure trove of precious and wonderful memories to draw upon which although the memories are tinged with sadness as she is no longer here to add to them; nevertheless, they are my constant source of solace and comfort, of relief and most of all, of Nechama.

On Shabbos when my mother came to be with us she would attend my “After davening Shiur” and we would walk home together.

Nowadays, as I walk home after Shul on Shabbos, I just have to close my eyes for a second and once again I am with her as we are slowly walking home hand in hand.

Once again she is walking with me and once again she is my greatest comforter.

That is why I answered my daughters in law’s text so quickly.

I learned my mother’s lesson well, the time to fill the memory chest is today; don’t wait till tomorrow.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort- LMC (6/25/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 8th of Tammuz 5775 and June 25, 2015

 

LMC*

*(This Vort is totally fictional and absolutely true. It is about imagined people and it is about real life human beings that we all know. It is about someone and about no one. I leave it to you to decide.)

 

Sandy and Moshe Morgenstern (names changed) were easily classified as LMC.

In fact, in the 12 years they have belonged to the Shul they probably secured the coveted MVLMC for ten years in a row!

For those of who are uninitiated in the rating system of congregants (in jest of course), here is the list of abbreviations and their meaning:

                               1.            LMC- Low Maintenance Congregant- generally defined as a congregant who requests an appointment no more than once in three to four months.

                               2.            HMC- High Maintenance Congregants- A congregant who is constantly in ‘crisis mode’ and needs weekly or bi-weekly hour long appointments.

                               3.            MVLMC- Most Valuable Low Maintenance Congregant- A congregant is eligible for this coveted award if they request an hour meeting no more than once in six months!

                               4.            NMHMJICH- This label is the most difficult for me to deal with. It stands for “Non Member High Maintenance Jew I Cannot Help”. These are the various Jews who call me from all over seeking relief and deliverance from seemingly insurmountable issues.

 

Of course the above mentioned ‘categories’ are  said “tongue-in-cheek” as it is a privilege to be able to assist anyone in pain and we (and certainly not a rabbi) should never compare one person’s challenges to another person.

The Morgensterns were certainly ‘’low maintenance”.

They rarely came to me with any of life’s normal challenges and they and their children were perfect candidates for being on the cover of “Parenting” magazine. Their children were doing exemplary well in school and they were always well dressed and presentable.

Moshe was an ‘I.T.’ expert and he made a comfortable living being able to support his wife and five children in modest comfort. Sandy ran a playgroup in her house and there was always a waiting list for the group.

All of these facts actually led me not to be surprised when they showed up at my office one Sunday afternoon.

 I have learned from experience that too often the most externally ‘put-together’ families are in reality behind the closed door, the most dysfunctional.

Sandy spoke first. She had discovered that Moshe had a difficult addicting affliction which to the surprise of Sandy over the last ten years had depleted all of the family’s savings.

It also came out at the meeting that Moshe’s firm was ‘downsizing’ and he was one of those who were going ‘down’.

I immediately set up an appointment with a trained and respected therapist for their marital issues while simultaneously assisting Moshe in getting the help he personally needed.

For the next six months I kept in touch with them and progress was seemingly being made.

It was a Friday afternoon when Sandy called and revealed that the depths of the difficulties were much deeper than initially assumed and that the last six months had been more an exercise in deception than true Teshuva or recovery.

Sandy and her parents came to my office the following Sunday morning. Her father was from the old-school; the one that believed that the ‘D’ word was not a part of the Jewish lexicon.

I think he was the most surprised when after hearing everyone speak for over two hours and only after their insistence that I state my opinion, I stated explicitly and unambiguously  that Sandy should leave Moshe and the divorce should take place sooner than later.

It took a little bit of convincing and cajoling, however, two weeks later, Moshe and Sandy were back in my office as Moshe handed over a Get to Sandy.

It was not easy and there are no great winners in this story; however, there are also no regrets.

A year has passed since that Sunday in May when Moshe and Sandy severed the ties which bound them for twelve years.

Sandy called me exactly on the one year anniversary of the Get.

“Rabbi, I can’t say I cherish that day; however, one thing is true. I still have problems and life is still a struggle. Raising five children almost singly handedly is challenging to say the least. And I cannot state that I have bliss or paradise; however, one thing I do have is stability. And right now that is worth more than a dysfunctional life. I wanted to thank you; it’s not easy to encourage someone to leave a marriage, but in my case you were right.”

Sandy may have never really been a LMC; however, at least now she is maintaining a life which is stable and constant. And that is very precious.

Not all problems end with: ‘they-lived-happily-ever-after’; indeed, few do.

This article is certainly not advocating that couples just throw in the towel when the first sign of discord is discovered. However, I am also not advocating that couples must stay together at all cost. Sometimes a stable, single parent home is preferable to a strife-filled ‘intact’ dysfunctional one.

The realization that there is life after crisis and that stability is often better than dysfunction is a prized lesson which unfortunately some people are never privileged to learn.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort- “Yoni” (6/24/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 6th of Tammuz 5775 and June 24, 2015

 

Yoni

 

Today is the 39th Yahrtzeit of Yonatan "Yoni" Netanyahu Z’’l; (March 13, 1946 – July 4, 1976).

Yonatan was the commander of the elite Israeli army commando unit Sayeret Matkal.

He was the only Israeli soldier killed in action during Operation Entebbe in Uganda.

I can recall the day Yoni was killed as if it was yesterday.

It was July 4, 1976 the Bicentennial of the United States.

The entire country was agog with excitement as ships from 22 different countries were gathering in New York Harbor to celebrate the event.

All over the country there was a feeling of patriotism and connection to the United States of America.

Suddenly, in the midst of this day of nationalism and loyalty to America there was bolt of lightning emanating from the middle of Africa; namely Uganda!

Operation Yonatan was successfully achieved!

The operation took place at night. Israeli transport planes carried 100 commandos over 2,500 miles (4,000 km) to Uganda for the rescue operation. The operation, which took a week of planning, lasted 90 minutes. 102 hostages were rescued. Five Israeli commandos were wounded and one, the unit commander, Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed. All the hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed, and thirty Soviet-built MiG-17s and MiG-21s of Uganda’s air force were destroyed. (Wikipedia)

When the news arrived on that Sunday afternoon on July 4th in the middle of the American Bicentennial that the hostages were saved and the Israelis only suffered the loss of one commando: Yonatan Netanyahu, we and all the Jews of this country were overwhelmed with joy and thanks.

Who could believe that Jews from Israel could fly over 2000 miles undetected and literally ‘snatch’ over 100 hostages from the mouth of the monster?

Was this not the fulfillment of the Passuk in Devarim (4:34):

Or has any god performed miracles to come and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, with trials, with signs, and with wonders, and with war and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great awesome deeds, as all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

This was nothing short of a miracle from Hashem as His outstretched “hand” ‘plucked’ the Jews from the jaws of the evil ones!

It was indeed a day to be proud to be American; however, for us the Jewish people, it was a day to be even prouder to be a Jew!

We learned that no matter how welcoming is America and how much we have to be proud of on being safe and secure here; there is only one true home for a Jew. And that home is Eretz Yisroel.

On the day when all of us were celebrating 200 years of independence, Hashem in His own way was reminding us that the only true freedom for a Jew is in the land of Israel.

Thank you Hashem for that great day and as we all said back then: “Kol HaKavod L’Zahal!”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort- “A Great Summer-Day Trip” (6/23/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 6th of Tammuz 5665 and June 23, 2015

 

A Great Summer-Day Trip

 

I know how you feel; sometimes you need to get away and you just don’t know where to go.

Today I felt that need to get away for a little while.

I felt I had to just to take an hour or so and leave the confines of the Shul and Passaic and just go to a different location.

Where should I go?

 I didn’t have too much time at my disposal and really felt the need to ‘go somewhere’ special and different.

Finally, after deliberating about the issue I decided I would go everywhere and nowhere; to the furthest place in the world and to no place.

Have I gone insane?

Have I lost my mind?

What am I talking about?

The rabbi has gone mad!

The pressures of the Shul have finally got to him!

Not yet…. At least he is not to be considered ‘mad’ because of the contents of this Vort.

The answer is really very simple.

After thinking about my options and my state of mind, I went to the one place where: I went nowhere; and on the other hand: I went everywhere.

Where did I go?

What mysterious place did the rabbi find to go?

Did he use Kabbalistic incantations to ‘virtually’ transport himself to other worlds?

In a way, yes; however, you can do it as well and you need not know anything about Kabbalah.

Where did I go?

I went to sleep.

I took a nap for one hour and had the best trip I could have had.

I went nowhere as I just lay down in my bed; and I went everywhere as in my dreams I flew to the most exotic and exciting places in the world.

And you know what? It did not cost me a penny!

When I returned from my excursion I did not return with jet-lag or feeling like I need a vacation from the vacation.

Just the opposite; when I returned to the office I felt invigorated and refreshed; uplifted and excited to meet the rest of the day and thoroughly inspired to write this Vort!

This was one of the best trips I have taken.

I got a first class seat on my trip as I had a full bed to stretch out in and no one else was on the plane with me.

I did not need to go through security or stand with my hand over my head as if I was doing jumping jacks and when the trip ended there was no luggage to retrieve and no cab to be hailed.

This was truly a great trip!

And I saw the most unbelievable places you could imagine!

I saw people who I have not seen in years, and places which were not just ‘dream-like’, there were real dreams!

This was not the stuff which dreams are made of, this was the real McCoy!

Friends, you must try this ‘trip’!

Next time you feel the need to get away; don’t spend money on costly airline tickets… just jump into your cozy bed and pull down the shades and Hashem will grant you the most refreshing vacation of your life!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort’ - “Fan of the Fan” (6/22/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 5th of Tammuz 5775 and June 22, 2015

 

Fan of the Fan

 

Dear Mr. Fan,

I am your number one fan!

I really must thank you; however, the problem is that I don’t know your name or who you are and you left no tell-tale calling card for me to identify you!

For those of you, who are confused, please allow me to fill in some facts.

About a year ago I installed a clip-on fan onto the Chazzan’s Shtender in the Blatt Beis Medrash.

Being that the air conditioning vents did not quite reach that part of the room, the fan was a welcome relief for the Chazzan on a hot summer day.

This year, as the summer approached, I find myself more often than not as the Chazzan in the Blatt Beis Medrash. Being that I am in Aveilus for my mother, almost every day I daven ‘for the Amud’ in the Blatt Beis Medrash.

About a month ago, when I first turned on the fan I noticed that the blades were almost jet black as dirt had accumulated over the year.

I wanted so much to clean those blades; after all, who wants dirty blades blowing dirty air on them?

However, my thoughts remained just thoughts and every day I noticed the fan with the black, dirty blades.

That was until you came around about a week ago and you took apart the fan, cleaned the blades until they were snow white and pristine and replaced the fan back in its place!

I want to thank you so much for your act of kindness and Chessed; however, I know not who you are!

Therefore, please allow me to announce publicly to you: thank you, thank you and thank you for making my day that much cooler and for causing me to remember every time I approach the ‘Amud’, that there are beautiful people out there in the world who do kind and nice things for others without even letting them know about it!

Thank you so much!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Why I Am Embarrassed “ (6/21/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 4th of Tammuz 5775 and June 21, 2015

 

Why I Am Embarrassed

{What follows are the words which I spoke from my heart yesterday at Congregation Ahavas Israel in Passaic, NJ.

 My only wish it that these words which emanated from my heart enter your hearts.

I am recreating my words as best as I can in the same format as I offered them yesterday; therefore, I will use the present tense.}

 

I am embarrassed this morning.  

I am embarrassed for two reasons.

I am embarrassed that this week my computer imploded and I am faced with the loss of all of my ‘creative writing’ for the past five years.

Why I am embarrassed about this? I am embarrassed that I am so upset about this!

With thankfully my family and friends all in good health and with food on my table I am embarrassed by the fact that my ‘urgent and vital’ files may have disappeared.

How does a rabbi who preaches to his congregation to have their priorities in proper order; who always stresses that family and health are most important, and that we all must realize that our ‘things’ are of less importance- have the audacity to be depressed about the loss of a few files???

Having gotten that off my chest, let me now turn to the real reason I am embarrassed this morning.

Although it is embarrassing for me to confess in such a public fashion; nevertheless, in the hope of achieving some relief for myself and perhaps to inspire others (or at least myself), I will unburden myself to you.

The primary reason I am embarrassed this morning is because this week nine innocent and spiritual human beings were massacred in cold blood for no other ‘crime’ than the suspected murderer hated the color of their skin.

Nine innocent human beings who were created in the image of their creator were massacred in cold blood simply because their skin color did not match the skin color of most of the people in this country.

The Mishna in Avos 3:14, states- “He would also say: Beloved is man, for he was created in the image [of G-d]; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to him that he was created in the image, as it is says, "For in the image of G-d, He made man".

According to the majority of classical commentators, all men and women (irrespective of their race or lineage) have been created in the image of G-d.

Why then am I embarrassed?

I am embarrassed because for the most part I went about my day in a regular normative and banal fashion.

I did not feel the revulsion, anger and pain which I should have.

It did not throw me into the emotional anguish and grief it should have; and for that I am embarrassed.

Perhaps by openly admitting my lack of sensitivity and my apparent numbness to human tragedy I will be able to re-awaken in myself the somewhat dormant sense of pain and sorrow which this horrific massacre should have engendered within me.

Nine innocent human beings, created in His image, while attempting to know Him better, were slaughtered and butchered for no other reason than they were ‘different’ than others.

I am embarrassed that I am not in a state of complete traumatic pain and consuming heartache.

Nine human images of Hashem have been eliminated from this world; their only crime being the color of their skin.

There I said it!

But what can (I and) we do now?

There are three things we can do.

1.       Empathy. We all must think about this tragedy and strive to reach a feeling of empathy and compassion for those who were killed.

And even more importantly, we should express our sense of revulsion at the crime and our compassion to the victims to our coworkers and to all whom we come in contact with.

We must let the world know that we as human beings and as Torah Jews feel the pain of those who have brutalized; not simply because we have also been persecuted, NO!!!

That is not at all the primary reason of our revulsion and our pain.

We are in pain because Hashem’s creations have been brutally killed.

The fact that we also have been the target of hatred and persecution just adds to our feelings of empathy; however, the primary reason for our empathy is that it is the CORRECT and JEWISH thing to feel the pain of others!

WE ARE IN PAIN totally irrespective of the fact that we have been victimized as well.

2.       Stand Up and Say Something!  Help stop the cycle of hatred in this world. If you ever hear a fellow Jew (or any human being) using a word, phrase or expression which has a racist overtone, rebuke the person immediately!

Do not hesitate.

The usage of words which can even remotely be associated with racism –even the usage of foreign language words which just translate as ‘black’- must be totally excised from our vocabulary.

 Promote understanding and reconciliation and never ever be a party to anyone who speaks in a derogatory way about other racial groups.

Most importantly insist that your children are sensitive to people of color and never allow them to fall prey to the usage of racial slurs which are unbecoming of any civil human being.

3.       Lower Your Rancor! Within our own community, family and friends, lower the level of malice which too often permeates our conversations.

Too often nowadays we hear about instances of (it’s hard for me to write the following, but, I must) one Jew calling another Jew a Nazi! (I have a hard time even writing this; however, it must be said).

The level of spite and outright hatred which is sometimes heard and expressed in diatribes against EACH OTHER is too often way over the norms of civil and polite discourse.

Ultimately, this tendency to delegitimize other Jews and even to demonize them has led to violence and even bloodshed within our own ranks.

Disagree with someone? Of course!

Demonize someone- that’s for the Sanhedrin and never for us.

I am in pain and am traumatized by the senseless killings which took place in Charleston last week.

I thank you for allowing me to share with you my feelings.

It has been cathartic and healing for me.

May G-d comfort the families and the friends of those killed in Charleston and may G-d have compassion on all of us as we attempt to show compassion for those created in His image, irrespective of the color of their skin.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

  

The Short Vort- His Name Was Dov Ber (6/19/15)

T


he Short Vort


 


Good Morning!


 

Today is Friday the 2nd Of Tammuz 5775 and June 19, 2015

 

 


His Name Was Dov Ber


 

{Editor’s note: This Vort is about me and about you. You may recognize certain people in this Vort and you will think you know who they are. And you may be correct; however, equally correct is everyone else who is ‘sure’ they know the person I am referring to. The truth is that I am referring to everyone and to no one; to you and to me; to us as a whole. If you recognize yourself in this article, you are truly blessed.}

 

He was named Dov Ber at his Bris; however, everyone called him Beryl.

He was the ninth of eventually eleven children, the youngest boy of seven brothers and his oldest sister already had two children of her own when he came into the world.

His family was one of the jewels of their neighborhood. The father Rav Simcha was an accomplished Talmid Chochom and was well respected for his insightful Torah thoughts and was often asked to speak in the local Shul.

He was now a Rebbe in one of the local Mesivtas and he had high hopes for Beryl as he did for all his children.

Rav Simcha had good reason to be hopeful; all Beryl’s six brothers were either ‘holding in learning’ or were already regarded as budding Talmedei Chachomim.

Despite the established family track record, and notwithstanding the cliché that ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’, Beryl, already from an early age, never displayed the same enthusiasm to learning as was anticipated.

He preferred tinkering with tools than thinking the Talmud and when he reached Bar Mitzvah he preferred pushing a plunger than polishing up his "Pshetyl".

 Needless to say, his parents, particularly his father, was frustrated with "Beryl the budding plumber" as opposed to one plumbs the depth of a difficult Sugya.

Rav Simcha and his wife began to take their son to various ‘educational experts’; however, they were little or no help. Beryl was Beryl and as he entered his middle teens, he struggled more and more in Yeshiva.

Perhaps words were said which never should have been; perhaps voices were raised when they should have been lowered; and perhaps feelings were hurt when healing should have occurred. Whatever the reason and without pointing fingers, by the time I met Beryl he was now known as Brian and suffice to say he had drifted far from his " Pshetyl peroration" days of his youth.

I met Brian when he came once for Shabbos to Passaic.

He was actually quite helpful when he ran into me outside of my office and helped me carry in some Seforim without even being asked to.

I forgot about Brian until I received a phone call from Rav Simcha about two months later requesting an appointment.

 Later that week Rav Simcha and his wife were sitting across from me in my office.

I was immediately impressed by their sincerity and their concern for their son. I realized that they wanted their son to happy and to be living a Torah true life and they were willing to do almost anything to achieve the goal.

They had spent thousands of dollars on private tutors and on sending him for a year to a yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel for ‘kids at risk’ and were not giving up.

I asked them why they were coming to me as they did not live in Passaic and we had never met before.

The father replied that he enjoys my articles in Mishpacha and considers me a sensitive person. I replied that words can be deceiving and I possessed neither the insight to offer any creative original ideas and I certainly had no rabbinic wand to wave and make their problems disappear.

"We understand; however, will you at least hear us out?"

I listened as they told me how much love and attention they had wrapped Beryl in and how whatever he needs, "he knows that we will be there for him".

I listened and asked just one question. "I know that Beryl knows that you love him and will do for him whatever it takes for him to be like you; however, does he know that even if does not ‘end up’ like you that you will still always accept him and love him just as any of your other children?"

"Are you suggesting that we settle for a non-Torah lifestyle for our son?"

"I never said that, I just asked, does he know that whatever he will be will always be valued by you?"

A month passed and Brian’s mother called me.

She did not tell me that Beryl is back in yeshiva learning twenty hours a day or that he regrew his payos and is now in Eretz Yisroel ‘shteiging’ away.

She said,

"We took your advice and began to accept Beryl for who he is and stopped attempting to make him into a clone of his father.

Beryl’s birthday was last Sunday, June 14st and although we always buy our children Seforim for their birthdays; we went to the hardware store and bought Beryl a power drill which we knew he had his eye on for a while.

That was in the morning; in the afternoon Beryl called us up and asked if he could come over; he hadn’t asked to come over in months.

When he arrived in the house he said, "Thank you so much for the drill. I also have something to give you. I bought Abba a little present."

 He presented his father with a new Siddur which he purchased as he knew his father would enjoy it.

As Beryl gave his father the siddur, my husband said, "Beryl I am very proud of you; and I love you; thank you".

Beryl looked at his father and said back, "Abba, I am very proud of you and I love you too."

 And with that they fell into each other’s embrace and they cried.

I know we are still far from where we want to be; however, I also know that we are a lot closer today than we were yesterday."

 

"If Not Now, Then When?"-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ 

The Short Vort’ - “Reaching Out” (6/17/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 30th of Sivan 5775 and June 17, 2015

 

Reaching Out

 

My secretery showed me two checks.

Both were for the modest sum of $18 with no note attached to indicate why they were being sent.

The signature resembled more of scribble than letters and my assistant asked me if I could make out the hieroglyphics.

I could not decipher the coded signature, however, there was a phone number on the checks and I decided to call the mystery person.

I dialed the number. A woman’s voice answered.

“Hello, this is Rabbi Eisenman, how are you today?”

“Rabbi Eisenman (with more than a tinge of disbelief in her voice), what a surprise; why… is everything alright?”

“Of course everything is fine. I was just calling to find out how you are doing?”

“Oh, that’s so nice of you; I am fine and how is the Rabbi doing today?”

“Baruch Hashem, We received two checks from you.  The signature on the checks is a little unclear. Could I trouble you to spell your last name for me so we can place the checks under your account?”

“It’s spelled Cooperstein (changed for privacy). However, you will not find me listed in your system as I never contributed to the Shul before and I am not a member.”

“I don’t understand. If you are not a member, why send the checks and why two separate checks?”

Sarah Cooperstein lived across the street from the Shul.

She had occasionally attended a shiur; however, she was not one of the regulars. I had met her before; however, our conversations were brief and somewhat superficial.

Sarah said, “I sent the checks to thank you for what you did for me last Tuesday”.

I was totally mystified. I can usually not recall what I ate for breakfast; I had no recollection of having any interaction with Sarah Cooperstein last Tuesday!

I quietly asked, “What happened last Tuesday?”

“Last Tuesday you saw me as you were walking home from Shul in the morning”

Suddenly, I did recall it. I had noticed Sarah walking from her apartment to her car.

“I was having such a tough morning. I had slept through my alarm. My mother was a giving me a hard time for being too picky on finding a husband. I pressed the Keurig button to make a cup of coffee and forgot to put a cup under the spout and realized that it was my turn at the office to fill the urn!

I rushed out of the house thinking, “My life is going all wrong.”

As I am wallowing in self-pity I notice you walking home. You looked up at me and waved, and you nodded.

You have no idea how that wave changed my day.

 I said to myself, “The Rabbi, waved to me; I can’t believe it. Maybe today won’t be so bad after all.”

And you know what? The day was fine and it was all because of your wave.

 That’s why I sent the checks. One for the Shul and one for the Rabbi’s Fund; it was my way of saying ‘thank you’.”

I listened to Sarah Cooperstein’s story and did recall seeing her and waving; however, at the time I certainly had no intention of changing someone’s day!

After I thanked Sarah and hung up I told my assistant that the mystery of the checks has been solved. And then I said to him, “Please make me a copy of the checks”.

Every now and then when I myself feel low and a little down, I take out the page with the copied checks on them and I realize how sometimes all it takes is a little nod and a wave to change a person’s entire day; and I smile and realize today will not be so tough after all.

“If Not Now Then When”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “A Sad Day” (6/16/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 29th of Sivan 5775 and June 16, 2015

 

A Sad Day

 

Today on the 29th of Sivan, of the Hebrew year 5684 (June 30th 1924), Yaakov Yisrael De-Han (Jacob Israël de Haan, December 31, 1881 – June 30, 1924) was murdered in cold blood by a fellow Jew after davening Maariv in the Holy City of Yerushalayim.

The murder was ordered by the leadership of the Hagenah (apparently Yitzchok Ben-Zvi).

It was the first politically motivated murder of a Jew by a Jew in the 20th century.

Indeed, one can classify the murder as an act terror, as the murderers no doubt wanted to intimidate, indeed, terrorize those who held of the opposition view which Yaakov Yisrael De-Han represented.

This is bad; very bad.

Mind you I am not an advocate or even a supporter of many of the views embrace by Mr. De-Han.

 Most probably if I would have met him we would have engaged in passionate and spirited dispute.

However, I hope and believe it would have ended with our agreement to disagree and not in bloodshed.

Mr. De- Han was murdered by Jews who felt justified in killing an unarmed Jew in cold blood.

In the words of his confessed killer- who despite his association with a Zionist group, he would eventually leave the land of Israel and settle in Honk Kong - in an interview towards the end of his life (he dies in 1990 at the nice old age of 87) he openly and unabashedly stated: "I have done what the Hagenah decided had to be done. And nothing was done without the order of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (who later became the second president of Israel 1952-1963)… I have no regrets because he (de Haan) wanted to destroy our whole idea of Zionism"

A Jew orders another Jew to kill an unarmed Jew in cold blood and the Jew who commits the murder calmly comments in the serenity of his Hong Kong dwelling: I have no regrets because he (de Haan) wanted to destroy our whole idea of Zionism". {Interview with Avraham Tehomi (1903–1990), a businessman living in Hong Kong}

A Jew living peacefully in Hong Kong is not destroying the ‘whole idea of Zionism’ while a Jew leaving a Shul in Yerushalayim after davening Maariv in which we declare, “Hashem is an “Oheiv Amo Yisroel” (Hashem is a lover of all of His Jewish people) is considered one who ‘wanted to destroy our whole idea of Zionism’?

Something doesn’t add up.

Friends, the point of this Vort is (as I mentioned) not to advocate for one ideology over another.

And as I stated I have no doubts that there are many aspects De-Han’s ideology which I would find unacceptable, as I would with Mr. Tehomi’s ideology.

However, when disagreement leads to bloodshed and when differences of opinion lead to violence then nothing positive can be accomplished and we have ceased being a people of civility and have fallen into the abyss of resorting to terror and intimidation to settle our disputes and this is terrible for all.

So today is a sad day in the history of our people.                             

Today is a day when violence trumped dialogue and bloodshed undermined civility.

There are no streets in Israel named for Jacob De-Han and there is no public display of remorse or introspection in the country.

 My hunch tells me that few if any Israelis have ever heard of Yakov De-Han and those that have heard of him do not know that today- the 29th of Sivan- is his Yahrtzeit.

His Yahrtzeit always falls around Parshas Shelach, a Parsha in which we learn that unchecked rancor and malice towards the land of Israel caused us much suffering and pain.

Imagine how much more suffering is caused when rancor and acrimony lead to one Jew attacking another Jew?

May Hashem heal the wounds which divide us.

 

“If Not Now, Then When? - Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Mail Call” (6/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 25th of Sivan 5775 and June 12, 2015

 

Mail Call

 

Mail; it’s one of those things you cannot live with and cannot live without.

On one hand it is a useful way of communication; on the other hand, it never seems to stop and it just keeps piling up.

 As a rabbi, you might not be surprised to learn that almost every Tzedoka organization in the world seems to have my Shul on their mailing list.

Every few weeks I take the large pile and attempt to decide who to give to and how much to give.

The reality is that known and ‘proven’ organizations are hopefully more reliable than individual requests which are almost impossible to authenticate.

As I opened one letter from Eretz Yisroel, I saw the letter was handwritten in Loshon HaKodesh.

I quickly glanced at the name of the signature and since I neither recognized his name nor noticed any rabbinic endorsements I quickly decided that this letter was an unverifiable request and let it fall into the waste paper bin.

The next letter I picked up caused my eyes to tear as it was a well-known and established institution and seeing the famous letterhead brought back memories of over 50 years ago.

My first response was to pick up the phone to call my mother (a feeling I experience numerous times during the day); and tell her how I received a letter from Yeshiva Ploni Almoni and how I recall her writing checks to the Yeshiva so many years ago, however, my mother is no long there to answer.

As I held the letter I fondly recalled the Motzei Shabbos ritual my parents had for decades.

 Every Motzei Shabbos without fail, my father would produce a pile of letters which had accumulated during the week and announce to my mother, “It’s time to write checks!”

Watching them in their weekly ritual was a delight to observe.

They each had their parts down pat and their choreography was perfect.

My father would open the letter and read each and every one of them.

Since back then in the 60s and 70s many of the letters were still written in Yiddish or Loshon HaKodesh, my father did the reading and then he and my mother would decide how much to give.

My father who was fluent in five languages was the ‘reader’ and my mother who possessed ‘perfect penmanship’ was the check writer.

I recall one day when I was no more than six, I asked them why did they have to read each and every letter? “Why not just give a small amount to all?”

 My mother calmly answered, “Someone took the time to write the letter, it’s only right that we take the time to read it.”

Instinctively I reached into the waste basket and extracted the recently deposited letter as my mother’s words, “Someone took the time to write the letter, it’s only right that we take the time to read it” echoed in my mind.

As I began to read the small Hebrew script I suddenly realized that this was not a letter requesting help; rather, this was a personal letter to me.

As I continued reading I realized that this was a letter about my mother from one of my many cousins in Eretz Yisroel.

He was writing to recall a memory with me of my mother; and this is what he wrote:

I just heard about the passing of your beloved mother. I wanted to share with you the following memory.

In 1964 when you were a little boy your family visited with us in Petach Tikva.

 I was eleven years old at the time. I can still remember how you mother came over to me and gave me and my sister each a chocolate bar.

Besides the fact that at that point in my life I have never had my very own chocolate bar, I fondly recall how you mother, who was not fluent in Hebrew, gave me the chocolate and then pointed to the hechsher as she said in her halting Hebrew, “Zeh Kasher!”

She knew we children would be bored as our parents were talking to your parents and she wanted us to feel good so she gave us the chocolate.

I want to tell you that now, over fifty years later, when I visit with my grandchildren I bring them each a chocolate bar and when they ask me, “Why are we getting a chocolate bar?” I tell them the story of your mother and me in Petach Tikva over a half century ago.

Your mother’s thoughtfulness and kindness is still bearing fruit and always will be.”

And to think I almost tossed away this precious treasure.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Pomp and Circumstance” (6/11/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 24th of Sivan 5775 and June 11, 2015

 

Pomp and Circumstance

 

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the graduation of my son Avraham Yeshaya from the Phillips Beth Israel school of Nursing.* {Mazel Tov to Shaya!J}

* (The earliest mission of Beth Israel Medical Center founded in December 1889, was to meet the desperate health care needs of the new wave of Jewish immigrants to America.

Several months later, Beth Israel opened as a fully operational outpatient dispensary with 12 volunteer doctors in a rented building on Henry Street.

In 1891, its capabilities were expanded to encompass a 20-bed inpatient unit--the city’s only hospital conducted in accordance with traditional Jewish religious and dietary laws.

In 1902, the year the Beth Israel School of Nursing enrolled its first class. In 1917, the hospital

became a charter member of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropic Societies (later known as the

Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York) which continues to this day.)

 

The ceremony began with the pianist playing the traditional ‘Niggun’ of “Pomp and Circumstance”.

 As the graduates of the class of 2015 marched into the auditorium I looked at the 200 or so graduates and their families, friends and guests who gathered for the event.

As I looked at the graduates and the audience, I noticed students and families of every persuasion, race, color and nationality you could imagine.

I noticed that many of the graduates spoke to their family members in Chinese, Spanish, Yiddish, Hebrew, and many languages I could not identify.

The school has ‘come a long away’ from its parochial Jewish beginnings when the school was founded particularly to meet the needs of the immigrant Jewish population who were quite often excluded from other sectarian medical facilities.

Now, the school serves the exact opposite function. It now provides a viable option for everyone to receive a quality education and to go out and help mankind as a whole, and not just one particular group in our society.

 And that is good.

As I looked at the graduate’s families, many who were not fluent in English, I could tell that as they watched their sons and daughters march into the room, they were proud and they were joyous.

There was another emotion as well which was evident of their faces, and that was one of hope and anticipation.

As these families, many of whom were foreign born, looked at their children, there was a feeling of emancipation, of freedom and of hope that their children, through the education they received at an institution established by Jewish immigrants to help other immigrants, they now possessed the tools to better themselves and the lives of their  future families.

I imagined the dreams that each one of them has.

They all have dreams of a career involving the care and compassion for other human beings; dreams of acquiring positions of employment which would help them advance and afford them financial security.

As they marched into the hall they were all full of smiles and of hope.

Hope for a bright future and for a productive life.

And as I glanced at the African-American family seated next to me and the pride which was evident on their faces as their daughter proudly marched by them, I was proud.

I was proud of my son for clinging to his dream of becoming a health care professional.

And I was proud to be a part of a people who care about the world and care about Hashem’s children whoever they are.

I was proud to be part of a legacy of a people who attempted to make this world a better place for all.

I was also proud to be an American, to live in a county as Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt”l described as a “A kingdom of compassion (Chessed)”; a land where in the same room on one night, Jew and non- Jew, Chassidic Jew and secular Jew, Moslem, Sikh, Buddhist and Christians all gathered together for one purpose, to celebrate the human character trait of compassion to others.

All of us were comfortable with each other and everyone mingled with ease and civility; women with head scarves with women in Shaitels. Men in casual garb with Jews in Chassidic garb; no one felt uncomfortable and no felt that they did not belong.

And most of all, I felt proud to be a human being created in the image of my creator.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Attitude” (6/10/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 23rd of Sivan 5775 and June 10, 2015

 

Attitude*

*(Note: The following Short Vort is about no one is particular and is about everyone.

It is not about anyone you know or anyone you may think you recognize; however, it is about you and about all of us.

The character is totally fictional and simultaneously accurately portrays a real person.

It is a composite portrait of many people and of one person in particular.

It is about everyone and no one; it is you and it is me and it is neither.

You can decide on your own.)

 

For most of us our lives are defined by times of happiness and tranquility mingled with what are hopefully minor interruptions of unrest.

However, how would we cope if the majority of our days were anxiety laden and filled with stifling stress and heart-wrenching emotional agony?

Welcome to the world of Hilda Morgenstern (name changed). Hilda, who recently ‘celebrated’ her 74th birthday, is such a person.

Hilda came from the embodiment of a dysfunctional home. Her father was an absentee parent and he battled debilitating addictions the majority of his adult life. Her parents finally divorced when she was 13 and she spent six years shuttling between Borough Park, and Bensonhurst.

She admitted to me that she married young in order to extricate herself from her nightmarish life; however, as she would always add, “That wasn’t too smart, as I jumped from the frying pan to the fire.”

Her husband was a tyrant in the house. He was intimidating and demanding and highly critical of how Hilda was raising ‘his’ children.

They had two girls.

The oldest daughter Naomi lives in Eretz Yisroel and has a wonderful husband and three beautiful children.

The youngest daughter Sarah is a ‘clone’ of Hilda. She too married an abusive man, only to get divorced and to be left with two children, both of them emotionally and physically challenged.

Every morning, Hilda Morgenstern takes a bus and a subway to Brooklyn from New Jersey to help out her daughter.

She has no respite as her days are filled with traveling and helping her daughter cook, shop, do laundry, pick up the kids after their therapy appointments and putting them to bed. She arrives back in New Jersey after 10 PM.

One Shabbos afternoon Hilda arrived at the Pirkei Avos Shiur a few minutes earlier than everyone else. I wished her a ‘good Shabbos’ and she replied with a big smile, “Good Shabbos to you”.

I could no longer contain myself and asked, “Hilda, what’s your secret? How do you always remain chipper and upbeat? You have faced so many of life’s challenges, yet, you continue to smile; how do you do it?”

Hilda Morgenstern straightened up to her full height of 5 feet 2 inches and proudly said, “Rabbi that is exactly the point.”  I was confused so I asked, “What is the point?”

“The point is that precisely because I have challenges I know my life is worthwhile. Would Hashem challenge someone who He thought was not up to the task with all of the trials I have? As long as Hashem keeps challenging me I know I have a purpose in this world. I may not have paid a penny for these ‘tests’; however, I would not trade them for a million dollars because they are the proof that my life has meaning.

Do I sometimes wish I was on the boardwalk in Miami with some of my friend s playing Mah Jong? Of course I do. Yet, at the end of the day when I get home at 11 PM and fall into bed exhausted, I know I have made a difference in someone’s life today. That to me is the greatest joy of all.”

As we began Pirkei Avos the Mishna which was our text that afternoon was: “Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot. As is stated (Psalms 128:2): "If you eat of toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you"; "fortunate are you" in this world, "and good is to you" in the World to Come.”

As I read the words I snuck a quick glance at Hilda Morgenstern; a slight smile appeared on her face; and I realized Hilda Morgenstern was one of the richest people I had ever met.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - ““Not so is My servant Moses; he is faithful throughout My house”” (6/8/

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 21st of Sivan 5775 and June 8, 2015

 

“Not so is My servant Moses; he is faithful throughout My house”

(BaMidbar 12:7)

 

When Miriam and Aharon speak against Moshe Rabbeinu the Torah simply says: “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses regarding the Cushite woman he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.” (Ibid 1)

The Torah never informs us what exactly did they speak about the “Cushite Woman” and why was it considered “Loshon Hora”.

Rashi and other commentators offer their explanations as to the impropriety of their words; however, a unique and different suggestion is offered by the Sefer Moshav Zekainim (who I believe was one of the Baalei HaTosfos).

He posits that the ‘negative’ words which Aharon and Miriam spoke were not spoken ‘about him; rather, they were spoken directly ‘to’ Moshe!

What hurtful words did Miriam and Aharon say to their brother?

According to the Moshav Zekainim they actually suggested very strongly to Moshe that he divorce his wife Tzipora as being that she was a Midyanis and therefore lacking proper pedigree, now that Moshe had become akin to a Melech (a King) it no longer be fitted him to have a ‘non-blue-blooded’ wife. Therefore they jointly suggested to their surprised brother that he divorce Tzipora and take a more fitting wife in her stead.

To this suggestion Moshe responded forcefully, “She stood by me when I was an impoverished wonderer in the land of Midyan and now that I am an wealthy King I shall stand loyal to her and will not ever consider divorcing her.”

It was in response to this forceful and adamant declaration of Moshe that Hashem Himself proclaims:

“he is faithful throughout My house!”

Hashem Himself when he hears of the loyalty and fidelity of Moshe to his wife announces for posterity: “Moshe is the most loyal (Ne’eman) in my ‘household’!”

This positive and enviable trait of loyalty and fidelity to one’s wife and to one’s family which Moshe exemplifies is unfortunately no longer the valued trait it once was.

Indeed, loyalty in the business world, both with regard to employer to employee- as we often hear of loyal employees who are ‘’let go” after thirty years of service- and with regard to employees and their employers is a nostalgic memory of time’s past.

Many people have hardly organized their desks at their new firm as they begin to send out ‘feelers’ to see if the grass is greener across the street.

This is a sad situation for all of us; for although inertia is never a good think and of course sometimes even a marriage must end; however, in general our society’s tendency to no longer value loyalty as a primary and necessary character trait does not bode well for us.

Even within our own Shuls we find that fidelity is a loss art.

How often do people “Shul hop” and after davening at one Shul for years and after being assisted by the Shul and its rabbinic and lay staff, jump ship to the new Shul down the block?

Marriages as well are no longer viewed by the participants as lifelong commitments.

More than once a bride and or groom has confided in me as they are about to head down the bridal path, “If this doesn’t work out I can always get divorced.”

As our society continues to ‘advance’ and disregards fidelity and even often views loyalty as a negative trait, we see more and more people ‘giving notice’ and quitting their jobs.

And if we in the Jewish community are also often too quick to change our Shuls, spouses and schools; is it any wonder that people who are ‘unsatisfied’ and ‘challenged’ by the physical gifts that Hashem blessed them with are opting to ‘change’ into what they believe is a better fit?

Loyalty; it is a trait which Hashem extols Moshe Rabbeinu for epitomizing and it is a quality which all of us without exception can and should improve upon.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Charles Levine Z”L” (6/4/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 17th of Sivan 5775 and June 4, 2015

 

Charles Levine Z”L

 

Today in 1927 a Jewish hero was made.

Charles Albert Levine (March 17, 1897 – December 6, 1991) was the first passenger aboard a transatlantic flight.

The flight which took off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island on June 4, 1927 was 315 miles (507 km) and 9 hours and 6 minutes longer than Lindbergh’s transatlantic crossing.

Levine was the first passenger to a make a non-stop transatlantic flight and his flight was longer than Charles Lindbergh who flew solo across the Atlantic just two weeks before on May 20, 1927.

Indeed, although Levine’s accomplishment was overshadowed by “Lucky Lindy” and the Spirit of St. Louis, nevertheless, in the eyes of the Jews of New York City, Charles Levine was their hero.

 

In the weeks following Levine’s triumph, the Jewish-American community was in a state of rapture as across the sea one of its own was received by European dignitaries from Hindenburg to Mussolini. On Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the Jews spoke of little else.

"The anti-Semites in Germany and the anti-Semites around the world will have to take their hats off to Levine the Jew," pronounced the New York Yiddish daily newspaper Der Tog. "No longer will we be obliged to prove that Jews are as capable and strong on the field of physical bravery as on the field of intellectual achievements."

Within a month a half-dozen songs had been written in Levine’s honor. The transatlantic flyer was seen as heralding the advent of the modern Jewish hero: independent, courageous, and proud. Two of the songs made musical allusion to "Hatikvah" (The Hope), the then unofficial Jewish national anthem. The implication was unmistakable: here was a defining character for Jewish aspiration. (See: http://www.yiddishradioproject.org/exhibits/levine/levine.php3?pg=2)

 

Indeed, for a while Levine was the ‘Hero of the Day’; however, as often happens, his fortunes reversed, he became impoverished and was soon forgotten by the Jewish American public.

Why then did I say he has a hero?

In truth, I do not believe his transatlantic flight makes him a hero; however, something else he did later in his life does!

In 1934, he was charged with illegally smuggling a German-Jewish refugee from a Nazi concentration camp into the United States and spent 150 days in jail!

Charles A. Levine, the man who sought fame and fortune by attempting unsuccessfully to fly to Berlin in 1927, (his plane did not reach Berlin, but landed 100 miles short in a field at Eisleben, Germany), did successfully allow one Jew to reach the United States by smuggling him from a Concentration Camp in Germany to these shores! And he spent 150 days in jail for his Mitzvah!

That is why Charles A. Levine is a hero!

“Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” — Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:9

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Remembering Leiby” (5/31/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 13th of Sivan 5775 and May 31, 2015

 

Remembering Leiby

 

It was Friday afternoon.

I had just finished Mincha at Zichron Moshe.

It was hot and it was getting late.

As I exited the Shul I noticed the little girl of about six years old. She was riding a scooter down Rechov Chofetz Chaim, the small street on which sits one of the most famous Shuls in the world.

Zichron Moshe is more than a Shul; it is a world unto to its own.

There are truly holy and pious men there who daven from the siddur as if this is first time they are approaching davening.

You also find at Z.M. a host of people who are simply attracted to it because it facilitates their need to have a ‘Minyan on Demand’.

The Shul is in operation as close to 24/7 as possible. The only times there is not a Minyan going on is the ten minute break between the last Mincha and the first Maariv and perhaps another twenty minute gap between the last Maariv and the first Shacharis.

In the course of 24 hours there must be well over one thousand people who traverse its simple structure.

The décor has not changed much in the last fifty years.

 With the exception of air conditioning units which will operate for twenty minutes if you place a five Shekel coin in the slot, the furnishings of the once magnificent structure can be described as retro-yeshivash-chassidish circa 1964.

As one looks down on the worn and dog eared tiles on the floor, one sees the impact and impression made by hundreds of thousands of Jews over the last 75 years who have pleaded with Hashem to watch over them and their families.

The little girl is still speeding down the street.

 Suddenly, about twenty feet from the ‘entrance opening’ (there are no doors to this Shul) she hits a small pit. She falls from the scooter and screams, “Imma, Imma!”

I watch as most people who are arriving and exiting the Shul continue on their way, seemingly unaware of the hurt little Jew.

I begin to head in her direction.

 The man I am with comments, “She’ll be fine. Let’s go.”

But I cannot ‘go’.

 I approach the scene and ask a man nearby, “Do we know where her mother is?”

He tells me that someone who knows the family went to call the mother.

 My companion again urges me to leave. I say, “I must wait here, I cannot leave.”

A woman passes by and attempts to comfort the girl; however, she continues to cry and refuses to be consoled.

For a third time I am encouraged to move on. “There is another woman with her; it’s Erev Shabbos, let’s move on.”

I remain fixed in my place.

Finally after a few more minutes of waiting, a young mother comes running down the street as she wipes her hands on her apron. She embraces her daughter and as soon as mother and daughter are reunited I turn to my friend and say, “Come, let us go; it’s getting close to Shabbos.”

As we walk he turns to me and asks, “Why were you so insistent on remaining until her mother came? There was another woman there and we saw she was really not hurt. What could have happened in the three minutes it took for the mother to arrive?”

In my mind I recalled how once Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt”l- as he entered his building – noticed a non-Jewish child who was left unattended. Rav Moshe insisted on remaining until the mother came. Although time was the essence of Rav Moshe’s life, he explained to his attendant who questioned the necessity in waiting, “Kinder darfn Shmira.”

However, those thoughts remained in my mind and to my Yerushalmi acquaintance I simply asked, “Did you ever hear of Leiby Kletzky?”

Too often we find the time for what we need; yet, we cannot spare two minutes to make sure a little Jew is safe.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “The Vase” (5/29/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 11th of Sivan 5775 and May 29, 2015

 

The Vase

The Levaya was scheduled for Sunday at 10 AM.

 I was concerned if there would even be a minyan attending.

Such is the reality of the American rabbinate.

Mrs. Sadie Freidburg (name changed) had passed away at 92.

She had only one child, a son named Norman, a psychologist who lived in Utah.

 The last time I saw Norman in 2012, he told me he was ‘ethnically Jewish’, culturally American and spiritually he was a follower of Buddhism.

He had married twice; however, out of concern for the world population he never had a child.

When I called Norman to inform him of his mother’s petirah he said that he preferred that her remains be given an “ecological burial” which eventually transforms the body into is a fine powder, similar to cremation, which he claimed is better for the environment.

After I explained to him how his mother deserved a Jewish burial, he acceded to my request with the caveat that since he could not approve of an environmentally un-friendly ‘disposal’ of his mother’s remains, he would not contribute financially to her funeral, nor would he attend the service.

This left me with the unenviable task of raising funds for a proper Jewish burial.

I quietly mentioned to a few people that money was needed.

I was pleasantly surprised when a Mrs. Bernstein (name changed) contacted me via email and offered to gladly pay for the funeral arraignments.

Sadie had been living at an assisted living facility for the last twenty years.

As she was out of the neighborhood for twenty years, few recalled the feisty woman.

Therefore I was curious as to why particularly this woman would volunteer for this Mitzvah, so I called her directly.

“Did you know Sadie?” I asked.

“No, in fact I never met her, not even once.”

“Why then would you come forward to do this Mitzvah?”

She hesitated and then stated,

“My parents bought Sadie’s home in 1995.

I was ten years old.

I recall when my parents came home from the ‘closing’ how aggrieved they felt.

They told me that Sadie was crying as although she knew she had no choice but to sell, nevertheless, she was pained that the home she had built with her beloved husband would no longer be hers to live in.

They told me how as opposed to feeling the happiness of purchasing a new home; they now felt as if they were evicting an elderly woman from her abode.

Then came moving day, my parents were still stinging from the effects of yesterday’s closing and they were moving in with feelings of blame and culpability.

As opposed to being a day of joy and of new beginnings, it was a day filled with bittersweet, guilt-laden emotions.

Suddenly, as we all entered the kitchen we noticed a beautiful vase filled with twelve charming and cheerful long-stemmed roses.  At the side of the vase was a small hand-written note:

“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bernstein and Shira,

May you all be blessed with happiness and true joy in this home.

I feel comforted in knowing that my home will now be the home of such wonderful and fine people.

All the best,

Sadie Freidburg”

Rabbi, you cannot imagine the feelings of relief and happiness those flowers and that note brought to our family. Our day was transformed from sadness to joy and from guilt to elation.

I never forgot that small yet, transformative act of Chessed of Sadie Freidburg.

Therefore when I heard how she now needed assistance for her final journey, I recalled the personally difficult Chessed she did for us on our journey to our new home and I knew I had to help.”

Who could have known that yesterday’s flowers would blossom into today’s Chessed?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “I am the first and I am the last” (5/28/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 10th of Sivan 5775 and May 28, 2015

 

“I am the first and I am the last”

(Yeshaya 48:12)

 

Hashem describes Himself in Sefer Yeshaya by stating “I am the first and I am the last” (“Ani Rishon Af Ani Acharon”).

Obviously Hashem is informing us that He is not bound by time or by position; indeed, the phrase in Yeshaya is similar and perhaps the source for the line in Adon Olam: “Without beginning, without end” “B’li reyshiys b’li ta?’liys”.

Hashem certainly is without a beginning and he of course He is without end.

That being said, there is also a wonderful and insightful Chassidic Vort on this phrase which is timely and timeless.

When Hashem declares that “I am the first and I am the last” perhaps He is describing not so much how He is in reality, but, rather how we perceive of him.

Meaning, when something goes wrong in our lives too often we are quick to ask “Why did Hashem do this to me?”- meaning Hashem is “Rishon” the ‘first’ one who gets blamed.

On the other hand, when things go well in our lives, we are more than happy to take credit for the success and Hashem gets relegated to the end of the list of thanks and He becomes “Acharon”- ‘last’.

Furthermore the Vort continues, when we are in financial difficulty too often the ‘first’ (Rishon) thing to cut from our budget is financial support for our Shul, our Yeshivas and our Tzedoka; and Hashem is then “Rishon”.

However, when we have are enjoying a windfall we indulge in our needs first and then only after we get a new kitchen and car to we think of Hashem and Tzedoka and He is relegated to Acharon.

Obviously, this Vort is not applicable to everyone and in every circumstance; however, it certainly merits our attention and must be taken into account when we set up our priorities and when we attempt to balance our expression of gratitude.

Remember, Hashem must always be ‘first’ and ‘last’ in all aspects of our lives.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “The Day After” (5/26/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 8th of Sivan 5775 and May 26, 2015

 

The Day After

 

Today is the day after Shavuos.

We are all heading back to our regular routine.

There are those of us who are back off to school, and those of us who are back to work.

All of us just experienced three days of Shabbos and Yom Tov (or two days for my Israeli readers).

The major question is of course, “How am I a different”

What motivational factors did I experience over the Yom Tov which will lead me to improve or change my behavior?

Ostensibly, the Jewish people were a changed people after they experienced the first Shavuos of their lives over 3500 years ago.

How have I changed?

In what did this year’s re-acceptance of the Torah impact on my life?

What changes have I decided to adopt now that I experienced Shavuos?

These are real and concrete questions each one of us must be asking ourselves this morning.

 If we don’t ask ourselves these questions, then what purpose did Shavuos fulfil in our lives?

This morning I looked at my clock and noticed it was 4:44 AM, I asked myself one question, “If I was able to daven Vasikin on Shavuos morning after staying up the entire night, certainly I can get up to daven Vasikin after five hours of sleep- I must have learned something from Shavuos?”

I davened Vasikin; however, that can only be the start.

Only time will tell if I am successfully able to internalize the inspiration from Shavuos.

Come and join me as together we shall attempt to improve!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “"You Gotta Believe!!!"” (5/22/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 4th of Sivan 5775 and May 22, 2015

 

"You Gotta Believe!!!"

 

I once heard in the name of the Chofetz Chaim that so many of today’s modern inventions were given to us by Hashem to strengthen our Emunah.

For instance, when the Sages inform us that ‘there is an eye which sees all’ you know longer have to take the statement on faith alone.

All of us are being ‘seen’ every day.

Where aren’t there security cameras?

From the time you leave your house in the morning and arrive in Shul, you have no doubt been ‘seen’ and filmed numerous times.

So too, as we approach the Yom Tov of Shavuos we may wonder how Hashem was able to speak to two to three million people at one time in one place?

 It sounds almost impossible.

How did Hashem give the Torah to His people at one time?

Indeed it is difficult to imagine how it was done; however, consider the following:

This past Monday night I davened Maariv at a 9:15 PM Minyan in Yerushalayim and after the Minyan I drove to the airport and at 1:30 AM I boarded a plane to Newark, NJ.

After sitting on the plane for less than 12 hours, I emerged from the aircraft and in less than an hour I was sitting in the Ahavas Israel davening at the 7:30 AM Minyan for Shacharis!

I can assure that if you would have told the Chofetz Chaim that it is possible to daven Maariv in Yerushalayim and the next morning daven Shacharis 6000 miles away in America, he would have had a difficult time imagining how that feat could be accomplished without divine intervention.

Yet, the fact is that I did just that and everyone and anyone can and does do it daily; and we never even think of it as anything special!

The truth is that with the exception of the last thirty years or so, no one could have imagined how you could go from Yerushalayim to America and arrive in time for the morning Shacharis!

Alas, so it is!

So too with ‘Kabbolas HaTorah’- we cannot (yet) imagine how Hashem gave us the Torah and gave it to each and every one of us; however, He did!

And just as He gave it to ALL of us at Har Sinai, He is prepared to give it to all of us again this Motzei Shabbos.

How will He do it? I cannot tell you; however, if He can get me from Yerushalayim to Passaic in less than 12 twelve hours, He can personally give ME and YOU the Torah again tomorrow night!

As Mets’ pitcher Tug McGraw’s would say throughout the legendary 1973 baseball season: "You Gotta Believe!!!"

And indeed the Met’s won the Pennant that year!

So it is with regard to Kabbolas HaTorah: “You Gotta Believe”!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Z.M.” (5/20/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 2nd of Iyar- Day 46 of the Omer, 5775 and May 20, 2015

 

Z.M.

 

There is a place tucked away in the alleyways of the Holy city; its structure is not grand and it has no massive lobby and certainly no parking lot.

 The building is not impressive and it is not on the list of the ten ‘must see’ places on most people’s itinerary when they come to Israel.

That’s too bad; because it really is a place to visit.

It is a place to daven.

It is a place to learn.

And most importantly it is a place to learn how to get along with different people.

The place I am referring to is the Shteibel commonly referred to as Zichron Moshe or in “American Yeshivash Sprach” simply as ZM.

A quick word about the Shul; it was established over 75 years ago and it was originally built to be the main Ashkenazi Shul for the neighborhood known as Zichron Moshe which was established in 1905. The first inhabitants of the neighborhood were secular teachers. It was one of several neighborhoods in Jerusalem named for Sir Moses Montefiore.

Nowadays Zichron Moshe is a totally Hareidi neighborhood and attaches itself to Geuala and Meah Shearim.

Over the years the Shul has become the archetypal of the modern day “Minyan Factory”.

It is literally a place where you have “Minyan on Demand”.

Whenever you go you will hear someone shouting “Mincha” or “Maariv” and in no time ten Jews will appear and the Minyan begins. And as soon as that Minyan ends, another person announces “Mincha” and the process repeats itself going from Mincha to Maariv to Shacharis in a perpetual cycle of just about uninterrupted Tefillah.

I would imagine that well over a thousand men pass through its ‘halls’ (I could not say ‘it’s doors’ for there are no door to the Shul!) on an average day.

Indeed, it is without a doubt one of the most frequented Shuls in the world; however, what is even more amazing than the amount of people who come is the ‘type’ of people who come.

The Shul is frequented by all types of Jews; from Hassidim with striped garments to Sefardim from Morocco and Tunis, to Litvaks from the Brisk Yeshiva to common Jews who want to ‘Chap a Mincha’.

Everyone knows that the address to find a Minyan whenever you want one is ZM.

Yet, perhaps even more fascinating is the tacit understanding that whoever is the Shaliach Tzibbur, he decides the Nusach of the day’s davening.

You can have a Sefardi davening Shacharis on Rosh Chodesh, a Chassid leining the Torah and a Litvishe Yid davening Mussaf, all on the same day and no one says a word or raises an eyebrow.

This unspoken and accepted agreement that no one shall question anyone’s Nusach can be confusing at first; however, in reality it is quite an inspirational learning lesson.

Why does this work and how did it evolve?

I imagine it evolved as diverse people arrived and when they davened they used their Nusach and others realized that if they don’t want anyone to object when they daven, they could not object to someone else’s davening.

And although I recognize that halachically a Shul should really have a set Nusach, given the circumstances at hand in ZM, this was the system which would work for everyone.

It’s possible and perhaps probable that this is not the optimal Halachik way for a Shul to operate as normally a Shul should have one Nusach and a “Minhag HaMakom”; nevertheless, given the varied men who frequent the Shul, this was the way to go.

As I davened there this last week I wondered if we could adopt such a system in our personal lives.

Meaning, people in ZM want to daven, they want to live in Shalom with each other and therefore at some point an unwritten and implicit arrangement evolved in which I would tolerate this man’s davening when he was Chazzan and he would tolerate mine.

Perhaps this is a formula for life in general.

Sometimes your wife wants to eat Milchig and you want Fleishing or vice versa.

Too often we get stuck on having things our way or no way and that of course results in conflict and Machlokes.

Too often husbands and wives, friends and co-workers are insistent on something being done their way and no other way; the only thing this leads to is conflict.

As I left ZM on Monday, I realized that sometimes in life I have to let the other person have the right of way; if I don’t, then I would have no claim to ever ask for the right of  way for me.

Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes my way, the main thing is that there is Shalom.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort- Why I Cried Twice (5/15/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Friday the 26th of Iyar 5755 and May 15, 2015

Why I Cried Twice

The main purpose of my trip to the Holy Land at this time was to erect the monument- Hakamos Matzeiva- for my beloved mother Lorraine Eisenman A"H.

Obviously seeing my children and grandchildren is an added bonus and a wonderful privilege; however, if not for attending the Hokomos Matzeiva of my mother’s monument I would not have made the trip at this point.

As I am still in the year long mourning period for my mother and want to attempt to lead the davening whenever I can, I stay close to Yerushalayim- to home base- where I know a Minyan is accessible.

Often, when observant Jews visit Eretz Yisroel they make a point of going to Mekomos HaKedoshim- kevarim (graves) of Tzadikim in the north to daven,

I wondered if perhaps I should go too, after all, who wants to lose an opportunity to daven by Tzadikim?

I then recalled that I once read in a biography of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zt"l (Oro Shel Olam page 380) that a student asked Rav Shlomo Zalman, “Isn’t there a time I could go to visit the graves of tzadikim? Doesn’t Rav Auerbach go and pray by the graves of tzadikim?”

Rav Auerbach answered, “In order to pray at the graves of tzadikim, one doesn’t have to travel up to the Galilee. Whenever I feel the need to pray at the graves of tzadikim, I go to Mount Herzl, [the national cemetery for fallen Israeli soliders in Jerusalem], to the graves of the soliders…who fell “Al Kiddush Hashem” for the sanctification of G-d."

Therefore, yesterday, I followed in the footsteps of the great Rav Shlomo Zalman and together with my four sons who are here, I made a pilgrimage to the graves of Tzadikim.

I went to Mount Herzl to daven and pay respects to those who gave their lives so I could travel freely in the land of Israel.

I went to the grave of Max Steinberg, a former Birthright attendee who was killed last summer, and I went to the grave of Dave Gordon, the brother of our beloved Aryeh and Nomi Ho and a young man who I had the pleasure of knowing.

I went to dozens of graves of soldiers who I never knew and would never know them and I cried.

I cried for the young souls who died sanctifying the name of Hashem and I cried for the spouses they never had and for the children they were never privileged to bring into this world. 

And I cried for others as well.

I cried for those who are lacking the sensitivity of Rav Shlomo Zalman Zt"l.

I cried for those who fail to emulate and take direction from this giant of Torah and Middos and forget to include Mount Herzl’s Military Cemetery in their itinerary of Mekomos HeKedoshim when they come to Eretz Yisroel.

I cried for those Jews who don’t even realize that they should be crying.

I cried for those who are not in the world and made the ultimate sacrifice for our people and I cried for those who are in this world and don’t even realize that they too must cry.

May Hashem wipe the tears of all of His people.

Wishing you a meaningful Shabbos from the Holiest City in the world.

"If Not Now, Then When?"- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort- Complexities of the Land (5/14/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Thursday the 40th day of the Omer and May 14, 2015

The Complexities of the Land

I travelled to Tel Aviv yesterday, there were some historical and familial connections I have in the city and i was visiting there for a number of hours.

The weather was perfect and the walk was pleasant so after parking, my son and I walked to our various locales.

One sight kept getting our attention, the amount of young couples who had little Jewish children in tow.

There were many men and women who had their children attached to their bicycles and when we passed a park we could not help but notice with joy that it was filled with little children,

On one hand our hearts were filled with joy and Nachas as we watched these precious Jewish children speaking the Biblical tongue and living totally among Jews.

Indeed, one could easily feel that the redemption has arrived. After all, when in our history did we have a time when there was a totally independent Jewish city, speaking the Biblical tongue and enjoying the freedom to practice their religion?

On the other hand, when one realizes that these same individuals, are being educated in schools in which our Torah is presented as just ‘one’ book {Chas V’Shalom) out of many; in schools where Shabbos observance is not emphasized and where Mitzvohs are simply ignored; one certainly does not feel that this is what we have been davening to occur for two thousand years,

Some of the parents we observed were ‘adorned’ with tattoos and most of the women were ignorant with regard to the beauty of modesty. Can this be Messianic?

So what impression should I take from all this?

Is this the ‘birth-pangs- of the Mashiach as Jews speaking the Biblical language are living in the Land of Israel as free Jews who have access (if they so desire) to anything and everything Jewish?

Or should I look at the situation as such: that these are basically assimilated and acculturated Jews whose connection to Judaism is superficial at best and perhaps negative at worst as perhaps even a majority of them have never even visited the Kotel perhaps not even once?

Are they a new brand of ‘lost Jews’ who have formed an alternative non-Torah culture which almost insures their disconnection from Torah and Mitzvohs?

Or should I view them as good Jews who are proud of their Jewish heritage who with the correct and proper outreach can be re-connected to the body of the Jewish people?

The question remains an open one.

The story is not over and only time will tell.

One thing is for sure, let us do our best to present to them our version of Judaism as one which emphasizes the beauty and the kindness of our people.

By doing so, we may or may not ‘win’; however, we certainly will not lose.

"If Not Now, Then When?"- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort (2)- The Lonely Man of Faith (5/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Wednesday the 39th of the Omer 5775 and May 13th 2015

The Lonely Man of Faith

I arrived at the Zichron Moshe Shteibel at 4:50 AM for Vasikin which started at 5:20 AM.

As I sat with the mostly elderly crowd of men I noticed one middle age man in his 50’s sitting off to the side.

As the men began to wrap themselves in their Talis I noticed that the lonely man began to put on his Tefillin.

It became apparent after he finished putting on his Tefillin that he had no Talis because he was never married and still was not married.

I watched this man with the whitish beard during davening. He sat off to the side alone. I wondered to myself, where will he eat breakfast this morning?

Where does he live?

Does he have friends?

I must admit that I know not the answers to any of these questions.

Perhaps he is happy to be alone- although I doubt it.

Perhaps he has many friends; could be, however, more likely not.

The davening ended and I approached the man, I said "Shalom, how are you?"

He looked at me with an incredulous look; he just looked and looked at me for a while and then lowered his head towards his Tehillim without saying a word.

He was a sad man; a lonely man; yet, a man of faith.

I thought of my problems and I thought of him; somehow mine did not seem so important anymore.

I wonder if he will be there tomorrow? Something tells me he is always there.

"If Not Now- Then When?"-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

 

The Short Vort- Closure (5/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Wednesday the 39th of the Omer 5755 and May 13th 2015

Closure

I arrived on the ‘red eye’ and I was literally red-eyed as the plane landed in Ben Gurion Airport.

I met my family and in a few hours later I stood in front of my mother’s grave just a little over a month since I stood here before.

Now there was a sense of permanence. There was no mound of Earth and no simple marker. The stone was in place, the inscription I worked on was beautifully engraved and it all look so permanent.

As I stood by my parent’s grave there were so many feelings working in tandem and at loggerheads within me.

There was a sense of loss as I now am bereft of both my parents.

And there was a feeling of Nechama as I looked at them next to each other overlooking

Jerusalem at peace with each other in eternity.

Once again as I looked at the different relatives who had come to pay their final respects to my mother, I was overcome with the urge to pick up the phone and share with her how nice and respectful the service was; alas, that was not to be.

The final reality check of the evening took place after the Hokomos HaMatzeiva as we went to daven Mincha.

Anytime I had been at my father’s kever these past two years, I had always davened to Hashem to heal my mother.

As I stood to daven mincha after we left the cemetery, I naturally did what I always did when I left my father’s grave, I began to say "Hashem, please send a Refuah Shleima to Leah bas Ita..." As her name came out of my mouth I stopped by myself.

A small tear descended from my eye and I tasted the tear, it tasted both salty and sweet; it was exactly a mirror image of the emotions in my heart. Salty for the mourning for my mother and sweet for the realization that she is at peace with my father.

My love and blessings to all of you from the Holy City of Yerushalayim… it is indeed a privilege to be here.

If Not Now, Then When -Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ 

The Short Vort’ - ““Hungry, but, not for bread”” (5/11/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 21st of Iyar 5775 and May 10, 2015

 

“Hungry, but, not for bread”

 

“Behold, days are coming, says the Lord God, and I will send famine into the land, not a famine for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the word of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11)

 

It never ceases to amaze me how one good deed just leads to another; it always seems to work!

Today, I arrived early to the 1:30 PM Mincha as tonight is our Shul’s dinner.

I was surprised to see that someone else was already at the ‘Amud’ and was obviously counting on leading the davening.

I said hello to the person whom I did not recognize and I asked him if he is a ‘Chiyuv’ (a mourner who has an ‘obligation’ to lead the services)?

He replied that today he has Yahrtzeit and although he lives in Canada, he just came in for the day and has to ‘run’ to the airport to catch a plane back very soon and he asked if he could daven. I immediately agreed as I mentioned to him that one of the perks of being a ‘Chiyuv’ yourself is that you get to do Chessed with others by allowing them to daven even if you think you have ‘first dibs’ at the Amud.

He smiled and thanked me and I informed him that besides the 1:30 PM Mincha there would be 15 additional Minyanim throughout the day and I was not catching any plane. We smiled to each other, wished each other well and I returned to my office.

I went back to the Beis Medrash for the two PM Mincha and there I was easily able to daven at the Amud; however, I got more than just the Amud for coming to the 2 PM Mincha.

As Mincha was about to start a gentleman approached me and he asked if I needed him to stay to make the Minyan. As it was still two minutes to two, I told him that more people will arrive and that he does not have to feel obligated to stay for this Mincha.

I was somewhat mystified as to why he did not want to stay as it was already just about 2 PM.

He then looked up and with a big smile told me, “I davened Shacharis at the first minyan and then started to learn. Since I work the whole week Sunday is my only chance to learn.

 I was hungry; however, I was ever hungrier for Torah so I kept on learning till now.

I want to go eat now as it is 2 PM, is that okay?”

I looked at this simple Jew who is far from what we would consider a Talmid Chochom and I realized he is the living embodiment of the Passuk: “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord God, and I will send famine into the land, not a famine for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the word of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11)

How privileged we are to have Jews like this in the world.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - ““Lev B’Omer - The Heart of the Omer” (Day 32 of the Omer) “ (5/6/1

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 17th of Iyar 5775 and May 6, 2015

 

“Lev B’Omer - The Heart of the Omer” (Day 32 of the Omer)

 

It’s so hard to believe that it is already 29 years ago that my Rebbe, Rav Nisson Alpert Zt”l left this world.

We heard about the news on Sunday evening May 25th and the next day (Monday, May 26th 1986 - Memorial Day) the levaya (funeral) was held at Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim on East Broadway in the Lower East Side.

The funeral was unique to say the least.

 I cannot recall another funeral where among the maspidim (eulogizers) were Rav Elya Svei Zt”l, and (Yibadel L’Chaim Tovim V’Aruchim) Rav Nachum (Norman) Lamm Shlita, Rav Reuvain Feinstein Shlita and even his two sisters, (although they did not speak publicly) wrote a short eulogy which was read at the funeral.

That was Rav Alpert; he was the Rav of Agudas Yisroel in Long Island while simultaneously being a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon (YU).

 In addition to these positions he was known as one of the closest and most reliable transmitters of the Torah of his Rebbe: Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt”l.

Perhaps precisely ‘because’ he was a Talmid of Rav Moshe he was able to see above the ‘politics’ and successfully move between the various ‘hashkafas’ and effectively impact on many different ‘camps’.

He was a lover of Jews and he was one of the few people who saw beyond the ‘head covering’ a person chooses to wear (or not wear) and to see to the heart of the person.

Rabbis Svei and Lamm were at the height of their ‘differences’ in 1986, however, both came MTJ to eulogize and mourn for a man they both respected and admired.

One of the many lessons I learned from my Rebbe, (besides all of the wonderful Divrei Torah) was his world view. Rav Alpert Zt”l lived in the present and made the most of the present. Too many of us live in the future. We are always planning and convincing ourselves that tomorrow I will begin my new learning schedule and then I will make a major change in my life. Rav Alpert lived for today and made the most of the present.

His world view of his can be summed up in the following quip he made about himself.

He did not drive and had no car (at least I never saw him drive and never heard he had a car) and quite often when second Seder was over in the Kollel at 6:30 PM we would notice Rav Alpert waiting in the street on West 185th Street hoping to get a ride to the Lower East Side.

 There were times when he would flag a cab and journey home via the taxi.

One day he arrived at the Yeshiva in a taxi, one of the students (not me) asked him, “Rebbe, I did not know the Yeshiva paid you such a fine salary that the Rebbe can afford taxis!” (The Rebbe was very ‘laid back’ and we often ‘k’bitzed’ with him.) Rav Alpert looked at us and without missing a beat he said, “Just because I am poor does that mean I have to live poor as well?”

That was his life philosophy; make the most of today with what you have today.

Perhaps Hashem endowed him with this outlook to compensate and to allow him to make the most of the ‘short’ 58 years he was granted in this world.

The Rebbe was a ‘masmid’; however, he was also quite ‘normal’.

 I can still see him every morning sitting in one of booths at the little kosher diner across the street from the Yeshiva drinking a coffee, eating a ‘Black and White” while perusing the New York Post (note: back then the paper was less of the tabloid it is now).

He lived in the present and appreciated all types of people whom he met in the present.

He was able to get to the heart of the sugya, and he was able to touch the hearts of his students; he certainly touched my heart.

It is very fitting that his Yahrtzeit falls out on the 32nd day of the Omer, otherwise known as ‘Lev B’Omer’ -The Heart of the Omer.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

 

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “The Report Card” (5/4/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 15th of Iyar 5775 and May 4, 2015

 

The Report Card

 

When the caller identified himself as Alex and asked when the ‘next service’ was, I assumed he had Yahrtzeit and was looking for a place to say Kaddish.

When I told him that the last Mincha would be at 7:30 PM he seemed not to comprehend what I was talking about.

He then said somewhat haltingly, “Oh, excuse me. My name is Alex Montina and I am a student at Bergen Community College and I am taking a course in comparative religions. We have an assignment to visit a Jewish house of worship and to observe the service. I was wondering if I could come to your synagogue and see the next service.”

I told him to come to the office a few minutes before Mincha and we can talk and if everything looked fine he was welcome to come to Mincha.

He arrived and when he timidly sat down and showed me his assignment and I was convinced that he was not a covert operative for Al-Qaeda I gave him a Yarmulke and invited him to observe Mincha and Maariv.

He sat very quietly in the back and I could see him writing copious comments on his assignment sheet.

After davening ended we regrouped and he asked me a few questions about the davening; nothing too difficult: “What does the text of the prayers mean? Are the prayers based on the Bible?”

I answered his questions and then I asked him if I could look at the notes he took; he gladly obliged.

He wrote under the question: How did you find the decorum in the sanctuary? “Very serious and intense.”

When asked to describe the service, he wrote: “There was an introductory prayer and then the men stood for about five to seven minutes rocking and swaying back and forth while silently praying. Then the rabbi began a responsive part of the prayer when the rabbi read and others responded with a one word response. Then everyone sat for about two to three minutes and the prayers ended with everyone standing and again a responsive prayer.”

Under general comments he wrote, “In general the prayer service was serious and intense with no communication taking place between the people. The service was totally in Hebrew; only men attended and the dress was semi-formal with many men wearing hats and jackets.”

 I looked at the paper and thought about the words, “The men stood for about five to seven minutes rocking and swaying back and forth while silently praying”.

I wondered, “I managed to convince this young 20 year old college student that I appeared “serious and intense”; I was able to give over the impression that during Shmoneh Esrei I was “silently praying”.

What did Hashem write on His ‘assignment sheet’ for this davening?

Did Hashem also agree that my davening was ‘serious and intense’?

Would Hashem classify my words which were said during the silent Shmoneh Esrei as ‘praying’ or did I allow my mind to wonder off into another world as I continued to recite the words without proper intent?

What remarks did Hashem write about me during yesterday’s Mincha?

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln who said: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

We can say: “You can fool a college student some of the time, however, you can never fool Hashem!”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Rebbe Zt”l” (4/30/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 11th of Iyar 5775 and April 30, 2015

 

{NOTE: In response to those of you who asked for a written version of my talk on Shabbos about Rav Aharon Lichtenstein Zt”l, I humbly present to the following :}

Rebbe Zt”l

As I walked into the office my palms were soaked with sweat and my throat was parched.

 I sat down in front of the man.

 He did not smile and his greeting was short and to the point; he spoke in a rapid staccato voice.

 I was now trembling as he asked me what I was learning.

I answered Pesachim; he asked me which daf and from there he proceeded to pepper me with questions and to question my answers.

He seemed to know the entire Massechta by heart as he quoted from rote entire passages of the Gemara.

He slowly and deliberately took my answers to their logical conclusion. I was in a haze of confusion as he continued to build the halachik conclusions which were based on my answers. Finally he came in for the ‘check-mate’; “Based on what you answered, it logically follows that you would allow the eating of Chometz on Pesach night!”

I was stunned; however, he was correct!

 My ‘silly’ attempts at exhibiting ‘lomdus’ had caused me to permit Chometz on Pesach- his reasoning was airtight.

 I was sure this would be the last time in my life I would ever meet this man; however, the truth is that this was the beginning. The beginning of a relationship that spanned almost 40 years and climaxed with my arising at 3 AM last week to cry and mourn as I participated from 6000 miles away in the levaya of the man I eventually called ‘Rebbe’.

Soon I would learn that this seemingly intimidating and outwardly distant man was one of the most sensitive, caring and compassionate and loving human beings I would be privileged to form a relationship with.

The experience described above was my “fahere” (my oral entrance examination) to the Yeshiva referred to as “The Gush”, although its real name was Yeshivat Har Etzion located in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Beit Lechem and north of Chevron and the year was 1979.

The man ‘interviewing’ me was Rav Aharon Lichtenstein Zt”l lovingly referred to as “Rav Aharon”.

When the letter arrived after Pesach I was more than surprised that despite my apparent dismal performance at the ‘fahere’, I was accepted into the “Gush”!

I arrived a day before Elul and so began my relationship with this seemingly unapproachable man who in time I would come to love.

Even more surprising for me, I was placed in the Rosh Yeshiva’s shiur.

Rav Aharon’s Shiurim were masterful presentations of Brisker Lomdus combined with the precision of a skillful organizer.

Rav Aharon was fluent in the entire Shas; literally. There was no sugya in Shas which he had not mastered and no statement of the Rambam which he had not analyzed.

His Shiurim were a complete and total analysis of the Sugya at hand. No relevant point was omitted and no Rishon’s opinion, no matter how obscure the Rishon, was absent from his discussion.

He would sit for hours in the Beis Medrash totally and completely engrossed in his Gemara. I can recall standing by his desk for six to seven minutes as I hoped he would finally just look up and see me standing there. There was just no interrupting him from his learning.

His Shiurim were original and insightful; masterpieces of Limud HaTorah; however, that is what not made him my Rebbe.

I am not being humble just truthful, when I state unabashedly, that I was not one of the stars of the Shiur.

Many other ‘boys’ grasped his lomdus and his Brisker Torah much, much better than me. My feeble mind understood what it could; however, I was not and will never claim to be a reliable transmitter of the ‘Torah’ of my Rebbe.

Therefore, I soon began to search out ways to become closer and to serve him.

I would arrive early to the Beis Medrash and carry his small wooden bookcase which was a fixture on his desk, to the Shiur room.

Once during Shiur he realized that he needed a Rashba. He looked over at me and asked me if I could please get him a Rashba; I was so excited; the Rebbe asked me to do something for him!

His humility was something that legends are made of.

 He lived in Yerushalayim at the time; every Bochur who needed a ride to Yerushalayim would just stand by his car and if there was room, you had a ride. He would never ask a Bochur why he was going into Yerushalayim, if you were going he assumed you had a reason.

It was those aspects of him -outside of the lomdus- which pulled me like a magnet towards the Rebbe.

He was so real and he was so humble. Indeed, I never in my life have encountered another human being who knew so much, had accomplished so much, who was brilliant and literally had thousands of students and was nevertheless, the most ‘pashute’ and simple Jew in the world.

He was the son in law of Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik Zt”l, he possessed a PhD in English Literature from Harvard, he was a Talmid Muvhak of Rav Hutner Zt”l and nevertheless, if he passed the pay phone and it was ringing he would pick it up and gladly go to the Beis Medrash to retrieve the Bochur.

 If the caller asked, “Who am I speaking to you?” Rav Lichtenstein would simply answer “Aharon Lichtenstein”.

By observation and by interaction I soon came to realize that this man whom I first considered austere and rigid was in truth one of the most sensitive, caring and G-d fearing individuals I ever met.

Perhaps it was his humility and perhaps it was even a touch of shyness, however, Rav Aharon was by nature unassuming and one could (albeit incorrectly) assume he was even aloof. 

Time after time I came to see how this gentle and quiet man was in reality a giant in Midos and precisely with regard to Bein Adam L’Chaveiro.

At that point (1979) phone calls to the States were a rare (one every three to four months) occurrence. When Rav Aharon went to the States to interview next year’s students he personally called each and every parent (over 40 parents) to send regards and inform them of their son’s progress.

I also quickly realized that notwithstanding his Brisker-learning-posture, when it came to davening and simcha, Rav Aharon was more akin to a Chassidishe Rebbe; and it was that warmth which enveloped me.

How can I ever forget the Friday night dancing after davening?

The entire Yeshiva would gather downstairs in the lobby of the Yeshiva and dance with the Rosh Yeshiva in honor of the Shabbos.

I can still see him on Yom Kippur as he stood for hours and hours with tears streaming down his face as he implored Hashem to forgive. He was angelic in his white Kittel as he davened with fervor and with a sense of trepidation.  When Yom Kippur ended and the Shofar was sounded the yeshiva erupted into a dance the likes of which I had never seen before.

The passion and gusto which enveloped the entire yeshiva was palpable; however, the sight which remains sealed in my memory forever is the sight of Rav Aharon-the same stern and Brisker Rosh Yeshiva- dancing with his three year old daughter Tonya on his shoulders at the conclusion of the fast. That sight epitomized the man for me.

 He was holding his beloved daughter on his shoulders as any ‘regular father’ would do; indeed, as is well known- when asked in his later years what his most precious achievements were, he would immediately reply, “My family!”

 His face shone as the sun at noon as he danced with the energy and enthusiasm of a twenty year old- typifying his unshakeable Emunah in Hashem that our Aveiros were forgiven.

And finally, he danced in the circle with all his beloved students; once again his humility and his love of his students were always recognizable.

As he danced he suddenly noticed that his wife, Rebbetzen Tova Lichtenstein was waving to her daughter from the women’s balcony; Rav Aharon’s face lit up as he positioned his little daughter on his shoulders to see her mother in the women’s section and together they waved with big smiles on their faces.

At that moment I saw a man who was a first and foremost a loving husband and a doting father; perhaps I could never be the Brisker Rosh Yeshiva he was, however, a loving husband and devoted father was something I too could aspire to.

The stories which were widely circulated in the Yeshiva about his humility and kindness were embraced and cherished.

Perhaps the most precious of these incidents occurred on Yom Kippur 1973 at the beginning of the War. The busses arrived at the Yeshiva to pick up the ‘boys’ and to bring them to the front, the boys asked their commanders for one minute to go to the Beis Medrash and ask Rav Aharon for a brocha before they went out to defend the Jewish people.

The Rebbe was nowhere to be found. Crestfallen, the boys disappointedly began to board the buses.

Suddenly an apparition appeared; it was the figure of a tall, lanky figure clad totally in a white Kittel running towards the buses carrying something white.

As the figure neared, the boys were awestruck as they realized what they were witnessing.

 They were witnessing greatness.

“Rav Aharon” was the apparition and he was running towards the busses with his hands laden with rolls of toilet paper. As he breathlessly approached the boys he blurted out, “I want to help in some way; so I figured that in everyone’s haste to leave on Yom Kippur perhaps no one had remembered to bring this vital necessity!”

It makes no difference to me that I did not personally witness the incident –although when I arrived in 1979 there were still eye witnesses learning in the yeshiva- I just knew the story was true for that was Rav Aharon.

There were no airs about him; he told us in the yeshiva how when he was called to Miluim (military reserve duty) and he was on a packed bus heading north on a long four hour ride, after two hours he offered his seat to a young woman who was standing nearby.

 He remarked to us without even the slightest hint in his mind that he was relating to us ‘greatness’, “Boys”, he said, “You have to see where you can do for another person; after two hours of sitting I offered my seat to the woman standing near me. When she asked me why I replied, “I was able to sit for two hours; it’s only fair you get to sit for half the ride as well!”

I never heard him speak negative about another human being and his care and compassion for all of Hashem’s creatures was legendary.

What other Rosh Yeshiva in the world got up in the middle of the Beis Medrash and announced that the Yeshiva will be collecting money to support the "Vietnamese Boat People" who were escaping Vietnam in 1979 on unsafe boats and were in desperate need of help and support?

His love of Hashem motivated him; “Were these not Hashem’s children?” he asked.

How can I forget the sight of Rav Aharon literally screaming the words of the “Shir Shel Yom” into the ear of his hearing impaired father after his father had lost his sight and did not know the tefilla by heart?

Most of all, he was my Rebbe and he was there for me.

He cared about me and I knew he cared about me.

When I called him he was there for me and when I needed advice he was there for me.

The last time I saw him was about two years ago at a wedding in Monsey; I went over and said hello and asked, “How is the Rebbe feeling?”

He answered Baruch Hashem and then quickly introduced me to one of his relatives by saying, “Here is Rabbi Eisenman, he learned in our Yeshiva”

Once again even at ‘his’ Simcha he made me feel important and he made me feel special.

In truth, he was special and as humble as he was, he was in reality a giant, a true Gadol; a sincere servant of Hashem.

One day, years after I learned in the Yeshiva I said to him, “Rebbe, I just want to thank you for all you gave to me and for the years I was able to learn by you.”

He said to me, “Thank you; sometimes people think Rebbeim don’t need positive feedback, in truth we appreciate it very much for we are also human.”

Rebbe was human, very human; however, he was also angelic; yet somehow, the two parts of him, his humility and his greatness were not two distinct parts, rather, they existed in harmony.

Indeed they were the synthesis of “a ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven; with, angels of Hashem ascending and descending upon it.”

I will miss my Rebbe; I will miss his Torah, his hasmada, his davening and his guidance; but most of all I miss him, for ultimately that man whom I was so fearful of in 1979 was the same man I loved so much in 2015 and for who I now mourn.

May his memory continue to inspire.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Perspective” (4/28/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 9th of Iyar 5775 and April 28, 2015

 

Perspective

 

As I glanced at the news this morning, I could not help but feel pain and sympathy for the survivors of the massive earthquake which racked Nepal on Shabbos.

As of this writing there have been over 4000 confirmed deaths and that number may rise in the coming days.

The devastation and the loss of life are painful to view; however, as I read the article on the tragedy, one sentence really touched me.

KATMANDU, Nepal — Residents of Katmandu living in tent camps after Nepal’s powerful earthquake said on Tuesday that their biggest worry was a lack of safe drinking water…”

I re-read the words, “Their biggest worry was a lack of safe drinking water”.  

As I was reading these words I grasped the irony of the situation; as simultaneously I was mechanically sipping a glass of bottled water at my desk!

Suddenly I put the cup down and thought, “Imagine if this was my last bottle of water for the entire day? Imagine if it was the last bottle of water for my entire family for the duration of the day?

The thought was terrifying.

I cannot deny that I am not at a level where I can claim that I feel the pain of those suffering in Nepal; however, at least I can attempt to appreciate what I do have.

Perspective; it makes all the difference in the world.

We live in a world where we have unlimited supply of fresh and clean drinking water.

Thankfully, we cannot even imagine a day without water; however, who says that’s how it has to be?

Thousands of people went to sleep Friday night in Nepal with the assumption that the sun would rise and they would have plenty of drinking water as they had the day on Friday and on the Thursday.

 Alas, this was not the case, and instead of worrying if they should have milchigs or fleishigs for dinner, they are now worrying if they will have water to drink tomorrow.

Think about that for a moment; perhaps it can help us place life in perspective and allow us to have appreciation for the ‘simple’ things in life; especially for water.

Think about your family and about the 4000 people who are no longer with their loved ones in Nepal.

Think about the tens of thousands of people who are sleeping outdoors for fear of aftershocks.

Think about that when you stretch out in your bed tonight and for a second, (just for a second) put your life in perspective.

Are most of the things I complained about today really as serious as I thought they were?

Did it really matter that my Keurig coffee-maker is beginning to ‘short change’ me when I ask for an eight ounce cup of coffee?

Does it really matter that the cleaners did not get out the stain from Pesach as I hoped they would?

I must think about Nepal and be appreciative for what I have and I must realize that hundreds of thousands of people in Nepal would be ‘overwhelmed with happiness’ to have what I have.

Thank you Hashem for my water.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “The Shloshim” (4/24/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 7th of Iyar 5775 and April 24, 2015

 

The Shloshim

 

Today is the Shloshim for my mother Leah bas Meir (Lorraine Eisenman).

There are many thoughts which come to my mind at this point in time.

The first thought which ‘hit me’ was the how fast times flies.

 It is difficult to feel ‘different’ even though I have now finished the second of the three mourning periods and am now entering the ‘Twelve Month’ period.

Life goes on. No one stays stagnant and all we can do is pick up the pieces as best we can and continue to build on the memories of our loved ones.

There is a fascinating insight in the Zohar HaKodesh in this week’s Parsha (Tazria).

 We are all too familiar with the fact that “Tzaraas” is caused by the Aveira of Loshon Hora.

 Indeed, many Rabbonim and teachers take advantage of these two parshios to encourage everyone to watch their words and to be careful not to speak Loshon Hora.

These lessons are appreciated and of course needed; however, the Zohar HaKodesh points out something not too often stressed by most Parsha teachers.

We are all familiar that we will be held accountable for those unnecessary words which we all too often utter.

Meaning, the transgression of Loshon Hora is when we allow our mouths free access to speak what they want, whenever they want. Tzaraas reminds the individual to muzzle himself and to keep from speaking malicious and hurtful words.

The struggle not to say what should not be said is certainly a noble one; however, what about those words which ‘should ‘ or ‘could’ have been spoken and were not; will we be held accountable for them?

This is exactly what the Zohar HaKodesh addresses.

The Zohar HaKodesh points out that just as an individual will be held accountable for those words which should never have been spoken, nevertheless, they were; so too will we be held accountable for those words which ‘should’ or ‘could’ have been spoken yet were not!

What are these words which ‘could’ have been spoken, yet were not which we will have to make an accounting for?

These are the kind and cost-free words of Chesed which -with a little sensitivity and effort- can be uttered at almost every human encounter.

When you meet someone and you notice they look healthy and well, tell them so!

If you see someone at the other end of the Shul, don’t be lazy, at the end of the davening get out of your seat and say hello to them.

There are countless of examples where we can use our mouths to speak kind and comforting words which will serve as a healing balm to the recipient of our words.

Too often we choose to be quiet when with a little effort and a little sensitivity we could throw in a ‘hello’ or a ‘thank you’ and we would be literally changing a person’s entire day.

The wonderful thing about this is that is doesn’t cost you a penny! It just requires a little effort and some sensitivity to the other person.

We all know that we can be held accountable for the words which were said yet, should never have been spoken; imagine though, that we can be equally held accountable for those words which we could have said yet didn’t!

My mother A”H was quite adept at speaking the correct words at the correct time.

Often when I was with her I was amazed how when she met someone she would remember something about their life and inquire if the issue was improved.

I often marveled at how she would always compliment a speaker who offered a Dvar Torah at the Shabbos table and how she would thank the waitress in a restaurant when she went out to eat.

The art of knowing not what to say is indeed important; however, equally important is the art of knowing what to say when you could say something!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Good Bye Rebbe” (4/21/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 2nd of Iyar 5775 and April 20, 2015

 

Good Bye Rebbe

 

It was right after Pesach of 1979 when the letter arrived.

It was from Israel, from a small town called Alon Shvut.

I trembled as I carefully opened the envelope.

As my eyes read the eloquent Hebrew letter a tingle went down my spine.

Little did I know then, that the contents of that letter would be life altering.

The envelope contained my acceptance letter to the ‘Harvard’ of the Israeli Hesder Yeshivas: Yeshivat Har Etzion.

The yeshiva was jointly headed by Rabbi Yehuda Amital and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein; however, Rav Lichtenstein was the primary pull for the American applicants.

“Rav Aharon” as he was affectionately referred to was anything but ordinary.

He was the son in law of the “Rav”- Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik Zt”l and he was a great Talmid Chochom in his own right.

He was brilliant and insightful, he had ‘Shas’ on his finger tips and he earned a PhD from Harvard in English Literature.

He would quote Milton and Maimonides in the same sentence and he davened with the zeal of a Chassidic Rebbe.

He was all this and much more; however, for me most importantly, he was my Rebbe.

He cared about me and gave me time and attention.

When there were difficulties in my life he was there for me.

And when there was pain in my life, he shared my pain.

Many of his Shiurim were beyond my feeble mind; however, I loved my Rebbe because I knew that he loved me.

When he invited me to his Succah for a Hoshanah Rabba Seuda I was thrilled to be in his presence.

Although I was not at all one of the ‘stars’ of his Shiur, I realized there was one way I could get close to him.

Every day I arrived early to the Beis Medrash and I would carry his small Shas and two volume set of the Rambam which he kept in a small wooden bookshelf on his desk in the Beis Medrash to the Shiur room.

I had to get there before he did, because if he arrived first he would not allow always allow me to carry the Seforim for him.

I was so proud to carry his Seforim for him.

During the Yom Kippur War when the busses arrived at the Yeshiva to pick up the ‘boys’ and to bring them to the front, the boys asked their commanders for one minute to go to the Beis Medrash and ask Rav Aharon for a brocha before they went out to defend the Jewish people.

The Rebbe was nowhere to be found. Crestfallen, the boys disappointedly began to board the buses.

Suddenly an apparition appeared; it was the figure of a tall, lanky figure clad totally in a white Kittel running towards the buses carrying something white.

As the figure neared, the boys were awestruck as they realized what they were witnessing.

 They were witnessing greatness.

“Rav Aharon” was the apparition and he was running towards the busses with his hands laden with rolls of toilet paper. As he breathlessly approached the boys he blurted out, “I want to help in some way; so I figured that in everyone’s haste to leave on Yom Kippur perhaps no one had remembered to bring this vital necessity!”

His head was in the heavens; however, his feet were firmly planted in this world.

I hardly slept last night as I thought about my Rebbe.

At 3 AM I connected to the live hook-up to be a part of the levaya.

Someone asked me why I had to get up at 3 AM to see it live; couldn’t I just have listened to it later in the day?

I could have; however, my Rebbe gave me much more than two or three hours of his precious time during his lifetime, I certainly should give me him back three hours of my sleep time.

When I was still a teenager he was there for me and when I was married he still there for me; I now wanted to be ‘there’ for him.

I miss him.

This Shabbos at 6 PM I will offer an appreciation of Rav Aharon Zt”l.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “One More Recollection” (4/19/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 30th of Nissan 5775 and April 19, 2015

 

One More Recollection

 

It will probably take a while for me to stop constantly reaching for the phone to call my mother and tell her about what happened to me today.

It happens so often that last week I actually did call her- if for nothing else than to hear her voice on answering machine.

After her voice mail picked up I actually left her a message, I don’t know why; however, I did.

You can never (at least I can’t and no one else told me they could) really prepare for the passing of a parent; even when you know they are diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Therefore, I was very worried as how I would react when the time came.

I always imagined that I would ‘lose it’ when the time came.

 I could not imagine the moment occurring and could not picture myself being able to maintain any semblance of sanity.

As Hashem would have it, it was totally different than I imagined it would be.

On Sunday morning March 29th (The Ninth of Nissan 5775) I was awakened at 4:30 AM by my sister-in-law as mother’s breathing became quite labored.

I stayed by her bedside and as dawn neared (5:22) I could tell that the situation was dire.

At 5:54- the earliest time one can daven-  I decided I should daven as I realized that once my mother would leave this world I would be precluded from davening and donning Tefillin.

I davened the basic requirements as not to leave her bedside too long and by 6:20 AM I was back at her bedside.

As I entered her room and sat down next to her, I grasped her hand.

As I sat by her bed I noticed that my sister-in-law and my two nieces who were up the entire night with my mother finally fell into a sound sleep. I was happy they were sleeping as they were on vigil the entire night and I was happy they were getting much needed rest.

By 6:30 her breathing was becoming more and more difficult.

There is no rational way to explain my following behavior; however, I shall record it as it occurred.

At exactly 6:31 as I saw how difficult it was for my mother to keep breathing; at that point I was filled not the helplessness I always imagined I would be consumed with; rather, I actually felt strong and resolute as a never-before-felt-inner peace began to envelope me.

I looked at my beloved mother and said to her the words I could never imagine saying, “Ma, it’s alright. I’ll be alright you can let go.”

 At that point she took one last breath and then lowered her head slowly and peacefully onto her pillow. As l looked at her I knew her Neshama had departed her body.

 I could sense I was no longer looking at my mother; rather, I was looking at the casing of her soul; however, she was already gone.

Shockingly I still felt no pain and no overwhelming sadness; quite the opposite, I was now even more at peace and more composed. I lovingly kissed her forehead; l gently closed her eyes and covered her with her own blanket as she lay peacefully in her own room, in the house filled with her children and grandchildren.

The Gemara in Massechta Berochus (8a) informs us that there are 903 different types of ‘death’ in this world. The most pleasant –which the Gemara advocates we should daven for- is referred to as ‘Neshika’, literally ‘death by a kiss’. The Gemara explains that death by a kiss is when the Neshama leaves the body in a painless and effortless way and is compared to the ease as which a hair is effortlessly removed from a glass of milk.

The words of the Gemara flashed across my mind as I personally witnessed the kiss given to my mother as her Neshama painlessly and peacefully departed her body.

I was the lone person in the world awake and by her bedside when the time came; however, I neither was scared nor terrified; nor was my mother as together she peacefully returned her soul to her maker.

A day or two ago I related this entire incident which I felt and still feel so privileged to have been a part of to a friend of mine.

After I finished he looked at me and asked, “Weren’t you scared to be there at that moment? Weren’t you terrified to be the only one there at the time of …?”

I thought about his question for a moment and then simply said, “My mother was there for me when I entered the world and I am sure it was quite painful for her. The least I could do for her was to be there when she left this world.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort’ - “The Birthday Party” (4/16/15)

 

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 27th of Nissan 5775 and April 16, 2015

 

The Birthday Party

 

 One of the best ‘perks’ of being a rabbi is engaging with the children of the Shul. Children are pristine; however, they also have their challenges.

Yisroel Moshe Feldblum (name changed) has been in my Shul since his birth. I officiated at the Chasunah of his parents and was Sandek at his Bris.

When he was old enough to sing Adon Olam I was kvelling along with his mother; and when he “graduated” to Anim Zemiros my heart was bursting with pride.

From the time he was a toddler everyone called him ‘Yummie’ and the name fit as he was a ‘Yummy little boy’.

Yummie began school like any other little boy; however, it soon became apparent that Yummie had a ‘condition’.

I no longer recall if it was ADD, ADHD, CD, OCD, EBD, BPD or ABC; however, it was one of the current alphabetisms.

Yummie was doing well academically; however, socially he was struggling.

As Yummie advanced to fifth grade, his ‘issues’ became more pronounced and one day Yummie just refused to attend school anymore.

In desperation, his parents approached me and asked me if I would speak to Yummie. I told them I am not a child psychologist and I doubt I could help.

Yummie entered my office and immediately sat down and folded his arms across his chest as a sign of defiance.

I noticed Yummie’s eyes silently reading the various papers on my desk.

Yummie, who at 10 years old was already an ‘accomplished reader’, was focusing on my speaking points from the funeral of an elderly gentleman who recently passed away.

As he read, his eyes welled up in tears; I asked him what was wrong.

“Rabbi, I see that you mentioned how Mr. Goldberg (the deceased) always remembered his grandchildren’s birthday.

Last week I gave to all the boys in my class an invitation to my tenth birthday party and you know what they did? Everyone, except for three friends, tore up the invitation in front of my face! I am never going back there!”

I could sense and feel his pain.

Tears began to run down my cheeks as a long repressed and almost forgotten memory from a half a century ago overwhelmed me.

“Yummie, can I tell you a secret?

When I was nine years old, I was a chubby red haired kid with not too many friends. One day I made a party for my birthday. When the day and time arrived, we had balloons set up and a big birthday cake with my name on it. I invited all the boys in the class; however, only two came. I was sad and I was hurt and I cried.

I know that this hard to understand at your age, however, the party worked out. I realized that those two boys were my real friends and with them I would not be alone.”

“Rabbi, do you mean to tell me that you also did not have many friends when you were my age and other kids also made fun of you?”

“Yummie, you are way more popular than I ever was. You have three good friends; I had one or at most two.”

Our talk did not make the problem disappear; however, Yummie realized he was not alone in his pain and he went back to school.

Does this story end with: “And they lived happy ever after”?

 No; however, rarely do any stories end that way.

And every Shabbos Yummie and I share a secret smile when he comes to say “Good Shabbos”.

It is our way of communicating that together we are not alone and that no matter what happens in our lives each of us has one good friend they can always rely on.

Everyone needs at least one good friend.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - ““Getting Back to Normal?”” (4/13/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 24th of Nissan 5775 and April 13, 2015

 

“Getting Back to Normal?”

 

It is never easy to lose a loved one.

It is not easy when you are young and it is still not easy when you are middle age.

You walk in the street and you wonder if you look different.

You look at everyone else and they look the same.

I wonder, “Does anyone see anything different about me? Last week I had a mother in this world, today I don’t.”

I know the answer, most probably not.

I arrive at the office and everything looks the same.

The Seforim are exactly where they were from before my mother left this world and the papers which were piled high have not disappeared.

The world continued to go on while I sat Shiva and life continued unabated.

I am going to share with you some observations from my Shiva.

Please remember and note, these are private feelings which may or may not help you.

They are in no way intended to be taken as ‘Daas Torah’ or as any sort of halachik guidelines.

They are my private and personal feelings which if they cause you to think or even re-think some ideas you had about Shiva then I feel satisfied.

If you take them to be ‘piskei Halacha’ or ‘Daas Torah’ you will be corrupting my intent.

I know there is a halachik discussion as to when the Halacha that the mourner must speak first applies (there are those that define it as the first conversation of the day…).

That being said, (and I am not speaking ‘Halachically’ now); however, we all agree that the Halacha recognizes the ‘right’ of the mourner to remain silent.

As I sat Shiva there were times when I was in the speaking mood and I spoke.

And there were times when I felt the need to be quiet.

I know that when you come to the house of the mourner it is uncomfortable and somewhat awkward; many of us don’t know what to say or do.

 I understand the discomfort; nevertheless, there were times when I wanted to exercise my right to remain silent and I was peppered with questions as if I was at a press conference; this was not a comfort for me.

The ‘comforter’s’ discomfort at being in a silent setting should not trump the mourner’s desire to feel comfort by being silent!

The fact that you came was all the comfort I needed and wanted then; I did not need to be interviewed.

Of course I appreciated the memories that people shared about my mother; however, when I attempted to exercise my ‘right’ to remain silent and was precluded from doing so because of incessant questions, I was not comforted.

Sometimes just sitting and being present and being ‘there’ for the mourner is ‘more than enough’.

I did appreciate those who allowed me to speak when I wanted to and allowed me to share what I felt was important.

I also (and I may be in the minority here; remember, this is just ‘food for thought’) was not comforted by those people who claimed that ‘I know how you feel’.

In truth, those people who said that phrase to me did not comfort me at all.

It so bothered me that I have decided that I would never tell anyone going through any personal experience that “I know how you feel”.

I felt it was pompous and pretentious.

How do you know how I feel?

And why should I feel comforted even if you do know how I feel?

Mourning is not like a sore throat where you can tell the person, “If you take your anti-biotic you will be fine; after all I had the same condition last week.”

Mourning is something totally individual, personal and private; I almost felt violated and compromised when people said “I know how you feel”.

 Sorry for the harsh words; however, I do feel strongly about this one. (I know everyone who said it meant well… but remember… this is just food for thought.)

That being, said; I totally appreciate all of you who came and sent messages; it really meant a lot to me.

One final note, the Halacha of not leaving the mourner alone does not apply when there are other people in the house.

Too often someone was about to leave and I was about to have a one minute much needed break; however, they felt the need to stay until someone else came to ‘relieve them’.

Although their intent was good the result was that I was precluded from a much desired opportunity to just stand up for a minute of relief.

As mentioned, these are private and personal thoughts; if they provide some catalyst for discussion and thought, I will be satisfied.

Thank you to all of you who helped me during my Shiva and may we only celebrate Simchos together.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - ““If Not Now, Then When?”” (4/3/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 14th of Nissan 5775 and April 3, 2015

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”

 

As Shabbos and Yom Tov are about to begin and I am about to experience my first Shabbos and my first Pesach of my entire life without the presence of my dear mother of blessed memory, there is only one “Short Vort” which I can convey to you.

Friends, appreciate who you have when you have them.

Last Friday as Shabbos began I wished my mother a “Good Shabbos”; this week……

Don’t wait to tell your loved ones how much you love them, do it today.

Tomorrow or next week may be too late.

Wishing all a Chag Kasher V’Sameach and Good Shabbos

 

“If Not Now, Then When?” – Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “The Phone Call That Will Never Be “ (3/29/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is the 9th of Nissan 5775 and March 29, 2015

 

The Phone  Call That Will Never Be

 

I just returned from the levaya (funeral) of my mother.

There was a large and impressive turnout.

On my way back from the funeral I stopped at my office to send out the Shiva information.

As I entered my office I picked up the phone and figured I would do what I always do; I would call my mother and share my day with her.

I thought, “Let me call my mother and tell her about the funeral and how well attended it was and how nice everyone spoke about her.”

As I picked up the phone, reality set in and my tears began to flow as I realized this phone call will never be again.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “One Page” (3/27/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

One Page

 

Samuel Newman (names changed) was born in the city of Lodz in Poland.

He rarely took up much of my time; for Sam was a “three days a year Jew”.

He rarely showed up in Shul besides the High Holidays and therefore except for wishing me a “Happy New Year” our paths did not cross too often.

I would give him a call once in a while and occasionally dropped in at his house; however, our encounters were brief, polite and anything but intense or intimate.

That changed when Sam was diagnosed with cancer.

I reached out to him and attempted to be a regular visitor at his modest home.

After a while we became quite friendly and after seeing the blue tattooed numbers on his forearm I decided to make sure that before Sam left this world I would know the story behind the numbers.

Mr. Newman revealed to me that he was from a “Chaddishe Shtub” (Hassidic Home) and that as a child he had peyos and learned in the Keser Torah Yeshiva in Lodz which was one of the dozens of Yeshivas founded and personally supported by the Radomsker Rebbe Rabbi Shlomo Chanoch Hakohen Rabinowicz (1882–1942).

He continued to live a Chassidishe life style until 1939 when darkness descended over Poland. In a short amount of time, all the Keser Torah Yeshivas ceased to exist; the Rebbe and his family were murdered on August 1st 1942 in the Warsaw Ghetto and Samuel Newman found himself in the Gehinom known as Auschwitz.

As his condition deteriorated, I began to visit him almost daily.

One day he asked me if I would be interested in seeing the various memorabilia he had from the war years. I jumped at the opportunity and he opened a drawer on his desk filled with dust filled objects.

They all looked like German medals and indeed they were. Samuel Newman explained to me that after the liberation, the Nazi guards at Auschwitz shed their uniforms and he and other former prisoners collected some of their now worthless medals. He even asked me if I wanted any of them. The thought of owning an object with the Nazi insignia repulsed me and I politely declined.

Just as Samuel Newman was about to close the drawer he pulled out one envelope.

He slowly and delicately removed a worn and faded piece of paper. As he unfolded it I quickly recognized it as a page from the Haggadah Shel Pesach.

It was just one bletyl, one page.

“What is that and why do you have it?” I asked.

Samuel Newman took a deep breath and said…

“When we were deported to the Ghetto I was able to quickly grab just one sefer. I chose the Haggadah Shel Pesach of my great-grandfather. Later when the Ghetto was liquidated and I was in Auschwitz, I took the Haggadah with me. I hid it on my person. Eventually, most of its pages were torn away; however, one page of the Haggadah remained with me, the page of with ten Makos (plagues).

I held on to the bletyl of the Haggadah at all times. I slept with it; I went out to the work detail with it I always kept it with me.

On Erev Pesach; we decided to have a Seder. We had no wine so we used a little water and mixed in some reddish dirt for the four cups. For the Matzah we found discarded flour and attempted to bake it on the top of a cement mixer. And for the Marror we looked at our tattooed numbers; nothing could be more effective. It was then that I revealed to my fellow Yidden the one bletyl- one page- one daf -from the Haggadah. All of those in sitting on the floor in our cold barracks could not believe their eyes; the page was passed from hand to hand and each person caressed and kissed the tattered paper as if it was their long lost only child. Tears ran down their cheeks as they could not believe as they were actually holding this worn and torn bletyl which represented a world which once was and would never again be.

Suddenly in the middle of ‘our seder’ the door threw open and in charged the cruelest SS guard at the camp; we simply referred to him as ‘the Vilde Chaya’ (the wild animal). 

He began swinging his truncheon indiscriminately as we scattered back to our bunks. Somehow he saw my page from the Haggadah. He took his club and whipped it with all his might across my mouth; blood splattered all over the barracks.

“You Jew swine, how dare you smuggle Jewish contraband and propaganda into our pure and pristine camp? I should kill you right now; however, as you know we Germans are civilized not like you Jews. If you can clean up your filthy contraband and get it out of my sight this instant I will spare your worthless Jewish life.”

My head was spinning as blood was spurting from my mouth; however, somehow with G-d given strength I picked up my now blood soaked bletyl and hid it in the pile of hay we referred to as our beds.

I kept it with me for the rest of my stay at Auschwitz and when on January 27, 1945 soldiers of the 60th Army of the First Ukrainian Front opened the gates of Auschwitz Concentration Camp the bletyl was still with me.

I carried it me in the DP camps and now here it is.”

One word was saturated with blood; it was the word “Daam” (blood), the first of the plagues.

Samuel Newman held the paper in the same loving manner he held it in 1944.

Sixty years had passed.

Samuel Newman had long ceased practicing Judaism.

His only son lived in Arizona and was married to a non-Jew.

There would never be anymore Chassidishe Yidden descending from Samuel Newman.

Indeed, there would never be any Jews descending from Samuel Newman.

As he caressed the page he said to me, “Rabbi, I am not scared of death. I met the angel of death often in Auschwitz; he does not scare me. In fact, I am looking forward to meeting my creator; I have a number of questions which I have been waiting over sixty years to ask Him. This page from the Haggadah is going to be exhibit ‘A’. Rabbi, please promise me that when I leave this world you will place this bletyl in my kever. I need it to show it as evidence upstairs. I am looking forward to finally getting some answers to the questions which have been percolating for over six decades.”

I nodded.

Ten days later, I was standing in front of Samuel Newman’s unfilled grave as next to me was his only son Martin who could not have recited the Kaddish even if he was inclined to do so.

As we began to fill the grave, I quietly and unobtrusively, slipped the only existing page of the Haggadah Shel Pesach from the Auschwitz Seder of 1944 into the grave.

As we were departing the ceremony, I casually asked Martin when his flight back to Arizona was; he replied that he bought a special VIP ticket which allowed him to board any flight back to the Tucson for the next 24 hours.

He proudly told me that he just had to show up at the airport, show them his VIP ticket and he could get on any flight of the day.

Then Martin turned to me and asked, “Rabbi, I noticed you placed some withered and stained paper into my father’s grave. Is that some sort of Jewish rite of passage to heaven?”

I turned to Martin and simply said, “It is a rite of passage. However, very, very few people merit this particular ‘right’. Let’s just say, it is your father’s VIP ticket. When he gets upstairs he just has to show them the tattered blood stained page of the Haggadah he kept with him. All doors will open and all lines will disappear; your father will be granted a first class seat without any questions.”

Martin looked at me and smiled as he said, “that’s good, I am a glad he will have a choice seat.”

“Martin, you don’t have to worry for a second, your father will have a first class seat, and there is no question about it.”

 

“If Not Now Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “"We’re all connected” (3/24/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 4th of Nissan 5775 and March 24, 2015

 

"We’re all connected”

 

Did you ever wonder how many Mitzvohs can be done via the phone?

I know there have been many articles and ‘rants’ (some by myself) about the ‘dangers’ and ‘downside’ of phones; however, there is (as we all know) another side of the story.

And especially before Pesach, the phone can be a vital tool.

What exactly am I referring to?

The phone is a vehicle for connecting, indeed, “One of New York Telephone’s most widely used advertising slogans/jingles was "We’re all connected...." (Wikipedia)

Indeed, “We are all connected”!

No matter how far the mileage may be from each other, by just picking up the little device called the telephone, you can speak to another person as if they were standing directly in front of you.

We often do not appreciate how vital the phone is.

As you are continuing with your Pesach preparations, I know you are all receiving emails and Divrei Torah about how to kasher your oven or how to clean your counter tops or a new understanding in Mah Neshtana; these Torah preparations are crucial and should not be taken lightly.

Sometimes though, we can get caught up with all of the ‘details’ of the halachos, which indeed do require careful consideration; however, when doing so we should be vigilant never to forget others who are in need.

I am not referring to those who need financial help; although this too is an important part of Pesach.

I am referring to those who need emotional help.

How many people do you know who would appreciate a call from you today?

How many people can you think of who would be overjoyed if you reached out to them today and wished them a Happy Pesach?

I can’t imagine anyone reading this Vort today who cannot think of at least one person who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a call!

In the midst of all of your ‘preps’ for the Haggadah and in the midst of the Pesach cleaning, take a break and look through your ‘contacts’ (I was about to say, ‘look through your phone book’- however, I would be dating myself) and find at least one person to call today.

Try doing this every day until Pesach.

Who knows? It may be the most important preparation you will do this year for Pesach!

Make someone smile today; believe me you will never regret it!  

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Complete and Utter Sadness” (3/22/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 2nd of Nissan 5775 and March 22, 2015

 

Complete and Utter Sadness

 

There are no words which can be said.

There are no words which can console.

There are no words which can ease the pain.

The heart is pained, the eyes are full of tears and the entire body is numb.

As we slept soundly in our beds on Friday night, a Beis HaMikdash was burning in Flatbush.

A holy Mishkan where the Shechina resided was engulfed in flames.

This time, His wrath did not consume just wood and stones; this time it consumed the Holy of Holies.

There is no Nechama, there is no consolation.

Seven precious, cherished and holy Jewish children were taken from us this past Friday evening.

Seven Neshamos went up to His throne as they were engulfed in the flames of Shabbos.

As I attempted to sleep last night, the sacrifices invaded my mind and would not allow me to sleep.

During my semi-sleepless night, the thought of the seven children kept pounding away at my mind precluding me from rest or sleep.

Of course, there are lessons to be had and they should be learned.

·       Check your home TODAY to make every room has a working smoke detector.

·       Indeed, before you do any Pesach preparations today, the first thing you must do is check the smoke detectors.

·       We have an obligation to be vigilant in the care of our family.

·       Do it for today as a Zechus (merit) for the holy sacrifices and for a refuah Sheleima for the mother and surviving sister.

·       Do it today; however, that won’t take away the pain; it won’t lessen the agony and it will not bring back the children.

Seven precious souls; seven precious children are no longer among us.

Hashem has poured out His wrath this Shabbos on our most cherished and precious treasure.

We must take stock of who we are and what we can all do to improve.

We must attempt to unify and grow together.

Right now though, there is only one possible emotion and that is complete and utter sadness.

It is a sadness which -like the flames which consumed the home- consumes our entire being.

We cry for our children which are gone.

We cry for a mother who must somehow go on.

And we cry for ourselves that this has befallen us.

There is nothing more to say except ….

Please hug your children today.

Hold them close to you and tell them how much they mean to you and how much you love them.

And if you have no children, give yourself a hug and remind yourself that you too are a beloved child of Hashem.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “What Was Moshe Thinking?” (3/18/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 27th of Adar 5775 and March 18th 2015

 

What Was Moshe Thinking?

(Based on the Drosha I delivered in Shul this past Shabbos on Parshas VaYakhel-Pekudei)

 

It’s not often that we find that Hashem and Moshe go at head to head in ‘battle’-particularly when Moshe seems to be representing the ‘right-wing’ and Hashem taking the ‘left-position.’

However, that’s exactly what happens this week and they lock horns over nothing less than over a bunch of mirrors which I could have gotten for wholesale at Amazing Savings!

The Torah informs us of a strange dispute between Moshe and Hashem.

When the call goes out for copper to be donated we find an interesting Passuk.

  “And he made the basin of bronze, and its pedestal of bronze, from the mirrors of the women assembling, who assembled at the door of the Tent of Meeting.”

Rashi Comments:

Israelite women owned mirrors, which they would look into when they adorned themselves. Even these [mirrors] they did not hold back from bringing as a contribution toward the Mishkan, but Moses rejected them because they were made for temptation [i.e., to inspire lustful thoughts]. The Holy One, blessed is He, said to him, “Accept [them], for these are more precious to Me than anything because through them the women set up many legions [i.e., through the children they gave birth to] in Egypt.”

 When their husbands were weary from back-breaking labor, they [the women] would go and bring them food and drink and give them to eat. Then they [the women] would take the mirrors and each one would see herself with her husband in the mirror, and she would seduce him with words, saying, “I am more beautiful than you.”

 And in this way they aroused their husbands desire and would copulate with them, conceiving and giving birth there, as it is said: “Under the apple tree I aroused you” (Song 8:5).

 

What exactly is this dispute between Moshe and Hashem?

What is Moshe’s side and what does Hashem answer him?

Moshe was a pragmatic, no-nonsense individual; a stoic by nature, somewhat impassive and perhaps aloof at times. After all, was not the claim of his sister and brother against him that he was unjustified to have adopted a life of celibacy from his wife Tzipora?!

Moshe therefore, is L’havdil the George Patton of the Jewish people; he does not tolerate fools and is single minded and focused in his dealings.

 Moshe is reasoned, unsentimental, prudent and practical.

When he sees how the women brought their mirrors to be used in the Mishkan he is shocked at the impropriety of such a donation. “An object used for the frivolous and almost petty act of romantic attraction should be now become an object of sanctity and holiness?”

Can a mirror meant for enticement and physical attraction be now become an object of total purity and pristine loftiness?

Moshe was aghast and horrified that these objects of feminine mystique and attraction should find a home in the Mishkan.

Hashem thought otherwise, “These objects are the most beloved objects for me. As through them a sense of togetherness was brought about between husband and wife and beautiful Jewish children were born into this world.”

Hashem was teaching Moshe and of course all of us an important lesson.

Of course Moshe is correct that we must all attempt to limit our cosmetic and skin-deep needs.

A recent article reported on a new trend for the super elite of New York where women have their own particular perfume scent made special for them.

Thomas Fontaine, a perfumer at Jean Patou … said a personal perfume scent could cost someone $30,000 to $50,000 to create a personal scent.

And of course Hashem was not advocating for everyone to have their own personal scent.

What then was the point of Hashem?

Of course we never want to be vain, slight and trivial individuals.

However, Hashem was telling Moshe: “Moshe, you are incorrect in not recognizing that we also cannot and should not strive to be cerebral, robotic, pragmatic dispassionate and detached automatons that are rational and analytical while being devoid of an appreciation of the emotional side of the human experience.”

Moses rejected them because they were made for temptation [i.e., to inspire lustful thoughts]. The Holy One, blessed is He, said to him, “Accept [them], for these are more precious to Me than anything because through them the women set up many legions [i.e., through the children they gave birth to] in Egypt.”

Hashem was teaching Moshe a great lesson which still resonates so loud and clearly today as it did back then.

We are not cerebral, robotic, emotionless human beings; we are emotion laden, sometimes irrational and always appreciative of human love and validation; which is so desperately needed within the realm of human relationships!

Hashem was telling Moshe, the little things in life between husband and wife and between friends are often the most beloved objects which actually facilitate the proper functioning of the entire human social unit.

The small acts of affection and love between husband and wife are never to trivialized or discarded; quite the opposite, often they are the foundation stones of a true solid and secure relationship.

I saw this personally in my own life.

Story One

I was once privileged years ago to arrive at the home of Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlitta when no one else was present.

His grandson Aryeh ushered me into his dining area and left me there alone.

There I witnessed a sight I shall never forget.

Rav Chaim sat on chair at the table and across from him sat the Rebbetzen.

She was reading to him all of the requests and petitions which had come her way that day.

“This person needs a Shidduch and this one needs a Refuah Sheleima and this one needs Parnossa…”

I much more appreciated the sense of love and connection which was apparent between husband and wife than the actual mundane going over the list.

They were not physically touching; nevertheless, it was a tender moment of togetherness and love which was being shared between a husband and wife deeply in love.

Rav Chaim was attentive and focused on the Rabbanit, and she is turn was totally absorbed with her husband. Each ones emotional needs were recognized and met.

 It was quite apparent that each one was satisfying the other’s daily needs for: time, attention and love.

It was not frivolous or mundane, it was holy of holies.

Story Two

Rav Chaim Kanievsky is not known as a man who wastes time on the unnecessary.

His father the Steiper Gaon was even more austere and aloof.

He was not one to crack a joke with or kibbutz around.

When his wife Miriam was alive their only son Rav Chaim would stop by the house for a quick breakfast on his way to Kollel and spend some time with his mother; often the Steipler would be present as well.

After the Rabbanit passed away Rav Chaim stopped coming.

One day when Rav Chaim was with his father the Steipler asked him why he ceased his daily visits.

Rav Chaim replied that since his mother had passed away there was no longer a reason to visit.

At that point the Steipler, a man known for his dispassionate and stoic personality, looked up at his only son and said, “Yes, but I enjoyed those visits as well”.

The Steipler was telling his son that we ‘pasken’ like Hashem.

The small signs of seemingly meaningless frivolous interactions between loved ones are often ‘the most beloved actions of all’.

Of course the Steipler loved learning with his son; of course he wanted him to study Torah; however, he also needed the small human contact and connection which is so basic for being a functional human being.

With all the talk and chatter around us, about learning more and more… and with all of the  hagiographic stories about how this Gadol barely wasted time talking to people which are circulating, let us never forget the lesson of the mirrors and lesson which Hashem taught Moshe.

Yes, it is necessary to be rational and often pragmatic and down to business, however, never forget the lesson of the righteous women of Mitzrayim who taught us that the small things in life like paying attention to each other and just ‘hanging out’ together is not only tolerated in Judaism, it is essential to laying the foundation for the continuity of the Jewish people and for building the Jewish home.

Spend a few minutes with someone who needs it.

Close the book and spend quality time with someone you love… by doing so you are dong no less than imitating Hashem himself.

We all need friends and we all need to feel wanted and loved… never, forget that those small items which foster that love and that connection, which are indicative of our feelings towards each other and which are the most beloved items in the eyes of Hashem.

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ 

The Short Vort’ - “Binyamin Zev ben Shlomo Z”l On his 9th Yahrtzeit” (3/16/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 25th of Adar 5775 and March 16, 2015

 

 

Binyamin Zev ben Shlomo Z”l On his 9th Yahrtzeit

 

Today is the ninth Yahrtzeit of my beloved father-in-law; Wille Herzka.

I have written previously written about him and have attached my previous piece at the end of today’s Vort.

My father in law had a special trait (Middah Tova) which I so admired in him among many of his other wonderful Middos.

He believed whole-heartedly in the words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim (128:2) “If you eat the toil of your hands, you are praiseworthy, and it is good for you.”

He understood these words literally and without the need to resort to any farfetched allegorical corruption of the true and simple meaning of the text.

He felt that what you work for is good and meaningful and what you get for free is worthless.

In a time when entitlements are the name of the game; when young Jewish men are too often ‘too proud’ to ‘lower’ themselves to work with their G-d given hands, my father in law headed the advice of Dovid HaMelech and worked with his hands to support his family.

When the Mishna in Brochus (2:4) speaks about a worker not being allowed to take time off to daven and say Shema in a complete form since he is working for someone else and it smacks of dishonesty, it was referring to my father in law.

He was a throwback to a time when you worked and you worked hard.

It was never beneath him to schlep a heavy air conditioner up the stairs and he was not embarrassed to have the palms of his hands calloused and grimy as he proudly fulfilled the words of the Psalmist “If you eat the toil of your hands, you are praiseworthy, and it is good for you.”

He was up early in the morning wrapping his Tefillin on his muscular left arm and when there was a heavy Torah to be lifted for Hagbah all eyes turned to my father in law.

He was meticulous with his work ethic and honest to the extreme.

To this day when I meet people from Washington Heights or Kew Garden Hills (the two primary neighborhoods which he worked in) and they will recall with fondness how friendly Willie was they will always add, “He was a pleasure to business with”.

His word was a word.

He sold air conditioners and he stood behind his work.

And he never ever felt entitled to anything he did not earn.

One last comment before I leave you with my previous biographical sketch.

As I mentioned, he worked hard and his work was strenuous and grimy.

His store was located on Amsterdam Ave. in the Washington Heights directly across the street from the Main Beis Medrash of Yeshiva University.

When he had Yahrtzeit or needed to daven Mincha at YU minyan across the street, he kept a worn, yet clean and presentable jacket in his store.

And when the time for Mincha arrived, he would wash his hands as best as he could, don his worn and sometimes dusty jacket and head out for Mincha.

I once joked with him as I asked, “Dad, your hands are still oily and your pants are still work pants and your shirt is still your work shirt and no one will say anything if you don’t wear the jacket; so why the insistence on the jacket?”

He looked at me and said, “It’s the proper thing to do. When I work I dress in the most effective clothes for my work and when I go to Shul I must at least attempt to dress in effective clothes for davening. It’s not a matter of making a fashion statement; rather, it’s a matter of being presentable at what you are doing.”

In our age of entitlement and perceived ‘rights’, my father in law was a throwback to no one less than Dovid HaMelech.

I continue to strive to reach his level of honesty and integrity and I miss him greatly.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

 

 

 

BELOW IS THE PIECE I SENT OUT ON LAST YEAR’S YAHRTZEIT

 

Today is the Yahrtzeit of my father in law, Binyamin Zev ben Shlomo Herzka; who was known to all as Willie Herzka.

Born in Vienna in 1930, he was separated from his parents before he was 10 and sent to England to live with non-Jewish families and in an orphanage for Jewish children whose parents remained under the Nazi boot.

Great Britain allowed some Jewish children to enter the country however, not their parents and therefore he was without the love, support and security of parents as he grew to adulthood.

His Bar Mitzvah was celebrated in an orphanage as he remained alone without knowing if his parents were even alive.

After his parents spent time in Bergen Belsen he was miraculously reunited with them after the war.

Together with his parents, he immigrated to these shores and settled in the Washington Heights neighborhood in Manhattan.

Soon after he was inducted into the American army and served his newly adopted country with pride during the Korean War.

However, despite all his hardships and tribulations, he was never bitter and always upbeat and happy.

After his military service and his marriage to my mother in law, he set up a business which initially repaired televisions and radios and eventually morphed into air conditioning service and repair.

From the moment I met him he treated me with love and friendship; however, he also accorded me (unearned) respect as he naturally admired and revered Torah scholars.

In the almost quarter of a century I spent as his son in-law we never once had any sort of disagreement or argument.

He was easy going and friendly to all and he was well known in Washington Heights (where I lived for my first six years of marriage and that is where his business was located) as an honest and reliable person.

He was a throwback to the times when a Jewish man was a blue collar hard working honest and trustworthy small business owner. Never once, did I ever hear anyone utter even the slightest hint of dishonesty with regard to his business ethics.

He worked hard and was always there when a family was sitting Shiva in the summer and needed an extra unit to cool the Shiva home.

He would arrive home quite late on Friday afternoon as if he could help one more family in making sure their home would be cool and comfortable for Shabbos he would be there.

His “kibud aim” (honor of his mother) was the stuff of legends.  His father was killed tragically after surviving Bergen Belsen in an accident in New York and his mother remained an almanah (widow) for over thirty years.

During those years, my father in-law ‘employed’ his mother as his ‘secretery’ in his store-front headquarters on Amsterdam Ave. in Washington Heights.

Although her message taking skills were not too accurate: “Oh, it was Mr. Greenberg who called? I thought he said Mr. Goldstein. Goldstein, Greenberg what’s the difference?” Nevertheless, he would never consider ‘replacing her’ as it accorded her a feeling of being needed and vital even if it meant losing a few calls.

I could go on and on about his honesty and his friendliness, however, perhaps what stands out in my mind is his final act of Chesed.

When I was visiting him during his final illness, he suddenly asked if everyone could please leave the room as he wanted to speak to me alone.

I was wondering what deathbed confession he wanted to share with me; however, I was totally awestruck by what he said.

“I know my time here is limited.”

He was totally calm and in control as he continued, “When I go I do not want my levaya running more than 45 minutes. Mommy (his wife, my mother in-law) cannot bear more than that.  I know her; I want to spare her the pain of a long drawn-out funeral. Promise me you will keep it to within 45 minutes.”

Here he was suffering from an incurable disease which would very soon take his life; hooked up to machines and tubes and the only thing on his mind was to save his wife the pain of enduring a long and painful funeral service.

The young boy from Vienna who grew up without the love and support of his parents; who sat Shiva for his own father shortly after he married and who worked hard his entire life to support his family had only one concern as he lay dying: to spare his wife any unnecessary pain and discomfort.

That is what occupied his mind as his body was slipping away.

He was beloved by many; indeed, even the local mailman came to pay a shiva call; however, I was privileged to call him Dad.

 

“If Not Now-Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “Surprise Hospital Visit” (3/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 22nd of Adar 5775 and March 13th 2015

 

Surprise Hospital Visit

 

Making the rounds at the hospital is often a challenging rabbinical duty for me.

What do you do when you arrive and the patient is sleeping?

 My first instinct is always to think, “Great, the person is sleeping and I certainly would never think of waking a sick person; I will quickly scribble a note indicating I was here and make a quick exit before they wake up.”

I embarrassingly admit that my thoughts are not indicative of the highest level of piety. My sense of ‘relief’ is not something I am proud of; however, the rabbi is all too human.

On one particular cold winter day I arrived at the hospital with three patients to visit. The first was elderly Mr. Greenspan (all names have been changed) who was never much of a talker and would be touched and thrilled that I came by and sat with him for a few moments. I enjoyed him and he was the last person to be taxing on my limited time.

Then was Gloria Moskowitz, at 86 she was as sharp as whip and I thoroughly enjoyed being in her presence. She would revel me with stories of New York from the 1940s when an egg cream (authors note: if you are not from New York; suffice for me to tell you that the delicious New York drink known as the egg cream, contains neither eggs nor cream and if you thought it did… you are just not a New Yorker) was five cents. She would regale me with stories of Friday night Onegs at the Young Israel of Flatbush on Coney Island Avenue and Ave I and how back then everyone was thrilled if a nice Jewish boy met a nice Jewish girl at the  Friday night Oneg as it guaranteed Jewish continuity.

I then went to my final visit, Irving Levinstein. Irving was a cantankerous nonagenarian who could be both belligerent and highly critical of anything and everything. “Rabbi, why before you came there was no such thing as “Kosher Milk?” was one of his more famous questions. He was also a quite accomplished kibitzer; Irving was never married and when asked to what he attributed his longevity he would reply without hesitation, “The secret to long life is never having a Schvigger!”

I arrived at this bedside I was prepared for some unsolicited criticism or for some of his wry humor; however, I was not expecting what he said.

“Rabbi, I see in many things you were correct. Stressing Torah learning and seeing the Shul once again filled with young people and their children is the only way we can survive.”

He was now so mellow and so calm. “You know I wish I had a family. I know I kibitz about not having a mother in law; however, it would have been nice to have grandchildren.”

He then became very serious and handed me a check. “Rabbi, I know I will not live forever; and if there is one thing I have learned over the last years is that the secret to our communal longevity is Jewish education. I have no children and no grandchildren; however, I would like to be part of the Jewish revival; here, please take this and help one child go to yeshiva.”

 He handed me a sealed envelope; as I arrived in my car I opened it up. Inside was a check for $15,000. Next to the check was a small note, on it was written, “For one child’s Jewish education, from Irving Levinstein, a proud but lonely Jew.”

As I placed the check in my pocket I realized once again that Irving Levinstein had done more for me and for the Jewish people than I had ever done for him.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ 

The Short Vort’ - “Rav Shlomo Zalman ZT”L” (3/11/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 20th of Adar 5776 March 11, 2015

 

Rav Shlomo Zalman ZT”L

 

Today is the twentieth Yahrtzeit of great sage Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (July 20, 1910 - February 20, 1995).

Rav Shlomo Zalman had the unique ability to see people for what they are: precious children of Hashem.

He always attempted to see the entire picture and always attempted to be sensitive to the feelings of others.

He was asked if one serve food to non-observant Jews when they come to visit.

On one hand, to give someone to eat with the knowledge that they will not recite the proper Brocha on the food is forbidden as you are facilitating their transgression.

On the other hand, if you do not offer them food as is the norm when someone comes to visit, you run the risk of hurting their feelings; and if you insist they make a Brocha you also run the risk of insulting them.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach answered unequivocally that you should offer them food even if you know they will not make a Brocha and you know they will be insulted if you insist that they recite one before they can partake of your food.

His rationale is ingenious.

What is the entire purpose of a Brocha?

 Obviously it brings about recognition of Hashem in the life of the one who recites the Brocha.

In this case, by not offering your guest food, or by insisting that he must make a Brocha before partaking of the food, you run the risk of alienating him further from Hashem.

If though, you offer the food in a friendly manner without compulsion and coercion, you cause your guest to see observant people in a positive light and your chances of bringing him closer to Hashem and His Torah are that much greater.

In short, ‘you can accomplish much more by offering the carrot with a smile than waving a stick over the head of your fellow Jew’.

If only we would follow his advice nowadays; I think we all would be better off.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Barbie’s Birthday” (3/9/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 18th of Adar 5775 and March 9, 2015

 

 


Barbie’s Birthday


 

Today, March 9, 1959 “Barbie” was born.

Since then, “It is estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide in over 150 countries, with Mattel claiming that three Barbie dolls are sold every second.” (Wikipedia)

The iconic doll which has become symbolic of the unique American materialistic culture has been the object of both communal desire and controversy.

The doll’s critics have claimed, “the doll gave girls misguided goals” (NY Times 4/29/02).

And in Saudi Arabia they have, “outlawed the sale of Barbie dolls, saying that she did not conform to the ideals of Islam. The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice stated "Jewish Barbie dollsare a symbol of decadence to the perverted West.” (Wikipedia)

Interestingly enough the doll indeed is a “Jewish Doll”.

The doll was created by Ruth Handler a Jewish woman from Denver who was married to over 60 years to Izzy (Elliot) Handler.

She designed the doll in 1959 and in debuted on March 9, 1959 at the American Toy Fair in New York City and as the saying goes, ‘the rest is history’.

Eventually Barbie, who was named after the Handler’s teenage daughter Barbara, would have a male companion ‘Ken’ who was named after the Handler’s son Ken.

The success of Barbie forced the company to hire a secretary for the doll to answer twenty thousand fan letters a week. By 1968, the Barbie Fan Club grew to 1.5 million members in the United States.

Barbie is seemingly an American success story as the daughter of Jewish immigrants became a multimillionaire in the land of opportunity.

Why is Barbie so popular?

Why is this doll the ‘must have’ toy for so many little girls?

 


The answer was provided by Mrs. Handler herself, “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be.”


Meaning, with a little imagination the doll became the vicarious life of its owner.

Suddenly the little girl could –through Barbie- transport and transform herself to glamourous and exciting life situations which seemed preferable to the life she had.

I am not going to comment on the desirability of this doll living vicariously a glamor-filled life of luxury and fun for any little girl.

 


And I agree with Mrs. Handler that we all should have dreams; and I admire her business acumen and her philanthropy to Jewish causes; however, the question I pose is what do we want our children to dream about?


No one denies that there is something beautiful in giving a child a chance to dream and to imagine you can grow and change your current status; the question is ‘what should that dream be?’

The Gemara in Brochus (55a) informs us that a person should daven to Hashem that he/she have ‘good dreams’; however, what are good dreams?

Do we dream of luxury homes and fancy clothes and designer outfits as Barbie possesses?

Or do we dream to help other people and impact this world with Chesed and with compassion?

Besides being the birthday of Barbie; today is also the Yahrtzeit of Rav Moshe Weber Zt”l who passed away in 2000.

Who was Rav Moshe Weber?

Did you ever go to the Kotel in your life?

Did you notice the stand on the left side of the men’s section where hundreds of Jews (especially soldiers) daily stop to put on Tefillin?

That stand was personally set up and manned by Rav Moshe Weber after the 1967 war.

Although Rav Moshe was a Chabad Chassid, originally this was not an official Chabad outpost; rather, it was the personal brain-child of one caring and concerned Jew.  

Rav Moshe Weber was a Yerushalmi Chabadnik who was born in Yerushalayim in 1914.

He lived in Meah Shearim and although he and his wife had no biological children their home became a center for anyone, observant or not, who needed a meal.

He was known as the ‘go-to’ person when someone wondered into Meah Shearim in search of a meal.

He loved all Jews and devoted his life to helping others.

Rav Moshe Weber’s father passed away in 1916 when Rav Moshe was only two years old.

It must have been difficult for an orphan during World War One to dream.

The famine in the city was rampant; spiritually, the city was in decline and here was a fatherless little boy alone and hungry.

Yet, Rav Moshe had dreams.

He had dreams of feeding hungry people when he would have the wherewithal to do so.

He had dreams of helping Jews connect back to their roots and eventually he would stand for hours at the Kotel encouraging men to don Tefillin.

I have warm and wonderful memories of Rav Moshe at his post at the Kotel, a smile always present on his angelic face.

He dreamed and he accomplished.

He never achieved the fame and wealth of Mrs. Handler.

He never had a secretery like Barbie did to answer twenty thousand letters per week.

His obituary never made the New York Times.

Yet, his dreams also became a reality and his dreams were fulfilled.

At the end of the day, how many lives have been improved through Barbie and how many through the Chesed of Rav Moshe Weber?

Whose legacy is more precious- Barbie’s or Rav Moshe Weber’s?

I think you know my answer.

 

 


“If Not Now, Then When? - Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “The Day After” (3/6/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Shushan Purim 5775 and March 6, 2015

 

The Day After

 

There is a “famous” (I placed ‘famous’ in quotes, because I am not really sure of the earliest source of this ‘saying’. Please inform me if you do know); which states that Purim is actually on a higher spiritual level than Yom Kippur. The rationale behind this statement is that Yom Kippur is merely “A Day (YOM) which K’ Purim; meaning a day which is ‘close’ or similar to Purim, yet, Purim itself is the ‘gold standard’

This statement is certainly enigmatic, after all, how is a day of partying and merrymaking in any way shape or form akin to the day spent in ascetic abstention from food and drink while being engrossed in serious and fervent prayer?

There are many different ‘takes’ on this puzzling phrase which compares Yom Kippur to Purim and therefore I am not hesitant to add my two cents to the already hefty mass of explanations which have been offered throughout the centuries.

Perhaps Yom Kippur is a likened to Purim not so much on the day on which it is celebrated for as we stated there is seemingly minimal connection between the actual religious practices of these two days.

Therefore I suggest that the comparison between Yom Kippur is not noticed on the day itself, rather Yom Kippur is similar to Purim vis a vis the ‘day after’.

Yesterday, on Purim we attempted to achieve a sense of communal love and compassion.

We drove around delivering food packages to our friends and neighbors and distributed Tzedoka to all who asked. We were happy and unified. No one cared how you dressed and what type of hat you placed on your head and we were all at peace and with joy with each other.

What happened to today?

Are we still feeling that sense of communal love and concern?

Are we still accepting of all, irrespective of how they dress?

Are we still ready to accept our neighbor’s cake and challah today as we were yesterday?

In short, do you feel more connected today to your fellow Jew than you did on Wednesday?

Perhaps this is what connects Yom Kippur to Purim.

On the day after Yom Kippur do we really feel connected in a more meaningful way to Hashem than we did on Erev Yom Kippur? Is the heightened spiritual awareness still present within us the day after Yom Kippur?

Or is the day after Yom Kippur too often like the day after Purim when we revert back to our ‘normal’ selfish and partisan divisions?

Perhaps the real challenge is Purim.

Perhaps Hashem is challenging us.

Perhaps Hashem is saying, “Yom Kippur will be for me like Purim is for you.”

“If you allow Purim to really signify a marked improvement in the way you relate to your brethren and if you allow the unity and friendship of Purim to permeate your life on the day after Purim; then I will allow Yom Kippur to continue to permeate ‘my life’ and continue to feel close to you as my children.”

Too often we hear talks and words of encouragement to keep the spirituality of Yom Kippur alive and well and extend it into the year.

Perhaps the real encouragement needed is to allow the compassion and friendship of Purim to continue to affect our lives in the days after Purim as well.

Enjoy your Shushan Purim and realize you live in a time when the largest singly Jewish population of any city in the world celebrates Purim today!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?” – Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation of Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “Haman in the Torah?” (3/2/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 12th of Adar 5775 and March 3, 2015

 

Haman in the Torah?

 

The Gemara (T.B. Hullin 139b) asks an interesting question: “Where is Haman (the wicked enemy of the Jews) to be found in the Torah?”

The Gemara answers cryptically that Haman is found in the Torah in the passuk in Bereishis (3:1). Hashem questions man after man realizes he is unclothed: “And He said, "Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"

 In the original Hebrew the Passuk reads: “HaMin HaEitz…” (“Have from the tree…”).

The Hebrew word HaMin is spelled with the three Hebrew letters “Heh”, “Mem” and “Nun”.

Those are the exact three letters which form the name “Haman”; and although the vocalization of the words is different, nevertheless, the Gemara is satisfied that since the three letters are identical in both texts, we have successfully found a source for “Haman” in the Torah.

Rav Aharon Kotler Zt”l (Mishnas Rebbe Aharon Cheilek Aleph) asks the obvious question, what possible connection could there be between the proper noun Haman and the compound question-word “HaMin”?

Rav Aharon Zt”l explains that really what the Torah is asking is not where the name Haman is mentioned; rather, what the Torah is really interested in is “Where is the danger of the most basic flaw of Haman’s personality hinted at in the Torah?”

Part ONE- The Question

Who is Haman?

Haman is a man who has risen from the depths of society to become an important and powerful advisor to the most commanding ruler of his time.

He has wealth and he has prestige and power.

He has children (according to our Sages he sired over 200 sons) and he has admirers; indeed, everyone was obligated to bow to him when he walked by.

Everyone did just that, except for one little Yiddle.

Mordechai the Jew refuses to bow before the evil Haman.

How does Haman react to Mordechai’s insubordination?

Surprisingly, he takes what ostensibly for a man in his positon should be viewed as a minor and insignificant slight, in a most personal way.

Let’s listen in on Haman’s reaction: (all quotes from Chapter five of the Megillah)

And Haman went out on that day, happy and with a cheerful heart, but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and he neither rose nor stirred because of him, Haman was filled with wrath against Mordecai.

But Haman restrained himself, and he came home, and he sent and brought his friends and Zeresh his wife.

 

And Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches and the multitude of his sons, and all [the ways] that the king had promoted him and that he had exalted him over the princes and the king’s servants.

And Haman said, "Esther did not even bring [anyone] to the party that she made, except me, and tomorrow, too, I am invited to her with the king.”

So far Haman sounds rational and in control as he recounts to his wife his personal powerful position.

Finally, Haman allows his true feelings to surface as he exclaims:

“But all this is worth nothing to me, every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting in the king’s gate."

What? Is Haman for real? He is got to be kidding?

Does he really mean to say that all this is worth nothing to me, every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting in the king’s gate???

“All this is worth nothing to me”- that is incredible!

He has power, wealth, prestige, honor, family, positon and esteem; however, all this is worth nothing to me?

How can Haman declare with a straight face, “all this is worth nothing to me?”

Part TWO- The Answer

What the Torah is really asking when its wants to know where is Haman mentioned in the Torah is according to Rav Aharon, “Where do we see in the Torah that there is a human trait which we all struggle with which can cause us to disregard all of the blessings in our life and can force us to be paralyzed to the point of where we engage in self-destructive actions?

To that question the Torah answers we see from Adam HaRishon (first man) that this struggle can be found.

Adam was born with all of his needs taken care of.

He had all of his physical desires fulfilled; there was only one small item precluded from him: he must not eat from the tree of knowledge.

Adam HaRishon, although he had everything, opted to disregard and ignore his privileged status and ultimately engaged in the most self-destructive act of recorded human history as he felt compelled to discount his envious position for the sake of attempting to attain the unattainable and in doing so lost everything he had previously cherished.

The Torah is telling us that we are all possessed of a little bit of Haman in that all of us-as we are hard-wired this way since the time of Adam HaRishon- have to struggle with the realization that part of the complex human psyche is the challenge of being dismissive and unappreciative of what we have and engage in self-destructive actions which ultimately bring about our own downfall.

When the Torah asked “Where is Haman in the Torah” it was really asking: is there a source in the Torah for the challenge that all of us have to be concerned with which causes us ignore our blessings and obsessively focus only on what we don’t have as opposed to being appreciative of what we have?

And the answer the Torah gives is, “Yes, indeed, there is such a human struggle and indeed it threads its all the way back to the Adam HaRishon!”

We all struggle with the battle of Haman; everyone has this challenge and indeed, I dare say the challenge is not at all exclusively to our detriment.

 

Part THREE- The Balance

Does not the Torah tell us, “Whoever loves silver will not be sated with silver” (Koheles 5:9) and the Talmud (Bavli Makos 10a) tells us that this refers not just to material items such as silver and gold; rather, it refers to spiritual items such as Mitzvohs?

The Gemara informs us that this passuk refers to Moshe and his insatiable need to perform Mitzvohs?

Is not Moshe guilty of the same ‘crime’ of Haman of never being satisfied with what one has?

The answer is of course is an adamant and definitive ‘no’!

We are indeed eternally grateful to Hashem for allowing us never to sit complacent and rest on our laurels.

 The greatest men of our people were constantly and consistently striving for greatness and for more and more accomplishments.

 In this way there is a similarity between insatiable desire for honor in Haman and the insatiable desire for Mitzvohs in Moshe and David HaMelech.

Yet, any similarity ends there.

While both were insatiable in their wants; however, there is a huge distinction between them.

Haman’s insatiable greed was so all consuming that it blinded him from appreciating the true blessings of his life.

Moshe on the other hand was never blinded by his Mitzvah needs, in fact, no matter how restless he was in his craving for growth and spiritual elevation, he never for a second allowed himself to disregard and forget the bounty that Hashem had blessed him with and he was eternally grateful to Hashem for His blessings.

Of course we must all struggle with the want and the desire to achieve and to grow; however, we must be on guard never to allow our desire to grow to blind us to the blessings we already possess.

This is the difference between Haman and Moshe.

While Haman strove for perfection in power at the expense of everything else in his life; Moshe striving was built on the appreciation of what he has.

Haman needed to achieve even to the point of ignoring and destroying all he had been blessed with as he says: all this is worth nothing to me!

Yet Moshe was constantly in praise and in appreciation for whatever he had and with that appreciation he attempted to grow more.

It is interesting to note that the Medrash (Medrash Rabbah Bereishis) parallels the downfall of the Nachash (the proverbial ‘snake’), Korach and Haman and groups them together.

Ostensibly they are a strange grouping with little or no connection.

What though is the common denominator among these three?

The answer is simple; all three failed the challenge of balancing the desire for growth with the danger of being dismissive of the present.

The Nachash advocated for allowance to eat from the tree of knowledge; ignoring and disregarding the fruits of all other available trees. So too, Korach and Haman irrespective of their G-d given wealth and positons, failed, as their obsession for more was so unbridled and unchecked that it allowed them to be dismissive of the true blessings they possessed and ultimately led to their own demise.

This is the challenge of life.

We are blessed with a restless nature which should not be complacent and content; we must always strive for greater and greater heights.

Yet this need and drive to grow and improve must always be harnessed and yoked to the recognition of the blessings we have. We can never allow the drive for growth to be so encompassing that we are led to self-destructive behavior.

The need for growth must be anchored with the recognition and the appreciation of the blessings we have and we must never allow the desire to grow to blind us and allow to forget just how blessed we truly are.

Strive for greatness; yet, simultaneously appreciate the blessings you already have.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “The Loneliest, Yet, Most Meaningful Purim” (3/2/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday Erev Shabbos Zachor 5775 and February 27, 2015

 

The Loneliest, Yet, Most Meaningful Purim

 

It was a time when the brown paper bag which your mother packed you lunch in on Monday was expected to be returned from school folded and cleaned to be reused the remainder of the week.

The Parker fountain pen you received at your Bar Mitzvah was projected to last you through all of high school.

The one and only house phone was situated on a small desk-like chair in the hallway of your apartment in East Flatbush.

When the phone rang, all went quiet.

No one could talk in their bedroom or kitchen on the phone; that was one of those things which was just not done.

And if by chance your cousin Bob called from ‘The Island’ which was considered ‘ long distance’, the entire household held their breath as the father of the household counted his words as he spoke, for each precious minute which ticked away on a ‘long distance phone’ cost expensive pennies which were guarded dearly.

Every Shabbos Marvin Dubinsky and his best friend Ikey would make their way to the Young Israel of East Flatbush on East 89th.

 For Mincha and Shlosh Shiddush they went to the “Ave ‘A’ Shul” because there they served herring in cream sauce.

On Sunday morning, they davened at Rabbi Hecht’s Shul because they just loved the egg kichel given out after morning Minyan.

It was a happy time and yet, it was a tough time.

Most of the fathers were blue-collar workers and many if not most of the mothers tendered the home or worked in the New York City Public School system.

Everyone was special and everyone was cherished.

There was Hymie the plumber, who no matter how many tools he brought to your house, he always forgot the special wrench needed for the job. “I’ll be back after lunch with the right tool”, he would say. For the next three hours we had to ‘dance’ around all of the tools Hymie left scattered on the kitchen floor.

And there was Moishe the photographer. Moishe would schlep forty pounds of equipment to different homes to take pictures of new born children with the hope that the families would purchase his photographs.

It was a time when parents went to work with fever and never took a day off.

 Those families, who were staunchly Shomer Shabbos, could hardly afford to take off additional days such as Chol HaMoed or even Purim, for no work meant no pay. Money was tight and not working could mean not having chicken for Shabbos or even being fired.

It was March 18th 1965, a Thursday and it was Purim.

Ikey’s father was a butcher and there was no way he could take off work on a Thursday. He arose early, listened to the Megillah and sufficed with a salami sandwich at work for the Purim Seuda.

His mother was a secretery at a local business. They were behind in their tuition payments and she could not afford to leave work early. She would also eat ‘the Seuda’ at work; and that left Ikey at home alone for Purim.

After Mincha at Rabbi Zimmerman’s Shul, Ikey walked home slowly and alone. When he arrived at his empty house, he took out a cold piece of chicken from the fridge and ate it with a roll he had purchased for 7 cents at the bakery on Ave A.

As Ikey sat in his kitchen alone and lonely, a tear rolled down his cheek and onto the drumstick. He tasted the tear’s saltiness as he bit into the chicken.

Every year I think back to my tear-covered-drumstick as I now sit at my own Purim Seuda surrounded by family and friends.

I remember my loneliness from 50 years ago as I ate my cold drumstick; however, I now realize that my lonely Purim Seuda was a small price to pay in comparison to my parent’s commitment to my attending Yeshiva.

As I sing Shir Hamaalos prior to bentching after the Purim Seuda an unseen tear forms in my eye as I recite the words: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” as I recall my hard working parents who literally ‘sowed’ with tears-(both mine and theirs) - so that today my family and I could reap the benefits of their hard work in joy.

Those were hard times; not at all like our times of entitlement and overabundance.

Loneliness is hard; however, when you are privileged to see the joyous ending, the pain becomes easier and in some ways even pleasant to bear.

It’s wonderful to live at a time where almost everyone is home on Purim and the neighborhood is crowded with cars and mini-vans delivering Mishloach Manos throughout the neighborhood.

I am no longer alone; however, I often long for those times back in Brooklyn when somehow, even with my lonely Purim Seuda, life was simpler and in many ways more meaningful.

Often, “less is more”.

 

Wishing All a Wonderful Purim,

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Purim is Pluralistic “ (3/1/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 10th of Adar 5775 and March 1, 2015

 

Purim is Pluralistic

PIP Revisited

 

A number of years back I began a campaign entitled PIP.

For those unfamiliar with PIP a quick history is in order.

I began to notice, (and of course this is from a Rabbi’s view), that many people were confiding in me that Purim was less than their most favorite holiday.

Women complained that they felt entangled in a web of competition with other women as to who could come up with the cutest, brightest and most creative ‘theme Mishloach Manos’.

Men vented to me their frustrations as the costs of feeding their family’s insatiable ‘need’ to add just ‘one more name’ to an already inestimable list of people whom ‘we must send Mishloach Manos to’ were depleting their already meager savings.

Families went scrambling to put something together-when someone who was not on their list appeared at the door with unexpected Mishloach Manos- in a frantic effort to avoid the sin of all sins; namely: ‘not having a Mishloach Manos to reciprocate with!’

After hearing the anguished cries of mothers and fathers and after witnessing expanding waist lines-

 I finally proclaimed: PIP!!!

Purim is Pashut!

Just give one or two (or a few more) Mishloach Manos to the people you think might really benefit from them, and when people come unexpectedly to the door, no need to scramble and no need to pull it together- just say we are PIPers and then there is no need to reciprocate.

This plan seemed logical, practical and healthy; after all does anyone really need 790 Hamantashen?

Alas, this year we have decided to revisit PIP.

No, I am not planning to be crafting adorable theme baskets covered with tinsel and bows and topped with a lyrical poem about Mordechai and me.

And I am not playing partisan politics and aligning myself with the ‘right to give back Mishloach Manos Movement’- or as they are commonly referred to: M & Ms.

What I am doing though is ‘listening’.

Many of you have written to me that despite the heartfelt pleas of those women who feel burdened by creative/thematic Mishloach Manos, many other women actually look forward and cherish the activity.

Others have informed me that while perhaps the rabbi is given a ‘rabbinic dispensation’ and is not expected to reciprocate for every Mishloach Manos his family receives, other feel just plain awkward when they take and do not give back.

I have listened and I have heard.

This year I am promoting PIP again; however, this year it stands for something else.

This year PIP means: Purim is Pluralistic.

How dare I deprive those artistically inclined women and men from finding spiritual expression to their creativity on one of the holiest days of the calendar?

And how can I be so pompous and pretentious as to proclaim that ‘one may receive; yet, one may not give’?

Therefore, this year I advocate and support a revisited and revised version of PIP.

Please note, this version is new and improved and you must discard and disregard all older versions of PIP if you want Purim is Pluralistic to work in your home.

As the passuk says:  “Israel has no king; everyone shall do as they see fit”; (Shoftim 17:6); so too, there is no king in Passaic and all shall do as they see fit!

This year I proclaim:

·       The ‘creationists’ should embrace their creativity and make Mishloach Manos to their hearts content.

·       The ‘reciprocators’ should and will be allowed to reciprocate and create their ad-hoc Mishloach Manos when the unexpected knock at the door.

·       The list shall be endless and no man, woman or even rabbi shall have the right to limit the amount of people who shall receive Mishloach Manos.

·       Concurrently, those that would like to maintain a ‘don’t give- don’t take’ attitude should be allowed to so with a sense of dignity and pride.

·       No one should be shamed into giving more than they want and no one should feel awkward if they choose to be non-reciprocating.

·       Purim shall be truly Pluralistic as dueling understandings of the day shall co-exist in peace and harmony.

 

Therefore, this year we say Purim is Pluralistic and in the merit of our being tolerant and accepting of others and their needs and their wants, Hashem should hear our Tefillos and should bring us the true meaning of PIP- Peace in Passaic and Peace on the entire Planet!

 

Wishing all a joyous Purim,

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Whatever You Want To Call It!” (2/27/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday Erev Shabbos Zachor 5775 and February 27, 2015

 

Whatever You Want To Call It!

 

The other day I asked about what is a ‘nes’ (miracle) and what is not.

I do not know the answer.

Yet, there is one thing I do know; appreciate all aspects of your health when you have them.

Being in bed for the last 48 hours and having an aching feeling over your entire body is no fun.

Not being able to concentrate on anything for more than 45 seconds is no delight.

And waking up and not being sure if its 4 AM or 4 PM as you have no idea how long you slept is no walk in the park.

So whatever you want to call it; appreciate your health when you have it!

I hope for now on I will!

Good Shabbos to all

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel  

The Short Vort’ - “Miracle on Ice” (2/22/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 3rd of Adar 5775 and February 22, 2015

 

Miracle on Ice

 

In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of college players, defeated the four-time defending gold-medal winning Soviet team at the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York on Feb 22, 1980, exactly 35 years ago today.

Team USA went on to win the gold medal by winning its last match over Finland. In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the "Miracle on Ice" the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century. As part of its 100th anniversary celebrations in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) chose the "Miracle on Ice" as the century’s number-one international ice hockey story. (Wikipedia)

 

Since the game took place on Friday night, it is doubtful that any of us can recall the actual ‘live’ excitement of the event. The stunning climax of the game was immortalized by the sportscaster Al Michaels, who was calling the game on ABC as he delivered his famous call:

              “11 seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now!                   Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?! YES!!!

 

Do you believe in miracles?

Are miracles really manifested when an underdog hockey team defeats a superior opponent?

What exactly was the upshot of this ‘miracle’?

Did the miracle usher in world peace?

Was the Soviet Union defeated in the “Cold War” by virtue of the Miracle on Ice?

What defines a miracle anyway?

Does a sport’s team surprising victory over its archrival really constitute a miracle?

Does this event deserve to be classified as G-dly intervention and altering the ‘normal’ course of ‘nature’?

Obviously, the victory, notwithstanding the joy and excitement which the win inspired in many people, would not be classified by us as an example of the miraculous manifestation of Hashem’s providence in the world.

It is difficult to believe that Hashem was exercising His rarely used miracle mode to cause a hockey team to win a game; however, that is life, when people want to find G-d and to claim He is on ‘their team’ then they will easily and casually call their victories miracles; when in truth they are just part of the normal ups and downs of life.

Think about the Miracle on Ice the next time you are quick to claim that the parking spot you found in front of the Chasunah Hall must be nothing short of a ‘miracle’.

Think about me who am in the car directly behind you; why were you privileged to be the recipient of the ‘miracle’ more than me?

Are we to quick to applaud ourselves and pat ourselves on the back and call our ‘unexpected wins’ miracles?

Just wondering

 

“If Not Now, Then When?” – Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Following Up” (2/18/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 29th of Shevat 5775 and February 18, 2015

 

 


Following Up


 


 

 


 


Many of you were touched with the Short Vort regarding Ora Cohen, the terror victim, which appeared in the February 12th 2015 edition of SV and was entitled “The Greatness of Never Forgetting”.


You asked me how you can help and if I knew of a way to contact Mrs. Cohen and facilitate reaching out to other victims of terror as well.

I am pleased to inform you that after speaking with Mrs. Cohen she has told me that she would be thrilled to receive a phone call and even a visit from anyone who is interested.

Her phone number (if calling from the US) is 011-972-54-845-1179.

If you are calling from Israel it is: 054 845 1179.

She is alone and without family and would appreciate people reaching out to her.

I am also enclosing a letter I received from an organization which assists victims of terror which I am sure many of you will also find helpful.

Once again, I thank all of you for your kindness and support and may we never forget those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

 

Beginning Forwarding Letter:

 

"Kol HaKavod" to you for a beautifully written and moving narrative. 

I am writing to you from Ohr Meir & Bracha - The Terror Victims Support Center in Yerushalayim.  Our organization is very familiar with the story of Ora Cohen.

Without revealing too much information, Ora has been a recipient of financial and emotional assistance from Ohr Meir & Bracha since the beginning of her journey as a Victim of Terror.

Each week we package and deliver 400 baskets of food to families such as Ora Cohen’s.  We subsist solely on private donations.  As such, I was hoping you might agree to pass along your letter to your congregants and other interested parties.  With Purim and Pesach on the horizon we are reaching out and asking that "Matanot Laevoynim" and "Maot Chitim" be donated to Ohr Meir & Bracha.  Donors can donate on line or through our office in NY to receive a tax deductible receipt.

I am happy to supply you with whatever information you might need.

Secondly, please pass along an invitation to Aviva to join us on a Thursday morning to pack our baskets.  Please let Aviva know that we would be happy to host her entire class.

I have attached 2 P.R. pieces which I hope will tell the rest of the story.  Please visit us virtually at www.terrorvictims.org.il .  When in Israel, please visit us at Yakim Street 3/1 in the Arzei HaBira neighborhood of Yerushalayim. 

Thank you so much for "listening".                                                                           

 

Shoshana

Administrative Assistant

3/1 Yakim Street

P. O. Box 41055

Jerusalem 91410   Israel

02-582-4630/718-705-7444

We’re On Social Media!

 

“If Not Now, Then When”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ             

The Short Vort’ - “Do You Think I Would Forget About You?” (2/17/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 28th of Shevat 5775 and February 17, 2015

 

 


Do You Think I Would Forget About You?


 


 


There are no coincidences in this world.

I live across the street from a public school.

There are two paths I can take to Shul.

One way which passes the ‘back’ of the school, is the usual way I go; as it is closer to my office and I like to keep my cell phone in my office during davening.

The second less frequented way is the one which passes the front of the public school.

Today, for ‘some reason’ I chose the second less traveled path.

At about 3:30 PM I noticed a parent coming out of the school with their child in tow.

It was about thirty minutes after dismissal so I imagined the parent was delayed in picking up the child.

 


My hunch was confirmed as I heard the child say to her mother, “Mommy, where were you? I was so scared you had forgotten about me?”


 


The mother, with her voice raised, answered emphatically, “Do you really think I would ever abandon you and just forget about you and leave you in this place forever? Have I ever forgotten about you before?”


Suddenly it was all clear to me.

I knew why I passed the school precisely now and why I had ‘chosen’ this path.

I am the little girl in the scene and her mother is Hashem.

 


Often, when I am scared and lonely and feel abandoned I call out to Hashem and say, “Where are you? I am so scared that you have forgotten about me?”


 


And He, just as the little girl’s mother did, answers, “Do you really think I would ever abandon you and just forget about you and leave you in this place forever? Have I ever forgotten about you before?”


I just wish that I could hear HIS voice as clearly as the little girl heard her mother’s voice.

Is He whispering or am I not listening?

I wish I knew.

 

 


“If Not Now, Then When?” –Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Why I Hate Cell Phones (sometimes) “ (2/16/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 28th of Shevat 5775 and February 17, 2015

 

Why I Hate Cell Phones (sometimes)

 

I can still recall the day back in the late 1990s.

 A friend of mine had purchased for me a new cell phone.

I had made it! I had arrived!

No longer would I feel envious when people’s pockets vibrated in front of my face and I just had to stand there and drool with jealousy.

No longer did I have to sit in my car just listening to Shiurim on my ‘modern cassette player’; I could now talk up a storm like all the ‘rich’ people do by using my cell phone!

It did not take me long to realize, “Oy, was I ever fooled!”

Besides the fact that they obviously do serve a purpose and they are convenient in certain circumstances; however, the jury is still out if the good outweighs the bad.

So since Rosh Chodesh Adar is just around the corner, I present my favorite reasons for hating the cell phone.

1.       You are never safe from having it ring; as the famous Nigun goes: “It rings when you are sleeping. It rings when you are awake. It doesn’t matter if you are bad or good the ringing goes on and on… So you better watch out and you better not cry. You better not pout and I’m telling you why. Your cell phone might be ringing right now!”

2.       When someone calls you on it you can hear everything they are doing even if they hope you cannot hear. We all know what the sound of a toilet flushing sounds like; however, do I have to hear it on the cell phone?  Do people have to go shopping for shoes (“Can I see a size 9 in brown?”) as they talk to me on their phone? 

3.       I hate when people call me when they are outdoors in a windy area and they keep talking to me as if I hear every word. All I can hear is the wind blowing as they ask me an important question and I answer. However, I always wonder if my answer is as Shabsi Zisel ben Avraham says in his famous Nigun, “The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind.”

4.       Ever have someone leave you a message from their cell phone? I have and I am still trying to figure out the first one I received in 1997. Usually it sounds like this, “Rabbi Eisenman, this is Boorlelooken Koodelsl I have a question. If booolleees and toolleesss and gooogooles bloook mad mookelss… please call me back at nine, bluesy haaaa two nine. It’s very urgent. Click!

5.       I can just see the caller’s face as I don’t call back as I have no idea who even called. He is muttering to himself, “I called Rabbi Eisenman two hours ago, why hasn’t he called back!”

6.       No matter how hard I listen and no matter how loud you talk, I just don’t hear as well on the cell phone as I do on an old fashioned landline. Call me ancient and call me prehistoric; but, just don’t call me late for dinner; however, I never hear you well on the cell phone.

These are just some of our random reasons for despising the cell phone… I have much more to say, however, my cell phone is ringing!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “The Greatness of Never Forgetting” (2/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 23rd of Shevat 5775 and February 12th 2015

 

The Greatness of Never Forgetting

 

Ora Cohen was born in Iran and lives in Yerushalayim.

I assume that the mere mention of her name does not jar anyone’s memory; truth be told, that is exactly the issue- it should ‘shake’ you up.

I would never have crossed paths with Mrs. Cohen if not for my daughter Aviva.

Aviva is studying at Lahav Bais Yakov Extension Program in Yerushalayim; a Seminary run by my good friends, Rabbi and Mrs. David Goldstein located in Har Nof.

As with many seminaries, special speakers often come to speak to the girls.

Last week Ora Cohen came; I present to you a condensed version of her story.

August 19, 2003 was an oppressively hot day in Jerusalem.

Ora’s family decided to make a trip to the Kosel to give the children a place to go and to get some fresh air.

After davening at the Wall, the family boarded the number two bus.

As the bus turned onto Shmuel HaNavi Street, Ora noticed an obese Chareidi-looking man attempting to board the bus from the back door. He jammed his chubby fingers into the door as it was closing and forced it open.

Ora’s two oldest children had given up their seat on the crowded bus to let a pregnant woman sit down.

Ora watched as the large man took one step up unto the bus and then her world went black; almost, but not quite, forever.

Over twenty were killed and over 130 wounded. Many of the victims were children.

At the hospital she was asked, “How many children do you have?”

“An hour ago I had five children! Am I still a mother?”

Miraculously, all of Ora’s children survived.

Her youngest, one month old Elchanan was found buried alive under the terrorist; he was miraculously protected by the sheer bulk of the bomber!

The pregnant woman did not survive.

The girls were mesmerized by Ora’s story.

 They were touched to the core by her belief that only through the caring and love of her fellow Jews was she able to survive.

Yet, there was another message which was clear to the girls.

Ora pleaded with the girls not to forget about her and other terror victims especially once they vanish from the headlines.

“Please do not forget about us now, even a dozen years later. Don’t forget about my family and other terror victims especially when we are no longer ‘in the spotlight’!”

The girls took her message to heart.

Shira Cohen’s 13th birthday was approaching.

They arranged to have Shira out of the house and then the girls showed up with balloons and with lots and lots of love; they danced and sang and showed the family that they had not forgotten about them.

I called Ora Cohen to wish her daughter a Happy Birthday and to ask her permission to write this story.

She thanked me and said, “I can’t tell you how much that visit meant to us. I speak all over; however, this was the first time in years that anyone followed up to visit with us. Tell everyone never to forget about the terror victims. People remember us at the time of tragedy; however, don’t forget about us a year later and don’t forget about us ten years later!”

Ora Cohen begged me. “Tell your readership never to forget about us, the victims of terror. I have no family in this county, my sole support and comfort comes from the love of the Jewish people; please never forget about us. Even many years later always remember us. We still need you!”

I related to Aviva what Ora said.

 Aviva answered, “Ta, I know we made her happy; but we really feel that we are even happier -to have made her happy -than she is. We realized that to reach out to those whose suffering is ‘headline news’ is something everyone wants to do; however, to be able to connect with someone twelve years later and to tell them we have not forgotten about you, that is a true act of Chesed.”

Once again I realized that much more than I think I am teaching Aviva, in truth I am continually learning from her.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Brian Williams” (2/9/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 20th of Shevat 5775 and February 9, 2015

 

Brian Williams

 

I never heard of Mr. Williams until I started noticing his name on the front page of the newspapers these last few days.

For those who are in the dark as to what I am referring to, Mr. Williams has been for a number of years the Emmy-winning, anchorman on the “NBC Nightly News”.

The problems for Mr. Williams began “a week ago when he broadcast a segment in which he was shown at a Rangers game in a tribute to a retiring command sergeant major, who, Mr. Williams suggested, had evacuated him from a dangerous situation in Iraq.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/09/business/media/brian-williams-and-memories-retread-from-a-perch-too-public.html?ref=us

Mr. Williams claimed:

              “The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an R.P.G.,” Mr. Williams said, introducing the segment, referring to a rocket-propelled grenade. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.” (Ibid)

The problem however, was that Mr. Williams was in fact never in any helicopter which came under fire.

He arrived in a safe and sound helicopter about an hour after the first helicopter took fire.

Later, when Mr. Williams was confronted with the facts:

“Mr. Williams acknowledged his mistake on his newscast last Wednesday, and offered up a muddled apology, saying he had conflated events in his memory.” (Ibid)

However, it appears that his ‘muddled apology’ was very insufficient.

The public outcry has not subsided and finally, Mr. Williams stated: “As managing editor of ‘NBC Nightly News,’ I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days.” (Ibid)

The furor and controversy continues for the time being unabated.

What options are there for the besieged Mr. Williams?

Should he just step down from his post and call it quits?

Should he continue to lay low in the hope that the storm passes and he will be able to resume his position without further ramifications?

What would you do?

Interestingly, (as the article points out):

“Joe Summerlin, who was actually on the Chinook (helicopter) that came under fire, well ahead of Mr. Williams’s helicopter, said he was not out for blood, but he finds Mr. Williams’s response so far to be insufficient.

“Everyone tells lies,” he wrote. “Every single one of us. The issue isn’t whether or not you lie. It is how you deal with it once you are caught. I thank you for stepping down for a few nights, Mr. Williams. Now can you admit that you didn’t ‘misremember’ and perform a real apology? I might even buy you a beer.”

{The author of the article writes :}

Mr. Summerlin is right.

 I wrote a book some years back about the nature of memory and the stories we tell ourselves and others. Stories tend to grow over time and, if they are told often enough, they harden into a kind of new truth for the teller.” (Ibid)

Meaning, according to the author of the article, Mr. Summerlin –who was on the real helicopter which came under fire- is correct in stating that he is not so upset that Mr. Williams lied. After all as he wrote, “Everyone tells lies,”- “Every single one of us. The issue isn’t whether or not you lie. It is how you deal with it once you are caught.” (Ibid)

Is this true?

Is it true that “Everyone tells lies; every single one of us.”?

Do you tell lies?

Do I?

Is it true that the ‘real’ “issue isn’t whether or not you lie. It is how you deal with it once you are caught.”?

Would your wife (or husband) be happy with the statement, “Everyone tells lies; every single one of us.”?

Obviously, all of us tell stories  of our exploits and perhaps over the years the stories we tell our children about our childhood pranks become somewhat ‘exaggerated’ and ‘inflated’; does that make us liars?

Is it true that the “issue isn’t whether or not you lie. It is how you deal with it once you are caught.”?

Speaking about truth…

Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld states (quoted in the Sefer “HaIsh Al HaChoma” (Part 2; page 154), based on the verse in Tehillim (87:5), “And to Zion it will be said, "Man after man was born in her," and He will establish it on high”; and on the Talmud’s understanding (T.B. Kesuvos 75a) that the verse refers to those who were physically born in Jerusalem and to those who ‘anticipate’ arriving and seeing Jerusalem. Based on this, he maintains that one may take a ‘false’ oath stating that so and so was indeed born in Jerusalem even though they weren’t. For as long as a person ‘anticipates’ seeing the city they are considered to have been ‘born’ there, and therefore you can even take an oath stating that someone who was not physically born in Jerusalem was indeed ‘born’ in Yerushalayim.

How do we relate to such a statement?

What exactly is a lie anyway?

Just more food for thought; have a truthful day.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - ““A story and two questions” (2/5/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 16th of Shevat 5775 and February 5, 2015

 

PLEASE READ THE STORY BELOW AND ANSWER TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE THE TWO QUESTIONS AT THE END OF THE STORY; YOU HAVE TEN MINUTES TO COMPLETE THE ASSIGNMENT.

 

Just Helping Out

“A story and two questions”

I was struggling to get my car out of a parking spot.

The car was locked in a wall of snow.

I took out my mighty shovel and began to dig my car out of the white grave it was buried in.

As I shoveled, I realized that this was too much of a job for me and it would take me quite a while.

Suddenly, a car stopped next to me and a Latino man got out of the car and before I could say Roberto Clemente, he had removed a shovel from his trunk and began to shovel with me.

As we were working together, one thought kept revolving around my brain, “How much should I pay him?”

Was $20 enough? After all, he was working hard; a lot harder than me!

Finally we finished the job and he waited until I pulled the car out of the spot and watched until I had rescued my car from its snowy prison; only then was he prepared to leave.

I exited the car and had prepared twenty dollars in my gloveless hand which I was about to give to my anonymous helper.

As I handed him the money, he recoiled as if I was handing him a snake!

“Here, please this is for you; I wanted to thank you for helping me!”

He looked at me and with an incredulous expression he said, “What, take money for helping another human being? I could never do that; especially that you look like a rabbi; how could I take money from a rabbi? Please, it was my pleasure!”

And with that he jumped in his car and drove off.

THE END

I have two questions for my readership:

1.       What would you do if you would see a man who looked like a priest trying to shovel out his car?

2.       If you did stop and help and he offered you money would you take it?

Just wondering

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “The Day the Music Died” (2/3/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 14th of Shevat 5775 and February 3, 2015

 

The Day the Music Died

 

On this day in 1959, rising American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson were killed when their chartered plane crashed in Iowa a few minutes after takeoff.

 

I must admit, if I had not noticed on one of the news sites which list ‘This Day in History’ I never would have known that today is: “The Day the Music Died”.

I never heard of any the three aforementioned musicians as I was not even born prior to their death.

What then is significance of their death?

Singer Don McLean memorialized Holly, Valens and Richardson in the 1972 No. 1 hit "American Pie," which refers to February 3, 1959 as "the day the music died."

When Mr. McLean released his song “American Pie” I was already an American teenager and recall the song well.

The single was a number-one US hit for four weeks in 1972.

About the song:

 Over eight minutes long, the lyrics for "American Pie" have earned much attention over the years, with fans and critics offering many attempts at interpretation.

 McLean has generally declined to comment on these interpretations, only admitting that the repeated references to "The Day the Music Died" describe the death of rock & roll icon Buddy Holly.

The song spans six verses, ranging over a course of ten years; the various verses contain lyrics widely believed to refer to popular artists, songs and incidents of the 1960s, with varying degrees of obfuscation. (Wikipedia)

 

Notwithstanding the mystification which surrounds the song, the phrase "the day the music died” indeed, refers to February 3, 1959.

Many music enthusiasts continue to this day to analyze the song with the intensity usually reserved for a difficult passage in the Gemara with many commentators suggesting interpretations akin to a Rashi or a Tosfos!

Interestingly enough, when Mr. McLean himself was asked as to the true ‘meaning’ of the song he replied with what is no doubt the most truthful of answers:

When asked what "American Pie" meant, McLean jokingly replied, "It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to." (Ibid)

Mr. McLean remained a poplar folk singer, however, there is no doubt that his signature song and claim to fame is his song “American Pie”; as he himself admitted.

Perhaps this is what Chazal meant when they said in Pirkei Avos (4:3) “Do not scorn any man, and do not discount anything; for there is no man who has not his hour, and no thing that has not its place.”

Never give up; you never know, what you produce today might help you for the rest of your life!

February 3, 1959 may have been the ‘day the music died’ for the three deceased musicians, Holly, Valens and Richardson; however, for Mr. McLean it became the ‘day the music was born and lived forever’.

You never know.

 

If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Super Sunday” (2/1/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 12th of Shevat 5775 and February 1, 2015

 

Super Sunday

 

Today is Super Sunday; the day of the Super Bowl.

Last year’s Super Bowl set a record with an average of 111.5 million viewers, and the recent trend suggests that the number will be even higher today.

Since there are so many viewers, you can imagine it costs advertisers a pretty penny to put their products out there.

Indeed, this year, a 30-second spot is an eye-popping $4 million while a 60-second spot goes for a jaw-dropping $8 million.

So imagine if you had 8 million dollars to spare, what message would you want to convey to over 100 million people?

If you had the opportunity to communicate one 60 second message to over 110 million people, what message would you choose?

In truth, the Talmud (Shabbos 31a) informs us of just such a case.

The Gemara relates how a potential convert said to Hillel, (I am of course para-phrasing) “I am interested in your way of life; however, I have very little time. “On one foot” can you tell me the essence of your entire Torah?”

Without hesitation Hillel said to the man, “"What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; all the rest is explanation!"

That would be my message to the entire world.

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; all the rest is explanation!"

The good news is you don’t have to wait for Super Sunday and you don’t have to spend a dime.

The message of Hillel is worth more than any product some advertisement agency is attempting to convince you of the necessity in your acquiring it.

The message of Hillel is timely as well as timeless and is of greater benefit to you than Coca Cola or any sneaker that some corporation is spending 8 million dollars to entice you to buy.

If you don’t believe me, try Hillel’s advice tomorrow and realize how better your day is.

Wishing you all the best and for those of you who are watching the game: please don’t overeat.

And just remember: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; all the rest is explanation!"

 

If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Rose Shapiro” (1/30/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 10th of Shevat 5775 and January 30, 2015

 

Rose Shapiro

 

Rose Shapiro (name changed) has lived a life of accomplishment and apparent fulfillment.

Born to immigrant parents in the early 1920’s, she was the first of her siblings to graduate from high school and when she announced her intention to attend nursing school, the entire family was shocked.

Back then, women did not receive higher education and Rose Shapiro was a trailblazer in her own right.

She eventually secured a position at Passaic Beth Israel Hospital on Parker Avenue in the downtown area of the city.

By 1958 she had risen to a nursing supervisor and in 1970 before her 50th birthday she was the head of nursing in the labor and delivery section of the hospital.

She continued to work as a nurse until her retirement in 2000 at the age of 77.

Since then she has been volunteering on a weekly basis at St. Mary’s hospital in Passaic after Beth Israel closed.

Recently though, even the once a week volunteer work became too difficult and Rose came to my office seeking advice on what to do to keep herself occupied.

I had known Rose for almost twenty years; she was always upbeat and positive. This time she appeared forlorn and sad.

“Mrs. Shapiro, you look a little down; what’s bothering you?”

“Rabbi, I was a nurse for over fifty years.

 I hardly ever missed a day of work and thank G-d I am financially secure as I have pension and full medical benefits.

My own health is good, considering my age, and in general life is good.

 The one thing which pains me and leaves me no rest is the fact that I now that I reached the end of my days; I have no family to be with.

As you know, I never married.

I know many people assume that I did not marry because I chose a career over marriage; however, nothing can be further from the truth.

Even in my time, 70 years ago, there was a “Shidduch crisis” and I never found by ‘bashert’.

 Believe me rabbi, I also wanted to get married and now that I am alone and no longer working, I have no companionship.

 Rabbi, what can I do to help alleviate my pain?”

I looked up at Rose Shapiro and I realized that behind the professional and somewhat businesslike exterior there was a human heart in pain.

I thought for a moment and then asked her, “I know you would have loved to be married; however, do you regret your life’s choice?” Without hesitation Rose replied,

 “Of course I would have loved to have found ‘Mr. Right’.

That being said, I found fulfillment in my work as a nurse and have realized that my essence is not defined by having or not having a husband.

 I know I have contributed to this world in a meaningful way and although like everyone else I have my ‘peckel’ I do not consider my life unfulfilled or a failure.

Given the ‘cards’ which Hashem ‘dealt me’ I made the best of my life and know that I have touched many people in their time of need.

 I just wish that I could somehow continue even now.”

I listened and I thought.

Suddenly the epiphany became clear.

“Mrs. Shapiro, I know exactly what you can do.

 There are many single woman in our neighborhood who let’s just say are in the ‘over thirty’ crowd.

 Often they come to pour out their hearts over their single status.

I try to help and to be encouraging; however, there is only so much I can do.

I would like to send these women to you Mrs. Shapiro.

I know you cannot help them find a Shidduch; however, you can tell from firsthand experience that life is not meaningless without a spouse. You can tell from your own life that no one’s true essence is defined solely by their marital status or by the amount of children they have.

You can be the one to give them succor and support. Mrs. Shapiro, will you do it?”

The next week an older single was in my office. “Rabbi, I must thank you, I just spent an hour with Mrs. Shapiro and she gave me more Chizuk than anyone I ever met; thank you for making the “Shidduch” between us.

Other women followed as well.

Perhaps the best phone call was from Mrs. Shapiro herself.

About two weeks later she called to tell me, “I have never felt so fulfilled in years; these young women who come to see me they give me purpose to my life and I feel young again. And by the way, I think my great-nephew might be perfect for Sima Yackoson….”

Two months later Sima and Rose’s nephew were standing under the Chupah at the Rose Castle.

After the glass was broken and after Sima kissed her mother, the first person she grabbed and hugged was Rose Shapiro.

Hashem has many ways to make Shidduchim...and Rose Shapiro realized once again  how vitally essential and important her life really is.  

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Smile- You’re Alive” (1/28/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 9th of Shevat 5775 and January 29, 2015

 

Smile- You’re Alive

 

The Talmud (Taanis 22a) relates to us that Rav Bruka Chuzah once met up with Eliyahu HaNavi in the marketplace. He asked the prophet if he could give him some inside information as to who here in the marketplace is destined for the world to come.

Surprisingly, Eliyahu pointed out neither scholars nor obvious saints. Rather, he pointed out the local Jewish prison warden (maybe there will be another Short Vort at a different time about him) and two ‘jokers’ who stated, “We are happy people and we try to make others happy.”

In keeping with this line of thought that one who makes others happy is a ‘shoe-in for the next world’, we present another edition of The Short Satirical Vort (SSV).

 

Disclaimer:

Read this at your own risk and realize what you are reading is satirical.

 

Many are still wondering and scratching their heads over the meteorological blunder at the blizzard which wasn’t.

There are those who have claimed it was the Tefillos of Klal Yisroel which averted the storm; this is not true as since all the “tinokos shel beis Raban” (the pristine Jewish children) fervently prayed for the snow, their pure tefillos would have outweighed the adult prayers.

There are others who claim that this was a political plot to focus everyone’s attention away from the news story of the decade happening in Jacksonville, Florida where a man who broke into a restaurant after hours and stole $4,000 worth of chicken wings.

“Last Wednesday, a robber broke into Jerome Brown BBQ and stole $4,000 worth of ribs, chicken, wings and fries from the restaurant, News4Jax.com reports.”

Although it is true that the FBI is looking at the connection of the robber to ISIS and it has been confirmed that Eric Holder is having the justice department checkout all hospitals for cases of overeating caused by consumption of too many chicken wings; this too has been proved false as the reason for the Blizzard which wasn’t.

Yes, I know that President Obama feels the crime may be racially motivated as people always stereotype certain ethnic and racial groups with certain ethnic foods; nevertheless, this has nothing to do with the blunder of the blizzard.

And there are those who claim the reason for the weather bust was that the weather channels were hacked by North Korean agents who attempted to wreak havoc on our economy, this too has no basis in reality.

What then is the reason behind the Blizzard Blunder?

The real reason is: old fashioned green jealousy!

Yes, I said jealousy!

After researching the topic extensively and interviewing numerous weathermen, one of them ‘spilled the beans’ to me and fessed up to the crime.

What happened was that at the last meeting of the International Association of Meteorologists, one disgruntled weatherman complained during lunch to his colleagues of the following:  

“It’s not fair! We meteorologists never get front page coverage in the papers! There has never been one authentic, real-juicy scandal involving weatherman!

Politicians get arrested every other day for elaborate schemes and corruption.

Business people are involved in Ponzi schemes and are seen being led away in handcuffs.

Even Rabbis and Priests and Ministers get good juicy criminal coverage; however, when was the last time you ever saw a Meteorologist being led away in handcuffs for falsifying the weather report?

Never!!! Well that’s not fair!

We want our share of negative attention like anyone else in this country!”

And therefore a plot was hatched to create a “Storm of the Century” and they watched in amazement as their falsified weather maps and charts were swallowed up hook line and sinker by Governors Cuomo and Christie and Mayor De Blasio.

They thought for certain that someone would realize how they painted their own white lines all over the maps and covered their charts with talcum powder to simulate snow; alas, no one noticed and everyone could never believe that a meteorologist would ever lie!

They continued with their charade until the subways were cancelled for the first time in 110 years and they did not stop although the busiest bridge in the world, the George Washington Bridge was closed!

They thought they had fooled all and that their plot was successful; however, alas it was not to be.

An Orthodox meteorologist by the name of Geshem V’Sheker came to my office and spilled the beans!

He could not live with himself and during a painful Viduy (confession) he admitted to me the details of the entire scheme and supplied me with the altered maps and charts.

I –being a mandated reporter- immediately contacted the CIA, FBI, Mossad and ‘Info@kehilla’ and informed all of the ‘crime of the century’.

Arrests will be unsealed within the week.

This just goes to show you, you cannot trust anyone nowadays.

Who would have thought a meteorologist could stoop to such a low level?

Friends, remember what David HaMelech taught us: ”Do not trust in princes, in the son of men, who has no salvation.” (Tehillim 146:3)

The weathermen have finally been stopped!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “The Busted Blizzard “ (1/27/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 7th of Shevat 5775 and January 27, 2015

 

The Busted Blizzard

 

"This could be a storm the likes of which we have never seen before," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Sunday.

De Blasio held up a piece of paper showing the city’s top 10 snowstorms and said this one could land at the top of a list that goes back to 1872, including the 26.9 inches that fell in 2006. "Don’t underestimate this storm. Prepare for the worst,"

http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/story/27933751/nyc-mayor-storm-could-be-biggest-ever-to-hit-city

 

This morning the question everyone was asking was, “Hey, where’s the snow?”

After receiving hundreds of doomsday emails over the past few days, when I awoke this morning I did not know if I should reach for Xanax before my boots.

As I hesitantly peeked out of the window, I wondered if I would see the roads scattered with frozen bodies that were fossilized in the “storm the likes of which we have never seen before”.

With great trepidation I opened my front door to head out to Shul.

Would I be able to still see the sky?

Would my feet touch solid ground again?

As I firmly stepped out on to the street I quickly realized that the Big Blizzard of 2015 was more accurately the Big Bluff of the 2015!

A mere 6 or 7 inches had fallen.

No one was dead (Thank Hashem).

No one starved to death; {which by the way, I never quite understood the ‘food advisory’ to ‘stock up’ on ‘essential items’ which is always issued before a snow storm. Did you ever go to any Jewish home at any time of the year where there wasn’t enough food on the shelves to feed a small army?}

Bottom line, this storm in the vernacular of our young people, ‘was not a biggie’.

What happened?

What went wrong?

In truth, noting went ‘wrong’; rather, everything went ‘right’.

Thankfully we are safe; thankfully life will go on.

In fact, I had the privilege today because of the ‘false prophecy’ of the Blizzard; to fulfill a Mitzvah I normally cannot.

Once the doomsday predictions were in place, we moved the Daf Yomi to a 9 AM start; the delayed start allowed me to daven at sunrise (Vasikin) which was certainly savored by me today as more often than not I cannot attend that Minyan.

At the end of the day, there was no Blizzard, plain and simple.

Yet, do not despair; do not be disappointed; for remember: “better to be prepared for the worst and receive the best than not prepare and ‘assuming’ the ‘best’ will always continue only to be hit with the ‘worst’.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “SATIRE*"(or automatic delete?) (1/26/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning

 

Today is Tuesday the 7th of Shevat 5775 and January 27th, 2015

 

SATIRE*

*the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding folly

 

DISCLAIMER- please read this before continuing to the Vort

Please note: the following Vort contains satirical elements to it.

 That means parts of it are meant to be taken not too seriously; rather, they are an attempt at humor.

Last week I quoted an article from the New York Times about doctors and how much (or how little) time they spend with their patients.

I love doctors; it is a very honorable profession. Some of my best friends are doctors!

I received a number of emails accusing me of dishonoring the medical profession; nothing could be further from the truth.

Thankfully, no one broke into my office and attempted to assassinate me for ‘ridiculing doctors’.

Therefore, please be forewarned that the following Vort contains satirical elements.

If you don’t like humor, or just don’t find my humor to be humorous, then stop reading now and delete the Vort.

I don’t need emails accusing me of not taking the storm seriously and I certainly don’t need angry meteorologists accusing me of blasphemy and shooting up my office.

 This Vort was inspired by the plethora of emails I have been receiving warning me of the upcoming storm.

Some of them seemed so dire and dismal in their predictions that I expected this storm to make World War Two seem like a walk in the park!

I cut and pasted one these ominous messages and altered and added to and from the original text.

Remember! What you are about to read is meant to be funny; like “Ha, Ha”.

If you don’t think it is funny- don’t shoot (literally) the writer, please just delete it.

Thank you!

 

 

This is your Rabbi speaking: Ron Yitzchok Eisenman.

·       The National Weather Service is warning of the potential for a dangerous storm with high winds and significant snowfall. 

·       There is a Blizzard Warning in affect throughout North Jersey communities. 

Officials with the Office Emergency Management (OEM) in the City of Passaic are communicating with the County Office of Emergency Management and other local community OEM coordinators, tracking the storm and preparing equipment for deployment. 

   

The Ahavas Israel will be prepared in the event that any SHULS need to be closed due to potential dangerous conditions.   

All Our Minyanim will take place as scheduled!

All of our Batei Medrash are fully stocked with Sefarim!

All of our hot water urns are full with hot water!

 

We are prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.  

 Here are some helpful tips as you prepare for Blizzard Conditions.


  • 1st:  Don’t speak Loshon Hora for the entire Blizzard; this will prevent the flow of ‘hot air’ which can have a deleterious effect on all of our lives.

 


  • 2nd:  Clear snow and ice from sidewalks and footpaths around your property and clear fire hydrants as soon as possible; REMEMBER it’s not the FRUM THING to make a Chillul Hashem by not shoveling. If you don’t shovel I might publicize your name in the Short Vort!

 


  • 3rd:  DO NOT shovel snow into the street. If you have a driveway, use it. If not, try to use your bathtub or your neighbor’s bathtub. If you really have nothing to do with your snow, try throwing back to heaven after you have shoveled it away.

 


  • 4th:  If you have a true medical emergency, DAVEN VERY HARD! 


  • 5th:  Be prepared for power outages. Keep your cell phone charged and have flashlights, batteries and other supplies. If you lose power PLEASE JUST SIT TIGHT IN THE DARK! PLEASE DON’T MAKE A FIRE IN YOUR LIVING ROOM AS THAT WILL JUST CAUSE MORE PROBLEMS. IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE TO BUY BATTEREIS, YOU ARE NOT ALONE, EITHER DO I!

 


  • 6th:  Stock up on water, food and necessary medications for up to 7 days; START MAKING CHULENT TODAY, WHO KNOWS WHAT TOMORROW MAY BRING . 

 


  • 7th:  HERE ARE SOME THINGS TO DO WITH THE EXTRA TIME ON YOUR HANDS:

1.       Bake challah and eat it right away; see if it tastes better really fresh.

2.       Try eating Chulent on Tuesday and compare it with the taste of chulent on Shabbos

3.       Review all Short Vorts from the last ten years; see if you can organize them

4.       Come to Shul and tell everyone who enters the Shul to wipe their boots.

5.       Try memorizing your favorite Short Vort and then recite it to Rabbi Eisenman

6.       Call an old friend

7.       Call a new friend

8.       Call your mother

9.       Wash your socks

10.   Tell your kids you love them

11.   Listen to Rabbi Eisenman’s Gemara Shiur at 9 AM

 

Finally, we ask you in advance for your consideration for our neighbors and please don’t park in their driveways. 

My pet turtle Larry and I wish you a happy and healthy blizzard and may we continue to celebrate Simchos together.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “It is better for a man to use a fine cup for one day, even if it breaks the

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 2nd of Shevat 5775 and January 22, 2015

 

“It is better for a man to use a fine cup for one day, even if it breaks the next day”

 

One day a dispute broke in the Sanhedrin (T.B. Brochus 27b) and the initial consensus was to depose of Rabban Gamliel the head of the Yeshiva.

The sages offered the newly opened positon to Rav Eleazar ben Azariah.

Being a wise man, Rav Eleazar told them that he first had to consult with his wife.

She was not enthusiastic about the offer as she claimed that just as Rabban Gamliel was deposed, perhaps you too will soon be deposed.

Rav Eleazar answered his wife: “It is better for a man to use a fine cup for one day, even if it breaks the next day”.

What did he mean by this seemingly cryptic answer?

Did he want to be “King for the day?”

Why take a position which may soon be non-existent?

Perhaps the answer is something we all can learn from.

Rav Eleazar agreed with his wife that his tenure as head of the Sanhedrin may be short lived (as indeed it was); however, nevertheless he was adamant in his decision to accept the appointment.

Why was he so adamant in accepting the positon for even a day?

The reason is simple, life is short and who knows what tomorrow may bring.

The parable of the fine crystal glass is quite appropriate.

There are people who have fine china and glassware in their cabinets who are waiting for that ‘special occasion’ to use them.

Too often the dishes will remain stored, unused in their china closet only to be disposed of in the local dumpster by their children after they themselves have left this world.

I recall once attending the Shiva of a 62 year old father who had suddenly passed away.

At the home his son mentioned something which sent chills down my spine.

“My father had bought a boat which he planned to go sailing in on Sundays; however, he could not drag himself away from his work, notwithstanding he no longer needed the income.

Unexpectedly, he developed cancer and died soon after with the never-used-boat still sitting in its pristine state in his driveway.”

Obviously, no one is advocating we abandon our livelihoods and spend our days sailing along while work has to be done; however, when an opportunity to accomplish something arises and there is no ‘down-side’ in taking the position, grab it!

Rav Eleazar ben Azariah was teaching us that when you are given a chance to make a change in the world, as he was by being the head of the yeshiva for the day- embrace that opportunity.

Too many of us leave this world with our best china still sitting in our china closet never having been touched.

Years ago many people covered their couches in plastic slip covers.

Ostensibly the rationale for this behavior was to save the couch for when the ‘kids’ grew up and no longer had sticky grimy hands which could stain the precious furniture.

In the summer it was not a pleasurable feeling to settle into the plastic encased couch; your exposed skin stuck to the plastic and you had to peel yourself from the couch.

The plush couch became a plastic nightmare; however, too often and for too many of us, even when the kids have grown and moved on, the plastic remains in place as if the kids are still coming back.

Friends, Rav Eleazar was teaching us to: “seize the moment”.

Every single day of our lives we are given the opportunity to use a fine crystal glass; however, too often we refuse to “enjoy it” for fear of its breaking.

Tomorrow the glass may still break; therefore, utilize and accomplish what you can today, for tomorrow may be too late.

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

 

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -” New Beginnings” (1/21/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 1st of Shevat 5775 and January 21, 2015

 

New Beginnings

 

We are privileged. Every month we have a “new month”; a new beginning.

I recall about thirty years when I was still in the infancy of my teaching career; I was assigned to teach a group of second grade boys.

 Except for the fact that my respect for lower-school teachers went sky high, I was not enjoying the experience.

 I had always taught upper-school, high school and adults and this was the first and as it would turn out, my last and my only experience with a lower-school class.

After that semester I returned to eighth grade and above and have never gone back.

The reason is simple; the children were running amok and I found it difficult to keep them in line.

My natural inclination to reason with my students and to appeal to their sense of maturity was totally ineffective in a lower-elementary-school environment.

The Talmud (Yevamos 109b –today’s Daf Yomi) informs us that when you are not sure of what to do, and you have access to someone older and wiser, you must seek counsel with them. And therefore I went to take counsel with a seasoned third grade rebbe.

He gave me some very helpful suggestions as to how to manage the classroom more effectively and I was quite impressed with his guidance.

There was still though one unresolved issue which I did not know how to deal with.

“Rebbe, I understand and appreciate your advice; however, after a month of unruly children have I lost the battle? How do I turn everything around?”

I will never forget his advice; “Rabbi Eisenman, tomorrow is a new day. Just come in tomorrow as if it is the first day of school. Of course at first, the children will be resistant, however, if you are firm and consistent you can make a new beginning and it will eventually take hold.”

He was one hundred percent correct. I came in the next day and just as he said, I began anew.

And guess what? It worked; indeed, the rest of semester continued successfully.

 I still went back to older grades as I realized I was more suited to that age; however, the lesson of the ‘new beginning’ was not lost on me.

Too often we convince ourselves that all is lost; we believe that our bad behaviors are ingrained within us and that they are part and parcel of our personality.

This is not true!

 Today is Rosh Chodesh; today Hashem informs us that it is a new day and a new month and most importantly, a new beginning.

It is hard and it is difficult, however, today is a new day and no matter how challenging yesterday may have been, today is a new start.

Don’t take giant leaps and don’t expect to change everything in one day; however, realize that what you change today is real and meaningful.

So why wait?

Today begin anew and one day at a time you too can change the world; or at least, change yourself and remember: you are the world to many more people than you can imagine.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort’ - “The Weekend” (1/19/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 28th of Teves 5775 and January 19, 2015

 

The Weekend

  

This weekend (as many of my Passaic readers know) I went away with my family and my brother’s family to celebrate my mother’s birthday.

I will never reveal a women’s age, however, suffice for me to tell you that my mother is over 21 and she is eligible for a senior discount at many theaters (Most senior discounts for movie theaters begin at around age 60 or 62, but there are many that have extended the discount to customers aged 50 or 55).

At the weekend there was of course as with any Jewish event, food and lots of it.

There were eight children present and nine different boxes of cereal.

There was Chulent Friday night after the meal and Chulent at the meal and Chulent Shabbos day after davening at the Kiddush.

And indeed there were speeches: Divrei Torah which attempted to create parallels between events in the Parsha and the life of my mother; and Torah thoughts which accentuated the fine qualities of a Torah person with the life of my mother.

As I listened to the speeches and ate the delicious food (too much of it), I began to ponder, “What is the point of celebrating one’s life?

 Is it the fact that the person has been granted longevity?

That would hardly in itself be a reason to celebrate as indicated by the case of “John Bunz, who brutally beat his wife of nearly 68 years to death with a hammer, and who died of natural causes on Dec. 17, state jail officials said. He was 94”; certainly there was nothing to celebrate about his longevity!

What then is there to celebrate about a person’s birthday who has reached longevity?

The answer of course is not an excuse to eat food nor is it a reason to show one’s creative ability in speech making.

The answer is ‘Hakoras HaTov’- gratitude.

None of us will live forever and none of us will be able to last eternally.

The recognition of that mortality when dealing with a person whom many love dearly necessitates and generates an almost obligatory desire - albeit how incomplete it may be- to express to the person what they have meant to you and how they have and continue to influence our life in a positive way.

As the speeches continued, one theme became clear and obvious to me and to all who were present:

My mother had instilled in all of us the importance of grabbing the moment and of appreciating those people in your life whom you love.

Fancy foods and parties may come and go; however, the ability to consistently treat those people in your life with love, compassion and most of all to be able to always make them feel that they are the most important people in your life is worth more than anything in the world.

All anyone wanted during the weekend was that my mother should be happy and it was obvious why; for so many years the entire focus of her life was to keep everyone happy.

Her entire focus was to avoid confrontation and to allow those ‘small’ things which so many of us magnify into huge obstacles, to remain what they really are: insignificant nothings.

I cannot recall once in her life where she ‘stood her ground’ in defense of her perceived ‘honor’; rather, her focus was to allow the small trivial and unimportant menial things to remain as such: unimportant.

How often do so many of us destroy our reputations and our entire lives by becoming entangled in silly inconsequential events which ultimately leave us lonely and bereft of friends and family.

The ability to maintain one’s equilibrium despite those things which go ‘bump in the night’ is the true test of sincerity and love.

All of us mouth often meaningless sayings of caring and compassion; however, when push comes to shove and we are forced to sacrifice our comfort for the sake of maintaining the peace in the family our verbal pronouncements of commitment and caring are worthless and hypocritical if instead of compromising we remain adamant, stubborn and obstinate.

The true test of a person is when they are under the stress of the situation in which things have not gone the way they hoped; however, nevertheless, they maintain their calmness and compromise.

That is where we can judge if their declarations of caring and love are real or just meaningless empty claims designed to delude the person into believing their own meaningless pronouncements of love and caring.

My mother taught us that the maintenance of peace in the family was critical to the functionality of the family.

Everyone claims to want peace and want togetherness, the only difference is that most of us do not achieve it; thankfully my mother did.

I have a long way to go to replicate her ability to ‘go with the punches’ and ignore the bumps of life.

As a rabbi and a human being I observe many people and one thing I have learned.

Those of us who have learned to navigate the up and downs of life and not get angry, frustrated and enraged are people who are happy with themselves and others are happy with them.

Those who cannot control themselves and constantly allow their anger and rage to rule over them, despite their protestations that their anger is proper or their claim that ‘overall’ they are good people; nevertheless, as they grow older their family and friends slowly but surely –even if they do appreciate their good qualities- distance themselves from them.

 In the end the angry, unstable and impulsive men and women of this world live lives of loneliness and isolation and most sad of all, they continue to delude themselves into believing that they are beloved and appreciated by those same people who distance themselves from them.

Perhaps this is what our sages meant when they said that those who live in anger; “anger is their only true companion” as the rest of the world has long ago disconnected from them.

How sad.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort’ -"Yahrtzeit” (1/15/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 24th of Teves 5775 and January 15, 2015

 

Yahrzeit

 

I am used to being approached by people in the pharmacy and in the bank to ask me questions; however, I was totally unprepared for my recent experience at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) in New York City.

For those readers who have no idea what the PABT is, allow me to educate both of you.

The terminal is the largest in the United States and the busiest in the world, serving 225,000 people on an average weekday and more than 65 million people a year.

With human traffic so intense, the one thing people are not doing is idling or dawdling.

It is the last place on Earth I would have imagined that anyone would to want to ‘chap a schmooze’ with me.

Yet, that is exactly what occurred as I was minding my business waiting to return home after a rare excursion to ‘The City’.

“Excuse me; you are a rabbi, no?”

“Yes, I am a rabbi. Why do you ask?”

“My name is Arthur; however, my mother- may she rest in peace- named me Velvel. I was born in Crown Heights and my wife and I lived there until the neighborhood began to change and then we moved to Jersey. About a year ago, my wife passed away. I know this is not ‘right’; however, I have yet to get to Shul to say a Kaddish for her.”

I was looking at Velvel and was unsure where this conversation was going.

“Anyway Rabbi, I was wondering if you when you get back to Shul tonight could say a Kaddish for my beloved wife?”

I readily agreed to this request, as often I am asked to say Kaddish for those who have no one to say Kaddish for them.  After agreeing I ‘innocently’ suggested to Velvel, “It would certainly be more fitting if you would come to shul to say the Kaddish yourself.” I was content that with my lukewarm offer I had fulfilled my ‘kiruv’ obligation. I was not expecting Velvel’s answer.

“I would love to; however, I don’t drive anymore and I cannot get to a Shul; unless of course a Shul came to me!”

I looked at Velvel and wondered aloud to him, “How could a Shul come to you?”

 “Rabbi, I see you guys sometimes praying near the corners of the building, couldn’t you organize a prayer quorum for me right here?”

I looked at Velvel and saw he was totally serious.

“You mean, if we get a Minyan together, you will recite Kaddish for your wife?”

“Rabbi, you get the quorum and I’ll say the Kaddish!”

I was suddenly thrust into the not so comfortable position of asking men, “Are you Jewish?”

The answers I received were simply not to be believed:

“Um, I am not sure; are you?”

“What’s it to you, man?”

“No, however, I always wanted to be; can you help me?”

“Yes I am, you wanna make something of it?”

By far the most common was, “Why do you ask?”

Soon though, through the counting of Yarmulkes and by convincing some ‘not-yet’-frum-Jews’ to join us, a Minyan materialized.

And suddenly in the heavily traversed corridors of the PABT the words of “Yisgadeil V’Yiskadeish” were echoing through the cavernous terminal.

When the emotional service ended, Velvel approached me teary eyes and chocked up. “The last time I said the Kaddish was in 1953 when my father died.”

“When did he die?” I innocently asked.

“Come to think of it, it was this time of year, December 9, 1953.”

When I arrived back at Shul that evening, I glanced at the calendar.

Today was the 3rd of Teves; I don’t know why, but something in me pushed me to look up the Hebrew date for December 9, 1953.

I’ll bet you can figure out the rest; it was the 3rd of Teves 1953.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -"Security” (1/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 22nd of Teves 5775 and January 13th  2015

 

Security

 

This past Friday Jews all over the world from Teaneck to Tel Aviv and from Passaic to Paris did what Jews do every Erev Shabbos: they went shopping for Shabbos food.

Whether you go to Kosher Konnection or Rami Levi or KRM or Hypercacher (also spelled Hyper Cacher or HyperCacher; translated as "Super Kosher" it is a chain of kosher supermarkets in France and Italy) (Wikipedia); the routine is the same all over the world.

You see men on their cell phones listening attentively to their wives who are patiently explaining to them what are chicken cutlets and which type of potatoes are tasty in the Chulent.

You see little children kvetching and begging their mothers to buy more and more candy for ‘Shabbos Party’.

You see elderly gentlemen purchasing two Challah rolls for a lonely Shalosh Shiddush and twelve year old girls who have borrowed their mother’s cell phones as they finally have the opportunity to be ‘mommy-like’ and do the shopping for the family.

And you have the last minute shoppers who are ‘just chapping’ one or two quick items such as potato salad or Hummus.

The common denominator among all of these shoppers, irrespective if they were in Parsippany or in Portland or even in Paris was that they felt safe.

They could not imagine that shopping for Shabbos food could be life threatening.

Everything changed this past Friday.

Four shoppers never returned home this past Erev Shabbos.

They never returned to their families to share a much deserved Shabbos respite.

They would never return to their families.

Tomorrow in the holy city of Yerushalayim they will arrive at their final resting place.

Four holy Jews who were killed for no other reason than they were identifiably Jewish by being careful to observe Kashrus by openly shopping in a kosher supermarket will never return home.

“In a conversation with French news station BFM TV, [the killer] Amedy Coulibaly said that he had selected the Hypercacher supermarket for his attack "because it was Jewish" (ibid.).

Four Jews went shopping last Erev Shabbos and were murdered in cold blood for being Jewish.

They never drew cartoons which were offensive to Islamists.

They were not citizens of Israel and they were not soldiers in any army.

They were ‘just’ Jews and they were killed because they were Jews.

This Friday when you go shopping think about the four Kedoshim who never arrived home last week because they were Jewish.

Think about them and appreciate what you have today; who knows what tomorrow will bring?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort’ -"Stop Talking and Start Listening.” (1/11/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 20th of Teves 5775 and January 11, 2015

 

Stop Talking and Start Listening.

 

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling “under the weather” and I decided to see “The Doctor”.

 When I arrived at the office it struck me that I no longer was going to “The Doctor’s Office” (singular possessive) I was going to “A Doctors’ Office” (plural possessive).

There was no longer ‘my’ doctor who knew me and had a small office with Highlights Magazine for the kids and old issues of Life on the table near an old lamp whose bulb had not been changed since President Kennedy’s inauguration.

Now I entered the “Intercontinental-Country-Wide-Summit-Hill-Passaic-Clifton-Nutley-Garfield- Wallington- Secaucus Medical Group” or ICWSHPCNGWSMG for short.

This new term ‘Medical Group’ meant that I was no longer going to my local doctor; I was now entering the Home Depot of Medicine; or the Costco of Clinics.

After being asked which doctor out of 409 I was scheduled to see, I was handed a ‘buzzer’ to hold on to.

I was unsure if when it ‘buzzed’ that meant my pastrami on rye was ready or that there was a chemical attack on Passaic and I should evacuate to the nearest Haz-Mat shelter.

After waiting about 15 minutes and being forced to watch a full screen television showing channel 91 which was giving me the local news in Hasbrouck Heights (Mr. O’Conner had successful cataracts surgery on his right eye); my buzzer started to buzz and flash red lights.

I rushed to the counter and after being disappointed because there was no pastrami on rye waiting for me, I was ushered in to……you guessed it… another room to wait and wait.

The nurse said to me, “Sit down, the doctor will be in to see you right away.”

 I replied, “I was in the middle of reading of a stimulating article about laxatives and their effect on cloned cows; however, now I have nothing to do in here but stare at a diagram of my thoracic diaphragm which does not look too appetizing. Can I go back and get my copy of Doctor’s Dialogue from the waiting room?”

She robotically repeated, “The doctor will be in shortly.”

“Shortly” is quite a relative term. It can mean in the next three months as in: “Purim is coming shortly”; or it can mean 60 seconds as in: “The light will change from red to green shortly”.

As I had no idea what she meant and I no longer had my article about laxatives and cows and I could no longer watch the ‘big screen’ to inform me of Sam O’Conner’s cataracts surgery and I felt that I would throw up if I looked again at the multi-colored diagram of my thoracic diaphragm, I did what any other sane person would do, I took out my phone and began checking my email.

Oy, was that a mistake.

After about six emails and four automatic deletes, his holiness and his highness the all-powerful and all-knowing individual to whom we all page homage (and lots of money) entered the room in a rush to leave.

Without telling me his name and without even saying hello, he rebuked me by saying, “How about getting off your phone… I don’t have all day”.

I began to tell him my symptoms while he read my ‘chart’ on his Ipad and after about 19 seconds he interrupted my soliloquy to scribble a prescription and before I could say “Doctor Spock” he was out of the room and onto to more patients and more money.

As I exited and went to back to the front desk to ‘sign out’ the receptionist asked me, “Which doctor did you see?” I looked at her and realized that I had no idea of his name. I mumbled, “I don’t know, he never introduced himself; if it helps, he was wearing a white coat”

At first I thought that I was singled out for this special treatment; however, I soon realized that my case was quite the ‘norm’ as opposed to the exception.

See this from last week’s New York Times:

 

HARRISBURG, Pa. — BETSY came to Dr. Martin for a second — or rather, a sixth — opinion. Over a year, she had seen five other physicians for a “rapid heartbeat” and “feeling stressed.” After extensive testing, she had finally been referred for psychological counseling for an anxiety disorder.

The careful history Dr. Martin took revealed that Betsy was taking an over-the-counter weight loss product that contained ephedrine. (I have changed their names for privacy’s sake.) When she stopped taking the remedy, her symptoms also stopped. Asked why she hadn’t mentioned this information before, she said she’d “never been asked.” Until then, her providers would sooner order tests than take the time to talk with her about the problem.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/05/opinion/doctor-shut-up-and-listen.html?emc=edit_ty_20150105&nl=opinion&nlid=28248060

Recent research has revealed that:

 “A doctor’s ability to explain, listen and empathize has a profound impact on a patient’s care. Yet, as one survey found, two out of every three patients are discharged from the hospital without even knowing their diagnosis. Another study discovered that in over 60 percent of cases, patients misunderstood directions after a visit to their doctor’s office. And on average, physicians wait just 18 seconds before interrupting patients’ narratives of their symptoms. Observation soon revealed that physicians introduced themselves on only about one in four occasions. And without an introduction, it’s no surprise that patients could correctly identify their physician only about a quarter of the time.” 

(Ibid)

This is not good and this must be addressed; however, this Vort is not really about doctors although they can read it as well; it is really about us.

When someone needs you, give them the time to speak without interruption.

I personally cannot stand it when I am attempting to speak to someone, (not only doctors; anyone!) and before I can complete my thought they interrupt and say, “Oh, I know all about that…”, and then they proceed to talk about ‘themselves!’

We all need to improve our bedside manners.

Physicians and lawyers and especially husbands and wives need to learn to listen and to hear the message their loved one is attempting to communicate.

Too often when our children, friends, spouses and coworkers come to us for help and support, we are in a hurry to move on to something else and never give them the chance to unburden themselves.

“Harvard health policy researchers reported that higher patient satisfaction was associated with improved outcomes for several diseases, including heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia.”

This fact is true in human relations as well… Higher “friend satisfaction” will be associated with improved outcomes for several problems, including ‘broken hearts, hurt feelings and spiritual depression.”

Listen to your friend, your spouse and your child; hear them out and give them what he or she needs the most; namely your time and your undivided attention.

 It can and will make all the difference in the world.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ 

The Short Vort’ -"Double Standard” (1/8/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 17th of Teves 5775 and January 8, 2015

 

Double Standard

 

The headline from Paris says it all: “… the attackers had screamed “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great!” during the attack, which the police characterized as a “slaughter.” “They {were} shouting: “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!”

The entire world has heard about the cold blooded murder of innocent unarmed civilians who were brutally killed in the name of the ‘”Great God” who needs people to ‘avenge’ insults to ‘his’ prophet.

We are horrified and we are terrorized; who knows where the hand of evil may strike next?

From the shores of lower Manhattan to the hills of Har Nof; from the hectic holy city of Chevron to the quiet verdant field of Fort Hood, Texas the cry of “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great!” has terrorizingly echoed across the world.

Is Islam a violent religion?

Is it a set of beliefs where killing and murder of innocent men, women and children is glorified if not often mandated, encouraged and even applauded?

From today’s paper the pundits have begun to weigh in on the matter.

The New York Times was quick and almost immediate in their usual unequivocal statement: “This is also no time for peddlers of xenophobia to try to smear all Muslims with a terrorist brush.”

Nicholas Kristof writing this morning on the Op- Ed page of the NY Times notes:  “Terror incidents lead many Westerners to perceive Islam as inherently extremist, but I think that is too glib and simple-minded. Small numbers of terrorists make headlines, but they aren’t representative of a complex and diverse religion of 1.6 billion adherents. The vast majority of Muslims of course have nothing to do with the insanity of such attacks”

Interestingly, one of the many reader’s comments on the article stated: (submitted by Frank Viviano Barga, from Italy):

“{It is true that} Only a small minority of Muslims engage actively in mindless, barbaric violence. But millions are complicit in their passivity and silence over these unambiguously shameful acts—just as millions of Germans were silently complicit in the Holocaust.”

This comment is extremely important.

While Mr. Kristof is certainly correct that, “The vast majority of Muslims of course have nothing to do with the insanity of such attacks”; however, more importantly is the statement that “millions are complicit in their passivity and silence over these unambiguously shameful acts—just as millions of Germans were silently complicit in the Holocaust.”

The purpose of this Vort though, is not to comment on or about Islam or about xenophobia; rather, the point of this Vort is us.

As Mr. Barga from Italy compellingly points out, even if ‘only a small minority’ of a group is implicated in a crime, it behooves the rest of the group, irrespective of their lack of direct culpability in the action, to speak and to protest and distance themselves from the actual perpetrators.

Indeed, often distancing themselves is not sufficient; rather, they must be in the front lines of protest and of creating an atmosphere which is totally intolerant of violence and terror.

The Talmud in Yevamos (96b) informs us that Rabbi Eliezer ben Shamua and Rabbi Yossi were once involved in a fierce debate in a Shul about a question of Muktza on Shabbos.

In the heat of the argument, each one grabbed hold of the Torah scroll and shockingly it was ripped in two!

Rabbi Yossi ben Kisma who was present at the time, commented, “I would be surprised if this Shul does not eventually become a house of pagan worship and indeed, so it was.”

This Gemara is certainly intriguing. Why would the fact that two scholars who were ostensibly involved in a private dispute about a halachik matter which led to the unfortunate, albeit, unintentional  result of the Torah being ripped, be the cause of a Shul being transformed into a pagan temple!

What is the connection here?

Perhaps the real burden of responsibility rests not with the two combatants (Rabbi Eliezer ben Shamua and Rabbi Yossi) perhaps true culpability lies with those who other members of the Synagogue who although not actively involved in the heated discussion, nevertheless, helped foster (or at least did not protest) an environment which at worst cultivated, or at least tolerated a state of affairs which could lead to the level of passion which caused the destruction a Torah albeit unintentionally.

Friends, let us not be clones of Nicholas Kristof and of his ilk who are all too quick to excuse Islamic violence as not being endemic to their current interpretation of their religion; rather let us see things for what they are; namely: “millions (of Moslems) are complicit in their passivity and silence over these unambiguously shameful acts—just as millions of Germans were silently complicit in the Holocaust.”

This is exactly what Rabbi Yossi ben Kisma would say about many of us today!

Only two Rabbis were involved in the Torah desecration; however, many other onlookers in that Synagogue were “complicit in their passivity and silence over these unambiguously shameful acts!”

Why is it that when we hear about Moslem violence we as Jews are quick to join the bandwagon of collective culpability while when he hear stories about Jews who spit on little girls or ‘respectable’ Jewish figures who are hauled into court and convicted of heinous crimes we are just as quick if not quicker to ‘excuse’ these acts as the work of a ‘few fanatics’ who in no way shape or form are representative of Orthodox Jewry as a whole?

The reality is as Rabbi Yossi ben Kisma stated, “If we stand by and watch the Torah being ripped we are culpable for we have contributed to an environment where such horrific accidents can occur; therefore, we can no longer be surprised when Synagogues become pagan temples!

Let us work together to create Shuls and communities where fringe groups are not tolerated.

We must create houses of worship where we could never even imagine ‘ripping the Torah’, even in the heat of the moment.

We are all responsible and culpable for each other.

Only by creating and cultivating Shuls and families and communities where civility and dignity are the only methods utilized in settling disputes can we hope to ensure the safety and spiritual and physical vitality of our people.

 

“If Not Now, Then When? - Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -"Why Me?” (1/7/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 16th of Teves 5775 and January 7, 2015

 

Why Me?

 

One of the most common questions asked of me is “Why Me?”

When problems abound in our lives and when the challenges of life seem overwhelming, we suddenly remember G-d and we point the accusatory finger right at Him as we ask “Why Me?”

Usually as the Rabbi and as the unofficial spokesman of the Almighty, the question comes to my desk and the proverbial “Why Me?” is directed at me.

Funny, I can hardly ever recall anyone coming into my office and say to me, “Why me? My children all came home safely from school today; why was I privileged to this kindness?”

I remind all of you that only two weeks ago today I participated in the funeral of a two year girl who never came home alive from playgroup.

On Monday, once again for the second time in less than two weeks I participated in a funeral where the father said Kaddish over the body of his child.

The way of the world is that children should bury their parents; however, the last two funerals I have participated in (which were less than two weeks apart) were funerals where the parents buried their children. Both of these young people were never married; both died way below the average life expectancy of our country.

Perhaps the next day my office should have been filled with couples waiting in line to ask me, “Why me?” “Why was my family spared the sorrow of burying a child?”

Alas, there were no lines and no one came to ask me “Why was I privileged to have my child come home safely today?”

That is not the way of the world.

When good happens we chalk it up to ‘entitlement’; while when ‘not-good’ occurs, we are quick to point the finger at Him and shout “Why ME”?

When we go to work every day do we ask Hashem “Why ME?” “Why am I employed?”

 Do we ever stop to realize that there are highly intelligent and capable men and women out there who for one reason or another are unemployed? They are often ashamed to be seen in Shul at the early Mincha for fear of people realizing that they are among the non-workers.

Do we ask G-d every day “Why do I have a job?”

If you are blessed with children, did you ever stop and ask Hashem today, “G-d, why did you pick me to be blessed with children? The Chazon Ish never had any children. The Lubavitcher Rebbe never did; the Satmar Rebbe buried all three of his daughters in his lifetime and left this world childless. And yet, I have children.”

Did you ever ask Hashem, “Why Me? Why do I have children?”

Are you married? Do you have a significant ‘other’ in your life?

Did you ever stop in the morning and say to Hashem, “Why was I privileged to get married?”

 Yet, when there are bumps in the marriage, you are there to ask Hashem, “Why do I have such a spouse?”

Are you alive today?

Are you breathing?

Can you see?

 Can you walk?

Do you have clothes on your back?

 Do you have food in your stomach?

And do you have heat in your home?

If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, then how about asking Hashem today, “Why Me? Why was I privileged to see, hear, have food, be able to breath and live?”

Be thankful for what you have; and never forget, there are millions of people in the world who would change places with you in a second.

Enjoy what you have and perhaps ask yourself, “Why ME?”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

 

    

The Short Vort’ -"Who Knows?” (1/6/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 15th of Teves 5775 and January 6, 2015

 

Who Knows?

 

Moshe was taking a walk minding his own business.

Suddenly he noticed a sight which unfortunately repeats itself too often in our history.

He sees a non-Jew beating up a poor Jew.

At first he wonders to himself, “Who am I to get involved?”

He ultimately overcomes his hesitation and kills the anti-Semite.

Interestingly though before he decides to act, this Moshe who is imbued with prophetic powers far beyond the capabilities of the rest of us, takes a trip in the future. In a second he is able to ascertain that none of the descendants of this Jew baiter and hater will ever join our ranks or even change their anti- Semitic prejudices.

Only after his ‘foreground’ check is completed and found to be ‘clear’ of any potential positive people does our friend Moshe act and successfully eliminate the enemy.

Unfortunately, we no longer possess the individuals or the ‘foresight’ to be able to accurately predict the eventual ramifications of our actions.

We never know what future impact today’s actions will have on tomorrow’s children.

Who knows if by disciplining our student or child today this will impact on his outlook on life tomorrow?

Moshe possessed the unique and now non-existent gift of prophecy.

The lesson is clear, think before you ‘hit’ someone; be it a physical ‘hit’ or an emotional ‘hit’.

You never know how that hit may come back to haunt you.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -"A Place to Hang My Tallis “ (1/4/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 13th of Teves 5775 and January 4, 2015

 

A Place to Hang My Tallis

 

It was Sunday morning and I was leaving the Shul after Shacharis to go home. The fellow approached me and said, “Rabbi, I am leaving now back to Brooklyn and I wanted to thank you for your hospitality over Shabbos.”

“Thank you for telling me; we always appreciate positive feedback”, I replied.

“You know Rabbi; my Shabbos here in Passaic was really special. This was my first time here and I really enjoyed the Shul; this place is really unique.”

At this point, after he said my Shul was ‘unique’ my interest was piqued as I wondered in what way was my Shul so special.

“Rabbi, I must really, really thank you, there is something here which I never experienced at any Shul before”.

Before he could tell what was so special about the Shul, my mind began to fill with joy as thoughts of complements danced around.

I could just hear his words…”Rabbi, your Drosha was exceptional, brilliant, outstanding, superb, and insightful and delivered in an exemplary and erudite fashion.”

I would of course feign modesty while inside I would hope that the wave of accolades would never end.

I could hear myself responding, “Oh, you are just too kind and I am overwhelmed by your generosity”, while once again in my mind I would be thinking, “Hey, you left out: terrific, marvelous and outright amazing!”

Finally, the guest looked up at me and said, “Rabbi, there is something here in your Shul so special that I will remember it every Shabbos of my life…”

I could hear the compliments beginning as I humbly responded, “And what would that be my son?”

“Rabbi, your Shul is the only Shul I have ever been in where you have hooks outside of the bathroom to hang your Tallis so you don’t have to bring it in with you. In my Shul in Brooklyn, I never know what to do with my Tallis when I go to the bathroom. However, here in your Shul I just hang it right on the hook outside the bathroom. Thank you so much for that hook!”

“Is that it?” I asked. “Nothing more was special here?”

“Oh yes, I liked the fact that you have paper towels to dry your hands after the bathroom. In Brooklyn we just have one old wet towel. So these two things, the hooks and paper towels really impressed me about your Shul. Thanks so much!”

I thanked the fellow for his compliments and went to hang my head in shame on the hook outside the bathroom.

I guess it was better than a complaint.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -"Flops” (1/2/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 11th of Teves 5755 and January 2, 2015

 

Flops

 

Baruch and Shira Greenbaum (names changed) were marrying off their oldest son Motty.

As parents of the boy they were asking me about “FLOP(S)”.

For the uniformed, FLOP(S) is an acronym which refers to the four (or five) wedding costs which ‘traditionally’ the Chosson’s side pays for.

“FLOP” stands for Flowers, Liquor, the Orchestra, and the Photographer. Less common, but nevertheless not unusual, is the “FLOPS” option, where the Chosson’s side also takes care of the Sheitel for the kallah, hence the additional “S” which spells FLOPS.

They were inquiring if FLOP(S) was halachically binding or if there was leeway for compromise.

Mrs. Greenbaum also asked if there was a time when she could present her new daughter in-law with a special gift.

I was assuming she was referring to the various gifts which have become customary for the Chosson’s family to give to the Kallah such as a bracelet, Machzorim …

Before I could finish my ‘gift list’, Shira Greenbaum interrupted and said, “I am not asking what to give, I know what I am giving; I want to know when to give it?”

 “What exactly is this special gift anyway? Is it a special piece of jewelry?”

 “It is not jewelry and not Sefarim. I don’t have the money for those; what I want to give the kallah is a special present I have kept for many years for her to have.”

 “What is this gift which is so precious?”

Mrs. Greenbaum slowly removed from her bag a worn and tattered hard-covered composition book. I could tell that is was well read and had multiple extra sheets of paper which were pasted and taped onto the pages.

On the front of the book in beautifully written letters was the title: “Mitzvohs of your life”.

Lovingly and with care Mrs. Greenbaum opened the book; and began to read.

“Friday, Erev Shabbos Parshas Noach 1996, Motty helped Mommy set table without being asked.”

“Shabbos afternoon Parshas Nitzvaim 1998, Motty watched his little sister and brother to allow Mommy and Tatty to nap on Shabbos. Wednesday Parshas Terumah 1998, Motty calls his Bubby to find out how she is feeling.”

 “I’m sorry however, what exactly are you reading from?”

 “Rabbi, my husband and I were never financially wealthy. I have always been a stay-at-home-mom and therefore even on Shabbos we never could afford lavish Shabbos treats that other families have. Instead of food, I established a different type of Shabbos ‘treat’. From the time Motty was a little boy, every time during the week when he did an extra Mitzvah, I would write it all down and on Friday night at the Seuda I would read aloud from this list. Motty would beam with joy as I read it. It was the highlight of the week for all of us as each and every child would hear their mitzvohs being read aloud at the table. Motty once asked me, “Mommy, what are you going to with these Mitzvah notes?”

I thought for a moment and replied, “Motty dear, I am saving them to present them to your Kallah on your wedding day. I want her to know what a special Chosson she is getting.” Motty’s face glowed with pride and now it is time to give this special book to my new daughter-in law.”

I reached across my desk and gently picked up the tattered and worn composition notebook; the price tag indicating “Amazing Savings $.89” was still visible in the corner.

In our times when too many of us are more concerned with how many carats the engagement ring has and if the Tennis Bracelet is set in pure sterling silver, I knew I was holding in my hand the most precious and exquisite gift a Kallah could have.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -"To Help or Not to Help” (1/1/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday Asara B’Teves 5775 and January 1, 2015

 

To Help or Not to Help

 

Today as I walked to Shul I noticed a non-Jewish person carrying a very heavy load of flyers which he was to distribute for free and place at each home he passed.

The burden was quite large and I could see that he was struggling to carry his cargo.

I wondered, “Was as I required according to the Torah to delay my arrival at Shul to assist the man with unloading the load (“prika”-unloading) and/or helping him re-load the burden in a more effective manner of carrying it (“t’eena”- loading)?”

I quickly attempted to digest the relevant halachik information on the subject.

On one hand the Gemara in discussing the reason for the Mitzvah of loading and unloading an animal’s load (Prika and T’eena) the Gemara seemingly says clearly that if the animal is owned by a non-Jew and the cargo is also owned by a non-Jew, then in this case there is no Mitzvah to help the animal; unless there is a question of ‘eivah’, namely that by not assisting the animal and it’s owner this could cause anti-Semitism. Excluding the possibility of eivah, there is no Mitzvah to help the animal when both the animal and owner (and the one leading the animal) are not Jewish.

Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch in quoting the Rambam clearly states that the reason for helping the animal and its owner is not because of ‘Tzar B’aalei Chayim’ [TBC] (the prohibition of causing pain to animals) for according to the Rambam TBC is rabbinic (D’rabanan) and not a Torah Mitzvah (M’Doraisa).

(See Sh Ar; CM; 272:9, 10)  

Therefore, according to the Shulchan Aruch, the Halacha of not causing animals to suffer is rabbinic and not ‘biblical’; however, the Rema (ad loc.) disagrees and is of the opinion that TBC is indeed M’Doraisa and as such he concludes that one must always assist an animal who is pained irrespective of the fact if by not assisting it will cause ‘eivah’ or not. There is biblical commandment to assist the animal irrespective of who owns it or who is watching.

We now have ascertained that at least according to the Rema who is the harbinger of the Ashkenazic tradition, we have an obligation to proactively assist an animal who is suffering.

We now turn our attention to an interesting related question.

Does the prohibition of assisting animals who are suffering extend to humans who are suffering or not?

This question, interestingly enough is a debate between the Chavos Yair (Rabbi Yair Chaim ben Moses Samson Bacharach was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1638 and studied in various yeshivos in Germany. He had a hard life in the rabbinate, and served in various rabbinic positions in Germany. His famous responsa, Chavos Yair, evidence his outstanding rabbinic scholarship and general knowledge, as well as his proficiency in Kabbalah. He died in 1702), and the Rashba (R. Shlomo ben Aderes was born in Barcelona in 1235, and died there in 1310. He studied under Rabbeinu Yonah and Nahmanides (Ramban), and was a contemporary of R. Aharon Ha-Levi -Ra’ah).

The Chavos Yair is of the opinion that the Halacha of TBC is limited to animals  since they have no free choice in what to carry or what not to carry; therefore we are obligated to protect them.

However, a human being who has the ‘seichel’ and the free choice to decide what or what not to carry is not ‘covered’ by the ‘protection plan’ of TBC.

The Rashba disagrees and is of the opinion that the prohibition of TBC and is applicable to people and animals alike.

If one assumes that TBC does apply to humans in addition to animals, we now ask: are non-Jews also covered by TBC; namely do we have the Torah obligation to assist even in a case where there is no ‘chashash of eivah’ (no probability of our actions causing friction among our neighbors)?

In other words, does the prohibition of allowing the person to feel pain and not assist him apply to non-Jews as well?

Since the Mitzvah of TBC is associated with the Talmudic Sugya (topic) of T’eena and Prika which is connected to the topic of Hashavas Aveida, (returning lost objects) it would seem at first glance that this does not apply to non-Jews. After all, the Gemara is clear that the Mitzvah of Hashavas Aveida does not apply to non-Jews who lose their objects.

It would seem then there is no obligation to help the non-Jew who is burdened with the flyers; however, all is not so simple.

The Meiri (R. Menachem ben Shlomo Meiri was born in 1249 and died in 1315, and was one the leading rabbis in southern France. He authored many works, the most well-known being the Beis HaBechirah, a broad commentary on the Mishnah and Talmud) astonishingly states unequivocally that the Talmudic prohibition of returning lost objects to non-Jews is limited to those non-Jews who are ‘uncivilized’ and not ‘guided by normative civil laws’; however, those non-Jew among whom we reside (emphasis my own) they are certainly not excluded from these laws and we have an obligation to return to them their lost objects!”

Therefore, if we combine the following facts:

1.       TBC is indeed a Torah commandment; as the Rema adjudicates.

2.       The Mitzvah of TBC is not limited to animals; rather, it also includes our requirement to prevent human suffering as well.

3.       The parameters of the Mitzvah of T’eena and Prika, which is the basis of assisting the animal, are based on the same parameters of Hashavas Aveida.

4.        The opinion of the Meiri that nowadays we have to return lost objects to our non-Jewish neighbors.

5.       Therefore, it would follow that I would have a Torah obligation to assist the non-Jewish gentleman with his burden irrespective of the fact if he knows I am Jewish or not.

 

After I finally figured this out in my mind, I looked up and was eager and ready to assist my fellow human being armed with the knowledge that I could be fulfilling a Torah obligation!

Alas, as I looked up, the man had already disappeared from sight and had completed his delivery run.

Oy, I missed my Mitzvah!

Well at least I will know now what to do next time.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort’ -"Frail and Fearful” (12/30/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 8th of Teves 5775 and December 30, 2014

 

Frail and Fearful

 

Yakov is weak; he realizes the end is near: (Chapter 47)

 

29. And the time drew nearer that Israel must die; and he called his son Joseph, and said to him, “If now I have found grace in your sight, put, I beg you, your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I beg you, in Egypt;

30. But I will lie with my fathers, and you shall carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying place.” And he said, I will do as you have said.

31. And he said, “Swear to me”. And he swore to him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.

 

Yakov is pleading with Yosef; indeed, he is begging him to fulfill his last and final request.

Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch Zt”l is bothered by Yakov’s pleading.

 Is this the way a father (and remember, the father we are referring to is Yakov Avinu!) speaks to a son? Does a Jewish father have to plead and beg his son to have that son fulfill his last and final request?

 “Is this the way of a Jewish father to speak in such pleading tones to his son?” (See Rav Hirsch for his answer)

Perhaps the answer to this quandary is an eternal and timeless, albeit sad, reality.

Yakov realizes he is about to go the way of all flesh.

He is now coming face to face with his own mortality.

This realization, the fact that soon he will no longer be in control or even be able to contribute to the decision making process of his own life (and death) consumes our father Yakov with a sense of dread and indeed, of helplessness.

Yakov is now the elderly and ailing parent who in his prime was able to lead and support the beloved ‘holy twelve tribes of Israel’; he was formerly the man who was able to fight the ‘guardian angel of Eisav’ and prevail against him; however, he now finds himself weak and helpless, dependent on the benevolence of his son Yosef.

Therefore, Yakov pleads with his son to carry out his final request.

If we listen carefully we can hear the fear and the helplessness in the voice of Yakov as he realizes that although he was able raise and guide the entire congregation of Israel, he is now unable to even guarantee where he will be buried.

The chilling tone of dependence in the voice of the former fighter sends chills down my spine.

Yakov’s own mortality is evident to all, especially to Yakov himself.

The Lesson

The recognition of one’s mortality and the realization by a parent of their sudden and utter dependency on their children, (the same children who they nurtured and raised), is traumatizing for parent and child alike.

He or she who for years was the caregiver and the pillar of support for the family has now become the care-receiver and the one in need of support from those they formerly supported.

The role-reversal is frightening, scary and deflating, even for a Yakov Avinu.

Alas, he has no choice and he begs and pleads with his son Yosef to fulfill his final wish.

 His sense of dependency on his son is sad and painful to witness.

When we deal with our elderly parents and the realization sets in that our mother or father who we went to for support and sustenance is now in need of our support, we are pained and both parties feel uncomfortable and awkward.

We must realize at these times that with compassion and patience the role-reversal can be accomplished with dignity and with finesse.

Ultimately, Yosef performs his task flawlessly and he is able to comfort and reassure his father.

Yosef is able to restore his father’s sense of dignity and self-worth.

Remember this the next time you have to involve yourself with your aging parent or any formerly independent individual who is now dependent on you.

 Have compassion and patience; and never forget, such is the way of the world.

What happened in the family of Yakov and Yosef repeats itself again and again; we just have to remember to be patient and kind.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -"Little Things” (12/29/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 7th of Teves 5775 and December 29, 2014

 

Little Things

 

On Shabbos the conversation at the table turned to a topic which many of us struggle with; namely the materialism of today’s generation.

As many of us are only too familiar with, our children have the ‘challenge’ of dealing with many materialistic temptations which ‘we’ never had to deal with.

One quick example, my daughter Aviva is currently studying in Israel.

She related to me that one of the Morahs in attempting to convey a lesson asked the girls how many of them called home daily.

All hands went up.

 She then asked how many spoke to the parents twice a day.

Again, most hands went up.

 This continued until no hands went up.

 My daughter informed me that even when the girls were asked if they speak three, four and even five times a day, some hands were still going up!

I am not at all against speaking to our children daily, indeed I myself fall into the twice a day category, (sometimes three and on rare occasions four); yet, we all realize that’s not how it used to be.

When I was in the Yeshiva in Israel in the 1970s (“Yes, Virginia, there were phones back then”; if you don’t get the reference, just skip this part and keep on reading) I used to write (yes, we had pens and paper) a physical (non-virtual) letter to my parents!

We would make up a day two weeks in advance where I would wait by a pay phone for them to call.

 This special event took place at most ONCE a month!!

We were considered very ‘high-tech’ when we began sending cassettes to each other which contained “audible letters”!

Therefore, when our guest related to me the following incident I knew I had to share it with you.

Last week our guest (who we shall call Sorah) went to visit an old friend whom she has not seen for years.

She always recalled her friend being the ‘real-deal’; a woman who was steadfast and ‘real’ in her convictions and never falling into the bottomless pit of materialism.

When she arrived at her friend’s house the children were excited to see her. On the spur of the moment Sorah decided to offer to take the kids out for pizza as she figured her friend could use the break.

The children were ecstatic and overjoyed; in fact, Sorah was surprised at how excited they were.

When she returned the children back home, Sorah informed her friend how well behaved the children were.  Sorah’s friend thanked her for taking the kids out and Sorah left for home.

The next day Sorah’s friend called to thank her again for the outing.

She then said, “It was so special. My little Baila (age 9) told her entire class that yesterday she went to a pizza store and was able to order her own pizza!

 Sorah seemed puzzled and asked, “I appreciate her appreciation; however, it was not that big a deal to take the kids for pizza. I am sure they have eaten pizza many times before this.”

There was a pause on the line as Sorah’s friend remarked; “It actually was a very big deal; this was the first time in her life she ever went to the pizza store. I usually just spread ketchup on bread and top it with a piece of American cheese and that’s what we call pizza. This is the first time she ever ordered her own ‘real’ pizza.”

Wow, I thought, there is actually one American Jewish family whose has never gone out for pizza in this country?

I wish I could continue to tell you how amazed I am… however, the cell phone is ringing, and the microwave is beeping, the text messenger is clanking and my Gmail storage is almost full so I have to run…..

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -"The Levaya” (12/25/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 3rd of Teves 5775 and December 25, 2014

 

The Levaya

 

There are few words which can be uttered at a funeral which are appropriate.

What can one ever say to console and to comfort another human being at their loss?

How can you feel their pain and their anguish?

Who knows and who can feel the inner feelings of any other human being?

How especially true this is when the loved one who left this world was a child.

Yesterday, under a darkened and damp sky on the outskirts of Lakewood, New Jersey I participated in the levaya of a two year girl.

The little girl was alive and well and carefree just six hours before I stood before her open grave.

I thought to myself how just this same morning her mother gave her breakfast as any other day and prepared lunch for her as she did every day.

The little girl was healthy and full of life just six hours earlier on this same day; and now, I watched as her lifeless body was gently lowered into the newly prepared grave.

It was before 8 PM; just hours before she was playing with her siblings and doing everything two year olds do; and now she was buried.

The crowd which had gathered was silent.

Her father recited Kaddish and then it was over.

Everyone went back to their cars and to their lives.

Everyone returned to the mundane and trivial, albeit necessary aspects of their lives: lunches for the next day, and cleaning and returning the Menorahs back to their places not to be used until next Chanukah.

Everyone went back to car pools and wet raincoats, work appointments and getting the kids and themselves to sleep.

Everyone except the parents of the little girl; they returned home to sit Shiva.

I stopped by the shiva house, marveling at the calm and steadfast belief of the parents in the face of the tragedy.

As I entered my car and began the 70 mile trek back to Passaic, my thoughts were racing.

I knewthe little girl was is in a ‘better place.’

I personally saw how bravely and with complete faith in Hashem the parents had accepted their loss.

I knew that Hashem has His plan and we can never understand it.

Yet, as I sat in my car alone and with my thoughts, there was only emotion in my heart and that was sadness.

The rain began to pick up and I adjusted the windshield wipers to high.

Soon fog set in and I had to focus on the road and the driving conditions; my mind was now absorbed on the driving…it was raining hard and my car was pelted by the strong raindrops as they crashed on the windshield.

I was intently concentrating on the road; however, all I could see was the little girl being lowered to her final rest.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort’ -” The Single Menorah” (12/23/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 1st of Teves 5775 and December 23, 2014

 

The Single Menorah

 

Last night something occurred at my home which (to the best of my memory) has not happened in more than thirty years.

Only one Menorah was lit at the ‘family lighting’.

As I previously mentioned, only one of my children is living at home and she was not home at ‘family lighting time’. My wife and I gathered together and I recited the brochus and we sang the Chanukah songs together and viewed the lights.

I was not sad and I was not disappointed.

Life is never about what ‘cards’ you are dealt; rather, life is always about dealing with whatever cards you have in front of you and appreciating what you do have and making the best of the situation .

Besides the fact that I knew that my other family members are lighting their own Menorahs wherever they are; there is the knowledge that I and my wife are also a unit and that is good.

Even if you are lighting alone, you are still a precious unit and that is to be celebrated.

Every situation in which a person finds himself (wherever they are in the world) they must realize that the situation affords them the opportunity to accomplish something which no one else can achieve.

If ten Menorahs are being lit and you are surrounded by ten children and many grandchildren you have the mission of insuring that the Menorah is lit properly and that everyone is happy and satisfied.

And if you are lighting just one Menorah you have the obligation of making sure your one lone Menorah is the shining light for your entire Mini-Sanctuary.

No one is judged by how many children they have or if they are married or not.

No one is judged by how many Menorahs adorn their home; rather, we are judged by what we do and how we react and respond to the circumstances which surround us.

Tonight is the final light.

No matter where you are and who (if anyone) is with you, make tonight’s lighting special and unique. Remember you will not have another chance to light until next year and who knows where you will be then?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -” The Light of the Menorah” (12/21/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the fifth day of Chanukah 5775 and December 21, 2014

 

The Light of the Menorah

 

As so many of us gather with our families and friends on the nights of Chanukah, we enjoy each other’s company as the candles are lit.

In the majority of homes (hopefully) there is joy and simcha; however, as a Rabbi, I am often privy to information which I wish I did not have to hear.

There are those homes where the lighting of the Menorah is not at all a joyful or enjoyable experience. There are homes where the strife and tensions of the daily existence carries on and extends to Chanukah as well.

There are homes (not too many we hope) where the mother or father are domineering and insist their children light the Menorah exactly as they demand and even the slightest deviation from the instructions of the parents can result in having the children’s candles extinguished or their oil spilled out of the Menorah.

There are homes where the tension between the parents penetrates what should be the beautiful time of Chanukah lighting.

  One child related to me how he despises Chanukah as it gives just one more excuse for his parents to engage in their constant and hurtful bickering over how the Menorah should be lit and how long the candles must stay lit and the entire event of ‘Pirsumei Nisa’ (publicizing the miracle) is really ‘Pirsumei Machlokes’ – publicizing the strife in the home.

Some of you can relate to what I write while others are shocked and in disbelief. Maybe even some of you assume I concocted these stories or at least magnified for them dramatic effect.

I wish I could say you are correct.

The bottom line is that if you live in a home where you lit your candles and the family sang the traditional songs and all were happy and smiles, consider yourself blessed.

 And remember, there are those of your neighbors who are very happy that we light nowadays inside, this way they at least can keep their ‘dirty laundry’ inside their homes.

Have compassion on your neighbor and just know: no one knows what another person’s Menorah lighting looks like.

Enjoy the rest of Chanukah.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic NJ 

The Short Vort’ -"You Never Really Know” (12/19/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday Erev Shabbos Chanukah 5775 and December 19, 2014

 

You Never Really Know

 

Bertha and Sidney Millenberg (names changed) were members of my Shul ‘forever’. When I arrived here almost twenty years ago they were members and when I checked the old membership rosters from the 1960s their names always appear.

Sidney was the proverbial ‘kibitzer’. When I would ask him how long he has been with the Shul he replies proudly, “Long enough to know how to change the bulbs in the Main Shul!”

The ceiling of the Main Shul is over forty feet high and the bulbs are partially recessed into the ceiling. It is always a mystery to all as to how the bulbs are changed.

Sidney and Bertha were married for over 62 years. When anyone would ask Sidney how old he was he would reply proudly, “Old enough to have voted for Harry S. Truman in 1948!”

Bertha was much more secretive about her age; when one young man innocently asked her age she replied, “I am old enough to know that you never ask a woman her age! Let’s just say I am old enough to remember when Thomas Edison’s son Charles was the Governor of New Jersey!” (Charles Thomas was governor from January 21, 1941 – January 18, 1944)

Sidney would come to Shul every Shabbos at 7:30 AM and head straight to the coffee urn. He would make himself a cup of java and then sit at the big table in the lobby talking to everyone and anyone who passed by until Shul started at 8:30. He could talk about any topic you were interested in; politics, Israel, price of gas and of course sports. Sidney knew every baseball player and their statistics no matter how irrelevant they were. He was always amazed how so many of the ‘younger generation’ did not share his passion for the American pastime. He would often tell me, “Rabbi, these youngsters all they know is Bava Kama and Bava Basra; they should also know about Babe Ruth and Hank Greenberg!”

As much as I adored Sidney; it seemed to me that he never really appreciated the Torah revolution which was happening in Passaic under his nose.

Sidney and Bertha were never blessed with children.

Sidney had worked for many years as a manufacturer and it was widely known that when he retired he sold the business for a hansom sum of money. They lived modestly in a small home and they did not even own a car anymore. They paid their dues and made donations to the various needs of the Shul; however, it did not add up, everyone figured they must have a huge savings account.

Therefore, when they came to speak to me about how they will manage in the twilight of their lives I was perplexed.

They came to ask my advice if they should move to a Medicare elder-living home.

I was surprised by this; didn’t they have plenty of savings?

When they revealed how much they actually had I was shocked how meek their savings really was.

“That’s all you have?” I blurted out.

“Well this year we married off our fifth child and that almost cleaned us out”.

I began to wonder if the Millenbergs were becoming confused in their advanced age.

“What do you mean you fifth child?”

Bertha explained, “Rabbi, when we reached our 60s, we noticed that all our friends were marrying off their children. We realized that just because Hashem did not bless us with our own children, why should we feel exempted from the mitzvah and miss out on the joy of marrying off a Jewish child?

So over 25 years ago we began to locate needy Jewish girls and we discreetly paid for their weddings. In this way, we also brought ‘our five children’ to the Chuppah.”

Here was Sidney; a simple Jew who I always imagined was more interested in the score of the Yankee game than understanding a Tosfos. And next to him was his wife Bertha who went from Mah-Jong games to Bridge without any apparent interest in Jewish causes.

This ‘simple’ couple is now informing me that their savings has been depleted as they have contributed over $100,000 in the last twenty five years to marry off ‘their five children’.

I was in the presence of greatness.

Sidney and Bertha were no simple Jews; they were precious, holy, unique individuals who in their quiet and modest fashion had guaranteed the continuity of the Jewish people.

“Rabbi, how will look if we move into a Medicare assisted-living?”

I quietly said, “Don’t worry about what others will say. When the time comes and you are called ‘upstairs’, just show them your cancelled checks from the five weddings and you will be granted ‘special’ status. Your seats will be right next to Avrohom and Sora; where you live now is not important.”

I always looked at Sidney as a simple manufacturer, in reality he was the keenest and most ingenious investor I had ever met.

 

“If Not Now, Then When”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort’ -” Nuts about Nuts” (12/18/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is the 26th of Kislev 5755 and December 18, 2014

 

Nuts about Nuts

 

The article said it all:

 

Cho Hyun-ah, 40, a daughter of the Korean Air’s chairman, became enraged when a flight attendant in first class served her nuts in a bag instead of on a plate on Dec. 5.

She forced Korean Air Flight 86, already taxiing at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and bound for Incheon, South Korea, to return to the gate to kick the senior steward, Park Chang-jin, off the plane.

In an interview on Friday with KBS, he said that Ms. Cho had made him and a junior steward who had served the nuts apologize on their knees, and that she had also hit his hand with a plastic folder of in-flight service manuals.

Last week, under snowballing public pressure, Ms. Cho’s father and Korean Air’s chairman, Cho Yang-ho, apologized for her “foolish” behavior and stripped her of all jobs in his family-run conglomerate.

Prosecutors questioned Ms. Cho for 12 hours on Wednesday about allegations that she broke aviation laws by using verbal and physical violence against the crew and by forcing the plane to return to the gate.

[See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/19/world/asia/steward-kicked-off-korean-air-flight-accuses-airline-and-south-korea-of-attempting-cover-up.html?ref=world]

 

Just two weeks ago Cho Hyun-ah was at the top of her world.

 She was the daughter of the chairman of a major international airline; and she herself was a vice-president of the company.  

“Travel retail magazine The Moodie Report stated that the airline is expected to generate inflight retail sales of around US$190 million (S$247.4 million) in 2014, placing it as the world’s leading onboard duty free retailer. In a 2006 interview, it attributed this consistent success to Ms Cho’s drive and passion.”

 http://www.straitstimes.com/news/asia/more-asia-stories/story/korean-air-nut-rage-scandal-5-things-know-about-heather-cho-201412

 

Just two weeks ago she was a rich heiress, a mother of twin boys who were born in Hawaii thus giving them U.S. citizenship which exempts them from the two year mandatory military service that all other Koreans must do, and in general she was a feared and respected executive.

 

Today is she a reviled and loathed capitalist bully who used her power and wealth to intimidate and humiliate hard working ‘simple’ workers who are giving their sweat and blood to make a dollar to support their families.

She is despised as representing the thuggish mentality of the rich who force the common worker to figuratively and literally bow to her.

Over the last two weeks she who humiliated others is now the humiliated one.

She who was dismissive of others is now the one dismissed by millions of her countrymen as being a harsh and abusive taskmaster.

 

Oh, what Cho Hyun-ah would not do to turn back the clock to December 5th?

If only she could do it all over.

She would gladly kiss the feet of the steward if only she could replay the scene and graciously accept the macadamia nuts even if they were thrown in her face.

 Alas, Cho Hyun-ah cannot go back in time and all of her wealth and all of her power can do nothing now to reverse the events of two weeks ago.

She will go down in Korean aviation history as the wicked woman of the Far East who used her position to trample on the poor workers who have no one to stand up for them.

She will be preserved in posterity as the “Korean Queen of Mean”, an infamous symbol of cruelty and the paradigm of a bully.

 

Friends, there are those of you who are reading this and saying, “Those silly people out there… they ruin their lives over such silliness as macadamia nuts… they fail to know what really matters in this world. Not like us; we would never act that way!”

 

As for me, I am not thinking that at all.

Friends, I am Cho Hyun-ah!!!

How many times in my life did I open my mouth when I should have kept it closed?

How many times did I go ‘nuts’ over things even sillier than ‘nuts’?

I cannot lie; the answer is: much too many times than I care to remember.

 

I thank you Cho Hyun-ah; indeed, from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

You once again reminded me how careful I have to be and how on guard on I must be.

You reminded me that macadamia nuts can sometimes change my world.

If only I could remember Cho Hyun-ah every day of my life; imagine what a better person I would be?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

 

     

The Short Vort’ -” Am I Dreaming?” (12/16/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 25th of Kislev 5775 and December 17th, 2014

 

Am I Dreaming?

 

My daughter Aviva is currently learning in Eretz Yisroel in Seminary. It has been a very hard adjustment….for me!

When your youngest child is already learning in Israel, you know you are old.

When the ‘baby of the family’ is on her own navigating the streets of Yerushalayim while I still am caught in the time warp of her needing assistance to cross Waverly Place (the one-way small street where we live)- that is a wake-up call that my baby is growing up.

Today she spoke to me from the Old City of Yerushalayim as she went there to daven at the Kosel.

As we are speaking she suddenly said, “Wow, this is beautiful, all over the Jewish quarter there are Menorahs in the window and by the doorways. Every house has at least one Menorah, this is so beautiful.”

After ascertaining that she indeed knew her way around the Old City, I asked her if there was a Menorah at the Kosel; she told me there was a great big one which could be seen from far away.

As I listened to her description of the Menorahs illuminating the streets of the city where the Beis HaMikdash stood and will stand, I felt tears welling up in me.

On a personal level, my daughter Aviva is now an adult and she is no longer a little child for me to shelter and guard; and for that I cried.

On a national level, my daughter is walking freely in a totally Jewish neighborhood just yards away from where we will soon gather all together to greet Mashiach and she is moved as she describes the hundreds of Jewish families who are publicizing the miracle of Chanukah in a free and secure Jewish state.

My eyes began tearing as I think of my youngest child walking securely and safely surrounded by frum Jews in Yerushalayim and absorbing the holiness and the powerful impact of the miracle of Chanukah as it is celebrated publicly and without shame or hesitation in Yerushalayim.

My entire being is moved to realize the greatness of the moment.

My daughter is walking in Yerushalayim and hundreds of thousands of Jews, more than any time perhaps in history, are lighting Menorah all over the city in the most public and ‘mehudar’ way possible and I should not be moved?

How can I not be moved?

Jews walk freely in Yerushalayim and people are able to light the Menorah freely and without fear.

Let us appreciate what we have and what Hashem has given us.

As for me, I miss my daughter.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -” The First Light ” (12/16/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 24th of Kislev 5775 and December 16, 2014

 

The First Light

 

Tonight in homes all over the world, we will light the singular flame which signifies the beginning of “The Festival of Lights” which we refer to as Chanukah.

Everyone loves Chanukah.

It is the only time of the year when we have eight days of rejoicing and with the exception of Shabbos; all of the days are permitted in travel enabling families to be together for an evening or two.

Chanukah is so special; family togetherness and the privilege to recite Hallel for eight days, what could be better?

Who doesn’t love Chanukah?

Children all over the world look forward for the holiday and so do adults and kids of all ages!

Yesterday, I removed my Menorah from the cabinet. I have the privilege of using my wife’s grandmother’s Menorah which was somehow smuggled out of Vienna after the war. It has dents and bumps and is no longer perfectly straight; however, that is why I love it so much.

It is real! It is me! I also have my dents and bumps and I am still a work in progress to become ‘straight’.

As I placed my Menorah near the window I could not help but notice that this year there is only one other Menorah next to mine. With only one child still living at home, the table which used to be crowded with Menorahs, now has sits someone lonely as only two Menorahs are placed on it.

As I looked at the two Menorahs on the table, I thought to myself of all the different phases of my life.

I recall my brother and I and my father lighting the Menorah in Brooklyn 50 years ago and I recall lighting with my own children when they were just able to participate in the lighting. Now, they are assisting their own children in lighting their own Menorah.

That is life; sometimes the table is crowded with many Menorahs, and sometimes there sits a singular Menorah on the table. Whatever stage of life you are in, rejoice; for as you light your Menorah remember you are not alone. Even if you are lighting you own lone Menorah you are joined by millions of Jews all over the world who will be celebrating Chanukah tonight.

As the first singular light is kindled tonight remember that no matter where you are and no matter how many people are with you, you are not alone. You are connected by virtue of your lighting to the inclusive family called the Jewish people who are united tonight in the light of celebration.

We all have our ‘peckel’ (personal package of problems); however, remember as you light the Menorah tonight that the light of redemption is closer than we imagine.

Enjoy Chanukah!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ 

The Short Vort’ -” Recognize Me for Who I Am” (12/8/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 16th of Kislev 5775 and December 8, 2014

 

Recognize Me for Who I Am

 

It was a time of great joy in the Schwartz (name changed) home.

Rabbi Schwartz had been involved in teaching Torah for over fifty years. Beginning at age 26 until this year, Rav Schwartz had a long and illustrious career of disseminating Torah in many different Yeshivos all over the country.

 He had begun his teaching back in 1957 as a second grade Rebbe and now as was approaching retirement he was the seventh grade Rebbe of a well-known yeshiva.

He had thousands of Talmidim and was beloved by generations of students and parents alike.

Therefore, when Rav Schwartz finally agreed after all of these years of refusal to be the dinner honoree for the yeshiva, it was a time of excitement and happiness in the community and in the immediate family. At least that is what I thought until the phone call.

Yiddel Schwartz was calling.  “Can I come speak to you? It’s important.”

Yiddel was the youngest of the six sons of Rav Schwartz. He was a wonderful Baal Chesed. I recall how as soon as he married he joined ‘all’ of the volunteer organizations which was an excellent outlet for him.

He was a good man and had a wonderful wife as he worked in the food service industry.

Yiddel came right to the point. “I know my father is a great man and I love him with all my heart. I know that he loves his family with every fiber of his being. It’s just that…well, it’s just that I always felt he was never really proud of me because out of his six sons I was the only one who did not follow his path and enter the field of Chinuch. I know he loves me, yet, there is a part of me that feels that he is disappointed in me for not being a Rebbe. I sometimes still feel that he never fully accepted me for who I am and that he always wanted me to be the person who I could never be.”

I was sure that this was not the case, however, how could I tell this to Rav Schwartz so he could deal with Yiddel’s feelings?

How was I to communicate to Rav Schwartz Yiddel’s feelings without hurting him?

As the day of the dinner approached I was still clueless as to what I could do.

At Shacharis that morning, I davened to Hashem to figure out how to tell Rav Schwartz how meaningful it would be to Yiddel if at tonight’s dinner, he would publicly acknowledge him.

I decided to approach Rav Schwartz after davening. As soon davening ended I made a beeline to him, however, as if often the case, I was ‘intercepted’ in the middle of the aisle by Sam.

“Oh no, not now Sam”, I thought to myself. “Can’t the latest edition of ‘Sam’s tall-tales’ be delayed today? I must get to Rav Schwartz and he is already folding his Tallis!”

Sam was not to be deterred and he began his morning saga. Sam was not helping the situation; or so I thought.

 Sam suddenly announced in a loud and clear voice and most importantly in ear-shot of Rav Schwartz, “My wife fell yesterday in the kitchen -and you should only know-if Yiddel Schwartz would not have responded with his Hatzolah crew as quickly as he did, she would not be here today! Rabbi, Yiddel Schwartz should be the one publicly honored!”

I could not have davened for a better pitch!

Rav Schwartz was all ears as he heard the ‘message’ clearly.

The dinner that night was perfect. When Rav Schwartz got up to speak the first person he mentioned was Yiddel. “Friends, I am so proud of all my sons; especially of Yiddel as he became not what I thought he should be; rather, he is what Hashem wanted him to be and that is the greatest Nachas a father can have.”

As I looked up at Yiddel, his face was shining as only a son who knows how proud he is making his father can shine.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -” Torah! Torah! Torah!* ” (12/7/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 15th of Kislev 5775 and December 7, 2014

 

Torah! Torah! Torah!*

* The title is the Japanese code-word used to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved in their surprise attack against Pearl Harbor. Torah literally means "tiger", but in this case it was an acronym for totsugeki raigeki(lightning attack"). (Wikipedia)

 

“December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan”  declared President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his address to Congress on December 8th 1941 in asking for a declaration of war.

Congress responded with an almost unanimous consent as war was officially declared on Japan.

 

When I was growing up in the 1960’s, December 7th 1941 was to anyone over thirty as 9-11 is to anyone over twenty today.

I could ask any of my parents friends (who were American born or had arrived before 1941), “Where were you on December 7th 1941?” and they could tell you exactly where they were, much the same as we all know exactly where we were on the morning of 9-11.

Most people recall December 7th 1941 much the same as 9-11; a date which represents an unprovoked attack against the United States.

Indeed, it was a tragic and horrific and deadly attack; however, out of the destruction of Pearl Harbor was born perhaps the singularly most important and meaningful event of World War Two with regard to saving the doomed Jews of Europe.

What event could I possibly be referring to? How was the attack on Pearl Harbor ‘responsible’ for the saving of the remnant of European Jewry?

The bombing of Pearl Harbor surprised even Germany.

Hitler had made an oral agreement with his Axis partner Japan that Germany would join a war against the United States, provided that the United States attacked Japan first!

As mentioned on December 8th 1941, after the Pearl Harbor attack, America declared war on Japan. Japanese Ambassador Oshima went to German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop to nail the Germans down on a formal declaration of war against America.

Von Ribbentrop stalled for time; he knew that Germany was under no obligation to do this under the terms of the Tripartite Pact, which promised help if Japan was attacked, but not if Japan was the aggressor. Von Ribbentrop feared that the addition of another antagonist, the United States, would overwhelm the German war effort.

But Hitler thought otherwise. He believed that Japan was much stronger than it was and that once it had defeated the United States, it would turn and help Germany defeat Russia. So at 3:30 p.m. (Berlin time) on December 11, the German charge d’affaires in Washington handed American Secretary of State Cordell Hull a copy of the declaration of war.

On December 11, 1941, the United States Congress declared war upon Germany; only hours after Germany declared war on the United States.

There were many pacifists and isolationists still in America at the time. If Germany had not taken the silly and unnecessary step of declaring war on the US, it is highly probable that America would have remained neutral in the European War theatre and limited its combat forces to the Pacific in fighting only Japan. Only when Germany had taken the initiative and declared war on the U.S. did America feel threatened and therefore it was Germany itself which ‘dragged’ America ‘kicking and screaming’ into the European War which ultimately as Van Ribbentrop knew too well led with the help of Hashem to the defeat of Hitler and to the saving of the remnants of European Jewry.

We are not gladdened by Pearl Harbor and we mourn the almost 2,500 Americans who lost their lives on that tragic day. Simultaneously though, we recognize that even in the midst of inexplicable tragedy and destruction, this one act led to the most crucial and decisive event in finally ending the Nazi genocide of our people, namely, the entry of the United States into the war against Germany.

Of course we would have preferred if Hitler would have been eliminated early on and we would have preferred never to have Pearl Harbor. That being said, as we learn Torah today and as we lovingly look at the many Yeshivos and Torah learning institutions which dot our country and in Israel, let us never fail to remember that most of those Yeshivos were started by those remnants of European Jewry who were mercifully saved from the jaws of the Nazis by Hashem through the entry of America into the war.

We mourn our losses; yet, we never ignore the compassion of Hashem, even if we would have wanted it differently or earlier. Let us never forget that without the “Sheris HaPlaita” (the remnants of Torah Jewry) we would not have the Torah institutions we now benefit from.

So in essence, the night of December 7, 1941 was a declaration of Torah! Torah! Torah!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

 

    

The Short Vort’ -"Jewish Pride” (12/4/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 12th of Kislev 5775 and December 4, 2014

 

Jewish Pride

 

I was nearing the end of almost two weeks visiting with my family in Eretz Yisroel.

It is a delight to be able to enjoy quality time with my children and grandchildren.

As a Rav it’s not often I have the ‘privilege’ of having my beard pulled by anyone!

The opportunity to be just ‘Zaidy’ and not Rabbi Eisenman is worth every expense and discomfort that the long and expensive trip entails.

All good things must eventually end and soon it was time to return to the ‘real world’ of the rabbinate. Zaidy would have to go back into the suitcase and Rav Eisenman would emerge on the other side of the Atlantic.

Before I could complete the transformation from Zaidy to Rabbi, I had to endure a stopover in Dusseldorf, Germany.

As I arrived in the airport, I looked at the different stores selling perfumes, spirits and electronic appliances.

It was while gazing at a store which featured a dazzling and dizzying display of digital devices, I sensed the man staring at me.

I turned toward him.

“Are you Jewish?” he asked.

I nodded.

“I have been watching you here in the airport. How does it feel to be part of a nation which is hated by so much of the world?”

My jaw dropped at his audacity as I realized that for once in my life I was actually at a loss as to what to say!

“I don’t mean to be insulting; however, you are standing in Germany, a country which certainly does not have good memories for your people; in a continent which constantly condemns your homeland the State of Israel; you are wearing your black hat and beard for all to see. How can you publicly display that you are a member of a people whom so much of the world despises?”

I had no idea what to answer this man and I had no clue as to his purpose in approaching me.

Finally, I decided, that honesty is the best policy and I quietly said, “Maybe there are many who hate us and maybe many in the world despise us. I cannot answer for all Jews as I am not their spokesman; however, since you asked me I will answer for myself. I don’t feel hated and I don’t feel despised. I am proud to be a Jew and therefore even if what you claim is true, it would not change for one moment my pride in being who I am.”

I was somewhat shocked by my own boldness and I began to wonder if perhaps I was being too daring in my response.

I waited to see his reaction.

He moved very close to me and whispered to me in a near inaudible voice in the middle of Dusseldorf Airport, “I did not expect you to say that. You see my mother was Jewish. She went through the camps and settled here in Germany after the war. She insisted on one thing at home. No one should ever know we are Jewish. When I married a Protestant German woman she was thrilled. I have never told anyone, not even my wife that I am Jewish. When I saw you walking in the airport with your beard and hat, something in me made me approach you. Something in me made me confront you. I have to admit, I was not prepared for the answer you gave me and therefore, I have to thank you, because today, for the first time in my life I also feel proud to be a Jew. You showed me that one can be proud to be Jewish”

“What is your name? Can I have your email address?” I pleaded.

“You have done for me more than you can imagine; I must go now, thank you and Shalom.”

He turned and disappeared among the scores of people.

In an instant he was gone; he had evaporated into the mass of Germans in front of me. I could no longer distinguish him from any other German.

Perhaps that is exactly what he wanted; however … perhaps not.

The sad thing is that I will never know for sure.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -"The Lighter Side of The Rabbanus” (12/1/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 9th of Kislev 5775 and December 1, 2014

 

The Lighter Side of The Rabbanus

 

Being the Rav of a Shul where many congregants came to Torah Judaism at a later period in their life has its lighter moments.

I can recall the time Sam Fishman (now Shmulik) was regaling me with his tale of his first Shabbos in America.

He had just returned from a stint at Aish HaTorah and was excited about spending Shabbos in Boro Park by his only frum relative, his grandmother who lived right off 13th Avenue.

His grandmother informed him that he would have to do some shopping as it was a long time since she had guests for Shabbos. She gave him a list of things to buy and informed him that he could acquire everything on ‘the Avenue’.

Sam set off on Friday morning to the famous 13th Ave to shop like so many other thousands of Jews for his Shabbos needs. As he looked at this list, his challenges began. The first item on the list was a ‘blech’. Sam had never encountered the term ‘blech’ and was unsure what it was. Was it a food? Or was it an item in which you stored food? It actually sounded like something a person does when he wants to relieve himself of indigestion; however, he had learned many things in ‘Aish’ which at first glance were strange so he decided not to ask too many questions and get the ‘Blech’. He was hoping at least it tasted good.

Assuming it was a Jewish food; he walked into Landau’s Supermarket and asked one of the workers, where would the blechs be? He was still struggling with the ‘ch’ sound (the Hebrew Ches) so when he asked the man his question it sounded like ‘Where are the blacks?”  The man looked at his in a shocked and surprised way, however, by some miracle he realized that Sam needed a ‘blech’ and directed him to Gottlieb’s Hardware store about a block down.

Sam entered the store and thought he had entered a hoarder’s paradise. There were pots and pans hanging from every corner of the store and every electrical gadget you could imagine lined the six inch wide passageways of the store. There were women with double strollers jamming the counter-space and everyone was talking and yelling at once.

Somehow, in the midst of this cacophony of Yiddish, English and mostly Yinglish, Sam was able to ask the proprietor, “Excuse me; I need a blech, where do you have them?”

The man pointed to a corner in the back of the second aisle and Sam fought his way down the walkway ignoring the gummy bears which the four year boy was attaching to his cashmere winter coat and attempting to dodge the ‘gooey looeys’ which the little boy’s three year sister was throwing at him. When Sam arrived at the back of the aisle he realized his problems had only begun. Sam had no idea what a ‘blech’ was. Was it the extra burners which were piled high to the ceiling? Was it the precipitously stacked oven racks which looked to Sam would collapse if he exhaled? Or was it the extra stove-top nobs which were strewn all over the place? The only item he could not figure out what they were was the flat sheets of metal in different sizes which were in the corner. Finally, he returned to the proprietor, “I’m sorry, I cannot find them?”

The elderly Yinglish speaking owner of the store shouted, “Vat do you mean? You were standen on dem! All right, I vill get it faw you. Vat size do you vant? Big or small?”

Sam did not know what to answer, however, he had learnt in yeshiva that nowadays we have ‘’big Shiurim” and that ‘big’ Tzitzis are better than small ones so he told the man, “Big, please”.

Needless to say his grandmother was not pleased when he brought home a blech made to cover eight burners when her small stove only had four!

The next item on Sam’s list was equally perplexing. His grandmother had written, “luction kugel”. Once again his six months in yeshiva did nothing to prepare Sam for decoding his grandmothers cryptic request and he had no idea what “luction kugel” was;  so he went back to the hardware store and asked in a loud voice, “Excuse me, but where can I find a suction cooker?”

I am not sure what Shmulik and his grandmother ate that Shabbos; however, one thing is for sure, there was more laughter in his grandmother’s house that Shabbos than had been heard for years.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -” “Nu, So You Messed Up; Now What?”” (11/26/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 5th of Kislev 5775 and November 27th, 2014

 

“Nu, So You Messed Up; Now What?”

 

Today (the 5th of Kislev), is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz Zt”l (1864 – November 17, 1939 - Kislev 5, 5700).

Rav Baruch Ber was a student (Talmid) of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik Zt”l; his magnum opus, Birkas Shmuel is a standard text found on the shtenders of the finest Roshei Yeshiva in the world.

When a Yeshiva Bochur is able to master a piece in the Birkas Shmuel he is the envy of his peers in the yeshiva.

Rav Baruch Ber’s depth of understanding and his mastery of the most nuanced points of the Gemara have guaranteed his Sefer as a classic among Talmudic commentaries of the twentieth century.

Rav Baruch Ber’s genius is never doubted by anyone; however, we must also never forget that besides excelling in learning, he excelled perhaps even more in his exemplary character traits (Midos Tovos) and particularly in his extreme exactness with which he performed the mitzvah of Kibud Av (honoring one’s father).

During the first World War Rav Baruch Ber was forced to flee to the city of Kremenchug and finally to Vilna. During this time Rav Baruch Ber took care of his father and provided him with all of his needs.

After the war, Rav Baruch Ber’s father took ill and Rav Baruch Ber would not leave his father’s sick bed even for a brief respite. Eventually his students were concerned that the pressures of caring for his father were impacting in a negative fashion on Rav Baruch Ber’s own health.

After much pleading and cajoling, Rav Baruch Ber agreed to take a brief break to rest and his students assured him that they would maintain the watch by his father’s bedside.

As Hashem would have it, during this brief break Rav Baruch Ber’s father returned his soul to his maker.

Rav Baruch Ber fell into a deep state of self-guilt as he felt he had failed his father precisely in his greatest moment of need. His depression increased as his feelings of culpability in the death of his father heightened to such an extent that his students feared for his well-being.

The Chofetz Chaim went to meet with Rav Baruch Ber.

The Chofetz Chaim did not attempt to alter Rav Baruch Ber’s own self-perception, nor did he attempt to assure him that there was nothing more he could have done for his father.

Quite the opposite; the Chofetz Chaim said, “Perhaps you are correct. Perhaps you should not have left your father’s bedside precisely at such a precarious time; perhaps indeed you erred in your judgment. Where does that leave us now? Does not the Torah speak about Teshuva? Does not the Torah recognize that people err and when they do they always have the option of turning over a new leaf and beginning a new page in their life through Teshuva? Even if you were culpable, does life stop? Is there no tomorrow to improve upon the mistakes of today?”

Rav Baruch Ber was shaken to the core and the words of the Chofetz Chaim elevated him from the doldrums of depression to the burning desire to improve and re-embrace life.

Rav Baruch Ber would often say of that encounter, “The Chofetz Chaim brought me back to life!”

(From “Chofetz Chaim HaChadash Al HaTorah”- arranged by Rabbi Shalom Meir HaKohen Vallach; Bnei Brak, 5767, pages 205-206)

How often in life do we need the reality ‘wake-up call’ from the Chofetz Chaim?

How often do we allow ourselves to wallow away our lives while drowning ourselves in a sea of self-pity?

We all make mistakes; some big and some little; however, a mistake should never be coopted and utilized as an excuse for a failure to engage life and meet tomorrow’s challenges head on.

Everyone falls and everyone stumbles, the greatness of the Chofetz Chaim and his advice to Rav Baruch Ber was stressing the necessity to recognize that once you have fallen and once you have stumbled, get right back up and take on tomorrow. Using yesterday’s mistakes as excuses for failing to act today is never acceptable or valid.

So let’s say yesterday you messed up, you should have called your Aunt Sylvia for her birthday and you didn’t; however, that doesn’t mean that today you stay in bed paralyzed by guilt and remorse.

Get up, wipe yourself and become another Rav Baruch Ber!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ - “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"” (11/25/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 3rd of Kislev 5775 and November 25th, 2014

 

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

 

Many of us recall with horror the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School which occurred almost two years ago.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff members (Wikipedia)

What ever happened to Sandy Hook Elementary School?

 Is there a memorial somewhere in the school?

Are children still learning the ‘three R’s’ there?

No, there are no children learning at Sandy Hook; indeed, the building no longer exists.

 

 Construction crews completely demolish former Sandy Hook Elementary School

01/02/14 02:30 PM-By Michele Richinick

The Town of Newtown, Conn., spent almost $1.4 million on the abatement and demolition of the former Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Construction crews recently finished demolition, which cost $850,000, according to a press release issued Thursday by the town. Additionally, abatement cost $1.3 million.

Residents voted last October to raze the structure … Nothing will stand where a gunman killed 26 individuals in December 2012.{http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/sandy-hook-demolished-winterized}

 

Compare this fact with what happened at the Shul in Har Nof where a week ago today we awoke to the news of the horrific massacre.

 

Mispallelim Return to Har Nof Shul to Daven Shacharis 24 Hours After Massacre

Wednesday November 19, 2014 6:40 AM -

About 30 mispallelim arrived this morning to the Bnei Torah shul in Har Nof, Yerushalayim, for Shacharis the day after two Arab terrorists horrifically massacred four Yidden and one police officer at the Shul.

One of the attendees, Yitzchok Heshig, a doctor at Shaare Tzedek Hospital, who was injured in Tuesday’s attack, made it a point to return to the shul for the davening, Arutz Sheva reported.

Yossi Brazzeni, who was also present during the attack, wept upon his return: “I went to daven at the exact same spot I stood in yesterday and said a prayer thanking G-d for the miracle that took place, because I see exactly where I was standing and where the terrorists was. Thank G-d.”

 

Why the difference?

Why the need to return to the Shul the next day while in Sandy Hook there was a need to “completely demolish” the building?

Perhaps the reason is simple.

Often when terrible things occur, the ‘normative’ human reaction is to repress and even erase the incident from the collective consciousness of the public.

Who wants to face and deal with horrific and evil acts?

 We would much rather occupy our time with happy thoughts and pleasant events.

Therefore, too often people would rather ‘not be bothered by the facts’ and ‘completely demolish’ any vestige of anything which reminds them of that which they no longer want to be reminded of.

We are different.

The Jewish people are no strangers to tragedy.

Our mesorah teaches us not only to never forget the past, no matter how unpleasant it is; indeed, quite the opposite, we are implored to embrace the memory of the tragedy.

Only by dealing with the tragedy head-on can we attempt to learn some of the lessons from the horror and attempt to rectify ourselves and the situation for the future.

We do not erase buildings as if they never existed.

We do not raze the sights of mayhem and murder; we embrace them as vehicles and as reminders for constant improvement and for our own spiritual betterment.

We also state unequivocally that evil and its pumps can and never will deter us from doing what we know is correct.

The Har Nof Shul is not only a place not to be avoided, it is a place to be embraced; a place of where holiness resides even more so now than before and it is a privilege to be able to daven and learn there.

The Rambam instructs us to learn from all and Chazal have taught us “Chochma (wisdom) B’Goyim Taamin” (You should believe that there is wisdom among the nations of the world).

There is no doubt that one can apply this instruction of our sages to the wisdom of the Spanish Philosopher George Santayana (December 16, 1863 – September 26, 1952) who so insightfully stated: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort’ -"The Fifth Victim” (11/23/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5775- November 23, 2014

 

The Fifth Victim

 

There has been much pain and anguish for all of us over the brutal cold blooded murder of the four unarmed, Tzadikim killed last week adorned in their Tallis and Tefillin while in the middle of davening.

Our hearts are aching and our eyes are still tearful; however, let us not allow our sincere and worthy tears to dim our vision and the pain must not muddle our clarity of thought and cause us to forget the fact that there is a fifth victim as well.

Although this fifth victim was armed and was a member of the Israeli Police Force and indeed, he was not even Jewish, nevertheless, this fifth victim is in many ways the true hero of the story.

Who is this fifth victim? His name is Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif, 30, of Yanuh-Jat in the Galilee. He is a member of The Druze (The Druze are a monotheistic religious and social community. The Druze call themselves Ahl al-Tawhid "the People of Monotheism". The Druze are Arabic-speaking citizens of Israel, who are drafted into mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces, in which the same process goes for the majority of citizens in Israel. Members of the community have attained top positions in Israeli politics and public service. Wikipedia)

 

According to media reports of the incident:

Druze police officer Zidan Seif joined the Israel Police in April 2011 and served as a traffic control inspector at the Jerusalem Police Department. He was one of the first two policemen to arrive at the scene and was shot in the head during a gunfight with the two Palestinian assailants who entered the synagogue and attacked worshippers. He was posthumously promoted to First Sergeant. Despite the doctors’ efforts to save him, the critically wounded police officer succumbed to his wounds.

Druze community leaders and residents of Seif’s village of Yanuh-Jat in the Galilee praised him as a hero. "We are proud of our sons who act fearlessly on the front against terrorist attacks," said Muefek Tarif, a spiritual leader of the Druze community.

Master Sergeant will be buried in his home village of Yanuh-Jat. He is survived by his wife and infant daughter, parents and five siblings.

(http://www.all4israel.org/newsdetail.cfm?article=76B4D2C7FACDCBA9&rnd=p4781&articlename=Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif, 30)

 

National Police Commissioner Inspector General Yochanan Danino eulogized Saif at his funeral on Wednesday, saying that the officer “ran into the heart of the murderous inferno, without fear, without concern” and that he “endangered himself for the security of the citizens of Israel.”

Danino credited Saif for stopping the rampage and for saving the lives of other potential victims.

“The people of Israel owe Zidan a great debt – a great debt to this man and this great officer - to remember his greatness, his character, his heroism and his courage.”

President Reuven Rivlin also attended the funeral, as did Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and leaders from the Druse community of Israel. 

(http://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Thousands-attend-funeral-of-Druse-police-officer-Zidan-Saif-382259)

Participation in his funeral by Jews not limited to State officials, as was also reported in the media:

 “The funeral was also attended by members of the Haredi community in Jerusalem and beyond who organized buses to take them to the Galilee village to pay their respects to the officer who risked his life and ultimately died to stop the attack Tuesday.” (Ibid)

 

 “A haredi woman from Beitar Illit -Ariela Sternbach- took upon herself to organize bus rides from Jerusalem to the Druse town of Kfar Yanouch in the Galilee for the funeral of Zidan Saif…for dozens of haredi residents of the neighborhood and beyond.” (Ibid)

 As she properly stated: “This policeman had so much courage. He lives in this country and he was not of the Jewish people but he put his life on the line for us and sacrificed himself for us,” Sternbach told The Jerusalem Post. “He leaves behind a widow and an orphaned child and I think his deeds must be recognized,” she said.” (Ibid)

 

Ariela Sternbach said is very well, when she stated: “I think his deeds must be recognized.”

Hakoras HaTov- Recognizing the ‘good’ which others have done for us is a fundamental and paramount principle of our faith.

It has been stated by the greats of our people that without Hakoras HaTov one’s entire service to Hashem is lacking and deficient.

There is no limit to Hakoras HaTov and we as Jews must never forget the goodness and kindness which others, especially non-Jews do for us.

In many ways Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif is the true hero of the entire tragic incident.

He was not part of an elite anti-terrorist unit who are trained in hand to hand combat and he possessed neither the know-how nor the proper weaponry to neutralize the evil perpetrators who defiled the holy and pristine confines of the Shul.

He was a traffic cop.

 He would have been totally within the proper parameters of his job description if upon arriving at the Shul and realizing that there were armed gunmen inside, he would have radioed for the elite SWAT team and remained outside the synagogue maintaining and securing the parameter of the building; however, Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif did not do that.

He entered the lion’s den and literally ‘took the bullet’ for others as he was shot in the head while simultaneously alerting the elite SWAT anti-terrorists units who were able to respond precisely and effectively.

 Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif prevented more Jews from suffering the fate of the four holy Kedoshim.

He did not opt out of helping his fellow citizens by claiming he is just a ‘traffic-cop’ and what can he do?

He did not hesitate to enter the building even though he was not Jewish and ethnically and religiously the Druze are Arabs and a ‘break-off’ from Shia Islam and the overwhelming majority of them live in Arab lands. Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif did not make such calculations. He entered the death zone and paid for this heroism with his own life.

We all owe him a debt of gratitude.

If anyone reading this knows of his address or how to contact his family and/or the leaders of his community please forward me this information as I feel all of us should communicate our feelings of appreciation to him.

I also ask if anyone knows of any fund which has been set up to support his family- as he left behind an orphaned baby- please inform me as I want to personally contribute to this fund.

As we mourn the great Tzadikim and holy Jews who were butchered for no other reason than being Jews in the land of Israel, let us make sure never to forget the heroic efforts of the non-Jewish Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif.

He was not the prime target of the murderers and he alone among the victims placed himself in the line of fire out of free choice and out of a commitment to his adopted homeland.

Remember Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif and perhaps ask yourself, would you have done the same if you were in his place?

May his memory be an inspiration to all of us of the potential of the fulfillment of the prophecy “For then I will convert the peoples to a pure language that all of them call in the name of the Lord, to worship Him of one accord.” (Tzephania 3:9)

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort’ -"A Dose of Happiness for a Difficult Week “ (11/21/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 28th of Marcheshvan 5775 and November 21st 2014

 

A Dose of Happiness for a Difficult Week

 

Isaac Stein is a very special young man.

I can personally attest to the fact that Isaac has never spoken even one word of Loshon Hora in his life. Indeed, he has never spoken any words.

He has never lifted his hands in anger against another human being; for he has never lifted his hands in his entire life.

Isaac is a special beautiful young man with an infectious smile. If you ever have met him, even once, you will immediately be taken in by his pristine Neshama and his warmth and love.

For many years, one of the highlight of Isaac’s challenged life has been coming to Shul with his father for Hakofos on Simchas Torah.

However, this year was not like every year.

This year, Isaac’s father was having his own personal health struggles and as Yom Kippur arrived; his father was in the hospital involved in his own delicate battle.

And even though Isaac’s father was able to fight off the decree, he was still hospitalized the first days of Succos and who knew if he would be well enough to be home for Succos.

Finally, with the help of He who helps all, Isaac’s Dad arrived home for Chol HaMoed.

Would he be healthy and strong enough to make it to Shul for Simchas Torah?

Simchas Torah arrived and I waited with a hopeful heart for Isaac and Dad to arrive.

The first and second Hakofos were finished and still no sign of Isaac and Dad.

Finally, as the third Hakofa began in walks the father. He was weak; however, he was in Shul.

“Would Isaac be coming?” I hesitantly asked.

He nodded hopefully.

The fourth and fifth Hakafa are completed and still no sign of Isaac.

The Sixth Hakofa is winding down, Isaac is not here and the seventh and final Hakofa is soon to begin.

As the sixth Hakofa is quickly evaporating into a few die-hard dancers desperately attempting to keep a dissipating nigun alive, suddenly, the door to the Shul opens.

Isaac Stein has arrived.

 Sitting in his two hundred pound special wheelchair, complete with computerized pumps and other high-tech apparatus, Isaac is wheeled into the Shul.

As soon as I see him I make a bee line to greet him; however, how will the rest of the Shul react?

Are they simply drained from a long morning of dancing?

Have they been ‘danced out’?

How will they react to the physically challenged boy with the ill father?

Will they keep a safe distance?

Without one word of instruction from me and without any formal announcement, and as if on cue, the entire Shul erupted with a newly found, formally unknown burst of energy.

Everyone, from the sixty year old plus plump and paunchy “never-have-I-danced-more-than-five-minutes-“ Yid, to the eighteen year old Yeshiva Bochur, spontaneously encircle the wheelchair bound Isaac and his father.

To paraphrase Chazal in the Mishna in Succah (5:1): “Whoever has not seen the Simchadik dancing of when the entire Shul danced with Isaac Stein and his father, has never seen Simcha in his life.”

The entire Shul was unified in their joy and gratitude to Hashem for granting us this privilege.

We danced and danced; suddenly no one was tired.

There were only two places to look: at the cherubic smile of Isaac Stein as circles of men revolved around him and on the face of his father who just a week before was not sure he would reach this day.

I looked at Isaac and realized that the sparkle of his eyes, combined with the smile on his face had inspired dozens of men to reach spiritual heights never known before.

As the dancing continued and Isaac and his father looked on, Hashem’s presence was felt by all. 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ 

The Short Vort’ -” The Day After” (11/20/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 27th of Marcheshvan 5775 and November 20, 2014

 

The Day After

 

It’s already been two days since the news of the Har Nof massacre reached our ears.

Two days of crying and pain; two days of numbness and of living in a fog of disbelief.

The world has changed since Tuesday.

When I went to sleep on Monday night, Har Nof was a neighborhood where no one had to worry about terror attacks.

It was not near “Ben Yehuda” and was not even near ‘town’.

It was a quiet, frum, residential neighborhood where if you wanted to ‘go out’ you were satisfied to frequent the simple and modest food-stop: “Holy Bagel” to enjoy a bagel with an Israeli imitation of American cheese cream.

It was a place where so many of our daughters attend seminary (including my own) and we as parents were always consoled by the fact that it was ‘out of the way’ and safe and secure.

It was a place where Sefardim and Ashkenazim live in peace and harmony.

It is a place where men are serious about their learning and women are serious about their Mitzvohs.

It is a place where children play freely and where English is commonly heard as many serious American immigrants to Israel decide to settle there as they view Har Nof as a place where they can grow and be inspired to higher levels of Torah and Mitzvohs.

That was until Tuesday morning.

The world changed on Tuesday.

On Tuesday Har Nof joined the unenviable list of places such as Maalot and Chevron, Mercaz HaRav and Ben Yehuda; places which have been seared into the collective memory of Klal Yisroel as locations of tragedy and calamities.

No longer will anyone enter a Shul in Har Nof and feel the sense of security and calmness which permeated the neighborhood prior to Tuesday.

For now on, every Mispallel must look over their shoulder and wonder if the Middle Eastern man standing in the doorway is a friend or potential murderer.

Children will no longer frolic as they did before Tuesday and mothers will no longer sit in a care-free mode on the benches.

The world of Har Nof will never be the idyllic, tranquil and serene world it was up to 7:01 AM on Tuesday the 25th of Marcheshvan 5775.

And although life goes on and the Shul is once again functioning and learning will continue and Simchos will be held there and Minyanim have already resumed…

Still, something has changed; something has been altered and defiled and that is sad.

Perhaps then, this allows us to comprehend the real meaning of the words of our prayer, “Chadesh Yameinu K’kedem”; ‘renew our days to the pristine, carefree and unspoiled ways of old.’

May that prayer be fulfilled speedily and in our days.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ  

The Short Vort’ -” What is there to say?” (11/18/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 25th of Marcheshvan 5775 and November 18, 2014

 

What is there to say?

 

“O God! Nations have come into Your heritage; they have defiled Your Holy Temple;

 They have given the … the flesh of Your pious ones to the beasts of the earth

They have spilled their blood like water around Jerusalem…” (Tehillim 79)

 

It was 5:30 AM and my bedroom was still pitch black.

I gently picked up my phone to look at the time and I am surprised to see so much ‘activity’ on the phone. There are ‘alerts’ and many messages from my family members.

“Har Nof…terror attack…. Many casualties… in middle of davening…axes…savage attacks….Rav Moshe Twersky Hy”D…”

Was I dreaming?

Har Nof….terror attack??? It was the safest place in the world…

I was not dreaming.

The vicious murder of innocent men who innocently went –as they did every other day of their lives- to daven was true.

Rav Moshe Twersky Zt”l, brother of my friend and former Chavrusa Rav Meir Twersky Shlita (who has spoken in our Shul) was no longer among the living along with three other Kedoshim.

I staggered back to the bedroom and out of fear and of the need for my own comfort; I wake my wife to inform her of the tragedy.

 “Men going to daven have been killed and hacked to death while being adorned in their Tallis and Tefillin. Men standing Shmoneh Esrei shot to death, their blood soaking their Tallesim”, I stammer.

I retreat into myself.

My daughter is in Seminary in Har Nof, I was just there two weeks ago.

I have friends all over Har Nof.

Did I ever imagine as I went to Shul in the morning that this would be my last davening?

How does one react?

What does one do or say?

I am suddenly shaken from my stupor as I look up and see my wife preparing to leave.

“I’ll see you later.”

 “Where are you going this early?” I ask.

My wife looks at me and says, “Where else is there to go at a time like this? I need to go to Shul; I need to daven in Shul, it’s just about time for Vasikin.”

I watch my wife leave and realize she has given me my answer, she has once again showed me the way.

Jews are killed in Shul while davening to Hashem.

Our response is clear; our reaction is the same as it will always be.

“Where else is there to go at a time like this? I need to go to Shul; I need to daven…”

I follow my wife to Shul.

Where else is there to be?

What else is there to do?

Only Hashem has the answers and only through Him is there hope.

I slowly walk down the cold still dark street to Shul; will this be my last davening? Will I merit leaving Shul alive today?

I don’t know; nevertheless, “Where else is there to go at a time like this? I need to go to Shul; I need to daven…”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort - Feeling Their Pain (11/17/14)

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The Short Vort


Good Morning!


 


Today is Monday the 24rd of Cheshvan 5775 and November 17, 2014


 


Feeling Their Pain


 


Over the last few weeks we all have suffered.


Almost one month ago a three month old baby was killed together will a recent convert to Judaism while standing by the Jerusalem Light Rail in the heart of the city.


A week or so later, a woman was stabbed to death in Gush Etzion.


A short time after that, a soldier was stabbed to death in the heart of Tel Aviv.


Yesterday, a man was stabbed not far from the Old City of Yerushalayim.


And there have been other cases of violence and attempted murder; however, I am too pained to list them all.


There are many responses to these tragedies.


There are those (group A) who claim that they (and only them) know the spiritual causes of these tragedies.


And there are those (group B) who claim that ‘they’ know the ‘real’ reasons for these tragedies.


Indeed, too often, group A will claim that the reason for the calamities is the actions of group B; while group B will counter claim that the opposite is true. Namely, it is precisely the fact that group A does not follow the path of group B that Hashem is upset with His people.


Both groups are convinced that they and they alone know the secrets of why and when Hashem reacts in a punitive fashion.


Both groups marshal the words of previous ‘Gedolim” to buttress and ‘prove’ the correctness of their opinion.


Often the exact same “Gadol” of yesteryear is quoted by both sides as prove-positive as to the correctness of their opinion.


Both groups assemble appropriate quotes and passages from Chazal to bolster their view of how and why G-d reacts.


Personally, I have no idea of why and when Hashem chooses to react.


I leave those questions to those with more insight that me.


I have no quotes from Chazal to inform you who is right and who is wrong.


I will not quote anecdotal evidence from this great person or that great person as to why Hashem reacts the way He does.


I will just quote one story which I heard many years ago which made a deep impression on me and still impacts on my life.


When I was younger I was informed that a man came to the Satmar Rebbe Zt”l (Rav Yoel Teitelbaum-13 January 1887 – 19 August 1979) and weaved before the Rebbe a web of woe and pain. The man’s tale involved multiple members of his family being stricken with massive maladies and extreme poverty overtaking the unfortunate family.


The Rebbe was so moved by his plight that he contributed generously to the man.


A while later, the Rebbe was informed by his confidants that upon investigation it was discovered that the man’s misfortunes were fabricated and untrue.


He was not impoverished and all were well and healthy in his abode.


The Rebbe responded with an enthusiastic “Baruch Hashem!”


The Chassidim fearing the Rebbe had misunderstood them, questioned him as to his reaction.


“Rebbe, why did you respond with Baruch Hashem? The man swindled you out of a great deal of money?”


The Rebbe smiled and said, “Money comes and money goes; however, Baruch Hashem there is not a Yid in this world who is subject to such suffering!”


The Rebbe cared about the loss of his Tzedoka funds; however, more than his Tzedoka funds, he loved all Jews unconditionally and therefore he never lost sight of the fact that when a Jew is suffering, first and foremost, that must cause pain to all of us.


 Therefore, when he realizedthat a Jew was indeed not suffering, his first reaction was relief and joy.


I choose to react to the current crisis as the Satmar Rebbe Zt”l did.


I do not know the ‘thoughts’ of Hashem for as the Navi Yeshaya says "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," says the Lord.” (55:8)


Ido know though that Hashem is pained when a Jew is pained as it says, “Imo Anochi B’Tzara” (I am with him in distress; (91:15).


And therefore, irrespective of the unknown reason to me, I am in pain.


We must feel the pain of those who have been injured and the pain of the family members of those killed.


We must feel the pain of all Jews, especially those in Eretz Yisroel where each passing car could contain (G-d forbid) a crazed Jew-hating motorist.


Feeling their pain and empathizing with their fears and their anguish is for sure a G-dly reaction.


Pointing figures is nothing more than speculative.


The Talmud teaches: “Ain Safek Motzi M’dei Vadai”- ‘When you have one path which is certainly correct and one which is speculative at best, go with the certainty.’


It is for certain that Hashem is in pain; so too, certainly we must first and foremost feel their pain.


The pointing of fingers is at best a ‘safek’.


Why speculate when you can do what for sure is correct; feel their pain, sense their fears.


Our brethren now need the clear and for certain compassion of the Satmar Rebbe, not the pointed fingers of speculation


 


“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel


Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ


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The Short Vort’ -"Feeling Their Pain” (11/17/14)
 


The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 24rd of Cheshvan 5775 and November 17, 2014

 

Feeling Their Pain

 

 

There are many responses to these tragedies.

There are those (group A) who claim that they (and only them) know the spiritual causes of these tragedies.

And there are those (group B) who claim that ‘they’ know the ‘real’ reasons for these tragedies.

Indeed, too often, group A will claim that the reason for the calamities is the actions of group B; while group B will counter claim that the opposite is true. Namely, it is precisely the fact that group A does not follow the path of group B that Hashem is upset with His people.

Both groups are convinced that they and they alone know the secrets of why and when Hashem reacts in a punitive fashion.

Both groups marshal the words of previous ‘Gedolim” to buttress and ‘prove’ the correctness of their opinion.

Often the exact same “Gadol” of yesteryear is quoted by both sides as prove-positive as to the correctness of their opinion.

Both groups assemble appropriate quotes and passages from Chazal to bolster their view of how and why G-d reacts.

Personally, I have no idea of why and when Hashem chooses to react.

 

The Rebbe was so moved by his plight that he contributed generously to the man.

A while later, the Rebbe was informed by his confidants that upon investigation it was discovered that the man’s misfortunes were fabricated and untrue.

He was not impoverished and all were well and healthy in his abode.

The Rebbe responded with an enthusiastic “Baruch Hashem!”

The Chassidim fearing the Rebbe had misunderstood them, questioned him as to his reaction.

“Rebbe, why did you respond with Baruch Hashem? The man swindled you out of a great deal of money?”

The Rebbe smiled and said, “Money comes and money goes; however, Baruch Hashem there is not a Yid in this world who is subject to such suffering!”

The Rebbe cared about the loss of his Tzedoka funds; however, more than his Tzedoka funds, he loved all Jews unconditionally and therefore he never lost sight of the fact that when a Jew is suffering, first and foremost, that must cause pain to all of us.

 Therefore, when he realized that a Jew was indeed not suffering, his first reaction was relief and joy.

I choose to react to the current crisis as the Satmar Rebbe Zt”l did.

I do not know the ‘thoughts’ of Hashem for as the Navi Yeshaya says "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," says the Lord.” (55:8)

I do know though that Hashem is pained when a Jew is pained as it says, “Imo Anochi B’Tzara” (I am with him in distress; (91:15).

And therefore, irrespective of the unknown reason to me, I am in pain.

We must feel the pain of those who have been injured and the pain of the family members of those killed.

We must feel the pain of all Jews, especially those in Eretz Yisroel where each passing car could contain (G-d forbid) a crazed Jew-hating motorist.

Feeling their pain and empathizing with their fears and their anguish is for sure a G-dly reaction.

Pointing figures is nothing more than speculative.

The Talmud teaches: “Ain Safek Motzi M’dei Vadai”- ‘When you have one path which is certainly correct and one which is speculative at best, go with the certainty.’

It is for certain that Hashem is in pain; so too, certainly we must first and foremost feel their pain.

The pointing of fingers is at best a ‘safek’.

Why speculate when you can do what for sure is correct; feel their pain, sense their fears.

Our brethren now need the clear and for certain compassion of the Satmar Rebbe, not the pointed fingers of speculation

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

 

 

 

The Short Vort’ -"The Drosha Was Meant For Me” (11/10/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 18th of Marcheshvan 5775 and November 11, 2014

 

The Drosha Was Meant For Me

 

When Baruch Weiss approached me after Shabbos Shuva to thank me for my Drosha as it really ‘hit home’, I had no idea what he was referring to.

I had spoken about the need when approaching Yom Kippur of not just asking for forgiveness from those we have harmed; I had also stressed the need to inform others who may not even realize it, how they have hurt us.

Baruch is the quintessential LMC (“Low Maintenance Congregant”). Rarely did he ask me for anything, and for the most part, he came to Shul, he davened, he smiled and he left.

Therefore when we said to me, “Rabbi, your Shabbos Shuva Drosha was exactly what I needed to hear;” I was dumbfounded as to what he meant.

 “Rabbi, when you spoke about “the need to inform others who may not even realize it, how they have hurt us”, your words touched me deeply.”

I was sure at this point that Baruch was about to relate how because of my words he had been able to open up to his wife about a pain which he has kept concealed for many years and I would be lauded as the catalyst for causing greater Shalom Bayis. My not so subtle feelings of superiority began to burgeon within me as I eagerly awaited another well-earned dosage of accolades to come cascading on my already over-inflated ego. After all, how many people have the opportunity to have 300 people come to listen to them for over an hour on a Shabbos afternoon?

I leaned back in my chair waiting for the praises and expressions of gratitude to begin.

“Rabbi, this is difficult for me to say.  However, I have been containing my pain and negative feelings for quite a while now.”

I already had painted a clear picture in my mind of what was about to follow, Baruch would tell me how he had held back on telling his wife or mother or some friend how they had hurt him and because of my insightful words of wisdom on Shabbos Shuva he had found the strength and resolve to confront them and this had brought about a reconciliation and renewed understanding between them.

That is what I thought and hoped for; however, the painful truth was: “Der mentsh tracht un G-t lacht” (Man plans and Hashem laughs).

Baruch looked me straight in the eye and said, “Rabbi, about six months ago I informed you that my son was going through a tough emotional time. I opened my heart to you and confided with you. Since then, I cannot recall even once when you have inquired as to his well-being. I am hurt and I must confess I am pained.”

There were many things I could have said to Baruch then.

I could have told him that since his son was suffering from an emotional issue, I did not want to bring it up and since he didn’t I figured his son had recovered.

I could have told him that I was planning to inquire; however, since he always leaves Shul in such a discreet and unobtrusive way, I never had the chance to.

I could have said that and I could have claimed other ‘valid’ excuses.

I did not.

I paused, allowed his words to sink in and with a humbled and chastened soul I said the only words which were the absolute truth.

“Baruch, I am sorry, you are right. I cannot change the past; please forgive me and I will try better in the future.”

Baruch accepted my apology and left the office; and as I put on my hat to leave, I finally, albeit very belatedly, realized just how big my hat really was for my ever shrinking head.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

    

The Short Vort’ -” Back in the US of A ” (11/7/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 14th of Mar-Cheshvan 5775 and November 7, 2014

 

"Back in the US of A"

The Upsherin

 

I am somewhat comfortable in navigating differences between a husband and wife.

I never thought though, that I would be asked to mediate a dispute over the guest list for an Upsherin!

The Upsherin which in times past was optional by some and low key at most by others, has now become de rigueur by all with even elaborate celebrations by some.

When Devorah Richburg (name changed) approached me about her insistence that her sister not attend the upsherin of her son, this was a new one for someone who had imagined he had seen and heard everything!

Devorah is a perfect Bas Yisroel. I have never seen anything even close to anger emanating from her usual calm self. Her current fury was totally out of character.

As she sits she relates the following:

“When I was 18 I had a sleep over with three friends in honor of my high school graduation. Sima, my 14 year old sister had one friend over in order to avoid unnecessary rivalry between us.

Everything was going fine when at 6 AM; there was a piercing cry from Sima’s room. As we ran to her room, we see Sima holding her long and much-beloved pony-tail in her hand.

“What happened?” Through a sea of tears, Sima blurts out, “Mommy, last night when I was sleeping, Devorah and her friends snuck into my room and cut off my pony-tail!”

 Mom was beside herself; how could I, her ‘angelic’ daughter do that to Sima?

The proof however, was in Sima’s hand!

Mom sent my friends home and grounded me from the graduation trip.

Despite my protestations and outright denials Mom was obstinate and the punishment remained in force.

The incident passed, and in the fall I went off to seminary and after two years in Eretz Yisroel I returned, married and am now I am the proud mother of a three year son.

However, somehow the relationship between Mom and I and Sima was never quite the same.

Sima went to sem and ended up marrying a boy in Eretz Yisroel.

I have not seen Sima since her Chasuna and now she is coming in and of course my Mom expects me to invite her to the upsherin.

 I can’t.

Every time I think of cutting my son’s hair I think back to that night when she accused me of cutting her hair!

I cannot have her at the upsherin!”

“Who do you think cut Sima’s hair?” I asked.

“Maybe her friend did as a joke and they blamed me, I don’t know.”

I decided to play detective. I called Sima and asked her to come to speak to me.

When she arrived at my office I mischievously arranged for Devorah and her mother to be there as well.

They were all startled to find each other together; however, out of respect for me they remained civil.

Finally, after a minute of chit-chat I asked, “Sima, tell me the truth, who cut your hair that night seven years ago?”

Sima began to cry; however, through the tears she said, “I cut my off my own hair; I did it. Devorah was getting all the attention for graduating. I was jealous. To spite her, I cut off my own hair and blamed Devorah; I know it was wrong. I am sorry”; and with that that her voice dissolved into a sea of tears.

Devorah too began to cry as seven years of being accused of something she never did was finally lifted from her heart.

Their mother also began to cry as for seven years she had been certain about Devorah’s guilt. 

And I too cried as I realized how jealously had caused a family to miss out on each other’s love for seven long years.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

  

The Short Vort- The Internet Connection (11/5/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Wednesday the 5th of November 2014

The Internet Connection

It is always a privilege to be in Eretz Yisroel, however, for me, considering that my father’s family arrived there over two hundred years ago, I have literally thousands of relatives there.

At a recent Chasunah, one of my Israeli relatives came over to me and asked me if he could tell me a story about himself.

Why Pinchas chose me I cannot say, perhaps it was Hashem’s way of getting the story out there.

Pinchas is a wonderful person with sterling middos and a heart of gold, and it took a great deal of courage for him to unburden himself.

Our protagonist used to live in Yerushalayim and while there, more for convenience than out of commitment, he decided to send his daughter to a Yiddish speaking primarily Chassidic gan.

The Gan was close to home, the Morah was excellent and the price was affordable and so his daughter attended.

Pinchas is a real doer and is always looking for ways to improve.

After serving his three years in the IDF in an elite fighting unit, he began a successful business with his major clients in the States as he resides in Israel.

Pinchas ‘begins’ work at 3 PM Israeli time as that is 8 AM New York time.

Pinchas therefore would bring his daughter to Gan every morning and pick her up at 1:30 when Gan ended.

He began to notice a Chassidic man who also was ‘Mr. Mom’. He also always brought his daughter to Gan and picked her up when it ended. In fact, Pinchas noted that this Chassidic man was always around. Even when Gan had to end early for a special reason, this Chassidishe man was always ‘around’ to pick up his daughter. 

Pinchas thought to himself, "I served for three years in the IDF and now I work from 3 PM to 11 PM to support my family and this fellow who probably never served in the army and is supposed to be learning is always available to pick up his daughter.

Despite the not so suppressed feelings of resentment, Pinchas began to slowly see a different side of Mr. Chosid. For just as Pinchas always gave his daughter a kiss before leaving her at gan, so did Mr. Chosid. When it was cold and rainy, Pinchas could not help but notice how both of them were so careful that their daughters were properly protected and after a while they began to exchange a few words of hello and good bye.

Pinchas begrudgingly liked the Chosid, however, he still held him in contempt for his perceived shirking of his responsibility.

And then came the big snow after Chanukah last year.

Mr. Chosid came to daven in the Shul where Pinchas davened as it was closer to his home.

After davening Mr. Chosid came over and asked Pinchas, "Does you internet work? Mine at home is very weak and I was wondering if I could come over to use yours."

Pinchas was now dumbstruck, not only does this fellow not work, he also has internet? And that’s what is on his mind today?"

Pinchas could no longer contain himself; he looked at his Chaddishe companion and blurted out, "You have internet? For what reason in the world do you need internet?"

Without missing a beat, our Chossidshe friend answered, "What to you mean why do I need it? I am a free lance computer consultant and I work from home and I need the internet to support my family, why else would I need it?"

Suddenly a mountain of misunderstanding was conquered and a hardened heart was melted as Pinchas embraced his new found friend while saying, "Of course, why else would you need it? Please come to my home, ‘our’ connection is unbreakable."

You never know, one’s man internet connection can sometimes be the connection to the heart of another Jew.

"If Not Now, Then When?"- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

 

The Short Vort- What’s Wrong With This Picture? (11/4/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Tuesday the 4th of November 2014

Learning from All

Dear Friends,

As I am about to head back to the States I have many dual feelings at this time.

On one hand, I miss those members of my family who are in America and I miss so many of you who are in Passaic and make up the greatest Kehilla a Rav could ever want.

It is true that at times my job is stressful and tense and therefore I do appreciate these times when I am ‘off duty’. Nevertheless, I miss my job as I am privileged to have wonderful and caring congregants who I care about them and they care about me; what more could a person want?

I will relate one final story about my time in Yerushalayim.

Some of you will be touched by this story, others will be upset that I sent it out, all that is good. F

For more important than what I did or should or should not have done is your feelings and your reaction to a true story.

As usual I will relate it as I saw and leave the commentary to you.

My daughter and I were walking near the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall and we noticed a homeless man lying in the street.

There are many beggars in Jerusalem, however, he was somewhat different in that we noticed that he had a blanket with him and as we passed him he lied down and covered himself and ‘went to sleep’ in the middle of the pedestrian mall.

Everyone, including the esteemed rabbi, just walked passed him. I did not see anyone even notice him.

About one hour later after my daughter had gone back to her seminary, I retraced my steps and there he was still covered by his blanket and still being ignored by all.

And then it happened.

As I was about 15 feet from him I noticed a woman emerge from a bakery with a pastry in her hand.

She walked over to the man, gently nudged him and placed the new and fresh pastry in his hand.

I was amazed at this random act of kindness and compassion especially when everyone else was ignoring him.

I followed the woman who went back into the bakery and noticed her in the back of the store talking to some people.

I went over to her to commend and tell her what an important lesson she taught all of us.

I wanted to tell her how I will write this up in the Short Vort and I wanted to hear what seminary she studies at and what Chesed organization does she belong to.

As I neared where she standing I hesitated to hear what language I should address her.

Perhaps Hebrew or English or maybe another language.

When I was standing just a few feet away, I noticed that she was with a group of four people; two men and two women.

They were speaking a language I did not recognize, perhaps a Slavic language.

However, just as I was about to break the ice and ask her who was her Rebbe where she learned such middos tovos I suddenly pulled back.

One of the men who was clearly the leader of the group as all eyes were on him was wearing a Catholic Clerical Collar!

As I drew away I noticed her bag, the logo read: Holy Catholic’s Holy Land Mission 2014.

I slowly stepped back onto the Ben Yehuda Street looking at the homeless man and the pastry provided by the Gentile woman in the middle of Yerushalayim surrounded by many Jews and ignored by all except for one Gentile woman.

Something is wrong with this picture.

"If Not Now- Then When?"-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ