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The Short Vort- Hello and Goodbye (9/15/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is September 14 2016

Till We Meet Again

You never say good bye to Eretz Yisroel; you can never just leave.

You can only say, "Until we meet again ".

It was wonderful and invigorating being in the "land" for these almost two weeks.

I saw things which i shall never forget and i experienced people who were and remain memorable.

I am thankful that i had the merit to be where I was see and hear what i did.

Like all of lives experience, the big question is ‘was this a "flash in the pan" or will it be a life improving moment?

Obviously, i am hoping for the latter; however, as in most things in life...time will tell.

Have a wonderful day and I

Miss you Eretz Yisroel.

"If not now -then when?"-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

Rabbi; Congregation Ahavas Israel

Passaic, NJ 

The short vort - unexpected guest (9/9/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Friday September 9, 2016

An Unexpected Guest

I was on my way to my son’s house in Maleh Zeitim in the Eastern part of Yerushalayim.

As we began to climb the long hill up towards Har HaZeisim I noticed a elderly Arab man sitting in the side of the road.

It was steaming hot day and as he sat on the side of the road nobody bothered to stop for him.

He looked so forlorn and hot and no one was stopping for him.

As I passed him I realized that this old man is also a human being and is also hot and uncomfortable.

I decided to do something. I made a quick U-turn and made my way back to the elderly gentleman.

In broken Arabic and some Hebrew I invited him into my car and brought him up the hill to his neighborhood.

He indicated to me where he wanted to get off and I wished him a Salam Aleikum and he wished me an Aleikum Salam.

As he got out of the car he was having trouble getting out, a young Arab youth helped him out of the car.

As the teen looked into the car and saw me and my beard and peyos his jaw dropped ten inches!

I just smiled wished him a "Salam Aleikum " and continued on my way to my son’s house.

Would the gesture be reciprocated?

I have no idea...but we have to start somewhere.


"If not now -then when?"-Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

Rabbi; Congregation Ahavas Israel

Passaic, NJ

973.777.5929 ext. 1

 

The short Vort- My People (9/8/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is September 8, 2016

My People

I had fallen asleep at about seven PM after a long and exhausting day with my family.

When I woke at ten I realized I would be up for a while so I decided to take a nice long walk in Yerushalayim.

I walked and walked through Geulah and Mean Shearim and then to the center of town to Ben Yehudah.

After walking for two hours I stopped and sat down and just watched the people.

There were Sefardim headed to Selichos and yeshiva Bochurim returning from learning; there were couples taking a late night walk and there were ‘not yet frum’ people enjoying the cool Jerusalem air.

Suddenly, one thought came over me, a warm and wonderful feeling: these are my people!

I can be sitting comfortably in Central Park or in London; however, only here in Yerushalayim am I surrounded by MY PEOPLE.

The thought was very comforting and calming.

Moshe Rabbeinu was not privileged to see Yerushalayim; neither was Rashi, the Besht or the Vilna Gaon; but you and I (for some reason) have been so privileged. 

That is not something to take lightly.

I returned back to where I am staying and went to sleep with a feeling of being home.

I am Surrounded by my large family and privileged to be where I am.

"If not now- then when?" - Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman- Ahavas Israel, Passaic NJ 

the short Vort - on planes and seats (9/6/16)

 

The Short Vort

Good morning !

Today is Tuesday the 3rd of Elul 5776

Planes and Prayers

I arrived in Israel yesterday at 7 in the morning- it is always a zechus to be here.

On the plane ride over to Israel i waited by the line to be one of the first on board.

I could tell from the amount of people waiting to board that this would be a packed flight.

More and more people kept coming on the plane as if it was Noach’s Arc.

Immediately the famous Jewish game of musical chairs began in earnest.

Most were for requests to sit near friends; however, there were also those, "My religion forbids me from sitting near a woman " requests.

The crew began to go into crisis mode- it was obvious we would not be taking off for a while.

I had to do something.

The seat next to me was still unoccupied- a wonderful thought came over me.

I called over the overwhelmed stewardess and said, "I don’t know if this will help you; however, I wanted to tell you that I would be honored to sit next to anyone at all; man, woman or child; whatever I can do to help you please don’t hesitate to place them near me".

She smiled and thanked me.

P.S. About five minutes later a young kollel man from Yerushalayim is placed next to me.

I say hello and we ended up schmoozing in Torah for most of the flight.

At the end of the flight he turns to me and says, "It was a real privilege sitting next to you; in fact I davend I should sit next to you."

I looked at him quizzically and asked, "How could you daven for me - you never even met me before today?"

He looked at me and said, " I am always terrified I will chas v’Shalom be seated next to a woman. So today I davened really hard that Hashem should not cause me to sit by a woman. So you’re the answer to my tefillos!"

"If not now, then when?" Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

"If not now, then when?"- Hillel

Congregation Ahavas Israel

Passaic, New Jersey

973.777.5929 ext. 1

The Short Vort’ - “ A Proud Father’s Tears of Joy “ (9/2/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 29th of Menachem Av 5776 and September 2, 2016

 

A Proud Father’s Tears of Joy

 

The boys had worked very hard during the summer camp season and they enjoyed themselves as well.

The head-counselor Nani (short for Nesanel) had developed an elaborate system for the accumulation of points which led to ‘valuable’ prizes.

There were many ways to earn points; one could learn extra during rest period; one could clean the bunk quickly thereby freeing up to ten minutes in learning time.

There was also a myriad of Chesed projects which could be accomplished.

There was the weekly trip to the senior center which afforded the boys an opportunity to connect with their ‘elders’.

There was a bi-weekly trip to a camp which had special boys with whom Nani’s boys could interact and learn with.

The boys grew both in learning and in Middos Tovos.

Nani had calculated an elaborate system of point-counting which even Einstein himself could not have deciphered.

Sometimes Nani would announce a special one hour flash-sale he called: “DOGOF”- “Do one (Mitzvah) and ‘Get’ One Free”. At such times, all points were doubled; however, this ‘sale’ only lasted one hour.

By the end of the summer when Nani published the final tally of points there was general mayhem and outright chaos as boys who earned 8,483.4 points claimed they really had earned 8, 887.9 points!

The last few days of camp were filled with ‘Dinei Torah’ as the boys had the opportunity to present their claims for more points.

Some boys claimed the hour of the Flash Sale really ended at 8:09 and not at 8:08 as Nani claimed.

There were other boys who appealed their point total by claiming Nani had forgotten to write down all of the extra points they had earned over Shabbos.

The arguments and re-tallying went on for the last three days.

Finally, the last day of camp had arrived.

This was the day that all of the boys who had extra points or who had wrangled more points out of Nani were able to make a trip to the treasure chest for one final time this summer and retrieve their coveted prizes.

As can be imagined, when you have twenty eleven year boys descending upon a small chest full of little toys and games, you certainly don’t have order and not too much civility.

There were boys who claimed they ‘called’ the last travel checker set (it made no difference that the boy who claimed the checkers, never played checkers in his life) and there were boys who were clutching a small paddle with an attached red ball as if it were a diamond ring.

Finally, Nani was able to restore order and everyone, more or less, received their desired items.

As the boys were finally settling down and were resting on the grass near the almost cleaned out treasure chest, Nani noticed Baruch standing next to him.

Nani looked at Baruch, a quiet boy who never caused any problems and was very well mannered.

As Nani looked at the boy he asked him, “Baruch, there is not much left. What do I owe you a prize for?”

Baruch looked up at Nani who had worked very hard to guarantee each and every boy a good summer, and said, “I don’t want any prize. I am fine. I just wanted to tell you thank you. You really made this one of the best summers of my life. Thank you so much.”

Nani asked the boy, “You really don’t want any prize? You just wanted to say ‘thank you’?”

“Yes”, said Baruch; “I just want to say ‘thank you’.”

Tears welled up in Nani’s eyes.

An epiphany came over Nani; he realized he had to tell the one person who would be so appreciate about being told about Baruch: his father.

Indeed Nani was correct.

Nani’s father’s eyes welled up with tears of pride as he heard about the story about Baruch.

How could I not be proud? After all, Nani is my son.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ “Eau de Toilette”” (9/1/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 28th of Elul 5776 and September 1, 2016

 

“Eau de Toilette”

 

If you were asked what was the most important and life improving device of the last 100 years or so- specifically focusing on those innovations which are widely available and have become standard in our lives- which item would you choose?

Would you choose the airplane which has facilitated world travel for all of us?

Perhaps the telephone would get your vote?

Perhaps the automobile is your pick because of its ability to connect us with each other?

These are all helpful advances; however, surprisingly so, you have left the ‘gold standard’ off your list.

There is a fascinating Gemara (Massechta Eruvin 41b) which states there are three individuals whose state of being is so difficult and painful that when they depart from this world they will totally bypass “Gehinom” and go straight to Gan Eden.

The three are: a person who is destitute; an individual who suffers from intestinal problems and a person who is hounded by creditors.

The impoverished and the individual perused by his creditors needs no explanation; however, why is the intestinally challenged person worthy of bypassing Gehinom?

The reality of the life of the intestinally challenged person (for now on to be referred to as ICP) is not a pleasant one.

Such a person is confined and restricted in their movements as they never know when nature will call and they will be forced to respond immediately.

In the times of the Gemara and throughout the majority of human history- until the advent of the home flush toilet- an ICP’s life was Gehinom.

I know some of you are questioning and cringing at today’s topic; I can understand that; however, if we want to sensitive ourselves to those things we must have gratitude for- the place to start is the little room we all frequent upon awakening.

Imagine for a moment what life would be like without the convenience of having your own hygienically clean and wonderfully comfortable (perhaps with a padded seat?) water closet in your home?

Before you answer, imagine if you had to add to that the added inconvenience of being an ICP- oy vey!!! Now you can understand why the Gemara listed an ICP together with a person who is destitute and a person who is hounded by creditors amongst those who because of their torturous existence in this world, get a free pass and bypass Gehinom in the next world.

Perhaps now you will agree with me that the little private sitting area in your home is the best invention of the last two hundred years!

The next time you pass the little loo in your abode thank Hashem for giving man the wisdom to create such a wonder.

And of course, the next time you frequent your little room don’t forget to recite with special intent and thanks the blessing of Asher Yatzar.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Take Three….. “ (8/31/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 27th of Menachem Av 5776 and August 31, 2016

 

Take Three

 

I did it! I did it! I did it!

Yes, I did it!

Last night I successfully underwent my previously twice attempted MRI.

 I arrived at the MRI location and although the beginning was somewhat dicey, BH, I was able to do it!

I want to thank all of you for your sympathy, you suggestions and most importantly for your votes of confidence in validating my feelings.

It was truly heartwarming and somewhat surprising to me how many people admitted to me that they too dread the MRI.

Besides giving me votes of confidence, many of you supplied me with various coping mechanisms to get through the procedure.

Some of you told me to keep my eyes closed throughout the procedure; others told me to daven or say Tehillim by heart. A couple of you also offered various other venues for the exam- complete with websites which informed me of places where you can sit or be actually anesthetized during the procedure.

I thank you all for your concern and support.

This support was even expressed to me in person. Last night, I briefly stopped by a Chasunah and I was amazed how many people came over to me to inquire as to how I was doing.

I did it.

In the end, it was a closed MRI and besides for my wife being present, I was able to stay unmoving for the procedure and successfully complete it.

What was my secret of success?

One reason was the thought of writing to all of you and informing you that I chickened out once again!

A more serious factor was the knowledge that so many of you really cared about me.

My wife’s insistence that I have to ‘just do it’ was also a big push- literally.

So how was it?

Truth be told, not bad at all.

I did not have to keep my eyes closed at all during the time I was ‘inside’.

In fact, with the exception of the first slide into the chamber, it was not such a big deal.

Once the procedure began I thought to myself, “Once you are in here, there must be something positive to be gained.”

Surprisingly, a comforting feeling of calmness came over me as I pondered the positive points of being in the tube.

What positive, comforting feeling could possibly envelope me in my time of ‘horror’ and ‘distress’?

Besides the fact that I knew my wife was just inches away and that once I was inside I realized I could (if I stretched my head back) see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

Yet, it goes deeper (no pun intended).

 When I was finally ‘safely’ ensconced in my temporary tube-home, I made a conscious decision to make the most of it.

And that’s when the calmness and tranquility embraced me.

Once the initial fear wore off and I was able to rationally understand that there was nothing to be scared of, I began to ‘enjoy’ the experience.

I would not list it as one of my ten most favorite things to do on vacation; however, it certainly had its bright spots.

For one thing, an epiphany took hold of me wherein I realized that I am totally alone with me and me alone; and that feeling was nice.

I could not be bothered by anyone in the entire world at that moment.

No one could call me and no one could even come knocking on my tube.

And there was no feeling of guilt of not being able to answer the phone or reply to the email.

I was alone and secluded with me and me alone; and you know what? It was really fine.

I allowed myself to think about what I would write in today’s Vort and allowed myself to take advantage of my forced confinement just to let go of all the problems which I always think ‘have’ to be dealt with right now.

Lessons from MRI number three:

First impressions can be very misleading; that which I thought would be so dreadful turned out to be not just bearable; it was even somewhat therapeutic.

Secondly, remember; no matter where you are there is always something you can do about your current situation to gain from it and be productive.

All it took was three attempts at the MRI to find this out!

 

“If Not Now, Then When”? – Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Take Two “ (8/30/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 26th of Menachem Av 5776 and August 30, 2016

 

Take Two

 

I know most of you have sitting on the edge of your seats as you are waiting with baited breath to find out what was the final outcome with my attempt to undergo the much unanticipated MRI.

Well wait no longer; here we are with part two of the saga of the MRI.

Yesterday, I was informed by the radiologist’s office that I can come to their second location where they have an open MRI.

Although my heart did not skip a beat nor did I jump for joy; I was more accepting of this choice then the closed tomb (read: tube) option.

I psyched myself for the upcoming experience and even insisted that my wife accompany me on my journey into MRI land.

I arrived at the facility, changed and was led into the MRI room. I was duly impressed; as promised it was wide and open. It certainly did not have the confining quality of the coffin-like structure which is still causing me trauma and panic.

I lay still on the sliding sleeve and it was ‘all systems go’.

Since the MRI is going to be checking my neck, there was an additional helmet which had to be placed on my head. As the nurse attempted to secure the headpiece she suddenly announced, “I am sorry; however, because of your ample beard, the neck support piece does not fit. You will not have your MRI at this facility.”

I was dumbstruck. How can this be? “At the ‘tube-MRI-place’ the helmet fit fine”, I inquired.

“Could be; however, not all MRIs are the same and this one is not made for big bearded people like you.”

Disappointed, yet, never daunted, I inquired if there is yet another facility I could try?

She said there is one last facility and she scheduled me there for today.

I will let you know what happens.

Lesson of MRI take two: “If not all MRIs are alike, certainly not all people are alike and we must respect everyone for what they can and cannot do.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Lesson of the Failed MRI “ (8/29/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 25th of Menachem Av 5776 and August 29th 2016

 

The Lesson of the Failed MRI

 

It is not easy to listen on a daily basis to the challenges and difficulties which people face in the world.

After more than two decades of listening to problems, people are often surprised when I am no longer shocked when they reveal to me that which they are convinced has never happened in the history of the world; unfortunately, I have usually heard worse.

Divorces, challenges with children, illness and Parnosah problems are constantly placed on my plate.

Tears over marriages -which at one point were filled with hope and love and dreams for a bright future and are now heading to Beis Din- are often shed in my presence.

Heartaches over children who are not living up to the expectations of their parents are routinely shared with me.

Men who were at one time the dispensers of huge amounts of Tzedokah and have now become the recipients of charity appear in my office crestfallen and utterly deflated as they embarrassingly have to request financial assistance from the community they once supported.

Women, -who were once looked at as mentors of young Kallahs and role models for recently married girls, now find themselves in the unenviable category of divorced women and worry how they will sustain their families,- are major consumers of the tissues in my office.

And then of course there are those who come with the mundane and pedestrian problem.

These seemingly prosaic pickles which we all get into at one time or another; also find their way to my desk and they too must be dealt with sensitivity and caring.

Recently one of the more unabashed members of the Shul was waiting to speak with me after Shacharis.

He had to catch the 6:52 bus to Port Authority and was already agitated that a younger fellow had approached me first.

He was standing a little too close to me and the man I was speaking with for comfort; however, there was nothing I could do at the moment.

Finally the first petitioner finished his query and our dismayed davener approached me with his pressing issue.

However, before he began his question he had the time to lecture me about the “improper way” I conduct my rabbinate.

“Rabbi, I heard what that young fellow was asking you. Can you imagine his Chutzpah?! I could not believe my ears; he had the audacity to ask you what he should do because he received two copies of the newspaper today? He wanted to know if he is required to return the extra paper or can he give it to his neighbor? Rabbi, you have to stop this! You can’t let these ‘Klutz Kashyos’ ruin you! You have to put your foot down and stop wasting your precious time with these preposterous predicaments. And I was precluded from asking my pressing problem because of his nonsense!”

I patiently listened to “grumbling Gavriel” complete his critique of my rabbinical skills and then asked him if he could come to my office on Sunday after Maariv as the Daf Yomi was about to happen and we had exhausted our time.

I wanted to explain to “Grumpy Gavy” why his cavalier approach to people’s problems was incorrect; however, I did not know what exactly I would say.

That day (Friday) I was scheduled to undergo an MRI for some pain I have been experiencing.

I never had the pleasure of experiencing this type of medical procedure and was ‘in the dark’ as to what it entails.

Suddenly I was told to lie on this 14 inch wide rock hard stretcher and place my arms across my chest.

I figured they were going to make me hold a rose or something…

Anyway, then the male attendant says, “Time to go ‘in’; if you need anything here is a bell you can press to call us.”

“Wait”, I said; “You are not going to be here with me for the test?”

“No! We can’t be in here with you; too dangerous; we will be outside watching you through a window; bye”

And with that the attendant pressed a button and I was thrust head first into a dark cramped chamber where- with the exception of my eyelids- I could not move one limb of my body.

Suddenly, without warning, a man (or woman?) took a jack hammer and began drilling into my plastic tomb.

Someone else arrived, (I of course could not see these people; however, I could hear them) and he began clanking away using a mallet and/or a large bell. The clanking and hammering got louder and louder… I could not move… I could not see anything except white plastic…I was alone, paralyzed with fear and ensconced in a confining-coffin-like-apparatus… I could hear nothing except the sound of The Twin Towers being built and simultaneously crashing down….

Finally, with my last ounce of sanity and strength I squeezed the bell harder than I ever have gripped anything and begged to be liberated from my emotionally suffocating sarcophagus.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity I was slid out of my ‘almost ossuary’; I breathed a sigh of relief; I was free again!

When I told a friend on Friday about my harrowing near brush with perpetual confinement, they dismissively commented, “You are not serious are you? You actually left the MRI in the middle of the test? What’s the ‘biggie’? I have taken MRIs many times and so do thousands of people worldwide, what the big deal?”

I looked at my invalidating individual and said with a cryptic epiphanous look on my face, “Thank you; now I know what to answer Grumpy Gavy”. The fellow was appropriately confused and I walked off.

Last night I met with Good Old Gavriel.

 “Gavriel, I want to ask you something. Did you ever have an MRI exam- the type when you are entombed in a plastic tube as loud jack hammer noises reverberate around you?”

“Of course I have had an MRI; and you are making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s not so bad and it only lasts a few minutes. I think you are exaggerating the procedure.”

“Gavriel, two days I was scheduled to go for an MRI; when they slid me into the tube I began to panic. As I heard the loud bangs I totally lost it. I frantically squeezed the buzzer and I insisted in my panic that they remove me from this plastic tomb.

Do you know why I am telling you this?” Gavriel shrugged his shoulders.

“My experience with the MRI on Friday is what forces me to give the fellow with the two newspapers the same attention and care as I give you and your issues! When I told a family member of mine about how I chickened out of my MRI they also were incredulous; however, for me it was equally- if not more so- incredulous that anyone could endure such a procedure!

 In a state of epiphany, I realized that what is inconsequential to you can be monumentally urgent to the person who is struggling with the problem.

To you an MRI is a non-issue; however, to me it was one long panic attack.”

And with that Grumpy Gavriel left my office; perhaps (or perhaps not) more understanding of others and their problems.

What might be a molehill to me is - to the person attempting to climb it- nothing less than Mount Everest.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Smiling and Crying “ (8/24/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 20th of Menachem Av 5776 and August 24, 2016

 

Smiling and Crying

 

There is an old joke about two old friends from Brooklyn who just loved the Brooklyn Dodgers.

 They spent all of their spare time talking about the “Boys of Summer”.

They would take the Brighton Line to the Prospect Park station and spend their afternoons in Ebbets’ Field watching Jackie Robinson and Gil Hodges make memories for thousands of Brooklynites.

All that ended on Tuesday, September 24, 1957 when 6,702, watched their beloved Dodgers defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0.

The two friends now could only share memories and dreams; never again would baseball be played at Ebbets Field.

As the years went on the two friends promised each other that when the first one of them to ‘go’ would arrive ‘upstairs’, he would ‘return’ to his friend in order to inform him of the theological, eschatological and philosophical quandary which had bothered both of them for years: “Is there baseball in the Next World?”

Finally, one of them left this world.

About a fortnight later he appeared to his surviving friend.

“Larry, thanks so much for coming to visit. So please tell me; is there baseball up there?”

“Well Joe, I have good news and bad news for you.”

Okay Larry, give me the good new first!”

“The good news is that there is great baseball up here. There are great diamonds and some real power hitters.

The bad news Joe is that you are set to pitch up here this coming Sunday!”

 

(See Gemara Brochus 18b- where a very similar story is related.

Shmuel’s father communicated with Shmuel from the next world.

 Shmuel noticed his father was simultaneously crying and laughing.

 When Shmuel asked for an explanation, his father replied: “I am crying because you coming to join me very soon and I am happy because you have an excellent reputation here.”)

 

With that introduction I present a tale of two schools:

This week after years of anticipation, our old ‘Talmud Torah’ classrooms which for many years were rented out to the local Public School and housed  local (non-Jewish) students, will be vacated and a pre-school serving the educational needs of the local Jewish children will take over the classrooms.

Although during the rental period with the Public School we were always civil and respectful of each other’s needs the return of the classrooms to their original intent, namely serving the needs of the local Jewish children, is a welcome and appreciated development.

For years, when visitors came to our building they were bewildered to observe non-stop minyanim in one part of the edifice and pictures of Santa in another part of the building.

Now, we are proud to have Jewish children occupying the rooms which Jewish people almost 75 years ago built for the Jewish children of the 1940s and 50s and 60s.

That is the good news.

 

What is the bad news?

 

A friend of mine from Bnei Brak recently sent me a poster which was hung in his neighborhood.

The poster was protesting the relocation of an all-girl school to their Bnei Brak neighborhood.

The school is an all-girl Orthodox institution associated with the Ulpana educational system of the religious-Zionist segment of the religious community.

Here is the Wikipedia entry for Ulpana: Ulpana - is a girl’s only Jewish High School for intensive Jewish religious education as well as social activities. It is a form of education used primarily in Religious Zionism, and is the equivalent of yeshiva high school for boys only.”

The protest is based on the fact (as the poster reads): “The level of “Tzinus” (of the Ulpana School) is far from ‘our’ level of Tzinus…”

I can understand and have no issue with different levels of religious observance; however, what really made me sad was the closing paragraph of the poster:

“… Because of this problem (of the relocation), we will protest in a state of pain and we will scream with the blood of our hearts against the Ulpana which is due to relocate here. We will scream to the Master of the World that this injustice shall not happen.

No one should absent themselves from this protest.”

I can sympathize with people who feel that the arrival of children with a different observance level could challenge their standards.

I can even ‘stomach’ the fact that they feel the school could create Tzinus issues in their neighborhood.

However, I cannot relate to the tone and overall feelings expressed in the letter; after all,  these are Frum Jewish girls who want to learn about Torah and Mitzvohs.

These are OUR daughters!!!!

And I mean yours, mine and even everyone who lives in Bnei Brak.

These are OUR daughters!!!!

You can say it may not be the best place to relocate…; however, the tone and the feeling one gets from the letter is that we talking about our enemy, “We will scream to the Master of the World that this injustice shall not happen”???!

I am happy that the public school which rented our space for many years has now decided (and it was totally civil and mutually agreed upon) to vacate the premises and we are able to help our own children who also desperately need a safe and clean environment.

That being said, if we were able to ‘survive’ for many years having Minyanim on one side of the building and Santa on the other, you would hope that the people in Bnei Brak could figure out a better way to handle their issue without the necessity of evoking Heavenly help to make sure that this injustice shall not happen”?

Something in the story makes me sad.

I think you know why.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “ What a Surprise!*” (8/23/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 19th of Menachem-Av 5776 and August 23, 2016

 

What a Surprise!

 

I was at the doctor this morning; traditionally, the period between Tisha Bav and Rosh Chodesh Elul is a good time to catch up on doctor’s appointments.

I had never seen this health care provider before and after my appointment, we were walking out of the consultation room.

The doctor said, “It was nice meeting you, have a nice day.”

Before I turned to leave I casually said, “Thank you; and I want to let you know that my cousin Joe (fictionalized name) recommended you. He is doing well and told me that you really helped him. He really spoke highly of you!”

The doctor stopped walking, looked straight at me and said, “Really? Did he how much he appreciated what I did?”

I was taken aback by the doctor’s astonishment and said, “Yes, he was actually very impressed with you and felt you helped him greatly.”

Suddenly the doctor abandoned the official doctor mode of speech- you know what I mean; the sort of robotic and impersonal tone most doctors speak in- and he took on a very human and personal tone.

“I am so happy you told me that. You know as a physician, I hear a lot of complaints and disgruntled patients; however, I don’t hear too much appreciation and compliments. I am really touched that you told me I made a difference in some one’s life.”

I looked at doctor and I too abandoned my ‘talking to a doctor tone’ and saw him as a person and not a ‘doctor’. In front of me was a person who is probably on the upper strata of salary earnings in this country and is certainly a person respected by all; yet, he is as appreciative of a good word and a compliment as all the rest of us.

As we stood face to face and I saw him in all his humanity I said, “Yes, my cousin Joe very appreciative; I am sure you make a big difference in many people’s lives.”

He gave me a warm and big smile and we parted ways.

Tell someone that they made a difference in your life; one thing I can tell you. No matter how high and mighty you may think they are he or she will appreciate it.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Reading Between The Lines “ (8/18/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 14th of Menachem-Av 5776 and August 18, 2016

 

Reading Between The Lines

 

It was a warm Friday afternoon in the summer.

 Many parents were already downstairs attempting to convince their children to come and get ready for Shabbos when ‘it’ began.

Suddenly every family who lived around the small courtyard surrounded by apartment buildings had at least one parent represented at this ad-hoc ‘residents-only-meeting’.

One of the more ‘pious’ members of the complex had unilaterally ‘paskened’ and ‘decreed’ that from now on all children-irrespective of age or gender- will be prohibited from riding any sort of ‘riding toy’ on Shabbos.

Good bye to all the blue, pink and red Cozy Coupes.

No more Fisher-Price Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Tough Trikes.

It was time to put away the PlasmaCar Ride On Toys.

As you can no doubt imagine, the ruling was not to go unchallenged and in no time there were dozens of mothers and fathers; more than a few Bubbies and Zaidys; -not to mention scores of children of all ages- who were vocally protesting the edict.

There were men who were quoting verbatim sections of the Shemiras Shabbos K’helichasa and mothers who were busy calling their former seminary teachers.

Older boys with thumbs flung in the air were ‘saying over’ Divrei Torah from their Rebbeim and high school girls were busy checking their notes on Hilchos Shabbos.

When Meir Rubin arrived downstairs he was surprised to see how suddenly baths could wait and tables no longer needed to be immediately set as everyone seemed to have endless time at their disposal to debate and argue the halachik permissibility of having a two year old ride a little plastic toy!

The small courtyard had been transformed into a Beis Medrash with everyone passionately and ardently arguing the correctness of their opinion.

Unfortunately, as too often occurs, the initial friendly and respectful discussion began to disintegrate into a full-fledged fight with more than a few participants beginning to hurl insults at each other.

Thankfully, most heeded the advice of Rabbi Morgenstein-an older retired Rav- who advised all to go and get ready for Shabbos.

Meir Rubin, with his own children in tow, also began to head to the elevator.

He was surprised when David Glass (all names changed) approached him.

David began his own personal tirade. “Why can’t everyone just get along? Why can’t everyone just forget about what your neighbor’s child does? We should focus on getting along and being considerate of each other.”

Meir quietly listened to David’s ‘vent’.

He wondered, ‘Why is David Glass so concerned about people getting along and children riding plastic toys? David is not even married and he has no children; why is he so agitated about a discussion which has no relevance for him?’

After David finished his soliloquy, Meir calmly asked, “David, I know it’s sort of last minute; however, would you like to come to us tonight for Shabbos Seudah?”

David’s entire demeanor changed and with a big smile he replied, “Yes, I would love to.”

After a wonderful meal with singing and Divrei Torah, Meir walked David across the now silent courtyard.

As they walked, David asked, “Can I ask you what made you suddenly invite me tonight? I am totally thrilled that you did; however, we were talking about the kids playing on Shabbos, what made you invite me?”

Meir looked at David and said, “David, I realized that you really weren’t upset about the kids and their toys; when you said, “Why can’t people focus on getting along?” I realized that what you were really saying was, “People here are more concerned with Cozy Coupes then with making sure I have a place for Shabbos!” That’s what made me invite you.”

As David entered his apartment he turned to Meir and said, “Thank you so much. You are the only person who took to time to really hear what I was saying.”

 

 


“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Honor Thy Mother “ (8/16/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 12th of Av 5766 and August 16, 2016

 

Honor Thy Mother

 

I am not a card carrying member of the Sanzer Chassidim; however, I noticed an article today which I believe is indeed news worthy and certainly gave me the ‘warm and fuzzies’ for the Sanzer Rebbe.

The news item stated that the Rebbe-who lives in Eretz Yisroel-, will be traveling to America for Shabbos Nachamu.

Here is the message his Chassidim received, “We announce to the Chassidim of America the Rebbe and his Rebbetzin will be in the US this week for a Kibud Em visit by the Rebbe’s mother.”

The article goes on to state that The Rebbe will spend Shabbos Nachamu with his mother. Shabbos is for family only and no Tish will be held.

(See: http://www.bhol.co.il/107374/Tzanzer-Rebbe-travels-to-visit-his-mother.html)

What a wonderful example the Rebbe is setting for his Chassidim and for all of us to emulate.

In this time of huge events which necessitate worldwide media coverage; here we have an example of a man who is avoiding the spotlight to perform the Mitzvah of Kibbud Aim (honoring his mother).

The Rebbe is specifically traveling to the States without an entourage and is not looking for his Chassidim to converge on his lodgings for Shabbos.

The Rebbe is simply going to Eretz Yisroel to spend Shabbos with his mother.

What I wouldn’t give to spend a Shabbos with my mother?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Patience, Patience….. “ (8/15/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 11th of Menachem Av 5776 and August 15, 2016

 

Patience, Patience…..

 

Today I went to the doctor to see about something (BH, not serious) which has been bothering me for a while.

After being examined, the doctor patiently explained to me what the treatment would be.

He mentioned that the best medicine he can prescribe works amazingly well in over 90% of patients. It has no side effects and is very simple to use. Two dosages daily: one in the morning and one prior to bed.

It sounded almost too good to be true; I held my breath at there had to be a ‘catch’ to this miracle drug.

The doctor looked up and said, “The only downside, which is not really a downside, is that it takes at least six weeks to start working at all and up to three months to see full relief.”

He also added that if you interrupt the treatment and don’t take it religiously for three months, you can lose all of the benefits you have gained.

I of course agreed to the treatment and asked for the prescription.

As I made my way to the pharmacy I thought to myself, “What a fantastic ‘after Tisha B’av message’.”

On Tisha B’av we cry and hopefully accept upon ourselves to be more patient and accepting of each other and to attempt to eliminate Sinas Chinam from our midst.

We regret the baseless hatred we showed others and earnestly accept to judge each other more favorably and be more cognizant of each other.

We do this in the hope that Hashem will see our changes and will hopefully respond in kind.

Yet, most probably the effect of our changes will not be apparent immediately.

Indeed, we may not see any results for a quite a while and even then, it may take a longer time to see the full results of our changes.

Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that if we do not constantly keep the changes we began and if we fall back to our old ways, we may forfeit all that we gained.

As I picked up my prescription I realized that I initially thought I was getting some medicine for my body; in truth I was getting  a complete prescription for my soul.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Appreciation “ (8/10/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 6th of Av 5776 and August 10, 2016

 

Appreciation

 

Yesterday I went to hospital to visit a friend who is sick and is recovering from surgery.

As I entered the hospital I approached the front desk to find out the room number; I then looked for the elevators to take me to the fourth floor.

When I exited the elevators I realized that his room is at the end of the hall so I made my way down the hall, turning and passing many other patients’ rooms.

As I walked I noticed a group of nurses who were schmoozing in the hallway. They were not doing anything wrong or inappropriate at all….It’s just that I noticed the contrast between the mood inside the patients’ room and the mood outside.

Finally I arrived at my destination.

Inside the room the patient had two family members present and another fellow came to visit as I was there.

The patient was certainly happy that I (and others) came to visit and he expressed as much.

When it was time to leave I stopped by another room on my way out and then took the elevator back to the lobby floor.

I deposited my visitor’s tag in the small receptacle at the front desk and I exited the building.

As the sunlight hit my face and I switched to my (first ever in my life) prescription sunglasses (I am so excited about them; I just had to share that with you!); it hit me.

The sun began to bathe me in its warmth and light.

I could feel the heat of the day and the humidity; however, somehow it felt different than usual.

Suddenly the epiphany jolted me.

“I am feeling the heat of the day. I am feeling the sunshine on my face; however, today it is different.”

The people inside the hospital cannot feel the weather; they are ensconced in the hygienic and sterile climate controlled world of the hospital.

Inside the hospital the weather is always the same; there is no sun to shield against and no need for sunglasses.

That was only part of my epiphanic experience.

The major realization which I experienced was the fact that I was leaving the hospital!

As wonderful a mitzvah it is to visit someone in the hospital, the joy and sudden realization that you are able to leave is exhilarating.

Too often I am sure that I don’t appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to come to the hospital and GO from the hospital when I want to.

Take a moment of your day today and ask yourself, “Where could I be now which would be a much more difficult situation than I am now?”

After you name ten different places you would rather NOT be in…Thank Hashem for being where you are.

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ “I Can Say it Myself” “ (8/7/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 3rd of Av 5776 and August 7, 2016

 

“I Can Say it Myself”

 

I never met Beatrice Rand; however, from the description of her children she seemed like a wonderful woman.

She was born almost 100 years ago in Passaic and as her son told me, she arrived home from Passaic General Hospital in a horse drawn carriage.

She lived the last few years in Pennsylvania with her son; however, she returned home today to Passaic for her final rest.

I officiated at the funeral of Bea, as she was known.

Her children were very proud to tell me about her involvement in the Shul when she was young and how she was always there to support her husband.

At the end of the service, after the burial was completed, I instructed her son to recite the Kaddish.

As I could tell that he was not a regular Shul goer, I quietly whispered to him that I would assist him in the saying of the Kaddish.

Seymour responded emphatically, “I know the Kaddish; I can say it.”

And indeed he did a fine job at saying the Kaddish.

A Jew is a Jew.

When the time comes to show respect to a deceased parent, a child rises to the occasion and wants to be the one to say the Kaddish.

There was a feeling of pride and a need to do it himself which motivated Seymour Rand to say Kaddish for his mother.

At that moment it mattered not whether he was a regular attendee at Shul or not; rather, it was the necessity to say the Kaddish for his mother which motivated Seymour.

A Jew may drift far from the fold; however, there are certain times when all of us need to be close to home.

A funeral is one of those times.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “ For What We Mourn “ (8/5/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday Rosh Chodesh Av 5776 and August 5, 2016

 

For What We Mourn*

(*The Following article is a composite story constructed from various true episodes which have been combined and when needed altered to protect privacy. Any resemblance to persons- be they living or dead- is purely coincidental)

 

Chaim was the youngest of six after five girls.

He was the apple of his mother’s eye and he was his father’s Ben Yachid.

His father was a Talmid Chochom who was a successful partner in a prestigious law firm.

His mother was a stay at home mom who was always the first to volunteer when a meal was needed for a new mother or a sick person.

He did well in school and was well liked by everyone.

Nevertheless, I kept my eye on Chaim; somehow things seemed a little too good.

I know it sounds strange; however, it’s one of my rabbinic hunches.

Too often I have seen families who on the outside seem the most put-together and functional; however, in reality they are on the brink of disaster.

When Chaim was fifteen he dropped in on a Shiur in which I was discussing Tisha B’av.

I spoke about the need for a Beis HaMikdash and the desire we all should have for closeness to Hashem.

Afterward Chaim confided in me that on Tisha B’av he attempted to sleep at much as he could since anyway he could not understand the Kinnos.

When I reminded him of the importance of feeling the pain of not having the Beis HaMikdash and not feeling Hashem’s presence he remarked in a cavalier fashion, “Rabbi, don’t worry, I’m good”.

I informed Chaim that during Kinnos I attempt to elucidate and explain the concept of ‘what we are missing’ and that I would personally be honored if he came.

Tisha B’av arrived and to my surprise there was Chaim.

I spoke about the loneliness of this world; of the suffering and the pain that we feel in this world on a daily basis. I attempted to stress how the plague of baseless hatred (Sinas Chinam) -the primary cause of the destruction- still haunts us to this day. If only we would focus on greater love and civility between us, perhaps Hashem would respond in kind.

I explained how the world we live in now lacks clarity; not only don’t we have a clear direction in how to properly serve Hashem on a national level; we don’t even have clarity in those areas of our life where we think we are doing the correct things.

I cried, “There is so much confusion that often we don’t realize how far off course our ship has sailed until it’s almost impossible to return to shore.”

Suddenly there was a shriek in the room.

I looked up and there was Chaim bawling like a baby.

I asked everyone to say the next two Kinnos quietly as I guided Chaim out of the Shul and to my office.

 “Rabbi, my life was one large delusion. I so desperately need clarity in my life!”

I had no idea of what he was talking about, “Chaim, what happened?”

 “You know the beautiful family everyone thinks we have- including me? Well yesterday I realized just how deluded and duped I was.”

 “What are you talking about?” I asked.

 “Yesterday my father left the family; he moved out. He announced he is leaving our mother. His religious observance was not quite what we thought it was and we are heavily in debt. Our family is desolate. I need Hashem and I need clarity more than anything. We were living a life of a fantasy and the bubble just burst and I feel so totally alone.”

I sat down on the floor with Chaim and told him, “You are not alone; in fact your personal loneliness mirrors the national loneliness we are all part of. All of us in some respect are living a life of delusion. All of us need greater clarity which is what we yearn for on Tisha Bav.”

We then cried together as we longed for Hashem’s presence to deliver us from this world of denial and deception and into a world of clarity and true Shalom.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Beginning of the End “ (8/3/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 28th of Tammuz 5776 and August 3st 2016

 

The Beginning of the End

 

On this day is 1914, Germany declared war on France which led to the ‘world’ aspect of World War One.

 

As historians have noted, “World War I was a catastrophic turning point for humanity: 70 million men were mobilized to fight; nearly 10 million perished; communities were annihilated, and massive populations were displaced across Europe. The so call “war to end all wars,” paradoxically, created a more violent planet than what had existed before the first shots were fired.”

And it is not at all inaccurate to claim that the Holocaust can be historically traced back to World War One.

 

The ‘classical date’ for the beginning of World War One is July 28, 1914 which was Tisha Bav.

The day which is the historically saddest day of the Jewish calendar was the day when World War One began.

 

This year, (if we are to fast in the month of Av) we will fast on the tenth of Av (Sunday, August 14) as the ninth of Av is Shabbos.

Fasting on the tenth of Av is actually the normative ‘every-year’ opinion of Rav Yochanan (Taanis 29a) who declares that if he would have had his way, he would have the declared the fast on the tenth –every year- as it was on the tenth of Av that the majority of the Beis HaMikdash burned.

Why then do we fast (usually) on the ninth?

The Gemara informs us that the majority of the rabbis felt the fast should be on the ninth.

This is not because they did not recognize that the majority of the Beis HaMikdash burnt on the tenth; that is a historical fact. Rather, as the Gemara says, The Rabbis are of the opinion that: “Atchalta D’Purinisa Adipha”.

What does this cryptic phrase mean?

Literally it means, ‘the beginning of the destruction is preferable’.

What does the Gemara mean by this?

Perhaps what the Gemara is saying is that the beginning of the tragedy is truly the beginning of the end; as opposed to the actual end which in certain respects is not as monumental as the beginning.

The majority opinion disagreed with Rav Yochanan who felt that since the majority of the Temple burnt on the tenth and the burning was the actual destruction, then obviously we should fast on the day when the preponderance of the destruction occurred.

At first glance, I think we may have been inclined to follow Rav Yochanan; why is it that most of the rabbis disagreed and we accept their opinion as when we fast?

Perhaps the explanation of the phrase: “the beginning of the destruction is the “Essence” of the destruction” is the following.

Imagine a family which is now divorced.

The family-unit is dissolved and the parents live in two separate locations.

When they reflect on the actual ‘sad day’ which ‘commemorates’ the end of the marraige, often the actual date of the giving of the GET is not the most critical day.

Indeed, often it is anti-climactic.

Rather, perhaps on reflection they will realize that the marriage was really over a long time before the actual date of the giving of the GET.

For instance, imagine a husband and wife who for the first five years of their marriage never raised their voices even if they were very, very upset.

Suddenly, on one fine day the husband raises his voice in anger and the wife responds in kind.

They have now gone from being a ‘non-yelling-household’ to a ‘household where yelling is tolerated and practiced’.

Slowly and sometimes even unperceivably, the marriage begins to disintegrate and implode.

When the GET is finally given although that is the official time of the dissolving of the marriage; in truth the day when the yelling began (and steps were not taken to rectify the situation) was the actual day when the marriage ‘ended’.

Therefore, World War One can be categorized as the ‘beginning of World War Two and the Holocaust’.

When we think about Tisha Bav and indeed during this entire ‘three week’ period, we cannot just focus on the end result. Rather, we must realize the too often the ‘beginning’ of the conflict- when not immediately rectified- can too often be the ‘beginning of the end’.

Think about that before you decide to get angry today.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Solutions “ (7/27/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 21st of Tammuz 5776 and July 27, 2016

 

Solutions*

*(Note: The details of this story have been altered in a way that no one –not even the person themselves- would be able to identify the characters in our story).

 

A woman came to see me.

She was beside herself with worry and angst.

Her daughter had moved out of the house and was living alone.

The woman seemed extremely distraught and dismayed much more than I would have thought she should be.

After speaking with her for a while I was able to discover the true reason for this inordinate display of anxiety.

The woman’s father had committed suicide when she was nineteen and her own nineteen year old daughter’s decision to move out triggered memories of her father and his tragic demise.

As I listened to her describe in detail her father and what could have been I could not but help myself from thinking, “This man had so much going for him; too bad he could not have held on a just a little longer.”

 Things would have eventually improved and now of course it was too late.

Her father had chosen the path of suicide which -as I once read- is: “A Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem.”

There is a lot of depth in this frequently quoted definition of suicide.

Death is certainly permanent while most problems tend to be only temporary in nature.

Thankfully, most of us do not have to deal with such powerful and upsetting issues.

Not that suicide does not affect the Jewish community, it certainly does.

That being said,-suicide and its prevention- is not today’s topic.

(If you ever do have such thoughts please seek immediate medical help)

From this definition, we can learn an important lesson.

The recognition that some ‘solutions’ offer ‘permanent solutions to some of our temporary problems’ is something that all of us should take to heart each and every day.

What specifically am I referring to?

Take the following as an example:

A man comes home from work and he is tired and hot and sweaty.

He has had a hard day at the office and the air conditioning failed on his commute home.

The last thing he wants to do is to face more aggravation.

As he walks into the house, his nine year old son jumps into his arms while he screams, “Hello Daddy, I’ve been waiting for you all day long!”

The child is holding an ice cream cone which he promptly  albeit inadvertently- schmears all over his father’s suit.

The father feels that this is just one too much…he pulls his child from his neck and declares; “Can’t I come home just once without everyone jumping all over me?”

Daddy has just chosen a –somewhat- permanent solution to a temporary problem.

He has chosen to express his frustration with the day be venting his anger to his son.

Of course it is in no way as permanent as death; however, once the words and their harsh emotion have been expressed they are ‘out there’ forever and they can never be retrieved.

There is permanence to our words and our emotions.

Of course this does not mean that all is lost; certainly our father should apologize to his son and begin to rebuild.

Nevertheless, the impact of the anger and the memory of the father pulling his son off him will remain in the son’s mind.

It is very difficult for the son to erase the memory of his father’s anger.

The next time you feel the urge to express your frustration, anger or even disappointment; remember: the words that you say today may be your ‘permanent’ first reaction to a temporary problem.

Think before you speak.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “ The Little Things in Life “ (7/26/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 20th of Tammuz 5776 and July 26, 2016

 

The Little Things in Life

 

The woman was frantic.

She was going to Eretz Yisroel and desperately needed her passport renewed.

She quickly drove to a local establishment to have her passport photos taken.

She thanked the fellows at the photo shop, grabbed her bag and headed to her car and to her next stop.

When she arrived home she checked her bag; however, the photos were nowhere to be found.

She emptied the contents of her bag all over the kitchen table; no photos were found.

She attempted to retrace her steps and finally she thought to herself, “I bet I left them at the photo place.”

She got back in the car and made a beeline for the photo store.

When she arrived and asked the fellows who worked there is they found the photos they replied, “No, we don’t have your pictures”.

In desperation our protagonist said, “How do you know? How can you be so sure that I took them with me?”

The man looked at her and simply said, “I know for sure that you took the pictures; you were careful to say ‘thank you’ to me and to my partner. Not too many say thank you anymore around here. So I remember you very well and you definitely took the pictures with you.”

When the women went back to the car she saw they were there on the back seat.

I guess Hashem had placed them there in order for all of us to learn the importance of thank you.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ In Honor of Visiting Day” (7/21/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 15th of Tammuz 5776 and July 21, 2016

 

In Honor of Visiting Day

 

Is there any day of the year that’s as much anticipated by some, despised by others, and almost universally practiced by every Jewish family… as camp visiting day?

I recall my days as a camper when the counselors would turn the bunk into a frenetic world of cleaning and organizing. Every undershirt had to be folded exactly as required. Every scrap of paper had to be removed from the floor, and areas of the bunkhouse thought to be permanently stained were restored to their original pristine sheen.

We campers were surprised at the seriousness with which our counselors responded to visiting day; we had no choice, however, but to go with the flow.

It was only a few short years later when I found myself on the other side of the bunkhouse; now as the counselor who was insisting on the importance of getting the bunk spic-and-span.

I recall somewhat humorously how we counselors would wait up the hill from the parking lot and watch the parents ascend “cardiac hill” on their way to the bunkhouses.

We’d play a game of attempting to identify which parents belonged to which child.

There was the man who was clearly Yankel’s father; the man’s walk was a mirror image of the way Yankel strutted around the camp.

And the short pudgy man struggling up the hill could only be Rafi’s dad — both were short, round, and slow moving.

Years went by; yet, before the memories of folded T-shirts faded from my consciousness, I was now a parent and I was the one doing the visiting.

The trip up would begin early Sunday morning. The pre-visiting day preparations were quite elaborate as the list of goodies each child “absolutely needed” rivaled the list of names in the Manhattan phonebook.

Finally, the time arrived and my wife and I packed the car and off we drove, up the “Thruway” and onto ‘the 17’, and into the Catskill Mountains.

One particular visiting day remains etched in my mind for posterity.

My youngest son Aryeh was attending an outdoor adventure camping experience, and there was a mix of boys from different backgrounds in his bunk. Suffice it to say that I was the only Rav who had a son in the camp.

After the long drive, my wife and I arrived at the campgrounds; however, as the camp was located deep in the woods and up a steep path, we had to hike our way in.

As I was huffing and puffing my way up the path together with other parents, the counselors (unbeknownst to me) were continuing the age-old tradition of “matching the right parents with the right kid.”

Many a time (I only found this out later), the comments of the counselors about the parents were not the most complimentary and many a child, when asked, “Are those your parents coming up?” would embarrassingly reply, “Oh, that’s my aunt and uncle.” Any answer was better than admitting the strange-looking people were actually your parents!

Suddenly I was spotted making my way up the hill with my full beard and rabbinic garb. In this world of casual summer apparel, the only word that could be used to describe me was anomalistic.

Upon seeing me, one of the counselors blurted out, “Whose father is that? He must have taken a wrong turn by Camp Tashbar and ended up here!”

As I neared the end of my trek, Aryeh came running smilingly toward me and lovingly hugged me.

He then turned me around to face his counselors and proudly announced, “This is my father!”

As I looked at the shocked faces of the counselors, I knew this was the best visiting day of my life.

 

“If Not Now, Then When”? – Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ “That’s One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind.” (7/20/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 14th of Tammuz 5776 and July 20, 2016

 

“That’s One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind.”

 

With those words, Neil Armstrong expressed the feelings and emotions of the perhaps one billion Earthlings who were watching live as the unbelievable had occurred: a human being walked on the moon!

There would be no more of jokes about “the man on the moon” and no longer could the moon be viewed as a metaphor for the unattainable.

It was a Sunday night, almost 11 PM, when Neil Armstrong uttered the words which were literally and figuratively heard all over the world.

For those of you who are not old enough to recall the event, it is very difficult to describe in words the worldwide excitement which engulfed everyone.

Great Torah scholars who normally never take time off from their studies to watch an event on the television made an exception here.  [-One example: See Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky, “Emes Le-Yaakov al Ha-Torah”, Gen. 1:1, 5761 revised edition pp. 15-16; where R’ Yaakov writes: “These words of the Ramban are what carried me when we saw men descending from a space ship on a ladder onto the surface of the moon.” (Emphasis my own)]

There was euphoria and a feeling of elation which is impossible to convey.

Coupled with this feeling of ecstasy was a not too suppressed feeling of jubilation and perhaps triumphalism.

Not only had the nation fulfilled the almost prophetic words of President Kennedy, who declared to a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” It had more importantly beaten the Russians. The United States had won the race to the Moon; this would certainly lead to the end of the Cold War in no time (of course it didn’t).

There was a frenzied feeling of fantastical good fortune which was nothing short of messianic.

That was in 1969.

Today, 47 years later, no one is so excited about going to the Moon.

Neither the US or Russia have sent manned spaceships to the Moon in almost 40 years and I don’t believe any are planned for the future.

The USSR no longer exists; however, America and Russia are still at loggerheads.

Ultimately, the Moon landing was not Messianic nor did it have any long (or short) term effect on our world.

While prior to July 20, 1969 no one could imagine a human walking on the Moon; no one could also imagine that men (and women) would them blow themselves killing many innocent people in cold blood.

While walking on the moon became a reality, driving a huge truck for over a mile down a major thoroughfare in Nice, France while mowing down hundreds of people in a deliberate and methodical fashion was not yet a part of the human psyche.

The world really did not change too much since that great Sunday evening.

Today my Chavrusa did not show up for our learning.

I know now that I gain much more from ‘watching the books’ then I would ever get from ‘watching the moon landing.’

Hindsight is twenty-twenty.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Missed Opportunity “ (7/13/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 7th of Tammuz 5776 and July 13, 2016

 

Missed Opportunity

 

Moses raised his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, when an abundance of water gushed forth, and the congregation and their livestock drank.

 

Hashem said to Moses and Aaron, "Since you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly to the Land which I have given them. 

(Bamidbar 20:11, 12)

 

All of us are familiar with the incident.

Hashem tells Moshe: "Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and speak to the rock in their presence so that it will give forth its water. You shall bring forth water for them from the rock and give the congregation and their livestock to drink."

The next thing we know is that Moshe hits the rock, water comes forth; however, Hashem then tells Moshe that, “because he failed to sanctify Me in the eyes of the people, you will not go to the Promised Land.”

 

We are also familiar with the explanation of Rashi which is based on the Medrash that the ‘sin’ of Moshe was his hitting of the rock as opposed to Hashem’s specific instruction to speak to the rock.

Hence, Moshe and his brother Aharon were precluded therefore from entering the land.

 

How many of us are familiar with an alternative understanding of the misdeed of Moshe?

Indeed, there is an entire school of thought who contends that the misdeed of Moshe had nothing to do with hitting the rock; this group maintains that Moshe was even commanded to hit the rock.

(See Rav Chaim Paltiel, Ramban in the name of Rabbeinu Chananel, Daas Zekeinim, Paneach Razah and others.)

What then was the ‘sin’ of Moshe Rabbeinu?

According to his line of thought, the ‘sin’ of Moshe was in how he phrased his conversation with the people.

The verse states, “Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation in front of the rock, and he said to them, "Now listen, you rebels, can we draw water for you from this rock?"

Moshe, when asking the people if the rock will give forth water states, “Can we draw water for you from this rock?"

Who the ‘we’ in the verse?

It can only refer to Moshe and Aharon.

The sin of Moshe was in attributing the bringing forth of water from the rock to his and his brother Aharon abilities; he did not say (as he should have), “Can HASHEM bring forth water from this rock”!

Rather, he attributed the miracle to himself and his brother by stating, “Can we bring water….” And therefore he and Aharon were punished.

It is somewhat troubling that for a seemingly minor ‘slip of the tongue” Moshe would be punished so severely.

After all, did not Hashem Himself say, You shall bring forth water for them from the rock and give the congregation and their livestock to drink”?

Why would Hashem be so ‘upset’ that Moshe and Aharon are now refused admission to the land because Moshe said “Can we” as opposed to “Can Hashem?”

Perhaps the answer is the following:

Being in a position of leadership has its challenges.

Perhaps the greatest challenge of a leader can be summed up in the famous quote of Lord Acton (English writer, 1834-1902), “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

The more successful a leader, the greater the challenge not to let the power go to one’s head; once a leader begins to ‘believe in himself’, he no longer totally believes in Hashem!

This is in no way shape or form implying even in the slightest, that Moshe Rabbeinu was guilty of haughtiness or arrogance.

Indeed the Passuk tells us, “Now this man Moses was exceedingly humble, more so than any person on the face of the earth.” (Ibid, 12: 3)

 Therefore, it is obvious that Moshe’s display of lack of humility was totally and absolutely indiscernible to anyone except Hashem.

This extreme and humanly undetectable hint of hubris on the part of Moshe was sufficient for Hashem to disqualify Moshe from entering the land.

With regard to the supreme leader of the Jewish people, Hashem demanded total and complete realization at all times that no matter how powerful and successful that leader may be, he must also be always cognizant of the fact that all comes from Hashem and not from him.

When Moshe slipped up and said, “Can we”, that was sufficient evidence for Hashem to realize that a imperceptible and unnoticeable minute quantity of pretension had seeped into the psyche of the great giant Moshe.

For this slight display of lack of total humility, Moshe was denied admission to the land.

It is not easy to be a leader of the Jewish People.

Indeed, it requires a total submission of one’s own ‘self’ to the recognition of Hashem and His dominion over all.

If Moshe Rabbeinu was taken to task for a unfathomable minute expression of ‘lack of humility’; how careful must we be.

“They” say that Ronald Reagan said, ““There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Perhaps ‘we’ should say: “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do, AS LONG AS YOU REALIZE THAT HASHEM gets the credit.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ It Can Happen to You*” (7/10/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 4th of Tammuz 5776 and July 10, 2016

 

It Can Happen to You*

(*Disclosure: The following story has been altered to protect the lives of those who are mentioned in it. Please realize that I have a policy of never replying to Shidduch questions via Email. This incident is the reason for my policy.)

 

I hadn’t seen Laibel Stern in almost ten years.

I invited him back into the study and as soon as he sat down he placed his face in his hands and said, “Rabbi, please help me.”

This was surely not the way I expected to reconnect to Laibel Stern.

 The last time we spoke he was 18 years old and he was on his way to Beis Medrash and no doubt a successful life. He was self-confident and intelligent; a great communicator and a born leader. There was no doubt he would succeed.

Laibel had a lot to be proud of. He was the star of his Mesivta and he was an excellent speaker; these traits and others were extremely advantageous as he entered Beis Medrash.

I had heard that he married and did quite well for himself. His father-in law had a successful business and he was able to sit and learn and ‘shteig’.

He sat down and began to cry.

I was quite perplexed as to why Laibel Stern was sitting in my office inconsolable.

Finally, when he calmed down a bit I got him to explain what was so upsetting and why he was here.

“Rabbi, as you know I married about seven years ago and Baruch Hashem I got a great Shidduch. My wife is a true Eishes Chayil and we are already blessed with three children. For the last seven years my schever supported me and life was perfect. Last year, my father in law has a triple by-pass surgery and was forced to sell his business for a loss. I needed a job in a very quick fashion. As I am a natural communicator I applied for a position in sales. I breezed through the first two interviews. When I finally met the boss and he was supposed to offer me a job he looks at my resume and asks, “Are you Laibel Stern who used to learn in Yeshiva XYZ?”

I told I did learn there.

His entire demeanor changed and he turned white. He then said, “I cannot hire you and I can never hire you. I’m sorry; please leave.”

I was dumbfounded so I asked him to explain.

 He said, “About two years ago were you asked in an Email if a Bachur named Avrohom Shapiro is a good boy?”I looked at him and said, “I seem to remember that.”

Did you answer in an email saying, “He’s nothing special; I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet him”?

I said that I did. I remembered vaguely the email exchange; however, I could not understand why this man was bringing this up now.

He then looked at me and said, “You see that the name on the door says, Michael D. Shep. That is the name I use for business, my real name is Moshe Shapiro and my son’s name is Avrohom!”

The email which you pressed ‘send’ on two years ago has made its way to many Shaddchanim and mothers and fathers of nice Bais Yakov girls.

For two years your email has haunted my son and our family.

 After two broken engagements and lots of heartache your little email of Loshon Hora is still alive and well and is still hurting my son and my family. I can never hire you.

A person who is so quick to press ‘send’ and allow such hurtful words to be spread all over the world is not the kind of person I want to have on staff.”

Laibel began to cry harder as he said, “Rabbi, if only I would not have pressed ‘send’; my life would be so different.”

Think before you press.

 

 “If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Danger of the Inflated Ego “ (7/8/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 2nd of Tammuz 5776 and July 8, 2016

 

The Danger of the Inflated Ego

 

There are many mysterious and cryptic passages which are found in the writing of our great sages. Perhaps one of the more obscure and puzzling of all is found in this week’s Torah reading.

We read that Korach and his cohorts accused Moshe of misappropriating his authority over the people.

The Passuk says: “They assembled against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation is holy, and the Lord is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?"

When Moshe Rabbeinu heard this the Torah informs us: “Moses heard and fell on his face.”

What exactly did Moshe ‘hear’ which caused him to fall on his face?

If it was simply that Korach leveled the accusation that he had improperly assumed the leader’s position, Moshe could have explained how his appointment was made by Hashem himself.

Why the need for Moshe to become so distressed and at a loss as to what to do- that he collapses in a fit of anxiety and fear?

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 110a) fills in the gaps.

What Korach was really accusing Moshe of was much more nefarious and outrageous than a simple usurping of power.

The Talmud informs us that Moshe was being accused of nothing less than consorting with married women!

Indeed, the accusations which were being leveled against Moshe were so serious and vile that the Talmud further relates that each and every husband warned his husband against secluding themselves with Moshe for fear of his propensity towards illicit and improper relationships.

How could this be?

How could it be that Korach was able to successfully accuse Moshe of such impropriety and have the accusation resonate to such an extent that every single husband instructed his wife to maintain a proper distance from Moshe Rabbeinu himself?

The Kli Yakar (Poland 16th Century, Successor of Maharal of Prague) explains our quandary in a way which has extreme relevance for our times.

The Kli Yakar informs us that Korach understood (correctly) that one who is a narcissistic, egotistical, power hungry control freak will eventually turn his narcissistic and hubristic tendencies to predatory practices of controlling and ultimately cohabitating with other men’s wives.

Indeed, our sages went as far as to say: “Whoever is haughty and pompous will eventually consort with a married woman. (Sotah 4b)

Korach, upon seeing what he perceived as being the pompous and presumptuous conduct of our teacher Moshe leveled what he considered the most likely outcome of Moshe’s hubris; namely that he must be already involved with married women.

Of course, in this case, Moshe was totally innocent and indeed, if not for G-d’s explicit command, Moshe would never have even thought to be in any authoritative position.

Perhaps in order to totally debunk the fallacious and deceptive claims of Korach we were informed just two weeks ago that Moshe was, “exceedingly humble, more so than any person on the face of the earth.”  

Korach’s claims –in this instance- were baseless and complete and utter lies.

That being said, the point is indeed, a true one.

And in the absence of a person such as a Moshe Rabbeinu we must all heed with great carefulness the teachings of our sages.

Those individuals, be they teachers of Torah or communal heads-(inclusive of anyone who is overly charismatic and needy of control and of total allegiance of those in his or her care) - must be constantly scrutinized and never allowed to exercise their unilateral control over others.

Our sages are informing us of a vital and critical fact of human behavior; namely, that those people in our midst –including, although not limited, to teachers, administrators indeed any person in an authoritative position- particularly those who are charismatic- must always be scrutinized and we must always be on our guard when dealing with them.

Our sages were not exaggerating in the least when they declared that when you see someone who has a narcissistic need to control, dictate and manipulate the lives of others; to the extent that they groom and cultivate relationships which cause others who are weaker (I am referring to students or women/girls  who have been taught to admire and be in awe of certain ‘authoritative’ individuals) to feel utterly and desperately dependent on them- you must know that this person is a more often than not a predator and a danger to others.

If only we would heed the advice of our holy sages who stated two thousand years ago that when you see someone (and that someone could have even been a Moshe Rabbeinu-like figure) who is ruling over others and demands total conformity and compliance; to the extent that any form of questioning or defiance of his/her demands is met with anger; know that you have come face to face with precisely the person our sages have labeled a predator.

Please, please heed the words our sages.

Do not heed them because I am writing them; rather, heed them for they are words of our sages.

Teach your children, your wives and especially your daughters never, never, never to let their guard down.

Teach them that if they ever meet a man; he can be a rabbi or a teacher, a principal or the head of any institution; he can be their uncle or another family member; tell your daughters that they must know that if he demands total conformity and complete allegiance and submission to him and his demands; such a person is (according to our holy sages) is a predator and an evil person.

 He must be denounced and publicly shamed, defrocked and ostracized from the community at large until as such a time he has undergone a long and extended stint in a psychiatric ward and is properly medicated and even then is under heavy watch and scrutiny.

Too many of our girls and women have fallen prey to predatory, animalistic, charismatic teachers; and this has caused untold harm.

Instruct your daughters never, never, go into a car with a strange man.

 And certainly tell them to never speak to a man in any place which is not well lit and to always make sure that there are other people around in clear view.

None of this is should be seen as radical; it is just following the ways of our sages.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““Never shall I forget…” (7/6/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 30th of Sivan 5776 and July 6, 2016

 

“Never shall I forget…”

 

“Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”

(Elie Wiesel, Night)

Elie Wiesel penned these immortal words in 1960 and Elie Wiesel Z”L kept his word until the day Hashem took him from us this past Shabbos, the 26th of Sivan 5776.

It’s difficult for me to write about a giant of a man whom I was privileged to meet just once in my life.

It’s difficult to attempt to articulate my feelings of a man who would achieve world recognition and be the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize; nevertheless, I felt a sharp and real pain when I heard the news that Elie Wiesel was no longer among the living.

Was it the fact that he was a champion for humanity for so many decades which causes me to mourn for him and makes me feel that the world has lost one of its already too few voices of reason and compassion?

Perhaps; however, I know that is not the primary reason for my feelings of sadness over the loss of this great champion of Jews and of humanity.

The real reason I was pained was because of what Elie Wiesel did for me -and for millions of others- Elie Wiesel succeeded where so many others failed.

Elie Wiesel penetrated hearts which were locked and bolted shut.

Elie Wiesel in a small book of just over 100 pages informed the world- including a young yeshiva boy in Brooklyn- of the enormity and the true meaning of the Holocaust.

The facts of the Holocaust were known to me before I read his magnum opus “Night”; however, no one had touched me before and no has touched me since as Elie Wiesel did with Night.

Night, which was rejected by numerous publishers and even when finally printed in 1960 only sold 3000 copies in three years; would eventually become the bedrock and the primer for all Holocaust literature.

Over six million copies of the book would subsequently be sold in the United States and the book has been translated into thirty languages.

It remained number one on the New York Times Bestseller List for 18 months and is still required reading in universities world over.

That is remarkable; however, the reason I am saddened by the loss of this great Jew is that he speaks to me as no one else has.

When I first read his book I was exactly the same age (16) as Elie was when he was liberated.

As I was planning my next trip to Yankee Stadium he watched his father being beaten before his own eyes as he lay silent and dared not intervene lest he himself be beaten.

After the beating Elie describes his father’s final hours.

In his final desperate word his father whispers, “"Eliezer."

Elie Wiesel did not respond; he writes:

His last word was my name. A summons, to which I did not respond.

I did not weep, and it pained me that I could not weep. But I had no more tears. And, in the depths of my being, in the recesses of my weakened conscience, could I have searched for it, I might perhaps have found something like – free at last!” (Night, 1982; page 105)

The words seared my heart.

Here were the brutal honest words and emotions of a brutalized teenager; these were not the politically correct, sanitized and fantasized hagiographic versions of the Holocaust who by virtue of their sheer exaggeration if not outright imagination never moved me in the slightest and most certainly could never inspire me.

Here were the words of a real person emoting from a real human heart-these were not the artificial and ‘expected’ words of some mythological fantastical saint- these words which emanated from his heart penetrated and remain etched and imprinted on my heart forever.

I have read Night many times and I hope to continue to read it.

Indeed, to quote Elie Wiesel himself, I feel about his book the way he feels about his experiences in the camps: “Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”

He spoke from the heart and his words entered the hearts of millions of people all over the world.

May his memory be inspiration for all of us and a wake-up call to heed his sage and not to be ignored warning:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

 

“If Not Now Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Unpredictable “ (7/1/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 25th of Sivan 5776 and July 1st 2016

 

Unpredictable

 

(Please note:  The following Vort is a composite of many people and many conversation. Any similarity between any of the characters and real people is totally the result of your creative imagination.)

 

I used to think that as a rabbi I was able to ‘read’ people and their true nature; however, Shloime Feigelstein taught me otherwise.

Shloime was married to Shirley for 40 years; they were not blessed with children.

Shirley was a dominating, controlling woman.

When she and Shloime went somewhere, she would announce, “Shloime, it’s time to leave” and Shloime would obediently stand to depart.

She decided which tie he would wear and she was the authoritarian figure in the house.

About ten years ago, Shirley passed away.

Shloime changed radically the day he got up from Shiva.

He began to devote himself to the Shul.

He never spoke of Shirley and he appeared emancipated now that she wasn’t around.

Shloime had more life to him and I honestly felt he was liberated by Shirley’s passing.

Whenever I needed something done in the Shul it was Shloime who I would call on.

Shloime became one of the most geshikt (skillful, organized) men I ever observed.

He was able to multi-task on par with the greatest Baalabusta

It was therefore surprising to me that I could not find him one Sunday.

Sunday mornings were usually the time that Shloime was always around the Shul putting away the Siddurim from all of the Minyanim on Shabbos and making sure all of the Seforim which were used on Shabbos were back on the shelf in their proper spots.

I never had to look for Shloime on a Sunday, he was just always THERE!

Wherever I needed him he was there.

This Sunday he was nowhere to be found; not in the lobby and not in any of the Shuls.

 I kept asking anyone and everyone, “Have you seen Shloime?” No one had seen him.

Finally in desperation I decided to call his home.

Perhaps he was ill and needed something?

I called and no one answered, I was worried as he was always either in Shul or at home.

I began to panic; after all, Shloime was no youngster and he lived alone.

I decided to go over to his home and check on him; I could never have imagined what I would find.

I knocked on the door and rang the bell; no answer.

I turned the doorknob and entered as I called out, “Shloime, are you home?”

Slowly I began to climb the stairs.

 As I reached his room I screamed out again, “Shloime, are you here?”

With my heart pounding louder than my high-pitched voice, I gingerly opened the door of the bedroom.

I peeked in and I saw what looked like a human being curled up in the bed.

It was Shloime and he was crying like a baby.

I quickly bent down and sat next to him; I gathered him in my arms and said, “Shloime, what’s the matter? Please tell me?”

He managed to contain his sobbing for a moment and through his tears he said, “Rabbi, I know it seems to all that I am needed and that I do for so many people so many things. And all that is true. It also seems to all that I am so happy and free. The truth is very different. Since my wife passed away I have never had a day when I don’t think about her. Today would have been our 50th wedding anniversary and I miss her so much.”

As I looked down at Shloime I noticed he was clutching a picture of his wife in his hands.

The picture was wet with Shloime’s tears as he repeated again and again, “I miss her so much”.

“For Hashem sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but Hashem looks on the heart.”(Shmuel Aleph 16:7)

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Day the World Closed Down “ (6/29/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 24th of Sivan 5776 and June 30th 2016

 

The Day the World Closed Down

 

He was born and bred in Tel Aviv a mile from the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv where Yossele Rosenblatt once packed the Shul to the rafters and where great Talmedei Chochomim once gave Droshos to standing-room-only crowds. Nowadays, the Shul hardly has two Minyanim of men and a handful of women show up on Shabbos morning.

He was named Sagi by his parents and he grew up with modern-liberal norms.

In elementary school he was never exposed to any serious taste of religion or Torah.

His parents never bought him Tefillin and indeed, no other boy in his class ever even considered such a purchase.

In high school, as he and all the other boys and girls in the class entered their junior year, they were excited to be receiving their first draft notice.

The majority of conversations during lunch time in eleventh and twelfth grade revolved around which unit each boy and girl would be applying to upon graduation.

Many boys wanted to join elite combat units such as Golani and Tzanchanim and some even dreamed of joining ultra-elite commando groups such as Sayeret Matkal or Shayetet 13 (a unit of the Israeli Navy).

Sagi, who by nature, was very inquisitive and was blessed with a gift for communication, chose to join Dover Tzahal, the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit which deals with public relations and the media.

Sagi was a natural spokesperson and it was no surprise to anyone when after just one year into his three year stint, he was assigned to accompany a group of secular American Jewish youth who were participating in the Birthright experience.

 Since 1999 Birthright has brought a half million Jews to Israel on a free ten day excursion.

While the group was in Tel Aviv, Sagi had no problem explaining to the Americans about the liberal attitudes of the city; however, once they headed eastward to Yerushalayim, he realized that he had never visited the wall simply known as “The Kotel”.

How was he to explain to others about something he knew nothing about?

He decided to approach the “black Kippad” tour guide who was obviously Frum and would be able to answer his questions.

The guide was always friendly and accepting of everyone, besides being very knowledgeable and nonjudgmental.

Sagi hesitantly approached the tour guide and asked, “What is this place we are going to which is called the Kotel? What exactly goes on there?”

The guide patiently and with a smile explained to Sagi how at the Kotel, - which is a remnant of the Har HaBayis the focal point of all of our prayers-, one can find someone immersed in heartfelt prayer 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year.

Sagi was struggling to comprehend how this “Wall” could be “open for business” 24/7.

“How could it be possible that it never closes?”

 He thought of the one day of the year when everything in Israel is closed.

There is one day when literally everything, even the radio is ‘closed’.

 And that day is Yom Kippur; the one day of the year where every store and every establishment is shuttered and vacant.

Sagi looked up at his new found religious friend and asked with complete innocence and seriousness, “I’ll bet I know the one day of the year when even the Kotel is closed? I’m sure it must be closed on Yom Kippur!”

My son Meir looked into Sagi’s eyes, they were the eyes of a Jew who has been disconnected from his heritage; yet, still yearns to reclaim his birthright.

Meir quietly answered, “Sagi, even on Yom Kippur the Kotel is open.”

Sagi looked down as he quietly said, “What? On Yom Kippur this place is open?! There really must be a G-d if this place is open even on Yom Kippur.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ A True Chessed “ (6/28/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

A True Chessed

 

It’s about a four minute walk without traffic from my Shul to my house.

One heavy pedestrian traffic days it can take about 5 minutes and thirty seconds; however, in ‘non-rush hour’ times, it’s less than five minutes.

Yesterday, at about 10:45 PM I was making my way home from the Shul and it was raining.

Was it pouring ‘cats and dogs’? No, it was not; however, it was raining.

As I had no umbrella I did what anyone else would do, I attempted to walk between the rain drops.

After realizing the futility of my actions, I reverted to plan B which was, I’ll walk and I’ll get wet.

And indeed, that is exactly what occurred, I walked and I was rained upon.

I was not too concerned as I felt no fear of melting or of drowning and I figured ‘what gets wet, will eventually dry’; so therefore I kept on walking.

At about the two minute mark of my walk home a young man bounded out of his car and up the stairs to his home.

As he reached the top of the stairs, he wished me good night and after responding in kind he asked if I would like to borrow an umbrella.

As I was not more than two minutes from my home, I simply said, “Thanks so much; however, it is not necessary, I almost home”. I continued the walk home.

Suddenly I heard someone running from behind me, in one second he had reached me.

For a moment my mind raced to the worst possible scenario: perhaps an ISIS operative had located me and was about to attack me for being Jewish? Or perhaps (maybe even more plausible) a disgruntled congregant was coming to complain about not receiving Maftir in Shul?

All of these potential pictures appeared to me at that moment.

When I turned around and met my surprise walking partner, I was shocked to see that it was none other than the fellow who just thirty seconds before we had wished each good night.

He was ‘armed’ with a beautiful large umbrella which he quickly placed in my hand as he unequivocally insisted, “Rabbi, please take this umbrella, give it back to me when it’s good for you.” And in a moment he disappeared, “umbrella-less” into the dark rainy streets of Passaic, NJ.

I must admit I was quite touched by his Chesed and his caring.

As I continued the last minute of my walk, the rain seemed to intensify; however, I really paid it no attention. I was too busy being protected by my umbrella and the feeling of being cared for by someone else which warmed my heart.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Why is Moshe so Upset?” (6/24/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 18th of Sivan 5776 and June 24, 2016

 

Why is Moshe so Upset?

 

This week’s parsha has an expression which never appears anywhere else in the entire Torah.

The Passuk states that after the people complained about the ‘new’ laws regarding which relatives they could marry and which ones they could no longer marry, it says that: “Moses heard the people weeping with their families, each one at the entrance to his tent. The Lord became very angry, and Moses considered it evil.”

Our Sages inform us that the phrase: the people weeping with their familiesis to be understood euphemistically as referring to the people’s frustration and their complaint with the ‘new’ laws of forbidden marriages which they just learned about.

With regard to this ‘crying’ and to the complaining, the Torah says: “and Moses considered it evil.”

 This graphic and powerful statement which describes the emotional reaction of Moshe-namely, that he considered ‘it evil’- is never stated anywhere else with regard to our beloved leader.

Indeed, this rare emotional reaction of Moshe did not go unnoticed by Chazal who stated insightfully, that with regard to the Golden Calf, Hashem was the one who ‘made the big deal of it’ and it was Moshe who attempted to minimize the sin. While here with regard to the complaining about the permitted relationships, it was the opposite. Hashem was the one who attempted to minimize the sin while Moshe was the one who made the ‘big deal’ of it.

Why?

Why does Moshe Rabbeinu react so strongly here and not so with regard to Golden Calf? (Sifrei Piska 90).

The answer I believe is obvious and is actually hinted at in the Medrash Rabbah.

One of the ‘new’ forbidden relationships was the prohibition on marrying one’s father’s sister (one’s aunt).

Up until now, families married their close relatives; however, beginning now, many of these relationships would be forbidden including the Issur of marrying one’s aunt.

When this ‘new’ rule was promulgated amongst the people, it no doubt caused a fury of anxiety.

After all, when the people heard they could no longer marry their aunt (and even if they were presently married to their aunt they were not ‘grandfathered’ in and they had to divorce), the people were incensed and reacted with tears and complaints.

Indeed, one common thread which was heard among the people in reaction to the new law was, “Wait just a minute now! After all, is not our leader Moshe himself not the product of the union of Amram and Yocheved? And was not Yocheved the sister of Amram’s father? Does this not make Moshe himself the offspring of a man who married his aunt? Is this not a relationship which has now been revealed to be prohibited?”

The bellyaching and the disparaging remarks about Moshe Rabbeinu’s own Yichus and the critical comments regarding his legitimacy and lineage no doubt pained Moshe greatly and caused him much personal pain and anguish.

It is one thing when Aharon and Miriam gossip about their brother at the end of the Parsha and Moshe is able to ‘allow’ their words to ‘run off his back’ without the slightest shade of being upset; however, it is quite a different thing to have your parent’s marriage placed under the microscope of impropriety.

And that is why here, by the ‘complainers’ Moshe magnified the sin; this time it was personal, this time the complaining hit home and it hit home hard!

And this is why: “Moshe considered it evil.”

It’s one thing to criticize ‘me’; it’s a completely different thing to criticize ‘my’ parents.

Remember, there is no “shiur”, (no maximum limit) to showing compassion and sensitivity to others.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “ “No More Pencils….” “ (6/23/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 17th of Sivan 5776 and June 23rd 2016

 

“No More Pencils….”




The first official day of summer was on Monday; however, for most of us, the summer really begins today as in most communities, today is the last day of school.

And as school comes to its finale today; we can expect to hear from the mouths of our babes:

“No more pencils no more books; …..”

This little ditty is still commonly heard in classrooms around the country as the school year comes to its long anticipated conclusion.

And here is what happens next:

The children race home in joy and with a sense of triumph.

For weeks they have been relating to each other all of the great and marvelous plans they have mapped up for every second of the much awaited summer vacation.

For days each child has impressed his or her friend with richly illustrated illusions of how each and every day of the summer break will be filled with excitement and adventure.

There will not even be one moment to spare.

Each and every child is anticipating the summer with such enthusiasm that it seems that their ‘plan-book’ of things to-do is the size of the Manhattan phone directory!

Their ‘to-do’ list is so long that you cannot imagine any person being able to accomplish all of the plans that each child claims they have been waiting ‘all year’ to have time to do.

There is however, one word which never appears in their lexicon or is even thought about; and that word is boredom.

No child ever even thinks that they will be bored.                                                         

If you even have the audacity to even ask a child if they will be bored during the summer, that youngster will stare at you with disbelieving eyes. The child will look at you as if you are questioning one of the fundamental dogmas of our religion.

Yet, notwithstanding the protestations of our young people; the reality of the situation (as is almost always the case in so many areas of our lives) is vastly different than our children’s expectations.

The same child who for the last three weeks has been counting down the days, hours and minutes until the final bell; the same child who had visions of endless hours of fun and excitement is the child who is now…bored.

The first day of summer vacation, the child wakes up a little later, eats some breakfast, and within 15 minutes of their first day of fun they stand before their mother with those famous two words which parents have been hearing from time immemorial, “I’m bored!”

And now we as parents have a quandary: how do we entertain, educate and simple ‘parent’ our children when the long dog-days of summer have arrived?

We are all faced with choices; we can engage our child or we can detach ourselves from the lives of our children.

As with any aspect of our lives we and we alone are the ones who will make the decisions and live with the consequences of those judgments.

Do we plop our child in front of a DVD player and allow them to wallow in a state of spiritual stagnation?

Or do we attempt to actively engage them and involve them in non-conventional ways which the summer break facilitates?

The choices are difficult and obviously each parent has to find the correct balance between positive interaction with their child and the responsibilities they have to other aspects of their lives and understandably there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the issue.

There is just one piece of advice which I can add to the discussion.

 I consider it sage advice as it came directly from the mouth of a child.

One day a few years ago my youngest child Aviva and I were stuck in a traffic jam on the highway. In a state of exasperation I announced, “We are going to be so delayed now. We will be stuck in this car for at least another hour!”

Aviva just looked and me and calmly and happily said, “Ta, that’s okay; this way we get to spend more time together.”

Aviva’s words are the real secret for surviving summer vacation.

Remember the words of Aviva every time you feel ‘bored’ spending time with your child.

Indeed, “bind them upon your neck, inscribe them upon the tablet of your heart;” (see Mishlei 3:3).

Every second you are able to enjoy each other’s company is a gift; a gift which will not last forever.

Make the best of your time with your children; too soon you will pine for them and they will be too busy with their own lives.

Believe me, I know.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ When You Hit the Raw Nerve It Hurts “ (6/21/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 15th of Sivan 5776 and June 21, 2016

 

When You Hit the Raw Nerve It Hurts

 

One day I was sitting at a Shabbos table as a guest.

 I was attempting to mind my business and enjoy my food; however, circumstances beyond my control precluded me from doing so.

As all of those who were gathered around the table were chatting away, the conversation turned to the question of, “What do you do for a living?”

One person said they were a lawyer and there was the question, “What type of law do you do?”

Another person answered that they were a dentist; again one person inquired something about cleaning one’s teeth, and everyone moved on.

The next woman said, “I am a teacher”.

I was thoroughly enjoying my Chulent and not prepared for the fireworks which were about to ignite.

Suddenly a not too bright Shabbos guest decided to speak:

“Oh, you are a teacher? That’s nice! How does it feel to get a full time salary and only work 10 months of the year?”

The teacher‘s face reddened, yet, she remained composed; however, the worst was yet to come.

Our friend the critic was not quite finished. He took aim and fired another salvo; this one hitting its mark head on. “I could never see being a teacher. You know what they say, the only two good things there is to say about teaching is July and August!”

That was it!

My Chulent turned tasteless; the Kugel was no longer desired and in general I could not ‘stomach’ anything more.

The teacher looked squarely at her adversary and fired back, “How dare you question how hard we teachers work? Do you have any idea how hard it is to control a class? You obviously learned nothing in school for all the time you spent there!”

Mr. Critic was taken aback and attempted to backtrack, “I was only kidding. I really didn’t mean what I said. Please don’t take it seriously”.

However, the damage was done and the pain was inflicted.

There was no doubt in my mind that our teacher had heard one too many times the joke about the ‘only two good things about teaching’ and she was tired of having to defend the much needed two months off.

Nevertheless, she knew that it was something she always had to defend.

She knew that most jobs do not have two months off and was sensitive about the situation; notwithstanding the fact that she knew it was justified.

I learned from that Shabbos table a valuable lesson.

First I learnt that it’s better to eat first and talk later; however, more importantly I learnt something about human behavior.

Never criticize someone- even in jest- for something that they are bound to be sensitive about.

Even when you claim you were joking, the very fact that they are sensitive to this subject (e.g. the teacher being off in July and August) is enough of a reason to realize that your bringing up the point will cause them harm and pain.

Remember, to what to you seems like a joke; to the person who is sensitive it is nothing less than a near fatal blow.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Perspective “ (6/20/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 14th of Sivan 5776 and June 20, 2016

 

Perspective

 

My Shul is next door to a public school.

Often, when the weather is warm and sunny the teachers take the younger children out for a stroll. Sometimes I overhear the teachers explaining to their charges about the trees and leaves and the flowers.

The teachers will point out an especially lush tree or an exceptionally beautiful flower.

Today as I walking to the Shul the children were out for an early morning walk.

As they passed me I did what I always do, I smiled and said, “Hi kids, enjoy your walk”.

The children stare at me and often they will say things like, “Look how big his beard is”; or, “That man is tall!” or something similar.

Today, one child looked at me very intently and then announced very loudly, “That’s a VERY OLD MAN!”

His teacher immediately attempted to quiet the child however, all the other children looked in my direction and nodded in agreement to the young man’s assessment of the stranger walking towards them.

I smiled and continued walking; however, it occurred to me that he is not wrong.

In his eyes I am indeed very old.

I am most certainly a half-century older than the child.

If I explained to him that when I was born there were no cell phones and no internet; no email and no ‘video games’ he would wonder how I survived.

If I would tell him that when I was his age you only had one phone in the house and if you weren’t home you just missed the call as there were no answering devices he would be quite shocked.

Indeed, if I told him that when I was his age most cars had no air conditioning and if you wanted to open the window you had to crank a level to lower the window as there was no such thing as ‘power windows’, he would be in disbelief.

So I guess he is not wrong… in his eyes (considering the fifty years plus age difference between us) I am very old.

Everything in life is perspective.

 

“If Not Now Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Where is Hashem? “ (6/15/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 9th of Sivan 5776 and June 15, 2016

 

Where is Hashem?

 

I was walking to Shul this morning and suddenly I hear a voice calling frantically, “Rabbi Eisenman, Rabbi Eisenman, please wait, I must speak to you.”

I was sure the person must have a life and death situation and that must be the reason for his frantic attempt to get my attention.

I stopped walking and waited for the fellow to catch up with me.

As he breathlessly caught up to me he announced while still panting, “Rabbi, I must tell you what happened to me last night. You won’t believe it! You are certainly going to write about it in your next Short Vort. You just can’t believe what happened to me! This is certainly an amazing story of Hashgacha Protis!”

I waited until he caught his breath and then allowed him to continue.

Here is what he related to me as best as I can recall it:

I had a Chasunah last night in Brooklyn and when I got there, I realized there was no valet parking.

 Where would I possibly fine a parking spot?

I knew the Chosson really wanted me to be at the Chupah and here I was in the middle of Brooklyn without a place to park my car.

 I decided to say a Perek of Tehillim and go once a around the block.

 Well you won’t believe what happened; as I finished the last word of the Perek I suddenly saw a man pulling out of a perfectly legal and wide spot!

 I quickly put on my directional, and I pulled right in.

 I have to add that it was a not a moment too soon as I noticed that behind were two other cars filled with other Frum people from Passaic.

If I would have not said the Perek in Tehillim which caused me to drive slower, I never would have arrived at the exact moment I did and some other person would have gotten the spot! Isn’t that an amazing story of Hashgacha Protis?

I’ll bet you’ll want to use it for today’s Short Vort!

 Please of course leave out my name because I know others might be jealous of me because Hashem is always watching over me!”

After keeping me captive for six minutes as he related the story with all of its self-congratulatory details, he finally released to go on my way.

The man was right in one respect: I will write about his story; however, not in the way he expects.

Was he correct in assuming that this anecdote really represents Hashgacha Protis for him?

Am I to assume from the story that all the other Frum people who were ‘denied’ the spot are not on the level of receiving Hashgacha Protis?

Do we only recognize Hashem’s dominion over the world when He does what we want Him to do and He finds us a parking spot?

Are all of the times when we don’t find the ‘perfect spot’ indicative of Hashem’s lack of running the world?

And what about celebrating your own success if by doing so you are comparing and contrasting yourself to other fine and good Jews who were not privileged to see Hashem’s hand as clearly as you were?

Is that what Hashem wants us to do?

Of course we should always look for ways to thank Hashem for watching over us and for taking care of our needs; however, I am not sure that finding a parking spot merits a special Short Vort on the elusive and somewhat cryptic concept of Hashgacha Protis.

Thin k about Hashem and be thankful for all that He does for you.

At the same time, perhaps we all should be a little bit more discreet and use greater discretion when we declare with certainty that Hashem is specifically and uniquely showering me with a double dosage of Hashgacha Protis.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ A Good Shavuos Story “ (6/9/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 3rd of Sivan 5776 and June 9, 2016

 

A Good Shavuos Story

 

Shavuos; that means Cheese Cake, Blintzes and for the men (hopefully) all night learning.

The challenges facing a man in his 50s who is attempting to shteig for an entire night are well known to me.

I vividly recall Shavuos two years ago when Erev Yom Tov was Tuesday and Yom Tov was smack in the middle of the week; it was tough getting through the night.

I at least have the privilege of usually delivering a Shiur; however, for my listeners, it is indeed an accomplishment to be able to concentrate all night.

I remember Ephraim Lewenstein (name changed) coming to my office a day before Yom Tov.

Ephraim was down on himself.

He was an alumnus of the finest yeshivas and even at 57 he continued to set aside times daily to learn.

Ephraim was upset as his steady Chavrusa for twenty years was going to his daughter in Lakewood and he would be left ‘Chavrusa-liss’ for the entire Yom Tov.

We spoke about other possible men to learn with, however, as Yom Tov neared Ephraim was still without a learning partner.

I then remembered that he had a son who attended one of local Mesivatas; could he be a possible Chavrusa?

Ephraim looked at me with a mixture of sadness and pride as he stated that his son Yossi would be the perfect Chavrusa; however, Yossi had his own Sedarim and was looking forward to being in yeshiva for Shavuos.

The wheels of my ‘sly rabbinic mind’ began to turn and right away I called Yossi’s Menahel.

“Of course I don’t want to intervene in the running of the yeshiva and I am sure the Menahel will do what is best; and I would never do this without asking your permission first; however, do you think Yossi Lewenstein could be allowed to learn with his father on Shavuos night?”

The Menahel said he would think about it; however, he made sure to tell me, “It’s really up to the Bachur, and so I cannot make any promises.”

That was all I needed for the next step of my scheme.

I called up Yossi. “Yossi, this is Rabbi Eisenman, of course you have to do what’s best for your learning; and you have to speak to your Rebbe before deciding. I just wanted you to know that if you could learn with your father even one hour on Shavuos night that would be wonderful.”

Yossi told me, “Uh, let me think about it.” And with that we said good bye.

Shavuos night arrived and I noticed as Ephraim walked into Shul at 11:45 PM he was alone.

I was forlorn as I thought, “I guess my plan fell through.”

Ephraim sat through my ‘opening Shiur’ in Gemara which goes till 1 AM and then we all took a break.

After the recess, I looked into the Beis Medrash; there was Ephraim Lewenstein sitting by himself, his head gently nodding downward as sleep began to overtake his tired body.

Suddenly from the corner of my eye I noticed three young men burst into the Beis Medrash.

Two of them immediately sat down and began learning with such gusto and zeal that the entire room was energized.

The third boy quietly approached Ephraim Lewenstein.

 As he gently placed his hand on the man’s shoulder Ephraim looked up.

 Standing next to him was his son Yossi with two Gemaras.

“Ta, I need help with this sugya in Bava Kamma, do you thing we can learn it together tonight?”

As I took my seat in the Beis Medrash there was a special Kedusha in the air.

I could definitely hear Rebbe Akiva and Rebbe Yishmael together with Abaya and Rava ‘shteigen’ with us as Yossi and his father learned the night away.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?” – Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ One More on Loneliness “ (6/8/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 2nd of Sivan 5776 and June 8, 2016

 

One More on Loneliness

It can be lonely at the top; although you would never know it by looking at Shimmy Greenberg (name changed).

Shimmy was not formally a member of my Shul; however, he came quite often for Mincha/Maariv and we had become friends over the years.

Shimmy lived on the ‘other’ side of town where the homes were large and the lawns were manicured and well-kept. I knew that he was also a generous supported of the local Tzedokah organizations.

Shimmy was unstinting in giving of both his time and his money; he enjoyed a reputation as a doer and as a person who you could count on.

Shimmy was an expert in alleviating the pain and suffering of those who are in difficult and desperate situations; especially those who had no one else to turn to expect him.

Most striking about Shimmy was his smile; it never left his face. Even when discussing a painful situation, Shimmy would remain calm and smiley. That was just the way he was; cheerful and happy.

One day he was raising money to help defray the costs of a Chasunah for a Ba’las Teshuva who had minimal financial sources. He went back to the Shadchan and asked her for a list of all of her successful Shidduchim; he wanted to reach out to them to raise funds.

When the Shadchan hesitated, Shimmy replied with a smile, “If one begins a Mitzvah, one has to finish it…” The Shadchan realized she had been bested and supplied the list.

Shimmy could be counted for more than just money. Countless people in the neighborhood went to him to pour out their hearts and share their problems with him.

He was a great listener; he could listen for hours to someone without ever interrupting them.

Shimmy had a talent for listening which I never saw as perfected in anyone else with the exception of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zt”l.

I recall how when I was privileged to speak to Rav Shlomo Zalman he made me feel so relaxed and so comfortable that I was sure I was doing him the favor by spending time with him!

So too, when Shimmy listened to a broken person pouring out their sorrow and their pain, he was totally “there” for them.

He never interrupted the person and even after they finished he would patiently and thoughtfully answer the person with the exact chosen words.

He would never say to the person in a cavalier and careless way, “Oh, that’s nothing; forget about that, just count your blessings and go on.”

Each person’s problems were his own and each person’s struggle was his.

I was therefore surprised when one day Shimmy called me and asked me if we could go for a walk in a park as he had something very important to discuss with me.

I cleared my schedule and Shimmy arrived at the appointed hour and off we went for a stroll in the park.

After a half hour of small talk Shimmy asked if we could sit down on a shaded out of the way park bench; we sat and Shimmy removed his sunglasses. I could see his eyes were red and as soon as he looked at me he began to cry like a baby.

 After almost 15 minutes of unmuted sobs, Shimmy regained his composure.

He looked at me and said, “You know everyone comes to me to pour out their problems and everyone needs to me to be available at all times. And I love helping people…however, sometimes it gets to me and I just needed someone to cry to. I feel so lonely….”

I reached out and cried with Shimmy and as his eyes connected with mine, I saw my reflection looking back at me.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ A Shavuos Cheese Cake “ (6/7/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5776 and June 7, 2016

 

 


A Shavuos Cheese Cake

 


Shlomo Rubin was in eleventh grade in Mesivta.

He was a good learner who had learned with his father over two Sedarim of Mishnayos before his Bar Mitzvah and knew Massechtas Brochus and Bava Kamma by heart.

He was a boy who attempted to not only understand Shiur; he wanted to really appreciate every svara and nuance of the Rebbe’s learning.

If the Rebbe quoted a Rambam which he had not seen before the Shiur, he made sure to look it up after the Shiur.

The boys were exposed to the Rambam and the Rashba, the Ketzos and the Nesivos.

They learned how to ‘say over’ a ‘shtickle Torah’ from Rav Chaim and how to work and work on understanding the Birkas Shmuel.

As the year progressed some of the Achronim seemed as if they were in the Shiur room.

The names Rav Naftoli and Rav Baruch Ber along with Rav Elchonon and Rav Shmuel were mentioned daily as if they too came to Shiur.

When the boys returned after Pesach, there was even greater intensity in their learning.

The Rebbe motivated them to even greater Hasmoda and diligence and promised them a wonderful Siyum if they would finish the Massechta by Shavuos.

When Rosh Chodesh Sivan arrived and the ‘countdown’ to Shavuos was in full swing, the sound of Torah emanating from the Beis Medrash could be heard in the parking lot outside the building.

The Rebbe was frantically attempting to cover the last few precious Blatt before Yom Tov.

One morning, just days before “Mattan Torah”, the Rebbe mentioned that the Rashba learns the Gemara according to Rebbe Akiva and not like Rebbe Yishmael.

Suddenly Shlomo Rubin’s hand was in the air.

Shlomo took a deep breath and with much trepidation said, “Rebbe’ is it not possible that the Rashba is going like Rebbe Akiva only according to Rav Elchonon; however, doesn’t the Pnei Yehoshua learn that the Rashba can hold like Rebbe Yishmael?”

The entire Shiur was quiet as they waited for the Rebbe to react.

Perhaps the Rebbe was rushed to finish the Massechta before Yom Tov; perhaps something else was on his mind; whatever the reason, the Rebbe brushed aside Shlomo’s question with a sweep of his hand as he declared, “Rubin! Please don’t interrupt the Shiur unless you are sure of what you are saying!”

Shlomo was crestfallen; he had spent hours on the Pnei Yehoshua, he was sure he had the correct P’shat.

That night the Rebbe could not sleep; he kept thinking about the Pnei Yehoshua.

At four in the morning he opened the Sefer and by six AM he realized that Shlomo was correct! Indeed, after a thorough analysis of the piece he realized that he was wrong and Shlomo was right.

The next day was Erev Shavuos.

As the Rebbe entered the room the boys noticed he was carrying a bag.

As soon as everyone was settled the Rebbe announced, “Yesterday I told Shlomo that he should make sure he knows what he is saying before he raises his hand.

The truth is that he did know what he was saying as I was wrong. The Pnei Yehoshua does learn the Rashba as Shlomo said he does. I therefore ask Mechila from Shlomo; however, asking is not enough.”

And suddenly the Rebbe reached into the bag and took out a big beautiful cheese cake.

“It’s not enough to ask Mechila, I have to earn it. Therefore, I ask Shlomo to be Mochel me and to take this cheese cake as a gift of Mechila.”

As Shlomo proudly carried the cake to his seat everyone in the Shiur realized that they had absorbed more Torah on this Erev Shavuos than they had done on any other day of the year.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Miracle Worker” (6/1/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 24th of Iyar 5776 and June 1, 2016

 

Miracle Worker

 

On this day is 1968 Helen Keller passed away.

 That year June 1st was Erev Shavuos; and as is the case this year, it was a Shabbos with Shavuos beginning on Motzei Shabbos.

I remember that I did not hear about her death until after Yom Tov on Tuesday.

I asked my mother what was so special about this woman whose name is constantly being mentioned in the news?

My mother informed me that she was indeed a very special woman; she was both sightless and hearing impaired and despite these challenges she went on to college and became a world famous personality.

From that day on I became interested in this remarkable human being.

Born “normal” on June 27th 1880, she lost both her sight and hearing at nineteen months old.

Through the dedication and determination of her lifelong teacher Anne Sullivan who was also seriously visually impaired, Helen Keller learned to ‘read’, speak and write.

Ms. Keller would eventually attend Radcliffe College and become the first blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Helen Keller became an internationally renowned speaker and activist always fighting for the underdog.

She became an advocate for the blind and for many other social justice causes.

In 1952 she visited Israel and maintained close relationships with many Jews.

We all can learn and benefit from Helen Keller.

She is an inspiration for all of us to overcome our perceived disabilities and she is a “Mechaeiv” (one who challenges and obligates others) for all of us to strive and never, never give in.

Perhaps most inspirational about Helen Keller is what she answered when someone asked her if she was sad because of her limitations:

“I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is a touch of yearning at times, but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers. The wind passes, and the flowers are content.”

In her own eloquent words, Helen Keller beautifully paraphrased the words of Pirkei Avos: “Who is rich? He would is content with his (or her) lot in life”.

Helen Keller would have wanted to see and hear in the way most of us can.

I am sure she would have given away all of her fame and stardom to be able to see and hear like anyone else; however, that she was never given a choice with regard to that question.

She was given a choice as to how she will react to her situation.

She had the choice to wallow in self-pity or to become one of the great inspirational people of all time.

Thankfully for us she chose the latter.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ “Is Silence Always Golden?”” (5/24/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 16th of Iyar 5776 and May 24, 2016

 

“Is Silence Always Golden?”

 

I am very hesitant to write what I am about to say.

 There is no doubt that some will feel that ‘sweeping the dirt under the rug’ is the best policy.

And there are those who will question my decision to write by claiming, “Why discuss uncomfortable issues?  Those who are in positions of ‘authority’ are dealing with the issue; so why bring up an issue which others are already dealing with?”

Perhaps the two above mentioned responses have validity; indeed, there is no obligation to publicize that which is no longer a danger to my readership.

However, perhaps that above sentence is not true?

Perhaps there is still a danger?

Perhaps the scourge of abuse has not been eradicated just yet from our midst?

Unfortunatley, based on private information which reliable individuals have confided with me, I realize that the below mentioned ‘incident’ is neither a singular aberrant nor is it an anomalistic oddity.

I am also not claiming nor insinuating that ‘the incident’ is endemic nor rampant in our community, and most certainly it is not of pandemic levels.

Yet, it also cannot be truthfully classified as completely aberrant behavior and therefore I feel compelled, indeed, even obligated in my position as a rabbinic leader to speak out.

This past week a man who occupied a position of respect, power, authority and influence (“Mashgiach Ruchani” -spiritual counselor) in a Yeshiva for post high school boys was arrested in Israel on charges of violating the female members of his extended family.

The accused, according to documents released has already confessed to the illicit actions to the internationally respected Beis Din of Rav Karelitz in Bnei Brak. The Beis Din upon learning of the hideous and serious nature of the actions, correctly and promptly turned the case over to law enforcement agencies who in turn arrested and incarcerated the accused perpetrator of these unspeakable atrocities.

What then is there to write?

Why the need to publicize that which others have spoken about and why the need to inform others if they don’t know about it? Is not the accused criminal already behind bars? Will not the justice system of the State of Israel deal with the issue? Why the need to speak more?

This is a good question which I grappled and wrestled with for a long time before writing the following words.

The reason I write is the following:

According to the clear and highly specific indictment, which includes explicit and exact details supplied by the  victims-some of whom are now married women with children- the accused was able to achieve his hideous and repugnant goals by convincing the unsuspecting and innocent victims that his actions constituted neither Aveira nor Issur; quite the opposite. By misquoting various ‘clips’ from our Sages in the Talmud and by even utilizing an edited and cryptic recording from Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita, the accused was able to dupe his less educated and highly vulnerable female relatives into submission and turn them into confused religiously conflicted and highly traumatized victims by “convincing” them that his actions were Mitzvohs and actually permitted according to Halacha.

Specifically because of the accused’s position of rabbinic authority he was able to confound and confuse the women with assurances of rabbinic dispensation in order to manipulate and control his gullible and naïve female minions into submitting to these horrific, heinous, hideous and vicious acts of soul-scarring abuse.

These acts were perpetrated from the time his relatives were as young as six and continued until they were married women and mothers.

Such was the wicked power of this nefarious, vile, manipulative and destructive “Mashgiach”.

Why do I write these things?

Who is benefiting from my dissemination and publication of these acts?

Is not the accused already in jail?

Am I hanging out ‘our dirty laundry in the street’?

Many of my readers have no idea what incident I am even referring to as the case occurred in Israel.

Why then do I write?

Do I have a need to be sensational and a muckraker?

I am sure many will critique me for this column; why do I need the pain and aggravation?

The reason is simple.

The Torah tells us "Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see [this crime]." (Devarim 21:7)

We learn from here that the rabbinic leaders have an obligation not to ‘close their eyes’ to the deviancies’ of the people.

Rabbis are only able to release themselves from culpability if they took all the means necessary to protect and warn the people of any potential danger.

And therefore I write.

I don’t write for personal honor as I know I will be criticized.

I don’t write to smear anyone as I don’t anyone involved in this incident.

However, I do write for I feel I have one thing to add; one point to contribute which may, just may help one person avoid the pain, humiliation and scarring of being victimized.

And therefore I write.

If there is one contribution I can add, one small morsel of advice which I feel we learn from the above mentioned tragedy it is the following:

Friends, teach your children from an early age that:

·       “No one, absolutely no one…. Whatever the circumstances (unless of course a doctor with a parent or nurse present) has the right to touch you in any way shape or form.”

·       “If anyone does touch you, no matter how innocuous the touch may be, tell your parents immediately.”

We must inculcate in our children (perhaps especially our daughters) the Torah true FACT that no one, absolutely NO ONE has the right or the permission to touch them in ANY WAY.

Even if that person is a respected Torah figure and even if that figure is a relative and even if that figure quotes Torah sources, we must tell our children with the same passion and zeal that we tell them “Shema Yisroel” that, “NO ONE has a right to touch you or even discuss with you things you are uncomfortable discussing.”

This incident, as horrific as it is, must be viewed as an opportunity from Hashem Yisborach which we must utilize to the fullest to prevent such an episode from ever repeating itself.

We must not sweep this incident under the rug; quite the opposite, we must shout if from the roof tops and we must view it for what it is: a G-d given clarion call for all of us to insure through the proper education of our children that this never happen again!

I am not saying anything novel or creative; everything I say was said already stated by Chazal generations ago.

The Gemara in Chulin (91a) informs us that the “man” who came to fight and wrestle with Yakov appeared to him dressed as a Talmid Chochom!

The Gemara is clearly teaching that no one is above reproach.

Of course we must teach our children to be respectful of their elders and teachers and we do not want to foment a mentality in which ‘everyone is secretly a vile individual’.

However, we also can no longer have the luxury of not informing our children that there are dangers out there and although we hope they are few and far between, nevertheless, precautions are always needed.

“Honor people and suspect people”; this is the advice given by our sages (based on the Medrash in Kallah Rabbasi 9).

We must follow the ways of sages and on one hand we must respect and honor all; simultaneously, we have an obligation to provide our children with the tools and the knowledge they need to protect themselves in an ever evolving and complicated world.

Please forgive me if I offended anyone with my candidness and please note: I myself would have wished I never would have had to pen these lines…. However, I also feel not to have written them would be shirking my responsibility as a Rav.

I pray my words have the desired impact.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ “…When the wicked perish, there is joy.” (Mishlei 11:10) “ (5/23/

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 15th of Iyar 5776 and May 23, 2016

 

“…When the wicked perish, there is joy.” (Mishlei 11:10)

 

Today is a special day in Jewish History; for exactly 56 years ago today, on May 23rd 1960 the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Mr. David Ben Gurion made the following announcement to the Israeli Knesset.

“I have to inform the Knesset that a short time ago one of the greatest of the Nazi war criminals, Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible, together with the Nazi leaders, for what they called ‘the final solution’ of the Jewish question, that is, the extermination of 6,000,000 of the Jews of Europe, was found by the Israeli Security Services…”

The Knesset was in shock. At first there was total silence in the building. There was disbelief and a feeling of incredulity. And then there was the fulfillment of the words of Shlomo HaMelech in Mishlei, “When the wicked perish there is joy…” as shouts of relief and joy filled the Knesset building.

Adolf Eichmann, the embodiment of evil was captured in a miraculous fashion which notwithstanding the meticulous planning of the Israel Mossad and Shin Bet; nevertheless, without the help of Hashem, the operation could never have been successful.

Every single Jewish operative involved in the mission safely returned to Israel and there were no long term negative repercussions to Argentinian and Israeli relations.

Hashem guided the hands and feet of the Mossad agents as they plucked Eichmann (Yimach Shemo) from his hometown in Argentina and brought him to justice in Eretz Yisroel.

When on May 23, 1960, Ben Gurion announced to the Knesset the capture of this evil man it was a watershed event in Jewish history.

For the capture of Eichmann restored much needed Jewish pride to the Jews of Israel and world over.

It also ushered in a new era of openness with regard to discussing the holocaust.

Before the capture of Eichmann and his eventual trial which was broadcast all over the world, Jews were hesitant and embarrassed to discuss the holocaust.

The eventual public trial and its dissemination all over the world gave the Jews and the world a firsthand graphic look at the horrors of the holocaust and particularly galvanized Jews into speaking about it.

The capture of Eichmann and the restoration of Jewish pride which it caused electrified Jews all over the world and even non-Jews to begin to discuss the holocaust.

Because of the trial, Germany for the first time ever, began to include the holocaust in their school curriculums.

Jews worldwide would no longer remain passively silent about the memory of the six million Kedoshim.

Hashem had guided the hands of the Israeli Mossad agents and in doing so He had clearly indicated that His people have not been forgotten and there is justice and “Din”.

On May 23, 1960 the Jewish people in particular and world as a whole accepted the fact that we do not forget and we do not sweep under the rug the wrong doings which have been perpetuated against us.

We stated clearly for all to hear that with the help of Hashem we will attempt to bring to justice those people who do harm to humanity and to the Jewish people.

The Jewish concept of “Yesh Din”, that there is accountability was realized on this day 56 years ago.

The lesson must be clear to all, we don’t forget and Hashem does not forget.

Eventually we believe that those that choose the path of evil and harm His people will have to one day face Judgment.

We may be disappointed when a human being has used his G-d given abilities for evil; however, once he has made the choice and has no interest in changing his ways, we have no choice but to rejoice when the evil ones are neutralized.

Today, 56 years ago was just one small step towards accountability and one small glimpse which Hashem gave us into the ultimate responsibility for those who choose to use their lives for evil.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “ The Day Ben Gurion Paskened the Shayla” (5/12/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 4th of Iyar 5776 and May 12th 2016

 

The Day Ben Gurion Paskened the Shayla

 

Today is the day that the State of Israel in particular and the Jewish people as a whole observe and mark as a day of celebration for the creation of the State in 1948.

On this day you will find a greater diversity of observance and non-observance in the Orthodox Jewish world than on any other day of the Jewish calendar.

There are observant and G-d fearing Jews who are reciting a full throated and impassioned Hallel.

There are observant and G-d fearing Jews who are reciting liturgical laments with the same conviction as the above mentioned Jews are reciting Hallel.

And you have Torah observant Jews who ignore the day; it is business as usual for them.

They are not saying Hallel and they are not sitting on the floor in mourning; rather, for the most part, the day and its significance are ignored.

For reasons which are beyond the purview of this piece I personally cannot acquiesce to any of the above mentioned options.

I cannot passionately recite the Hallel and I certainly would never recite lamentations; however, to just ignore and not deal with the issue does not sit right with me either.

This morning, I noticed an article about Yom HaAtzmaut written by Rabbanit Yehudit Yosef the daughter in law of HaRav Ovadiah Yosef Zt”L the great  Torah giant who was revered by all.

She discusses in the article the approach of her saintly father in law- Rav Ovadiah to Yom HaAtzmaut.

She writes:

“Maran (a deferential title to her father in law) never missed an opportunity to remind everyone of our obligation (emphasis added by me) to thank Hashem for all of His miracles and wondrous deeds which he did for us [through the establishment of the State].

 We have now the ability to come to Eretz Yisroel and to live here in security and safety and [we must thank Hashem] for the fact that the State of Israel is the undisputed center of Torah in this world.

In answer to the question as to how he himself conducts himself today, he would reply, “I act as Ben Gurion conducted himself today, I don’t say Hallel, nor do I say Tachanun.”

In answer to the question of how can we thank Hashem and recognize a miracle which was facilitated by individuals who were not Shomer Torah and Mitzvohs, Rav Ovadiah would refer them to the Gemara in Meilah (17b) where the Gemara informs us that Hashem sent a “Shed” (a normally destructive and negative spiritual force) to perform a Nes (miracle) for Rav Shimon Bar Yochai.  

Although Rashbi (acronym for Rav Shimon Bar Yochai) was somewhat disappointed in the ‘agent’ Hashem chose and sent to perform His bidding, nevertheless, he realized that he still must be appreciative of Hashem. As he declared: “Let the miracle come from wherever it will come [it is still a miracle and we must thank Hashem for it].”

In so many ways I believe the opinion of Rav Ovadiah Zt”l encapsulates and embraces my own feelings on this day.

To fully sing the Hallel, I too am not just ready.

To recite lamentations, this opinion is certainly not for me.

To just ignore and carry on…. This too I cannot do.

So the words of the late great Rav Ovadiah Zt”L are a beacon of light to me on this special day.

I thank Hashem for his wondrous miracles that He did for all of us today; irrespective of the fact that non-religious Jews were His agents.

As we have seen from Rav Shimon Bar Yochai, wherever the miracles come from, we must still thank Him enthusiastically for them!

I thank Hashem today on Yom HaAtzmaut that he gave me and you and our families the land of Israel to live in and to study in and most importantly to get close to Him.

May we all reach the day when we are in complete unity and of one heart with regard to our present uncertainties and may we all soon declare in unison: “This is the day that the Lord made; we shall exult and rejoice thereon.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Remember “ (5/10/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 3rd of Iyar 5776 and May 10, 2016

 

Remember

 

Today, as you read these words, the entire Jewish population of Eretz Yisroel is in a somber and reflective and most noticeably: mournful mood.

Today the State of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole remember and mourn the 23,477 individuals who have been killed for wanting to live as Jews in Eretz Yisroel.

It is because of them you and I can go there today to learn and to live.

These 23,477 individuals who fell include Israel Defense Forces soldiers, and those who died while serving in the pre-state underground militias and the Jewish Brigade in the British Army.

They also include almost 3,000 civilians who were murdered in brutal and cowardly terror attacks.

Of these men, women and children who were murdered, some were young people and some were elderly; some were rich and some were poor; some were educated and some were not; some were religious and others non-religious; yet, they all had one thing in common: they were killed for being Jews who wanted and insisted in living in the land promised to us by Hashem Himself.

While so many of the soldiers were killed in active combat, the civilian victims of terror were killed in cold blood.

Many were killed while doing Mitzvohs and learning Torah or Davening; others were killed while mundanely walking the streets of the holy land.

There is hardly a family in Israel who does not know someone or is not related to someone who is being mourned on this somber and mournful Memorial Day.

For me and my family we too mourn today.

I mourn for the soldiers who have fallen while helping to establish a viable and growing and stable Jewish community in the Land of Israel.

They helped create an environment where Jews can live and visit and Israel and learn Torah in a manner unmatched since the time of the Second Beis HaMikdash.

I also mourn for those killed in terror attacks who were killed unarmed and in cold blood; they too created the “facts on the ground” that Jews have the G-d given right to live in the land of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yakov.

I personally mourn for a Jew who was brutally attacked by a knife wielding Arab on a quiet street in the walled city of Yerushalayim while he made his way in the pre-dawn hours to daven Vasikin.

That Jew, who was mortally wounded in the attack, succumbed to his injuries on the 19th of Elul 1851.

He is considered the first victim of terror in the ‘modern era’.

His name appears first on the Wall of Names of Victims of Terror in the military cemetery at Har Herzl in Yerushalayim.

His name was Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref and he was my great-great-great-great-grandfather.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said about him on Yom HaZikaron in 2012:

“The name of the first terror victim is here on the Wall of Names, Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref.

Rabbi Avraham was one of the most prominent figures of the Jewish community in Jerusalem.  One day, in the summer of 1851, while on his daily walk to synagogue for his morning prayer, he was attacked from behind by Arab rioters who hit him on his head and fatally wounded him.  He fought for his life for three months before he succumbed.

But his death did not stop his legacy or the settling of the country, which his family continued.  You have, no doubt, heard of this man’s grandson.  He was the renowned Yoel Moshe Salomon, one of the founders of Petach-Tikva, where my mother was born.

Six of his offspring fell in Israeli wars, sacrificing their own lives to ensure the continuity of the Jewish nation.  Eventually, his descendants filled major positions in Israel’s economy and in our public sector.”

 

Indeed, many of his descendants do fill major positions in Israel; as I have thousands of relatives in Israel in all walks of life.

Rav Avrohom Zalman Tzoref life’s work was to rebuild the famed Churva Shul in the Old City.

The reason he was specifically targeted for assassination was because of the leadership role he assumed as the head of the Jewish community’s efforts to ‘redeem’ the land where the Shul was and begin the rebuilding of the famed Mikdash Me’at (Synagogue).

He never lived to see that day as we killed while still in the midst of his efforts to secure the necessary funds and permits.

The fact that his life was cut short while attempting to build a Shul for the Jewish community of Yerushalayim is a source of sadness and pride for me and my family.

That being said, even more meaningful for me is that today Memorial Day- Yom HaZikaron- the day when I remember my great-great-great-great-grandfather, and the day when 23,447 families remember their loved ones- I am also comforted.

I am comforted by the fact that on this same morning when I mourn my great-great-great-great-grandfather- a man who never lived to see his life’s work- the building of the Churva Shul completed- his great-great-great-great-great-grandson (My son Meir) davened Shacharis in that very Shul!

Rav Avrohom Zalman Tzoref and his Rebbetzin are buried at the foot of Har HaZeisim.

Every morning, his descendants (my son and my grandchildren) pass his Kever (grave) on the way to Shul and on the way to school- every single day he sees them.

We are sad today, we are mournful today…indeed, I am personally mourning and I am personally pained; however, I am simultaneously comforted, as I also know that tomorrow the sun will shine brighter.

I know that Hashem has not forsaken His people.

I know that my antecedent Rav Shlomo Zalman Tzoref did not die in vain… for his death- as painful and tragic as it was- it helped pave the way for his descendant’s to live, learn Torah and thrive in our homeland; it helped set in motion the events which allowed my son Meir and his sons to learn Torah in the very place that their holy Zaide gave his life for.

“[And Hashem said], And I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, and I said to you, ‘With your blood you shall live,’ and I said to you, ‘With your blood you shall live.’” (Yechezkel 16:6)

 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Last Man in Shul “ (5/5/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 27th of Nissan 5776 and May 5, 2016

 

The Last Man in Shul

 

(Editor’s Note: The following story is NOT 100% factually true. I did not find Dovid Friedberg in Shul; nor did I have him for lunch. Nevertheless, the plight of Dovid Friedberg and others like him is real and true.)

 

When I leave the Shul on Shabbos morning I scan the lobby to see if any potential guests are to be had.

Dovid Friedberg was sitting there reading an English biography.

As it was after 12, I knew he was “available” as he obviously had nowhere to go.

 “Dovid, do you have a place for lunch?” I asked.

He muttered something about how his plans “fell through”…..And as if on cue he got up and out we walked.

On the way home I innocently asked him where he usually eats on Shabbos.

I knew he was divorced and that he has his daughters every other weekend.

“I have some families who often invite me and I even have some friends who I can call and invite myself.”

“What happened this week?” I asked.

Dovid became very silent and forlorn; tears began to gather in his distant eyes.

He stopped walking and turned to me,

“This week, my host cancelled on me today in Shul.

What was I supposed to do? Who could I impose on at the last minute?

Rabbi, this wasn’t the way things were ‘supposed to be’; I was ‘supposed’ to be hosting others –I was not ‘supposed’ to be the one being hosted!

 When I was 24 I was ‘redt’ a wonderful Shidduch.

She was alumnus of a respected Beis Yakov and of the “best” seminary in Eretz Yisroel.

The Shadchanta assured my mother that all would be wonderful with full support and no worries.

She was only the second girl I had gone out with and after 6 dates and a lot of pressure from the Shadchanta and “well-meaning” friends, we became engaged.

The first few months were fine; however, once our first child came, my wife stopped working. There were other problems and challenges and when we had our second daughter things became unbearable for both of us.

 I am not blaming my ‘ex’; and indeed, I blame no one; however, “suddenly” at the age of 29 I was divorced with two daughters’ age three years old and eighteen months.

I had never “made Shabbos” in my life and unexpectedly I was thrust totally unprepared into a new world.

I entered a world where I see my daughters every other weekend and if I don’t make intricate and complicated plans I can never go to Shul on the Shabbos I have them.

On the alternate weeks I am alone; I am embarrassed to go ‘home’ to my parents and so I have to fend for myself for meals.

I have to remember who I can call and how some people -if I call them on Monday for Shabbos- tell me, “Shabbos? I am not up to Shabbos yet; call back on Wednesday”. And other people (sometimes actually the same people) when I call on Wednesday say, “You are calling for this Shabbos on Wednesday? I have already cooked and invited people for this Shabbos; why did you wait so long to call?”

What really pains me is when people assume that because I am the father and my children are girls and they live by their mother most of the week that I am a sort of absentee parent who just gets the ‘fun’ of having them every other Shabbos and taking them for Pizza on Wednesday evenings.

Rabbi, please know, my life is not ‘fun’ and it troubles me to no end not being able to see my children daily.

I just wish…. and I know I cannot go back…that I wasn’t so pressured six years ago to ‘break the plate’.

The Shadchanta and all the others who ‘advised’ me to ‘seal the deal’ sooner than later all meant well; however, today, they are all at home with their families while I am all alone.”

Dovid stopped talking and we continued towards my house; and as we walked I could not help but notice the reflection of the sun on the many tears which ran down his face. 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Afikomen “ (4/26/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 18th Nissan 5776 and April 26, 2016

 

The Afikomen

 

The Sedarim had ended; it was Monday (yesterday) the first day of Chol HaMoed for those of us not privileged to reside in the Holy Land.

Malkie age 11 had been the one to find the Afikomen which her father had hidden under the mattress in the spare bedroom on the first floor.

This was quite a feat; as the youngest of nine and having three unmarried brothers directly above her and five married siblings, it was indeed amazing that Malkie had found the Afikomen.

Her father promised her that on Monday he would personally take her to the store and she could buy whatever she wanted.

As Malkie and her father entered the car and began their drive to the not-so-local “Toys R Us” her father asked her, “Malkie, do you know what you want in the store?” Malkie said to her father, “I really don’t want anything; I just want to go to the store.”

Her father figured she probably wanted to just go ‘windows shopping’; meaning, she would see the various options and decide at another time. Therefore, her father said, “Malkie, I know it may be hard to decide what you want; however, you really have to because you know how busy I am and I don’t know if I can take you a second time to buy what you eventually decide.”

Malkie nodded her understanding to her father and they continued to ride to the store.

Again her father said, “Malkie, I really think you should pick something out when we get there, I really don’t see myself driving all the way out here again.”

Once again Malkie said, “Abba, I understand, and don’t worry. I promise I won’t make you go again to buy be anything and I still don’t want anything; like I said I just want to go to the store.”

They finally arrived at the store and after looking around for about 15 minutes, Malkie, true to her word, said to her father, “Thanks, let’s go home now; as I said, I don’t need anything.”

Finally after the hour car ride home, Malkie’s father could not contain himself. “I don’t understand you Malkie. You said you wanted to go to Toys R Us; you said you didn’t want to buy anything and you don’t need to go back again. So if so, why did we go in the first place? What happened to your Afikomen present?”

“Abba, don’t worry, I just received the exact Afikomen present I wanted.”

Her father, looking more perplexed than before asked, “Malkie, I don’t understand, you did not get any present at all. What are you talking about?”

“Abba, all I wanted was to spend an hour with you alone. You are so busy and I knew if I would just say “let’s go for a ride for an hour”, you would not have found the time. So I told you I wanted to go to Toys R Us, that’s the furthest store I know of from our house. I said that so I could spend an hour with you alone in the car. And that’s exactly what I received; I got the exact Afikomen present which I wanted: To spend an hour alone with my Abba”.

 



“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ “Just One Smile and We’ll all be Free…” “ (4/25/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 17th of Nissan 5776 and April 25, 2016

 

“Just One Smile and We’ll all be Free…”

 

I have just received an important Psak Din from the Beis Din HaKotton in Shtussville!

According to the anatomical computations based on the position of the former planet Pluto by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and in conjunction with the American Association of Falsifiers and Fabricators and with the approval of The Union of International Perjurers, the Beis Din in Shtussville has totally and completely realized and announced that Pesach really begins tonight!

Yes, you heard me correctly!

Pesach begins tonight.

I know you ate Matzah and Marror on Friday night and Motzei Shabbos, however, based on the position of the moon and its parallel position to Boro Park, Pesach is really tonight!

Therefore, the Beis Din in consultation with K’tanei Yisroel and in consultation with the Gedolei HaKtanim has issued the following instructions on how to proceed.

1.       Everyone must take today at least three doses of extra-strength Ex-Lax followed by six enemas in order to purge the body of the Matzah eaten over the last two days.

2.       After one has ingested these laxatives, you must take a hot urn and place prune juice in the urn until the water reaches a boiling point.

3.       At that point each adult man and woman must have someone over the age of Bar/Bas Mitzvah pour the entire 40 cup urn down their mouths to cleanse their intestines from Matzah consumed prior to the proper time.

4.       After all of the urn’s contents have been consumed, each adult male and female is required to perform 20 jumping jacks in no less than 4 minutes in order to assure that all of the water has indeed come in contact will all areas of the intestines.

5.       Some poskim are recommending applying a blow torch to be inserted via the naval in order to totally eradicate any trace remains of the Matzah which was consumed incorrectly.

6.       Tonight you must do the Seder again.

7.       The Beis Din has issued the following ‘normative Shiurim’ which should be followed to fulfill all of the Mitzvohs correctly for the tonight’s Seder.

8.       Go to your local Mosque and purchase a “Prayer Map” six feet long by four feet wide.

9.       Spread the Prayer Map on your Seder table and fills in the entire prayer map area with Matzahs.

10.   Eat every Matzah that fills the prayer map area in a time limit of no longer than 94 seconds.

11.   You may not talk or breath, look sad, or even blink during the time you are eating your Matzahs. You must look happy and content that you are following the ruling of the Beis Din of Shtussville.

12.   This of course is the minimum Shiur for Matzahs which must be consumed by men and women alike each time we are required to eat Matzah.

13.   For the four cups, please go to your local brewery and purchase a Keg of Beer (A keg in the US is a 1/2 barrel keg. A barrel of beer is 31 gallons, a keg therefore contains 15 1/2 gallons (1,984 ounces)  and fill the keg with undiluted, unsweetened, 15% alcoholic wine and “Chug” (To chug means to drink alcohol really fast without breathing) the entire “keg” in no less than 98.5% seconds.  If you cannot Chug the beer in less than 100 seconds you must repeat the process again and again. Remember, do it with a smile!

14.   Each one of the four Kosos (cups) must be consumed with this amount and in this time period.

15.   As far as the Marror, since one missed the proper time of eating the Marror, tonight one cannot use bland, wishy-washy romaine lettuce; rather, one should use instead “The Carolina Reaper” which is officially the World’s Hottest Pepper as ranked by Guinness Records. There is nothing normal about this pepper. It was bred for heat and that it is with an average SHU of over 1.5 million and peaks at 2.2 Million SHU! It gets this insane heat from being a cross between a Pakastani Naga and a Red Habanero.”

16.   The Shiur for this pepper which is perfect for Marror is ten pounds of pepper per the Marror Mitzvah and ten pounds for the Korech Shiur. Here too, one must eat the Marror in no less than four minutes.

These Shiurim must be followed exactly and no leniency is to be allowed.

The Sedarim have to begin tonight at 9 PM and should last minimally six hours.

Please remember in order to guarantee that the Seder is done properly, and one must be careful not to confuse the day and incorrectly assume the day is Chol HaMoed. Therefore, one should handcuff themselves to their chair for the duration of the Seder and give over the key to their rabbi who will (hopefully) arrive before three AM to un-cuff you.

During this six hour time period, you must read the 1000 page newly printed Haggadah called: “Preposterous P’shatim on the Haggadah; a compendium of 1000 strabismic, askance and absolutely absurd and nonsensical observations on the Haggadah compiled by the incompetent and inept K’tanim of the Shtussville Beis Din.” (The Haggadah must be pre-ordered before Yom Tov for $29.95).

You will be tested on all 1000 pages after Yom Tov.  

After you have completed the Seder tonight, please repeat the process tomorrow night as well!

Wishing you a meaningful Yom Tov and please no need to thank us in advance!

We are the Beis Din HaKotton of Shtussville so smile!

 

Smile- “If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Love is in Eyes of the Beholder “ (4/20/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 13th of Nissan 5776 and April 21st 2016

 

Love is in Eyes of the Beholder

 

(This may be the last Vort before Pesach. If so, I wish my entire readership a Chag Sameach and I thank you for your support, feedback and critique. Through discussion with civility we all can grow and become better people.)

 

Last week Elaine Rubinstein (name changed) was doing what so many Jewish women do before the Yom Tov; she was at the mall shopping.

As she maneuvered her way past bargain-hungry shoppers and elderly women moseying their way down the aisles she suddenly heard the announcement.

“Attention all shoppers, we have a missing child alert. Please be on the look-out for a three year old girl with black hair and pink sneakers. Her mother is waiting for her by the security desk.”

Elaine reacted exactly the way all the other shoppers did, she continued to shop.

 Everyone figured that a child had simply wondered off into the great labyrinth known as a department store and she would soon be located and reunited with her mother.

When the second announcement was made, although it was identical to the first, a number of people, including Elaine, paused for a moment in their search for the perfect outfit and looked around as if expecting the child to be sitting by their feet!

Other than that, the day in the mall continued normally.

Suddenly, the public address system was heard once more.

 This time the voice was much more serious and the message was extremely unanticipated. “Attention, we are now issuing an Amber Alert and a lock-down. The store is now sealed; no one is allowed to leave or enter until further notice.”

Abruptly, the entire store went silent.

There was no sound of shoppers chatting cheerfully to each other.

The clatter of hangers being pushed to the side ceased and a total and absolute hush reigned throughout the cavernous store.

There was only one sound that broke the stillness; there was one person who could not maintain the quiet.

One women’s voice could be heard throughout the now eerily soundless store.

The mother of the missing child could be heard wailing as her voice reverberated off the still walls as she cried out, “My baby; my baby is missing; please bring back my baby!”

Everyone was riveted to her crying.

The normal prosaic shopping experience had become a terror filled outing.

Typically calm woman somaticized their emotions as their fears manifested themselves in physical symptoms as people began to cry and weep.

“Please, please bring back my baby!” The distraught and inconsolable woman cried.

And then it happened; the desperate wailing was transformed into a gleeful cry of joy!

“My baby, my baby, you found my baby!”

Elaine along with other women pressed forward to get a glimpse of the elated mother being reunited with her lost daughter.

As mother and daughter cried in each other’s arms, Elaine noticed a woman off to the side who was being spoken to and congratulated.

As she neared she realized that this woman was the heroine; she was the one who retrieved the child.

Elaine heard as the woman related to the store security staff that as she was in the parking lot she noticed a man carrying a child and the child was crying hysterically.

“I approached the man and said, “Excuse me is that your child?” And then I asked the child, “Are you alright, is this man your Daddy?” The man then dropped the child and ran away. I quickly scooped up the child and was soon directed here to the security desk and I returned the child to her mother.”

Elaine stood there amazed and awed by this woman’s courage. 

She herself got up the nerve to ask the question on everyone’s mind.

“What made you suspect that something was wrong? What made you approach the man; something must have tipped you off.”

The woman looked up and quietly said, “I looked at the crying child and I saw no love in her eyes for the man who was holding her. I know that sometimes we have to discipline our children; however, even when we do there is still a sense of love that the child has for the parent. This time I saw no love in the little girl’s eyes. So too, I saw that there was no love in the man’s eyes for the child. When I saw no love in either of their eyes I knew something was wrong.”

As the Pesach preparations come to a close….and the pressures of the days increase and reach a boiling point…and parents become increasingly frustrated with their children and the children feel that their parents are driving them to the breaking point… I ask all of us to remember just one thing: never ever allow the pressures of Pesach to cause the love we have for each other to leave our eyes.

As long as we can still see the love we have for each other in each other’s eyes we are safe.

 

“If Not Now Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Editor’s Note:  “ (4/20/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 12th of Nissan 5776 and April 20, 2016

 

Editor’s Note:

 

Yesterday, I wrote an (obvious) parody about Pesach preparations in the life of a couple who are Baalei Teshuva. The piece was recognizably (or at least was an attempt at being) humorous.

It appears that those who know me realized that there was no intention at all to degrade and/or ridicule the precious and cherished Baal Teshuva community.

These people appreciated the humor and the break from the monotony of Pesach preparations.

However, two individuals (one from Israel and one from England) took offense to my piece and felt I was ridiculing a precious part of the Jewish people.

I extend my sincerest apologies to them and to anyone else who was offended; that certainly was not my intent.

 That being said, I would like to add that a parody contains ‘hidden critiques and messages’ which are sometimes glossed over by the reader. 

The parody affords the writer the ability to convey these messages in a covert (hopefully) humorous manner.

The two lessons which were hopefully conveyed in yesterday’s parody were:

1.       Being Baal Teshuva means you must continue to learn and learn. Too often Frum from birth and BTs become static and stop growing; this leads to stagnation and to people (who could have learned more and known more), relying on the rabbi for everything and anything.

Therefore lesson number one is: Keep on learning and you will know what is a question and what is not a question.

2.       Being a Baal Teshuva and/or being a FFB does not mean that you sacrifice all of your former ‘common sense’.

Asking questions which you do not know the answer to is very, very important.

However, too often people have a hard time balancing their own intellectual feelings with the obligations of the Halacha.

Often the emphasized point of Halachik obligations can cause individuals to lose sight of the forest and only see the individual trees.

Lesson two- perhaps give some thought before you ask. Ask yourself: how does this halachik obligation jive with other aspects of my intellectual abilities?

Perhaps after giving that question some thought, you may realize you have no question.

 

Nevertheless, I certainly never intended to hurt anyone and if I did, I apologize.

May we all be privileged to a true Simchas Yom Tov.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Following the teachings of the Kotzker” (4/19/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 11th of Nissan 5776 and April 19, 2016

 

Baila Tova Sima and Yankel Velvel Nadav

 

The Kotzker Rebbe would wish his flock a big “Chag Sameach” for Pesach. He would change the traditional greeting of “Chag Kasher V”Sameach” (have a Kosher and Happy Passover) to just “Happy Holiday”.

When he was asked why he changed, he explained, “Everyone is so busy with the “Kosher” of Pesach they forget that it’s also and primarily a Yom Tov and you must be happy. There is a much Kashrus in the community; however, is there also plenty of Simcha? That’s why I wish everyone a Chag Sameach! Remember, you have to smile and be happy!”

 

Following the teachings of the Kotzker, I present to you the following:

 

“The Adventures of Baila Tova Sima and Yankel Velvel Nadav Goldenstein”

 

Baila Tova Sima (to be known simply as BTS) and Yankel Velvel Nadav (YVN) have just moved to Passaic. This is the first time they are making Pesach on their own. Although they officially became ‘frum’ a number of years ago, this is their first Pesach in their own home.

We now take you to their home.

“Baila dear, we have to call Rabbi Eisenman, I forgot to kasher my Tzitzis for Pesach.”

“Oy, Yankel, what should we do? If you want I can put them in the self-cleaning oven, would that make them Kosher for Pesach even according to “Chaaareidim”?”

“I don’t know, if the self-cleaning over gets hot enough, after all, I ate “Hometz” with them!” (Editor’s note: Yankel, formerly Jack still cannot properly say the “Ch” sound, therefore he says “Hometz” instead of “Chometz”)

As Yankel is calling Rabbi Eisenman, BTS goes on her way making the house kosher for Pesach.

She notices that the toilet bowl cleaner has no special certification for Pesach and she begins to feel faint. Yankel comes into the room and tell BTS not to worry, “Rabbi Eisenman said the Tzitzis don’t have to be koshered and you don’t need a special OU- P on the toilet bowl cleaner.”

“I am so glad you told me” say BTS; however, that sounds so lenient and normal and Rabbi Eisenman is known to be too lenient; let’s call Rabbi Machmir and get the proper Daas Torah.” (Editor’s note: BTS has no problem with the “CH” sound)

“Good idea”, says Yankel; “We don’t want people to thing we are not Yeshivash,  as our little Miriam Masha Chashi Yentel Perel needs a good Shidduk” (Editor’s note: Yankel really means “Shidduch” (proper match) however, not only can’t he say “Shidduch” he really thinks the word is “Shidduk” as he still cannot read Hebrew fluently).

As Yankel calls Rabbi Machmir, BTS is checking the medicine cabinet for Chometz.

“Yankel, come quick!  I don’t see any certification on the Q-tips do you think we have to run the self-cleaning over again?”

Thankfully, Rabbi Machmir tells them that Q-Tips don’t need a Hechsher and life goes on.

Yankel then comes into the kitchen carrying ten big two pound boxes of Shemurah Matzos.

BTS asks, “Yankel we are only three people, why do we need so much Matzah?”

“Haven’t you heard? Since we are BTs and for most of our life we never ate Matzah, we have to eat this year the total amount of Matzah we should have eaten all of our wasted years. I figured out that each of us has to eat five pounds of Matzah each night of the Seder so that makes twenty pounds!”

“Where did you hear that idea?” BTS asks.

“I was listening to a Shiur on “Flaming Fire BT Dot Com” and the rabbi said that we BTs should especially take the Seder seriously to make up for all those years we didn’t eat Matzah. So I figured that he meant we should eat all of the Matzah we missed!”

“Yankel you are so smart. I am so happy I married you”.

And Yankel and BTS continued to make Pesach together….

Tune in next week as we continue to listen in on the lives of Yankel and Baila Tova Sima as they continue to grow together in Yiddishkeit.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Chometz Alert” (4/14/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 6th of Nissan 5776 and April 14, 2016

 

Chometz Alert

 

This is fresh off the ‘press’, or perhaps better said, fresh out of the oven.

It has been disclosed to me through very reliable contacts in the Beducha Milsa B’datz that a new previously unknown Chometz problem has been discovered.

Thankfully, we have discovered it before Pesach and we are remedying the problem as we write.

The Problem

Rabbeinu Chucha V’Tellula, who is known far and wide for his ignorance in all areas of Halacha, has recently through the assistance of previously unknown Segulos, such as having 20 pound lead weights dropped on his head from a distance of no less than 50 feet, revealed to us the following “Chumrah Yeseira” (extra-stringency in Halacha).

 The “Racheter” as he is known to his singular follower (his name is based on his initials Rabbeinu Chucha V’Tellula) has announced the following halachik absurdity for Pesach 5776.

Based on the “Racheters” non-existent knowledge, he has declared that this year one may not breath in any air for he discovered particles of Chometz which have become air-borne  and which pose a serious halachik problem.

According to The “Racheter” and his Beis Din Beducha Milsa B’datz- it is totally prohibited from breathing in any air beginning on Friday morning April 22nd.

No air at all may be ingested beginning at 10:39 AM on Erev Pesach!

This includes air which comes from an air conditioner or from a humidifier and of course any air which is around you!

This revelation of the “The Racheter” and his Beis Din Beducha Milsa B’datz is a tremendous benefit to the masses that will now be able to successfully avoid the prohibition of breathing in Chometzdik air.

I know what you are thinking, “How will we live without air?”

That is indeed a great question; however, the “The Racheter” has supplied the answer as well.

If one looks into his recently published Sefer, “Divrei Ramai U’Bidichusa” in Siman “Shtus” one finds the following segulah enabling all of us to breath easily and enjoy Pesach:

 “For just $29.99 (plus $15.99 for postage and handling) one can obtain an officially sanctioned and approved Chometz Mask to wear during Pesach thereby avoiding breathing in Chometz. The mask is available exclusively through the “The Racheter” and his Beis Din and will not be sold in any stores or websites. So don’t delay! Order today!!

Remember, even children need a Chometz Mask and we carry all different sizes and colors to match your outfit. The masks have the Hechsher of the “Igud HaShakranim V’Ramoim” or as they are commonly referred to: ISV.

The problem of air-borne Chometz has already been discussed in the writings of the ‘Tachtonim’ and by “HaLeitzim V’hevleihem” many, many years ago”.

Indeed, it is said that when the “The Racheter” presented his findings to the present Gedolei HaDor they all responded in unison, “Ein Eilu Eleh Divrei Hevel V’Shtus!”

I cannot literally translate the above phrase; however, suffice for me to say that such words are used sparingly to say the least!!

I am happy to make this new and important piece of Pesach preparation information available to you and I am sure before the day is out it will be posted all over the World Wide Web as thousands of our brethren will want to avail themselves of this important ‘anti Chometz device’.

So remember, pleaser order your Anti-Chometz Mask immediately and if you order before noon you will receive a free eye mask to cover your eyes to prevent Chometz particles from entering your eyes! (Please do not wear the eye mask while driving.)

Don’t delay, order today!

 

Editor’s note: I hope we have helped your pre-Pesach preparations and have added a much needed distraction to the monotony of cleaning.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Lost Opportunities” (4/7/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 28th of Adar Beis 5776 and April 7, 2016

 

Lost Opportunities

Rayzle Rubin was born in the Bronx in 1927; she was the middle daughter in a family of three daughters.

When the depression of 1929 caused a downturn in her family’s fortunes, Rayzle and her family suffered greatly.

Added to Rayzle’s problems were a not too small dose of “middle-child-syndrome” which caused Rayzle to be cantankerous and often argumentative; she had difficulty maintaining relationships.

She had dreams of becoming a nurse or perhaps a doctor. Her parents, particularly her mother, thought otherwise.

 “How can you get married and raise a family if you are in the hospital? Be a teacher or a switchboard operator; anything but a nurse!” Her mother would say.

The stress and pressure her mother placed on her found their mark and Rayzle’s dreams of becoming a nurse were never fulfilled.

Rayzle said “yes” to the first boy who was interested in marrying her; partially because her mother’s insistence (“Who knows if another boy will come around?”) and partially to get out of the house; she was 20 years old.

Rayzle and her husband Bernard had two children; a boy Steven, who eventually went to Eretz Yisroel and never returned and a younger daughter named Bernice who was born in 1958.

Rayzle was tough on Bernice; there is no other way to say it.

It had to be Rayzle’s way or no way.

When mother and daughter would lock horns, Rayzle would invariably end the discussion by decreeing: “I am not your friend, I am your mother and therefore you will listen to me”.

Bernice must have heard her mother’s mantra: “I am not your friend, I am your mother”, at least ten thousand times.

She heard it when she awoke and she heard it during the day; she heard it before she went to bed and sometimes she even heard it in her dreams!

Fast forward to 2016; to a suburban nursing home in New Jersey where Mrs. Rayzle Berman who is now almost 90 years old lives alone.

On Sunday her daughter Bernice (now Brocha) drives down with her kids to visit and every Wednesday after work Brocha stops by the “home” to pay a solo visit.

There is a marked difference between the two visits.

On Sunday, Brocha sits on the side and allows her children to interact with their grandmother.

She is the facilitator in permitting her mother to bond with and have nachas from her grandchildren.

The visit on Sunday is carefree and no one looks at their watch.

The Wednesday afternoon visit is very different. It is short and to the point.

Brocha asks her mother if she needs anything; she asks her mother the usual questions, “How are they treating you? Do you like the food? How do you feel?”

And then she looks at her watch and announces after 15 minutes, “Sorry Mom, I have to go now; so much to do. Be well; bye”.

And with that Brocha waves to her mother and darts out of the room.

One day Rayzle Berman did what she never had done before with her daughter; she asked Brocha to sit down as she wanted to speak to her heart to heart.

“Bernice, (she never could get used to calling her daughter Brocha) how come when you come on Wednesday you are always in a rush to leave? Why can’t you stay so we can have a nice and friendly chat together?”

Bernice hesitated to respond as she looked at her mother who was so frail and vulnerable. Rayzle Berman was just a shell of her former formidable self.

Bernice wanted so much to connect with her mother, to be “her friend”….However, the words, “I am not your friend, I am your mother” continued to echo in her tormented brain.

The words reverberated incessantly within her and she was paralyzed and unable to speak.

Rayzle Berman looked hopefully towards her daughter for friendship as Bernice agonized over her feelings about the mother who had always insisted she was only a “mother” and never a friend and she struggled to decide how to answer her mother.

She was just about to say something….however, at that moment a nurse entered the room and the conversation stopped.

Bernice stood up and began to leave; as she reached the door she turned to look once more at her mother while mourning hopes and dreams which would never be fulfilled.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Sensitivity Training “ (4/6/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 27th of Adar Beis 5776 and April 6, 2016

 

Sensitivity Training

 

You meet a friend who you have not seen for a long time.

 Perhaps he has put on a few pounds.

Perhaps his beard is whiter than you recall.

Perhaps he looks older and more “mature” than the last time you saw him.

Or consider the following, you see your friend from high school and you know she married in the last four years; however, soon after the wedding she moved to Eretz Yisroel.

 She has just arrived to spend Pesach in America and you are unsure if she has children.

You are sitting at a wedding and you recall that the woman you are sitting next to had (has?) a child who was diagnosed with a serious condition a number of years ago.

 You cannot recall the health status of the child.

What do you?

All of these situations and thousands more require the “S” word.

In the first three cases, the “S” word clearly dictates for you to keep your thoughts to yourself.

Don’t say to your pleasantly plump friend, “Hey, looks like your wife is doing some good cooking these days.” Your friend will not appreciate your culinary compliment of his wife.

So too, no one (not even a man) wants to be reminded that he is looking older.

And certainly you would be lacking the “S” word if you said to your old high school friend, “Do you have any children yet?”

However, the last case is a little bit more complicated; namely the situation of the woman with the sick child.

On one hand if you ignore the health status of her child she may be insulted.

On the other hand, to just come out and ask, “How is your daughter?” may also not be the best response. After all, perhaps the child is no longer among the living? That could cause quite an awkward situation.

What do you do in such a situation?

The best thing to do when unsure is to attempt to ask someone and find out the facts prior to opening your mouth.

How many times could I have avoided putting my ‘foot in my mouth’ if only I had taken the time to ascertain the facts of a given situation before I spoke?

If only I had bothered to ask someone why Mrs. Goldberg  was attending the wedding alone I would have found out that she is now divorced and I could have avoided the embarrassing moment of asking her, “How is your better half doing?”

Obviously, we cannot ask about everyone’s marital status prior to meeting them and we cannot be expected to do a background check on every person we come in contact with!

Even so, there are enough instances where a little prior preparation and consideration can help us avoid awkward moments.

If your high school buddy is coming to town for Pesach, you can probably easily find out from a ‘better friend’ if she had a baby or not.

So too, if someone who had a relative who was sick, with a little inquiry you can probably find out if the person has recovered or not.

The bottom line is that with a little more effort and a little more consideration we can all be a little bit more sensitive to each other.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “ Please Be Quiet” (4/1/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 22nd of Adar Beis 5776 and April 1, 2016

 

Please Be Quiet

 

Every year it happens; and this year was no exception.

Every year as Parshas Shemini is read, the following words fill me with awe and amazement.

·       And Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them.

·       And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

·       Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], ‘I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

And Aaron was silent. (Vayikra 10: 1-3)

Those four words: “and Aaron was silent” must be included amongst the most powerful words of the Torah.

“And Aaron was silent”- no words, no comment, just utter and complete silence.

Aaron had just lost two of his beloved sons.

They died in a way which was both strange and unexpected.

They were the future heirs to Moshe and Aharon and now they were dead.

Never again could Aharon speak and spend time with his two beloved sons; never again would he have the opportunity to be with them; they were gone.

There is no doubt that there are many things Aharon could have said.

Perhaps he felt unfairness in the severe punishment inflicted upon him and his family.

Perhaps he wanted to express anger, disappointment and perhaps he had the need to ‘vent’.

Aharon instead remains silent.

Not a word emanates from his mouth.

Not an utterance is heard on his lips.

He is silent; his acceptance of G-d’s judgment is absolute and unflinching.

Why didn’t he react? Why did not he at least ask Hashem for an explanation of His judgment?

Obviously, Aharon accepted the decree without questioning; however, perhaps another reason for his silence was to teach all of us a lesson.

A lesson which is just as relevant now a sit was in the time of Aharon.

And that lesson is that; don’t complain and don’t grumble about what is already in the past and can never be changed.

Aharon’s two sons are dead.

He will never see them again; that is a fact and nothing will change that.

Aharon therefore was silent.

Too often in our own lives we expend and waste our limited words and energies to cry about the past.

Too often couples complain about what was and more precisely what should have been.

Of course there is as a time and place to review past experiences and to learn from them.

Yet, perhaps the first reaction should be learned from Aharon which is silence.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “ Feeling Old “ (3/29/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 19th of Adar Beis 5776 and March 29, 2016

 

Feeling Old

 

On Sunday I passed another milestone in my life.

For the first time in many years, I was no longer the father of any teenagers.

During the last twenty years I was always the parent of at least one teenage child.

Over the last two decades I struggled with the challenges or raising and parenting that special breed of humans we refer to as teenagers.

This past Sunday, the epoch came to an end.

On Sunday, my youngest child (I still refer to her as my baby) Aviva, turned twenty.

Little, small Aviva, who was born weighing just one pound plus, had exited her teenage years and was now entering her ‘twenties’.

One score and two days ago, Aviva was born in a hospital “arena” surrounded by 19 doctors, nurses and health care professionals.

She was unable to breathe on her own and she was totally dependent on machines, compassionate human care and many concerned people’s prayers to survive each and every day.

Everything small and tiny was associated with Aviva.

Weighing in at way less than two pounds, her length from head to toe would not even fill an old fashioned twelve inch ruler.

For the first three months of her life her home was a secure and insular incubator.

And now Aviva had graduated teenage-hood and was entering the ‘roaring twenties’.

My baby would always be my baby; however, to the world she is now a normal functioning college student; although, I still marvel at the fact that she drives to Monsey on her own.

When we asked Aviva on Sunday how does she feel to be twenty she replied with one word: ‘big’.

I also replied monosyllabically to the question of how I feel now that Aviva has turned twenty; I simply said: ‘old’.

Happy Birthday Aviva!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Bigger and Holy Group “ (3/25/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday, Shushan Purim 5776 and March 25th 2016

 

Bigger and Holy Group

 

A pilgrimage to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital is a prerequisite for anyone considering a career which involves Chessed.

On second thought, it is a prerequisite to being a compassionate human being.

 If you are looking for a model of compassionate care and unconditional acceptance of all, spend an hour at “Sloan”.

On Friday morning February 12th with the temperature struggling to reach double digits, I returned to the place where so many people from all over the globe turn their hopes and their prayers.

On this day it did not look like a world class cancer center that it is; rather, it was akin to a third world field hospital.

There were patients on gurneys lining the halls.

 Many of these patients had spent the night in the hallway.

This was because the hospital never turns anyone away.

 They were functioning at 118% capacity as every single bed in the hospital was occupied!

I saw nurses patiently attempting to communicate and calm patients whose mother tongue was Hindi, or Punjabi; the nurses struggled to make themselves understood and to help the patients.

The fellow who I was visiting informed me that he would be staying over Shabbos.

 When I inquired as to what he would be eating, he said there was nothing to worry about as there are Shabbos rooms stocked with supplies, Chulent and Kugel.

He also mentioned that Satmar Bikur Cholim provides individual Shabbos containers including a silver-like Kiddush Becher, a small table cloth and disposable hospital approved candles.

I marveled at the Chesed the Bikur Cholim societies provide to Jews they don’t even know.

On the way out I noticed the Shabbos rooms and could not resist taking a peak to see for myself.

I was awed.

In the refrigerator were individual portions of Gefillte fish with small individual containers of horseradish, mayonnaise, and many other dips.

I was impressed by the care put into making each serving just right.

There were stacks of newspapers in Hebrew, Yiddish and English; all for the taking.

Suddenly I realized I only had one hour on my meter and as anyone in New York knows: never be late for your meter!

As I reached the vehicle I noticed a policeman removing his large ticket issuing device from his back pocket.

As I approached him he said, “I’m sorry; however, your time is up.”

However, before he actually wrote the summons, he eyed me in a strange sort of way.

 He was looking at my beard and studying my face. Suddenly he asked, “Hey, are you one of those guys who work for the “Bigger and Holy Group?”

I had no idea what he was referring to; so I asked him, “What is the Bigger and Holy Group”?

“You know, the group of people who look like you with the beards and hats who visit the sick and distribute food to those in the hospital and their families; they always tell me they are the ‘bigger holy group’”

I slowly said to myself, ‘bigger and holy….. Bigger and holy…? What could he mean? When suddenly like a light bulb I began to hear myself say, “Bigger n’ Holy…. Biggur n’ holim… Bikur Cholim!!!

“You must mean the Bikur Cholim group!” I said.

The officer looked at me and answered, “Yes, that’s what I said, the Bigger and Holy group!”

“No, sorry, I’m not part of the “Bigger and Holy group; however, I’m familiar with their work.”

“So even if you are not an official part of the group you are still “one of them”, isn’t that correct?”

“Yes officer, I know what you mean, I am one of them

“Well in that case, you can go. No ticket for you today.”

“Officer, I don’t understand. What does the “Bigger and Holy Group” have to do with my not getting a summons?”

The officer explained, “This morning, when it was about 9 degrees, a guy approaches me who looked like you; you know- big guy with a big hat and a big beard? And he says, “Excuse me, it’s very cold today please take this thermos of hot coffee and these Danishes.”

“I said, “You know I’m not Jewish; why are you giving me this food?”

“He says, “All of us, Jew and non-Jew are created in G-d’s image. (See Avos 3:14) It’s freezing outside, you need to stay warm; please take this.”

“If he could do that for me on a cold day like today, I can do a nice thing back to one of his friends; no? After all, we’re all connected.”

I looked at the policeman and thought back to the hospital full of people of all religions and ethnicities and of the equal and compassionate care they all receive, “Yes officer you so right, we are all connected.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Teetotalism? “ (3/23/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 13th of Adar Beis 5776 and March 23, 2016

 

 


Teetotalism?


 

‘MeiChayav Inish Livesumei B’Puraya ad d’lo yada bein Arur Haman L’Boruch Mordechai’ - a person is obligated to drink and get intoxicated on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between ‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai’.(Megillah 7b)

Why would our sages encourage and perhaps even mandate us to become intoxicated?

After all, although we are not teetotalers; nevertheless, the Torah is replete with anecdotal information regarding the destructive and demoralizing effects of alcohol.

And therefore the question is most glaring; “How could our sages encourage and (perhaps) obligate us to become imbibed to such an extent that we can no longer properly distinguish between our arch enemy Haman and our hero and protagonist Mordechai?

Indeed, as the Gemara states: ‘MeiChayav Inish Livesumei B’Puraya ad d’lo yada bein Arur Haman L’Boruch Mordechai’ - a person is obligated to drink and get intoxicated on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between ‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai’.(Megillah 7b)

How can we understand this?

Indeed, the very next line in the Gemara tells us that Rabba and Rabbi Zeira got excessively drunk together on Purim. In his drunken stupor, Rabba proceeded to kill (‘slaughter’) Rabbi Zeira!

This is certainly most troubling.

I do not have an answer to all of these questions.

There are commentaries that understand the above mentioned Gemara(s) non-literally and inform us that Rabba did not really kill Rabbi Zeira.

Be that as it may, we are still left with the Halacha as is stipulated in the Shulchan Aruch which records the Gemara’s words verbatim; namely that a person is “obligated” to become intoxicated on Purim.

How do we deal with this?

Enter the R’Mah  (Rabbi Moses Isserles -February 22, 1520 / Adar I 25, 5290 - May 11, 1572 / Iyar 18, 5332).

The R’Mah writes that since it is Purim it certainly proper to drink a bit more than usual; however, he also suggests something fascinating.

He recommends (based on the Rambam) that after one has indulged a bit more than usual on Purim; one should retire for a nap (always a good idea) and by sleeping he/she no longer knows the difference between Haman the cursed and Mordechai the blessed.

It is fascinating how the entire year so much of our halachik practice is based on the clear instructions of the R’Mah while on Purim we look for other poskim to justify and validate intoxication which both the Rambam and R’Mah do not codify.

Nevertheless, whatever your halachik behavior is on Purim please remember to:

1.       Never drink and drive.

2.       If you have to throw up- throw up in your own house (preferably your bathroom). No one wants to clean your mess!

Enjoy the holiday!

And remember, Chazal say, “When wine comes in, all the secrets come out”; so if you have some secrets which you don’t want to disclose….better safe than sorry!

 

 


“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ When Da’as Torah is Not Da’as Torah “ (3/12/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 3rd of Adar Beis 5776 and March 13th, 2016

 

When Da’as Torah is Not Da’as Torah

 

The concept of Da’as Torah is elusive.

 The Gemara never clearly defines the term and many of the classical commentators to the Talmud never even use the term in any way similar to its contemporary usage.

Therefore, although many modern thinkers and Rabbonim have attempted to give parameters to this abstract and apparently relatively “modern” term; it still remains fertile ground for passionate debate and discussion.

As so many individuals greater than me have already wrestled with the concept, I will not throw my hat into the ring and I will not attempt to define, clarify or articulate the notion of Da’as Torah.

What instead I will do, is attempt to point what it is ‘not’ and hopefully we can all learn something about its misuse.

I will attempt to illustrate its misuse with the help of a story.

A man (who we will name Chaim) calls and informs that he and his sister have been estranged for almost ten years.

In the thirty minutes or so that he spoke to me he revealed to me his personal and subjective feelings on the matter; fair to say that he clearly blames his sister for the divide between them.

He ends off the conversation by asking me, “Rabbi, I need Da’as Torah, what should I do?”

I told him I am not worthy of wearing the mantle of Daas Torah, however, I will tell you what I would do based on the limited and one sided information you have provided me with. I would drop by my sister’s house with some flowers and ask if I could come in and speak for a few minutes to at least break the ice.”

The man said, “Thank you so much Rabbi, I now have Daas Torah”.

I was a little nervous with his last comment.

The next day I receive a phone call in the middle of the day from the man’s sister. “Rabbi, this is Chaim’s sister Florence. Chaim is by the door with flowers and he claims he has Daas Torah from you stating that I must sit down and speak to him. Rabbi, I want you to know that the reason I have not spoken to my brother in ten years is because…..”

After hearing the litany of complaints against her brother, I said to Florence, “If I were you, I would not speak to Chaim until I was emotionally ready.”

The next day Chaim calls me and says, “Rabbi, I don’t get it. On Sunday you tell me Daas Torah is that my sister should speak to me and then on Monday you tell my sister that your Daas Torah is that she doesn’t have to speak to me. How could both be true?”

“Chaim you missed the point.

When you asked me on Sunday about how to repair the relationship with you sister my advice was to you and you alone, I did not speak to or for your sister.

You had (and I still feel you continue to have) the obligation to attempt to reconcile with her.

However, she also has the option of not wanting to speak to you and that is her Daas Torah.

The Daas Torah I gave you (even if you want to call it Daas Torah) was meant for you and you alone.

 It was meant to inform you that I feel that you must make the effort to attempt to reconnect with your sister.

 It was not meant for her and she is not at all bound by anything I told you.

When you went to your sister and she rebuffed you, you told her, “You must speak to me; I have Daas Torah on my side!” You were wrong. I never said a word about her having to speak to you.

 You misappropriated and corrupted my words which were directed to you and applied them to your sister.

My Daas Torah to you remains intact, YOU must do what you can do reestablish contact with your sister.

That’s all I told you.

 Please do not project your obligations onto your sister.

That is not Daas Torah; that is corrupting my words of Torah which targeted you and you alone and shifting the blame to your sister.

Daas Torah is made for you to become better, not to be used to coerce your sister into doing something she doesn’t want to do.”

That is when Daas Torah is not Daas Torah.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “ The Last Kaddish” (3/10/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 30th of Adar Aleph and March 10th 2016

 

The Last Kaddish

 

On Friday February 19th I awoke and for the first time in the last eleven months I was not consumed by the fear.

That fear, or perhaps more accurately, that feeling of anxiety and disquiet, had occupied my mind every morning for the last 330 (or so) days; and on that Friday morning the anxiety and fear disappeared.

The feeling of relief was palpable; as during the eleven preceding months I lived in fear.

The uneasiness never lifted.

It consumed me and my mind throughout the entire day.

If I could not sleep at night it would get worse; and if I was tired during the day it increased.

The fear gripped me on Shabbos and on weekdays, on Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh.

It never left me; not even on days when I was away from the Shul; indeed, on those days when I was away, the fear intensified and became almost unbearable.

I know what the fear, anxiety, concern was from; there is no mysterious cause or catalyst; I know exactly what triggered the fear.

For the last eleven months I have had the privilege, obligation, merit, responsibility, burden, commitment and honor to say Kaddish for my beloved mother who passed away last year.

All of these competing and contradictory emotions have coexisted in peace and in harmony, in discord and in disunity within me for the last eleven months.

For the last eleven months the following questions have haunted me:

·       Would I get the Amud today?

·       Who else was a Chiyuv today?

·       Would I get back in time from my appointment out of the office for Mincha?

·       What would happen if I overslept? (BH I never did)

·       And what would happen if I awoke with laryngitis? (Also, never happened)

My mother was always there for me, the least I could do was to make sure to say Kaddish for her every day at every Tefillah.

I could never be late for davening as there are two Kaddeishim at the beginning of davening.

And I could never leave early or else I would miss the two Kaddeishim at the end of the davening.

Did Chazal place the Kaddeishim specifically at the beginning and the end of davening to cause me to finally appreciate every single part of the davening?

If that was their calculation, they were indeed wise as this year I have focused on each and every word of davening more than any year of my life.

There were other fears as well which ended this morning.

·       Was I always fair in sharing the Amud with other Aveilim?

·       Did I abuse my position as rabbi to unfairly take the Amud more frequently than I deserved?

·       What about my performance as the Shaliach Tzibbur?

·       Was I too fast (probably sometimes) or was I too slow? (Yes, sometimes)

·       Did I adjudicate properly when someone else, be it a guest or someone from another Shul wanted the Amud and I thought I had preference?

·       Was I doing my mother a service or a disservice by attempting to always “chap” the Amud three times a day?

So many questions and so many fears; so many obligations and so many pressures; these were my emotional companions throughout the last eleven months.

And on that Friday in February it all ended.

I cannot lie; as I awoke on that Friday, I was on one hand delighted and relieved to no longer have the pressure of Kaddish on my mind.

On the other hand, I realized that these last eleven months were a responsibility, an opportunity and a privilege.

These eleven months were a chance to do something, albeit small, but, nevertheless I had the ability to do something for my mother for all of what she did for me.

I know that all of the time and effort I put into never missing a Davening and never missing a Kaddish pales in comparison to what she did for me in her lifetime; nevertheless, I did what I could.

As I awoke that Friday morning and realized that I had completed my mission and fulfilled my obligation, my first reaction was to call my mother and tell her, “Mom, I did it! I finished saying Kaddish for you!”

As I reached for the phone, as I have every day for the last eleven months, reality set in….

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth “ (3/8/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 28th of Adar Aleph 5776 and March 8, 2016

 

The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

 

One day The Chazon Ish (Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz, 7 November 1878 – 24 October 1953) arrived in a town for a short visit.

This occurred when he lived in Lithuania and except for a small group of people in the know; he was for the most part an unknown prodigy.

He also dressed extremely modest and simple; he did not have a nice hat or suit and he was by nature a quiet and unassuming man.

He arrived in the town Shul before Mincha as he was to meet the town rabbi after Maariv.

He sat down at the table and seeing that there was another fifteen minutes until Mincha began, he opened up the Massechta Kiddushin which was already on the table.

After about five minutes the Gabbai (sexton) of the Shul entered and began to arrange the benches and clean up before Mincha. He then noticed the Chazon Ish learning from the Gemara.

Without any fanfare, he approached the Chazon Ish and removed the Gemara from his hands. As he did so he explained, “These Gemaras are for the members of a Shiur which meets between Mincha and Maariv and you are not a part of the Shiur.”

He then placed a Sefer Tehillim in front of the Chazon Ish as he remarked somewhat dismissively, “Anyway, a Gemara is not for a person like you; a Tehillim is for a person such as yourself.”

With that, the man left the Chazon Ish with the Tehillim and proceeded to clean up.

After Maariv the town Rav greeted the Chazon Ish warmly and announced to the 15 or so men in the Shul, “Beruchim HaBaim” (welcome) Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz; a great Talmid Chochom who is staying with us for the night. He is a great sage from Vilna.”

All of the men politely shook hands with the Chazon Ish and continued on their way; that is except for the Gabbai.

In a very apologetic and submissive style, the Gabbai approached the learned Rav and stammered, “I am so sorry… I had no idea who you are…. Please forgive me…”

The Chazon Ish looked at the man and with complete sincerity said, “What is there to apologize for? You were correct on all fronts. First you mentioned to me that the Gemaras are for the attendees of the Shiur; I am not part of the Shiur and therefore you were correct in taking it from me.

You then handed me a Tehillim and said, “Tehillim is for a person such as you”. Here too, you were right. I have been negligent in reciting Tehillim and you were on the mark in pointing it out to me. So there is nothing in the world to apologize for.”

The amazing part of the story is not just that it is true; it’s that the Chazon Ish was not being ‘nice’ to the person; he really and truly meant every single word he said to him!

Have a nice day, and be nice to someone today and cut them a little slack.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Thank You” (3/7/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 27th of Adar Aleph 5776 and March 7th, 2016

 

The Thank You

 

Maariv had finished at about 6:35 PM.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye that there was a father and a son who were waiting to speak to me. At the time I was already speaking to another fellow who had approached me first.

After about 10 minutes or so, I turned around and I saw that young man and his father had left.

I figured that whatever they wanted to tell me was not “worth their wait” and they left.

As I exited the Beis Medrash I saw that the father and son team had not left but were waiting patiently in the lobby for me. I figured their question must be important to them if they decided to wait and ask me.

The father prodded the son to speak.

 The boy looked about 15 years old and he quickly overcame any shyness as he said, “I was in Eretz Yisroel last week with my yeshiva and we had your son Meir as our tour guide. I wanted to let you know how much we all enjoyed him and how good he was as our guide.”

I looked at the boy and at the father.

I thought about all of the reasons they might have waited for me; I must admit that I certainly did not think they were waiting to tell me how much the young man and his classmates enjoyed my son.

I bent down so I was not towering over the young man and I looked into his eyes as I told him, “You waited for almost a quarter of an hour just to let me have nachas about my son. You are a young man of 15; one day, you too will have a son of your own and you will know how special it is when someone tells you a nice thing about him. You did a great mitzvah; not only did you tell me something special, you waited and took time out of your day to tell me. That is a very special action.”

Reach out and tell someone how much you appreciate their son or their daughter or their spouse; believe me, you will make their day.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Mick “ (3/2/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 22nd of Adar Aleph 5776 and March 2, 2016

 

The Mick

 

I remember the day well; what Jewish kid in New York does not remember it?

It was March 2nd, 1969 the day before Ta’anis Esther.

It was a Sunday and The Daily News always changed its masthead on Sunday to “The Sunday News”.

 The larger than life headlines screamed: “Yep, Mick Quits!”

Nobody had to tell you who “The Mick” was; it was like asking any kid in New York if the IRT number 4 train stops at the “The Stadium”? Who could even ask such a question?

Joe Trimble –the sport’s writer for the News wrote in that day’s paper: “A Golden Era ended today, one which had lasted almost half a century. The Yankees’ last great player, Mickey Mantle, hung up his spokes with a dramatic but hardly unexpected announcement this afternoon.” (The announcement by Mantle was made on Shabbos March 1st; however, the paper reported on the event the next day on March 2nd as the Daily News was a morning paper and The Mickmade the announcement on Shabbos afternoon.)

Mickey Mantle….

Which boy did not fantasize about being “The Mick”?

He was everyone’s hero and the “All American Idol”.

That was back in 1969; however, as the years went on and I became older and perhaps a little wiser (just a little)…. I stared to learn that The Mickwas not indeed the role model we all thought he was.

“The Mick” was an alcoholic; indeed, so were his wife and three of his four sons.

“The Mick” would bury his son Billy in 1994, who at the age of 36 died from substance abuse.

 “The Mick” drank so much that in 1995 he needed a liver transplant.

“The Mick” would be dead at the age of 63 from liver cancer caused by his excessive drinking.

Nevertheless, “The Mick” was special.

“The Mick” was now special in my eyes not so much for being a super baseball player, which he was….

“The Mick” was special for he attempted -at the end of his life- to warn others about the hazards of drinking and to publicly express remorse about the life he lived.

Mantle spoke with great remorse of his drinking in a 1994 Sports Illustrated cover story.

 He said that he was telling the same old stories, and realizing how many of them involved himself and others being drunk – including at least one drunk-driving accident – he decided they were not funny anymore.

 He admitted he had often been cruel and hurtful to family, friends, and fans because of his alcoholism, and sought to make amends.

Mantle received a liver transplant on June 8, 1995. His liver was severely damaged by alcohol-induced cirrhosis, as well as hepatitis C.

.

In July, he had recovered enough to deliver a press conference, and noted that many fans had looked to him as a role model. "This is a role model: Don’t be like me", a frail Mantle said.

He also established the Mickey Mantle Foundation to raise awareness for organ donations. (Wikipedia)

It’s been many years since that March day in 1969 when I -along with many other kids- were saddened to learn that “The Mick” had really called it quits.

Since then I have learned that “The Mick” was far from perfect and certainly not a role model for young people at the time when so many kids idolized him.

Yet, I also have new found respect for him; a respect which I believe is genuine and real and not based on some media generated frenzy.

Nowadays I respect “The Mick” for having the courage to admit publicly that he made serious and harmful mistakes in his life and he hoped that others could learn from his remorse and not emulate his destructive behaviors.

In a time when it seems that no one is able to take responsibility and stand up and say, “I messed up and messed up badly. I hurt others and therefore please don’t learn from me in this regard”; “The Mick” was able to take responsibility.

And for that “The Mick” is special.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Sandwiched “ (2/26/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 17th of Adar Aleph 5776 and February 26th 2016

 

Sandwiched

 

They call them The Sandwich Generation.

 They are a generation who do their best to take care of their aging parents and observe the Mitzvah of Kibud Av V’Eim (honoring one’s parents) while caring and raising their precious Kinderlach (children).

 One of the most difficult tasks for a member of The Sandwich Generation is when children have come to the realization that their aging parent can no longer care for themselves and has to be moved to (preferably) the home of one of the children or perhaps to an assisted living facility.

As painful it may for the child, it does not come close to the angst and anguish felt by the elderly parent who is being forced to leave the only place they have called home for the last sixty five plus years.

As a rabbi, I have observed first-hand as an elderly parent has been forced to pack up decade’s worth of memories and downsize from the family large home to a one room addition to a child’s home or a one room studio apartment at an assisted living facility.

I have cried along with elderly women (more often) and (less often) men as they left their homes for the last time.

My most painful memory is that of Mrs. Tessi Treitenburg.

Mrs. Treitenburg’s husband passed away thirty years ago and since then she has single handedly married off the last three of their nine children.

She was a woman who after her husband’s death, went back to school and earned a degree in library science. She became a librarian at the age of 56 and supported her family without ever taking one penny from anyone.

And now it was the time for Tessi to leave her home.

Her daughter asked me to be present when the family came to take her from her soon-to-be-former-home in Passaic to her new abode in Lakewood.

I was there for moral support and watched as the events unfolded.

As Tessi slowly walked out of her home, she paused and while gripping her walker, intently and almost defiantly reached up to kiss the Mezuzah on her front door.

 She knew this would be the last time she would kiss the precious object.

As Tessi stood there with her hand seemingly attached to her cherished Mezuzah, her daughter called out, “Mom, please we have to go.”

Tessi said in barely audible voice, “Please, wait for me.”

“Mom, we really have to go now. There is always traffic this time of day on the Parkway. We have been waiting for almost an hour for you to get ready; the kids are getting nudgy! We cannot wait anymore!”

Tessi hesitated as her trembling hand lovingly touched the Mezuzah.

She recalled how she had touched the same Mezuzah the day she left the house for her husband’s levaya (funeral) and how she affectionately kissed it as she departed her home for the Chasanahs (weddings) of all of her children.

This time though was different; this time was the last time.

 There would be no returning home.

From this point forward there would be no more Chanukah parties in her home.

From now on she ceased to be a Baala Booster, the matriarch of the family; beginning today she was a guest in the home of her daughter, relegated to one bedroom and a small refrigerator.

She would not be in charge; rather, it would be Tessi who would be dependent on others; no one would be depending on her any longer.

Her daughter called out again, “Mom. PLEASE!”

I approached the daughter, “Your mother spent many hours waiting for you and your siblings in this house. She waited for you when you came home from school and she waited for you to talk to you about your dates…

She spent many a night by your bed when you were sick as she waited for your fever to break.

She waited for you when you forgot to call home and she waited for everyone before she would begin the family Chanukah party.

Perhaps it’s only right that just this one time, just this once, you can wait for her?”




“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Parking Spot” (2/23/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 14th of Adar Aleph 5776 and February 23, 2016

 

The Parking Spot

 

As I made my way to Manhattan for yet another pilgrimage to the ‘Bastion of (hopefully) Beneficence’ – Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital- I knew that before performing the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, I would first have to deal with the critical and necessary step of finding a parking spot.

A legal parking spot in Manhattan is a rare and cherished and most of all well-guarded commodity.

In the world of supply and demand, a parking spot in Manhattan can be equated to the one lone palm tree in the Sahara desert; everyone wants it, yet, its space is highly limited.

As I made a left turn off York Ave onto East 66th Street heading westbound, I was shocked and amazed to see a large suburban pull out of a roomy and seemingly legal spot approximately one hundred feet from the main entrance to the Mecca of Medicine known simply as “Sloan”.

I quickly pulled into the spot while silently offering prayers of thanks to HE who is the ultimate parking valet.

As I exited my vehicle and chanced a glance at the street cleaning sign, I could not help but notice that it was forbidden to park on this, the south side of the street between 11 AM and 12:30 PM; however, I equally could not help but notice that every single spot on the street was occupied.

On further investigation I also realized that all of the parked cars were occupied by their drivers.

I gently tapped on the window of one car in which a white bearded gentleman of about 60 was peacefully reading “War and Peace” in the driver’s seat of his vehicle.

“Excuse me my friend, is one permitted to park on this street at this time of day on a Tuesday?” I asked.

My new found friend broke from his book and calmly replied, “You can park here, however, just don’t leave your car until 12:30 unless you want a ticket.”

“Do you mean that you are going to sit here for the next one hour and wait until 12:30?”

He looked at me with the same look of amazement that I gave him and promptly replied, “Of course, it’s only another hour or so.”

“Do you do this every Tuesday?” I asked.

“Yes I do; when else can I catch up on my reading?”

I bid him farewell and pulled out of the spot, I headed westward until 2nd Ave where I found a parking garage to park my vehicle.

As I walked from the garage to the hospital I pondered about the man who reads every Tuesday for an hour and a half in his car and I wondered about me and how my original excitement on finding a parking spot was premature and misjudged.

And I came to the Solomonic realization that first impressions are misleading….  you can’t judge a parking spot by those who park there and you can’t judge a man who sits for an hour and a half in his car just reading…. The first case looked ‘good’ when in reality was not helpful; while the second case looked strange however, when one thinks about it with the proper perspective, is probably very relaxing.

 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “ The Good Host “ (2/16/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 7th of Adar Rishon 5776 and February 16, 2016

 

The Good Host

 

In yesterday’s Short Vort we discussed what makes a ‘good guest’.

 This time I would like to discuss what makes a ‘good host’.

As a rabbi, I am often a sounding board for disgruntled guests who come complaining about their hosts.

Therefore, over the years I have compiled the following list of “do’s and (mostly) ‘don’ts” for anyone interested in being a five star host.

I will divide the list in to two parts; the first is ‘conversation points’; it deals with how the ‘good host’ should relate to their guest with regard to conversation.

1.       Remember, you are supposed to be hosting your guest to a hot meal and a pleasant experience. Therefore, never subject your guest to “the third degree” through constant and persistent questioning of his past experiences and/or his present situation. Numerous guests have informed me how humiliated they were as their guests placed them on the ‘witness stand’ and proceeded to ‘cross examine’ them as to their choice of profession, spouse and even who their Chavrusa was!

You can ask and inquire; however, never interrogate your guest; no one wants to be part of an ‘inquisition’.

2.       Even when making small talk, such as, “What do you do for a living?” Or, “Where did you grow up?” If the guest seems to stammer or hesitate while answering, quickly change the subject and don’t press for details. Many guests have told me how embarrassed they were when their host pressed them for specifics as to ‘what they did for a living’ when at the time they were unemployed and were not in the mood of broadcasting this fact while eating potato Kugel! One guest related to me how embarrassed they were when their host quizzed them as to the size of the Orthodox community of Bear Dance, Montana (population 275). The guest was mortified when their host asked, “So which Shteibel did you daven in when you lived there?” How were they supposed to tell the host that they were not even Jewish when they lived there and at the time they had no idea what a Shteibel was!

The Second Subject is ‘food’; after all, you did them over to eat!

1.       Never, ever pressure your guests to ‘just try it’. I know of at least two guests who are still in therapy and are suffering from PTSD after their host compelled them to ‘just try’ P’tcha. When they found out it was "calves foot jelly"; they almost ran to the pharmacy after Shabbos to purchase a large bottle of Ipecac! Bottom line: never make anyone try something they don’t want to.

2.       Never look at the plate of the guest to gauge how little or how much they are eating. Guests have confided in me that their hosts have sometimes- in a not too discreet fashion- remarked, “You know if you keep on stuffing yourself with Chulent soon you’ll have to get yourself a new suit; why not have some salad and leave the Chulent for others?”

One guest admitted that their host kept looking at their plate and saying, “I see you only took a half of a piece of chicken, is there something wrong with it? Look around, everyone else took a full piece?” Remember, you are their host, not their mother!

Your job is to make your guest feel comfortable and satiated. Anything more should be immediately ‘taken off the table’!

By following these simple rules you will find that you guests will become “regulars” at your table and you won’t have to wonder why is it that every time you attempt to ‘re-invite’ someone they are ‘regularly’ already taken by others!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Good Guest “ (2/15/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 6th of Adar One 5776 and February 15, 2016

 

The Good Guest

 

As a rabbi, I am privy to many situations.

Often I am informed of uncomfortable circumstances between guests and their hosts.

For instance, a congregant-who had just hosted couple for Friday night Seudah- asked me,

“How do I deal with the ‘guests who never leave’?

The couple came for Friday evening Seudah and even after they had been served desert, tea and then more tea, they continued chatting away until after midnight!

The couple did not want to leave even after the Shabbos clock had gone off!”

Lesson number one: “Don’t overstay your welcome!”

Sometimes it goes the other way; and it’s the guests who are ‘amazed’ at their hosts.

One ‘guest’ informed me how he and his wife were invited to a family for the Shabbos meal and after Kiddush, HaMotzi and a small fruit cup, the host announced, “We are so tired, we usually just bentch and go to sleep now… so if you don’t mind please pass the bentcher.”

The host even asked the guest, “Who can eat now?”

The guest (who in truth is yours’ truly) was about to reply “Want to watch me?”

Therefore, in the hope of restoring a semblance of serenity to Jewish homes I present an extremely unscientific and totally personal list of things to do and not to do in order to be deemed a ‘good guest’.

1.       It is certainly fitting and usually appreciated to come prepared to the meal with a small and short D’var Torah; however, never speak for more than 120 seconds! Unless you know otherwise, most hosts and their families, have no patience for you to dominate the Shabbos table with a long sermon or an extended pilpul on the Parsha.

2.       Never, ever interfere with how the host/hostess is interacting with his/her children (unless Chas V’Shalom there is a question of Pikuach Nefesh). Your job as a guest is to sit and enjoy the food; it is highly improper and outright wrong to say to your host when his son is asking him for permission to leave the table, “Oh, Yankel, don’t be so strict; let the child go upstairs!” Such critique must never be said to your host.

3.       Similarly, never put in your ‘two cents’ and take sides with regard to any discussion between the host and the hostess (the husband and the wife). I have been informed on more than one occasion of how a guest said at the table for all to hear, “Yankel, your wife is right this time and you should do what she says!” Even if you are correct, you have no right to interfere in the affairs of another husband and wife when you are a guest at their table. The Shalom Bayis ramifications can be very serious.

4.       “If you see something, DON’T say something.” You may notice that the perhaps a glass is not as clean as it should be. Or perhaps the food needs a little more salt. Never announce at the table, “My glass is dirty, can I have a new one?” You have no idea how this seemingly innocuous statement can have Shalom Bayis reverberations later on that same day! The less you say about things which seem out of place, the better.

5.       Eat you food and say ‘thank you’. A woman once told me how she stayed up late preparing an elaborate desert which she took much pride in. The next day at the meal, one guest said, “Oh, I am on a diet, do you mind if I just get an apple?” Although the guest meant no harm, it caused a chain reaction and all the other women opted out of the delicious desert and voted to eat apples. Needless to say, our hostess was extremely hurt by the chain of events.  You don’t have to eat what you don’t want to; however, better not to ask for a substitute.

Remember, if you are unsure if your question, comment or critique is appropriate or not; you can’t go wrong if you practice: “When in doubt, leave it ‘out’!”

And if you do indeed, “leave it out”, you will most probably be invited ‘in’ again.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Taxi Driver” (2/11/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 2nd of Adar One 5776 and February 11th 2016

 

The Taxi Driver

 

It was Friday, early afternoon; I was returning from the Kosel after Mincha.

I was very tired as I looked for a cab to drive me back to “town”.

I approached a taxi and sat down in the back seat of the cab, glad to rest.

I quickly allowed my mind to roam aimlessly as I enjoyed the view of the holiest city in the world.

 I watched in amazement as the taxi circled around the ancient walls of the city and as we flew passed the Jaffa Gate.

I was totally memorized by the sights of Yerushalayim on Erev Shabbos and I was not even aware that the taxi driver had begun to talk to me.

Suddenly, as if awakened from a dream, I realized that the driver was speaking to me in rapid fire Hebrew.

I could not catch every word and I was unsure if it was because of a strong Sephardic accent or perhaps he was an Arab and his Hebrew was more Arabic than Sephardic!

I began to focus on his words and finally I clearly heard what he was saying; “Af Eched Lo Ya’zor Licha Achshav…

Did I hear correctly?

Was he really saying what I heard him say?

He repeated his statement a second time: “No one can help you now!”

A sickening feeling went through my entire body and I began to sweat.

Why didn’t I check who the driver was before I entered the vehicle?

How silly could I be?

Here I was with my big beard, big hat, big black coat and being told by the cab driver: “No one can help you now!”

He again repeated the statement; however, this time he opened the small compartment between the two front seats and rummaged around for something.

I checked the door and contemplated bolting from the fast moving vehicle; however, he seemed to be accelerating at every turn and there was no way I could be sure I would survive the fall.

Suddenly, he found what he was searching for in the compartment.

I could see that it was black and he began to remove it from its cubicle.

I wondered if I should say Shema now or wait until there was no hope.

I had just arrived in Eretz Yisroel the night before and now, less than 24 hours later I had placed myself in a life threatening situation with no way out.

I attempted to review the second chapter on Bitachon from the Chazon Ish’s classic Sefer, Emunah U’Bitachon; however, it was difficult to concentrate.

Finally the drive announced again, “I told you no one can help you now!” And with that I noticed how he unfolded the black cloth and placed it squarely on his head; it was a black Yarmulke!

He then repeated his mantra of, “No one can help you now”; however, this time he added, “Every Rabbi who enters my cab is required to tell me a D’var Torah. Nothing or no one can help you get out of this requirement. I have taken the biggest rabbis from all over and all of them must tell me a D’var Torah when they enter my cab. You look like a rabbi so no excuse will help you. I require you to tell me a Torah idea.”

My heart missed a beat as it went from utter despair and hopelessness to a feeling of relief and of reprieve.

I was trembling as I was completely transformed from dismal gloom to complete joy and Simcha.

The driver looked at me in his rearview mirror as he nudged me by saying, “Nu, what’s the Torah thought you have?”

Through quivering lips and teary eyes all I could manage to say was, “Hodu L’Hashem Ki Tov, Ki L’Olam Chasdo”.

 

“If Not Now Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- The Small Voice (2/1/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 22nd of Shevat 5776 and February 1, 2016

 

The Small Voice

 

There are so many holy people in Yerushalayim and so many special places. 

There are wonderful places to daven and inspirational people to meet. 

As I walk down the streets of this city I cannot get enough of the spirituality. 

Combining the special atmosphere with the opportunity to spend time with my children and grandchildren is indeed a very precious experience.

Yesterday I had the chance to witness an “Only in Jerusalem Experience”.

I went to the Meah Sheraim Shteiblach to daven Shacharis.

As I entered the Shul I noticed that the person who was the Chazzan appeared to be a little boy.

As I neared the front of the Shul I saw that it was indeed a little boy however, he was wearing Tefillin and therefore I realized he was already a Bar Mitzvah Bachur.

His voice was low and barely audible.

As the davening was coming to a close I took note of the fact that he was saying Kaddish.

Right before the final Kaddish, he walked to the back of the small Shul and opened up a bag with some cookies and a bottle of coke.

He placed the cookies and beverage on a small table.

He then recited the final Kaddish and then in his small childish voice announced, “Today is the Yahrzeit of my father; he died when I was two months old. I never knew him, however, my mother told me he was a nice man. Can you please make a brocha in his merit?”

As I looked at this little boy acting as a man, I began to appreciate what I have. 

I too miss my mother and I am also saying Kaddish for her…. However, I KNOW she was special and I KNOW how much I loved her and how much she loved me.

As I left the Shul I shook the little hand of the small thirteen year old boy as I said, “I am sure you are bringing your father Nachas.”

I then quickly left the Shul and walked onto the streets of Meah Shearim; I was almost running as I left the building; I did not want the boy to see me cry.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- Shabbos in Holiness (1/30/16)

 


Good Morning!


 


Today is Motzei Shabbos Parshas Yisro 5776 and January 30th 2016


 


Shabbos in Holiness


 


My three sons and I arrived at the old Beis Medrash of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva on Rechov HaRav Kook for Friday night davening.


There is a group of neighborhood individuals who are attempting to revitalize the building which has been a museum for the last few decades.


As we sit on the original benches from 1930 and the davening begins, one can almost hear the echoes of years past as the sound of tefillah are once again reverberating in the study hall.


The davening is lively and intense and the crowd is as diversified as possible.


There are men in Black hats and men with no hats, men with brown hats and men with white yarmulkes, men with peyos and beards, and men who are clean shaven. All are united in their desire to connect to Hashem and to each other.


The daveninig concludes and my sons with their own sons and I all walk together back to the apartment where we are staying.


The Shabbos meal extends way into the night, there are Zemiros and Divrei Torah, Parsha Sheets and questions for the kids; and most of all there is togetherness.


My mother of blessed memory began the practice years ago of always having her grandchildren together for a Shabbos when she would come to Israel.


This year, my wife and I had the privilege of continuing the tradition as we gathered our family around us for this wonderful and special Shabbos.


And as we sat around and reminisced about when everyone was younger and mischievous, I could not help but think that somehow and in some way my mother was laughing and smiling along with all of us.


Wishing you were here!


 


“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

 

The Short Vort’ - “ The Unlikely Hero “ (1/20/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 10th of Shevat 5776 and January 20, 2016

 

The Unlikely Hero

 

Last night my wife, my daughter and I went to the home of Devorah Stubin to attempt to comfort her parents and three brothers.

As is often the case, I left with more than I came in with.

I never knew Devorah Stubin; why would I?

More than three decades separated us; we had no common friends, nor would anyone expect we would.

Her parents are not members of my Shul and with the exception of an occasional Mincha or Maariv and perhaps a short chat with her father here and there, we travelled in totally different circles.

One would never expect that the paths of a twenty two year old woman whose family is not a part of this rabbi’s Shul would cross.

Most probably if not for the events of last week, our lives would have never intersected.

Indeed, if life was predictable, I would never have known that a person named Devorah Stubin existed.

Life though, is not predictable.

And as I write these words, the entire Passaic community and beyond has heard of Devorah Stubin.

Indeed, all over the Jewish world the name of Devorah Stubin is known.

How is it that a young woman whose own father admitted to me last night that she had few friends and who was not by anybody’s standards a loud or boisterous human being, became the center of attention for thousands of people?

Why was a young woman who seemed to live her life being content in residing in the shadows and quiet areas of this world was privileged to have the largest funeral I can ever recall in my  almost three decades of living in Passaic?

What is the reason that a woman who struggled so much of her life with social, physical and emotional challenges which impeded her social acceptance was so totally embraced by the entire Jewish community in a way which we have not seen before here in Passaic?

Perhaps, (and of course I stress, perhaps) the reason is precisely because she struggled.

Her father, simply and in a heartfelt way drew me a picture of the special person his daughter was.

Life was not easy for Devorah; she suffered from epilepsy, chronic fatigue and many more physical and emotional challenges; however, Devorah never gave up!

In her calm, unassuming way she persevered and persisted.

She went to college, she received her driver’s license and this Monday she was looking forward to starting a new job.

Devorah’s father related to me how even though she was forced to walk with leg braces, she was thankful that she was able to walk irrespective of the fact that others may have chosen cosmetic looks over the ability to walk.

In short, Devorah was everyone’s hero.

She was the person who was not born with a silver spoon in her hand; far from it.

She was like us except with far greater challenges than most of us.

As her father related to me she once commented, “Why do I have to have so much pain?”

Yet, even with all of her pain, she persevered and she endured.

In her brief stay in this world she taught all of us that with a determined outlook and with proper dedication, obstacles and can be overcome and success can be had.

I will never understand the true ways of He would pulls the strings; however, that being said, none of this would have been known if not for the tragic event which cut short her precious life.

No one except her closest family members and friends would have ever been privy to the remarkable and courageous life of this young woman.

Why Hashem chose to make this lesson known in the way He did I cannot answer; however, once HE has opened the secret of Devorah and her greatness, do we dare ignore the lesson?

Think about Devorah and about the hard and painful life she lived the next time you are ready to throw your hands in the air and give up.

Think about Devorah and her struggle to walk while wearing leg braces the next time you are upset because your outfit does not match just right.

And think about Devorah when you feel you just can’t on.

Think about the twenty two year old woman who continued struggling and living in spite of the pain.

Think about her struggles and how she succeeded.

And then, perhaps, just perhaps, her life and tragic death will become just a little more comprehendible.

And then the world will be a slightly better place because Devorah Stubin was here.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “ True Chessed “ (1/16/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Motzei Shabbos the 6th of Shevat 5776 and January 16, 2016

 

True Chessed

 

Shocked, stunned, numbed, and speechless; these are just a few of the words which describe our feelings this Motzei Shabbos.

As Shabbos came to a close all of us were informed that the massive search for the safe return of Devorah bas Shoshanah Rus and the Tefillos which were being said on her behalf have been halted.

As Shabbos ended the news travelled quickly that Devorah Stubin was not coming home.

Our hopes for her safe return were dashed as news of her demise was quickly disseminated in the Jewish world and beyond.

Plans for a celebration when she would be found were now replaced with arraignments for a funeral.

I did not know Devorah bas Shoshanah Rus; many who did tell me she was indeed a special Neshama.

I did not know her; however, I do know many of those who sacrificed Shabbos with their families to spend Shabbos in Maywood, New Jersey in the cold and in the rain.

Jews from Brooklyn, Lakewood, Monsey, Teaneck, Elizabeth, Passaic, Clifton and other places all joined together through their hearts and hands left the comfort of their homes and their families to search and attempt to find a young woman whom they never had met.

They survived on an hour of sleep here and there and on high energy caffeinated beverages throughout the day.

They did not care about hot Chulent or warm beds; they did not think about what Shul they should go to or not go to; their focus was singularly on the finding of Devorah bas Shoshanah Rus.

No one cared if you were Chassidish or Litvish, Modern or Open Orthodox; if you wear a hat or if you wife wears a Shaitel or a Tichel, all they cared about was Devorah bas Shoshanah Rus.

Dozens and dozens and volunteers left their warm beds this Shabbos to help find a young woman whose name most had never heard of before Thursday evening.

The togetherness and the unity allow me to feel consoled and that is good.

The outcome was not what he davened or hoped for; however, the display of unity is what we daven for.

I was privileged to count among the many volunteers who gave up their Shabbos for Devorah’s sake two of my own sons.

Both of them spent hours and hours searching and looking for Devorah bas Shoshanah Rus.

This morning at 7 o’clock my son and I left the house together.

He was on his to search for Devorah and I was on my way to search for Hashem.

Before I headed to Shul I walked him to his car.

I proudly stood by as he entered the car and gave him a brocha for success.

As I watched him pull away from the curb, I thanked Hashem for giving me children who care enough about His children to know that sometimes serving Him means even driving on Shabbos.

As Shaya turned the corner, I turned to Shul.

As I walked I wondered which one of us was the one to emulate: the rabbi on his way to Shul or the rabbi’s son on his way to find a lost Jew.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Mechel’s Tears “ (1/14/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 4th of Shevat 5776 and January 14, 2016

 

Mechel’s Tears

 

Mechel Solomon (name changed) was 63 years old, all of his children were married and he was retired.

Although I never asked about his financial situation, he seemed comfortable.

That being said, whenever he was approached by me or anyone else in the Shul to head a committee or a Shul program his answer was always the same, “Oh, that’s not ‘my thing’; I just don’t have the time.”

After asking him for a number of years and for different projects and always receiving a negative answer, I stopped nagging Mechel and just let him be.

I was looking for someone to act as a ‘big brother/father figure’ for a boy from a single parent home. The father had moved away and the boy lived alone with his mother.

Baruch was only eight years old and I needed someone to “Chazer” with him on Shabbos.

I was discreetly speaking to one Ba’al HaBas; unfortunately, he could not help.

As I began to walk away, Mechel, who was standing nearby approached me; “Rabbi, did I hear you say you are looking for someone to learn with Baruch on Shabbos afternoon?”

“Yes”, you heard correctly; why do you ask?”

“Well, rabbi, look no further! I am your man. I will learn with Baruch every Shabbos before Mincha. My sons’ are long married off and I have the time to “Chazer” with Baruch.”

As I had no other candidates, I accepted Mechel’s offer.

Mechel was a ‘natural stand-in father’. Every Shabbos like clockwork, Mechel would pick up Baruch at his home, walk him to Shul, learn with him and bring him home after Mincha.

 Suddenly the man whom I could not get to spend 15 minutes to chair a committee was now spending an hour every week with a boy who just weeks before he never knew.

 “Mechel, I don’t understand; I have asked you to help out many times and you always claimed that you have no time, yet, suddenly you have one hour a week to ‘Chazer’ with Baruch!

Mechel pulled me over and in a whispered voice said,

“Rabbi, let me tell you something.

 When I was eight years old my parents made a decision to transfer me from Public School to Yeshiva in the Bronx.

My father was a good, hardworking, honest man.

 He went to Shul every Shabbos; he went to the 7 AM Minyan in the big Shul on the Grand Concourse he then came home, made Kiddush, bentched and changed out of his suit, and put on his blue coveralls and took the subway to lower Manhattan where he worked in a scrap metal company.

He worked on Shabbos and when he came home I was already asleep.

Every Sunday morning in yeshiva the same routine repeated itself.

The Rebbe would ask each boy what they learned with their father on Shabbos.

 My father never learned with me on Shabbos.

 When it was my turn to tell the Rebbe what I learned on Shabbos, I would just parrot whatever the boy before me said.

One day the Rebbe decided to ask me first; I stood there dumbfounded; I had no idea what to say…. Tears began to run down my cheeks as all the boys began to laugh at me.

 I ran home as fast as I could and as I burst hysterically into the house I told my mother, “I want to go back to Public School!”

When I overheard you asking around for someone to learn with Baruch, I decided if I can spare one boy from embarrassment…If I can help one boy not endure what I had to go through as a child, then that is one Mitzvah I will not pass up.”

As I looked up at Mechel, I could see tears running down his cheeks; the tears were still as fresh and as searing as they were fifty five years ago.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Powerball” (1/11/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday Rosh Chodesh Shevat 5776 and January 11, 2016

 

Powerball

 

“Lottery officials say the prize has now swelled to an estimated $1.4 billion — the world’s largest. Ever.

“Biggest jackpot in the history of the world. Absolutely confirmed,” Texas Lottery executive director Gary Grief said.”

 

This week millions of Americans are lining up to spend their hard earned dollars for a 1 in 292.2 million chance to win $1.4 billion dollars.

We have seen pictures of thousands of men and women who have stayed up all night for a chance to buy a ticket; and we have seen lines snaking for more than a mile as people wait patiently to try their luck at Powerball.

One question which is constantly asked of the ticket buyers is, “What will you do with the money if you win?”

The answers are as different as the faces of the people who answered the question.

There were those who stated they would help feed the hungry and cloth the poor.

There were those who said they would live a life of hedonistic pleasure and insulate themselves from the rest of society.

The question is indeed intriguing; what would you do if you suddenly won $1.4 billion dollars?

Perhaps though a better question is, “What do you do with the money you already have in your possession?”

How wisely do you spend that money?

Do you help others who are worse off than you?

Do you give a dollar a day to the Shul?

Before we all start fantasizing as to what would we do if we had “X” amount of money, maybe we should first focus on what we have today and how we are using that gift from Hashem?

And if you should happen to win the Powerball, don’t forget Congregation Ahavas Israel is a tax exempt institution!

Good Luck!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ One More on Loneliness “ (1/5/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 24th of Teves 5776 and January 5, 2016

 

One More on Loneliness

 

I have received much feedback from my piece entitled “The Mystery Man” from this past Friday January 1st.

Numerous readers commented correctly that the pain of loneliness is not the exclusive purview of the rabbi; rather, (as so many of you indicated about yourselves) countless people are lonely.

Rabbis, and teachers, husbands and wives, computer programmers and accountants can and do suffer from the pain of loneliness.

Is loneliness the fault of WhatsApp or because the prevalence of texting in our society? I doubt it.

Is loneliness the fault of social media in general? Here too, I just don’t see it.

What then is the cause of so many people feeling lonely and bereft?

Why is it that in our society which is blessed with so many material advantages over previous generations we feel lonely?

The simple and truthful answer is I don’t know.

Articles from so called experts who are sure they know the true reason for all of our social woes never resonate with me.

 I am not an adherent of the one size fits all approach to any problem and my hunch tells me that since the time of Adam HaRishon people were lonely and the reasons for their loneliness are varied and complex and cannot be reduced to a 500 words article complete with pithy sayings.

I admit unabashedly that I know not the one cause for “All the Lonely People” out there.

That being said, there is some succor to be gleaned from loneliness.

Loneliness can be the catalyst for never feeling complacent and for never becoming stagnant.

Loneliness is hard and it is painful; it is not pleasurable and we don’t crave it.

That is all true; however, loneliness also has a positive side to it.

When you are lonely you strive to relieve your loneliness.

You may reach out to someone to connect to; or you may sit down and write a poem, a letter or even a Short Vort.

In short (no pun intended) loneliness, particularly because of its painfulness can be and often is the precise facilitator a person needs to be creative and resourceful.

Specifically and perhaps exclusively when a person finds themselves alone they are able to access their inner (previously unrealized) potential.

Loneliness is depressing and outright frightening; however, when properly harnessed and utilized it can be the key to uncovering heretofore unknown reserves of inner strength and vitality.

When one is forced to realize their total isolation they can react in two opposite ways.

They can retreat further and further into the doldrums of melancholy; or they can meet the struggle head on while tapping into previously un-accessed reserves of potency and originality.

Many of the greatest contributions to society were brought about by people who were perched on the potential precipice of utter desolation. It was precisely then, as they were teetering between despair and deliverance that they reached deep inside themselves and acquired personal salvation to the benefit of themselves and the entire community.

None of us crave or yearn for loneliness; however, if you are smitten by it, embrace it and run with it. For all you know it may become your greatest asset.

A Hasid once traveled for six months to meet with the Kotzer Rebbe and ask him for a Brocha for a child.

When he finally arrived at the Rebbe, he was dismissively rebuffed by the Tzaddik and sent away.

As he exited the Rebbe’s presence he felt his total existential loneliness; he was utterly alone and abandoned. At that point he reached deep inside of himself and accessed spiritual reserves he never knew existed. He screamed out to Hashem, “Hashem, I am utterly and completely alone; please help!”

It was his first complete heartfelt and sincere prayer of his life.

Suddenly the Rebbe’s door opened. He looked at him and simply said, “You came here seeking a man who would bring you to Hashem. However, you are leaving with having found Hashem within you. This find was only made possible when you finally realized how alone you were in the world.”

Sometimes it takes a bit of loneliness to make us realize how connected we really are.

 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Mystery Man “ (1/1/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 20th of Teves 5776 and January 1st 2016

 

The Mystery Man

 

He attends Shul daily; however, I never seem to find the opportunity to engage him in conversation.

He always appears as if he never has enough time in the day to do what is incumbent on him to do.

Often, just when I think I can chap a schmooze with him, someone else comes over and he ends up speaking to that person for what seems like an eternity.

He is harried; yet, when I see him speaking to people he certainly attempts to give the person his full attention.

I decide that after Minyan I will corner him; yet, when I approach him he tells me he has an appointment waiting for him in his office.

I figure I will just show up at his house and knock on his door.

His wife tells me he is in the Shul.

Why can’t I figure out who this guy is?

I just can’t figure out what makes him tick.

I must get to know this fellow; after all, he is in my Shul daily; it’s my responsibility to connect with him.

I resolve to walk him home from Shul one morning and pretend as if I am going his way.

To my utter surprise, as I wait for him to exit the Shul I see that there are others who have gathered around him. 

What are they asking him?

He seems somewhat baffled by the attention; however, I see he is making a genuine attempt to speak politely and sincerely to everyone.

I cannot figure this complex man out.

He is simultaneously shy and extroverted; he is reserved, yet, he can be quite loquacious.

Often he seems hesitant and humble while other times he is quite outspoken and outright bold.

Either way, I just cannot connect with him in a meaningful way!

It is my job and my job alone to connect with this mystery man who is seemingly always at the Shul and yet so difficult to just sit down and have a cup of coffee with.

“That’s it!” I tell myself as the epiphany takes hold of me.

 I will invite him for breakfast at the local bagel store; what Jew can refuse a free bagel and cream cheese?

I make sure that I am by him right after Shacharis and before he can even take off his Tefillin I say in a friendly, sociable way, “Hey, how about coming with me to the Bagel Store for breakfast; my treat!”

He looks as if he is about to accept my invitation when abruptly he demurs and without any additional explanation he simply says, “Sorry, I really appreciate the offer; however, I cannot go.” And with an apologetic look he excuses himself and departs.

It appeared as if he really wanted to go with me; why couldn’t he?

One evening he was davening at the 11:45 PM Maariv, which was rare for him.

 He looked especially tired and worn out and I could tell his normal defense system was down so I decided to exploit his vulnerability.

“Reb Yid, Tell me, who are you? I see you around all the time. You seem to be known; however, I really don’t know you and have not found anyone who can honestly say they know who you are! 

Please tell me, who are you?”

He looked up at me and with a voice tinged with sadness and with a reluctant acceptance of his reality simply said, “Rabbi, thank you for inquiring of me. You are correct in realizing that often I am seen speaking to people who seek me out. Indeed, I can honestly say that I have many admirers; however I also have more than a few detractors. And it is also true, that I am rarely alone.

However, although I am never just by myself, in reality I am extremely lonely and although I have many devotees, I have few real friends.

You ask who I am.

Rabbi, you know exactly who I am… Rabbi, I am you”.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Validation “ (12/28/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 16th of Teves 5776 and December 28, 2015

 

Validation

 

Oprah Winfrey, who has been “Dubbed the Queen of All Media; is considered the richest African-American of the 20th century. She is the greatest black philanthropist in American history, and is currently (2015) North America’s only black billionaire. Several assessments regard her as the most influential woman in the world.(Wikipedia)

Ms. Winfrey commented on her final episode of her wildly popular TV show, “I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show,” she said, “and all 30,000 had one thing in common. They all wanted validation.”

Validation, which can be described as the need to be heard or the desire to be correct and right; is something we all crave for.

And there is nothing wrong and there is everything right in giving someone the proper validation; providing of course they are deserving of it.

We should offer validation when appropriate; however, we should make sure our validation is coming from a good place in order to truly help the other person and not for our own selfish needs.

Too often our desire to validate others stems from our own selfish need to receive reciprocal validation and this corrupts our thinking and we end up giving wrong or even harmful validation.

For instance, if you tell your friend Larry, “Hey Larry, you were so right in giving your boss a piece of your mind, he really deserved it!” Chances are that Larry will reply, “Joe, I knew I could count on you for validation. You are a true friend and I so appreciate your wisdom and insightfulness.”

Your desire for reciprocal validation has corrupted your honest assessment of the situation.

Most probably Larry was very silly for giving the boss a piece of his mind and more often than not he will regret his outburst sooner than later.

And although Joe knows deep down that he has given Larry the improper validation for his outburst at his boss; however, his own narcissistic need for reciprocal validation which he knows will receive if he validates Larry causes him to actually hurt his friend by falsely validating him.

This dysfunctional dance between friends plays out much too often.

We all want to be validated and we all want our friends to validate us, however, it should never be on the expense of causing harm to others.

Give your friend the validation they honestly deserve; however, never validate your friend just to receive reciprocal validation as this is not helping your friend at all.

It would be difficult and somewhat uncomfortable for Joe to actually tell Larry, “Larry, let me tell you something, you were really wrong in lashing out at your boss…”

However, a true friend will forgo his need for reciprocal validation for the sake of giving his friend the proper advice he needs and not just offer perfunctory validation.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Vigilante “ (12/23/15)


The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 10th of Teves 5776 and December 22, 2015

 

The Vigilante

 

We had just lit the fifth light of Chanukah.

It was Motzei Shabbos Parshas Miketz 5745 (Saturday, 22 December 1984) and I was with my family in our apartment in Washington Heights.

We turned on the radio after lighting and Havdalah to hear the news.

The impossible and the improbable had occurred.

A man (who was white and we would learn later was ‘at least’ Jewish by birth) had pulled a gun on four youths who had apparently accosted him on the subway and shot all of them.

For most people who were living in the city this was a first; a person had actually shot his attackers!

Back then the city had a reported crime rate over 70% higher than the rest of the United States; and for most people the most hideous and dangerous portal of crime were the underground train tunnels known as the Subway.

The subway was a place where you had your rules which each parent taught their child and each friend informed each other of:

Never remain alone in a car by yourself

Never make eye contact with anyone

Never appear afraid even though you are shaking inside

Make a quick visual appraisal of who is in the car and what they are doing

Never take out your wallet

Never speak to anyone

Daven; and daven again

These were tough times in New York and suddenly one man had taken action.

One man stated loud and clear, “I will not be terrorized anymore!”

When the man whose name was Bernhard Goetz turned himself in and was arrested, he remained defiant and unapologetic.

To many people he became a folk-hero, a vigilante, a man who did what others only dreamed about.

When it was revealed that his mother was Jewish (although she ‘converted’ to her husband’s religion of Lutheran), there were those in the Jewish community who said Goetz was a modern day Maccabee.

As the event occurred on Chanukah and as he was “one against the many”, this was a truly a Chanukah miracle! (Somehow the fact that he was traveling on the subway on Shabbos Chanukah did not bother them.)

Others maintained that Goetz was a racist and over reacted in a violent way to a non-violent encounter. (Contrary to ‘reports’ the four youths were not armed, not even with ‘sharpened’ screwdrivers).

Ultimately, Goetz was acquitted on all murder/assault charges; although he was found guilty of one count of illegal possession of a gun and served eight months of his twelve month sentence.

Since then, three of the four ‘assailants’ have been arrested multiple times for violent crimes. One of those shot was paralyzed for life, and one other has since committed suicide.

Bernhard Goetz continues to live in New York City and has become an advocate for squirrel rescue in the city; he installs squirrel houses, feeds squirrels, and performs first aid on them.

I too at the time was also excited and enthralled by the apparent courage and bravery of Bernhard Goetz.

Thirty one years ago today I too was caught up in the fervor and enthusiasm of the time and I too thought of him as a hero and perhaps even a potential harbinger of salvation.

I still think that way sometimes; however, thirty one years later, I am no longer as sure as I once was.

What looked so simple and obvious to me thirty one years ago now appears to me to be more complex and multilayered than it did back then.

Come to think about it, this really sums up a lot of my thinking these days.

Many, many things which in 1984 were so simple and so obvious, have somehow in the last three decades become complicated and extremely difficult to accept or to even understand.

My former assumptions which were so easily accepted are no longer that simple; and things which I once considered ‘factual’ are now just speculations and often weak ones at that.

I no longer ‘envy’ Bernhard Goetz and certainly have no aspirations to be him; however, I also realize that his complex personality and the various experiences of his life created the person he was and is.

I don’t hate him and I even understand him; however, I no longer crave to emulate him either.

The older I get the more I realize just how complex life is.

Yesterday’s ‘hard facts’ are today’s speculations.

And today’s speculation may be tomorrow’s fables.


What I consider today as fact will probably be what I question tomorrow.

And what I dismissed yesterday as nonsense may be the bedrock of my thinking today.


Who knows how I will feel  about Bernhard Goetz in thirty one years ?


I should live so long!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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



 

 

 



 

 

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “ The Vigilante “ (12/22/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 10th of Teves 5776 and December 22, 2015

 

The Vigilante

 

We had just lit the fifth light of Chanukah.

 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “ “The Sounds of Silence “ (12/18/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 6th of Teves 5776 and December 18th 2015

 

“The Sounds of Silence”*

*"The Sounds of Silence" is a song by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel. The song hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 on December 4, 1965. It spent 12 weeks on the chart. By January 1966, it had sold one million copies. (Wikipedia)

 

I know most rabbis will call people before Chanukah; however, I realized that the call after Chanukah can be even more appreciated.

Ethel Moshkowitz (named changed) taught me this important lesson and since then, every year for the last six years I call her on the day after Chanukah.

It was six years ago on the day after Chanukah when I met Ethel in the local kosher grocery and realized that she had forgotten one bag of groceries at the check-out line. I told the cashier that I would bring her the forgotten bag.

Ethel lives in a one bedroom apartment in a high-rise building in Passaic.

I called and told Ethel I had the groceries; and asked her, “If it was not too much trouble could I drop it by?”

Early that afternoon I drove to Passaic Ave and pressed the elevator button for the sixth floor.

As the elevator made its steady climb upward I thought just how happy Ethel must be.

Her son and daughter-in-law lived less than a mile away in Clifton and she had just spent Shabbos Chanukah by them along with their married children who live in Lakewood.

I could only imagine the nachas Ethel had from being with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

As soon as the doors opened to the sixth floor I could hear the deafening sound of a blaring radio.

As I neared apartment 6B I realized that the blasting radio was emanating from Ethel’s apartment!

I rang her bell, knocked loudly and finally after what seemed like an eternity, Ethel opened the door.

“Hello Rabbi, please come in for a minute.”

I did not want to insult her, however, I did need her to lower the volume so I jokingly said, “That must be a very interesting show on the radio for you to have it on so loud!”

Ethel looked up and with complete sincerity replied, “Oh, the radio is on? I was not even listening; sometimes I forget I had turned it on.”

And then I uttered the words which I regretted saying the minute they left my mouth, “If you are not listening then why have the radio on and why so loud?”

Ethel suddenly became solemn and clarified somewhat apologetically,

“Rabbi, let me explain.

Today is the day after Chanukah.

Today everyone went home and back to their regular busy routine.

My grandchildren were restless to get back to Lakewood and they drove home this morning.

And I am sure that my son and daughter-in- law are appreciating the peace and quiet as they are now able to get back to their regular work routine.

I also came back to my apartment today.

However, for me what does today mean?

Does it mean getting back into my ‘busy or exciting’ routine?

For me it means one thing: loneliness.

For the last few days of Chanukah I heard the voices of Jewish children.

 I heard them when I awoke and when I went to sleep.

 When I arrived back home I was ‘welcomed’ with the same sounds that have greeted me since my husband passed away - thesounds of silence.

The silence is so painful and so haunting that I put on the radio just to hear another human voice.

I am sorry if the radio was disturbing.

For me the day after Chanukah or any Yom Tov when everyone excitedly gets back to their ‘real lives’, is the day I go back to my silent and lonely home.

What for others is a day of joy, for me is a day of sadness”.

As I left her with the red bag of groceries and made my way to the elevator, I turned around and saw Ethel Moshkowitz close her apartment door behind her. A minute later her radio was back on, perhaps a drop lower than before.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Order # 11 “ (12/17/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 5th of Teves 5776 and December 17, 2015

 

Order # 11

 

Today in 1862, Major-General Ulysses S. Grant issued his infamous Order # 11:

·       The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department [of the Tennessee] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.

·       Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters.

Yes, all of the above is true and documented; this is no joke and no illusion.

On December 17, 1862, during the American Civil War, Grant ordered the expulsion of all Jews in his military district, comprising areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

The Jewish community and others were shocked at this open display of anti-Semitism and prejudice against them and brought the issue to the desk of President Lincoln himself.

President Lincoln said he was surprised that Grant had issued such a command and said, "To condemn a class is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad." Lincoln said he drew no distinction between Jew and Gentile and would allow no American to be wronged because of his religious affiliation.

Finally Lincoln wrote to Grant and said: “A paper purporting to be General Orders, No. 11, issued by you December 17, has been presented here. By its terms, it expels all Jews from your department. If such an order has been issued, it will be immediately revoked.”

The order was revoked, however, it has its effect and there were Jewish families who were indeed expelled from Grant’s territory.

This should serve as a lesson and a reminder to all of us.

We must realize that no matter how secure and settled we may feel in any country in the world, including the United States, nevertheless, we are guests and guests can always be asked to leave.

Remember, today ‘they’ are talking about removing one religious group from this country… who knows who they will suggest to leave tomorrow?

Since the year 250 we have been expelled 109 times! (http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/expelled.htm)

Think about that.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Lonely At the Top “ (12/14/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 2nd of Teves 5776 and December 14, 2015

 

Lonely At the Top

 

Part One

As I sat in Shul this past Shabbos the feeling came over me again.

Every year as I hear the story of Yosef and his brothers being read in Shul, I become overcome with sadness and my eyes get teary as two verses are read aloud.

 

“And he washed his face and came out, and he restrained himself and said, "Serve the food." And they set for him separately and for them separately, and for the Egyptians who ate with him separately, because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, because it is an abomination to the Egyptians.”(Bereishis 42:31, 32)

Yosef commands his Egyptian underlings to serve the food.

There are three tables set up; one for Yosef, one for the brothers and one for the Egyptians.

The Torah makes a point of informing us that the reason the Egyptians needed their own table was: “because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, because it is an abomination to the Egyptians.”

The simple understanding of the verse is that it is explaining why the Egyptians could not eat with the brothers.

It is highly unlikely given Yosef’s standing in Egypt that the reason the Egyptians could not sit near Yosef was because of his Hebrew heritage. Rather, it more likely that the reason the Egyptians could not sit near Yosef was because of his superior royal position.

Yosef was the viceroy, a governor and the second highest government official; it is highly unlikely that Yosef’s own underlings would (or even ‘could’) refuse to eat with him because of his being a Hebrew. Therefore the words: the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews is clearly only explaining why the brothers and the Egyptians could not eat together.

 Yosef ate ‘alone’ because he was Yosef, a leader and a superior to the others; that being said, one cannot help but notice that the words because it is an abomination to the Egyptians is also subtly referring to Yosef himself; meaning that even his lackeys avoided eating with him.

 

Part Two

We still though have not explained; why then to these verses cause me to be awash in melancholy?

Why am I moved to tears every time I hear these words read in Shul?

At the time this incident is taking place, Yosef is at the height of his power.

He is the second in command to the most powerful man in the world.

His own brothers, the ones who so cruelly sold him into slavery twenty two years ago and left him alone and abandoned to be abused and enslaved by others, are now cowering before him in fright and fear.

He must have felt great…. He has power and prestige, honor and accolades…

Indeed, there is not a single person in the entire world to whom Pharaoh has decreed: “And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, and besides you, no one may lift his hand or his foot in the entire land of Egypt."

Imagine how Yosef must have felt. The despised and discarded brother who was sold off for ten pairs of shoes; to be a slave to some perverted and demented despot, is now witnessing those same brothers cowering and trembling before him as they beg for mercy and plead for compassion.

Yosef should have been at this point of his life the most content individual on the face of the Earth.

He has a wife and children; he has prestige and stature; he has a secure position and he no doubt has more money and job security than anyone can aspire to.

Yosef is also the undisputed “power-broker” of the family.

The fate of his brothers and their families is totally in his hands; his former dreams of his brothers coming to prostrate themselves before him are about to be fulfilled.

In short, Yosef is the man who has ‘made it’ and ‘made it big time’.

Yet, with all of his success and all of his prestige and power and authority the Torah tells us: “And they set for him separately and for them separately, and for the Egyptians who ate with him separately”.  One cannot ignore the fact that when it is time to sit down and be part of the human race, Yosef is all alone.

He cannot eat with the Egyptians, the men who are at his ‘beck and call’ and must respond to all of his requests; after all, he is the viceroy of Egypt and the viceroy does not socialize with the commoners.

He also cannot eat with his own brothers; the men with whom he grew up with; for they too must be kept at a distance.

In short, the man who all men on –both sides of Sinai Desert- fawn before; the man who with a wink of his eye or with the movement of his finger can change the lives of thousands of men, is completely and totally alone.

He cannot socialize with his Egyptian underlings and he will not fraternize with his own brothers; rather, he is utterly and tragically and most of all, painfully alone.

He has no one in the world to even break bread with.

His brothers sit together and talk; and his Egyptians lackeys can socialize together; yet, Yosef sits alone and apart.

On one hand he is the envy of the world yet, simultaneously he is envious of the simple servant who can sit and schmooze with his friend over a cold glass of water.

He has everything a man could dream for; yet, he longs for the simple feeling of friendship and human companionship which eludes his grasp.

Yosef is everyone’s man; yet, he has no friend; he is feared, yet, he is friendless; he is lauded while remaining agonizingly alone.

He longs for friendship; yet, it is unreachable.

He sits at the head seat of the head table surrounded by dozens of people whose eyes are transfixed on him and who vie for his validation and approval.

Yet, precisely at that moment as he sits and surveys the people seated before him, he is the loneliest person on the face of the Earth.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Ode to Mom “ (12/9/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 27th of Kislev 5776 and December 9, 2015

 

Ode to Mom

 

As the days of Chanukah continue and so do the parties, family get togethers, days off from school and figuring out what to with the kids on those days; it’s time to pay homage to the person who keeps it all together: Mom.

It is the mothers who are constantly preparing the latkes, organizing the family trips and parties and at the same time keep the house running smoothly and peacefully (Hopefully!).

I believe one father in Israel expressed the sentiments perfectly in a note he penned to his daughter’s Morah explaining his daughter’s lateness.

In it he writes (and I am attaching the original Hebrew note in the email): "Good morning Morah! A Dad is not a Mom. And a Dad can’t do in one hour what a Mom can do in half an hour. Therefore, Talia is late. With Blessings, Dad."

Israeli humor writer Hanoch Daum posted the note to his Facebook page and the post went internationally viral.

Perhaps it became so popular because the sentiments expressed by Shalom Misk, (the dad in Israel) are universally recognized and appreciated.

Indeed, almost 100,000 people have ‘liked’ the post since it went up last month and it has been republished in many other on-line venues.

So take a minute this Chanukah to show HaKoras HaTov (gratitude) to those people (moms and dads) who help make our day all the more enjoyable!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Miracle of Chanukah “ (12/8/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 26th of Kislev 5776 and December 8, 2015

 

The Miracle of Chanukah

 

What would happen if you would light a candle and the candle would stay lit for eight full days?

Would you call in your friends to view it?

Would you send out a picture on your favorite social media?

What would your hashtag be?

Would it be #miracleinprogress?

 Or perhaps #Hashemshand?

Would you recognize it as a miracle?

Or would you blow it out?

I don’t know what I would do.

However, once thing is for sure; miracles are nice and wonderful; however, without the realization of the people that they had to recommit themselves to an authentic Jewish life, the miracle would be meaningless and most probably would have never happened.

The greatest miracle is that people realized they can change things.

The people realized that life under Antiochus and his evil decrees did not have to be.

We all have the power and choice to change our reality to the best of our abilities.

The miracle of the oil was the icing on the cake when Hashem nodded His agreement to man’s actions.

Before you go looking for candles which are never extinguished; go looking for the fire within yourself and make sure it is still burning bright.

If it is, then just maybe you can expect the unexpected to occur.

Enjoy Chanukah!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Lessons from ISIS “ (12/6/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 24th of Kislev 5776 and December 6, 2015

 

Lessons from ISIS

 

There are many lessons one can learn from the horrific carnage which took place in California last week.

For instance, I am amazed at the difference in how certain people view the concept of “inspiration”.

A quick Google search of the words “Inspire Judaism” brought me to a website of “Project Inspire”. The webpage states its goal is: “To awaken and empower the Torah observant community to reach out to their fellow Jews, in order to stem the tides of assimilation and intermarriage.”

It’s hard to imagine that even the most strident Reform Rabbi would argue with the correctness of such a goal.

In contrast, in the apartment of the husband and wife killing squad of California the NY Times reported:

“Among the components investigators seized from the couple’s house were items common to the manufacture of pipe bombs but also “miniature Christmas tree lamps.” A recent issue of Inspire, an online magazine published by an arm of Al Qaeda, included an article, “Designing a Timed Hand Grenade,”(emphasis added by me) with step-by-step instructions for making a delayed igniter with a Christmas tree lamp.”

Could anyone of us even imagine a Jewish magazine with the word “Inspire” appearing on its masthead featuring an article instructing it’s readership in “Designing a Timed Hand Grenade”???

Somehow I just don’t think such an article would appear in a magazine for Jews who are interested in ‘Inspiration’.

Think about that when you recite your morning Brochus today.

Perhaps though the most important lesson we can learn from ISIS is to appreciate each other and not allow the silly menial and unimportant things of life to distract us from always expressing our love and appreciation for those who are near and dear to us.

On Wednesday morning December 2nd at 11 AM the lives of 14 innocent individuals were cut short as:

 “Mr. Farook and Ms. Malik first appeared outside the door. They announced themselves with the rapid-fire barrage of bullets. People in the room froze, witnesses said, unsure what was going on, some even wondering for a second if this were some sort of surprise holiday celebration.

But as people saw the couple dressed in black — their faces covered by masks and their bodies loaded with weaponry, including two .223-caliber assault rifles and two 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistols — panic swept the room. People scattered as colleagues collapsed with anguished screams”. (NY Times)

I cannot comprehend how these parents (?) left their six month old child at home and embarked on their cold hearted rampage of murder; however, I do think about the victims.

Did all of the 14 people who were killed say to their loved ones that morning as they left for work, “I love you?”

Did they get upset with their wife/husband/mother/father or their roommate that morning and plan to ‘patch things up’ when they arrived home in the evening?

Did the husband leave home that morning on a sour note because his wife forgot to give over a phone message?

Did a wife leave in a huff because she overslept and blamed her husband for not waking her?

And did a husband or wife storm out of the house because there was no milk for their coffee?

I sure hope not; for they will never have another chance to say ‘I am sorry’.

Think about those 14 people today and tomorrow and for everyday for the rest of your life.

Every time you plan to say something nasty or just not nice, think about those 14 people who left their homes that Wednesday morning the same way you left your home this morning; however, they never returned home.

Take the lesson from ISIS.

Appreciate what you have when you have it.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Loyal Cousin “ (12/4/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 22nd of Kislev 5776 and December 4th 2015

 

The Loyal Cousin

 

Laibel Morgenstern (names and identifying details changed) was a spry octogenarian.

At 85 years old he still came to Shul every morning.

When other Mispallelim would query him as to the secret for his longevity, he would reply, “Very simple; I never had a mother-in-law!”

Indeed, Laibel was never married.

Laibel worked at his father’s fat rendering plant in Newark for many years.

In 2007 he retired.

I never even knew Laibel had a brother; until the day he and his brother came to my office.

I was to learn that Laibel and his brother Mordy were more than just two years apart; they were worlds apart.

 Mordy was high strung, goal oriented, happily married, wealthy, successful and very community minded with many grandchildren.

 Laibel was ‘laid-back’, never married, lived off his social security check and was more of a loner than a people-person.

They came to speak about their first cousin Sylvia Rubin.

Like Laibel she never married and at 91 years old she was alone in this world except for Laibel and Mordy.

Sylvia had been living at an assisted care facility for the last five years; however, this week her condition deteriorated and she had been admitted to Hackensack Hospital.

It was up to the brothers to decide her ‘end of life questions’ and that is why they came to me.

I watched the interaction between them.

Mordy was the ‘take-charge’ type.

The main issue was who would be with Sylvia during her final days.

Mordy, who at 87 was still very much involved in his business and family affairs, was adamant that he would hire a full time aid to be with Sylvia; however, he himself had neither the time nor the inclination to personally ever come ‘out to Jersey’ to visit her.

Laibel cleared his throat and stated, “Yes, we should get her full time help; however, I will also stay at her bedside so she will not be alone!”

Mordy was somewhat dismissive of his younger brothers’ offer and remarked, “There is no need for that, as I will cover the cost of the aid.”

It was clear that Mordy was not used to be questioned by anyone, and certainly not by his ‘useless’ younger brother.

“Mordy, I just don’t think it’s right not to have a family member with her”.

“Stop being silly”, Mordy thundered; “Just go back to your apartment in Passaic and I will take care of everything.”

Laibel was not to be deterred, “No, I will not let her be alone when she needs me.”

For the next three weeks Laibel ‘lived’ at his cousin’s bedside.

He was there when she needed a drink of water and he was there when she needed the nurse.

He was there when she began to lose her lucidity and he was there to say Shema Yisroel with her when she breathed her last breath.

The day she died Mordy arrived at the hospital and saw firsthand how devoted Laibel was to Sylvia.

“Laibel, I don’t understand you; why have you sacrificed so much to be here. I don’t think you and Sylvia have spoken more than a few words over the last five years. What gives? Why suddenly did you become so dedicated and devoted?”

Laibel looked at his brother and said calmly yet, firmly. “Mordy, when we were little and Mom and Dad would have Sylvia baby sit for us, you would tease me until I ran into my bed crying. Do you know who would come to my room and sit with me until I calmed down and fell asleep? It was our cousin Sylvia!

She was there for me when I needed her and now 80 years later I knew I had to be there for her when she needed me.”

 

“If Not Now Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “ Profusely “ (12/2/15)

The Short Vort


Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 20th of Kislev 5776 and December 2, 2015

 

Profusely

 

The little girl had called her Morah and asked if she could help her with some questions on the section of Navi (Prophets) they were learning in school.

The Morah was (of course) excited that one of her charges was so motivated as to actually ask for help outside of the classroom and told the girl that since she was going out she would even pick her up on her way home.

The student arrived and together the Morah and the child reviewed the relevant parts of the Navi that she needed help in.

In the course of the learning the student and Morah bonded in ways which are so crucial and precious and often cannot be achieved in a formal classroom setting.

Finally it was the time to leave and the little girl asked if she could call her mother to be picked up.

As she was finalizing the arrangements for pick up with her mother, the Morah overheard the little girl say to her mother, “Of course I am going to say ‘thank you’; and yes, I will even say it ‘profusely’.”

The student put down the phone, looked at her Morah and said with all of the innocence and pristine purity that only a child can offer, “My mother said I have to thank you PROFUSLEY.” And then the girl added, “What did she think? That I wouldn’t thank you? Of course I would!”

What a wonderful example of proper Chinuch (education).

Naturally, most of us are never inclined to be overly ‘profuse’ in our expressions of gratitude.

We’d rather think of ourselves as independent and self-sufficient.

We never want to feel indebted to others and we would much rather be viewed as the ‘one who is needed by others’ than the ‘one who needs others’.

The reality of the world is of course different.

We all need each other; some days I need you more than you need me and some days you need me more.

The mother of this little girl was training and cultivating her child to recognize this fact that she is indeed indebted to her Morah for the extra time her Morah gave her.

On their own, children (most often) do not recognize how indebted they truly are to others.

Indeed, most adults are still childlike with regard to gratitude.

We tend to think of this world as a world of entitlement and privilege for ourselves.

The daughter has successfully absorbed this important lesson as she stated, “Of course I would!”

If only we can imitate the ways of the little girl and her Morah in our daily lives.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Gobble Gobble “ (11/26/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 14th of Kislev 5776 and November 26, 2015

 

Gobble Gobble

 

There has been much talk about Thanksgiving in Jewish circles.

“To participate or not to participate”; that is (just one of) the (many) questions.

As I have mentioned before, I probably get more questions about ‘Hilchos Thanksgiving’ than about Hilchos Chanukah!

The reason is simple.

Since so many of ‘us’ come from homes where Thanksgiving is ‘celebrated’ and many of our ‘not-yet’ (?) frum relatives can drive on Thanksgiving without any halachik question, it certainly is a convenient time for families to share quality time together.

And that is good.

Families should spend time together.

Yes, I know, that others claim, ‘Well, you can spend Chanukah together and relatives can drive on Chanukah as well’.

That is true; however, both “Chanukah Sundays” this year have candle lighting in the evening (December 6th and 13th) and that obviously limits ‘our’ ability to travel to non-frum relatives.

Therefore, today, the legal holiday of Thanksgiving affords many of us the opportunity to get together with parents, friends and relatives in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.

If you are ‘participating’ in the festivities, I have one piece of unsolicited advice for all of you.

When you go to your ‘not-yet-frum-almost frum-long-shot becoming frum-’ relatives and your realize that they have made a serious attempt to make you and your family feel comfortable; e.g. they bring in kosher food; they don’t mind if you bring your own food; they kosher the kitchen for the day; they allow you to cook for all…. Then please, please respond accordingly.

Show your gratitude!!!!

Meaning, HaKoras HaTov (GRATITUDE) is a most basic Jewish concept; and if your relatives have made an earnest attempt to make you and yours’ feel part of the family; then make sure you earnestly and sincerely express your gratitude to them!

In some ways I feel that Thanksgiving is a much better opportunity for ‘kiruv’ (whatever that means; perhaps we will deal with this in another Short Vort) than Chanukah or any ‘authentic’ Jewish holiday.

Why do I say that?

The reason is simple.

Most of us don’t enjoy being lectured or preached to.

Today is a day when you can show your ‘not yet/coming closer/almost there/far-away from becoming/ frum’ relatives that your becoming frum did not turn you into a Martian.

Today is a perfect day to show your relatives that you are still a caring, loving person who can engage in small talk and good quality regular family conversations with people who are wearing a Shaitel or have multiple earrings.

Today is a day where you can show your relatives that you still remember how Uncle Jerry carved the turkey and how all the kids would laugh and how Aunt Rose would make cranberry sauce and her hands would be red from the preparation.

Today you can show all that being frum is really being normal; and the first and best way to show this is to say ‘thank you’.

Appreciate what your mother is doing for you today to make you feel at home.

And appreciate the fact that your brother drove three hours just to see you.

Bring them ‘close’ to your heart; after all isn’t that what ‘kiruv’ (‘to bring closer’) is really all about?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ A Moment of Talking “ (11/23/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 11th of Kislev 5776 and November 23, 2015

 

A Moment of Talking

 

As I write these words, The New England Patriots football team are about to observe a ‘moment of silence’ in memory of Ezra Schwartz, a native of Sharon, Massachusetts, who was killed in a terror attack on Thursday.

The ‘Moment of Silence’ originates with the Quakers.

Since silence contains no statements or assumptions concerning beliefs and requires no understanding of language to interpret, it is more easily accepted and used than a spoken prayer or observance when persons of different religious and cultural backgrounds participate together.

In the colonial period Pennsylvania Quakers and Lenape Native Americans worshiped silently together on several occasions, yet neither group thought that this implied that they had altered their traditional belief system in doing so.

Over time, the effectiveness of Quaker-style silence for non-sectarian and non-controversial public observances has led to its almost universal use in the English-speaking world as well as other plural societies. (Wikipedia)

We are respectful of the Patriots and admire the respect they are showing Ezra, and we certainly can understand why in such a setting, ‘A Moment of Silence; is appropriate; nevertheless, as they are observing the ‘Moment of Silence’; I will engage in a more authentic Jewish response: A Moment of Verbal Tribute.

I did not know Ezra.

Like most of you, I never heard of him until he was killed on Thursday.

I don’t know his family and I don’t know anyone who lives in Sharon Ma.

That being said, I feel as if I knew him well.

Like Ezra, I also went off to study in Eretz Yisroel when I was finishing high school.

And like Ezra I was searching for growth and for inspiration.

Indeed, I would not be writing these words today if I had not learned in Eretz Yisroel in 1977.

My life changed forever when I was freed from the materialism and the comforts of American consumerism and from the hedonistic American way of life and was exposed to the life of Torah and authentic Judaism.

I would eventually spend many years learning and growing in Eretz Yisroel and it impacted on my life and the lives of my entire family.

Ezra went to Eretz Yisroel with those same dreams which I had almost 40 years ago.

He went to Yeshiva with the same hopes and thoughts which I had at his age four decades ago.

Ezra Schwartz never lived to see the fulfillment of those dreams.

Ezra Schwartz was never privileged to marry, raise a family and establish another link in the traditional Jewish family unit.

Ezra Schwartz came home yesterday to Sharon Ma.

However, he came home not in the way his parents, siblings and friends ever thought he would.

Ezra Schwartz will never dream again.

Ezra Schwartz will never again hope and strive to better his life and the lives of those with whom he made contact.

Ezra Schwartz died for one reason; he was a Jew in the land of Israel.

And for that reason, and that reason alone, he was killed.

Good bye Ezra; I will miss you although I never met you.

Although we never met and although we lived miles apart and although there was almost four decades which separated us; there is much more which united us than doesn’t.

Good bye Ezra, and remember, more meaningful than any Moment of Silence can ever be are all of the Mitzvohs and good deeds which continue to pay tribute to you forever.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ One More on Trust “ (11/20/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 8th of Kislev 5776 and November 20, 2015

 

One More on Trust

 

When I wrote about “trust” last Thursday, I had no idea how Europe’s trust in their life style and safety would be severely challenged by the events of just twenty four hours later.

Since last Friday night, France in particular and Western Europe in general has been reverberating from the shock of the cold blooded murder of 129 innocent human beings by Islamists.

Indeed, the indiscriminate and seemingly random killings led the New York Times to declare: “The style of the attack was in line with the Islamic State’s tactic of indiscriminate killings and goes against Al Qaeda’s guidelines.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/world/europe/isis-claims-responsibility-for-paris-attacks-calling-them-miracles.html)

I must admit, until I saw this line in The Times, I had no idea that Al Qaeda had ‘guidelines for killingwhile the Islamic State has no such ‘guidelines’.

The events of this week in Israel have further eroded our sense of trust and especially yesterday when we heard that an American Yeshiva boy was murdered in Gush Etzion, the sense of fear and anxiety was only heightened.

That being said, there is one silver lining to the seemingly non-stop horrific news; and that is that this morning after thirty years behind bars, Mr. Jonathan Pollard was released from prison and was united with his wife.

Jonathan Pollard will spend the first Shabbos in thirty years as a free man able to attend Shul and observe Shabbos in a real and meaningful way.

Imagine if tonight, for the first time in thirty years, you finally had the opportunity to observe Shabbos with the foods you wanted and in the manner you desired; what would that Shabbos look like?

What would you do if for the first time in thirty you were able to walk to the Shul of your choice and wear the clothes you wanted to wear as opposed to davening in a prison dressed in convict’s clothing; how would you feel?

Think about that and remember: always appreciate what you have and who you have.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Phone Call” (11/19/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 7th of Kislev 5776 and November 19, 2015

 

The Phone Call

 

My cell phone rang this morning.

“Big deal”; after all, your cell rang this morning as well.

The screen indicated a ‘917’ area code which meant the person was from New York.

So what? Don’t we all get calls from ‘917’?

True, but this phone call was different from all others.

I was unable to answer so I allowed the call to go to voice mail.

Later, I listened to the message.

To my shock it was a message from one of the most well-known Rabbis in New York.

 I was filled with awe and pride; “Rabbi Famous” is calling little old me.”

I quickly called back; however, he did not answer and I left a message.

I began to indulge in some self-pride as I wondered ‘how many people does “Rabbi Famous” call’?

Yet, after the initial swelling of my head, I suddenly thought, “Oy, if ““Rabbi Famous” is calling me it must be that some horrendous scandal has occurred and he wants me to be involved!”

I could see the sleepless nights heading my way… the endless phone calls… the attempts at mediations…. The posturing and the threats…. And worst of all, the time and the anxiety and the mental anguish which takes months to recover from….

“Woe is me!” I thought!” Why does “Rabbi Famous” have to call me?”

Suddenly, the phone rang.

It was “Rabbi Famous”!

 My heart was racing and my hands were clammy and cold.

I was sure that “Rabbi Famous” would hear the thumping sound of my heart.

Finally, I answered.

 “Shalom, Is this Yitzchok Eisenman?”

“Yes, it is.”

I braced myself for his next sentence.

I forced down the panic attack which was festering within me and I repressed my anxiety.

 I focused my mind back to a time when a call was a pleasant experience and was never the harbinger of angst.

Finally, “Rabbi Famous” continued.

“Are you the same Ron Yitzchok Eisenman who writes for Mishpacha magazine?”

“Uh, yes, it is”, I said haltingly.

Was he going to berate me for something I wrote?

Perhaps it was the article about the Mets and Gil Hodges.

 I’ll bet he was upset about that one; after all, which rabbi writes about baseball!!

“I just had to call you to tell you how much I enjoyed your article about the Mets and especially how you and your brother were so awed when you saw Gil Hodges and you screamed “Let’s Go Mets!”.

 You really captured the scene and brought me back to an idyllic part of my life.

I can still remember my father taking me to Idlewild Airport (now JFK) to see the Brooklyn Dodgers arrive from out of town; when I saw Gil Hodges I was in seventh heaven!

Whoever did not grow up in Brooklyn cannot possibly appreciate how much baseball meant to us!

I just had to call you to thank you for the moving and meaningful trip down memory lane and for the Simcha and the smile you brought me.”

I hesitated and said, “Thank you”.

 I then paused and waited to hear the ‘real’ reason for the call.

Instead, “Rabbi Famous” says, “Anyway, I just wanted to thank you. Keep up the good work and be well.”

“Wait” I almost shouted. “Are you telling me that the only reason you called me was ‘just’ to say ‘thank you’ for the article?”

“Yes, that’s all I called for. I imagine you are busy and I have to get back to my Shiurim so be well and Kol Tuv.

I was still shaking as I put the phone down; however, now it was no longer from anxiety; rather, it was from the realization of just how much, a simple, sincere and heartfelt ‘thank you’ can change your entire day.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Happy Rosh Chodesh Kislev to all!” (11/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 1st Day of Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5776 and November 13, 2015

 

Rosh Chodesh Humor

 

I was taking a walk to the park recently and I decided not to take my cell phone with me.

What follows (in comic form) is what transpired.

Happy Rosh Chodesh Kislev to all!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “Trust “ (11/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 30th of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 12, 2015

 

Trust

 

There is probably no greater human requirement for the successful functioning of society than trust.

Without a sense of trust, society will dissolve and disappear.

The entire purpose of terrorism is to instill fear and a lack of trust in one’s surroundings which will impede and in some cases totally paralyze society.

The media was filled with stories of how after the horrific and murderous attack in Geulah last month in which 60-year-old Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky HY”D was killed, the normally bustling streets of Geulah were bereft of pedestrians as people no longer had a sense of ‘trust’ to go and walk the streets.

There are theories which maintain that the origin of the handshake was a sign indicating to the other person that he/she could trust you.

When you offered your open and weaponless right hand to the other person and allowed them to ascertain that you were not ‘armed’, this act allowed both parties to interact with a sense of trust.

I have found after over thirty years in the classroom that the one absolute necessity for a successful classroom experience is that both the students and the teacher have a sense of trust in each other and are not wary of any unexpected disturbances or outbursts.

Children at home must feel safe and secure; they need to have a solid feeling of trust in their parents and in their home environment in order for them to flourish and grow.

And of course we need to trust those people with whom we share our feelings and our emotions; our dreams and our conflicts.

We expect and indeed we desperately need to trust those individuals with whom we share our innermost thoughts, be they rabbis or teachers, therapists or friends; for it is precisely with these people that we allow our guard to go down and make ourselves vulnerable.

When the ‘trust’ we had with someone with whom we shared has been proven to be misplaced we rightly feel betrayed and deceived and in turn we are that much less likely to trust another person ever again.

Often, (indeed, one incident occurred this week) I am informed about ‘supposedly’ trusted people who violated that trust and even utilized that trust to harm and hurt the person who trusted in them very much.

To be hurt by anyone is painful; however, to be hurt by someone in whom we trusted and to whom we exposed ourselves is devastating.

I feel a deep sense of hurt and pain when I am told about ‘trusted’ individuals who turned out to be manipulative and highly dangerous people.

These incidents pain me greatly as these people not only deceived and scarred their victims by utilizing the very trust these people had in them to ultimately hurt them; these twisted evildoers erode the ‘trust’ we all previously had in our entire community; and that is unforgivable.

I feel for those who suffered and continue to suffer because they mistakenly placed their trust in someone who was totally untrustworthy and hurt them and I hope that the day will come when such incidents will no longer continue to plague us.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Our Brother Yishmael?” (11/8/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 26th of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 8, 2015

 

“Our Brother Yishmael?”

 

Part One

Yishmael Does Teshuva!

After our father Avrohom dies, the Torah informs us that he was buried in the Tomb of the Patriarchs (M’aaras HaMachpeila).

The Torah also includes a list- just two people long- of the participants in the burial of Avrohom.

And his sons’ Yitzchok and Yishmael buried him into the Cave of Machpeila…” (Bereishis 25:9)

Rashi, our teacher and transmitter of the traditions (Mesorah) of our sages’ comments:  “From here [we may deduce] that Yishmael did Teshuva {repented} and let Yitzchok go before him, and that is the meaning of “a good old age” which is stated regarding Avrohom (above 15:15). - [B.B. 16b]”

This is truly amazing that Yishmael did Teshuva!

After all, consider all the other things the Torah tells us about Yishmael:

·       Yishmael, was the ‘wayward’ son of Avrohom about who it is written: “And he will be a wild donkey {Pereh Adom} of a man; his hand will be upon all,” (Bereishis 16:12)

·       Rashi comments on the words: his hand will be upon all: “[He will be] a bandit.

·       He was a person who our sages stated was involved in the three cardinal transgressions.

·       The Sages stated, based on the Passuk: “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, making merry.” (Ibid 21:9) that the words “M’tzacheik” (making merry) with regard to Yishmael refer to: “An expression of idolatry…. Another explanation: An expression of illicit sexual relations… Another explanation: An expression of murder…- [Rashi from Gen. Rabbah 53:11]

·       And he was a person who was thrown out of his father’s Avrohom’s house with his mother with only a loaf of bread and a water bottle for both of them!

 

Nevertheless, amazingly, it is this same Yishmael who does Teshuva!

The fact that he did do Teshuva is clearly stated by Rashi and our Sages; however, what is not clear is why did he do Teshuva?

Obviously, I know not for sure; however, I do have a rabbinic hunch which I would like to share with you.

 

Part Two

Pirkei D’ Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 30)

In the “Pirkei D ‘Rabbi Eliezer” (a 54 chapter midrashic compilation, attributed to the Tanna R. Eliezer ben Horkenos) the following fascinating incident is recorded:

“Three years after Yishmael was exiled from his father’s home, and he had married, Avrohom went out to visit his long lost son.

 When he arrived at the door, Yishmael’s wife informed Avrohom (who never identified himself to her) that her husband was not home.

 Avrohom asked for some water and bread to refresh himself from the journey.

She claimed, “There is no bread and no water (for you)”.

Avrohom asked her to convey to her husband upon his return that an old man from the Land of Canaan came to visit and is not happy with the way his house is run.”

 She complied and informed her husband of the incident.

The Medrash relates that after Yishmael (who realized the visitor was none other than his father) heard the critique of his home from the ‘visitor’, he promptly divorced his wife and married a new woman by the name of Fatima.

Three years later Avrohom again reached out to his son Yishmael.

He approached the door and once again Yishmael was not at home; Avrohom asked for bread and water.

 Fatima gladly obliged and provided the wayfarer with bread and water.

Avrohom then davened to Hashem and Yishmael’s home was blessed with “all good things”. When Yishmael returned home, his wife informed him of the ‘visitor’ and the subsequent brocha to their home.

At this point Yishmael- (who knew that the ‘visitor’ was his father Avrohom) realized that his father still loved him!

He knew that his father still cared and had compassion and love for him.

As the Passuk says: “As a father has mercy on sons…” (Tehillim 103:13).

 

Part Three

My Hunch

My hunch tells me that this Medrash is the cause of the eventual reconciliation of Yishmael with his father Avrohom and his brother Yitzchok and his eventual doing Teshuva.

I believe that this is the source for Rashi and the Sages when they stated that Yitzchok repented.

Avrohom knew that there was a time when he had to practice ‘tough love’ with Yishmael when he sent him away; after all, Hashem Himself orders him (after Sorah commands her husband to banish Yishmael and his mother Hagar): “Whatever Sorah tells you to do, heed her voice…”  (Bereishis 21:12).

And indeed he himself sends them away.

Nevertheless, our Sages teach us that Avrohom never stopped loving his son and never stopped hoping for his return.

And even after being rebuffed by Yishmael’s first wife, Avrohom returns again and once again seeks out his lost son.

Avrohom never gave up on Yishmael; he delicately balanced his obligation to distance Yishmael from Yitzchok while simultaneously never abandoning his love and concern for his wayward son.

 He also never stopped seeking a way to show his son Yishmael how much he still loved him.

And when he finally had the chance to validate Yishmael and his household, he did so with gusto and enthusiasm.

 Yishmael responded to his father’s expression of love and recognized the fact that his father still loved him.

It was that knowledge that his father still cared for him and still loved him which ultimately prevailed and motivated Yishmael to repent and reconcile with his father and brother.

Indeed, he repented so intensely that when he passes on, the Torah informs us: “And these are the years of the life of Yishmael: one hundred years and thirty years and seven years; and he expired and died and was gathered to his people.” (Ibid. 25:17)

Rashi comments on the word: “and he expired”: “[The term] ‘expired’ (Hebrew ‘Givia’) is mentioned only regarding the righteous. — [B.B. 16b]”.

Meaning, Yishmael at his passing merited the coveted term ‘Givia’ being applied to him; a term reserved exclusively to the righteous!

All of this was achieved by the fact that Avrohom refused to give up on his son Yishmael.

 Whatever he was and wherever he was, Avrohom continued to reach out to Yishmael.

Avrohom was never totally and completely accepting of Yishmael’s lifestyle; indeed, when he saw that even basic civility was not present in his son’s house, he critiqued him for it.

However, when he saw on the next visit that basic human compassion and civility were present he prayed for his son and through those heartfelt prayers, Yishmael’s home was filled with abundant good things.

When Yishmael saw and felt his father’s love and when he recognized his father’s compassion and care, he was moved and motivated to return and reconcile with Avrohom and Yitzchok to the point that he is counted at the time of his death among the Tzaddikim (righteous).

 

Part Four

The Upshot for Us!

All of us have someone in our lives in which our relationship with them is strained and tense.

Sometimes they are even our own children.

Obviously each case is unique and special; however, always remember the ways of Avrohom Avinu! Remember how our father Avrohom, notwithstanding his son’s major spiritual deficiencies, never, gave up on Yishmael.

Avrohom always continued (even years later) to reach out to him and attempted to find even the smallest way to validate him and constantly attempted to find common ground with his son and most importantly to show his love and concern for him.

We may not always end up living ‘happily ever after’; however, progress can be made and small steps can lead to giant leaps if love is shown and felt.

As long as we keep the lines of communication open and as long as we continue to show our love and our concern for all of our loved ones; including and perhaps especially to those whose life choices are disappointing to us- there is always the chance for reconciliation.

Without that show of concern and without the outward of expression of love, hope is lost; and when hope is lost then everything is lost.

Reach out to that someone today; show them you still love them.

You never know, miracles do occur.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Good Old Times “ (11/8/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 26th of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 8, 2015

 

Good Old Times

 

On this past Shabbos, Parshas Chayei Sorah, former Israeli President Yitzchak Navon passed away at the age of 94.

Mr. Navon who was born in Yerushalayim in 1921 was the first Israeli born President of the State and he served in many distinguished positions during his long life of service in the political and public sector of the State of Israel.

For Orthodox Jews, Mr. Navon held a special position.

He was the last surviving person who was present on Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan 5713 (October 20, 1952) at the famous and historically important meeting between the then Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. David Ben Gurion (16 October 1886, – 1 December 1973), and the great Torah luminary ‘The Chazon Ish Zt”l’ (HaRav Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz, 7 November 1878 – 24 October 1953).

There has been much written about the ‘historic’ meeting between the secular leader of the Jewish people in the land of Israel and the Gadol HaDor (Great man of the generation).

I am not going to restate all that has been written on the subject; for those interested, one post which is particularly thorough is Torah Musings by Gil Student: http://www.torahmusings.com/2011/11/traditions-in-passing/

Mr. Navon’s personnel reminiscences of the meeting are certainly informative and indeed there are some surprises in his recollections.

For instance, he claims that notwithstanding the fact that both men were Eastern-European-born Jews and their mother tongue was Yiddish, Mr. Navon claims that the entire conversation took place in Hebrew and only Hebrew.

He further claims that although the focus of the conversation: Orthodox Jews and their involvement in the army, was never resolved; nevertheless, the conversation was friendly, civil and ended with a warm handshake and warm feelings between the two men.

For an English version of the discussion see: http://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2012/08/yitzchak-navon-relates-more-of-famous.html

What interests me the most, and perhaps to be more precise, what now pains me the most, is not the details of the meeting or even who ‘bested’ who.

Rather, what pains me is the fact that I often wonder to myself, “Can such a meeting ever take place today?”

There was a wide gap between Ben Gurion and the Chazon Ish.

 Ben Gurion, besides not being an observant Jew had at times even defined himself as being atheistic.

“By his own admission Ben-Gurion was irreligious, even atheistic as a youth. Even in his later years he demonstrated no great sympathy for the elements of traditional Judaism” http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/biography-david-ben-gurion/5810.aspx)

The Chazon Ish must have obviously been aware of his guest’s religious views; nevertheless, he received him cordially, warmly and respectfully in his house. He treated him as guest without expressing his personal feelings of disapproval over Mr. Ben Gurion’s own life style.

Of course the Chazon Ish did not fawn over the Prime Minister; nevertheless, he was certainly personally cordial and welcoming.

Similarly, Mr. Ben Gurion had to be aware of the fact that the Chazon Ish did not subscribe at all to his own ideology and was certainly not a supporter of Mr. Ben Gurion’s aspirations for the Jewish people. Nevertheless, Mr. Ben Gurion went out of his way to make the appointment to see the Chazon Ish, made the trip to his modest home, donned a fedora and by all accounts showed only respect and admiration for the Chazon Ish.

Were there differences resolved? No.

Did they still both feel passionately about their respective positions? For sure

Yet, notwithstanding their differences, they talked and they communicated with each other face to face.

Then why am I pained?

The reason is simple.

I am pained for there once was a time when a Ben Gurion understood that he must reach out to the Chazon Ish and he cannot responsibly be the representative of the Jewish people without having communication with the recognized Torah leader of the generation; even if that means that he, the Prime Minister goes to him.

And there was a time when a Chazon Ish had an open door and a welcoming smile for a fellow Jew; notwithstanding the fact that the Jew was even atheistic.

It was a time when an atheistic Jew still understood that The Chazon Ish was a person he should go to and it was a time when a Chazon Ish could show respect and warmth for another Jew, even if that Jew was an atheist.

And it is for those days I pine.

I wonder, ‘do the present day secular/atheistic heirs of Ben Gurion still recognize the need to meet the Chazon Ishs’ of their time?’

And even if they would recognize the need, ‘are our doors still open?’

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “The First Prayer” (11/6/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 24th of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 6th 2015

 

The First Prayer

 

Ever wonder who is the first person in the entire Torah to ask for something from Hashem?

The answer is in this week’s Parsha when the servant of Avrohom (the name Eliezer never appears even once in the entire Parsha) beseeches Hashem to help him find a proper wife for Yitzchok.

The nameless servant of Avrohom calls out to Hashem, “And he said, "O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please cause to happen to me today, and perform loving kindness with my master, Abraham.” (24:12)

His prayer is answered as Rivkah is chosen as the soul-mate of Yitzchok.

Why is the first Tefillah in which a person asks of Hashem a personal request uttered by a ‘no-name’ servant?

Shouldn’t the first true personal request of Hashem have come from one of the Patriarchs and not from a lowly servant whose lineage disqualified him from becoming part of Avrohom’s family?

Why is this anonymous, unidentified and nameless minion the one chosen to offer the first inaugural prayer to the King of Kings?

The answer is: ‘that is precisely the point!’

Meaning, too often in life we think that we must go to this Tzaddik or that Holy Person to have our prayers answered.

Too often we are led to believe that if we don’t take part in an international event headed by world class Tzaddikim we have no chance of having our Tefillos answered.

I do not mean in any way to negate the power of a Tzaddik or underestimate the power of prayer of the many; no, that is not my agenda at all.

What I am saying is that one should never underestimate the power of one’s own prayers!

We should never forget that the first prayer offered was the Tefillah of the nameless and anonymous servant of Avrohom who offered a private and sincere prayer from his heart to Hashem.

And we should never forget that it was this Tefillah which was accepted and changed the course of history!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ A Sad Day for the Jews “ (11/4/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 22nd of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 4, 2015

 

 A Sad Day for the Jews

 

Today in 1928, Arnold Rothstein a notorious New York Jewish mobster was gunned down at the Park Central Hotel at 7th Ave. near 55th in Manhattan.

Arnold was the son of an honest Jewish businessman named Abraham Rothstein who davened at the Orthodox Shul, “The Jewish Center” and was known as “Abe the Just”.

Abraham Rothstein was a prominent member of the Shul and contributed generously to charitable causes.

His other son would become a rabbi; however, his youngest son Arnold became an infamous gangster involved in all of the Torah and secular prohibitions during the era of Prohibition in the United States.

He was not a moral individual and undoubtedly caused much pain and hardship to many people.

When he was gunned down on November 4, 1928, his father asked Rav Leo Jung, the noted Rav of the Jewish Center to officiate at his son’s Levaya.

Rabbi Jung acquiesced to the request and delivered a eulogy.

Years later, Rabbi Jung was taken to task for eulogizing a mobster at the funeral service.

 Rabbi Jung defended his actions by stating that he “spoke briefly about….the father’s abysmal pain; (and) about G-d being the only one who can judge adequately, especially a dead man…”

Rabbi Jung did his best to show proper compassion to the mobster’s parents while simultaneously avoiding condoning the misdeeds of the deceased.

 

There was a time though, years ago, when such carefully choreographed eulogies were not possible.

In the early years of the heated and passionate and often ugly wars between those who were attempting to usurp Judaism with a non-Torah outlook versus those who were holding strong to tradition, a story (which is probably apocryphal) is told.

It relates to our above mentioned topic; namely what a rabbi does when he is forced to eulogize a person who is ‘not-euligizable’ because of his misdeeds.

 

The Story

(Please keep in mind that at the time there was no sense of ‘live and let live’. Both sides believed they were locked in a battle for the future of the Jewish people)

 

The local rabbi was forced to officiate at the service of one of the early ‘Maskilim’.

The deceased was a man who had dedicated his life to leading others away from the path of Jewish observance.

The rabbi was hesitant to eulogize and was at a loss as to what to say.

Finally he looked up at the assembled and announced, “This is really the first funeral I have to officiate for a member of the “Maskilim”, the group who attempt to lead others away from the path to which I have dedicated my life to lead people on.

Everything they stand for I am against; and everything which I advocate for they protest and push for just the opposite.

They have informed on me to the authorities as being a ‘subversive’ and have made my life and others almost intolerable.

They claim everything I stand for is wrong and they do not believe in ‘live and let live’; rather, they proactively promote their agenda with a vengeance and with hatred.

What can I say therefore at this man’s funeral?

With what words can I speak to G-d?

I really have no words to properly eulogize the deceased.

Therefore, I pray to Hashem that there should be many more funerals of people of his ilk and then I will have more practice in being able to properly eulogize these individuals.”

And with that, the rabbi sat down.

 

 “If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Balfour Declaration” (11/2/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday 20th of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 2, 2015

 

Balfour Declaration

 

Today in 1917, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter to Baron Rothschild.

The contents of the letter stated:

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The letter was facilitated by Dr. Chaim Weizmann who pressured Balfour to write the letter.

During the first meeting between Chaim Weizmann and Balfour in 1906, Balfour asked what Weizmann’s objections were to the idea of a Jewish homeland in Uganda rather than in Palestine.

 According to Weizmann’s memoir, the conversation went as follows:

"Mr. Balfour, supposing I was to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?" He sat up, looked at me, and answered: "But Dr. Weizmann, we have London." "That is true," I said, "but we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh." He ... said two things which I remember vividly. The first was: "Are there many Jews who think like you?" I answered: "I believe I speak the mind of millions of Jews whom you will never see and who cannot speak for themselves."

(Wikipedia)

The letter was hailed by many Jews as a milestone in the battle for international recognition of their rights to Eretz Yisroel.

The American Jewish Zionist Newspaper, the Maccabaean termed the Balfour Declaration, ‘The Jewish Magna Carta,’ The American Jewish Chronicle, “A Turning Point in Jewish History,” The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, the “The End of the Galut.” A popular Yiddish daily, Dos Yiddishe Folk, stated, “for the first time in two thousand years we again enter into the arena of world history as a nation which deserves a national home.” The religious Zionist movement, Mizrahi, issued a statement that “It seems that Holy Providence which guided Israel in its long night of exile is about to reward the Jewish people for all their suffering and tribulations.”

http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-balfour-declaration-and-the-reaction-of-rav-kook/2014/10/27/

Rav Kook Zt”l, who was in London at the time of the declaration, remarked

“I have not come here to thank the British nation, but even more, to congratulate it for the privilege of making this declaration. The Jewish nation is the ‘scholar’ among the nations, the ‘people of the book,’ a nation of prophets; and it is a great honor for any nation to aid it. I bless the British nation for having extended such honorable aid to the people of the Torah, so that they may return to their land and renew their homeland.” (ibid)

It is now almost 100 years since the declaration has been issued.

Indeed, as the declaration stated: “Palestine (has become) a national home for the Jewish people”.

However, we are still not considered “the ‘scholar’ among the nations” as Rav Kook hoped for and certainly The Canadian Jewish Chronicle’s headline that the declaration represented, “The End of the Galut” is at best highly questionable.

However, that being said, are things better for the Jewish people as a whole in the Land of Israel than they were in 1917?  

I think most of us would unhesitatingly reply that, ‘most certainly; they are much better now’.

And for that we say, “Thank you Hashem”.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Old Man in the Back “ (10/29/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 16th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 29, 2015

 

The Old Man in the Back

 

I am privileged to have had generations of my family learning in the Ponevez Yeshiva.

My father’s first cousins learned there in the 1950s and my own son learned there about 10 years ago.

Therefore, the yeshiva has always been close to my heart.

In 1977 when I was still a teenager I decided I too would spend some time in the Ponevez Yeshiva.

I arrived in the morning and found myself a seat towards the back of the huge Beis Medrash.

After a few minutes of learning, an elderly gentleman with a white beard sat next to me.

I figured he was a retired man who was making the most of his ‘free time’ by learning Torah.

Suddenly a group of young men surround the octogenarian and begin to scream at him!

I was horrified! I had never seen a group Torah scholars yelling at an old man!

What was even more shocking, the old man proceeded to yell back at them passionately and forcefully. Finally the group left and the old man and I quietly went back to our Gemara.

The peace and quiet did not last long; another group of young men approached and they too surrounded my elderly bench-mate and began to scream and yell at him. Once again, my ‘old friend’ yelled back!

By this time, things were getting too much for me and I was about to stand up and take matters into my own hands.

I was going to give these young men a piece of my mind and a lesson in respect for one’s elders.

Before I could react, the elderly man closed his Gemara and put it back on the shelf.

When he left the Beis Medrash I decided to see if perhaps his name was in the Gemara and perhaps my cousins knew who he was and I would drop by and see if he had ‘recovered’ from the verbal assaults he was forced to endure this morning.

As I opened the Gemara, I noticed it said, “Property of the Rosh Yeshiva, Maran Elazar Menachem Man Shach”.

Today is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Shach Zt”l.

Rav Shach is remembered for many, many things:

Just to name a few: His monumental commentary on the Rambam; his insightful and masterful Shiurim; his communal leadership and uncompromising stand on the primacy of Torah learning; his Chesed and his compassion.

For me however, I will never forget the time 38 years ago, when he was a ‘just another elderly Yid’ attempting to learn a Blatt Gemara in the Ponevez Beis Medrash.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “Who Want’s Redemption? “ (10/26/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 13th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 26, 2015

 

Who Want’s Redemption?

 

In Pirkei Avos (6:6) we learn: “All who say something and quote the author of the statement bring redemption to the world, as it is said: "And Esther said in the name of Mordecai".

So it’s time to bring some redemption to the world!

Last week’s Short Vort from the 9th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 22, 2015, entitled: “Those Were the Days My Friend” mentioned an incident with the New York Mets and the fire at the Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway in 1968-69.

Many of you have been asking me, “How were you able to piece together the story so completely?”

Therefore, allow me to fulfill the Mishnah’s dictum of: “Saying over something in the name of its source, brings redemption to the world!”

Much of the information was gathered from R’ Yeruchim Silber (Rav Meilach’s son) who I personally spoke to about the incident.

 I also greatly benefited from an article in written by Aaron Katz from Tel Aviv.

I want to thank both R’ Yeruchim and Aaron Katz for filling in the details of the story

(http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/190046/did-a-seder-plate-propel-the-mets-to-the-1969-world-series)

 

We need all of the Redemption we can get!!!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““You Have a Home?” “ (10/25/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 12th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 25th 2015

 

“You Have a Home?”

 

Many different occupations have their ‘busy season’.

 I know that from March until April 15th I should not bother the accountants in the Shul as they are ‘over their heads’ in numbers and figures.

Those Mispallelim who are employees of B & H are typically extremely rushed during the secular ‘holiday season’.

And of course the Mechanchim and especially those involved in the Hanhala of our Yeshivasare even more burdened than usual during the first few weeks of the school year.

Men who sell Esrogim are inapproachable from before Tisha Bav until after first days of Succos; and those who sell Hoshanos cannot be bothered until after Hoshanah Rabbah.

The fellow who runs a cleaning service cannot be reached on the phone for anything outside of business from a month before Pesach until Erev Yom Tov and the mispallel who works in one of the local Jewish bands can hardly make it to the last minyan for Shacharis during the entire month of June!

What about the Rabbi?

When exactly is ‘busy season’ for the rabbinate?

From the beginning of Selichos and until the last Kaddish ending Simchas Torah can be defined as ‘busy season’ for the rabbi.

There are so many different demands on his time.

The writing of Droshos is particularly demanding.

The rabbi must attempt to make his Droshos timely; yet, firmly based in the Mesorah.

They should be creative tapestries of original thoughts coupled with time tested Torah ideas.

They must be witty and inspiring; entertaining and informative; serious while sensitive.

Yet, perhaps even more time consuming and certainly more challenging is attempting to be there for people and their struggles.

While many people have the ‘luxury’ to focus on their Tefillos and their Teshuva during the Yomim Noraim season, too many of us are struggling with problems of Parnosah, Shalom Bayis and child rearing

These issues do not take a break ‘for the holidays’, indeed, often the problems are compounded by them.

If I can give a single woman some Chizuk that next year she should be with her husband for Yom Tov and if I can give a couple a little nudge to make some changes for the better in their marriage, I try to do so.

Therefore, with preparing for Droshos and juggling appointments and phone calls, I end up spending more time than usual ‘at the office’ during my ‘busy season’.

When Simchas Torah finally ends I can indulge in a sigh of relief as with the help of Hashem we have merited another ‘busy season’.

This year, as Simchas Torah concluded, everyone began to leave Shul and head home. 

I too left Shul and headed home.

 I am tired and spent.

 I am looking forward to sitting down and taking my shoes off as soon as I get home.

The dancing was beautiful; however, right now the couch in my living room is very enticing.

A small boy spots me and I can see that his mother is nudging him to approach me.

His mother walks over to me with him and says, “Yanky wanted to ask you something. I told him ‘of course he should ask you’ and that the rabbi loves questions no matter where and when.”

Although I could have contested some aspects of her description of my total availability, I slowly nod my consent and wait for Yakov to ask me his question.

The little boy hesitantly comes close and in a halting voice asks me, “Rabbi, where are you going?”

“That’s a relief”, I say to myself; it’s certainly an easy enough question.

“Well Yakov, I am going home just like you are.”

Yakov looks up at me and with his eyes wide-opened asks, “What? You have a home? I thought you lived in the Shul!”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““Those Were the Days My Friend”” (10/22/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 9th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 22, 2015

 

“Those Were the Days My Friend”

 

As I glanced at the news this morning I could not help but notice the headline: “Miracle Mets Are Headed to The World Series!”

The New York Mets would be heading to the World Series for the first time since 2000.

Although it’s been years since I have followed baseball, as I looked at the headline my mind waxed nostalgic as I recalled the ‘original’ Miracle Mets of 1969.

Perhaps even more importantly, I remembered ‘me’ and who I was from that long ago time.

It was a grand time when the Mets won the World Series in 1969.

It was a time of excitement and of hope.

If the Mets could win the World Series could Mashiach be far behind?

The 1969 Mets were everything a Jewish child could want.

They had a Jewish player by the name of Art Shamsky who was the hero of every Jewish kid in Brooklyn!

Gil Hodges, the manager lived on Bedford Ave in Flatbush.

My brother and I would bike to his house and if we saw him on the porch or picking up the paper from his lawn we would shout, “Let’s Go Mets!”

He would smile and wave and life was great.

It was a time of racial turmoil in the city and it was a time when Jewish neighborhoods such as East Flatbush were in flux.

And when the Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway was badly burned in an arson attack and suffered $200,000 worth of damage, it was only natural that the Mets raised $500 for the rebuilding of the yeshiva.

Rav Meilech Silber who was Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva arrived at the Shea Stadium on May 28th to receive the check and presented Gil Hodges and Art Shamsky a Seder Plate as a show of gratitude.

By May 28th 1969, the Mets had played 41 games and they were 18–23.

Beginning with the game which was played immediately after Rav Silber received the $500 check from Gil Hodges, the Mets reeled off a club-record 11 straight wins.

Starting with that 42nd game, the Mets’ win/loss record was 82–39, an impressive .678 winning percentage!

Eventually of course, they would go on to win the World Series against the mighty Orioles of Baltimore.

My Rebbe at yeshiva taught us that Tzedokah can help bring about miracles.

What could be more of an affirmation of his teaching than the fact that hours after the Mets give Tzedokah they win 11 straight games!

Those were special, simpler times.

It was a time when a Jewish baseball player named Shamsky would not play on Rosh Hashanah and a Catholic man named Hodges from Bedford Ave could give $500 to help build a Yeshiva.

And it was a time when a red-headed pudgy little boy went to sleep at night feeling safe and secure.

His parents and brother were in the adjacent rooms and the Mets were winning.

What else could a boy want from life?

As I write these lines I realize that I am now whiter than I am red…

My parents are no longer in this world and life is certainly more complicated.

I wonder, ‘Can I ever recapture the pristine innocence of youth?’

I doubt it.

Those were the days….

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““Labeling” (10/20/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 7th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 20, 2015

 

“Labeling”

 

Did you ever hear of Rami bar Chama?

If you have learned Talmud Bavli you most probably have come across his name as he mentioned 233 times in Talmud Bavli.

Did you ever wonder when he died and why?

Well perhaps it’s time you did.

The Talmud in Massechta Brochus (47b) informs us of the following incident.

The Sages were very careful not to include a person who was deemed to be an Am HaAretz when they made a ‘Zimun’ for bentching.

The phrase Am HaAretz is difficult to translate precisely as it certainly does not mean an ignoramus as many assume it does.

In fact, one opinion in the Gemara (which is apparently accepted as halachically binding) states that even a person who has learned Chumash and Mishnah; however, he has not ‘served’ (V’lo Shimesh) the sages, meaning he has not apprenticed by them and did not receive practical rabbinic training, should be treated as an Am HaAretz!

The Gemara goes on to inform us that Rami bar Chama, based on the above ruling, refused to include the Amora Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa in his Zimun. (Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa only speaks three times in the entire Talmud Bavli and never in the Talmud Yerushalmi)

When Rami bar Chama died, the great Amora Rava (who is mentioned a whopping 5,699 times in Talmud Bavli and 91 times in Talmud Yerushalmi!), commented, that Rami bar Chama died because he refused to include Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa in is Zimun!

How could Rava say that?

After all, didn’t we learn that one who never ‘served’ the sages is deemed an Am HaAretz and is therefore disqualified from being part of a Zimun?

What did Rami bar Chama do wrong which was worthy of his being punished with premature death?

The Gemara answers that the ‘sin’ of Rami bar Chama was that he labeled Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa an Am HaAretz prematurely!

Meaning, Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa had indeed ‘served’ the sages and he was not an Am HaAretz. Unfortunately, Rami bar Chama did not vet Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa properly and ‘labeled’ him an Am HaAretz when he really was a bona fide Talmid Chochom!

Rami bar Chama was guilty of ‘labeling’ Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa without doing his homework and due diligence.

 For this sin of ‘labeling’ someone incorrectly, Rami bar Chama was (according to Rava) punished by Hashem with death.

How often do we also ‘label’ people without properly vetting them?

How often do we hear just one side of a story and feel ‘we know’ the truth of who is who?

How often do we ‘label’ and classify people and place them into convenient compartments without really doing our homework properly?

My guess is that this happens much too often.

Remember if someone as great and as talented as Rami bar Chama could unintentionally falsely judge Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa, how much more careful must we always be not to judge or classify anyone before we know the the‘whole story!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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