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The Short Vort’ -""Yes, Virginia, the Rabbi does take a nap”” (8/26/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 30th of Av- First Day of Rosh Chodesh Elul- 5774, August 26th 2014

 

"Yes, Virginia, the Rabbi does take a nap

 

Part One-

The Sleepy Rabbi

 

One day in 1971, a little boy was banging on the door of a rabbi in Yerushalayim on a hot Shabbos afternoon.

It was very hot and everyone sought out the comfort of their beds to escape the punishing ‘chamsin (heatwave); including the rabbi.

The rabbi heard the incessant knocking as he was dreaming of an air-conditioned Beis Medrash which had not yet arrived to Yerushalayim; however, he had heard that in America they exist.

At first he attempted to ignore the knocking hoping it would go away; it didn’t.

Then he attempted to sleep through it; he couldn’t.

Finally after figuring it could be a crucial Shabbos life and death question, he schlepped himself from his bed, put on a robe and answered the door.

He thought that Eliyahu HaNavi had arrived and was invisible as he saw no one as he peered onto the quiet streets of Jerusalem.

However, as he looked down he noticed the small boy who standing right in front of him.

“My son, HaKol B’Seder?” he asked. (Is all okay?)

The child nodded.

“Is anyone sick?” the rabbi prodded.

“No” came the reply.

“Well, why did you come?” asked the rabbi as he recalled the comfort of his bed and felt the hot wind blowing in his face.

“I have a question on the Parsha and my Abba said I should ask the rabbi when I get a chance and since everyone else was sleeping I figured it was a good time to ask the Rav.”

The little boy proceeded to ask his question and the Rav patiently answered.

After the question and answer period was concluded, the Rav gently said to the little boy,

“My precious son, thank you for coming to my house and sharing your question with me. However, perhaps Shabbos afternoon is not the best time to knock on someone’s door as especially today on a hot day; most people take a Shabbos nap and you would be disturbing them.”

The little boy looked up at the Rav and with a look of total amazement he said with the innocence which only a little boy can muster, “The Rav takes a nap on Shabbos!?”

 

Part Two- Two Endings

There are two versions as to the end of the story.

The ‘accepted and approved’ and “hagiographic appropriate” ending of the story is the following:

“After the Rav heard and internalized the heartfelt question of the little boy, (“The Rav takes a nap on Shabbos?”) He accepted himself never to sleep again on Shabbos afternoon.

Such is the power of the innocent question of a little boy.”

This ending is heartwarming and inspirational (and perhaps even true!) and can be a lesson for all of us.

However, there is a second version as to the ending of the story and this version is according to me.

 

Part Three- The Ending According to Me

 

Here is how the story would have ended if I was the rabbi in the story (no joke).

The little boy looked up at Rav Eisenman and with a look of total amazement he said to the Rav with the innocence which only a little boy can muster, “The Rav takes a nap on Shabbos?”

Rabbi Eisenman looks down at the boy and says, “My precious child, sorry to burst your little bubble, however, I do nap on Shabbos and with Hashem’s help I will continue to nap on Shabbos for many years to come.

I am also not embarrassed to tell you that your assessment of me and of most Rabbonim in general is incorrect as many Rabbonim nap on Shabbos afternoon.

However, since I am already awake allow me to share with you a life-lesson which I believe is imperative that you internalize.

Please know my precious child that rabbis are human beings as well as being Rabbonim and it is a good idea that you learn this sooner than later.

If I would allow you to continue to live in the delusional world that rabbis are all petrified perpetual paradigms of piety and perfected purity, I would be doing you a disservice.

Trust me my holy child, if there is one thing which all Jewish men and women agree upon with total and complete belief it is that they all are united in their opinion that there never has been a Jew who claims that in his entire life he was never once disappointed by ‘the rabbi’.

Everyone at some point in life is disappointed with someone who attached to his name is the title: rabbi.

It can be your fourth grade rebbe who gave you a 65 in Gemara; or your ninth grade rebbe who caught you smoking and told the principal; or it can be your Shul rabbi who did not return your call within what you considered to be reasonable time (a recent study of 1800 congregants revealed that anything after 16.4 seconds from the time the caller hangs up is already ‘beyond reasonable time’ and the congregant is justified in feeling ‘dissed’ by the rabbi.)

Perhaps your Shul rabbi wrote a Short Vort which you did not agree with?

There are many reasons; however, most certainly every Jew will at some time in their life feel disappointed or disillusioned by a person who goes by the title of rabbi.

Why is this true?

Why do all of us (including rabbis themselves) find themselves at some point in time disappointed by rabbis?

The obvious reason is that rabbis, as any other human being, sometimes act in ways which disappoint us; no different than our mother or father or husband or wife; everyone disappoints at sometime.

Why then do we feel it so deeply when the disappointment comes from the rabbi?

Perhaps the reason that the pain is so acute when it comes from the rabbi is because too many of us were taught as children to worship and iconize our rabbis.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some rabbis who are worthy of (almost) iconizing; however, they are few and more uncommon than people realize.

Those rabbis, who are indeed (almost) iconic, are self-evident and easily recognizable.

However, most rabbis should not be iconized, rather they should be respected for what they are: well meaning, hardworking human beings; however, they are not angels.

The rabbi should be respected not revered.

He should be admired without adoration.

He should be valued without being venerated.

He should be honored without needing to pay him homage.

And he should be esteemed, however, never exalted.

Too often we make the mistake of deifying the rabbi instead of just showing him deference.

We must be devoted to him without displaying toward him our total and absolute devotion.

He may be granted divine assistance; however, he is not infallible.

Those who have chosen the rabbinate or Jewish education as their profession certainly should attempt to maintain a higher standard of behavior especially in their dealings with other human beings.

However, this striving for a higher standard should never be a reason for you or me to assume that a rabbi is foible-free or that he is more perfect than the next guy.

The rabbi must have recognition that his choice of profession and the higher expectations of him which accompanies the turf are his responsibility to maintain.

If he is scholar and learned in Torah he deserves respect for that knowledge; however, any individual irrespective of their chosen field of employment who has achieved expertise in Torah learning is deserving of respect due to a scholar. Indeed, many of our greatest rabbis who are mentioned in the Talmud were never employed or served in the rabbinate.

Therefore, my impressionable little friend, please do not think that Rav Eisenman does not nap on Shabbos.

Treat me with respect as I will do to you; however, do not worship or iconize me.

Know that I am human and have foibles and weak-spots as all those born of flesh and blood have.

Please do not think that I never nap on shabbos afternoon, this will only lead to disappointment and possible disillusionment for you as you mature.

If you think of me as angelic then my only option is to eventually prove you wrong as indeed, I am far from the celestial world of the seraphim.

Know my child that I am human and need sleep as much as (if not more) than you and your parents.

Realize my precious child that I struggle with anger and jealousy as my neighbor does.

And never think for a minute that I don’t appreciate friendship and or a good story or a laugh as anyone else.

The lionizing and idolizing of rabbis has its drawbacks.

I must tell you this, because if you keep on growing and maturing while simultaneously being ingrained in the false belief that rabbis don’t nap ultimately you will be disillusioned with me.

If you would look at me as a person who attempts to do his best as being a good rabbi, while never ignoring my limitations then we can have a wonderful relationship.

However, if you begin our relationship by viewing me as being perched on the top of a pedestal of perpetual piety, then I am afraid our relationship will be short lived.

You see, I do not live on a pedestal.

I attempt to constantly remind myself that my profession represents the creator more than other professions; however, it does not mean I am higher than thou and please do not consider me as such.

So my precious child, if you ever have a true emergency please know that my door is open for you 24/7.

However, if you have a question which does not need an immediate answer and it is a time or place which may not be the most conducive or convenient of places or times, then please delay the question for a more appropriate time and place.

I know my son you have received a much longer answer than you expected; however, I feel this lesson is important for you to learn sooner than later.

You can respect me and love me; however, never iconize me.”

 

Epilogue

After Rabbi Eisenman concluded his soliloquy which lasted until Motzei Shabbos, he remembered he was talking to a little boy.

Rabbi Eisenman looked around; however, the boy was nowhere to be found.

Finally he looked at the couch in the living room and there was the little angel, sleeping soundly with his Chumash at his side.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

  

The Short Vort’ -"The Kaddish” (8/25/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 29th of Av 5774 and August 25, 104

 

The Kaddish

 

The Schwartz’s were an ‘old Passaic family’.

They were not meticulous in their observance; however, they were proud Jews.

 Of their three children; Julie, Sheila and Joseph, only Joseph retained some Jewish association. He spent a summer in Israel and decided to stay on in yeshiva.

He married, settled in Yerushalayim and works as a fund raiser for a yeshiva.

He never learnt Hebrew fluently so when he attends parent-teacher conferences, he nods and smiles and assumes his son is doing well.

One day is sister called; “Mom’s sick, you’d better come in.”

Joseph returned to Passaic.

On Shabbos, his mother took a turn for the worse and decisions had to be made.

Joseph said, “We need to consult a Rabbi”; the family came to my door.

Contrary to hagiographic reports of my life, I rest on Shabbos so my wife came to wake me.

I sleepily came downstairs, welcomed my guests and answered their questions.

Fast forward a week and I see Joseph; “How is your mother?”

He informs me, “Her condition has stabilized, and I will be returning home tomorrow.”

 “Rabbi, I want to really thank you for being so kind to me and for taking an interest in my mother. Especially I want to thank you for being so gracious when I woke you on Shabbos day; it was really appreciated by my entire family.”

I looked at him quizzically; after all I really did not do much for him during the two weeks he was here.

I wished him well and told him to call me if I can do anything for him.

He then said to me the following words which seared into my heart.

              “Rabbi, I am going to take you up on your offer. There is something you can do for me and perhaps it will help others as well.”

I was starting to regret my offer; however, it was too late and this is what Joseph Schwartz told me:

“A number of years ago, my father passed away, and I had to do that which I always dreaded doing, I was forced to daven ‘for the Amud’.

I hesitantly approached the Amud in my local Shul where I have been davening for years.

Surprisingly, no one approached or asked me why I was davening for the Amud.

 I wasn’t expecting an outpouring of emotions; however, I was hoping that at least one person would ask, ‘What happened?’

However, as is too often the case with large neighborhoods, people are overlooked and that was painful. And therefore, I just wanted to tell you, that I really appreciate your reaching out to me and inquiring about me.

Rabbi, you have many people here in your Shul who are just like me.

They are often unnoticed and then, suddenly they are forced to come out of the shadows and daven before the Amud.

 Rabbi, please realize, that when they finally approach the Amud- as difficult as that is for them-they are desperate for a warm smile and for emotional support.

It’s as if being forced to be the Shaliach Tzibbur is their way of calling out for support and emotional sustenance.

Please, make sure that what happened to me never happens to anyone else.

When someone is suddenly thrust into the spot light, do not ignore them.

That person needs friendship and companionship.

Please be the one who recognizes this need and provides it.

Tell everyone that when they answer “Hashem’s great name shall be blessed” (“Yehei Shemei Rabba Mevarech”) they should consider for a moment the Shaliach Tzibbur who is asking of them to “Glorify Hashem’s name” (Yisgadeil V’Yiskadeish Shemei Rabba”)”

Tell them that when they praise the name of Hashem, they should also remember for a moment the human being who is so desperate for their empathy and their connection.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

  

The Short Vort’ -"Yesterday” (8/20/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 25th of Av 5774 and August 21st, 2014

 

Yesterday

 

Yesterday I cried; a lot.

But I also smiled.

I was up by 4:15 AM and by 5 AM my hands were doing the only thing that helps when the anxiety level begins to go through the roof; I write.

I write to communicate and I write to purge the pain which envelops my brain like an octopus whose tentacles continually wrap themselves in concentric circles around the lobes of my cerebral cortex.

As they constrict the pain becomes unbearable and I write.

Writing is my escape route and simultaneously my entry point.

It is cathartic yet, at the same time immerses me deeper and deeper into those precise recesses of my mind I am desperate to escape from.

However, the immediate need for my personal catharsis overrides all other concerns and I write.

I write to be free although the words are concurrently the chains which bind and incarcerate me in the prison of my mind.

And yet I write.

I continued to write until the Vasikin Minyan, and I write after Vasikin until the Daf Yomi.

After the Daf I continue my feverish writing, not stopping for any food or drink.

It is almost 10 AM; the Short Vort: “In Memory of Corporal David Menachem Gordon Z”l” is completed.

I am drained and exhausted; however it is time to head to Borough Park; to attend the Levaya of Mrs. Silberstein.

The funeral ends close to noon; I am hungry, tired and sapped.

I call my son who knows every eatery in Borough Park and directs me to “Fallsburg Bagels” on 16th Avenue.

The restaurant is somewhat comical; indeed, it is exactly what I need for my emotional escape.

There are no tables, just a long counter-top which even in the best of times could have accommodated ‘maybe’ six people.  

However, at least two of the seats are piled high with extra Styrofoam cups and plates and last week’s uneaten bagels.

I am hungry and tired, and I order my bagel, wash, sit down and mind my own business as I pretend I am in Yerushalayim on vacation without a care in the world.

My surreal fantasy is suddenly interrupted by the piercing sound of a crying two year old.

Someone is pulling my frock and as I turn to face my two feet high attacker, I realize that the two women and four children who have just arrived for lunch could use some more counter space.

I offer to move over onto the two hot and huge pots of vegetable soup and allow the moms and their charges to have more space.

However, I soon realize that Ms. Mom from Boro Park speaks no English!

She acknowledges with a nod my benevolence and soon Ms. Mom and I are sitting close enough for her two year old to spit his cream cheese into my beard.

I wonder if her Rebbe would approve of this seating arrangement.

I can literally hear every word of her conversation with her friend.

Fortunately, the rapid fire Yiddish requires too much concentration that I care to give now and I go back to enjoying my bagel and dreams.

Suddenly, the proprietor himself emerges from behind the counter with an apron which has seen one bagel schmeared with cream cheese and lox too many and queries Ms. Mom.

“Do you want Splenda in your latte or sugar?”

Ms. Mom says Splenda.

“Do you want crushed ice or ice cubes in your latte?”

“I wanted a hot latte, not a cold one!” demands Ms. Mom in Yiddish.

Suddenly the small restaurant erupts in a debate so fierce and passionate, that Abaye and Raba would have been jealous.

One old man standing near the sink chimes in, “Why drink hot on a hot day? Drink a cold latte.”

Her friend says, “No, she ordered a hot coffee and she deserves a hot coffee.”

A small elderly woman seated at the end of the counter suddenly asks “Vos iz a latte?” (What is a latte anyway?).

Finally all the disputants go back to their bagels and the woman is getting a hot latte.

However, just when it seemed that peace had been achieved, the little Yiddle in the front of the store announces, “One large latte ready”

Ms. Mom looks up and miracles of miracles, she suddenly has learned English as she states, “large? I ordered medium!”

The word “medium” was actually uttered in English to the amazement of all us present.

The fellow pours the ‘large’ into a ‘medium’ cup and it looks like its back to our bagel.

However, before I can return to dream world, I feel a pull on my beard.

Little yingel, son of Ms. Mom has grabbed my beard with his cream cheese filled little hands.

He begins to run his little holy hands down my beard making sure every single follicle which has not yet turned white because of age, has now been whitened a wonderful shade of J & J Cholov Yisroel Cream Cheese.

As I attempt to untangle myself, Ms. Mom is totally turned away from me as she is chatting aimlessly to her friend on the opposite side of us.

Finally, little Tzaddikal releases his hold on my facial whiskers and as I attempt to retrieve a few napkins, I notice that my sleeve has immersed itself into the hot vegetable soup.

The old lady at the end of the counter demands of me to use seltzer to wipe the stain while the little Tzaddik looks to me that he is getting for round two.

I realize (a bit too late, but, hey, I never said I was quick) that it’s time to leave as all good things must end.

I bentch, thank the counter man, deposit my trash in the receptacle to the surprised looks of the onlookers and make my way back to my car.

With cream cheese in my beard and vegetable soup on my sleeve I feel invigorated and prepared to meet the challenges of a new day.

Thank Hashem for Boro Park; like no place on Earth.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

 

 

  

The Short Vort’ -In Memory of Corporal David Menachem Gordon Z”l (8/20/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 24th of Menachem Av 5774 and August 20, 2014

 

In Memory of Corporal David Menachem Gordon Z”l

I was planning to write about Dave Gordon for a few weeks’ already. However, there were details to be verified and the one person who knew them was on vacation for two weeks.

Then there were other communal emergencies which arose which distracted me even further.

However, his story was timeless and there was no rush.

Finally though, it was my ‘ultimate editor’ who finished the story.

Yesterday, the final paragraph in the story hit my doorstep with a crash.

At first I was stunned and in disbelief; could this be true?

The phone call arrived at 9 AM- Dave was missing; please daven for him.

Less than four hours later I was overcome with tears and grief.

Dave was no longer among the missing.

He was not a casualty of Hamas.

There was no freak or unexplained vehicular accident.

Dave was found in a hole with his weapon at his side.

After serving with honor through the horror of Gaza; Dave Gordon had succumbed to the demons of the mind.

Dave was somewhat of a celebrity among ‘Survivors’.

His chilling personal account of the pain afflicted upon him not by Hamas but at the hands of his fellow Jews was a trigger piece which took me months to finally fully read as I kept dissolving into a sea of tears when I attempted to read it (see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-m-gordon/secrets-dont-get-better-with-age-why-im-choosing-leadership-over-secrecy_b_3424110.html).

And because of this article and others there are those who have attributed his untimely departure from us as being a caused by this pain (see http://finkorswim.com/2014/08/19/dave-gordon-of-blessed-memory/ and: http://magenprotects.blogspot.co.il/2014/08/dave-gordon-zl.html).

Whatever the reason, both of his personal challenges, namely, being a victim of sexual molestation at the hands of fellow Jews and his battle with depression and fear are very close to home for me, and at present I cannot even ‘go there’.

His wounds are my wounds and his struggles are mine.

However, what I would like to mention is my own indirect yet, directly and deeply meaningful connection I had with Dave.

This is my small tribute to Dave; this is my small contribution to his memory.

Dave was a Corporal in the IDF and was stationed in Gaza.

He was part of the elite Givati Brigade and needless to say he saw horrors of war which are unimaginable.

A few weeks ago, Dave’s sister Nomi and her husband Aryeh Ho were eating at my home for Shabbos dinner.

In the course of the conversation Nomi mentioned how Dave informed his family how a letter had arrived in Gaza.

Many of these letters were addressed to no soldier in particular and were letters of support and encouragement sent to any and all of the soldiers whoever they happen to be.

As the ‘mail-call’ was going on, the ‘caller’ announced that there is a letter here in English; “Are there any soldiers here who know English?” he asked.

Dave arose, acknowledged his proficiency in English and took the letter.

He assumed it was an ‘anonymous’ letter from ‘someone’ and ‘somewhere’ with whom he had no connection or particular bond.

However, as he read on his eyes widened and his heart opened.

The letter was from Passaic!

He knew Passaic, his sister lived there.

And as he read on, more connections followed.

The writer (Mrs. Shaina Worthman) wrote:

“My heart and prayers are with you as you defend Israel and Jews everywhere.

As my Rabbi, Rabbi Eisenman in Passaic, NJ, pointed out.....

For many, many centuries until the modern state of Israel, Jews were regularly slaughtered in huge numbers at the whim of governments and anti-Semites. Men, women and children were brutally tortured and murdered. Now we have our blessed state and all of you brave soldiers who defend us all.

People all over the world are united in davening and saying tehillim for you, asking Hash-m to grant you success and vanquish our enemies.”

 

Dave knew me.

He had eaten in my home.

We danced together at his sister’s wedding and we held each other at the Chuppah.

When Dave saw my name, (as he related to his family) he felt connected; he felt a part of the community and he did not feel alone.

In his last message on his Facebook page, Dave wrote:

"Unbelievably overwhelmed, not from this mission but from the support and messages of encouragement from family, friends and strangers.

 I am OK and I’ve never felt more loved. Thank you all!"

Was Dave referring to me and Mrs. Worthman when he wrote that he felt overwhelmed from the support and messages of encouragement from family, friends and strangers? I hope so.

Was I a small contribution in his emotional state when he proclaimed, “I am OK and I’ve never felt more loved. Thank you all!”

I certainly want and need to think so.

I will never see Dave again.

I will never dance with him again.

We will never hug again.

Ultimately he wrote his own final and fitting epitaph.

On June 12, 2013 Dave wrote:

“One reason why victims of abuse are also called survivors is because so many don’t make it.

 So many are too ashamed to reach out and frequently fall into depression, violence, addiction and ultimately into death’s arms.”

Dave, I danced with you and I celebrated with you.

Later on I realized we were blood brothers in mutual suffering and in pain.

We were connected by the endless shame and constant pain which as you so correctly stated, “Simply studying the Bible and its commentaries did nothing to help me or the other victims in the community. I still feel betrayed by their (the Rabbinical leaders) lack of sympathy and action.”

And if I helped make you feel somewhat more loved in your last painful days on this Earth then I have some comfort.

Dave, I will miss you.

I loved you and I will miss you.

I will miss your courage and your courageousness.

Your insistence that silence breeds apathy and continues and encourages the cycle of pain and suffering was prophetically correct.

You suffered more than we realized; your pain was far greater than was known.

And ultimately you needed to escape from your pain in a way which leaves all of us knowing that we cannot exclaim, "Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done” (Devarim 21:7).

Your blood is on our hands, we cannot exclaim “Our eyes did not see this crime!”

We saw it Dave and we ignored it.

We cannot communally declare, “Our hands did not shed this blood”, for Jewish hands did spill your blood.

I love you Dave and will always remember your words, “We can be brave and stand up for what we know is right. Together our voices can be louder than ever. I know that I alone cannot change the world, but together we can make a difference.”

Dave, you could not change the world alone.

However, together we will make a difference.

Good bye Dave; I know you are finally pain free.

I know the demons of the night can no longer touch you.

I know you need no longer worry about escaping.

Rest my dear friend, rest.

Rest in the knowledge that your death is not in vain; as many of us will continue to fight the fight and battle the battle of ignorance and indifference.

Rest my friend; your mission in this world has been completed.

It is now up to us to continue.

I love you Dave.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"An Ode to His Majesty and His Holiness” (8/19/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday (I think- although the days and nights seems to blend together one into the other lately and I am no longer sure if it is Tuesday)

The 22nd of Menachem Av 5774 and August 19, 2014

 

An Ode to His Majesty and His Holiness

 

It is a long overdue.

Indeed, I am pained that it has taken me so long to finally pay homage and show my admiration to He who has captured the hearts of so many of my coreligionists.

And therefore, because of my tardiness in addressing this most important of subjects, I am embarrassed to finally do that which should have been done years ago.

However, as they say, ‘better late than never’; and therefore I am proud to present:

·       A Tribute to He Who has succeeded where all others have failed.

·       A homage to He who has successfully penetrated and infiltrated the lives and actions of all holy men and women.

·       A statement of reverence to He has accomplished a level of influence and obedience amongst out people not only with the tacit approval of the leading Rabbonim and lay leadership of even the most strict and insular of the Ultra-Orthodox world, but with their enthusiastic approval and participation.

·       His Majesty and His Sacredness has prospered and in many ways He has achieved His ultimate victory of our total subordination to His will.

 

Of course I am referring to He who goes by many names and He who causes grown men and women to shutter and act with alacrity and zeal just by the slightest indication of His request for our undivided attention.

He is the most holy and all powerful; the One and Only one who demands our immediate and total attention and who tolerates not even the slightest laziness in His service.

 His Majesty, His Holiness; He who retains a position both physically and emotionally by our hearts;

 He who demands of us the right and indeed obligates us to fulfill His every request irrespective of where we are or what we may be doing.

 He who is jealous and envious of any and all of those who compete for His total devotion, attention and demands of us His total financial backing.

Who is “He”?

He is, may His name be blessed forever and ever- His Holiness ….the “mobile phone” also known as “His Celestial Holiness The Cellular Phone”,  “Cell Phone”, “Hallowed Hand Phone”, or simply “The Phone”.

Indeed, He is our leader and He is our constant companion; he accompanies us even to the room where men pride themselves on their privacy.

Chassidic men carry “His Holiness” in their bosom next to their heart.

Litvishe Yidden place “His Hallowedness” next to their Tefillin in the morning.

And all of us never, ever, leave our abode, our office or Chas V’Shalom for even thinking such heresy, would never dare enter the car with “His Supremeness”.

There are those who consider the words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim (16:8) “I have placed the Lord before me constantly; because [He is] at my right hand, I will not falter;” to be prophetically indicative of “His Holiness the Phone”.

This is of course because so many of us can say without exaggeration and embellishment, “I place Him (the phone) before me constantly and He (the phone) is indeed my right hand!”

Who among us does not believe with complete belief, “because He is at my right hand (literally!) I will not falter”?

And therefore it is long overdue that I offer my feeble tribute and modest accolade to He who has succeeded where so many others failed.

The internet was battled and nothing short of war was waged to limit its influence.

The television was eradicated and eliminated from the homes of the holy ones.

However, nothing, indeed absolutely nothing has been able to limit or confine the influence of “His Holiness the Phone”.

Roshei Yeshiva proudly walk the streets with their prized possession in public view.

Pure and pristine Jewish mothers talk away on their prized and cherished ‘cells’ as they drive their eleven children in their three ton full-size Suburbans barreling down small two-way pedestrian lined city-streets at speeds which defy gravity.

And Jews of all types and stripes talk away and email away during Chazaras HaShas.

Lest one think that “His Holiness” has only had a detrimental effect on our community, think again.

Nothing has unified us as “His Holiness” the phone.

Chareidim and Secular, Dati and Anti-Dati, Litvishe and Chassidish, Black hat and no hat, knitted yarmulke and no yarmulke have all dropped their ideological differences to unite in their tribute, their loyalty and most importantly in their total and complete subordination and subjugation of their philosophical difference in honor of “His Holiness the Phone”.

White hats, black hats and no hats, we all join together in serving and paying sincere and heartfelt lip service to His Holiness the phone.

May his reign continue uninterrupted for many, many years to come and may the coming of our ultimate redeemer unite us totally in our commitment and in our loyalty to His ‘cell service’.

When Mashiach proudly arrives, he will undoubtedly be riding on a donkey and chatting on his iPhone as he call, texts, WhatsApp, and tweets us to announce His arrival.

May it be His will that my phone be operable to in Wi-Fi range as we await together His coming.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ The Great Equalizer * (8/13/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 17th of Av 5774 and August 12, 2014

 

The Great Equalizer

 

Yesterday I had the privilege of accompanying someone to Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is the world’s largest and oldest dedicated cancer hospital. As of 2014, U.S. News & World Report ranks MSK as the #1 cancer hospital in the country. Wikipedia)

The hospital is world renowned and people from all over the globe travel to it for treatment.

When one arrives at the facility one sees and hears people from all over speaking in all of the “70 languages”.

There were languages heard which I never knew existed. Even Mordechai who knew all of the seventy languages would have been challenged at Sloan Kettering.

Each person is a “peckel (package) of problems” unto themselves.

Divisions between Palestinians and Israelis melt away as they wait together on the same bench to see the cancer expert who hopefully will offer up the cure to their debilitating condition.

Shiites and Sunnis, Satmars and Sefardim, Protestants and Pagans, Catholics and Confucianists, sinners and saints and atheists and Zoroastrianists sit together while sharing their problems and crying together in ways they would never have imagined if not for their infirmities.

At first glance it seems their maladies have caused them to be more malleable and their tragedies have motivated them to be tolerant and compassionate of others who just the other day were infidels worthy of being eradicated.

No one can claim as they sit in the waiting room of Sloan Kettering that this group or those individuals are being divinely smitten for their iniquities for alas, they themselves have been assailed by the very same illness!

And therefore they sit together, hoping, praying and sharing the common dream that they should be among those who emerge from the confines of the Cancer Center as survivors rather than statistics; counted among those who succumbed to the dreaded disease.

However, lest one think that this panacea of paradise is indeed as pristine and genuine as it appears, I am sorry- however, I must burst your bubble of perceived utopia.

The exterior illusion of togetherness is in truth a delusion; for in fact it is precisely the illness which is the catalyst for this temporary lull in the conflict.

When one is sick and infirmed, one has no time to devote to the doctrinal divisions which divide men. The cancer patients are all consumed with themselves and their health concerns which preclude them from investing depleted energies in theological disputes or national disagreements; all of their focus and their time must be devoted to their health and nothing else.

However, if and when they are successfully treated and recover from their malady, more often than not they will forget the conceptual cease fire which was observed while waiting to see the doctor at Sloan-Kettering and they will quickly resume their religious ravaging of their perceived adversary.

 Often their enmity has increased with even greater zeal and fanaticism as they are convinced that their second chance has been divinely granted them to continue the theological/national battle against their perceived disputant.

How unfortunate it is that we too as Jews often fail to learn the valuable lesson of the “Great Equalizer” from Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

While I was there it was quite obvious that the feelings togetherness, tribalism and affinity for each other were ever present.

Indeed, the organizations which were provide support and succor for the infirmed and their families never distinguish between hat color or wig preference.

However, unfortunately, the larger question to be asked is, ‘are we indeed better than the Sikhs and Shintos who sit together as non-combatants as they await their turn to see the doctor yet, are quick to resume their disputes once the crisis has passed?’

We are all quick to support each other and ignore factional differences when we are confined to the Cancer Center; however, ‘are up to the task of maintaining the same feelings of togetherness and unity when we stand healthy and well, ready and willing to expend our energy to ‘fix the world’?’

Are we as tolerant and compassionate to each other as we were in the waiting room at Sloan?

Or do we fall back to our old bad habits once we are free to devote time and energy to our own specific traditions?

What happened to respect and tolerance at that point?

The real test is not to act “Jewish” and familial at Sloan Kettering, the real test is when you shop on 13th Avenue or when you are on the line to check your luggage for your El Al flight.

Do you still maintain your familial love?

That my friend is the real question.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -Rabbi Yosef Raksin Hy”D. (8/12/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 16th of Av 5774 and August 12, 2014

 

Rabbi Yosef Raksin Hy”D.

 

“On Saturday, Aug. 9 2014 at 9:00 in the morning, Rabbi Yosef Raksin, who had come down from Brooklyn, New York to meet with family, was on his way to temple to observe the Sabbath. While en route to temple, he was heinously gunned down,” quote from Criminal Investigations Division Chief Alfredo Ramirez of the Miami-Dade Police Department.

All of us have heard and mourned for Rabbi Raksin Z”l who was on his way to Shul on Shabbos morning, Shabbos Nachamu 5774 when he was killed in cold blood by two men who accosted him.

And we no doubt have heard and perhaps even speculated ourselves whether this crime was a botched robbery or a heinous hate crime and Rabbi Raksin was targeted for being a Jew.

I will not weigh in on this question as obviously my emotions have no relevance as to the facts of the case.

And until the perpetrators are apprehended and admit why they committed the murder, speculation serves no positive at all.

To those Orthodox Jews who seem to enjoy embracing the martyr mentality and insist without any forensic or circumstantial evidence that this was much more than a botched robbery and state with certainly that this was a ‘hate-crime’, I question their credibility.

Why the need to almost gleefully embrace the “everyone hates us” attitude before proven? What is to be gained by spreading unneeded and potentially dangerous anxiety and fear among Jewish communities across the country and even worldwide?

For all we know, the perpetrators may have seen a man adorned in holiday clothes, assumed he had a bulging wallet to match his nice wardrobe, were disappointed when he claimed he had not a penny on him and killed him in frustration. It is highly possible that the assailants never even realized their victim was Jewish.

Crowning Rabbi Raksin the title of a ‘Kadosh’, a Jew who dies because he was a Jew- when the facts fail to corroborate the claim is not doing Rabbi Raksin or anyone a service.

On the other hand, we certainly cannot be blind to the upsetting reality that anti-Semitism is on the rise world-over and perhaps indeed the murder was racially and religiously motivated and it should serve as a wake-up call for all Jewish communities as to the dangers which lurk in our midst.

However, whatever the real reason, one thing is clear; it is too early to jump to conclusions which will not necessarily help us.

To embrace martyrdom and cause people to live with perpetual fear as they walk to Shul on Shabbos morning is certainly not beneficial to anyone.

Similarly, to poo-poo the event as being happenstance and totally unrelated to the Jewish community can be Just as reckless and dangerous.

The facts are still not known; so the best course of action until the facts can be revealed is to adopt a “wait and see” approach. Be on guard, however, don’t be panicked and convinced that anti-Semites lurk behind every corner.

Let’s hope the murderers are apprehended soon and we can then decide as to what- if any new measures - should be implanted.

Until that time, we should be cautious without being panicked; vigilant without resorting to vigilantism.

However, one lesson which I believe we can implement immediately, even before the criminal report is completed is the following.

Rabbi Raksin -as I do every Shabbos morning and as thousands of us do every Shabbos- was walking to Shul without a care in the world before he was killed.

What was he thinking about as he walked to Shul that morning?

How did he say “Good Shabbos” to his wife and family as he left the house that morning?

Did he even say “Good Shabbos” to them?

Did he speak to his mother before Shabbos or did he assume he will catch up with her on Motzei Shabbos?

Did he ‘forget’ to say to the rabbi of the Shul on Friday evening how much he enjoyed the Dvar Torah that evening and figured he would just tell him in Shul on Shabbos morning?

Did he figure he would apologize today to the fellow whose seat he took on the night before?

And did he tell his children and grandchildren how much he loved them before he left for Shul?

What would he have done differently if he was told that this might be his last walk of his life?

What parting words would he have wanted to convey that morning?

Did he chide his children for being tardy?

What tone of voice did he employ?

So many questions and very few answers; however, one thing we can learn from Rabbi Raksin and implement it immediately.

Make the most of every second, after all, “If Not Now? Then When?”

 

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

The Short Vort- “ “I’ll Let You Go Now”* (8/11/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 15th of Av 5774 and August 11, 2014

 

“I’ll Let You Go Now”

 

The other day I met a guy on the street in front of the Shul.

I wasn’t really in the schmoozing mood; however, he insisted on telling me this long winded, complicated and somewhat convoluted story about how he and his mother in law don’t get along and how he wished they would, however…..

The story went on and on; seemingly without any ending or even a beginning for that matter.

Finally, after what seemed to me to be at least one hour, he said, “So Rabbi, how are you doing?”

I was happy he finally asked about me instead of just jabbering about himself.

However, faster than I could say “Baruch Hashem” he cut me off in mid ‘Baruch’ and said, “Look  rabbi, I know you are busy and I’m sure you have a million things to do so “I will let you go now”.

I looked at him and wanted to say:

 “Are you for real?

 You spend an hour “hocking my chinak” about your mother-in-law and your brother-in-law and your sister-in-law and you included everyone’s birthday and Yahrtzeit in your saga and I say one work and suddenly you are ‘letting me go’?

Look, why can’t you tell the truth?

You are not interested in what I have to say, and now that you said your piece you are ready to go.

 So please don’t pander to me by making believe you are ending the conversation for my benefit. You have no interest in hearing my ‘stuff’ and that’s the truth.

 Don’t make yourself a Tzaddik by claiming you are doing me a favor by ‘letting me go’ now!”

However, the question is why do we all do that?

If we want to end a conversation, why can’t we say, “Excuse me, however, I did not realize the time and I have to be somewhere now?”

Why do we too often insist on creating the false impression that we are really interested in continuing the conversation; it’s just that we are doing the other person a favor by ‘letting them go’?

I’ll tell you why!

Because we are truthfully not at peace with ourselves for ending the conversation when we feel the other person has what to say.

So to cover up for our own rudeness, we create the illusion that we doing the other person a favor by concluding the conversation while in truth it is we who are ending it.

The next time someone tells me “I’ll bet you have to go now- so I’ll let you go”- I am going to answer, “No not at all. In fact I have all the time in the world. Let’s sit down and have a drink of water for I am in no rush at all and I have a lot to fill you in about”.

How will the person react then?

I have a hunch it will not be the most pleasant of responses.

Bottom line: if you want to end the conversation, say so; but don’t pin the blame on your listener.

You never know, he may be a reader of the Short Vort and you will have a long wait until your conversation is concluded.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ You Never Know * (8/7/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 11th of Av 5774 and August 7, 2014

 

You Never Know

 

It was the Sunday before the start of “The Three Weeks”.

I have two weddings, one in New Jersey and one in Brooklyn.

The Chuppahs are an hour apart.

 Although the two locations are only 32 miles apart, predicting New York traffic can be like predicting when the rabbi’s Drosha will end on Shabbos morning; more often than not, it goes on and on, however, on rare miraculous occasions it goes quick and to the point.

I arrive at the first wedding and fortunately I am able to speak to both the Chassan and the Kallah privately before I rush out to make Chasunah number two.

I arrive in Brooklyn with even time to have a drink of water before filling out the Kesubah.

I attempt to explain to the Chassan the seriousness of the obligations he is accepting upon himself; unfortunately, the significance of the moment can often be compromised by the photographer who wields more influence than anyone else at the Chasunah.

Woe to that unfortunate individual who takes his life in his hands as he dares pass between the camera and its intended target.

Finally the Kesubah is completed and we are off to the Chupah.

I have a few minutes to gather my thoughts in my attempt to communicate something meaningful and personal to the Chassan and Kallah under the Chupah.

As is usually the case I know one side better than the other.

I would like to have something ‘real’ to say about the Chassan but alas I only met him once.

My eyes are tightly closed as I am deep in concentration.

 Suddenly I hear a voice, “Can I move in please?”

I look up and I see standing by my seat a well-dressed man asking me if he can sit down.

I wonder to myself, “Why does this man need to sit next to me? There are so many empty seats in the row behind me? Does he have to push in here?”

Of course I keep my thoughts to myself and stand up and allow him to sit down.

He sits down and I go back to my thoughts when suddenly the man asks me, “Are you here from the Choson’s side or the Kallah’s side?”

“Oy”, I think, “not only does this guy have to sit next to me with fifty empty seats - now he has to chit-chat with me about whose side I am from?”

I don’t bother telling him that I am Mesader Kiddushin and instead I just mumble, “Well, sort of both.” He then says, “Me too, I am also here for both.”

He then takes a deep breath and says, “I was in the hospital for four months, and every single Shabbos, no matter what the weather; even in the snow and ice, the Chassan and the Kallah visited me in the hospital. They would stay every Shabbos until after Havdalah and you know what? They really made me happy. Do you know what it is to spend 17 Shabboses alone in a hospital?”

I look at this man and suddenly realize just what amazingly hashgacha protis it is that he decided to sit next to me!

As I hear my name being called as Mesader Kiddushin, I quickly get permission from my new found friend and I confidentially approach the Chupah fortified with exactly the ‘right’ words to convey to the Chosson and the Kallah.

When I sheepishly return to my seat, I once again marvel at how He who orchestrates all, is constantly reminding me that as much as I think I do for others, and as much as I imagine that others need me, it is they who in reality are doing more for me and it is I who really needs them.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

  

The Short Vort- “ Ahuva’s Blanket * (8/3/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 7th of Av 5774 and August 3, 2014

 

Ahuva’s Blanket

 

There are many ways to communicate with each other in the modern world.

Much attention has been given lately to what’s referred to as “social media”.

 This new method of communication has been criticized by some, while being embraced and touted by others.

I will not add my two cents to the debate and instead comment on another method of communication which has become accepted by virtually everyone as a necessary form of communication, namely the telephone.

The telephone which was first patented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell derives its name from two Greek words; ‘tele’which means distant and ‘phone’ which means voice.

Therefore the word telephone actually means ‘the distant voice’ as it facilitates our communication with another person who is distant from where we are standing.

There was a time I can still recall when the telephone rang everything and everyone in the house came to a standstill. The ‘holy phone’ was ringing and woe to the person who dared not jump to respond when the bell began to ring.

However, as I aged and my time became less and less up to my discretion as to how it should be utilized, the phone lost its luster and its desirability and became more of a nuisance than a necessity and burden as opposed to a bonanza.

Indeed, I began to despise its sound and it interrupting ability; as it seemingly always rang at precisely the wrong time.

However, alas, such is the life of the rabbi and I recall that which has been stated by rabbis greater than I: “There is no greater fury than that of a congregant who feels scorned”; and therefore the phone must be answered and the phone must be given its proper attention.

However, who could have imagined that it would be my two year granddaughter Ahuva who would teach me the real meaning of the phone.

My son Tuvia called me to inform me that Ahuva had lost her ‘blankie’.

I innocently asked, “What is a blankie?”

My son patiently explained to me that my granddaughter has a brown and pink blanket since she was born and she has never gone to sleep without it.

When they were out one day in Yerushalayim the blanket suddenly went missing.

At first I thought to myself, “What’s the big fuss over a silly blanket? So get another one and get on with your life”. However, when I heard that my son was up with her until three in the morning consoling her, I began to regret my initial reaction.

And then came the phone call; my granddaughter called and with the verbiage which only a two year could muster she said, “Zaidy, I am so sad. I lost my blankie; I am so sad.”

At that moment I realized that what does it matter if the blanket is replaceable?

In her outlook and with her mindset the loss of the blanket was painful and what she needed from her Zaidy was not rationality or perspective, what she needed was warmth and compassion.

She needed her Zaidy to commiserate with her.

She wasn’t asking for my advice, she was seeking my compassion.

As if in an epiphany, I suddenly realized the importance of the ‘distant voice’ of the telephone.

The telephone facilitated connection and potential empathy between two distant parties.

It allowed my granddaughter and me to connect and for her to feel consoled by her old Zaidy even though I was 6000 miles away.

The phone is not a vehicle for interruption and disturbance; it can facilitate closeness and a sense of compassion from one far away person to another.

That night the phone rang at home and as usual I answered it.

When my wife saw that I was tired after a long day and now I had an additional long phone call, she asked me, “Was that phone call so important that you had to take it now? Could it not have waited till tomorrow?”

After speaking to Ahuva about her ‘blankie’ I answered, “It depends who you ask. If you ask me, “Was it important to me?” The answer is “Not really”.

However, if you ask the caller they would say, “Wow that phone call to the rabbi was very urgent!”

 To the caller, that phone call gave them the solace they needed.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Inverted Compassion* (7/31/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 5th of Av 5774 and August 1st 2014

 

Inverted Compassion

 

I received a phone call today.

 The caller asked me if they should travel to Israel during this time of conflict and warfare.

 I was somewhat unsure as to what the question is; after all, there were probably more people killed in traffic accidents in New York City in the last month than civilians who were killed directly from the rockets from Gaza.

Obviously if one does not want to go, they don’t have to; however, I was unsure as to what was really behind the question.

The caller then clarified the reason for the call.

They had spoken to their local Rav (which of course is what one should always do) and asked advice on the matter.

Somewhat surprisingly their Rav said that they should not go as although: “Maran HaGaon HaRav Aaron Yehuda Leib Shteinman Shlita has not come out saying ‘bein hazemanim’ should be canceled, the Gadol HaDor is quoted saying that tiyulim (trips)  or hanging around on streets is a Chillul Hashem. When asked about bein hazemanim the Rav did not state definitively but it is quite clear from his words this is not a time for taking trips or interrupting one’s limud. He spoke of the aveira of bittul Torah and the need for continued limud at this time.”

http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/251076/maran-r-shteinman-bochrim-taking-tiyulim-is-a-chilul-hashem.html#sthash.SDnBwwrE.dpuf

Based on the above statement, their Rav said, if they would go on vacation in Eretz Yisroel they would be in violation of Rav Shteinman’s ‘Daas Torah’ as he clearly stated: “this is not a time for taking trips”;  and therefore they should not go.

In my humble opinion one of the following three things occurred.

1.       Either the caller misunderstood their Rav (seemingly unlikely)

2.       Either the Rav misunderstood Rav Shteinman’s words (perhaps)

3.       The Rav misunderstood ‘who’ was asking and ‘what’ they were asking. (most likely)

 

Rav Shteinman clearly was speaking specifically to Yeshiva Bochurim and Kollel men.

 Meaning, as Rav Shteinman stated “that tiyulim (trips)  or hanging around on streets is a Chillul Hashem”!

What he clearly meant was that if you are of military age and you contend that your Torah is as important for the security of the nation as the fighting of the soldiers, well then how can you stop learning when the soldiers are still fighting???

Obviously as the battle continues to rage and soldiers are going with minimal sleep and putting their lives on the line every minute of their day; it follows that those who contend that they are ‘also in battle’ must adopt a battle stance and cancel their vacation plans and stay put at their Shtender.

Especially at this time when every other young man cannot go on a trip or to a park, so too the yeshiva man should also cancel his trips and his vacation plans.

This is obviously what the Gadol HaDor meant.

However, for you the average American, of course and for sure you should go to Israel.

And you should go touring and lots of it!

Is it better that you sit in your palatial summer home in the Catskills with the air conditioning at full blast and with a refrigerator filled with goodies and cookies and cakes?

Is it better to sit in America spending your hard earned dollars here when you could be helping the Israeli tourist industry which has been crippled by the fighting?

If you have the time and the money, go to Israel.

Support the economy and the restaurants.

Go to a hospital to visit wounded soldiers.

Go to a shiva home and console the family of a soldier who will never be coming home.

Now more than ever our brethren in Israel must feel that we are with them!

Rav Shteinman was not talking to your American family who anyway will be on vacation; he was talking to the bochurim and Kollel men who must feel sensitive to their peer group who are in Gaza.

However, for us, if you can do it, do not hesitate; go for it!

You will never regret it.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ “I am with him in distress” (Tehillim 91:15)* (7/31/14)

 


The Short Vort


 


Good Morning!


 

 


Today is Thursday the 4th of Av 5774 and July 31, 2014


 

 


“I am with him in distress” (Tehillim 91:15)


 

Every day the New York Times chooses one quote from among the thousands of quotes which appear daily in their newspaper and designate it as “The Quotation of the Day”.

Ostensibly, this quote is a poignant and meaningful quote which succeeds in conveying a feeling or message which is critical for all to know and captures accurately a universal truism.

On Tuesday, the “Quotation of the Day” was from a Jew living in Israel near the Gaza border.

 


“It’s not a pleasant thought that you sit one day on the patio drinking coffee with your wife and a bunch of terrorists will rise from the ground.”


EYAL BRANDEIS, a political scientist who lives on Kibbutz Sufa in Israel, a mile from where 13 militants emerged from a tunnel at dawn July 17.

 

Why is this quote so critical that I wholeheartedly applaud the Times as choosing as the “Quotation of the Day”?

The answer is because this quote conveys the feeling that all of us should be feeling as best we can during these days of pain and conflict in Israel.

The quote by Eyal Brandeis conveys succinctly and accurately the feelings of ‘fear of the unknown’ which the underground tunnels have caused the Jews in the vicinity of Gaza to live with.

Imagine you are at home and without warning and without any indication of anything awry, the ground in front of you suddenly opens up and out of the bowels of the Earth emerge human forms who are acting more in sync with predatory carnivorous animals than human beings.

They emerge knowing and almost longing to die for their evil and wicked and religiously motivated cause. Their entire goal is to kill, maim, kidnap and wreak havoc and destruction on the lives of innocent men, women and children all in the name of their corrupted version of a ‘compassionate god”.

There are no warning shots and there is no leaflet informing you of the impending danger.

Indeed, the element of surprise on the innocent non-combative civilian population is crucial for their success.

The New York Times has correctly and accurately conveyed through this quote the real danger which our brethren in Israel face daily.

However, it’s not enough to just applaud the New York Times for getting it right (for once); you have to realize that this quote is a message for you and for me.

The passuk says that Hashem is with us in all of our pain and ‘tzaros’.

As the passuk says in Tehillim: “I am with him in distress” (Tehillim 91:15); the word ‘him’ refers to the Jewish people as a whole.

Hashem is in pain when we are in pain; Hashem is hurting when we are hurting.

We are commanded to be G-dly: Imitatio Dei – ‘imitate Hashem’.

As the Gemara says: "As He is merciful, so should you be merciful"; so too as He feels the pain of His people when they are threatened, we too must and should feel the pain of ‘our’ people.

Imagine for a moment that you are Eyal Brandeis and as you are drinking your morning cup of coffee you are filled with the dread and the trepidation that some vicious and compassionless religious, ‘god-motivated’ murderer is emerging from the ground with the singular purpose of killing you and your children, indeed,  the more the better.

How would you feel?

How would you cope?

I am not saying we will (Thank Hashem) ever truly be able to feel what they feel; however, at the very least, make an effort to feel their pain and their feeling of dread.

If “I am with him in distress”-is a G-dly concept, then certainly it must be a Jewish human concept that we must adopt.

Feel their pain when you drink your coffee today.

Maybe stop a minute between sips and be thankful for the soldiers who are giving their lives that you and I can be safe and to the true Commander in Chief who has allowed us to have soldiers to protect us.

 

 


“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel


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

 

  

The Short Vort- “To Live and to Die* (7/29/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 2nd of Av 5774 and July 29, 2014

 

To Live and to Die

 

Last night I had the privilege of attending an event at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan sponsored by Project Witness (http://projectwitness.org/events/destruction-hungarian-jewry-2).

The event which commemorated the 70th anniversary of the destruction of Hungarian Jewry was very moving and meaningful.

A film was premiered which sadly documented the steps which led to the destruction of Hungarian Jewry and focused on the lives of those too few survivors who rebuilt their lives after the war.

Chief Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau Shlita was the keynote speaker and as holocaust survivor and a former inmate at the infamous Buchenwald Concentration Camp he was certainly amply qualified both as a Rav and as a survivor to speak about the horrors of the Holocaust.

He recalled how almost three decades ago when The March of the Living* was established (*the program was established in 1988 and takes place annually for two weeks around April and May, immediately following Passover. Marchers come from countries as diverse as Estonia, New Zealand, Panama, and Turkey. On Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah), thousands of participants march silently from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp complex built during World War II. Wikipedia) the question was raised as to what flag(s) the marchers should carry.

Most of the steering committee felt the most obvious answer was that each delegation should fly their particular country’s flag.

The Americans would carry the “Stars and Stripes”, the Brits would carry the “Union Jack” and the German delegation would fly the flag of Germany; a tricolor flag displaying the national colors of Germany: black, red, and gold. The flag was first adopted as the national flag of modern Germany in 1919, during the Weimar Republic.

However, Rav Lau, who was part of the committee rose and stated emphatically and compellingly, “No! The marchers will not fly the flags of their respective countries. They are representing the martyrs of the Holocaust and those holy people were not killed because they were Austrians, Poles or Germans; they were killed only because they were Jews! And therefore we who represent their surviving relatives will carry with pride the only flag in the world which represents the Jew and only the Jew; and that flag is the flag of the Medinat Yisrael- the State of Israel! Everyone will carry one and only one flag and that is the one emblazoned with the Star of David – the Magen David; The Israeli Flag!”

Rav Lau had seen the horrors of the holocaust on the flesh of his parents and siblings. He saw the apathy of the world and therefore, he and all of his children and all of his grandchildren live in only one country and that is the Jewish State of Israel.

I thought about his comments this morning as once again when I awoke I was saddened to learn that more of our precious and holy soldiers were killed in the latest conflict.

Have you ever seen a funeral of an Israeli soldier?

The coffin is draped in an Israeli flag.

Before I heard Rabbi Lau last night, I used to think, “Just like the American army drapes its coffins of its soldiers in the American flag, Israel does the same.”

However, after hearing his speech I realized it is not the same at all.

When an Israeli soldier makes the ultimate sacrifice, he is not just giving his life for his ‘home country’; no, he is sacrificing his life for ALL Jews ALL over the world.

His Jewish flag draped coffin is representative of all Jews, all over the world.

He died not just defending the county of his citizenship; he died defending world Jewry from all of its enemies.

As Rav Lau pointed out last night: “We are not pursued and hated and killed because we are Americans or Poles or even because we are Israelis; we are hated and killed and pursued because we are Jews”.

Therefore, when you see an Israeli Flag draped coffin realize and know that that flag is representative of every Jew in the world, including you and I.

It makes no difference if you are a Zionist or an Agudist, a Satmarer or a Dati Leumi; a Chareidi or a Chiloni; the flag which bears the Magen David is the flag which represents the Jewish people.

As Rav Lau concluded his remarks he bemoaned the fact that in the holocaust the Jews were forced to learn the same painful lesson which has been taught to us too often in our long and painful history. That lesson is, “we are very adept at knowing how to die together. When Chassid, secular, religious or non-religious Jews are faced with death, they go together without dispute or fractionalization to their final journey”.

And then Rav Lau took a long breath and said the words which sent shockwaves through the hearts of every Jew in the room:

“If only we were able to learn to live together as well as we have learnt to die together imagine just how much better this world would be.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ The Peaceful Man* (7/28/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 1st of Av 5774 and July 28, 2014

 

The Peaceful Man

 

Today is the Yahrtzeit of Aharon HaKohen, his is the only Yahrtzeit mentioned explicitly in the Torah; indeed, we mentioned it in this past week’s laining of Parshas Maasei.

Aharon HaKohen is described as an “Oheiv Shalom V’Rodef Shalom”- he loved peace and pursed peace.

What does it mean to ‘love peace and pursue” peace?

We all claim to be peaceful people, however, how many of us, really ‘love peace-and pursue peace’?

Meaning, when you argue with your spouse, do you do your best to get in the ‘last word’?

If you do, then you are not being a ‘pursuer of peace’.

A great person once told me a good tip to help with Shalom Bayis (household peace) is to always allow your spouse to get in the ‘last word’.

How often does that ‘last word’ which is said with rage and pain and with intention to hurt cause an escalation of the fight which could have been avoided?

Once I wrote a Short Vort which some felt was correct and others did not.

After I wrote it I received a call from one of the local Jewish radio stations do come on the show and ‘discuss’ (read: stir the pot) it further.

I thought about it a little and then I thought of Aharon HaKohen. I concluded that what I said was said and that the matter was now finished and I declined the invitation.

I have thought about Aharon Ha Kohen often in my life and although I do not come to his ‘shoestrings’ in success of being a pursuer of peace, nevertheless, I try.

Besides the fact that his name and mine are similar; we also share a common birthday.

Because besides being the Yahrtziet of Aharon it is also his birthday as it is mine.

Today I am going to try to be a little bit more peaceful and engage in the trait of Shalom just a little more.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ How Long Do I Have to Wait?* (7/25/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 27th of Tammuz 5774 and July 25, 2014

 

How Long Do I Have to Wait?

 

One of the best parts of being a Shul Rabbi (after writing the Short Vort that is) - is the chance to meet with the little people of the kehilla.

When children approach me for help with their Mishnayos homework or to learn a difficult piece of Gemara, there is no joy greater than that.

Moishele Schreiber (name changed) was a very bright boy at just 7 years old. He was always in Shul looking intently into the siddur. I never noticed his father and soon realized that Sarah Schreiber was a single mom.

One day Mrs. Schreiber approached me and asked if I could meet with Moishele once a week to learn and ‘schmooze’ with him.

She said she told Moishele that he can ask the rabbi any question and then she added, “I told Moishele that the rabbis knows ‘all’ the answers.”

I was a little uneasy about my being the ‘answer man’, however, I readily agreed to learn with him and we began to review Sefer Bereishis.

It was on the second week that I first noticed something different about Moishele.

 There was a slight sadness which seemed to always envelop Moishele even when everything seemed to be going fine.

One week I decided to reward him and ask him if he would he like to go with me to the Pizza store.

When we arrived and I told him he could order whatever he wanted. 

“I really want French Fries, however, usually my Mom doesn’t let.”

I said to Moishele, “Let me try a little rabbinic pressure.” And after calling Mrs. Schreiber and getting the okay, we sat together laughing and giggling as we took turns dipping our French Fries into the mound of ketchup we created out of the small ketchup packets.

However, even as we laughed there was still that ever present sadness which Moishele never seemed to be able to shake.

I had once asked Mrs. Schreiber about it, and she said, “Well you know his father just disappeared on him one day. When Moishele was three he took Moishele aside for about three minutes, kissed him good bye and left his life forever. He lives on the West Coast and we have had no contact with him for almost four years now.”

I asked her if Moishele ever mentions his father. “Oh he used to for about a year or so. However, eventually, anytime he mentioned him I would change the subject and I guess by now he forgot about his father.”

I thought about that conversation as I sat with Moishele in the Pizza store.

“Moishele”, I said, “Today you can ask me anything you want, whatever it is.”

“Really- I can ask you any question I want? My mother told me I could ask the rabbi any question and you would always have the right answer?”

Slowly Moishele looked up at me and with his wide and sad blue eyes asked, “My Abba said to me on the day he left that he would be gone for just one month and then he would be right back.

 I told him I would be very sad without him. My father said to me, “Moishele, I promise you, it will only be one month and then you no longer have to be sad as I will be back in your life.”

 Rabbi, now I want to ask you something which I have always been afraid to ask my mother.”

“What is that Mosihele?”

“When is one month going to be over? If feels so long and I really miss my father; when will one month be over?”

I looked at Moishele as tears rolled down my cheeks.

“Moishele”, I stammered, “there are some questions that even the rabbi has no answers for.”

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “Special Edition-*The Battle of the Bulge (7/24/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Special Edition

Friday 27th of Tammuz 5774 and July 25th, 2014

 

The Battle of the Bulge

 

Dear Shorty Vorty,

I feel I can confide in you because you have known me for so long.

 We have been communicating via email for over ten years now and we have developed a close enough relationship that I feel I can open up and confide in you.

Thank you for allowing to express my most confidential and sensitive feelings with you.

Believe me; this is hard for me so I appreciate your patience and your understanding.

As we both know for the last 45 years or so I have been fighting ‘the battle of the bulge’.

If we add up all of my losses over the years it probably comes to hundreds of pounds.

 Unfortunately when compared with the gains-too often the gains outweigh the losses.

Over the last few years I had made great strides in the battle.

Indeed, I had succeeded in losing over 100 pounds.

However, to my chagrin and my huge embarrassment, the last six months have seen a reversal of my fortunes as the bulge has re-grown and made significant gains.

The reasons for the gains are not germane to this letter.

However, the reality is that I know it and you know it and I know that you know it: I am no longer ‘Mr. Skinny’.

It bothers me and causes me much pain and humiliation.

However, it is the truth and it is something I have to live with and struggle with for now.

However, can I ask of you just one favor?

When you see me can you please not tell me, “What happened to you? How did you gain so much weight?”

Do you really think I don’t know?

Do you think my wife is so in awe of me that she has not made me aware of the fact?

Reminding me that “You were so good for so long; why did you blow it?” does not give me the warm and fuzzies.

I know I have gained weight and therefore when you see me and you say, “Hey, looks like you have gained weight”, please forgive me if I do not respond by saying, “Oh really? I had no idea! I am so happy you told me. Do you know that without you I never would have known and I just would have eventually exploded; so thank you so much for telling me.”

Yes, it is a fact, and it pains me more than it pains you and I know it is not good and it is not healthy and that I was good for so long and, and, and…..

However, you reminding me about it is rubbing salt into my already wounded body.

Yes, I have a problem.

 I have had this struggle for over four decades and probably (G-d willing?) will have it for another four decades.

I struggle with it every day of my life and every minute of every day.

However, if I could ask of you just one small favor; please, please do not pain me with lines such as, “Wow- someone is eating well lately” (which is not even true); or, “I guess you need some new clothes these days”.

If you think you are being funny, you are wrong; rather, your words hurt and they hurt a lot!

So if you want to cause me pain just come right over and say, “Hey you are fat!”

However, if you want to be nice and somewhat civil, just say hello and don’t worry about not informing me of my growing girth. By your bulging eyes I can tell that you are conveying to me the message that I am losing the Battle of My Bulge.”

So let’s just be clear about it and out in the open.

I know it; you know it; and now I know that you know it: I need to lose weight!

Now that we got that out of the way, we can move on to better and ‘smaller’ things.  

Thank you for your consideration and stay well and healthy.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ “In the Merit of the Righteous Women the Jewish People Were Redeemed”* (

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 26th of Tammuz 5774 and July 24, 2014

 

“In the Merit of the Righteous Women the Jewish People Were Redeemed”*

*(Yalkut Shimoni Shir HaShirim: 993)

 

I met my good friend Hymie Gluck from the Bagel Store yesterday. Hymie is a warm and friendly person who I (and many others) like and admire very much. He always has a good Vort or story to relate to me any time he sees me.

Yesterday was no exception as he related to an incident which brought tears to my eyes.

Hymie lives in Brooklyn and commutes daily to Passaic. He is very close to Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Rav of Agudath Israel of Madison and often will relate to me Torah thoughts in his name.

However, yesterday’s comments demand dissemination.

Rav Reisman, who is in Israel at the present, related the following to his flock via email.

Word reached the Arzei HaBira neighborhood in Jerusalem that many of the soldiers who man the Iron Dome defense system have been relegated to consuming army rations during these trying days of war, and are craving for something else.

Perhaps because they are attached to their post and can never leave- as who knows when the enemy will choose to fire-, they are especially dismayed by not having a home cooked meal in over two weeks.

The word reached the Arzei HaBira neighborhood where Rav Reisman is staying and suddenly as if automatically and without prompting, a group of holy women spread the word that Jewish boys are in need of home cooked real Jewish food.

These holy women, the majority of them are Kollel wives who have sacrificed the comforts of America in order to facilitate and assist their husbands Torah learning, sprang into action.

Ignoring the fact that all of them live on tight Kollel budgets, which often means happily giving up eating chicken or meat daily for the sake of a spiritual life of Torah, they took their chickens which perhaps were being saved for Shabbos and began to cook for Jewish boys.

They spared no effort and no food and no expense to supply the culinary needs of the Jewish boys at the front.

Many of the women used a rare piece of meat which was being saved for a special occasion or they used that night’s chicken -which was to be dinner for the family and they substituted tuna fish for their family’s dinner-to cook for the soldiers.  

There was no talk of whether army service should be mandatory or not.

 There was no question if these boys are religious or not; there was only one concern, a Jewish boy is hungry and a Yiddishe Momma responds to the call of hunger.

In a matter of minutes, hot, fresh, home cooked meals, complete with fresh bread and cakes were carefully cooked and baked and wrapped with the love which only a Jewish mother can give- were ready to be  delivered.

Soon Yeshiva bochurim offered their services and personally drove the fresh food to the south of the country into the waiting hands of the hungry soldiers.

No one cared if these boys were Chareidi or Dati or secular; there was only one concern, these boys were hungry Jewish boys who are serving the Klal.

And as in the times pf Mitzrayim, it was the righteous women of the generation who showed us the way and who once again taught us that a Jewish child needs his Jewish mother and whatever life style he has chosen, he is always our son.

The Nashim Tzadkanios (the righteous women) of Arzei HaBira have once again showed us the path of redemption.

They sacrificed their meager rations -which they are already compromising on to support their husband’s learning-, for the sake of soldiers of the IDF.

Their families would manage that evening on tuna.

I can just visualize the conversation which took place that evening in homes all across Arzei HaBira.

The father returns home with a smile after a tiring and productive day in the Mir Yeshiva. He sits down at the table surrounded by his children and wife and all are surprised as his wife places a plate of tuna and some cut vegetables out for dinner.

The husband although surprised remains quiet and does nothing which could embarrass his wife.

However, one the little children asks, “Mommy, how come there is no chicken tonight for dinner?”

The mother responds, “Sheifela, there is chicken for dinner tonight. It is being eaten by the soldiers who are down south who together and in tandem with Tatty’s Torah- protect us from our enemies. Tonight, the soldiers are eating our chicken and we eat tuna.

The husband who has no idea that his wife has done this wonderful mitzvah is full of pride and admiration for his “Aishes Chayil”.

He looks up at his children and proudly proclaims, “Kinderlach, you should know that the tuna we are eating tonight is like the finest meat from the finest Korban. For by us eating the tuna, we have allowed Jewish soldiers to enjoy a home cooked meal from our Mommy which reminds them that although we do our part in the ‘war effort’ through Torah and Mitzvohs; we have not forgotten them who do their part on the front lines.

 Tonight we are one people.

You must know my children, that your mother’s chicken which was prepared with love and sent to our sons on the front lines is considered in Hashem’s like the ketores (the sweet smelling incense) of the Beis HaMikdash. 

Kinderlach, I am enjoying this tuna more than any steak in the world, for I know it was brought about by the Chesed and kindness and caring of your mother for others.”

 

“Mi K’amcha Yisroel”- Hashem- who is like your people?”

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ The Most Powerful Shabbos Teshuva Drosha ever given. * (7/22/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 24th of Tammuz 5774 and July 22, 2014

 

The Most Powerful Shabbos Teshuva Drosha ever given.

 

Today is the Yahrtzeit of the only person to be ‘officially’ given the title of “Chief Rabbi of New York”.

Rabbi Yakov Yosef was born in Krozhe, a province of Kovno; he studied in the Nevyozer Kloiz under Rabbi Yisrael Salanter and in the Volozhin yeshiva under the Netziv. In Volozhin, he was known as "Rav Yaakov Charif" (Rabbi Jacob Sharp) because of his sharp mind. Rav Yakov Yosef was born in 1840 and died July 28, 1902; he served as chief rabbi of New York City’s Association of American Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, a federation of Eastern European Jewish synagogues. (Wikipedia)

His tenure as Chief Rabbi was short lived as although many congregations united to hire him, not all of the congregations were united behind him.

Secondly, he was never supported by the anti-religious Jews who lived on the Lower East Side and ultimately his Chief Rabbinate collapsed and soon afterward he suffered a stroke and spent the last years of his life bedridden and impoverished.

He even had no rest at his own funeral as a group of anti-Semitic iron workers pelted the funeral cortege with scrap metal and when the then Irish-anti- Semitic police were called they beat the mourners.

The melee was so intense that for a while his coffin was dropped and left in the street as the mourners ran for cover.

Rav Yakov Yosef was finally buried at the Union Field Cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens since they offered his wife a lucrative financial settlement for the privilege of having the Chief Rabbi of New York in their cemetery.

Rav Yakov Yosef came to New York to escape the crushing poverty of Europe; instead he suffered more poverty in New York.

He assumed he would be taking on a wonderful rabbinical positon with the accouterments of honor and prestige as well.

He thought he would create a centralized rabbinate in New York and put an end to the ‘every man for himself’ and schismatic approach to organized Jewish life which was rampant.

However, his positon just added fuel to the fire of Machlokes as rival congregations appointed two additional ‘Chief Rabbis’.

Perhaps because of the all the abuse and humiliation he suffered (as opposed to ‘in spite of’) his Yahrtzeit is remembered by many thousands of Jews who will trek to Union Field Cemetery today to honor the man whom his contemporaries failed to honor.

He was an honest and sincere and esteemed Talmid Chochom.

After he suffered his stroke, he made one final attempt to present a Shabbos Teshuva Drosha in Shul.

He was carried to the Shul and placed on the Bima.

He began by saying, “The Rambam says in Hilchos Teshuva…. “(A long uncomfortable pause followed); he began again, “The Rambam says in Hilchos Teshuva…”- however, once again his mind went blank and he could not continue.

He then began to cry and as he cried he wailed, “Friends, see what can happen to a mentsch? See what a man can be reduced to in this world?”

His attendants gently carried their crying rabbi out of the Shul as Rav Yakov Yosef just kept saying amidst the tears, “Woe to me; see what a man can come to in this world?”

Those who were present recall that is was the most powerful Shabbos Teshuva Drosha they had ever heard,

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ The Sadness of Life* (7/21/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 23rd of Tammuz 5774 and July 21, 2014

 

The Sadness of Life

 

Over the last few days we have been informed of the loss of 25 Jewish soldiers as Israel continues its ground offensive again the evil Hamas.

It is important that we realize that there is indeed evil in this world and that people make choices to be either good or evil.

Hamas has chosen to be evil and therefore Israel is correct in attempting to eliminate this evil from this world.

However, today we focus on the 25 young lives that were lost defending and protecting other Jews from rocket attacks.

As we write these words, there are 25 families who will never hug their son, husband, father, or brother again.

The dreams and the plans these 25 soldiers had for their lives have evaporated instantly as they were killed in the prime of their lives.

Of course we know that Hashem is the ultimate Shomer Yisroel (the protector of Israel); however, his human agents are the brave and courageous soldiers of the IDF who loyally and sincerely carry out Hashem’s directives in the Holy Land.

When you go to the doctor and he heals you, although we know that Hashem is the true Ropheh (healer); however, it is only civil, correct and indeed mandatory to give thanks to the Shaliach (the agent) of Hashem, in this case the doctor, in tandem with thanking the M’Shalaiach (the sender) – meaning Hashem.

So too, while we thank Hashem for protecting His people, let us not forget to thank His messengers- the holy soldiers of His army who are protecting His people.

So too, we must feel the pain of the families who have lost their loved ones.

We have to feel their loss and we have to empathize with their loss.

Perhaps we can even in some small way identify with their pain by reducing our unnecessary daily pleasures.

Perhaps we can say one extra chapter Tehillim today for them.

You can decide what and in which way you can empathize with the families of the soldiers.

However, just feeling their pain and recognizing their pain, is something which is needed and important.

Is there anyone reading these words who has never walked the streets of Jerusalem?

Is there anyone out there who has never been in Bnei Brak?

The next time you find yourself in Yerushalayim (which hopefully will be soon), and you see an Israeli soldier, go over and tell him, “thank you”.

By doing so you are also thanking Hashem as the Shaliach represents the M’Shalaiach- meaning, the agent represents the cooperation and the CEO is Hashem.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “Why is This July 15th different from all others? * (7/15/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 17th day of Tammuz 5774 and July 15, 2014

 

Why is This July 15th different from all others?

 

As I was preparing for today’s fast day- Shiva Asar B’Tammuz (17th of Tammuz) - I recalled the horrific tragedies which befell our people on this day.

Most of us are familiar with the Mishna in Taanis which states:

 “Five major catastrophes occurred in Jewish history on the 17th of Tammuz: (1) Moses broke the tablets at Mount Sinai, in response to the building of the Golden Calf. (2) The daily offerings in the First Temple were suspended during the siege of Jerusalem in the 5th century BCE. (3) Jerusalem’s walls were breached, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. (4) Prior to the Great Revolt, the Roman general Apostamos burned a Torah scroll—setting a precedent for the horrific burning of Jewish books throughout the centuries. (5) An idolatrous image was placed in the Holy Temple—a brazen act of blasphemy and desecration.” (Quoted from Aish.com)

However, in my historical research I came across an additional and more recent tragedy which not only happened today on the 17th day of Tammuz it also happened on the 15th of July- in the year 1099! (Since I have not seen anyone else point this out- I am excited to present this to you.)

On this day -in both Jewish and secular calendars, (17th of Tammuz and July 15th) the holy city of Jerusalem fell as it was conquered by the Crusaders during the first Crusade in 1099.

The Crusades were a horrific time for the Jews; many Jews were butchered and many Jewish communities were totally destroyed. And although their primary goal was to liberate the Holy Land from the infidel Moslems, the Jews suffered greatly.

The First Crusade was launched on 27 November 1095 by Pope Urban II with the primary goal to repel the invading Seljuq Turks from Anatolia. An additional goal soon became the principal objective—the Christian reconquest of the sacred city of Jerusalem and the Holy Land and the freeing of the Eastern Christians from Muslim rule.

At a local level, the preaching of the First Crusade ignited violence against Jews, which some historians have deemed "the first Holocaust".

At the end of 1095 and beginning of 1096, months before the departure of the official crusade in August, there were attacks on Jewish communities in France and Germany. In May 1096, Emicho of Flonheim (sometimes incorrectly known as Emicho of Leiningen) attacked the Jews at Speyer and Worms. Other unofficial crusaders from Swabia, led by Hartmann of Dillingen, along with French, English, Lotharingian and Flemish volunteers, led by Drogo of Nesle and William the Carpenter, as well as many locals, joined Emicho in the destruction of the Jewish community of Mainz at the end of May. In Mainz, one Jewish woman killed her children rather than see them killed; the chief rabbi, Kalonymus Ben Meshullam, committed suicide in anticipation of being killed.

The attacks may have originated in the belief that Jews and Muslims were equally enemies of Christ, and enemies were to be fought or converted to Christianity. Godfrey of Bouillon was rumored to have extorted money from the Jews of Cologne and Mainz, and many of the Crusaders wondered why they should travel thousands of miles to fight non-believers when there were already non-believers closer to home. (Wikipedia- emphasis added by me)

Although the Crusade began in 1095 the final conquest of Yerushalayim occurred on the 17th of Tammuz- July 15, 1099.

The massacre that followed the capture of Jerusalem has attained particular notoriety, as a "juxtaposition of extreme violence and anguished faith".

The eyewitness accounts from the crusaders themselves leave little doubt that there was great slaughter in the aftermath of the siege.

The slaughter continued for the rest of the day (on the 15th of July); Muslims were indiscriminately killed, and Jews who had taken refuge in their synagogue died when it was burnt down by the Crusaders. (Ibid)

 

Indeed, on this day in 1099 Jerusalem was conquered and Jewish blood once again ran like water.

As one source from the time writes: "...[our men] were killing and slaying even to the Temple of Solomon, where the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles..." (Ibid)

And another source records: "In this temple 10,000 were killed. Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet colored to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared". (Ibid)

 

It was a horrific blood bath which our brothers and sisters in Jerusalem suffered on this day in 1099 and indeed even in our times as I write these words rockets and missiles are raining down on our Holy Land and the code red siren has been heard more than once in the holy city of Yerushalayim; and that is sad and for that we pray and weep.

However, there is one big difference; there is one great and important distinction between what went on in the times of the Mishna and again in 1099.

What is that difference and how do these incidents differ?

 Today, with the help of Hashem Yisborach, we are no longer defenseless; we are no longer cowed into submissiveness and timidity.

With the help of Hashem we have a Jewish army which valiantly defends the Jewish people.

With the help of Hashem, Jewish blood no longer flows in Jerusalem.

Indeed, as Rav Moshe Shternbuch Shlita said this past Shabbos (I heard this from an eye witness who was present at the Gr’a Shul where he is the Rav): “Together with the Tehillim we say for salvation we must add Tehillim thanking Hashem for  His miracles as of today 1,090 rockets fired into Israel, 193 of which had been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and I do not believe there has been even one major injury and not one death attributed directly to the any of the over 1000 rockets fired! If that is not miraculous, than what is?”

Rav Moshe Shternbuch is not a Zionist; indeed: “He strongly opposes the Zionist State of Israel and was against its establishment. Formerly holding a high position of authority in the anti-Zionist Edah HaChareidis, he is of the view that there is no connection between the existence of a Jewish state and the beginning of the redemption of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel which will precede the Messianic Era.” (Ibid)

However, his non-Zionistic stance does not preclude him from seeing the obvious; and that is that this time- things are different.

Yes, we fast today.

Yes, we are sad today.

And of course we daven for our brethren in Israel.

However, as Rav Shternbuch points out, together with the wailing and the praying there has to be the sense of gratitude that on this 17th day of Tammuz we have a powerful and G-d supported army and air force which prevents Jewish blood from flowing in the streets until our enemies can proclaim “the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles...”

Today, life goes on in Jerusalem for the most part normally.

We are the ones with the upper hand; we no longer run in fear and terror before our enemies.

We no longer have to cower before them as in the times of the Crusades when the Jews begged the local Roman Catholic clerics to allow them to take refuge in their pagan monasteries for fear of the mob; only too often to have the Catholic Cleric with whom they put their trust betray them and open wide the doors of the monastery to the blood thirsty mob after securing their money in his coffers.

No longer do we have to stand timidly and fearfully shake before our enemies begging them for mercy and forgiveness.

Hashem in His ultimate kindness has made this 17th of Tammuz different from all others.

Of course we daven for complete victory and salvation; however, as Rav Moshe Shternbuch pointed out, in tandem with our concern and our tefillos has to be infused a feeling of gratitude and thanks to Hashem and to His soldiers who are so bravely and valiantly protecting us and preventing Jewish blood from flowing in the streets of Israel.

Today you should be sad and fast, however, simultaneously, there also has to be a feeling of thankfulness to Hashem that today’s Shiva Asar B’Tammuz is so different than July 15th 1099.

May Hashem continue to protect His people and let us merit seeing the time when the 17th of Tammuz is transformed into a complete and joyous holiday.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ FYSH* (7/13/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 15th of Tammuz 5774 and July 13, 2014

 

FYSH

 

When Mordy Gibberstein (name changed) called for an appointment I was more than a little perplexed. After all, Mordy was serious fellow who worked hard as contractor and worked even harder as a father and a husband.

It was rare that he was ever seen in Shul without one of his sons with him.

I knew that Mordy and his wife had wonderful Shalom Bayis as they had been by my home for Shabbos and you could feel the wonderful chemistry between the two of them.

The reality of a rabbi’s life is that people never make appointments to inform me that their marriage is going merrily along or that they are making more money than they know what do with or that their children are giving them so much nachas they just had to make an appointment to show me the children’s report cards.

When people come to the office, I make sure the tissue dispenser is filled as crying is de rigueur for all those who venture into the rabbi’s recess.

Mordy, although being very friendly, very frum and a great father and husband was not a ‘Rhodes Scholar’ when it came to learning.

When he would attend my Gemara Shiur, he would more often than not nod off.

Why then was Mordy asking for an appointment to see me?

I doubted if he was going to ask me to explain a Tosfos and most of the halachik questions in the home were asked to me by his wife.

So what was Mordy coming to see me about?

After schmoozing with me for a while about the weather he got to the point.

“Rabbi, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure, ask whatever you want!”

“Rabbi, we began a new minhag (practice) in my family and I wanted to know if it is alright according to Halacha to ‘add on’ this additional practice.”

I pressed him for details.

“Here is what I instituted in my house.

Every time one of the children or even my wife or I get upset and it seems we are bordering on ‘kaas’ (anger) we all in unison tell the person, “Remember the fish!”

And then all is forgotten and all is calm.

 So Rabbi, I wanted to know is that alright?

Is it permissible to remind everyone before they get too angry to ‘remember the fish’?

Is it permissible to add on this additional minhag?”

I had no idea what a fish had to do with anything and why the fish would prevent anyone from getting angry.

“Mordy, it is always a good idea to have some sort of code word to remind each other never to become angry. Anger is one of the most destructive middos; it is wonderful to do anything to lower the level of anger in the home.  However, what does fish have to do with any of this?”

“Rabbi, don’t you get it?

Anytime someone in the family approaches anger, which usually has to do with something irrelevant and mundane, we remind the person of the three holy boys who lost their life sanctifying Hashem’s name.

Their names were Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar.

 When we say ‘remember the ‘FYSH’ it reminds us of them.

The letter ‘F’is for Naftali (Frenkel); the letter Y” is for Eyal (Yifrach) and the final letters SHare for Gilad (Shaar). I utilized the first letters of the boy’s last names to form the contraction: FYSH.

So when we say FYSH- we think of Naftali, Eyal and Gilad and then we realize that no matter how upset we may feel it’s not worth it.

The three boys remind us how precious our family is to each other and how we must always cherish and treasure every second we have together.

The word FYSH allows us to realize that so many and indeed too many of the things which cause us to be upset are just meaningless.

So rabbi is this allowed, are we adding on an extra mitzvah not commanded by the Torah when we say FYSH?”

With tears in my eyes I looked up at Mordy and all I could say was, “Not only is this ‘allowed’, it should become an accepted “Minhag Yisroel”.

Mordy, your ‘FYSH’ is of the holy of the holies; it is a sacred and precious FYSH which all of us would remember every day of our life.”

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ “If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words- Then a Good Memory is Worth a Millio

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday 13th of Tammuz 5774 and July 11, 2014

 

“If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words- Then a Good Memory is Worth a Million Diamonds”

 

Morris and Ida were married in 1934 in Odessa (presently in the Ukraine) overlooking the Black Sea.

Ultimately, they decided to emigrate to the “Goldene Medinah” to find their fortune.

Morris and Ida had two children.

Their oldest, Sarah was born in 1940.

Their son, Shmuel, was born in 1942.

They settled in Newark in the Weequahic (pronounced wih-QWAY-ik) neighborhood.

The neighborhood was very Jewish with its own Jewish hospital and Shuls and organizations.

Unfortunately, they hoped their children would somehow remain good Jews without formal Jewish education as was the popular theory with too many of the early Jewish immigrants.

However, it was not to be.

 Both Sarah and Sam became part of the ‘counter-culture’ of the 1960s.

They trekked to San Francisco and were soon more comfortable in ‘Haight-Ashbury’ then in any shul.

However, Hashem always has His plans and in 1989 at the age of 47 their son Sam ‘found himself’, settled down and married a wonderful Jewish woman named Hindi who brought him back to Judaism.

Sam and Hindi moved to Passaic and became part of my Shul.

 Eventually, they were blessed with a child.

Fast forward to 2009, Morris and Ida, now both 96 are living in a rent-subsidized housing complex near Elizabeth.

They never made it financially in America.

Morris eked out a living as a furniture restorer and now they were living off Social Security.

 They were leaving this world with no savings, no home and with the exception of their one grandchild, very little Yiddish nachas.

Surprisingly, Morris decided to make a modest celebration for the couple’s 75th wedding anniversary.

Sam and Hindi invited me to attend.

As I arrived at the apartment, I felt as if I was entering a time-warp.

The furniture was circa 1950 with thick plastic slip covers encasing everything.

In the hall was a semi-desk on top of which sat a rotary telephone.

When I noticed the large black and white tubular television set, I did a double take.

I thought that if I would turn it on the set and allowed it to ‘warm up’- “I Love Lucy” and Andy Griffith would appear on the screen.

Many wondered aloud why Morris had planned this ‘party’ as he seemingly did not have much to celebrate.

They had few material possessions and no savings.

Morris suddenly asked to speak.

“Ida, I have to apologize to you.

When we were married 75 years ago, I promised you a life of luxury in America.

I promised you diamonds.

 Unfortunately, I never bought you even one small diamond.

So I want to apologize to you for failing to buy you a diamond.”

Everyone was very moved by the impromptu and heartfelt words of Morris.

However, no one could have ever predicated what happened next.

Ida rose to respond.

“Morris, you did promise me diamonds; and you did not fulfill that promise.

However, you did give something even more valuable than diamonds.

You gave me precious memories which are worth much more.

I fondly recall all of the caring and compassion you showed me throughout our lives.

I remember you getting up early to make me tea in the winter so I would have something warm to drink.

I recall the small gifts of costume jewelry which you gave me which although they never really matched my outfits since they were given with love -they complemented perfectly whatever I wore.

I remember how you never forgot to bring in the newspaper every morning so I could do the crossword puzzle at breakfast.

And I remember your smile and your comforting words which always assured me that whatever tests Hashem sent us, together we would get through it and we did.

Morris, it’s true, you never gave me a diamond.

However, you have nothing to apologize for; you gave me beautiful memories which are more precious than any diamond could ever have been.”

Suddenly their rent-subsided apartment no longer had the smell of moth balls but rather the scent of Gan-Eden.

And as Morris and Ida looked in each other’s eyes the sparkle in their eyes was brighter than the glitter of any diamond.

That night I learned that: “If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words- Then a Good Memory is Worth a Million Diamonds”

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “True Fanaticism* (7/10/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 12th of Tammuz 5774 and July 10, 2014

 

True Fanaticism

 

We have all been stunned by the fact that the accused murderers of 16 year old Mohammad Abu Khdeir are Jews.

 Even more shocking are the allegations that the nationalistic and revenge motivated murder was perpetrated by individuals who came from Mitzvah observant homes.

If indeed the allegations are proven correct and the crime was ‘nekama’ (revenge) and those who carried out the crime perhaps even (incorrectly) thought that their vengeance was vindicated by the acts of Pinchas in this week’s Parsha, then this is quite disturbing.

It is critical to note the comments of the Netziv (HaRav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, -b. Mir, Russia, 1816 - d. Warsaw, Poland, August 10, 1893) with regard to the ‘fanaticism’ of Pinchas.

The Netziv points out that the reward given to Pinchas by Hashem was “Brisi Shalom”- “My covenant of peace”.

The reason that this was given to Pinchas is that normally a violent action impacts on the individual and they in turn become violent and vengeful personalities.

However, explains the Netziv, since in this one exceptional case Pinchas acted correctly in being ‘zealous for Hashem’ he was spared the debilitating effects of violence and was able to maintain and indeed be blessed with a calm and peaceful personality.

Perhaps that is the key to gauge if one’s action are ‘true fanaticism’ or false.

If one is constantly looking for more issues to be vengeful about and if a person seems to enjoy the fight, then that would indicate false fanaticism as the motivation for their fanaticism stems from their violent personality.

However, if one maintains a peaceful and calm composure, especially after being forced to exhibit fanaticism then they can be assured that their one time exceptional act of extremism was justified and in place.

Fanaticism is a tool which must be used sparingly and with caution; if not it can turn the person into a vengeful and violent person.

May Hashem bring true Shalom to Eretz Yisroel speedily and in our times.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Reb Elchonon Zt”l* (7/8/14)

 


The Short Vort


 


Good Morning!


 


 

 


Today is Wednesday the 11th of Tammuz 5774 and July 8, 2014


 


 

 


Reb Elchonon Zt”l


 

Today is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Elchonon Wasserman, one of my heroes. (There are those who claim it is on the 12th of Tammuz as no one knows for sure).

Rav Elchonon Wasserman a great Talmid Chochom; he was a Talmid of the Chofetz Chaim and was the son in law of Rav Meir Atlas Zt”l.

He was the Rosh Yeshiva of the Baranovitch Yeshiva in Poland which boasted more than 300 students.

He was very dedicated to his students and even returned to Europe on the eve of the war in order not to abandon them.

He was killed Al Kiddush Hashem in the infamous Seventh Fort of Kovno where he lies among thousands of other Jews in an unmarked grave.

As we being taken out to be killed he said the following to those who were also about to killed by the Nazis and their collaborators:

 


"In Heaven it appears that they deem us to be righteous because our bodies have been chosen to atone for the Jewish people.


 


Therefore, we must repent now, immediately. There is not much time.


 


We must keep in mind that we will be better offerings if we repent.


 


 In this way we will save the lives of our brethren overseas.


 


 Let no thought enter our minds, God forbid, which is abominable and which renders an offering unfit.


 


We are now fulfilling the greatest mitzvah.


 


With fire she (Jerusalem) was destroyed and with fire she will be rebuilt.


 


The very fire which consumes our bodies will one day rebuild the Jewish people."


 As the Jewish people in the Land of Israel are suffering, let us daven that Hashem will look upon the murdered martyrs of the holocaust with compassion and let us pray that in their merit their martyrdom Hashem should protect and save the lives of all the Jews of Israel.

May the brocha of Rav Elchonon, “The very fire which consumes our bodies will one day rebuild the Jewish people”- be realized in our days.

 

 


“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel


 


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

 

The Short Vort- “ A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words* (7/8/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 10th of Tammuz 5774 and July 8, 2014

 

 A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

 

Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita instructed all of us to increase our Tefillos during this tense period in Eretz Yisroel.

Enclosed please find a picture of a soldier on the front lines in Gaza preparing for possible deployment.

If he is davening under pressure, certainly we should do so as well with even greater intensity and sincerity.

Let us all together increase our davening for all of fellow Jews.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ What is there to say?* (7/7/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 9th of Tammuz 5774 and July 7, 2014

 

What is there to say?

 

Many of my readers have asked me to comment about the horrific murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu-Khenin committed by Jews in response to the murder of the three Jewish boys.

What is there to say?

That I condemn the act?

That is obvious; after all, I normally do not condone the murder of innocent human beings in cold blood that I now need to condemn this act of murder.

That there action caused ‘us’ to lose any sort of moral advantage?

That is also quite apparent.

To state that which has been stated already by others that we are do not advocate revenge killings as such?

Many greater minds that mine have already stated so very eloquently.

What then is there to say?

Nothing; however, perhaps we can just all ask ourselves- “How did we ever sink so low?”

“How did Jewish boys snuff out the life of a 16 year old boy who apparently they never knew and cruelly and viciously end his young life?”

“What thoughts go through the minds of a Jew which allow him to kidnap and set fire to a fellow human being who was just 16 years old?”

“How can we call others ‘heatless and savage’ when among ourselves we find equal savagery?”

Did they not know that Muhammad Abu-Khenin was a human being born- according to most Rishonim- with a Tzelem Elokim (a divine form)?

Today we are ALL in mourning; we are no longer mourning for the three boys killed; that mourning period ended today.

 Today we are in mourning for the Jewish trait of “Rachmanus” (compassion and mercy) which has been tainted and sullied forever.

And for that we must all mourn together.

 

“IF Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ “What Now?”* (7/6/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 8th of Tammuz 5774 and July 6, 2014

 

“What Now?”

 

There has been must talk about unity and unfortunately much talk about disunity.

However, the hatchet must be buried and more than ever we need healing.

Healing; that is the elusive element which too often we never seem to properly achieve.

Tomorrow the Shiva period ends for the three families and they will go back to their lives and we to ours.

The statements made on all sides of the spectrum will fade away and everyone will retreat back to their corner of the Jewish world and their lives will continue.

The question to ask ourselves, each and every one of us is, if we really believe that an unprecedented unity was achieved during these last three weeks then what shall we do with it?

Where does it leave us now?

How can we channel it for the good of all us?

No one assumes that today we should wear a black hat, and tomorrow a Shtreimal and the next day a knitted yarmulke!

However, perhaps one lesson we can take away is respect.

The fact of the matter is that the three boys lived lives which for many of us were very different than the ones we live.

They attended yeshivas where the dress code may have been different than the dress code of our own yeshivas.

Their life styles and hobbies may (or may not) have been different than the life styles and hobbies we embrace.

And there is no reason we should change ours.

However, when the kidnappings occurred we realized they were Jewish boys and that is all that mattered,

Their yarmulkes and the color of their shirts no longer mattered; all that mattered was that they were Jewish boys.

And that feeling is precious.

We are entitled and privileged to hold onto to our personal or communal ways of dressing, speaking and learning.

Whoever dresses Yeshivash should be proud of their dress and a Chassid should and is proud of his mesorah.

However, these differences should never allow us to forget that no matter how different our dress and our hobbies and our music may be, at the end of the day we are in ‘this’ Galus together.

Let us focus on those things which unite us as opposed to looking at those things which divide us.

Perhaps if you are Modern Orthodox Jew it would be an eye opening experience to spend a day in a Chareidi Yeshiva and experience the fire of Torah learning at its best.

Perhaps if you are Chareidi you could one day daven at a Modern Orthodox Shul and realize there is serious and intense davening going on there as well.

Perhaps a non-Chasid could spend a few hours in a Chassidic neighborhood and appreciate the Yiddish being spoken and the sense of community.

Perhaps you can think of your own ideas.

However, remember the greater the commonality we can find between us- the greater the unity which can be forged among us.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

  

The Short Vort- “ Independence Day* (7/4/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 6th of Tammuz 5774 and July 4, 2014

 

Independence Day

 

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos teaches us (6:2)- "And the tablets are the work of G-d, and the writing is G-d’s writing, engraved on the tablets"; read not "engraved" (charus) but "liberty" (chairus)---for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah.”

 

At first glance this statement is perplexing.

After all, the Torah contains laws and dos and don’ts, restrictions and prescriptions. Why would learning Torah provide ‘freedom’?

There are various answers to this query.

However, perhaps one answer is that the Mishna actually states that one is free “with the study of Torah”.

It is well known that for many years most Catholics were ignorant of their Bible.

However, Torah study has been the birthright of every Jew.

As the Rambam writes in Hilchos Talmud Torah

 

Halacha 1

Three crowns were conferred upon Israel: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty. Aaron merited the crown of priesthood, as [Numbers 25:13] states: "And it will be an eternal covenant of priesthood for him and his descendants after him."

 

David merited the crown of royalty, as [Psalms 89:37] states: "His seed will continue forever, and his throne will be as the sun before Me."

 

The crown of Torah is set aside, waiting, and ready for each Jew, as [implied by Deuteronomy 33:4]: "The Torah which Moses commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob." Whoever desires may come and take it.

 

Lest you say that the other crowns surpass the crown of Torah, [Proverbs 8:15-16] states: "By me, kings reign, princes decree justice, and nobles rule." Thus, you have learned that the crown of Torah is greater than the other two.

 

Perhaps the reason that only someone who occupies himself with the study of Torah is truly free is because only through a thorough and incisive study of the precious and holy Torah can a person really feel that he has arrived at a true intellectual decision.

Too often in life we may be influenced by other factors which prejudice our decision making process.

Only someone who is totally immersed in Torah can truly feel he is ‘free’ of outside agendas and has made an ‘independent’ decision.

 

Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt”l was commented, “all of my life I have involved myself only in the study of Torah; so at least I know that my decisions are free of outside influences.”

 

Let us all attempt to be truly free through the study of Torah.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ “An Open Letter to Rabbi Avi Shafran Director of Public Affairs for Agudath I

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 5th of Tammuz 5774 and July 3, 2014

 

“An Open Letter to Rabbi Avi Shafran Director of Public Affairs for Agudath Israel of America”

 

Dear Rabbi Shafran,*

*Abraham (Avi) Shafran is a Haredi rabbi who serves as the Director of Public Affairs for Agudath Israel of America. Agudath Israel was established to meet the needs and viewpoint of many Haredi Jews.(Wikipedia)

 

I write to you today in your official capacity as Director of Public Affairs for Agudath Israel of America. As you know doubt know better than I, the Agudah has taken the initiative to comment on important issues concerning the Orthodox Jewish community especially when a viewpoint was expressed which they felt was contrary to normative Jewish thought.

Often, the Agudah has taken the unique position of commenting on statements and points of view made by Orthodox Rabbis when the Agudah felt that these ‘Orthodox’ positions were worthy of being critiqued.

I will quote just two instances:

 

1)      The Agudah strongly condemned Orthodox Rabbi Avi Weiss for his position on women in rabbinical roles:

Indeed, you were quoted in October of 2013: “Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public policy for Agudath Israel, took issue with the ordination on the basis that it violated the Jewish principle of modesty, which he said “isn’t a mode of dress. It includes the idea that women are demeaned and not honored when they’re put in the public eye and put on a pedestal.”http://www.brooklynrail.org/2013/10/local/orthodox-women-rabbis-maybe

 

Your statement was consistent with a public pronouncement from the rabbinical leadership of the Agudath Israel made in February of 2010 when Agudath Israel announced its opposition to Rabbi Avi Weiss conferring Semicha on Women.

Here is the Statement:

“Rabbi Avi Weiss has conferred “semikha” upon a woman, has made her an Assistant Rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale where she carries out certain traditional rabbinical functions, and has now given her the title of “Rabbah” (formerly “Maharat”).  He has stated that the change in title is designed to “make it clear that Sara Hurwitz is a full member of our rabbinic staff, a rabbi with the additional quality of a distinct woman’s voice.”

These developments represent a radical and dangerous departure from Jewish tradition and the mesoras haTorah, and must be condemned in the strongest terms. (Emphasis by me) Any congregation with a woman in a rabbinical position of any sort cannot be considered Orthodox.

Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah

Rabbi Simcha Bunim Ehrenfeld

Rabbi Yitzchok Feigelstock

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein

Rabbi Aharon Feldman

Rabbi Yosef Harari-Raful

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky

Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler

Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Levin

Rabbi Yaakov Perlow

Rabbi Aaron Schechter

 

2)      In July of 2013, the organization which you are the spokesperson for, released the following statement regarding Rabbi Johnathan Sacks who was then Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth:

 

In consultation with rabbinic leadership, Agudath Israel of America issued the following statement:

 

Public remarks attributed in the media to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the outgoing Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth of Britain, as well as his comments in a recent pamphlet he published, are dismaying, deeply misguided, and harmful to both Jewish unity and Jewish integrity. (Emphasis added by me)

 

The rabbi bemoans “the world of inward-turning, segregationist Orthodoxy.” He portrays the multitude of Jews who came together to celebrate the Siyum HaShas nearly a year ago – an event that captured the hearts, minds and souls of countless Jews, and the reverent wonder of much of the non-Jewish world – as representative of such an “extreme.”

 

Rabbi Sacks sees Jews who choose to “embrace Judaism and reject the world” as parts of a phenomenon he calls “worse than dangerous” and “an abdication of the role of Jews and Judaism in the world.”

 

Rabbi Sacks’ sentiments are not only inaccurate but un-Jewish and uncouth. (Emphasis added by me)

 

We call on him to apologize for the derision and condescension that, intentionally or not, were embodied in his recent remarks and writing.

 

[Full statement: http://www.vosizneias.com/135150/2013/07/04/new-york-agudath-israel-calls-on-rabbi-sacks-to-appolgize-for-anti-charedi-remarks/]

 

As can be seen by the above mentioned public statements, the organization which you represent as Director of Public Affairs has never hesitated to express its disapproval of statements made by other Orthodox Rabbis if these statements were deemed, “not only inaccurate but un-Jewish and uncouth”.

 

Ostensibly, when your organization feels that an opinion is offered which is worthy of public rebuke, the Agudath Israel of America has not hesitated in the performance of the mitzvah of Tochacha (rebuke) irrespective of the rabbinical position of the person making the questionable remarks.

 

Therefore I respectfully turn to you for direction and indeed I speak as well for many of my congregants who are equally perplexed and plead with you to respond to the recent statements made by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum.

Rabbi Teitelbaum who goes by the title of ‘Satmar Rebbe’ (he is presently embroiled in litigation in a secular non-Jewish court with his brother over who is actually the titular head of the congregation) has stated publicly (and his words have been disseminated internationally) the following:

 

“During the funerals, the parents eulogized their sons, but I think it would have been preferable if they had done Teshuva, if they had said viduy with tears, in the nusach that is used on Yom Kippur, to repent for their decision to live and learn Torah in a place of barbaric murderers.

Who gave them permission for themselves and for their children to live and to learn Torah in the midst of the lion’s den?  To put their lives at risk, and the lives of their families at risk?

 It is all because of the yetzer hara and the desire for Jews to inhabit the entire State of Israel.  It is Zionism for the mehadrin min hamehadrin.”

“It is incumbent upon us to say that these parents are guilty.  They caused the deaths of their sons and they must do Teshuva for their actions.” (Emphasis added by me)

 

I plead with you to offer direction and guidance with regard to the above quoted words which certainly to my feeble and meager mind can (and should) be interpreted as “… a radical and dangerous departure from Jewish tradition and the mesoras haTorah, and must be condemned in the strongest terms

Please, I am reaching out to you, my esteemed colleague and friend, Rabbi Shafran, as Director of Public Affairs for Agudath Israel of America for help. Are his words not “…dismaying, deeply misguided, and harmful to both Jewish unity and Jewish integrity”?  Per your organization’s statement with regard to the words of Rabbi Sacks?

 

Perhaps my feeble mind is unable to fathom the difference between the words of Rabbi Sacks and what I feel are the extremely, harmful and insensitive remarks of Rabbi Teitelbaum.

And therefore in utter humility, I am begging you as representative of an organization which has never shied away from commenting and criticizing other Orthodox rabbis when the Agudah felt their public comments were, un-Jewish and uncouth to please publicly comment on the words of Rabbi Teitelbaum and clarify for those of who are confused and hurt if the words of Rabbi Teitelbaum are indeed not “harmful to both Jewish unity and Jewish integrity”? 

 

If the organization does not comment,  can I assume that “Shtikah K’Hoddah”; meaning that the deafening silence which comes forth from your organization and your lack of critique can only lead me to the realization that your organization shares his views?

 

I must confess that if no comment is forthcoming and therefore the assumption is that your organization agrees with his views, this assumption would personally make me and many others feel very alienated from such an organization and that is painful.

 

I personally find the words of Rabbi Teitelbaum (although he is entitled to his opinion as any human being, Jew or non-Jew is) not at all consistent with the Jewish concept of compassion and concern.

I am pained by his words and have been questioned the entire day by confused Jews who are shocked by his insensitivity and his lack of compassion at this time of national mourning.

 

I realize that you are not the ‘head’ of the Agudath Israel of America organization; however, I am confident that you can pass on my letter to the proper channels and I am confident that you in your position as Director of Public Affairs for Agudath Israel of America are certainly the correct address for this letter.

 

 I conclude my humble request for clarification with the following anecdote which I heard from an extremely reliable source regarding the great and revered Gadol, HaRav HaGaon Elazar Menachem Man Schach Zt”l.

After Dr. Baruch Goldstein perpetuated the massacre at the Maaras HaMachpeila in February of 1994, followers of Rav Schach asked him how they should react to the incident; after all, there was talk of Arab revenge and if and how and in what way the act should be condemned.

His students were listening carefully and were no doubt expecting a fiery and feisty response. Instead, Rav Schach looked at them and with tears streaming down his face simply said, “Right now a widow and four orphans are sitting Shiva. That is all I see right now; an Almonah and four Yesomim. There is a time to comment; however, now is a time to console and show compassion for a widow and her four orphans.”

 

For Rabbi Teitelbaum to publicly hold accountable for the murder of these boys the parents the day after the levaya is (in my humble and feeble mind and to quote your own organization’s words with regard to Rabbi Sacks,) “not only inaccurate but un-Jewish and uncouth”.

 

I respectfully await your reply.

 

Your friend,

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

 

PS- to my readers

If you do agree with my words please feel free to forward this letter through social media outlets.

You can also contact Rabbi Shafran as well at: rabbiavishafran42@gmail.com

  

The Short Vort- “ The Levaya* (7/1/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 3rd of Tammuz 5774 and July 1, 2014

 

The Levaya

 

I spent a good part of this morning participating in a Levaya (funeral) which took place almost 6000 miles away.

Through the wonders of the internet I was able to be part of a live hook up to the funeral of the three Kedoshim who were buried today in Modiin.

The boys were buried together as they left this world together.

The need on my part to feel a part of this national mourning was exceptionally powerful.

And I must admit that amidst the pain and sadness and between the tears there was also consolation. There was the consolation that the parents despite their pain and grief at least have closure and the ability to bring their children to a Jewish burial.

However, there was also a sense of consolation for me.

I was amazed and touched by the behavior and by the words of the parents of the children.

Although their pain can never be felt by anyone else; nevertheless, I was touched that their words dealt not with calls for revenge or even justice; rather, their words focused on their sons.

There was one family whose only son was killed.

There was the boy who led the family in zemiros as he loved to sing; his voice will now resonate in their hearts as opposed to their ears.

There was the family who heard the courageous phone call made to the police just seconds before he and his Chveirim were killed.

Perhaps it was this phone call- which caused the murders to abandon their plan to trade the bodies for other terrorists and they instead quickly buried the bodies which allowed their discovery before they could be traded.

However, most of all I was consoled by the sense of unity which was so evident at the funeral.

The sense of togetherness and the sense of a communal loss were palpable and intense.

While watching the various speeches and eulogies from all segments of the population, I felt proud and privileged to be part of a people who feels the pain of the parents of boys who they never met and whose names they never even knew before 18 days ago.

May Hashem allow all of us to feel each other’s joy with the same realness as we feel each other’s pain.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Please, Leave Me Be* (6/30/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 2nd of Tammuz 5774 and June 30, 2014

 

Please, Leave Me Be

 

If you are seeking from me words of comfort and consolation you will not find them.

If you are reading this in order for you gain some sort of insightful understanding of the tragic events then I advise you to stop reading.

This missive will not be one of comfort and consolation.

If you are looking at me as the rabbi who undoubtedly has the proper response and is able to theologically articulate and make sense out of the tragedy, then you will be utterly disappointed.

I have no words of comfort.

I offer no consolation.

I have no insight and no comprehension.

I am numbed and I am left wondering and wandering in my grief and my loneliness.

I cannot see the ‘good’ in this and I cannot comprehend the ways of the creator and certainly not of some of His creations.

I cannot and hope to never be able to understand how a human being can murder three innocent human beings with the justification that they are following the word of their (imaginary) ‘god’?

I cannot fathom the level of cruelty and savagery a person must lower themselves to in order to murder a child in cold-blood.

However, alas, it has occurred.

I am angry and I am confused.

I am pained and I am mourning.

I feel lost and alone and abandoned.

The only passuk which comes to my mind is the one said by Iyov (Job) so many years ago:

“If I have sinned, what have I done to You (why does it bother You so much)?  

You (Hashem) who have created me, why do you make me the target of your wrath?”

(Iyov 7:20)

I am sorry to disappoint those of you who were searching for answers and consolation in the words of the rabbi; however, I too am human and my heart aches just as yours.

Today I have no answers.

Today I have no comfort.

Today I have no comprehension or insight.

Today I just have tears;

Tears for Naftali, for Gilad and for Eyal

However, most of all I cry for their parents who as they attempt to sleep tonight, they now know that their lives will never be the same.

The laughter of their sons will never return.

All of us will thankfully eventually return back to our normal, mundane lives.

However, for the three parents of the boys they have reached a period of no return.

You may see them next month or next year; you may see them in fifty years; the pain will always be there; the emptiness will never be filled.

Please do not turn to me for answers today.

Please let me be as is; please don’t ask me any questions.

The only questions I feel I can relate to today are the ones asked many years ago by Dovid himself:

“How long, O Lord will You forget me forever?

 How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long will I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart by day?

How long will my enemy have the upper hand over me?”

(Tehillim 13:2, 3)

When the answers to these questions become known there will be no more questions which need answering.

May that day arrive soon.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Adopt a Kollel* (6/29/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the first of Tammuz 5774 and June 29th 2014

 

Adopt a Kollel

Mendy Kleinman (name changed) group up in Williamsburg in the 1940’s. He attended a local yeshiva; however, his experience in yeshiva was less than idyllic. He was often at loggerheads with the Rebbeim, who although were well meaning and sincere, he felt they could not relate to his American upbringing.

After high school he attended college and learning was relegated to hearing the Shabbos morning Drosha of the rabbi. Mendy and his wife established their home together; however, set times for Torah learning were not part of the daily regimen.

His sons were sent to the finest yeshiva however, as the children grew, Mendy was never there to help them with their homework. He left home at seven in the morning and did not return home until ten.

Mendy built up a successful consulting agency and he was busier than he could have ever imagined he would be. His day began early by arising at 4:4 5 AM, and off to his 50 mile commute. The money was good; however, something was missing in the life of Mendy Kleinman.

One day a letter arrived from his son’s yeshiva informing the fathers that every Sunday there would be father and son learning. Somewhat hesitantly and cautiously Mendy arrived at the yeshiva with his son.  As he entered the walls of the school, memories of not fitting in filled his mind as he recalled his own yeshiva experiences of fifty years before. However, as the session began, Mendy observed that the boys loved the Rebbe. They were constantly going over to the Rebbe and asking him to explain Rashi. Mendy realized that the boys truly enjoyed his company. This was something totally novel and never experienced by Mendy. Mendy was filled with a desire to also connect to Torah and to a Rebbe.  However, what could he do? He had a family to support and a business to run and how could he find the time to learn Torah?

That night, Mendy’s son asked his mother, “How come Daddy is never home during the week so I could learn Torah with him?  I miss Daddy during the week and other boys in the class are able to learn with their fathers every day.” His mother explained, “Your father has to make money in order that we can pay the bills to send you to yeshiva. That is why he is not home during the week.”

The next morning at 4:45 AM as the alarm was chiming away by Mandy’s bed, he simultaneously heard the pitter-patter of little feet walking in the hallway. He wondered if one the children were feeling ill when suddenly the door to his bedroom opened and in walked his small son; the one he learned with the day before. His son approached the bed and said, “Daddy, I know that the reason you have to be away from us the whole day is because you need money. I emptied out my Chanukah Gelt collection and here is seven dollars and thirty two cents. Please Daddy take it and then you will have money and be able to stay home with us!”

That day, Mendy informed his staff that he leaving his consulting firm and limiting his work to a few private clients near his home. His life had changed; he would now learn Torah every day.

Mendy is now retired and learns most of the day. He is in the midst of finishing Shas and has children who learn Torah full time. He is an accomplished Talmid Chochom.

And to think this all was brought about by a donation of $7.32.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Reconciliation * (6/27/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 29th of Sivan 5774 and June 27th 2014

 

Reconciliation

 

R’ Shaul Saperstein (name changed) was known by the bochurim in his yeshiva as RSS.

It was a title of endearment which the boys had bestowed on their beloved Rebbe.

I knew R’ Shaul from town although he was not a regular mispallel at the Shul.

He had never asked to speak to me privately; however, often people only approach me when they have something which they cannot handle on their own.

When R’ Shaul entered my study I could tell it was a serious issue.

R’ Shaul informed me that his father was on his death bed.

R’ Chatzkel Saperstein was a well-known Talmid Chochom from Europe and was over 90; however, R’ Shaul was very broken at the thought of losing his father.

R’ Shaul asked me a few question dealing with the pertinent Halachos and then fell silent.

When he began talking again he said, “My brother from Eretz Yisroel is arriving tomorrow morning to see our father.”

There was something about the way he said it which was unsettling.

 I knew that he had a brother in Eretz Yisroel; however, I could not recall his ever coming in to visit.

R’ Shaul looked up and with tears streaming down his face said to me, “I have not seen my brother in over twenty years. We have not spoken in all of that time.”

I had no idea that he was estranged from his brother and certainly I had no idea as to why.

I was at the hospital when his brother Raphael entered his father’s room.

 Shaul and Raphael looked at each other and then Shaul turned while mumbling, “You can be alone with Poppa now”, as he exited the room.

The tension in the room was so thick and palpable I too quickly left and went back to my office in Shul.

The next night Rav Chatzkel Saperstein left this world.

The levaya was set for Tuesday morning and I began to organize my thoughts for the hesped.

Suddenly there was a knock at my door and in walked R’ Shaul.

“Rabbi, I need your help. My brother is refusing to sit Shiva in my house. This will further break our mother’s already broken heart. He wants to sit Shiva by himself by a distant cousin who lives in Lakewood. Rabbi, if we do not sit Shiva together I fear for my mother’s health!”

I told him I would speak to Raphael and see what I could do.

When Raphael came to see me he was cordial and polite; when I asked him why he could not sit with his brother he simply replied, “After what he did to me, you expect me to forgive him?”

“What did he do to you?” I asked.

“You can ask him yourself; he knows what he did to me!” And with that Raphael Saperstein left my office.

When Shaul came back to see me, I asked him why his brother was so upset.

He told me that their father was a well-known Sofer already in Poland. In fact they came from a long string of Sofrim.

His father had written Tefillin and mezuzos for all of the great Roshei Yeshiva.

There is two years between him and his older brother Raphael.

When they were growing up they began learning “Safrus” when they were very young boys.

They both dreamed of continuing the family legacy by being Sofrim.

“Rabbi, there was great completion between my older brother and me.

 One day, when he was fifteen and I was thirteen our father was driving us to see R’ Getzel Hoberstein who was known as the best Sopher in all of America.

As we pulled into the parking spot, I jumped out first and said, “I’ll get to see R’ Getzel before you!” And as I jumped from the car I quickly closed the car door to delay my brother from getting there before me.

Suddenly I heard a scream.

I turned to see that I had slammed the door on my brother’s right hand.

 He needed surgery to repair the damage to his hand and he suffered permanent nerve damage in his right hand. He would never be able to be write properly again.

 Although I apologized, that was the beginning of the end.

We went to different Mesivtas and my brother went off to Eretz Yisroel at 17 and has never returned.

We as a family went to his Chasunah; however, when I married two years later he did not come in for the Simcha.

We have not spoken since his wedding and although I have asked mechilla, he has never forgiven for taking his dream away.

Rabbi, I don’t what more to do; please, please help me bring Shalom to my family.”

I looked at Shaul and felt his pain; I picked up the phone and told his brother to come to my office right away.

I then looked at Shaul and said to him, “R’ Shaul I want you to ask mechilla from your brother. However, this time, mention something from the heart that you have never told him before. I don’t know what that is, however, if you daven to Hashem I am sure He will help you find the words.”

Raphael entered the room.

Shaul said, “Please Raphael, please be mochel me.”

“Why should I?” asked Raphael “Don’t you know that you ruined my life? I wanted so much to be a Sofer like Poppa and like Zaidy and you took that dream away from me. How can I forgive you and why should I? Look at my hand, I can barely feel a pen in my hand; and I can no longer write Safrus. Why should I forgive you?”

Suddenly, R’ Shaul moved close to his brother and very gently and tenderly held his brother’s hand in his own.

“Raphael, I want you to know something which I never told you or anyone for that matter.

From the day I hurt you, I have never picked up a kulmus (a sofer’s pen) in my life. From the day I took away from you the privilege of continuing the family legacy, I too have taken away from myself the privilege of writing.”

Raphael looked at his younger brother with a look of incredulity.

“You have never picked up the Sofer’s pen since that day?”

Shaul nodded.

Suddenly, as if a weight had been lifted from the world, Raphael grabbed his brother Shaul in a hug which contained the pent up emotions of over twenty years.

“I forgive you my brother and I love you.”

And as the two brothers fell into each other’s embrace and cried on each other’s shoulders, if one listened closely the faint sounds of Mashiach’s footsteps were no longer as distant as they were just minutes before.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

  

The Short Vort- “ Humiliation * (6/26/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 28th of Sivan 5774 and June 26, 2014

 

Humiliation

 

Today is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yisrael Zev Gustman Zt”l (1908-1991); Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Netzach Yisrael Ramailles, located in the Rechavia section of Yerushalayim.

I miss him.

When I first met Rav Gustman in 1979 he was the embodiment of the true Litvishe Rosh Yeshiva.

He had lived in Vilna, the headquarters of Litvishe Jewry.

 His appearance was somewhat disheveled as if the need to make sure his tie was ‘just right’ was not priority number one on his daily agenda.

What most impressed me about the man was that he was so ‘real’.

 I can recall his davening; it was total concentration and total absorption in his communication to Hashem.

He wore the squared and elevated Litvishe Rosh Yeshiva Yarmulke worn by Rav Schach and Rav Moshe Feinstein Zichronom L’Brocha; it added to his image of being a vestige and remnant of a world which no longer existed.

When he would give Shiur, I was shocked by those who would attend the Shiur.

The Shiur took place on Thursday and lasted about two to three hours; among those who attended was Yisrael Aumann a Nobel Prize Laureate and professor at the Hebrew University.

 There were many in attendance who wore Kippot Serugot (knitted yarmulkes) and many with black fedora; many with long Chassidishe peyos and many with business suits and even those who were moderately observant.

 They came for two reasons; primarily to hear Torah at its best; Torah from a man who was a member of the Beis Din of Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski at the age of 22.

There was no fluff here; this was the real thing.

Deep, incisive and profound, heard from someone who had absorbed the depth and profundity of Torah in his mother’s milk; someone who had seen and spoken to Rav Shimon Shkop, Rav Chaim Ozer and Chofetz Chaim.

Although the Shiur took place in Rechavia, as soon as Rav Gustman began speaking we were all back in Vilna, where nothing in the world mattered except for Torah and the understanding of the sugya.

The intensity of his intellectual exertion was compellingly evident for all to see.

However, there was another perhaps equally important reason that they came to Rav Gustman.

That was because he was real.

He never noticed what yarmulke you wore or what political party you were affiliated with.

If you were there to learn Torah you were on his team; what you wore on your head was about as important to Rav Gustman as how many sugars you took in your coffee.

He treated all of us the same.

When I would timidly approach him I can still recall -as I looked into his awe-inspiring countenance- I would begin to shudder and quake. Looking at him was for me was looking at Rav Chaim Ozer and the Vilna Gaon.

 However, he patiently allowed me to compose myself as I stuttered through my question.

I davened and learned there quite often as it was a five minute walk from my uncle’s home and I loved the atmosphere in the Beis Medrash.

One day I noticed that there was no kitchen in the yeshiva and I innocently asked someone, “Where is the kitchen; don’t the bochurim have food?”

I was told that next door is a retirement home and Rav Gustman pays the home to supply meals from their kitchen. As the yeshiva was on the small side, not more than a few dozen students, the arrangement worked well.

As I acclimated to Yerushalayim I also learned that there were ‘hechsehrim’ (kosher certifications) which some ate from and others which they did not eat from.

Innocently I mentioned to someone in the yeshiva that I was somewhat surprised that the yeshiva took its meals from the local old age home as it did not have one of the ‘well-accepted hechsehrim’, rather it ‘just’ has a local hechsher of the Jerusalem Rabbinate.

The Bochur looked at me and said to me,

“When the yeshiva began Rav Gustman looked into the hechsher and found it to be acceptable and he concluded the arrangement for food to be delivered and went back to his learning.

 One day when we were all leaving for the lunch break we saw a group of young men talking to Rav Gustman.

As we never saw these men before and we imagined they were talking in “Torah” we hung around to listen in.

One of the young men said to Rav Gustman,

“We noticed you are allowing that food is being brought into the yeshiva with a hechsher we do not accept. Please switch to a different supplier with our hechsher and if you do so we will ‘reward’ you with honor and ‘kavod’ as we will add your name to our rabbinical board and your name will appear on all of our broadsides and public statements.

 However, I am sorry to say that if you do not agree, we will be forced to publicly humiliate you and add your name to the list of those rabbis whose names are plastered on signs and proclamations hung all over the city publicizing their laxity in mitzvohs.

 Rav Gustman, certainly you do not need humiliation; and of course we all need honor.”

 

We as bochurim were astounded by the audacity and arrogance of the young men. However, Rav Gustman was not fazed. He looked at the young men in the eyes and said the following.

 

“Kinderlach, (children) let me tell you a little bit about Kavod and humiliation. When I was twenty two years old there was a rabbinical meeting in Vilna. I was delayed and arrived ten minutes late. As I walked into the room to my shock and to the surprise of all who were there, as soon as I entered the room Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, the undisputed prince of Torah Jewry stood up for me. As soon as he stood the entire Rabbinate of Vilna stood up for me. Whatever Kavod you can promise can never compare to the honor I received that day in Vilna.

And if you are talking about humiliation, let me tell you about what happened just a few years later in the same city of Vilna.

I had one son in my life; he was the apple of my eye and his name was Meirke.

When Meir was just four years old the Nazis found my hiding spot.

I grabbed Meir and held him in my hands to protect him.

However, the cruel and sadistic Nazis beat the child while in my arms until his blood flowed like water all over my body.

When the Nazis were convinced he was dead they pushed me into a pile of manure with my dead son.

I buried him with my own hands and removed his shoes, cleaned off the blood and traded his little shoes for food for my wife and surviving daughter.

 Do you know what it is to barter your dead son’s shoes for food?

Do you know what humiliation it is to be thrown into a dung heap with your murdered son?

Kinderlach, I have experienced more Kavod than you can ever give me and have suffered more humiliation than you can ever heap on me.

So I will continue to take food from the local facility with the local hechsher and you will do what you will do.

Now please excuse me because for five years during the war I never saw a Sefer so I have still had a lot of learning to make up for.”

Rav Gustman turned and went back to his shtender and to the only world he knew, the one of Toras Emes- the world of Torah and of truth.”

 

That is why I miss him.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

  

The Short Vort- “ The Continuity of Life* (6/25/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 27th of Sivan 5774 and June 25, 2014

 

The Continuity of Life

 

As of the writing of these words, the three boys who were abducted almost two weeks ago are seemingly nowhere to be found.

I have no doubt that the Israeli government and the IDF and security services are sparing no effort or expense in attempting to secure their safe release.

As is well known, Israel is on the cutting edge and is the gold standard with regard to the gathering of intelligence and it sits on the cusp of effectiveness in the area of counter terrorism activities.

Tens of thousands of well trained and motivated troops have been mobilized and utilized in house to house searches in attempting to locate the boys.

Even Abu Mazzen, the Palestine President has involved his security forces in facilitating the search.

However, as of this writing, it seems as if the three boys have vanished from the face of the Earth. The security forces seem no closer today than they were two weeks ago in locating the boys.

The American State Department is looking into the kidnapping.

The European Union has condemned the action; however, the boys remain missing and with each passing day the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness seems to gain momentum.

The Davening has been ceaseless, the outpouring of care and compassion has been unparalleled; however, the only fact which remains stable is that the boys are gone and no trace of them has been discovered.

We feel powerless and helpless; our hearts are pained while our arms and feet feel paralyzed.

We want to be able to reach out and deliver the boys back to the embrace of their loving parents; however, alas we cannot.

What can we do?

Of course we continue to daven, to increase our Torah study and mitzvah observance and our commitment to acts of Chesed and Tzedoka.

Perhaps though there is one more thing we can work on.

And perhaps this activity does not have to be specifically tied to the release of the boys- even though we continue to pray and spiritually attempt to bring them back home.

Perhaps we can right now use the tragic lesson of the abduction of the boys for all of us to improve in one area of our lives which I am sure all of us can use improvement. I know myself that I need improvement in this aspect of my life.

And that lesson is the lesson of appreciation of the present.

How too often in life do we go to sleep without telling our loved ones just how much we really love them?

Imagine if the three parents were allowed to have just two minutes with their boys prior to the abduction? What would they have said?

Would they have reminded their children to put their clothes in the hamper?

Would they have utilized the two minutes to rebuke them for failing to put away their laundry?

I am not advocating that we never rebuke our children and loved ones when rebuke is needed; indeed a parent who refuses to rebuke is not a parent.

However, what I am suggesting is that at least when we sign off for the night; when our children leave for camp or for school we make sure that notwithstanding any discipline issues which need to be resolved, they can be put on hold for the time being and we instead make sure that no matter what, our children feel loved and cared for.

Discipline is needed; however, never to the degree where is conveys a feeling of being rejected or unloved.

If there is one lesson I am attempting to take from ‘the boys’ is the knowledge that who knows what tomorrow will bring and how would I like to recall the last conversation I had today before tomorrow’s new reality?

Most often children arrive home safely from school and most times spouses wake up healthy in the morning, however, sometimes that which ‘should’ happen- doesn’t happen.

Hug your child today; tell them you love them.

Hug your loved one- after all; what do you have to lose?

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “The Phone Call* (6/20/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 22nd of Sivan 5774 and June 20, 2014

 

The Phone Call

 

Sorry to bother you on Erev Shabbos, however, I just got off the phone with Mrs. Rachelli (née Sprecher) Frankel, mother of Naftali Frankel (Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah) one of the three boys abducted by Hamas last week.

The phone call lasted about 7 or 8 minutes; however, I am still shaking from the experience.

Mrs. Frankel related to me how she received a text message from her son Naftali last Thursday night at about 9:30 PM informing her that he would be home soon.

Having heard that he was on his way home and thinking that this Thursday night would be the same as any other Thursday evening, she replied via text that she and his father would be going to sleep and they would see him on Friday morning; no different than any other weekend when he came home from Yeshiva.

They were awakened in the middle of the night with the news that their son was missing and was abducted.

And from that day on all she and her family have been attempting to do is ‘stay sane’.

From that phone call in the middle of last Thursday night her life has been thrown into a confused and painful existence.

 From a mother concerned with the normal mundane things of life, she has been transformed into a one woman spokesperson and representative of all Jewish women and of their love and concern for their children.

She told me how the ‘achdus’ (unity) she has witnessed has been ‘amazing’.

She specifically told me how both the Chareidi and secular communities have been unbelievable in their outpouring of support and caring.

She told me that numerous secular Jews have contacted her to tell her that although they have not put on Tefillin for years, this week they put on Tefillin!

Evan Yair Lapid, the secular Minister of Finance said, “I haven’t prayed in six years. I haven’t gone into a synagogue since my son’s bar mitzvah. When I heard what had happened to your sons, I turned my house upside down to look for my grandfather’s prayer book. I sat down and prayed.”

Mrs. Frankel related to me how people from all over the country have informed her of acts of kindness and about learning they have taken upon themselves for the sake of the boys.

She ended the conversation by saying, “I have never seen such ‘achdus’ as displayed by all Jews of all stripes as I have witnessed this last week.”

She then paused and added, “You know, if Hamas- whose mission is to destroy us- would have realized how much unity and how much harmony they have generated among us, they would have never kidnapped the boys in the first place.”

She begged me to tell all of you to continue your acts of Tefillah and kindness and mitzvohs on behalf of the boys.

She pleaded with me to spread the message among my congregants and among Americans (Jew and non-Jew) of the importance of remaining united and focused on the task of doing whatever we can do to keep the pressure on to get the boys released.

She then added, “You never know which act of kindness, which Chessed, which person saying Tehillim and which Tefillah offered by which person is going to be the one to finally tip the scales in Heaven in their favor. Please, please tell everyone to continue. Please tell them to remain unified and to continue their mitzvohs until I can once again hug my Naftali.”

He voice became week and I could hear and sense the tears swelling in her eyes.

“Shabbat Shalom” she whispered, and hung up.

As I placed the phone down, I thought to myself, ‘She said “Shabbat Shalom” which means a Shabbos of Shalom, of peace; indeed, she is correct, that is exactly what we all need: a Shabbos of Shalom.’

May all Jewish mothers- including (and especially) the mothers of the three boys- be privileged to hug their children this Shabbos.

 

“If Not Now, Then When”- Hillel

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






 

The Short Vort- “ The Test* (6/19/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 21st of Sivan 5774 and June 19, 2014

 

The Test

 

The wisest of all men observed:

 

There is a time for everything,

And a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die,

A time to plant and a time to uproot,

A time to kill and a time to heal,

A time to tear down and a time to build,

A time to weep and a time to laugh,

A time to mourn and a time to dance,

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

A time to search and a time to give up,

A time to keep and a time to throw away,

A time to tear and a time to mend,

A time to be silent and a time to speak,

A time to love and a time to hate,

A time for war and a time for peace

              (Koheles 3; 1-8)

 

Everyone agrees to the notion that ‘timing is everything’.

When you want to call someone for a favor, the best time to call is not right before Shabbos when his house is hectic and everyone is running around getting things ready for Shabbos.

Motzei Shabbos, when a person is generally well rested and at peace is a much better time.

The Gemara in Brochus 7a informs us that, “You should attempt to appease a person when he is still in the midst of his anger”.

Amazingly so, this is learned from Hashem Himself!

Hashem informs Moshe to “first allow Me to calm down and then you can appease me!”

Recently I have begun to hear the ‘machlokes mongers’ (those who seem to thrive on ‘stirring the pot’ of conflict) ‘claim’ that they know ‘who’ is the true guilty party of the underlying spiritual cause as to why the boys were kidnapped.

I have heard murmurings that there abduction was the result of this group’s actions or that group’s decrees or beliefs.

The test for us is to avoid at all costs the temptation to not only not become a ‘machlokes monger’ ourselves; rather, we must avoid even indulging these contentious and destructive groups by allowing ourselves to answer them or even acknowledge their opinions.

They can only continue in their contentiousness if their position is granted some sort of legitimacy which is accorded them when we respond to their preposterous claims.

Now is not the time to break ranks and allow ourselves to fall into the abysmal pit of divisiveness and disunity and discord.

The entire Jewish people are united in their prayers and in their total commitment to ‘bring our boys home’.

Chinks in our armor will appear as there are those marginal groups who will blame these Jews or that group for the abduction. However, so far we have seen the wonderful unified response of togetherness and of single-mindedness with regard to the realization that now is not the time to point fingers.

Now is the time for prayer and for togetherness.

Now is the time to remain united in purpose and in prayer.

Now is the time to be nice and friendly to all.

 Now is not the time for schisms; now is the time for unity and love.

And now is not the time to even respond to those marginal groups who are attempting to break our unity.

If we are truly unified in feeling lacking and bereft of a loved one, then just maybe Hashem in response to our unified feeling of loss will unify us by having us merit to be unified with our three missing boys.

May it come speedily and today!

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ The Bostoner Rebbe and the Angelic Child* (6/18/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 20th of Sivan 5774 and June 18, 2014

 

The Bostoner Rebbe and the Angelic Child

 

My son in Israel had injured his hand and it appeared that surgery would be required to mend the hand.

My wife and I were faced with the question if we should fly my son back from yeshiva in Yerushalayim to have the surgery in New York where perhaps the medical treatment would be superior to that in Israel, or to do the surgery in Israel thereby minimizing my son’s absence from his learning and yeshiva.

It was difficult to get reliable information from 6000 miles away so I decided to go to the one person who in my opinion was the medically, spiritually and practically best equipped person to answer the question; and that was the Bostoner Rebbe Zt”l, (HaRav Levi Yitzchak HaLevi Horowitz (born 3 July 1921, Boston, Massachusetts, died 5 December 2009, Jerusalem).

The Rebbe, besides being a spiritual giant who cared for each and every Jew irrespective of their affiliation or non-affiliation with Judaism, was a man with great knowledge in the medical field as he founded ROFEH International, a community-based medical referral and hospitality liaison support agency.  Added to these two qualifications, was the reality that the Rebbe was well acquainted with the medical and spiritual reality of both Israel and America as he split his time living six months in each country. Therefore, I decided that he was the man to go to.

I called his secretery and the appointed was made. I happily made the four hour plus trip to Brookline, Massachusetts to be able to spend private time with this spiritual giant.

The Rebbe granted me a private audience for over 45 minutes. Besides the autographed photograph from President John F. Kennedy which proudly adorned his desk, I was touched and warmed by his paternal love for me and my family which oozed from his very being.

He advised me to have the surgery done in Israel, informing me that Israel was on the ‘cutting edge’ (pun intended) of treatment of knife wounds.

Indeed, the Rebbe’s advice was followed and my son’s surgery was successful and he would go on to proudly serve three years with distinction in the fighting brigade of the Nachal Chareidi unit of the IDF. He was involved in the exact same dangerous operations of searching for terrorists which are going on now in Yehuda and Shomron as they search for the boys.

However, something else happened at that visit to the Bostoner Rebbe which changed my entire outlook on life.

As I waited outside his study for him to receive me, there was a father and son who were meeting with the Rebbe. The door was wide open and although I did not intend to be an eavesdropper, I could not help hearing aspects of their conversation. Finally, as they were beginning to leave, the father mentioned to the Rebbe that his son had just become a new father and asked the Rebbe for a brocha for the new father and grandfather.

The Rebbe asked the father, “So this is your bechor, your first born?” The young man answered in the affirmative.

Then the Rebbe said the following words which entered straight into my heart and have remained there forever.

The Rebbe, said, “You know I remember the day I became a father. I can still recall the minute when the nurse brought me in to see my bechor (HaRav) Pinchus Dovid (now known as the Chuster Rav). As I looked at his angelic face I could just not believe the purity of spirit and the pristine and cherubic and angelic face of my son.

This was right after the war, and as I gazed into the eyes of my new son, I thought to myself, ‘How could the Nazis (Yimach Shemam) kill a million children? How could they bring themselves to be so brutal and cruel? How could anyone be so cruel as to destroy such a pure and pristine creation?”

I thought I was coming to Boston to get advice about my son’s medical condition; however, I was also getting advice for life.

Three weeks ago, Hashem blessed me with my first grandchild to be born here in America.

And although, I am proud and thrilled that all of the rest of my grandchildren were born in the holy land of Israel; nevertheless, I would be lying if I did not admit to you that not having the privilege to watch my grandchildren grow or for them to be a larger part of my life then just once (or sometimes) twice a year visits is painful. And even when I see them, I am guest in their home and I cannot host them in my home.

Therefore yesterday, when my son and daughter in law went shopping and dropped off my grandson Yisroel for us to watch, it was a special treat which I relished.

As I sat holding my grandson and I looked into his pure and angelic face, I recalled the words of the Bostoner Rebbe which I heard years ago. However, this time, as I looked at the innocent and blissful face of my grandson, I asked myself a slightly different question, “What type of people abducts innocent and sincere and guiltless teenagers? What type of people terrorizes others by kidnapping uninvolved and pure and beautiful teenagers?”

And as I looked into the heavenly face of my grandson I turned my eyes and heart to heaven for an answer to a question which has troubled our people for far too many years.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Fear of the Unknown * (6/17/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 19th of Sivan 5774 and June 17, 2014

 

Fear of the Unknown

 

It has now been five days since the three innocent and pure boys: Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah, Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim and Eyal ben Iris Tesurah were abducted while attempting to come home from yeshiva.

They are missing now for more than 100 hours with still no clue as to where they are.

How can we imagine the pain of the parents?

In March 1979 a young Orthodox man, Steven Gladstein was killed while chaperoning a group of Jewish boys at Madison Square Garden. 

He was bludgeoned to death by a 22 year old anti-Semite named Dennis Mannix.

Steven Gladstein was just 21 years old.

I can vividly recall the incident.

Steven Gladstein was a friend of my brother and was often at my home.

I recall him from the dormitory at Y.U. and I recall his zest for life and his love of learning Torah.

However, he never had a chance to marry and never had a chance to mature and become a family man as he was cut down in the prime of his life.

My rebbe, Rav Yehuda Parnes commented at the time, “One day you may see the parents of Steven Gladstein. It may be in a year and it may be in thirty years, it makes no difference. For whenever you see them you must know that there is a hole in their heart which will never heal and will never close; their lives will be forever changed with the loss of their son.”

Right now there are three families, who are facing a crisis the likes of which most of us– with the help of Hashem- will never know.

It is the fear and panic of the unknown.

Not knowing where their children are; if they are alive and what condition they are in, is in many ways more frightening and painful than anything else.

About 15 years ago, my daughter who was a mere six years old, failed to return home from day camp.

It was a sunny Friday in July and my wife asked me to be home when my daughter would arrive home.

The time came and she never arrived.

My wife was out shopping and there were no cell phones then.

I went to the neighbor; I called the camp.

The camp director said that one girl had reported seeing my daughter entering a purple van; my heart sank in fear and dread.  A feeling of terror and trepidation gripped me such as I never knew before.

I was panic stricken and paralyzed with anxiety and concern.

I called the police; suddenly every police car available in Passaic and Clifton were looking for a missing six year old girl.

After what seemed like an eternity, my wife called me and informed to check one friend where maybe my daughter went after camp.

I then remembered that my daughter actually mentioned to me the night before that she would go to her friend after camp and a quick phone call verified the fact that my daughter was indeed there.

However, before the emergency could be declared officially over, the police required me to go with them to the friend’s house and identify my daughter in the presence of the police officer.

This was my first and only time in my life to actually ride in a police car and as we drove I could hear the police radio crackling away, “The missing child alert has been called off; child apparently has been located.”

When I asked the patrolmen if there were many police involved in the case he replied, “All available units were mobilized for the search. The first hour after child abduction is the most crucial. Therefore, as soon as got the call, all units dropped everything and responded.”

As we arrived at my daughter’s friend, my daughter came out to see me as I had to identify her for the police.

As I embraced my daughter, it was an embrace filled with love and relief.

The scare had been just a scare.

However, I will never forget that feeling of fear and dread during the hour or so when I thought my daughter was abducted and how my life was now going to be changed forever.

Thank G-d my story has a happy ending.

Let us continue to davening to Hashem that our three beloved boys who remain missing and who whereabouts remain unknown are also soon and speedily reunited with their families in simcha and in joy and happiness.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ My Three Sons* (6/15/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 17th of Sivan 5774 and June 15, 2014

 

My Three Sons

 

As the news arrived it was unclear as to the severity of the situation.

The boys were teenagers; and teenagers sometimes disappear for a few hours.

However, as time continued to pass by it became apparent that something was very wrong.

And then the official announcement, three of our boys, our sons, our pride and joy had been abducted by those who want to kill and eliminate us.

And then the panic and the worry, the dread and the waiting set it.

We feel hopeless and helpless, abandoned and disillusioned.

We turned to the only source we have and that is to Hashem.

We must feel their pain and feel their fear.

Empathy is an important Jewish trait.

We can no longer go on with our lives today as if all is normal and all is the same; for it is not.

Three of our boys are missing.

They are the true “Shevuyim”- the true captives.

What can we do?

Besides beseeching Hashem and pleading for His mercy to bring the boys home, we can attempt to feel their pain.

Daven for them when you enter your car today; daven for them when you hug you kids today; and daven for them as you go to sleep in your own comfortable bed tonight.

Identify with the pain of the parents; deprive yourself of some extra luxury today.

If your own biological child was missing, would you be able to take that extra piece of meat?

Or would you just eat the minimal you need to keep alive?

Feel the boy’s pain; feel the pain of the parents.

We are all one today.

It makes no difference who you are and what group you belong to; today we are all parents of:

1. Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah

2. Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim

3. Eyal ben Iris Teshurah.

Today we all grieving parents.

May Hashem bring our children home safely.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Eyes Which Do Not See* (6/12/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 14th of Sivan 5774 and June 12, 2014

 

Eyes Which Do Not See

 

Quite often I am the ‘go to’ person with regard to whatever someone may need in Israel.

As I have three married children living there and my father who was a sixth generation Yerushalmi, I have hundreds if not thousands of relatives in almost every corner of the land.

I was therefore not surprised when Dovid contacted me for my input.

Dovid who is just turning 20 is a good natured and a ‘some-time’ serious Yeshiva bochur.

He has had his ups and downs in the system and lately he been struggling with his ‘spiritual health’.

He asked me if I could help me find a family in Yerushalayim where he could spend a Shabbos.

He wanted to spend Shabbos in a total Torah environment and he also wanted to be able to taken around to experience some of the spiritual sights and sounds of Yerushalayim on Shabbos. He hoped he could witness a Tisch and be part of the some of the special davening experiences which only Yerushalayim can offer on Shabbos.

I did not have to think long as to where to steer Dovid.

 It was clear that he should spend Shabbos with my Uncle Shlomo in Yerushalayim.

D’Feter Shloima (the uncle Shlomo) was the perfect person for me to send Dovid.

My uncle is “kulo Torah”- a total and complete Torah Jew.

R’ Shlomo himself is getting elderly and he himself may not relate to Dovid; however, R’ Shlomo has a “bein Zekunim” (a child born later in his life) named Gavi who is not yet married. Gavi who is 22 is the perfect person to host Dovid.

Gavi is outgoing, friendly and most importantly he spent a year learning in a yeshiva in America. He speaks English fluently and just as critical, he understands the American Bochur’s mindset. He can relate to the struggles and challenges of the American Bochur and I could so see Dovid and Gavi siting up and schmoozing till the wee hours of Friday night talking about Hashem and Yiddishkeit to their hearts delight.

I quickly called D’Feter Shloima and asked him if a Bochur from my Shul could spend a Shabbos with him.

He replied in his typical Torah fashion, “Hachnosas Orchim is a big Mitzvah and of course he can come.”

I called Dovid; gave him my uncle’s address and was so happy with myself for making the “Shidduch” between Dovid and Gavi. I just knew they would get along just fine.

As the Shabbos approached I called Dovid on Friday morning (New York time) to see if he had arrived safely at my uncle’s house in Shaarei Chessed. He told me he had arrived and everything looked great. I then casually asked if he had met Gavi yet. Dovid said, “No, I haven’t seen him. I think your uncle said he will not be here for Shabbos.” I quickly asked to speak to my uncle and asked him where is Gavi? He calmly answered that Gavi went to help out his older sister who had a baby on Thursday and would not be home for Shabbos. “Why didn’t you tell me? Who will speak to Dovid?” I asked.  D’Feter Shloima just answered, “What’s the big deal? I can speak to him.” And with that we wished each other a Good Shabbos and hung up.

I was beside myself with worry.

D’Feter Shloima is a wonderful person; a Talmid Chochom and a truly Frum Yid.

However, in the family he is also known as ‘the Davening Dod” (the uncle who (always) prays) or alternatively, “Shloima D’Schlepper” (Shlomo who ‘drags’ things out).

This appellation was earned by virtue of his constant davening. Indeed, although he has finished Shas many times, his lengthy davening was the coup de grâce in the family decision to award him the title of “Shloima D’Schlepper”.

He could daven for hours; literally.

He also could not- or better said would not- speak a word of English.

His knowledge of America was that the people there ate this food called Pizza which he prided himself as never even having tasted! He had no patience for a struggling American Bochur who was particularly grappling with the challenging daily task of davening.

I could not imagine how this Shabbos would play out.

There would not (or could not) be any conversation between the two of them over Shabbos.

What would David do the entire Shabbos?

As I davened Mincha I put in special request that Dovid would not at least back-slide over Shabbos.

When Shabbos ended I could not call as it was the middle of the night already in Yerushalayim.

Finally on Sunday morning I called Dovid.  “So how was Shabbos?” I hesitantly asked.

“It was amazing! It was the most uplifting Shabbos of my life. I feel like a changed person. I am enrolling in a Yeshiva for the summer and can’t wait to begin. Rabbi, how can I thank you enough? This was absolutely the best Shabbos of my life!”

“Wait”, I said. “Was my cousin Gavi there?”

“No, he wasn’t.”

“Did my uncle speak to you over Shabbos?”

“Not really, as when he wasn’t davening -which was most of the day- he was learning and since I don’t speak Hebrew or Yiddish and he doesn’t speak English we really did not speak much over Shabbos.”

“Wait, I don’t get it”, I protested. “If you did not speak to my uncle and my cousin was not home and ‘all’ you did was watch my uncle daven, what was so life changing?”

“Rabbi- that is exactly the point.”

“What is the point” I desperately asked, wanting to understand.

“Did you ever watch your uncle daven?

Did you ever observe him during Shmoneh Esrei?

Did you ever see his face as he speaks to Hashem?

  It is something I have never seen in my life.

It is a son talking to his father and servant pleading before his master.

It is a work of art and a sublime and inspirational display of communication.

Watching your uncle daven in watching a man connect with his creator; seeing your uncle daven with such sincerity and clarity strengthened my Emunah more than any other experience of my life; I am a changed person. However, Rabbi, I am sure you know all this as you have no doubt observed your uncle davening many, many times.”

I was holding the receiver and not believing what I was hearing.

It was not the long mussar schmooze with Gavi which turned things around.

It was not the Rebbe’s Tisch which did it.

It was not even speaking to anyone.

Rather it was ‘just’ being able to witness a Jew in total communion with his creator.

“Rabbi,” Dovid asked again, “You know what I mean, right? After all, you have been by your uncle many times. So you know what I am talking about?”

As I recalled the playful comments that the family- including myself- would say about the “Davening Dod’ or “Shloima D’Schlepper” the only thing which came to mind were the words of another Dovid written many years ago: “…they have eyes but do not see.” (Tehillim 135:16)

Dovid had seen more in one day than I had seen in twenty years.

 

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

  

The Short Vort- “The Boat People* (6/10/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 12th of Sivan 5774 and June 10, 2014

 

The Boat People

 

Today (June 10th) in 1977 an Israeli freighter ship, the ‘Yuvali’, en route to Taiwan, sighted 66 half-starved and sickened Vietnamese refugees who were part of the thousands of “Boat People” who were desperately trying to escape the tyrannical Communist regime of Viet Nam.

Captain Meir Tadmor telegraphed Haifa for permission to take them aboard, even though his ship carried only enough life rafts and jackets for his 30-member crew. Still, he had no choice but to pick up the refugees, he said, because "they are poor in body and morale."

 

Yet the Yuvali found no port willing to accept the starving men women and children. Captain Tadmor made an unscheduled stop in Hong Kong for desperately-needed medical attention; authorities in the British crown colony refused to allow them ashore. Equally inhospitable were authorities in Taiwan: they prevented anyone from getting off. The refugees received a similarly cold reception at Yokohama, Japan.

 

Menachem Begin’s first act as Israel’s new prime minister was to offer asylum to the 66 Vietnamese. Only then did Taiwan allow the group to disembark, where they were whisked to Sung Shan Airport for a flight to Israel.

As Begin explained to then-U.S. President Carter:

"We never have forgotten the boat with 900 Jews [the St. Louis], having left Germany in the last weeks before the Second World War… traveling from harbor to harbor, from country to country, crying out for refuge. They were refused… Therefore it was natural… to give those people a haven in the land of Israel."

 

For a full story of this incident see: http://www.aish.com/jw/id/Vietnamese_Boat_People_in_the_Promised_Land.html

 

There are many times in life where a Jew is granted an opportunity to make a true Kiddush Hashem.

There are times we have the privilege of showing the world that we as Jews are compassionate and kind people to all of G-d’s creations and all of G-d’s children; Jew and non-Jew alike.

 

The acceptance of moral responsibility is not an easy task.

Misplaced tribalism and of prejudice can offer stain our moral compasses and preclude us from doing what is right and compassionate.

Thirty seven years ago today, Menachem Begin, a man who lost his family in the Holocaust and saw up close how racial hatred and bigotry can bring about horrific consequences was determined that the State of Israel would never repeat the mistakes of the past.

He realized that by embracing these downtrodden souls and by aiding and supporting them he was doing the only possible Jewish response to human suffering and that is to reach out and help.

 

Never forget this lesson.

Never forget that compassion towards all human beings irrespective of their race, religion and certainly skin color is a Jewish ideal.

Our Patriarchs were all compassionate individuals towards all humans, irrespective if they were ‘part of the tribe’ or not.

Too often we forget our Patriarchal roots.

We forget that Avrohom Avinu reached out and attempted to help even the evil city of Sodom.

We forget that Avrohom was forgiving towards Avimelech after an apology was offered.

We forget that Avrohom was warm and compassionate to all people, even to the three “Arab” visitors who came to visit just three days after his Bris.

In the current atmosphere of xenophobia and tribalism which is so pervasive in religious circles it is incumbent upon us never to forget our moral foundations; which is compassion to all people.

We are “Gomlei Chassadim” and “Rachmanim”; we are people who act charitably towards all and are compassionate to all.

Remember, caring about another human being is a Jewish thing to do.

You don’t have to vote with liberal democrats to be a caring person; and just because you are Orthodox does not mean you cannot reach out and be compassionate to all of Hashem’s children.

The opportunities are endless and the results profound.

When a  “good morning”, a ‘warm hello’, a ‘thank you’ is offered you are being a good Jew; all of these small gestures are so needed and necessary in our current society.

When you are compassionate to someone, you are not just doing the right thing, you are doing the “Jewish thing”.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

  

The Short Vort- “ “The Heilige (holy) Mall”* (6/9/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 11th of Sivan 5774 and June 9, 2014

 

“The Heilige (holy) Mall”

 

The mall is an interesting place.

The entire concept of one centralized place to buy one’s needs is certainly a novel idea.

However, the idea is not as new as you might think.

Indeed: One of the earliest public shopping centers is Trajan’s Market in Rome located in Trajan’s Forum. Trajan’s Market was probably built around 100-110 CE by Apollodorus of Damascus, and is thought to be the world’s oldest shopping center and a forerunner for the shopping mall.

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul was built in the 15th century and is still one of the largest covered shopping centers in the world, with more than 58 streets and 4,000 shops. (Wikipedia)

These shopping areas were of course open aired.

However, irrespective of the novelty of the modern indoor shopping mall, it has today become one of the most popular daytime excursions for the young woman of our community.

When I once mentioned to the Bais Yakov class I was teaching that I could not recall the last time I was in ‘the mall’ they were incredulous. For them “The Mall” was a semi- sacred place; a holy habitat of commercial establishments where one goes to acquire the basic and not so basic necessities of life.

However, low and behold the day arrived when the rabbi himself had to make the trek to the hallowed ground of “The Mall”.

A purchase was to be made which required my personal attention and therefore, armed with nothing more than my Bitachon and my wallet, off I went to the maddening and mesmerizing place my daughters and students refer to with an air of sanctity as “The Mall”.

As I arrived I was amazed at the amount of people who were there in the middle of the day.

There were all types of stores I had never heard of and I wondered to myself what could possibly lie beyond the glittering glass doors of stores with names such as “Bed, Bath and Beyond”?

What exactly was ‘beyond’ the bath? Perhaps a towel?

And then there was a store called “The Gap”.

Why would anyone want to shop in a store which publicizes that it has ‘gaps’ in its merchandise?

And what about the store called ‘Old Navy’?

What did they sell?

Perhaps they acquired old worn out and discarded Navy apparel and re-sold them at a reduced price?

However this was not the time to ponder such important questions as I had to meet my purchasing partner, and therefore, with my head held not too high and my glance not exactly focused forward I continued on to my destination.

However, as Hashem would have things, I soon realized that what I thought was the primary reason for ‘my-once-in-a-decade’ arrival at “The Mall” was no longer applicable.

The person who I thought I was meeting was not coming and therefore I found myself surrounded by a “Banana Republic” and by a big “Apple” which someone took a bite out of and by a store called ‘Foot Locker” which I could not even imagine what they sold.

Just as I was about to make my way to the exit as fast as I could I heard the voice.

At first I was not sure I heard it correctly. After all, what would the voice -the ‘kol’- be doing here in “The Mall”?

However, there was no questioning it.

I listened again and this time I was sure; it was the voice.

I picked up my head and quickly noticed two Israeli men who were chattering away in Hebrew as they were attempting to sell skin care products from the Dead Sea to the passerbys.

I approached them with a big Shalom Aleichem and began to chat with them in the Mama Lashon.

Soon enough I was inviting them for Shavuos to Passaic and after they assured me they were set for Yom Tov, we conversed a little more; I gave them my contact info and began to leave.

Suddenly, one of them looked at me and said, “Wait, “K’vod HaRav” (honorable rabbi), before you leave can you just do one thing for us?”

I surmised they wanted me to promote their product in Passaic; however, as usual I was just being too cynical.

“HaRav, can you please teach us some Torah? We have not learned Torah today and we want to hear some Torah. Please, please, before you leave, teach us Torah.”

I stopped in my tracks and right then and there between the “American Eagle” and “(R’) Neiman and (R’) Marcus” the three of us began to learn Torah.

We discussed Torah thoughts about Shavuos and plumbed the depths of our Holy Torah.

And only after we finished talking did I began to exit while still scratching my head in disbelief.

I thought I was going to the mall to meet someone and to buy something.

However, that was not to be and I then wondered if the trip was for naught.

However, in reality “the Master Planner” needed two Jews from Tel Aviv to travel to half way around the world to Paramus, New Jeresey and for a rabbi from Passaic to travel to the “The Heilige (holy) Mall” so the three of them could share some Torah in the midst of Gucci handbags and Godiva chocolates.

What Hashem won’t do to bring three Jews together to study Torah?

Perhaps this is the true meaning of the verses: “It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?" Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?" Rather, [this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.” (Devarim 30: 12-14)

 

Next time you are in “The Heilige (holy) Mall” look up my friends Rami and Lior; tell them the rabbi with the whitish-red beard from Passaic sent you.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

  

The Short Vort- “ Saturday- the Rabbi Overslept** (6/7/14)

The Short Vort

Good Voch!

 

Motzei Shabbos Parshas Behalosecha 5774- June 7, 2014

 

Saturday- the Rabbi Overslept*

*The title is based on the Rabbi Small sleuth series authored by Harry Kemelman (November 24, 1908 — December 15, 1996). He was an American mystery writer and a professor of English. He was the creator of one of the most famous religious sleuths, Rabbi David Small. The series included the following books:

Friday the Rabbi Slept Late – 1964; Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry – 1966; Sunday, the Rabbi Stayed Home – 1969; Monday the Rabbi Took Off – 1972; Tuesday the Rabbi Saw Red – 1973; Wednesday the Rabbi Got Wet – 1976; Thursday the Rabbi Walked Out – 1978

 

Today I overslept.

Not that I was late for Shacharis, indeed, not oversleeping for Shacharis was the cause of the entire problem.

In fact, I was in my office this morning way before 5 AM.

Last night I could not sleep.

Perhaps it was ‘learning lag’ from Shavuos; perhaps it was all of the excitement of having the privilege of celebrating the Bris of my first American born grandson on Friday and perhaps it was just simple exhaustion.

Whatever the reason, I was up at 4 AM today and needless to say I was not “all bright eyed and bushy tailed” this morning.

I would not be exaggerating if I confessed to not being sure if all seven Aliyos were heard by me today. To the best of my recollection, I think sometime between Levi and Shishi my soul departed to the upper regions of firmament.

To those of you who noticed that my eyes were closed during laining and thought the rabbi must be contemplating the secrets of the universe, rest assured that this was not the case at all.

I nodded off during Shlishi, ‘chapped a drimmel’ (Yiddish for napping) during revii; and entered REM during Shishi.

After struggling my way through the Drosha, Mussaf and the Bein Adam L’Chaveiro Shiur after davening, I ate a quick Seuda and ‘retired’ to my berth and entered a semi-comatose state until my wife was kind enough to wake for the final Mincha of the day at 7:55 PM

So therefore, for all of you who came out at 6:30 PM to hear the “The Shiur You Do Not Want To Miss”, I can only humbly say, “I am sorry”.

And although I ‘did not want’ to miss the Shiur, I was a no show- and for that I ask your forgiveness.

Unfortunately, this was the “Shabbos when the rabbi was shluffing”.

Let’s hope we all sleep better tonight.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Imperfection Perfected* (6/2/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 4th of Sivan 5774 and June 2, 2014

 

Imperfection Perfected

 

Part One- The Difference between Me and You

 

We all make mistakes, I know I do. In fact, I probably make more mistakes in a day than correct decisions!

However, too often I expect others to be tolerant and forgiving and forgetting when it comes to my mistakes while I am too strict in not being as tolerant with regard to the mistakes of others.

This double standard is unfortunately too often the norm with regard to human relationships.

With regard to my faults and failures I expect you (at least after I have said, “I am sorry”) to forget the incident and to no longer hold a grudge.

However, when you have wronged me, for ‘some reason’ I allow the incident to be ‘saved’ in the ‘memory’ of my mind to be resurrected when needed and never to be forgotten.

 

Part Two- Armando Galarraga

 

Did you ever hear of Armando Galarraga?

Did you ever hear of baseball?

Are you American?

 Do you like apple pie, hotdogs and Chevrolet?

Armando Galarraga was a mediocre pitcher for the Detroit Tigers; he now plays baseball for a team called “Brother Elephants” which is part of Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League.

 

What does Armando Galarraga have to do with mistakes and forgiveness? Everything.

Today, on June 2, 2010 Armando Galarraga made baseball history, well, sort of.

On this day four years ago Armando Galarraga was one ‘out’ away from pitching a ‘Perfect Game’.

No batters from the opposing team- the Cleveland Indians- had reached base during the entire game. The 27th and what should have been the last batter hit a lazy ground ball to the infield.

And although the runner seemed to be ‘out’ so clearly that Armando Galarraga and his teammates and the television announcer who was calling the game, all began to celebrate, however, shockingly, the umpire, Jim Joyce, a veteran umpire with over twenty years of experience and who was well respected by the players as being a fair and evenhanded umpire, ‘blew’ the call and declared the runner ‘safe’!

The instant replay clearly revealed that indeed the umpire had missed the call and that the runner was really out, without any question.

The perfect game was gone.

In the entire history of Major League Baseball, only twenty three Perfect Games have been pitched.

This was Armando Galarraga’s one chance for immortality and stardom. However, because of the clear mistake of the umpire, the accomplishment which he had rightly earned was taken away from him.

 

Part Three- Perfection through Imperfection

 

The reaction in the media and among the fans was immediate and fierce. There were those who called for the umpire’s dismissal.

 There were those who wanted the commissioner to reverse the call and right the wrong.

However, how did the two directly involved individuals react?

How did Armando Galarraga react? “Galarraga was forgiving and understanding of the mistake. Without irony, he told reporters after the game, "Nobody’s perfect." (Wikipedia).

Meaning, Armando Galarraga was understanding towards the umpire and forgiving.

What was the umpires’ reaction? “Joyce, a 22-year veteran, tearfully admitted after reviewing video of the play after the game that "I did not get the call correct," insisting that he "took a perfect game away from that kid over there …". (Ibid)

Armando Galarraga was sympathetic and forgiving.

Jim Joyce the umpire took responsibility for his mistake; apologized and offered no excuses: "I did not get the call correct," he stated clearly and without reservation.

 

Part Four- The Lesson of Imperfection

 

Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes and we all ‘miss calls”.

Often we see that when mistakes are made by us, we feel the need to do everything and anything to somehow, no matter how far-fetched to justify our actions and we cannot say the magic words, “I am sorry”.

However, simultaneously, irrespective of our inability to apologize, we expect of others to be benevolent and forgiving towards us notwithstanding our apparent lack of sincerity.

However, when others harm us, too often, no matter how apologetic they may be, we cannot bring ourselves to forgive and forget.

 

There are no coincidences in this world.

The fact that I ‘came across’ this incident today- (I had never heard of it before this morning at 5 AM) - as we stand before the anniversary of the Jewish people’s acceptance of the Torah- perhaps this is a message for all of us.

Hashem in His Torah teaches us about forgiveness and about second chances.

The Torah teaches us about being forgiving to people and to not hold a grudge.

The lesson of Armando Galarraga and his ability to be forgiving and the example of the honesty of Jim Joyce as he declared without hesitation:  "I did not get the call correct”; is something we must all take to heart.

When someone says to us ‘I am sorry’ and they are sincere, we have to listen to them and to forgive.

And when we hurt someone else we must have the strength of character to turn to that person and state that which is must uncomfortable to state, namely, "I did not get the call correct”.

Only by being forgiving of others while simultaneously taking responsibility for our own actions can we achieve the elusive feeling of Achdus (unity) we so desperately need and want.

 

If Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce could do it, why can’t we?

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

  

PS to the Short Vort (5/30/14)

 


PS to the Short Vort


“Lost and Found”

 

As per the request of many I am enclosing two pictures the Siddur

1.       A picture of the inscription of the siddur from 1960

2.       The Green Siddur as it looks today

Good Shabbos to All! 

The Short Vort- “ Lost and Found” (5/30/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 1st of Sivan 5774 and May 30, 2014

 

Lost and Found

 

Lawrence Bernstein (name changed) was born to holocaust survivors in the East Tremont Section of the Bronx in 1951; the family davened by Rabbi Moshe Bick Zt”l on East 169th Street.

Lawrence knocked on my door on Erev Pesach minutes before I was about to sell the Chometz.

Larry was obviously a not-a-regular and I had no time on such a busy day to ‘chap a schmooze’.

 He said he was here to: “sell me his hoometz”.

I had him fill out the form, wished him a good Yom Tov and escorted him to the door.

As he is leaving, Larry turns and hands me a small siddur. “Maybe you can use this? It has been sitting in my home for 41 years.”

I’m used to people ‘dumping’ their unneeded ‘Shaimos’ at the Shul and as I glanced through the worn pages I was about to tell him we don’ t accept ‘donations’ of used books when something about the small siddur caught my eye.

On the inside cover was an inscription by a grandmother to her grandson written almost 55 years ago.

My interest was piqued and I asked Larry where he got this Siddur.

              “As a child in the Bronx the only day we only went to Shul besides Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur was the day before Passover. My father would schlep me out of bed to attend a service with cookies. He would then approach the rabbi, talk to him in Yiddish and then pick up the corner of his garment. My father said this had to do with “hoometz”.

              Anyway, in 1973 when New York was a dirty decrepit, declining city, I was riding the IRT from 177th Street and suddenly a menacingly looking man approaches me and shows me this small book. “What is this?” he asked me. I told him it was a prayer book. He asked me if I wanted it, I said yes.

A week later we made our annual pilgrimage to the Shul and I decided to bring my book with me. I asked Rabbi Bick  what to do with it. In broken English he said, “Hold on to the book, “You never know, one day you may return it to its owner.”

I soon forgot about the prayer book and placed in a box.

 Fast forward 41 years. Last night I could not sleep. I decided to leaf through some old photo albums and I came across a picture of me and my parents on the day before Passover. Every year my mother would photograph the family right before the Seder. In the picture I am holding my green little prayer book proudly.

Suddenly I felt a pain of nostalgia for my father and my youth. I have not attended synagogue on Passover eve since my father passed away 28 years ago.

I called my friend Bernie whose son became, how do you call it? A Bale Shumuva? You know what I mean; a born again Orthodox Jew.

Bernie’s son lives in Passaic. He told me about your shul and the schedule of services. So this morning in honor of my father I came to Shul to do the “hoometz thing.”

 As I am leaving the house I noticed the green siddur and I decided to bring it with me.

So Rabbi, do you know whose book this is?”

I look at the man who I was thought I was doing a favor and I look at the inscription on the siddur.

 I know very well who this siddur belongs to.

“Larry, this siddur is mine.  I left this is Siddur on the IRT two weeks before Pesach in 1973; Larry this siddur was given to me by grandmother almost 55 years ago.”

Larry looks at me and I look at him; we are speechless.

Larry breaks the awkward silence, “I guess that Rabbi Bick was a smart man; I did return it to its owner. It took 41 years, but, I did it!”

I am dumfounded and say nothing; and as I lovingly open the siddur the first words I see are “Return us our father to serve you.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

  

The Short Vort- “ We Have To Say Thank You* (5/27/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is the 28th of Iyar 5774 and May 28th 2014

 

We Have To Say Thank You

 

Today, the 28th of Iyar is the day when in 1967 the city of Yerushalayim was liberated and reunited. The Kosel HaMa’aravi was returned to Jewish hands and for the first time in almost two thousand years Jews were granted by Hashem total free access to the Western Wall.

For the first time in almost 2000 years any Jew of any affiliation could approach the Wall at any time of the day or night; on any day of the calendar; in snow, in rain, in summer and in winter; the Wall was open for all to come and pour out their hearts to Hashem.

The Jewish Quarter was returned to Jewish hands and the city of Jerusalem became united.

There are many different Jews in the world and they have many different ways of marking different calendric days.

The 28th of Iyar is one of those days where the Jewish people have different ways of observing the day.

There are those who say Hallel and there are those who don’t.

There are those who celebrate openly and there are those who do not.

However, obviously we have to respect all of our Jewish brethren and never ridicule them for what they personally do or do not do.

Today is also the Yahrtziet of the Navi Shmuel.

The Navi Shmuel who is buried near Ramot in Yerushalayim and his resting place is called Nebi Samuel (‘the prophet Shmuel’ in Arabic).

While many Jews go to the Wall or other places in Yerushalayim to celebrate, there are also many people who go to the Kever (gravesite) of Shmuel HaNavi today.

In the year 1979 I was one of those who climbed the minaret atop the kever of the prophet.

As I was exiting the gravesite, I noticed a number of IDF soldiers who were guarding the sacred place.

It was a hot day and the soldiers in their battle dress and helmets were no doubt hot and sweaty.

Suddenly I noticed an elderly Chareidi Jew with a rabbinic frock and stiff wide-brimmed hat leave the ‘line’ of those exiting the gravesite and make a bee-line to the soldiers.

He removed from his bag a small meimea (canteen) and some plastic cups and proceeded to pour water for all the soldiers while thanking them and making friendly small talk.

I watched in amazement as the majority of the petitioners just walked on not even noticing the soldiers. It made no different if these Jews were Chareidi, Modern Orthodox, Dati Leumi or whatever; almost everyone else except this elderly Chareidi Rav quickly passed the soldiers without so much as a hello.

As I intensely observed the elderly Rav’s behavior he turned to me and said, “Why do you look so surprised by my actions? Whatever my point of view is about Zionism, the State and the army; one thing is for sure; without the soldiers we could not have come here to pray today.

Without their valor and bravery we would not be permitted to daven at most of the holy places of the holy land. So whatever I personally feel one thing is for sure, I and all of us have to remember to say thank you. That is what I was doing, I said to the soldiers “thank you”. For one thing is for certain, whatever my personal philosophical outlook is regarding the State, thank you must always be said.”

I then said to myself, “If Hashem will one day grant me the privilege to be a Rav, then that Chareidi Rav will be a role model for me. For whatever happens I must never forget to say ‘thank you’.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

  

The Short Vort- “ The Cab Ride* (5/23/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 23rd of Iyar 5774 and May 23, 2014

Candle Lighting in Passaic, NJ- 7:56 PM

 

The Cab Ride

 

I can recall the cab ride many years ago:

As I entered the cab in Yerushalayim almost a score of years ago, I was more than a little nervous.

With all of the rhetoric and rancor about rabbis and Chareidim being tossed around in the media at that point in time, I was concerned that with my obvious Chareidi-rabbinic appearance that perhaps my secular looking cab-driver would be less than appreciative of me.

Therefore, when I entered the cab I attempted to be even more than friendly; I attempted to be outright sociable. I inquired of his birthplace (Yokneam); I asked him what he did in the IDF (communications officer). And I even asked him the names of his children (Itai and Ido). However, despite my attempts at détente, Nehorai (I asked his name as I entered his taxi) remained reticent as his monosyllabic replies to my queries did not leave me filled with the warm and fuzzies.

However, I reasoned that he is tired and just wants to enjoy the quiet of the ride to Ramot and I was soon engrossed in the Parsha as I removed my Chumash from my pocket.

I did not notice when we left the city proper and began the climb to Ramot as the words of Rashi kept me focused on my Sefer.

Suddenly, as if I was being awakened from a dream I heard Nehorai say, “Shum Davar Lo Yazor Lecha Achshav!” (Nothing can help you now). And as he finished his sentence he quickly opened the ‘secret’ compartment located between his seat and the front passenger seat.

I looked up from my Sefer and was unsure if I heard correctly. “Selicha?” (excuse me?) I muttered.

As Nehorai continued to rummage through the storage compartment he repeated again the phrase, “Nothing can help you now”.

Was this really happening?

Was I dreaming?

I looked out the window and as Nehorai sped along at 60 plus miles per hour, I knew I was not about to exit the cab at any time soon and indeed realized:  “Nothing can help me now”.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity, Nehorai began to pull some black cloth from the compartment.

“What could that be?” I wondered as my heart pounded so loud, it drowned out the sound of the Chadashot (hourly news) which were blasting on the car radio.

Suddenly, just as I imagined the black cloth being used as a blindfold, Nehorai unfolded the cloth and gently and lovingly placed a black yarmulke on his head.

He then turned around to face me as he continued his 60 plus mile per hour race to Ramot and with a wide smile stated proudly:

“Nothing can help you now; all the rabbis who enter my cab are required to tell me a Dvar Torah and you will be no different!

I sit in this cab all day thirsty for spirituality and silently praying that Hashem should send me a Talmid Chochom who can share some Torah with me in the car.

When you entered the cab and I saw your frock and beard I was so excited.

However, you kept on engaging me in small talk and I hoped you would eventually get the hint by my terse answers that I wanted to hear Torah.

However, when you went to your sefer and left me alone I had no choice but to state clearly and to the point: Nothing can help you now- I need a Dvar Torah and I need one now!

I keep this Kippah in the car just for these precious moments; now please HaRav, please teach me Torah.”

There was no acrimony or hostility, no feeling of being taken advantage of, just a Jew who was desperate to bond to His creator.

As we drove on and discussed Torah I realized once again just how united we all really are.

However, as I think about that incident from 15 years ago, I wonder if today the situation would repeat itself.

Would the present Chareidi Rabbi who enters into a cab today attempt to be as a conciliatory and compassionate as so many of us attempted to be 15 years ago?

Has the current rhetoric, rancor and (I shudder as I write these words) constant comparison of secular (and even Kippah Sruga wearing) Jews to our arch-enemy Amalek, created a new emboldened and hate-filled Chareidi persona which perhaps openly and unabashedly avoids contact with the secular cab driver?

Has the constant portrayal of secular and non –Chareidi politicians (notwithstanding the Chareidi media consistently claiming they are the ones under attack) as ultimate epitomes of evil to the extent that one prominent Rosh Yeshiva from the most prominent yeshiva in Israel recently publicly stated that when he saw his five year son searching for a hammer to kill government ministers, he kissed his son on the head- caused your average Chareidi Rabbi to avoid contact with secular Jews?

This Rebbe proudly told his son that we should really (if the leadership would be backboned enough to give the order) be ready to take swords and kill off the JEWISH (emphasis my own) democratically elected officials.

 The Rebbe was very publicly proud of his son’s ability to be able creative and substitute a hammer in lieu of a sword.

This type of Chinuch (upbringing)  certainly does not bode well for that five year old boy and for our hope that the boy will soon be reaching out and be embracing of his fellow secular Jew.

The Rebbe has since ‘clarified’ his position, however, once the cat is out of the bag….

What does the current rabbinic looking person think of the secular cab driver as he enters his cab?

For some reason (and I hope I am wrong), feelings of compassion, love of your fellow Jew and reaching out to each other somehow no longer come to mind as the correct answer.

Perhaps at best, Rabbi Ploni enters the cab and minds his own business while the secular cab driver no longer thinks about removing his dishelmed and dust filled Kippah and no longer asks to hear words of Torah.

Indeed, I wonder if when Nehorai cleaned his cab for Pesach, he found the long-unused relic of a religious yearning long squashed through the constant critical and often salacious portrayal of the members of the Zionist secular community by the religious media outlets.

Perhaps as he picked up the old and not-recently used skullcap, he said to himself, “Why keep this in my cab? If they say I am Amalek and they believe I am Amalek, than I must be Amalek.”

And with that Nehorai took his Kippah and discarded it along with his faith and trust and even love of rabbis and of Torah.

After all, how can you love someone who tells his child to kill the person you voted for?

How can you emulate the man who tells you that because your Yarmulke is different than his you are an Amaleiki?

And even when Nehorai attempts to question Rabbi Ploni he is answered with evasive and off the mark platitudes and with nonsensical ‘frum-babble’; the common denominator always being that the person who made the hate filled invectives never meant what they said or those who listened were not of the intellectual capacity to understand what was said.

 However, never, but never is the answer the one Dovid HaMelech said when taken to task for his impropriety: “Chatasi” (Shmuel Beis 12:13); never is the answer “I have sinned- with no ifs-ands or buts”.

And therefore Nehorai takes his long-forgotten Kippah and discards it with his Chometz and that is a tragedy.

However, perhaps even more tragic is the fact that when Rabbi Ploni enters Nehorai’s cab today and asks to go to Ramot, he makes no attempt to engage Nehorai; he makes no endeavor to connect and to bond; he takes out his Sefer and learns alone, and in solitude; never even considering that the person who sits just two feet from him is a warm and beloved Jew by G-d Himself; irrespective of the type of Yarmulke which he may or may not choose to wear and irrespective of who he voted for.  

After all, do we not say every evening in our prayers: “Blessed are you Hashem, (who) loves His People Israel?”

We do not say: “He who loves those who wear a black or knitted or any sort of head covering, we simply say “He who loves His people Israel.”

And therefore tragically Nehorai no longer reaches out or yearns to hear the words of Torah from his Torah passenger. He sits also alone, engrossed in the Chadashot, listening to Jews from all sides of the aisles of the Knesset trade barbs and insults; each side never taking responsibility, each side equally blaming the other.

And as Rabbi Ploni learns his sefer alone and disconnected from Nehorai, and as Nehorai continues -for lack of being able to engage or being engaged by his passenger- to listen to the political posturing and put-downs which emanate equally from all sides being broadcast from his radio, Hashem looks down from the heaven and wonders, “When will anyone ever consider how I feel about this?

And perhaps as if we listen closely and open our hearts wide and unconditionally, we can hear the muffled cries of Hashem as He sees His people spiraling down faster and faster into the venomous and enmity filled world of Sinas Chinam (baseless hatred).  

Friends, if we don’t stop our ever increasing outright hatred and abhorrence of each other we may one day be forced to hear Hashem wondering aloud something even more chilling and terrifying.

We may one day be compelled to listen to He who loves all His Jews cry and lament: “Shum Davar Lo Yazor Lecha Achshav!” –“Nothing can help you now.”

May that day never arrive.

 

 

“If Not Now- Then When”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

 

  

The Short Vort- “ The Banality of Evil* “ (5/21/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 21st of Iyar 5774 and May 21, 2014

 

The Banality of Evil*

*Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil is a book by political theorist Hannah Arendt, originally published in 1963.

 

Today, exactly  90 years ago on  Wednesday, May 21, 1924- Nathan Leopold (November 19, 1904 – August 29, 1971) and Richard Loeb (June 11, 1905 – January 28, 1936), more commonly known as "Leopold and Loeb"- who were two wealthy University of Chicago law students- kidnapped and murdered in cold blood 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks in Chicago.

All three of the participants of the event, the two murders, "Leopold and Loeb" and the victim14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks were professed Jews.

The two murderers Leopold and Loeb were extremely wealthy and privileged young men from the upscale Jewish community in Chicago.

The murder victim, Bobby Franks was also part of the ‘privileged Jewish community’; indeed, the two murderers Leopold and Loeb were concerned that when the body was discovered the authorities would see from the victim’s circumcision that he was Jewish.

The murder shocked the entire nation.

The crime which was committed by two privileged Jewish young men for no apparent motive than to commit the ‘super-perfect-crime’ and perpetrated on a promising young Jewish man was totally incomprehensible.  

How could two cultured, educated and seemingly ‘moral’ boys go off the straight and narrow and become cold blooded murderers?

There are those of my readership who will no doubt claim that it was their lack of belonging to a Torah community which allowed them to be swayed to the vile and evil ways of crime and violence.

However, Chazal (our sages) do not agree with this approach.

After all, our Rabbis related to us (and did not attempt to cover this up with apologetic statements or far-fetched rationalizations) that Yochanan, a Tzaddik who served with distinction for eight decades in the office of High Priest (Kohen Gadol) nevertheless, at the end of his days became a heretic.

Indeed, this is what Hillel taught us in Avos (2:4), “Hillel would say: Do not believe in yourself until the day you die.”

Meaning no one, not even the Kohen Gadol is immunized against sinning.

Too often in life when we hear about contemporary “Leopold and Loebs” or a modern day Yochanan Kohen Gadol we choose to disregard and be dismissive of the facts.

We say, “This Jewish and Torah fellow could not have done this or that”, without even bothering to hear the facts.

We have a knee jerk reaction to circle the wagons and defend and dismiss the Yochanan Kohen Gadols of our times. We take comfort in convincing ourselves that the accusations are false and the work of an anti-Semitic media.

However, ostensibly this is not the view of Chazal.

Chazal dealt head on and openly with the Yochanan Kohen Gadols among us and never wavered in their commitment to expose the few among us who are criminal and need to be exposed for what and who they are.

Chazal never covered up for someone just because he was a member of the privileged group or because of their societal standing.

As Hillel hammered home many years ago: “Do not believe in yourself until the day you die”.

Yochanan Kohen Gadols can and do continue to exist and latent Leopold and Loebs can and do exist among us.

When we expose them we deter others from thinking they can remain under the radar and we make the world a better place for all of us.

It might have been easy for Chazal to cover up for Yochanan Kohen Gadol and not have his name preserved for posterity as a paradigm of hypocrisy.  

However, whoever said life was easy?

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

An important message to readers of the Short Vort (5/19/14)

Dear Short Vort Readers,



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The Short Vort- “A Tale of Two People in One City* (5/18/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 18th of Iyar- Lag B’Omer 5774 and May 18th 2014

 

A Tale of Two People in One City

 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way– “

Opening Paragraph of “A Tale of Two Cities” (1859) is a novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. With well over 200 million copies sold, it ranks among the most famous works in the history of literary fiction. (Wikipedia)

 

As I write these words it would be very easy for me to join the club.

Which club is that?

The club which is enraptured and captivated by the excitement of Lag B’Omer as hundreds of thousands of Frum Jews from all segments of Jewry are seemingly sharing a rare moment of unified celebration.

The estimates are that over half a million people will celebrate over the next 24 hours in Meron at the tomb of Rav Shimon Ben Yochai.

So Rabbi Eisenman, why must you play the contrarian?

What causes you not to join in what is seemingly a wonderful and unified celebration of joy as frum Yidden from every single religious community in Israel are dancing together in harmony and love and unity?

C’mon Rabbi Eisenman, why can’t you just join the masses of celebrants in their merriment?

What could you possibly have against Lag B’Omer and celebrating?

Could it be that you are wary of the harsh words of the Chasam Sofer? (Moses Schreiber (1762–1839), was one of the leading Orthodox rabbis of European Jewry in the first half of the nineteenth century. - Wikipedia)

Who wrote very strong words against the celebrations in Meron?

Are you concerned by the fact that he felt it might be a transgression of adding on an additional holiday onto the established Jewish calendar (Ba’al Tosif)?

Or perhaps you are upset -as the Chasam Sofer points out- that the Yahrtzeit of a great man is a time of fasting and not for feasting?

Perhaps, but that is not the main reason for my sadness; as I am aware that there are other equally strong halachik differing opinions.

Perhaps then you are upset because as you yourself was told by Maran Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlitta that it is more important to learn Torah than to make the long pilgrimage to Meron?

Perhaps, however, here as I well I recognize that different communities sometime disagree as to what trumps what; and there are different communities which often stress certain days more than other communities.

What then is your problem Rabbi Eisenman?

Why can’t you for once go with the flow and just follow and be part of the wave of people who are frolicking and ‘fressing’, dancing and dining, praying and prancing on this auspicious day?

Why can’t (for once) you just join the crowd?

The reason I can’t be happy is simple; it is the “Tale of Two Men in One City”; it is because of Yotav and Yaacov the Policemen.

Yotav and Yaacov barely know each other.

They are both employed by “Mishmeret Yisroel”- (the Israeli National Police Force-) and they both live in Teveria in the north of Israel.

Yotav is married and has two wonderful daughters.

The younger one is Adi (which means Jewel) and the older one is Noya (which means beautiful); they are six and eight and attend the local school in Teveria.

Yotav parents were Moroccan immigrants who arrived in Israel in 1951. They were not afforded the opportunity to be given a religious education and although he grew up in a traditional home he drifted to a more secular life style.

 However, Yotav’s wife lights the Shabbos candles every Friday evening and Yotav does his best to avoid working on Shabbos.

Yaacov who also lives in Teveria is also from a Moroccan family. However, his parents sent him to dati (religious) school and although according to most Ashkenazi definitions of the term he would not be considered a true-Chareidi as he served in the IDF and he works for the Israeli Police Force; however, he wears a black hat on Shabbos and sends his children to the school run by the Sephardi Chareidi school system. He has two sons, Guy and Eitan.

He began attending Shiurim a few years and as they say in Israel, he has been “Mitchazek” (strengthened) in his religious observance over the last few years. He has managed to arrange his work schedule that unless there is a matter of life and death, he never works on Shabbos.

About a month ago the work assignments were given out for the month of May. Yotav was surprised as he noticed he was assigned to work in Meron on Shabbos May 17th.

Yaacov received no such notice.

When Yotav when to his superior he asked him why was assigned to work on that Shabbos?

His superior explained to him, “That although the chief rabbinate had suggested -that due to the logistical necessities of accommodating 500,000 people who are expected to come to Meron on Lag B’Omer- that the bon fires be pushed off to Sunday (as is the practice in many Chassidic courts anyway) in order to avoid forcing many civil servants to work on Shabbos- their pleas fell on deaf ears and they answered, “None of ‘our’ people will be Mechalel Shabbos”, so the fires will go on and you must work on Shabbos.”

So today on Shabbos Parshas BeChukosai – Erev Lag B’Omer – while Yaacov sat comfortably with his family in Teveria enjoying Shabbos, Yotav was out in the hot sun setting up police barricades and other necessary activities to accommodate the ‘other’ 500, 000 Jews who apparently felt their bon fires were more important  than Yotav’s Shabbos.

When Yotav returned home after Shabbos he was still unsure why if Chazal pushed off the blowing the Shofar on Shabbos in order to insure that no Jews would be Mechalel Shabbos, why did these people have to insist on having their fire at a time which forced him and thousands of other Jews to desecrate the holy Shabbos?

As someone once asked me, “If four sons who were Baalei Teshuva told their not-yet-frum- mother that they are coming to visit her on Motzei Shabbos and she replied, “That’s great! However, I will have to start cooking at three PM on Shabbos to prepare for you!” Wouldn’t the children say, “That’s okay Ma; we will come on Sunday?”

That’s why Rabbi Eisenman is sad today.

While 500,000 are dancing, Yotav from Teveria is crying.

Is that not a reason to be sad?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Don’t Skirt the Issue* (5/15/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 16th of Iyar 5774 and May 16th 2014

 

Don’t Skirt the Issue

 

Estee Rothman is a fine young woman who attends my 12th grade class at Ateres Bais Yakov in Monsey, New York.

Many of the girls ask me if I am the same Rabbi Eisenman who writes for Mishpacha Magazine.

After initially attempting to remain humbly anonymous, I admit to the young women that indeed I have the admirable distinction of being a columnist for Mishpacha.

Besides the fact that I am always amazed at how many people read the magazine, I am equally shocked at how the realization of my notoriety effects a change in their entire attitude toward me. They are abruptly transformed from somewhat disinterested adolescents into motivated and mature young women who have hopes of seeing their names appear in print.

They will ask me, “Rabbi Eisenman, can we be in Mishpacha this week? Can you write about our class and what we do?”

I always answer the same, “Of course I can. However, first you have to do something which is noteworthy of being published!”

And at the end of every class they ask, “Did we do something this week? Will we see our names in Mishpacha?”

Finally, last week I was able to answer them, “That story is worthy of being told to all!”

It was the week before Purim and I devoted the last few minutes of the class to inspirational incidents.

We began with Queen Esther and how she attempted to maintain her Tzinus even in the face of the danger to her life.

I related to them the story of Leah Neiman and how when she was still a non-Jew, she was walking the streets of Bayonne, New Jersey in July. She was perplexed when she noticed a young man clad in a black jacket and fedora turn his head and averts his eyes from seeing the summer clad Leilani (she was not yet-Leah). This ‘small’ aversion of the eyes of a Bochur from the Bayonne Yeshiva led Leilani to research this strange group of people and ultimately led to her conversion to Judaism.

The girls were spellbound by the story.

Many of them confessed that the laws of Tzinus (modesty) are certainly challenging; especially to the young people of our generation.

I told them that since there are so many temptations and pressures to compromise the cherished Mitzvah of Tzinus that when a story is related which inspires others to observe the parameters of Tzinus, that incident is worthy of being told and re-told.

Such is the story told by Estee Rothman.

As is the case with many of today’s young women, Estee Rothman shops at the numerous clothing establishments in the ‘mall’ which cater to both a Jewish and non-Jewish clientele. And as many young frum women, she is always faced with the challenge of deciding if the chosen skirt or sweater is not only fashionable, but, also if it meets the lofty levels of modesty which our precious Torah requests of us to strive for.

On this day, after searching the racks Estee had found the ‘correct’ skirt. It was fashionable; the precise color and seemed perfect. The only issue was that the length was not exactly appropriate. Estee rationalized her purchase by convincing herself that she could add a lengthening piece to the skirt after she purchased it.

As she approached the checkout counter, the non-Jewish woman looked at her and in utter innocence asked, “Are you sure this skirt is long enough for someone like you?”

The words penetrated Estee’s heart more than any mussar talk she had ever heard.

She looked at the non-Jewish woman, then looked at the skirt and realized her decision was simple.

Estee looked at the woman and said loud and clear, “You are correct; this skirt is not for someone like me.”

Although she left the store without the skirt, she never felt more fulfilled after shopping than she did that day.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Second Chance Judaism?* (5/14/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 14th of Iyar 5774 and May 14, 2014

 

Second Chance Judaism?

 

 Today is referred to as Pesach Sheini- ‘the second Passover’.

 During the time of the Beis HaMikdash (Temple) if a person was impure or too distant from Yerushalayim, and therefore they were precluded from bringing the Pesach sacrifice in Nissan, they could ‘make it up’ by offering the sacrifice thirty days later on the 14th of Iyar.

Although the day no longer has any halachik significance, nevertheless, on a psychological and emotional level the day has a timeless and timely meaning.

Namely, that often in life when we initially fail in accomplishing something, we give up.

Often when a person has been searching for a job or for a Shidduch or for a child or for happiness and they feel that every turn they make in order to reach the ‘straight and narrow’ seemingly leads them to an apparent dead end, they throw their hands up and give up.

Meaning, more than giving others in our life a second chance, let us first attempt to give ‘ourselves’  a second chance.

Too often the person who is aching and pining to be given a second chance from me is me.

We are our own severest critics.

 We tend to shut down and be forlorn and give up on ourselves.

Too often we have such a warped and inaccurate appraisal of ourselves that we give up and stop trying.

I once visited a young woman who was battling the debilitating disease of anorexia.

When I came to see her she weighed not more than 80 pounds and was chillingly skeletal in her appearance.

As I entered the room her first comment was, “I am so sorry you see me looking like this I am so embarrassed.”

 In attempting to lift her spirits I remarked, “You look fine and there is nothing to be embarrassed about.”

She then said, “Oh, you cannot fool me I know I am obese and fat. It is so obvious, you don’t have to make believe I am not overweight; I know I am.”

I was initially happy that she was able to maintain her sense of humor even in the midst of her struggle with her malady. However, as I looked at her I realized to my surprise and amazement, she was serious!!!

Her disease had been able to convince her that black was white and light was dark.

She was so obsessed and convinced of her corpulence, she could not give herself a chance of recovery. She was absolutely sure that she was morbidly obese and there was no hope in her life.

Although most of us never reach the intensity of self-deception as the anorexic person does, all of us are too harsh and demanding and critical of ourselves.

“Chill out”- the kids say and there is much truth in that phrase.

It’s nice to eat matzah today; however, even nicer is to give yourself a second chance.

Try it, you’ll like it!

 

“If Not Now- Then When”- Hillel

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

  

The Short Vort- “ “Kids are People Too”* (5/13/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 13th of Iyar 5774 and May 13, 2014

 

“Kids are People Too”*

*From Wonderama, a long-running children’s television program that appeared on stations from 1955 to 1986, the program’s closing theme song, was called “Kids Are People Too”. (Wikipedia)

 

On Sunday I had the privilege of attending a meeting with Jews of different opinions and beliefs (you can see a write up about it here: http://t.co/eyoM9OB0NU) in Monsey, New York.

Some are referring to the meeting as “A Groundbreaking Meeting”; maybe for some it was. However, personally for me it was more of “Bread-breaking meeting” as I had the pleasant opportunity to meet and talk and ‘break-bread’ (there was a really tasty and free catered mutli-course dinner) with some really nice people.

However, perhaps that is exactly part of the problem.

Why when Jews (or even more precise-human beings) of different beliefs and opinions meet is it necessary for the event to be termed ‘groundbreaking’?

What is so news-worthy about talking to someone who is different than you?

Why are we all so nervous, fearful and defensive about speaking to anyone who is one iota different than us?

I have previously mentioned to you that my father, Yoel Moshe ben Yosef Nosson Z’L was a sixth generation Yerushalmi.  His great, great grandfather was already born in Yerushalayim in the early 1800s as they had arrived in Eretz Yisroel with the Talmedei HaGra (the students of the Vilna Gaon who ascended to the land in the late 18th century and the early 19th century).

The family was originally extremely pious and observant as they were meticulous followers of the halachik practices of the holy Vilna Gaon.

However,  as the 1800s moved into the 20th  century and as the winds of change began to blow all over the world, many of the descendants of the original patriarch of the family, Rav Shlomo Zalman Tzoref who arrived in Eretz Yisroel in 1811 were no longer totally halachik observant Jews.

Indeed, by 2011, 200 years after Rav Sholom Zalman Tzoref arrived in Israel,  there is estimated to be over 20,000 of his descendants in the world; the majority of them in Israel.

Many were still observant and many were not; however, they were all family.

My father had first cousins who lived and breathed a total life of Torah and Mitzvohs and although they had a fiery love of the land they were in no way ‘Zionists’.

He had other cousins who were card carrying ‘Mapai’ members (the Labor Anti-Religious party); nevertheless both of these cousins were first and foremost family.

I recall how at my second cousin’s wedding, how the Chosson’s father whose long beard reached his waist, embraced and kissed his own first cousin who was razor shaven and hatless.

Family was family.

I saw my father’s cousin in Shaarei Tzedek who was close to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach hug her own sister who lived in Tel Aviv and was an outspoken atheist after her son was killed in the Yom Kippur War when they met at my Bar Mitzvah.

Family was family.

My father would talk with equal love and compassion and care for every one of his cousins without any distinction based on their religious observance or lack of.

Therefore, although I was privileged to be part of an event which many would term ‘groundbreaking’; for me it was a day in my life as a human being.

Of course, birds of a feather will flock together and of course we generally share company with those people with whom we share common beliefs and interests and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, family is family.

And this past Sunday was just another family day with my extended family.

Perhaps if we would remember that family is family we would no longer require ‘groundbreaking events’.

 

“If Not Now- Then When”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “The War is Over “ (5/8/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 8th of Iyar 5774 and May 8, 2014

 

The War is Over

 

Today (May 8th) ) in 1945, the Germans unconditionally surrounded to the Allies thus ending the European portion of World War and was therefore designated as V-E Day (Victory in Europe).

Although there were pockets of German soldiers who may have fought on for another day or two, for all practical purposes, the European side of the war ended with the surrender of Germany.

Indeed, not only did the Germans surrender, they would eventually go on to build a democratic society which today has one of the most robust economies’ in the world and is home to a large segment of Jews from the former Soviet Union.

They have a true democratic government and any form of anti-Semitism is illegal.

How was this accomplished?

How did Germany go from being a tyrannical demonic state run by a despotic madman, to becoming a free and democratic county welcoming Jews and other minorities of the world?

Obviously the answer is more complicated than the usual purview of the Short Vort; however, a brief explanation is offered.

Two of the main reasons for the success of the rebuilding of Germany were:

1.       The acceptance of the Allies of the surrender of Germany and their avoidance of punitive and crushing sanctions against the defeated country. Indeed, Germany was re-built in large part by the re-embracing of Germany into the family of nations.

2.       The acceptance of Germany that they were defeated and that the war is over. This is in contra-distinction to Japan where only the two eventual atomic bombs were able to cause Japan to realize that the war was lost.

 

Too often in our lives we fail to remember these two important lessons.

Two often, when we have an argument or disagreement with someone and they apologize and are repentant; we still do not re-embrace them as a part of our community.

So too, often, when have a disagreement with someone and  even when we do ‘surrender’ and admit our wrong doing or realize that our position is no longer tenable; nevertheless, we continue to fight on and to carry on the battle!

If we would learn to re-embrace those of community who are truly sorry for hurting us and simultaneously we would be more sincere in realizing when to stop our fight and concede, we would all be a lot better off.

 

“If Not Now –Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “A Necessary, Albeit Unenviable Honor * (5/5/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 5th of Iyar 5774 and May 5, 2014

 

A Necessary, Albeit Unenviable Honor

 

From Ha’aretz May 5th 2008

The first official victim of terror

Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref was killed trying to rebuild the Churva Synagogue in 1851.

By Nadav Shraga- May 5, 2008

                              

It is doubtful the name Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref, who was killed in Jerusalem in 1851, will ring familiar with most Israelis. Nonetheless, Tzoref was the first victim of terror recognized by the State of Israel. In two days, his name and those of over 3,000 victims of hostile acts will be read in commemoration.

Tzoref managed to obtain from Egyptian ruler Muhammad Ali, and then later from Turkish authorities, the permits to rebuild the Churva Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Old City, which Arab creditors burned down in 1721.

Tzoref did not live to see the synagogue rebuilt. He was murdered in 1851, five years before the reconstruction work started.

 

It is doubtful that the name Rav Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref will ring familiar to any of my readers. However, to me, the mention of his name and his murder goes straight to my heart.

It is not that I am such a caring and compassionate Jew that I can claim that every Jew who was ever killed pains me to the depth of my soul; I wish I could say it does, however, alas, I would be lying.

However, I can say it with regard to Rav Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref; for he was my great, great, great, great grandfather.

Rav Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref who was born in Lithuania and settled in Eretz Yisroel in 1811 was directly responsible for me being who I am.

If he did not have the foresight to move to Eretz Yisroel in 1811, thereby saving my family from the holocaust of the twentieth century and from the assimilationists’ of the nineteenth century, would I still be a caring, observant Jew?

His self-sacrificial act of moving to Israel and his martyrdom at the hands of our enemies paved the road of survival for me and my family.

However, he is just one of the many, many Jews who have given their lives so you and I can continue to live in safety in the Land of Israel.

Today is Yom HaZikaron in Israel.

It is not a political day, nor is it a specific religious day.

Rather it is a day to recognize the debt of gratitude every single Jew in the entire world owes to those soldiers and common men and women who died on the hallowed ground of Israel so that you and I can go there anytime we want to.

It is about the almost 25,000 men, women and children who have fallen in the line of duty or have been killed because they insisted on being Jews in the Land of Israel.

It is about my father YoelMoshe ben Yosef Nosson Z”l who fought in 1948 War of Independence and was injured in the Battle of Latrun* in May 1948, while it was under the control of the Arab Legion.

*Latrun commanded the only road linking the Yishuv-controlled area of Jerusalem to Israel, giving Latrun strategic importance in the battle for Jerusalem.

Despite assaulting Latrun on five separate occasions Israel was ultimately unable to capture Latrun, and it remained under Jordanian control until the Six-Day War. (Wikipedia)

My father suffered a permanent loss of hearing in one ear from that battle.

Yom HaZikaron is about the almost three thousand men and women who were killed during the Yom Kippur War; many of them ran to battle still with their tallesim wrapped around them.

And Yom HaZikaron is a day when I recall how my own son Tuvia (voluntarily) served bravely and courageously for three full years in the highly specialized and trained anti-terrorist unit of the Nachal Chareidi battalion of the IDF.

Yom HaZikaron has nothing to do with what yarmulke or what hat you wear or even if you wear one at all.

It is a day which transcends religious affiliation or non-affiliation; it is a day when we honor all of those Jewish men and women who served and who continue to serve in the defense forces of Israel so that all the rest of us can live and continue to live in security and safety.

At the conclusion of the Prayer Gathering held in Lower Manhattan on Sunday March 9th 2014, the Agudath Israel spokesman in his concluding remarks, correctly and properly stated “We want to express our tremendous appreciation to the New York City Police Department for their incredible efforts in insuring the safety and security of all of the tens of thousands of participants here this afternoon.”

Dare we say anything less to the men and women who “insure our safety and security” in the land of our fathers?

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Sour Pickles* (5/4/14)



The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 5th of Iyar 5774 and May 5th, 2014

 

Sour Pickles

 

Please indulge me and forgive me for writing this. I really would rather write to you something happy and joyful. However, I feel as if I have a burden which is sitting painfully heavy on my heart and I must share with you. By sharing with you perhaps it will be cathartic for me. I must share with someone and you my readers are my most intimate and trusted friends.

It was just about a week ago when the incident occurred. However, I have been unable to free myself from the incarcerating thoughts which continuously haunt me and allow me not a moment of mental bliss. So please bear with me and allow me to unburden myself and perhaps, just perhaps my sharing may bring about some solace and peace to my agitated and restless soul.

 

It was Friday night close to 11 when the Jacobsons’ (all names changed) knocked on my door. They were frantically desperate for help. One of their children had inadvertently switched on electric heater in the dining room and needless to say, the room was uncomfortably warm.

They asked me if a non-Jew could be brought into the house and hinted at to shut off the oppressive (albeit not dangerous) heater. I replied in the affirmative which led to their next question if I knew of any Gentile whom they could approach at this late hour?

 

I thought about it and remembered old Mrs. Jones who lives around the corner. Quite often when I need to get some air after the 11 PM Maariv, I notice her sitting on her porch with her cigarette in hand and I always wish her a good night as I pass her home. “Try Mrs. Jones; she is a night owl and if she is up she will be on her porch smoking”, I said.

About ten minutes later the couple returned and asked if I had any other options.

I asked, “Oh, so Mrs. Jones wasn’t there?” “No, she was there. However, when she heard we wanted her to come to our dining room to do ‘something’ she balked and refused to come.”

I was surprised, however, I chalked it up to her being cautious about entering the home of a stranger and told the Jacobsons’ that I know of no one else and they should open their windows and see what tomorrow brings.

The Jacobsons’ left and soon afterward all was quiet and I forgot about the incident.

Two days later I am passing by Mrs. Jones and as usual I said, “Good night” as I walked by.

Suddenly and surprisingly, as this never occurred before, Mrs. Jones said, “Rabbi, did you know that some of ‘your people’ came to see me last Friday night?” I nodded and she asked, “Do you know why I refused to come?”

 I told her that she does not owe me any explanations and with that I began to walk home. However, Mrs. Jones was not done yet. “Rabbi, wait, I want to tell you why I did not go. I think this is something you have to hear.”

I did not want to appear impolite so I walked back to the front of her home and as she sat on the porch she related to me the following:

“Rabbi, you don’t know me. However, although now I am in my seventies and retired, I used to be a waitress. Bet you did not know that.

Well for about 15 years I worked for a kosher caterer in …. (She named a well-known ‘in-town’ Jewish neighborhood).

 I was the best waitress. I worked Bar Mitzvahs and those weddings; how do you call them? Oh yea, hasunahs.

Anyway, one day about ten years ago I was working this really fancy hasunahs in this really fancy county club.

The caterer went all out.

He had the best cut of meat; the most plentiful smorgasbord and the fanciest wines.

They even gave three choices for the ‘main’.  

I was on the ‘men’s side’, which I really detested doing, however, the staff was short and Moishe the caterer asked me to do him a favor and cover the men’s side.

Well here I am taking the orders for the ‘main’ and this man with a big black fedora on his head asks me in a loud voice, “Hey, where are the sour pickles?”

I told him politely that I don’t know and I am here to take the orders for the main course. However, before I can even finish my sentence he screams out, “I don’t care about the main course! Bring me sour pickles and bring them now!”

 I looked at this man who was somewhat portly and could not believe that he was yelling at me over sour pickles, however, as I looked around the table all the other men just sat quietly, seemingly in agreement with his request.

Rabbi, I never finished high school, however, I know not to talk to people disrespectfully and I went straight to the kitchen, found him some sour pickles and that night was the last night I worked as a waitress.

 I swore to myself I would never ‘wait tables’ again and I also swore that I would never enter a ‘Jewish dining room’ again.

That’s why rabbi, I refused to help ‘your people’.

You hear what I am saying Rabbi? Do you know what I mean?”

One human heart was turned away and one family had to suffer through a warm uncomfortable night all on account of sour pickles.

I slowly walked back to my study and began to cry.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- ““Good Things Come in Small Packages” “ (5/1/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 1st of Iyar 5774 and May 1, 2014

 


“Good Things Come in Small Packages”



 

As I arose on the morning of March 27th 2014 I knew it was a special day.

On this day exactly 18 years ago, my youngest child Aviva was born.

And as I wrapped myself with my Tallis and Tefillin tears began to run down my cheeks as I recalled the emotions which flowed through me  that day eighteen years ago.

Aviva was born in the 24th week of pregnancy; weighing only one pound and ten ounces.

When she was born she did not utter a cry like most babies do; in fact, she made no sound at all.

It would be months until a sound would come from her.

There were 17 medical professionals present when she entered this world.

There were doctors and nurses, breathing specialists and experts in the care of preemies.

And along with all of those helping human hands, the heavenly hand of Hashem was also in the room.

She was whisked immediately to the neonatal intensive care unit where she would remain for more than three months.

With few exceptions she would not be held by human hands for the first eight weeks of her life.

She lived within the bubble of an incubator; seen but not held by her loving family as she struggled to live.

The doctor called me at home the day after her birth.

He said he was calling me to prepare me.

“Prepare me for what?” I naively asked.

He paused and said, “Your daughter has a less than two percent chance of survival beyond 72 hours. I am calling to prepare you and to advise you not to bond too intensely with her as her chances of living are extremely dim; and even if she does survive, who knows for how long?”

However, Aviva with the help of many caring people who looked after her medical needs and with the prayers and tefillos of people all over the world and ultimately with the help of HE who gives life and health, survived and thrived.

After being hospitalized for fifteen weeks, on exactly the date which was her original ‘due day’- Aviva was discharged from the hospital.

And today she was turning 18.

The day would not begin with a party; rather, it began with the mundane task of taking Aviva to the doctor to have a cast on her wrist removed; the result of her falling during roller blading; as she plays and jumps and enjoys life just as any other eighteen year old.

As Aviva and I reached the receptionist at the doctor’s office, the woman asked me, “Is your insurance the same? Do you still live at so and so street?”

Then the receptionist looked up at Aviva and said, “Oh, I see today you are now 18. This means you are now an adult. I must inform you that according to the law it is now illegal for us to discuss your medical situation with anyone, not even your parents without your prior consent. Here is a form for you to fill out without any pressure. If you agree to it then sign it. It gives us permission to discuss your case with your parents.”

As I looked at my daughter’s proud smile at her new found sense of maturity and power I knew I had reached a new reality in my life.

The roles were slowing reversing. It was no longer Aviva asking permission of me, now it was I who had to obtain her consent; she was on her way to self-sufficiency.

My little girl was no longer the fragile preemie upon whom I doted; she was now an adult.

At this watershed moment, I was filled with dueling emotions.

 On one hand I was proud and excited; almost non-believing that my ‘little Aviva’ was now a mature young woman being entrusted with making her own decisions and that she is healthy and well.

Yet, concurrently was the humbling recognition of my own mortality and my own limitations.

Aviva was no longer a dependent child assigned to me to protect and shelter and to decide what I thought was best for her. She was becoming a responsible and accountable adult, capable of making her own decisions.

 This sudden reality was a difficult pill for her loving and protective father to swallow.

After so many years of me being her protector and her provider, Aviva was now the one making the choice to allow me to continue to share in her life or not.

The small dainty defenseless and dependent little girl, had, -with the help of He who helps all, - grown into a mature and responsible young woman.

Aviva laughed at her new found authority and signed the authorization.

I looked at Aviva and saw a budding responsible young adult.

However, as I closed my eyes in thankful gratitude to Hashem all I could see was my little girl.

The little girl, who during her extended hospital stay, if I would awake at three in the morning I would drag myself downstairs to call the nurses station at the NICU to see how she was doing.

All I saw was my little daughter and the heart monitor which was constantly attached to her during her first three months at home.

And with my eyes closed, all I saw was tiny Aviva, no bigger than a toy doll, looking at me through the Plexiglas pane of an incubator.

However, as I opened my eyes, the little girl of my mind was no longer standing before me.  All too suddenly she had been transformed into a mature and responsible eighteen year adult.

I then looked into myself and the only words which came to my mind were those of Shlomo HaMelech: “A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth endures forever” (Koheles)

Happy Birthday Aviva!

 

“If Not Now-Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ “For Whom The Bell Tolls”* (4/29/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 29th of Nissan 5774 and April 29th 2014

 

“For Whom The Bell Tolls”

 

Incident number one

 

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik Zt”l (1853-1918) was presented with a question regarding the treatment of a sick individual and the observance of Shabbos. Rav Chaim quickly ruled that Shabbos should be ‘broken’ for the sake of the infirmed person.

A short time later a similar situation occurred and again Rav Chaim ruled that Shabbos should be ‘suspended’ for the sake of properly caring for the sick man.

One of his ‘inner court’ members asked him, “Rebbe, why are you so lenient with the observance of Shabbos?”

Rav Chaim blanched and replied incredulously, “What? You think I am lenient in the observance of Shabbos!??? How can you say such a thing? I wait way past the ‘official time’ for the end of Shabbos to do Melacha and I am never lenient with regard to the holy Shabbos. In fact, I am very stringent (a machmir) with regard to Shabbos. It just happens to be that I am even a greater ‘machmir’ with regard to saving a human life (Pikuach Nefesh).”

Rav Chaim was teaching an important lesson. Rarely is a person a ‘machmir’ in a vacuum. Almost every ‘Chumrah’ (stringency) has the potential to produce a reciprocal ‘kula’ (leniency) in another area of Halacha.

When you are too machmir (strict) in your Hilchos Shabbos, you will end up be to meikel (lenient) in sustaining a human life!

This idea that no ‘chumrah’ exists in a vacuum can be seen in all areas of Halacha.

For instance, if you are very careful (‘machmir)’ in in Kashrus, you limit the places and people you can eat at and with, which can have repercussions in the future. As you will be limiting the relationships you are able to cultivate and there will be many people you may therefore never have the privilege of meeting.

Of course I am never advocating for anyone to compromise their level of kashrus; however, they must realize that adding an additional ‘Chumrah’ which the majority of the people in your neighborhood do not observe will automatically separate you and your family from the mainstream of the community.

When Rav Pam Zt”l was asked if a newly married couple should accept the ‘Chumra’ of Yoshon he would inquire if their parents observed it and if it would isolate their children from the majority of the children in the neighborhood.

He understood that no decision can be made in a vacuum.

 

Incident number two

 

When I was in Eretz Yisroel years ago as a Bochur, I volunteered to help ‘kasher’ an army base before Pesach.

I was surprised to see as I arrived at my first day on the job a very well-known Talmid Chochom and Rosh Yeshiva who was fulfilling his ‘miluim’ (reserve) duty by also helping to kasher the kitchen.

After we had finished with the scrubbing and the cleaning we proceeded to kasher the pots.

After we had finished the Rav HaMachshir (chief chaplain) of the entire base arrived and scolded all of us, including the Rosh Yeshiva (who I presume because of his wearing ‘non-rabbinic’ clothes for the job, he did not recognize) for not applying a blow torch to the handles of the pots. He berated us in military fashion and in such harsh tones that I thought I was going to be court marshaled for treason and that my head would soon hang from the base’s flag-pole.

After he finished his verbal barrage, he turned on his heels and departed. When he was out of ear-shot, the Rosh Yeshiva, (who was a much greater Torah scholar than the head chaplain) who was silent during the attack, calmly turned to me and quietly remarked, “There is really no necessity other than a few non-mainstream stringent opinions to apply a blow torch to the handles of the pots. However, even if the chaplain felt that it was proper to observe this ‘chumrah’ which involves neither a question which is Torah based or rabbinic, rather involves being strict in minhag (custom), he had no right to publicly embarrass all of us including the local Rav of this section of the camp who was no doubt publicly humiliated which is a violation of a Torah commandment.”

I learned a great lesson that day.

I learned that often it is better to take your licks in silence and just as important, I learned that sometimes when you are strict in a custom you are lenient in the Torah itself.

 

Incident number three

 

One summer when I was still learning in Kollel and looking to make extra money during the summer break, I took a position cleaning and filling the local Mikvah of a very well-known and highly respected Kehilla in the New York area.

Every Friday morning I would arrive early and empty, clean and refill the Mikvah while making sure to properly perform ‘hashaka’ ( a halachically approved method of ‘koshering’ a Mikvah which is beyond the purview of the Short Vort to properly explain). After I finished my work the ‘Dayan’ (rabbinic judge) who sanctioned the kashrus of the Mikvah arrived to inspect my work.

Before I could say “Holy Water” he had switched into his swimming trunks and we jumped into the water as he carefully and meticulously (and calmly) inspected my work. At one point I proudly showed him how I had been stricter than he had instructed me as I filled the Mikvah one inch above the level he had indicated was needed. I explained my behavior by stating. “If filling it to this line is good, going even a little higher is better.”

It was then I learned the life-lesson: ‘less is more and more is less’.

He gently and lovingly chastised me for my self-styled chumrah while explaining me to that the level which he had instructed me to fill-to was arrived at after careful analysis. The computation was based on the need for the Mikvah being totally kosher while taking into account the needs of those women who struggle with aquaphobia and are also barely five tall (the shorter side of the average height for an American woman). The water level was established so that even these few ‘short’ and aquaphobic women would feel comfortable standing on the bottom step of the Mikvah and still have their heads comfortably outside the water!

I was shocked. I figured that of course ‘more is more’; however, as this prominent older Rav explained to this (literally) ‘wet behind the ears’ novice, quite often: ‘more is less’.

“If one woman in the kehilla will be uncomfortable in the Mikvah and therefore has to ‘hold-on’ to the wall because of your added Chumrah, you have lost much more than you thought you gained. The height I told you to fill-to is totally kosher; your attempt to be ‘super-kosher’ may lead to ‘super-kares’ (kares is a serious and frightening spiritual punishment for violators of certain laws including those involving immersion in a Mikvah).

From this I learned an important lesson.

Just as there are no atheists in a fox-hole; so too, there are no Chumrahs in a vacuum.

Be careful who you call a ‘meikel’ (lenient person); after all remember what our sages said, “Whoever disqualifies, he himself is blemished with precisely the same blemish with which he disqualifies.” (Talmud Bavli; Kiddushin 70a)

Or as John Donne (1572–1631; English poet, satirist, lawyer and a cleric in the Church of England) observed

“… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee...”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

  

The Short Vort- “Two Holy Chests” (4/25/14)


The Short Vort



Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 25th of Nissan 5774 and April 25th, 2014

 

Two Containers

 

During the 40 years that the Jewish people were travelling in the desert, there were two ‘Aronos’, two chests, which travelled with them. (See Gemara Bavli:  Sota 13a)

One of them was the Aron (casket) which contained the earthly remains of Yosef which Moshe was personally transferring for burial to Eretz Yisroel.

The other one was the Holy Arc (Aron HaKodesh) which contained the tablets of the Law.

These two holy crates travelled with the people throughout their movements in the desert.

Other travelers who would see these two containers would openly wonder, “What are these two crates?”           

The Jewish people answered that one is the crate of a deceased human being while the other ‘crate’ contains the holy Tablets of the Law.

The Gemara informs us that passerbys’ would voice their surprise as to the fact that these two seemingly different ‘Aronos’ would be traveling in tandem.

Their surprise was expressed with the question, “Is it proper for a deceased body to travel jointly with the Shechina (the divine presence) as represented by the Aron HaKodesh?

The surprise expressed by those who viewed this unlikely pair travelling side by side was one of apparent incompatibility.

After all, the Aron represents Hashem’s presence which is permanent and constant and by definition not subject to human and material limitations. The Shechina represents the ethereal and the sublime; while the Meis (the corpse) represents the ‘Avi Avos HaTumaah”- the highest level of impurity and the manifestation of all that is temporal and mortal; the expression of all that is earthly and secular, the complete opposite of sanctity and sacredness.

Indeed, how could these two seemingly incongruous and seemingly incompatible receptacles be linked together?

Perhaps the answer is that the Gemara is teaching us that this apparent incompatibility is indeed what real life is.

The ability and the necessity to synthesize and fuse these two opposite ends of the spectrum of life and death into one cohesive and integrated amalgamation is the true challenge and task of all of our travels in this world.

We are all faced with the challenge of travelling through life with our own two Aronos.

One hand we live our lives focused on the holy and the G-dly as we have the entire corpus of mitzvohs which we refer to as Mitzvohs Bein Adam L’Makom- the mitzvohs in which we attempt to bond with our creator. These Mitzvohs allow us to forge a relationship with He who sees yet, can never be seen; with He who hears yet can never he heard and with He who listens yet does not speak; with He who we crave for His ‘embrace’ yet, we ourselves can never even touch.

As we wrap ourselves in our Tefillin and our Tallis; as the woman of the household kindles the Shabbos candles; as we pour out our hearts in prayer and supplication; we attempt to elevate ourselves from the mundane and temporal physicality of this world and ascend to the higher echelons of ‘kedusha’ and holiness. At these times we attempt to free and liberate ourselves from the physical confinement of our body and its mortal needs.

However, there is a totally different side to the human experience and that side is physical and very corporeal; that side is completely earthly and mortal; indeed, it involves that which is in essence simply physical and devoid of the spiritual and that of course is death.

This physical side of the human experience requires a ‘hands-on’ approach to life and requires us to descend into the trenches of human drudgery and a removal of one’s self from the ethereal and the sublime in order to submerge into the mundane mire of the human side of our existence.

These mitzvohs which are referred to as Mitzvohs Bein Adam L’Chaveiro are also part and parcel of the complete Jewish experience.

As one of great Chassidic Giants once commented when he was informed of a father whose wife could not leave their new-born with him as he claimed that when he was engrossed in his learning the outside world no longer exists and therefore he would not hear the child when it cried for help- “A father who fails to hear his daughter’s cries when he is learning is not bonding with Hashem; rather he is narcissistic selfish person and his learning is worthless in the eyes of Hashem. After all, do we not expect Hashem to hear our cries when “HE” is learning?”

On the other hand, one who only focusses on the human side of Mitzvohs and allows himself or others to eat non-kosher food because it is inconvenient for them to travel the extra ten minutes to the kosher market and justifies his decision by claiming he is being sensitive to their time and effort, is obviously heading down a slippery slope of subjective and nonsensical rationalizations where both the baby and bath water together will be totally discarded in one fell swoop.

The attempt at balance is not an easy task; not for the Rav and not for the individual.

We all struggle as we attempt to juggle our obligations to Hashem versus our obligations towards our fellow human being.

We all wrestle (or we should be wrestling) with this subject as often these issues seem to be on an unavoidable collision course.

Although we all agree that when one’s wife is having a baby a husband’s place is with his wife; however, if Shul starts at 8:30 AM and one’s child needs breakfast should that same father be ten minutes late to shul to supply breakfast? If you answered yes, should he be twenty minutes late to wait for child number two to descend to the kitchen to feed them? If yes, should he be thirty minutes late to Shul to change the baby?

Does it matter how his wife slept the night before?

Should he miss Shul in its entirety?

Should he never attend Shul until all his children are all trained, can get dressed on their own and feed themselves (basically until they marry?)

If you ask your local Yeshiva for a 50% scholarship for tuition which is a lack of Beis Adam L’Chveiro as you force the Yeshiva to fund raise that much more while you insist on ‘raising your connection to Hashem’ by only eating hand-Shmura Matzah for Pesach which costs $25 per pound while you could get a free five pound box of Matzah at Shoprite for buying just $100 of pre-Pesach groceries there, are you properly balancing your issues?

If you eat a total of five pounds of Matzah during Pesach you could pay an additional $125 towards tuition or help defray the costs of someone else’s Pesach purchases; instead you chose to only eat Shmura Matza to connect with Hashem; is that the proper balance?

Should your focus on the Aron of the Shechina be at the expense of focusing on the Aron of the deceased human?

And if you only focus on the ‘Aron of the deceased’ will you be ignoring your commitments to bond with Hashem?

The answer for me is not the answer for you.

And the answer for the person living in Peoria is not the same for the person living in Parsippany.

And the answer for the couple who lives on your corner is not the same as the neighbor who lives across the street from you.

Never, ever broad stroke everyone into one common denominator which unfairly forces different people with different challenges to act in conformity with those who do not face the same challenges as they do.

Never assume that by broad-brushing everyone into one seemingly cohesive and simple grouping you have benefited anyone. Quite the opposite, those simple individuals who believe simple answers can address complex issues are just that: simple individuals.

We are all complex and although we may all shop at Syms (Zichrono L’Bracha), however, at the end of the day we all need our own personal alterations. My sleeve length might be longer than yours and my cuffs might need more shortening than yours.

Each one of us travels through the world with our own two Aronos.

On one side we have the Aron HaKodesh which inspires us to reach higher levels of connection to Hashem by disconnecting with the physical world.

On the other hand, we have the Aron of the Deceased Yosef at our side which reminds us of the human and physical and earthly needs we all have and must be attended to.

When do we give the nod to the needs of the Aron HaKodesh at the expense of the ‘Aron of the deceased’ and when do we nod in the other direction? This is a complicated and difficult and ever changing and extremely personal struggle.

Today’s answer may not work for tomorrow’s issue and what works for the Jew in Detroit may not work for the Jew in Denver.

The struggle and its complexity are plainly visible; the challenge is to choose correctly.

 

“If Not Now-Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

The Short Vort- “ Two Containers “ (4/25/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 25th of Nissan 5774 and April 25th, 2014

 

Two Containers

 

During the 40 years that the Jewish people were travelling in the desert, there were two ‘Aronos’, two chests, which travelled with them. (See Gemara Bavli:  Sota 13a)

One of them was the Aron (casket) which contained the earthly remains of Yosef which Moshe was personally transferring for burial to Eretz Yisroel.

The other one was the Holy Arc (Aron HaKodesh) which contained the tablets of the Law.

These two holy crates travelled with the people throughout their movements in the desert.

Other travelers who would see these two containers would openly wonder, “What are these two crates?”           

The Jewish people answered that one is the crate of a deceased human being while the other ‘crate’ contains the holy Tablets of the Law.

The Gemara informs us that passerbys’ would voice their surprise as to the fact that these two seemingly different ‘Aronos’ would be traveling in tandem.

Their surprise was expressed with the question, “Is it proper for a deceased body to travel jointly with the Shechina (the divine presence) as represented by the Aron HaKodesh?

The surprise expressed by those who viewed this unlikely pair travelling side by side was one of apparent incompatibility.

After all, the Aron represents Hashem’s presence which is permanent and constant and by definition not subject to human and material limitations. The Shechina represents the ethereal and the sublime; while the Meis (the corpse) represents the ‘Avi Avos HaTumaah”- the highest level of impurity and the manifestation of all that is temporal and mortal; the expression of all that is earthly and secular, the complete opposite of sanctity and sacredness.

Indeed, how could these two seemingly incongruous and seemingly incompatible receptacles be linked together?

Perhaps the answer is that the Gemara is teaching us that this apparent incompatibility is indeed what real life is.

The ability and the necessity to synthesize and fuse these two opposite ends of the spectrum of life and death into one cohesive and integrated amalgamation is the true challenge and task of all of our travels in this world.

We are all faced with the challenge of travelling through life with our own two Aronos.

One hand we live our lives focused on the holy and the G-dly as we have the entire corpus of mitzvohs which we refer to as Mitzvohs Bein Adam L’Makom- the mitzvohs in which we attempt to bond with our creator. These Mitzvohs allow us to forge a relationship with He who sees yet, can never be seen; with He who hears yet can never he heard and with He who listens yet does not speak; with He who we crave for His ‘embrace’ yet, we ourselves can never even touch.

As we wrap ourselves in our Tefillin and our Tallis; as the woman of the household kindles the Shabbos candles; as we pour out our hearts in prayer and supplication; we attempt to elevate ourselves from the mundane and temporal physicality of this world and ascend to the higher echelons of ‘kedusha’ and holiness. At these times we attempt to free and liberate ourselves from the physical confinement of our body and its mortal needs.

However, there is a totally different side to the human experience and that side is physical and very corporeal; that side is completely earthly and mortal; indeed, it involves that which is in essence simply physical and devoid of the spiritual and that of course is death.

This physical side of the human experience requires a ‘hands-on’ approach to life and requires us to descend into the trenches of human drudgery and a removal of one’s self from the ethereal and the sublime in order to submerge into the mundane mire of the human side of our existence.

These mitzvohs which are referred to as Mitzvohs Bein Adam L’Chaveiro are also part and parcel of the complete Jewish experience.

As one of great Chassidic Giants once commented when he was informed of a father whose wife could not leave their new-born with him as he claimed that when he was engrossed in his learning the outside world no longer exists and therefore he would not hear the child when it cried for help- “A father who fails to hear his daughter’s cries when he is learning is not bonding with Hashem; rather he is narcissistic selfish person and his learning is worthless in the eyes of Hashem. After all, do we not expect Hashem to hear our cries when “HE” is learning?”

On the other hand, one who only focusses on the human side of Mitzvohs and allows himself or others to eat non-kosher food because it is inconvenient for them to travel the extra ten minutes to the kosher market and justifies his decision by claiming he is being sensitive to their time and effort, is obviously heading down a slippery slope of subjective and nonsensical rationalizations where both the baby and bath water together will be totally discarded in one fell swoop.

The attempt at balance is not an easy task; not for the Rav and not for the individual.

We all struggle as we attempt to juggle our obligations to Hashem versus our obligations towards our fellow human being.

We all wrestle (or we should be wrestling) with this subject as often these issues seem to be on an unavoidable collision course.

Although we all agree that when one’s wife is having a baby a husband’s place is with his wife; however, if Shul starts at 8:30 AM and one’s child needs breakfast should that same father be ten minutes late to shul to supply breakfast? If you answered yes, should he be twenty minutes late to wait for child number two to descend to the kitchen to feed them? If yes, should he be thirty minutes late to Shul to change the baby?

Does it matter how his wife slept the night before?

Should he miss Shul in its entirety?

Should he never attend Shul until all his children are all trained, can get dressed on their own and feed themselves (basically until they marry?)

If you ask your local Yeshiva for a 50% scholarship for tuition which is a lack of Beis Adam L’Chveiro as you force the Yeshiva to fund raise that much more while you insist on ‘raising your connection to Hashem’ by only eating hand-Shmura Matzah for Pesach which costs $25 per pound while you could get a free five pound box of Matzah at Shoprite for buying just $100 of pre-Pesach groceries there, are you properly balancing your issues?

If you eat a total of five pounds of Matzah during Pesach you could pay an additional $125 towards tuition or help defray the costs of someone else’s Pesach purchases; instead you chose to only eat Shmura Matza to connect with Hashem; is that the proper balance?

Should your focus on the Aron of the Shechina be at the expense of focusing on the Aron of the deceased human?

And if you only focus on the ‘Aron of the deceased’ will you be ignoring your commitments to bond with Hashem?

The answer for me is not the answer for you.

And the answer for the person living in Peoria is not the same for the person living in Parsippany.

And the answer for the couple who lives on your corner is not the same as the neighbor who lives across the street from you.

Never, ever broad stroke everyone into one common denominator which unfairly forces different people with different challenges to act in conformity with those who do not face the same challenges as they do.

Never assume that by broad-brushing everyone into one seemingly cohesive and simple grouping you have benefited anyone. Quite the opposite, those simple individuals who believe simple answers can address complex issues are just that: simple individuals.

We are all complex and although we may all shop at Syms (Zichrono L’Bracha), however, at the end of the day we all need our own personal alterations. My sleeve length might be longer than yours and my cuffs might need more shortening than yours.

Each one of us travels through the world with our own two Aronos.

On one side we have the Aron HaKodesh which inspires us to reach higher levels of connection to Hashem by disconnecting with the physical world.

On the other hand, we have the Aron of the Deceased Yosef at our side which reminds us of the human and physical and earthly needs we all have and must be attended to.

When do we give the nod to the needs of the Aron HaKodesh at the expense of the ‘Aron of the deceased’ and when do we nod in the other direction? This is a complicated and difficult and ever changing and extremely personal struggle.

Today’s answer may not work for tomorrow’s issue and what works for the Jew in Detroit may not work for the Jew in Denver.

The struggle and its complexity are plainly visible; the challenge is to choose correctly.

 

“If Not Now-Then When?”- Hillel

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

  

The Short Vort- “ Hey, Can I Come In?” (4/24/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 24th of Nissan 5774 and April 23, 2014

 

Hey, Can I Come In?

 

Yom Tov is over and the in-laws and out-laws have all gone home.

 The children went back to Lakewood and maybe the parents went back to the Woodmere and maybe no one went back anywhere as everyone was home.

Whatever the situation in your personal life, today, the day after Pesach life resumed to its regular wonderful existence.

The bread was fresh and delicious; the davening was much shorter and suddenly Tefillin were very much back in vogue.

Everyone who was away was suddenly was back in town and those that came for Yom Tov disappeared.

Chometz was the rule of the day and Matzah was a distant memory.

What did you take away from Pesach?

Did you take a few pounds with you?

If yes, is that the only thing you are taking with you?

Has your sense of compassion towards other Jews been heightened?

Is your feeling of acceptance all types of Jews, regardless of their perceived of observance been strengthened?

Was your desire to help and include all Jews into the community reinforced?

If not, better go eat some more Matzah; you have more work to do.

 

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

The Short Vort- “ The Broken Matzah” (4/13/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 13th of Nissan 5774 and April 13th, 2014

 

The Broken Matza

 

As the Seder begins we sit down, recite Kiddush and ‘break bread’ without ever taking a bite of it?!

Right after eating a rather petty piece of potato or celery, we break our matzah in half; hiding one of the halves while leaving the other half revealed for all to see.

Why?

Why bring the complete and full Matza to the table only to break it?

If we need two halves then just pre-break it into two halves prior to the meal and bring it to the table already broken, why the need to break it in full view of all of our guests?

To answer this question I present my own original Pesach thought for you to save and share (or disregard- your choice).

Most of the year, we wear a mask.

We present to the world a false face; a disguise of sorts.

For instance, when we go for a job interview we tell the interviewer when he or she asks, “Why do you think you are qualified for this position?”

We immediately answer, “I am your man (or women). I am the perfect person for your firm. I am qualified, serious and competent.”

In fact, if we would tell the truth at the interview, and tell them that we have our doubts as to our competency, then the interviewer’s response would be, “Thank you; don’t call us, we will call you if we need you.”

Too often, excluding to our good friends (or our Rav) do we dare expose our real-self; (you know the one I mean) - the one full of problems, self-doubt and insecurity.

However, if you really want to experience the Pesach Seder to the fullest, and if you really want to feel just how much you need Hashem and others, the first thing you have to do it break your matzah.

The breaking of the matzah, which is done ‘publicly’ and in front of all the guests is an act of shedding our fake and fallacious facade.

Finally as we sit down at the Pesach Seder we are ready to admit and confess, “I too, am a broken Matzah. I too am just a ‘shever Keli’- a broken utensil.  I may show to the world a face of confidence and self-assurance; however, the truth is that I too am just a broken Matzah.”

Before we can begin the frank and open discussion of Maggid; of retelling and relating the Exodus from Egypt, we must admit to all and most of all to ourselves how broken we really are.

Before we can begin the dialogue of the story of how we became free we must humble ourselves and realize just how ‘broken’ we really are.

Only when we admit that we are broken and dependent individuals can we be a receptacle ready to accept our dependency on Hashem and people.

Once we have ‘broken the Matzah, we can begin Maggid.

What is the major component of Maggid?

 The realization of how much gratitude we must have toward Hashem for all that He does for us.

Only a person who realizes just how broken he is can really feel indebted to Hashem and to those with whose good will and friendship he depends on.

We must realize that without Hashem and without the goodness of His emissaries we would be totally broken.

Indeed, the lesson of gratitude is perhaps the most basic lesson of the Haggadah.

However, anyone can offer lip-service to Hashem by reciting all of the ‘right words’ and frum phrases to make everyone (including himself) believe he is sincere and real.

However, real gratitude must begin at home.

The person who cannot say how much he appreciates his wife for all that she does for the house and for him can never really be appreciative of Hashem.

The fellow who cannot appreciate how dependent he is on so many, many different people never really appreciates Hashem either.

The simple Jew who cannot show gratitude to the Talmid Chochom for the fact that he imbues the world with Torah and spirituality and holiness never really can thank Hashem for what He does.

And the Talmid Chochom who does not appreciate the Israeli soldier who puts his life on the line so the Talmid Chochom can sit and learn is in no state of mind to recognize his true dependence on Hashem.

True gratitude to Hashem must start by recognizing our dependence and our debt of gratitude to all those individuals who help facilitate our existence.

Only when you can recognize those people who can be seen and whose acts of support are self-evident can you make the jump to recognize the kindness done by HE who cannot be seen and whose acts of compassion are not sensory evident.

You can ‘mouth’ all of the Hebrew phrases you want to; however, without first showing thanks and expressing your gratitude towards those who support you, I do not believe that you really even believe in anything except yourself.

So when we break the Matzah; we admit we are broken.

We begin the Maggid and we recognize and express our gratitude to those around us and to Hashem.

And what happens if we really and truly exposed our brokenness and our lack of completeness and we properly begin to feel sincerely indebted and in gratitude to man and to Hashem?

We then begin to look for the lost piece of Matzah, the Afikomen.

What is the Afikomen?

 Indeed, who is the Afikomen?

It’s the relative we never fully accepted.

It’s the son who is off and hidden in the attic or the basement waiting to be found and discovered.

It the wife or husband who never feels validated and appreciated.

It is the wife who goes to sleep too often by crying herself to sleep because of her controlling husband.

And it is the single girl who waits for the day that Mr. Right will knock on the door.

And it is the divorced father who has been ostracized from his family and is spending the Seder alone and abandoned.

It is the child who has been violated and has no voice to scream and tell the world, “I am in pain! I am in pain! It’s not my fault! I count, I am also human!”

It’s the elderly grandmother who lives alone and awaits the phone call from a friend or relative to say, “How are you?”

It’s the single mother who struggles to raise her children alone and who silently cries as she has to make Kiddush again for her children and her nine year son asks, “Mommy, why don’t we have an Abba like all my friends to make Kiddush for the family?”

And it’s the Rabbi who everyone thinks ‘Is fine’ and who must always put forth a good front to all in spite of his own inner struggles and turmoil; who is known to all as just ‘the rabbi’- like the doorman is called ‘the doorman’ without a true identity.

And it is the older single that is just too tired and too pained to call sixteen people before Pesach to arrange their meals and instead sits home alone and cries.

And it’s you and me.

If we have done things right we find that lost piece of Matzah.

If we are really privileged, we find that lost piece of Matzah who has been closeted away and who feels discarded and ostracized from the community.

If we truly engaged each other in dialogue and learned the lesson of just how dependent we all are on each other, then we will be privileged to find the lost and discarded half of our people and of ourselves.

And when the two halves meet at the end of the Seder they are finally Shalem (complete) again.

Only when we approach the Seder from a place of humility can we truly hope to gain from the Seder and hope to bring back our lost ‘Afikomens’ who are just waiting to be found.

Only when we find the Afikomen can we become Shalem (complete).

Only when we are truly willing to discover the hidden part of ourselves, will we be truly Shalem.

May all be privileged to find our own lost Afikomen this Pesach.

I wish all of you a meaningful and wonderful Seder and thank you all so much for enriching my life and making it so meaningful.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “Lover of Rebuke* “ (4/11/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 11th of Nissan 5774 and April 11th, 2014

 

Lover of Rebuke*

*“Whoever loves to do Tzedoka and loves rebuke and doing compassionate acts and takes in guests and davens with sincerity; even if he lives in Bavel (outside of Eretz Yisroel)l- he will not ‘see’ (experience) the judgment of Gehinom (purgatory).

(Massechta Semachos – Sefer Chibut HaKever Chapter One)

 

I certainly do not want to ‘experience Gehinom’ and therefore I attempt to consider myself (at least in some small way) ‘a lover of rebuke’.

About a week ago I sent out an email in which a Baal Teshuva raised issues with regard to the proper response to questions of our necessity to protest and which alluded to the sincerity (or perhaps better put- ‘lack of’) of Yeshiva Bochurim.

I receive much feedback on my Vorts and appreciate (most of) them.

However, I must admit, that this particular Vort triggered vigorous discussion and criticism especially from people I respect and admire.

Indeed, many of these dear friends took time and effort to write to me with passion yet, politeness and I read and re-read many of their letters as they were ‘words which emanated from their hearts’ and therefore they ‘entered my heart’.

And although there is much to discuss and investigate as to how much of a specific event was really planned and even condoned by the Gedolim, nevertheless, their points were well taken.

And although there are issues of discussion as to the manner of expression of the actual views of the Gedolim, nevertheless, as a purported ‘lover of rebuke’ I took to heart many of my friend’s words of rebuke.

And upon further reflection and thought I regret certain aspects of my original Vort.

I cannot say ‘I retract’ because I cannot ‘retract’ the words, they are out there and they will remain out there. However, I can honestly and humbly admit that I do regret some of the words and certainly the tone of the original Vort.

First of all, some of the claims of the Baal Teshuva were incorrect and should not have been printed.

There were no signs or speeches vilifying politicians at the prayer gathering and there was no demonization of any particular individual.

However, more to the point is the following.

The Vort lacked a sense of true Ahavas Yisroel for the life and persona of the Yeshiva Bochur.

As I write these words there are dozens of yeshiva Bochurim sitting and ‘shteiging’ in my own Shul’s Beis Medrash- in the midst of Bein HaZemanim!

My own memory failed me as I failed to recall the hot summer afternoons in Bnei Brak when I would sit in the non-air conditioned Beis Medrash of the Ponovitch Yeshiva struggling with myself to stay awake and no nod off as I continued my battle to complete my self-imposed quota of learning for the day.

I failed to remember the beautiful long Thursday nights when I, along with hundreds of other bochurim, would stay up the entire night learning and then daven at Vasikin, then sleeping for just three hours and being at first Seder on Friday morning by 9 AM.

I was too caught up in the media blitz and was knocked off balance by the few bench warmers whose time might indeed be better spent serving in army then discussing politics and drinking coffee in the yeshiva dining room till 10 AM; and this caused me to be overly critical and cynical about the majority of our yeshiva youth who represent the future of our people.

Perhaps it was my own feelings of longing for my days in yeshiva which caused me to feel bitter about others; whatever the reason, I regret that my portrayal of your typical Yeshiva Bochur could be interpreted as less than complimentary and I regret sending the questions of the Baal Teshuva in the form I did.

As I look in the Beis Medrash of my own Shul right now as the clock is nearing midnight, I cannot allow myself to sleep until I finish my ownMea culpa  as I see Bochurim home for the Pesach break hovering over their Gemara’s  in the Shul’s Beis  Medrash and involved in Torah and  only in Torah.

If and when Bein HaZemanim should be cancelled or curtailed is not a question for me; it is a question for the heads of the Yeshiva.

If and when a prayer gathering should be held in Eretz Yisroel is also not in the purview of my expertise.

Of course these are delicate and difficult issues and they are anything but black and white.

And a feeling of triumphalism and bravado is certainly not the way of our Gedolim.

That being said, I may have added fuel to the fire of machlokes and fanned the flames of baseless hatred of Jews, particularly of Yeshiva Bochurim.

There were many important issues to discuss with the Baal Teshuva; however, to broad-stroke-criticize the world of the Yeshivas and the lives of Yeshiva Bochurim is never an approach which would contribute to reconciliation and mutual understanding.

The issues the Baal Teshuva raised are important and need to be discussed.

However, to portray sincere and pristine yeshiva boys as insolent indolent individuals is certainly never called for.

And if indeed I conveyed in even the slightest fashion the impression that the majority of our Yeshiva boys are anything less than sincere and earnest I regret my words.

I thank those of you who took from your precious time to write to me and caused me to re-think and be introspective and I thank you for your rebuke.

In fact, I love you for the rebuke; for it shows you truly love me.

 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Lonely; Yet, Not Alone “ (4/10/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 10th of Nissan 5774 and April 10, 2014

 

Lonely; Yet, Not Alone

 

His older brother was already married and his father who was recovering from heart surgery was unable to help. That left only Yitzchok and his mother to ‘make Pesach’.

For the Sedarim, they would be walking about a half a mile to a nearby relative.

As Yitzchok and his mother cleaned and talked, she told him stories of her mother and how they made Pesach in the Bronx in the 1930s.

At that time, the Bronx was known as the “Jewish Borough” with almost 50% of the total population Jewish.

Yitzchok could listen for hours as his mother regaled him with stories of Bubby’s homemade “chrain” and how she her knaidlach (matzo balls) were known along the entire Grand Concourse!

Yitzchok and his mother finished cleaning the house a few hours before Bedikas Chometz and after a thorough searching of the home; he went to sleep with thoughts of how nice the Sedarim will be in the company of friends and family.

However, as Yitzchok woke on Erev Pesach he was shocked to discover that as he soundly slept, Hashem had been busy at work. As he opened the door to head to Shul the ground was already covered in snow and more was coming.

A rare Erev Pesach storm had blanketed the entire New York area in snow.

It would be too much to for Yitzchok’s father to walk and they would be forced to having the Seder at home.

Quickly Yitzchok and his mother took to preparing foods for the “unplanned” Seder.

That night as he returned from Shul he looked at his parents and felt somewhat alone.

There was only the three of them.

He recalled years past when his father was healthier and his mother was younger and twenty or more people crowded around Seder table.

The three of them began the Seder attempting to be joyous as they huddled together in the cold snowy night. However, just as Maggid began, Yitzchok’s father who was still fragile from his surgery began to fade and quietly retired for the night struggling to make his way upstairs to his bedroom.

That left just two; Yitzchok and his mother.

Yitzchok and his mother continued; however, as they neared Dayeinu, the hectic effects of the last few weeks took their toll and his mother’s eyes began to close. His mother attempted to continue, however, Yitzchok saw the exhaustion in her eyes and insisted that she too retire for the night.

Suddenly the threesome had turned into a solo performance; for now there was just one.

Images of Sedarim of years gone by danced in Yitzchok’s head; he recalled his father, young and strong leading the Seder and the lively discussion which followed. He saw his mother and his departed Bubby checking on the knaidlach as the Seder progressed; laughing together in the kitchen.

He recalled how his father would passionately defend Torah Jewry in the face of criticism from relatives who had strayed from the path; and how it was done with love and compassion.

However, now he was alone and as he sat at the table he felt a tear of sadness slipping down his cheek.

He no longer needed salt water to dip; his cheeks were wet with his own tears.

He pushed himself to continue the Seder, to delve into the deeper meaning of the text; however, he felt sad and alone.  

However, he soon reminded himself that we are not here to dwell on the ‘hand of cards’ we wished we were ‘dealt’; rather, we are here to make the most of the ‘hand of cards’ we have in front of us.

And therefore, although alone, he continued to read and to sing as if he were surrounded by a crowd of guests.

Suddenly he felt that although he was alone, he was not lonely.

And although no one else was in the room, he was not abandoned.

A feeling of quiet solace and comfort filled him.

Was it the realization that despite the fact that he was alone, he had much to be thankful for; his parents were safe and warm and resting and there was peace in the house?

Or perhaps it was something more sublime and inexplicable?

Perhaps it was his sudden epiphany that no matter where you are and no matter who you are, there is what to accomplish and ‘with whom’ to bond?

Whatever the reason, he continued to sing; at first hesitantly and then with excitement and joy and he sang his way through the rest of the Seder.

And as he finished Chad Gadya he was filled with a special contentment which he never felt before.

As he drifted off to sleep that night there was a feeling of solace and comfort he had never quite felt before.

Many Pesachs have passed since that solitary spiritual night decades ago.

Today Yitzchok leads the Seder surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren and many guests.

And although I hope to never have another ‘solo Seder’ again; as I recall that snowy night in Brooklyn over thirty years ago surrounded by me, myself and He who is always there, a warm and nostalgic  tear gently falls down my face.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Dear FBT (Laming Baal Teshuva)* (4/8/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 8th of Nissan 5774 and April 8, 2014

 

Dear FBT (Laming Baal Teshuva)

              Thank you so much for your letter of last week. I so appreciate your words and your questions.

First of all, let me say clearly that it is always appropriate to question and to ponder; if anyone ever tells you that your questions are treiff’ (not-kosher) then they are ‘treiff’. The Gemara is full of discussions of all types of questions and none of them have ever been brushed aside or dismissed. You have a right to question and a right to be answered.

Let me begin by informing you that the way to go to Olam Haba is by learning Torah; period. There is no greater joy in this world then sitting by your Gemara and learning through a Sugya with your Chavrusa.

We live in difficult times and the entire question of how to respond to the new draft legislation is a complicated question. I will be discussing it on Shabbos in my Drosha in the afternoon and invite you to attend. There are great Torah leaders who are at the forefront of the issue and we must heed their instructions.

Unfortunately, there are those who claim to follow their advice while ‘adding’ their own ‘two cents’- in a very secretive way- and mask their additions as if it was part of the original directive from the Torah scholars.

Examples of this were the signs which were brought to the prayer gathering. Have you ever seen anyone come to Shul carrying signs? Obviously any sane person realizes that Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman who organized the prayer gathering did not authorize the signs as if he did so; he would have carried one himself!

 Unfortunately as is too often the case there are individuals who ‘publicly claim’ to follow “Daas Torah” while in essence they are against Daas Torah as they consistently dilute the view of the Gedolim by ‘adding’ to the original idea although these additions were never authorized or even condoned by the Gadol.

These individuals cause all of us to become a fait accompli to their schemes. The prayer rally was a good example of this; as it was organized as a prayer rally and no Gadol authorized the signs; after all, who brings signs to Shul? However, once these signs ‘some-how-appeared’ at the rally, many regular, normal people were forced to defend these signs as since if they opposed them they would be thought of as opposing the prayer rally itself.

Another example of this behavior are those members of the ‘supposedly pro-Torah-camp’ who engage in horrific personal attacks against other Jews. I have never heard Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman utter a personal insult against another Jew. He may passionately argue against their cause, however, he will not allow himself to stoop to personal attacks.

Unfortunately this is not always the case among those who consider themselves his devoted followers but nevertheless engage in acrimony and vilification of other Jews. Once again these ad hominem attacks which are directed towards other Jews actually defile the honor of the true Gedolim whose ways are pleasant and peaceful and filled with humility.

My humble advice to you my dear FBT is to attempt to remove yourself as much as possible at this point of your life from the ‘politics’ of the issues and submerge yourself in the sweet waters of the Torah. The holy Torah scholars who have remained aloof from the fray are the true heroes of our people. Those yeshiva bochurim who do their best not to speak politics and to only taste the sweet and invigorating waters of the Torah are the true protectors of our mesorah and our way of life.

The times we live in are difficult and possess many challenges. Obviously these issues must be met and dealt with and they are being addressed by people such as Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman Shlitta and others of his ilk. However, never forget that everyone has his ‘tafkid’ -his special task. Rav Aharon Leib at this point in his life is obviously meant to lead and direct the flock; however, your task at this point in your life is to learn and learn and learn more.

There are major questions which are difficult to answer and I myself do not know many of the answers. However, suffice to say that the best way to get to the true answer is by you yourself becoming a great Talmid Chochom and eventually as you continue to climb the ladder of Torah, many of your questions will melt away.

Thank your for communicating with me and I know I have not touched upon many of your questions; however, if you learn and learn, you too will come to realize that not all questions have simple or pat answers. Life is a struggle and the only way to succeed is by constant and consistent study.

Keep learning and keep yourself attached to your Gemara.  By doing so you shall not falter.

              One more point, and I know I am going off on a limb here, however, here goes. There is a little voice inside me that tells me that on an individual basis, if a young married kollel man or an unmarried bochur would privately approach Rav Aharon Leib Shlitta and ask him, “Rebbe, I am really attached to my Gemara and am currently involved in a ‘geshmacke sugya’. I was wondering should I still attend the prayer rally?”  I could be wrong (and quite often I am) however, I cannot help but think that privately Rav Aharon Leib Shlitta would tell that man or that bochur to stay put by his shtender. And that same feeling tells me that privately Rav Aharon Leib Shlita would anticipate greatness from that man.

My friend, my dear and beloved FBT, strive to be that man!

                                                                        Wishing you a wonderful Yom Tov,

                                                                        R. Y. Eisenman  

The Short Vort- “ Being Thankful “ (4/6/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 6th of Nissan and April 6, 2014

 

Being Thankful

 

As I write these words it has been almost a full week that every day there are multiple Tzedoka collectors who line the halls of the Shul with the hope and desire to receive generous donations which will send them back to Israel with their debts wiped out and their slates clean.

The stories which are told on their neon colored papers are horrific and each one seems worse than the one before.

Each one has health issues and problems with their children; Shalom Bayis issues and more health issues; debts in the hundreds of thousands and a house filled with gloom and doom are their lot.

As I write them a check which I know will never match their inflated dreams and hopes and I feel sorry for them.

I feel for their loved ones and for the humiliation they endure attempting to collect for themselves.

However, I would be not entirely truthful if I would not admit that I feel somewhat indebted to them.

I am indebted to them for if nothing else when I hear their stories and see their pain I cannot help but think to myself, “Even with all of my issues, I thank G-d that I am not in their shoes”.

And as I return at night to my home as tired and as worn out I may feel, I thank G-d I am not going home and wondering where my next meal will be and who can I ask for money tomorrow.

I may not be enthralled by their coming every day and I cannot vouch for the veracity of their claims; however, just hearing the horror of their lives makes me count my own blessings and that is good.

May Hashem take care of all His children.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Don’t worry it won’t cost you a dime” (4/2/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 2nd of Nissan 5774 and April 2, 2014

 

An Open Appeal for Help

(Don’t worry it won’t cost you a dime)

 

Dear Precious Readers,

The other night a young wet-behind-the-ears flaming Baal Teshuva came to my office and asked me a really hard question.

In fact, his question was so perplexing to me that I have decided to throw it out to my readership and see what you say about it.

Here it is:

              “Rabbi, I have just returned from six months in “The Revealed Truth” (name changed) yeshiva in Yerushalayim.

 One of the most important concepts that was imparted to me there was that:

·       “A person cannot even bend their finger in this world unless it decreed in the heavens” (Chulin 7b).  

·       And that, It is not the venomous animal which causes death; rather, it is the sin which causes death” (Brochus 33a).

·       And, It is because of our sins that we have been exiled from our lands” (Mussaf for Yom Tov).

Based on all of this and from numerous lectures, I came to believe that if we would be learning and doing mitzvohs properly we would not need an army and no one in the world could harm us and that the learning of Torah is the true protector and catalyst for all that is good in the world.

However, if this is true, then I have one question.”

 I looked up at the new and eager recruit and asked him, “And what is that question?”

              “When I was n Yerushalayim, the question of the draft and the Yeshiva bochurim came up. And I -along with the entire Yeshiva- was told to attend this large gathering against the draft. However, I do not understand. While I was at the rally, there were many signs vilifying and denigrating the various politicians who legislated these new ‘decrees’.

However, I don’t understand, if everything is based on our performance of mitzvohs and our proper learning of Torah, why are these secular politicians suddenly blamed for what is our own fault?

Meaning, by demonizing them and actively blaming them for the decree, aren’t we empowering them?

 By protesting against them are we not contradicting everything we ostensibly believe in that Hashem responds to our doing of Mitzvohs and our learning of Torah and if we were doing them properly no one could harm us?

Shouldn’t the rally have internally focused rather than externally focused?

I could not understand why the rally was vilifying the politicians as it they are to blame to what were really our shortcomings?

 Should not a more theologically correct approach been to have cancelled the one month vacation from Yeshiva and Kollel during Nissan?

After all, my father who is an accountant would never imagine taking an entire month off work during tax season? Is this not akin to the ‘tax season’?

Shouldn’t the Gedolim have decreed that the Yeshiva semester continue for another week and resume the day immediately after Pesach?

Why does the yeshiva population need an entire month off from their ‘serving’ their country while everyone else is still at work?

Why are the 9 and 10 AM Minyanim packed with Yeshiva men at this particularly perilous time for the Jewish people?

Should not ‘Bein HaZemanim’ (the month break) been cancelled at this terrifying time?

However, instead I saw yeshiva people walking around leisurely and with no apparent recognition that we are living in a “state of siege”?

Wouldn’t such an obvious strengthening of limud HaTorah been more favorable in G-d’s eyes than having four hundred thousand people clogging traffic and disrupting the lives of thousands of people, while leaving piles and piles of trash and discarded signs littering the holy streets of Jerusalem?

I also do not understand the obvious exhibiting of bravado and self- confidence which was present at the rally. I thought bravado and bluster are diametrically opposed to the humility which the Torah requires of us?

But most of all, I still do not understand how the Torah people ‘blame’ the politicians for their hardships?

Is this not the key to all of Judaism? Namely, that it is Hashem who gives His bounty to those who are worthy of His Brocha and it is not (and can never be) a politician who grants our blessing?

By virtue of empowering these politicians and blaming them for our problems aren’t we denying the basic principle which has been drilled into me from day one in Yeshiva, namely, “All is in His hands” and if we would improve then life would improve for us?

I still cannot understand why we don’t blame ourselves for our misfortunes?

So, as you can see I am very perplexed.

Rabbi, can you help me understand this?”

I looked up and my jaw dropped.

Friends, can anyone help me answer him?

Thank you for listening and I look forward to hearing from you,

R. Y. Eisenman

 

“If Not Now, Then When? - Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ “Its 10 PM, do you know where your children are?”* (3/30/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 29th of Adar Beis 5774 and March 31, 2014

 

“Its 10 PM, do you know where your children are?”*

*"Do you know where your children are?" is a popular question used as a public service announcement for parents on American television. Its heyday was throughout the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, but has made a comeback as of late.” (Wikipedia)

 

I recall from my childhood how every evening before my parents would watch the 10 o’clock news there would be a serious deep male voice who would ask “Its 10 PM do you know where your children are?"

The voice sounded so ominous and worrying. I still get a chill as I playback the voice in my mind and I still remember the relief I would feel as although it was ten PM, my parents knew where I was and I knew where they were.

It was good to feel wanted and to feel cared for.

Last week someone sent me the following news item which I presume they figured would interest me.

(Reuters) - The corpse of a 66-year-old German woman who died more than six months ago was found in her apartment, in front of a television set that was still on, the Frankfurter Neue Presse newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The woman, in the town of Oberursel near Frankfurt, died of natural causes in a nightgown while watching TV. There was a program guide from September nearby, the newspaper said, describing the body as "partially mummified".

Police said residents in the 30-apartment block had noticed an unpleasant smell in the staircase but no one had informed the authorities. The landlord opened the apartment after noticing that her mailbox jammed with uncollected letters.

(Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

The person who sent it to me added a short comical comment, “I guess it was a really boring show she was watching.”

However, for me the story struck a chord; albeit it was not the comical one.

What touched me was the fact that a woman who was 66 years could be missing for over six months and no one noticed.

Friends, can you imagine in our age of instant and constant contact with each other. In this age of email, Facebook, twitter, IM and more and more and more, someone’s absence can still go unnoticed?

We are texting and calling, emailing and tweeting; many of us cannot even use the rest area without staying electronically connected and yet, a 66 year old woman went unnoticed for six months.

Friends, if you did not see your next door neighbor for two days would you knock on their door?

If the fellow who sits next to you in Shul on Shabbos did not show up for two weeks in a row would you call?

If The Short Vort did not arrive for a week would you contact the Shul?

How is it that in this time of constant contact and continuous connection, a human being can be left sitting for six months in their home and no one, literally no one cared?

The more we succeed in being connected, the lonelier many of us feel.

Reach out to someone today; you never know, you may save their life.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “Father Knows Best* (3/27/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 25th of Adar Beis 5774 and March 27, 2014

 

Father Knows Best

 

It was the last night of the Shiva and the family was sitting in Monsey.

It was cold and snowy and the thought of abandoning my parking spot struck terror in me.

There were mountains of snow between the rare parking spots on my street.

 However, even those rare parking spots were ‘reserved’ with an old chair or some other odd and semi-discarded piece of furniture.

 In a neighborhood where many (myself included) have no driveway, a shoveled-out parking spot was worth fighting for; and indeed, I had no intention of having to face a neighbor who felt I stolen ‘his’ spot.

Woe to the imprudent individual who dared to move a chair from a ‘reserved spot’. 

A person who was irrational enough to move a chair placed in a ‘reserved spot’ was literally taking their life in their hands!

Therefore I was reluctant to relinquish my parking spot as who knows what would await me when I returned.

However, family is family and when I heard that my father’s first cousin Irving Eisenman of Monsey had passed away I knew I had to go; and as I mentioned, it was the last night of Shiva.

With earmuffs and two scarves I plunged into the cold and dark of the night to make the trek to my cousin’s home.

As I drove up Route 306 the normally clogged artery was especially backed up as a local kosher grocery truck was making deliveries as traffic came to a standstill.

However a little voice deep inside kept reassuring me that I would get more than I would give tonight.

As the GPS announced, “You have arrived at your destination”, I exited into the cold and walked up the walkway to the front door.

As I entered the home, It appeared to me that the four sons and the Almanah were ‘happy’ (what other word can I use?) to see me.

There were stories of the wonderful 66 year marriage that Irving enjoyed with his wife Carol and thanks to Hashem were offered as Irving was privileged to see grandchildren being brought to the Chupah.

His oldest son Rabbi David Eisenman and I share a special kinship as we are both involved in the field of Chinuch.

After sitting for about three quarters of an hour I was ready to make the trip back to Passaic.

R’ David asked me if I would like to see a copy of the hesped (eulogy) he offered for his father. I of course agreed and began to read the son’s appreciation of his father.

My cousin David related how at a certain point he was unsure what path in life to take.

He had done some graduate work; however, he was interested in Chinuch as well.

It was after Succos and he was looking for a Chinuch position, however, without experience and in mid-year his chances were slim.

Surprisingly, Rabbi Muschel the respected and well-known principal of ASHAR contacted R’ David and informed him that a small self-contained class of five fifth grade boys would be opening up and he offered R’ David the position.

Rabbi David went on to become a successful Rebbe and eventually entered the administrative side of Chinuch.  He is still a respected Mechanech; and it all began with five fifth grade boys at ASHAR in Monsey many years ago.

Years later when he himself was a principal, R’ David began to wonder how in mid-year did Rabbi Muschel suddenly find the funding to higher another rebbe?

Suddenly it all became clear to him. His father had wanted to help his son break into the world of Chinuch. So without any fanfare and without telling anyone except Rabbi Muschel, his father Irving Eisenman personally financed the teaching position to allow his son to enter the field of Chinuch in a dignified and respectable fashion.

His father had done many philanthropic acts in his life; however, perhaps the most precious was the gift he gave his own son without comprising his son’s self-respect.

As I drove home I just kept thinking of the wonderful Chessed the father did for his son.

Parking spots and there availability suddenly no longer mattered.  

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ Civility* (3/25/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 23rd of Adar Beis 5774 and March 25, 2014

 

Civility

 

The other day a woman came to the office; she was upset with a caterer (she does not live in the immediate area and the store is located not anyone near the Passaic/Clifton area).

She had ordered food for a modest family Simcha and she related to me ‘her side’ of the story.

She claimed she had ordered a specific type of meat to be served; however, the proprietor had substituted a different cut.

She informed me that when she called, the fellow who answered the phone simply said, “Lady, be happy I switched the order. I gave you first cut instead of the second cut which you ordered and I did not charge you a penny more. So you should be the one thanking me.”

She asked the worker who answered if she could speak to the owner as she preferred the meat she had ordered, and she was placed on hold.

After listening for an inordinate amount of time to Mordechai Ben David singing “Just One Shabbos and We Will All Be Free” she hoped in vain that “if just one person would pick up her call she would be free” to go back to her daily routine.

Finally, after being on hold for what seemed to her to be two hours (it was probably more like ten minutes) the counter man came back to say, “The manager will be with you shortly”. However, before she could even acknowledge his comment she was again hearing Mordechai Ben David sing in her ear.

Finally after what seemed like eternity, the manager picked up and very quickly and tersely and perhaps even somewhat annoyed said, “Lady, we gave you a $12.99 @ pound meat for only $9.99. What more do you want?” And with that he hung up the phone.

Although she claimed that ‘she felt money was coming to her’ since he had switched her order without authorization, one thing became clearer and clearer to me.

More than the actual factual changing of the order without her permission, the real problem I realized was not so much the “switcheroo” of the order; rather it was something totally different.

The real issue at hand was much more personal than professional; the woman felt ‘dissed’.

Much more than the switched meat order was the lack of the order of civility.

The fact that the counterman was brusque and abrupt and perhaps somewhat harsh and rushed hurt her; and hurt her deeply.

When she could not even speak to the owner, that perceived lack of respect was hurtful and insulting to her.

Bottom line, a little civility on his part would have gone a lot further than his upgrading her choice of meat!

Studies have shown that doctors who have are caring, patient and compassionate have a much lower rate of being sued for malpractice than those physicians who are quick, harsh and impatient.

More often than not I realize that when people claim: “it is the principle which bothers me”, it is never the principle; it is the personal which counts for everything!

Be nice to someone today, it will save you much hurt and aggravation in the future.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ OK* (3/23/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 21st of Adar Beis 5774 and March 23, 2014

 

OK*

*On this day in 1839, the initials "O.K." are first published in The Boston Morning Post. Meant as an abbreviation for "oll correct," a popular slang misspelling of "all correct" at the time, OK steadily made its way into the everyday speech of Americans. (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history)

 

Today, the word(s) O.K. became part and parcel of the American expression of the English Language.

The term O.K. is such a part of the English language that it does not need my OK to give it a stamp of approval.

We all know that it is perfectly OK to use the expression OK in your everyday conversation and you do not need to be concerned that the person you are talking to will misunderstand you.

In fact, it is probably OK to use OK when you talk to anyone from any almost any country in the world because they all know it is OK to use OK.

Some people feel that these abbreviations are just slang and improper English; however, I think that it’s OK to use OK because it is now an accepted form of speech.

Once you realize that it is OK to use OK then you never have to feel hesitant about using it.

In fact even Chazal have taught us that the fine people of Yerushalayim always spoke in “Lashon Katzar” (abbreviated words) [see Tiferes Yisrael letter 46 on Mishna Gittin 9:8].

Therefore, I give you my Ok that it is OK to say OK.

Ok folks that’s all for tonight and that’s it for Adar!!

 

“If it’s Not OK- Then It’s Not the Short Vort”- ME 

The Short Vort- “” “Iz Nisht Pashut”k” (3/20/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 18th of Adar Beis 5774 and March 20, 2014

 

“Iz Nisht Pashut”

 

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rav Yechezkel Levenstein Zt”l.*

*Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, known as Reb Chatzkel, (1895 - 18 Adar 1974), was the mashgiach ruchani of the Mir yeshiva, in Mir, Belarus and during the yeshiva’s flight to Lithuania and on to Shanghai due to the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in World War II. (Wikipedia)

 

Rav Chatzkel Levenstein Zt”l was a towering figure the world of the Yeshivos.

When he was a young man he voluntarily left Eretz Yisroel before the war to serve as the Mashgiach in the Mir Yeshiva in Poland. He eventually accompanied the Yeshiva on their trek across Europe to Japan and finally to Shanghai.

He briefly settled in Brooklyn after the war and then returned to Eretz Yisroel where he would serve first as Mashgiach in the Mir in Yerushalayim and then, after the death of Rav Dessler in 1953, in the Ponevez Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

 

He was a true Mussar disciple and he was very strict with his own personal discipline.

He was always in control of his emotions and his actions and more importantly his reactions.

Impulsivity and acting impetuously were foreign to his being. His actions, words and thoughts were filtered and processed until they were honed and perfected.

The boys at the various yeshivas where he taught were in awe of him and trembled from his sheer gaze.

When my oldest son Meir was learning in the Ponevez Yeshiva in Bnei Brak he showed me Rav Chatzkel’s famous room. It was small room with a small table and a flimsy cot which Rav Kanahman, the Ponovitcher Rav had placed there to allow Rav Chatzkel to rest. The cot was never used.

However, the room which still remains exactly the same as it looked 40 years ago has one unique feature.

The room is situated above the Beis Medrash and there is a small window which when opened looks down upon the Beis Medrash.

The story which ‘old Ponevitchers’ still relate with awe and fear is that every a time a Bochur would interrupt his learning and engage in idle conversation with his Chavrusa, the Bochur would look up and there would be the chilling countenance of the Mashgiach looking right at him from his small window!

He would not say a word and his expression would not change; however, when he looked at you, you melted in awe and reverence.

However, this disciplined man who outran Hitler (Yimach Shemo) and his killing machine and who saw the glory of the European Yeshiva world and its destruction was once overcome by emotion himself.

It was on Shavuos in 1954.

Rav Chatzkel had arrived at the Yeshiva’s Neilas HaChag, the traditional gathering held at the conclusion of Yom Tov with food, singing and Divrei Torah.

As Rav Chatzkel arrived, the meal, singing and Ruach were in full swing.

As soon as the Mashgiach walked in he was asked to speak.

Suddenly the man who was always well prepared and always chose his words carefully was speechless.

Suddenly the man who was always in control of his feelings was overcome with emotion.

And as he stood there, his eyes surveyed the room full of the Yeshiva boys who had stayed up the entire previous night and were still full of energy and passion as they sang and spoke words of Torah.

And then as if every boy in the room could read the thoughts on Rav Chatzkel’s mind and see the words which were emblazoned on his heart, they fell silent.

Rav Chatzkel who had seen the destruction of the world of Torah and who had escaped the inferno of Europe with a small cadre of Yeshiva boys looked at the room full of a new generation of budding Torah leaders.

And at that precise moment both Rebbe and Talmid (student) alike realized that we would survive and we would even thrive and the Torah world would live on.

At that moment as the sun was setting in Bnei Brak and Rav Chatzkel was surrounded by true Yeshiva Bochurim he knew Torah was still alive and would grow and blossom here in Eretz Yisroel.

And as he looked around he could just bring himself to say three short words, “Iz Nisht Pashut” (“this is not simple”; meaning, “I am witnessing something momentous”)

He shook his head and just repeated “Iz Nisht Pashut”- “this is not simple.”

Indeed, how correct he was.

May his memory inspire us to greatness.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” The Day After” (3/17/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 15th of Adar Beis 5774 and March 17, 2014

 

The Day After

 

Today is the day after Purim.

There is no doubt that there are many people who are still waking up as I write these words (9:16 AM); and there are those who are already at work.

There are people who look forward to Purim the entire year and wish it would last a week; and there are those who dread it as if they are lonely then often that loneliness is amplified on Purim.

There are those who enjoy the holiday and thanking Hashem for His miracles and those that use it as an excuse to drink.

There are men and women who are repulsed by the drinking and the loudness of the day.

And there are those who get through the day dealing with stresses and pressures the day brings.

And many of us fall somewhere in the middle of these categories.

Purim is a holiday like no other.

A time where the home is not the safe-sanctuary it usually is on Yom Tov and the Shul is transformed into a carnival like atmosphere with dress codes becoming non-existent.

It is a day of gift giving and gift taking and of costumes and smiles.

And ultimately it should be a time of feeling love and togetherness to our family and fellow Jews and a greater closeness to Hashem.

Perhaps though the real test of the authenticity of our actions on Purim is today; on Shushan Purim, the day after Purim.

Are we better today than we were yesterday when we began the day?

Have we incorporated the feelings of love and camaraderie which we attempted to foster on Purim into our lives?

Has the feeling of unity and togetherness translated into genuine feelings of love and friendship for each other?

And do we feel closer to Hashem today now that we have spent a day appreciating His salvation?

You don’t have to answer me, just think about that as you look for a parking spot today or rush into a building and someone is more than two steps behind you.

The real answer is not the one you give to me; it’s the one you give to your neighbor and to Hashem.

Enjoy Shushan Purim!!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” Project HENPECK” (3/12/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 11th of Adar Beis 5774 and March 13, 2014

 

Aishes Chayil*”- Women of Strength (WOS)

*Committee for Husband Alteration, for Yeshivash Indolent loafers

Proudly Presents:

 

Project HENPECK

 

Ladies, do you find that as Pesach cleaning season nears your husband is somehow never around?

Do you discover that your husband suddenly claims he is ‘busy’ at work and cannot help you with the Pesach cleaning?

When you look for him to help do you find him more often than not, napping away?

If your answer is ‘yes’ then we have the answer for you!!!!

Aishes Chayil (Women of Strength- WOS) presents: PROJECT “HENPECK”!

Project HENPECK is a project endorsed by all of the leading GEDOLOS of our generation.

Rebbetzens around the world have been using the HENPECK system for years to re-educate their husbands and now for the first time ever, they have decided to share their trade secrets with you!

Now, for the time ever, the famous “Nudger Rebbetzen” from Bnei Brak is visiting Passaic and she is willing to share her secrets with all of you.

For a mere $39.99 (credit cards accepted) you too can possess the secret of having an obedient husband.

No more having to change diapers!

No more having to clean up throw up and all other messes!

No more laundry and no more dishes to clean!

With Project Henpeck you too can have your hubby do all these wonderful tasks.

Rebbetzen Nudger is a direct descendant of the famous “Yenta Rebbetzen” from Azerbaijan.

The Yenta Rebbetzen promised that all who support her great-grand-daughter and shell out their hard earned money to her will be blessed with non-chapped hands and plenty of time to relax.

 She guarantees that she will personally intervene on behalf of the donor and pull the donor’s husband by his peyos back into the kitchen and force him to wash those floors and change those diapers!

The Nudger Rebbetzen will be here for only one week- so sign up for Project Henpeck today.

For the starter fee of $39.00 you will receive one treatment which guarantees your husband will do two loads of laundry and one diaper change.

However, the Nudger Rebbetzen highly encourages everyone to sign up for her six week web-cam seminar.

This program which only costs $587.89 will also grant you at the end of the course the universally recognized degree of MHC- (Master of Henpeck Counselor).

With the degree you can use your newly acquired talent to train other women in the art of HENPECK. (Please remember that 30% of your wages must go back to The Nudger Rebbetzen).

So don’t delay.

If you call before midnight tonight The Nudger Rebbetzen will throw in one free complimentary molten-lead-pour on your head!

Yes, that’s right! If you call before midnight you will receive on free molten lead pour on your head!

 This well-known and accepted medical procedure usually costs upwards of $100, however, if you order your HENPECK course, you get the lead treatment for free!

The Nudger Rebbetzen will also daven for you at the kever of the Tzadekes, The Yenta Rebbetzen from Azerbaijan for ninety days straight.

She will be staying at the Four Seasons hotel during those 90 days and for only an additional $189.99 you can join her for lunch at the hotel!

This offer will not last forever.

If you want to have a more obedient and well-trained husband in time for Pesach the time to call is now!

This project is endorsed by all the GEDOLOS of the world.

Here is a sampling of comments from around the world.

·       “My husband would not put his socks in the hamper. Then I took the Rebbetzen Nudger training course and he is a different person! What really made the difference was that I had the Rebbetzen pour the molten lead on his head while he was sleeping and after three days in the ICU he came around and now does the laundry and even does the dishes! Where would I be without the Nudger Rebbetzen?”

(Mrs. S. from Grand Rapids)

·       My husband did not know which dishes were Milchig and which were Fleishig. I took the six week course and now my husband does all the cooking. Thank you Nudger Rebbetzen.”

(Mrs. B. from Coney Island)

 

Ladies, do not delay! Now is the time to sign up and take bull by the horn and rein in your non-obedient husband!

Project HENPECK is a division of Aishes Chayil (*Committee for Husband Alteration, for Yeshivash Indolent loafers) also known as Women of Strength.

WOS is a NON-recognized 501c3 charity organization where you can be sure the 100% of every dollar goes straight to the purse of the Nudger Rebbetzen.

Women all over the world are enjoying a life of luxury as their HENPECKED husbands respond to their beck and call and have time to relax and enjoy.

The Rebbetzen will throw in a free Segulah- for the first ten callers to call between now and 10 PM

The first ten callers will receive one of the Nudger Rebbetzen famed used aprons.

These aprons which have not seen flour or ketchup for at least ten years are guaranteed to help the wearer’s prayers be answered immediately.

Please note, these aprons are multitalented and generic Segulahs. They can be used for Shidduchim, for children, Shalom Bayis or whatever you wish for.

Just wear it for ten minutes, make your request and before you can say “P.T. Barnum” three times fast, your prayers will be answered.

These apron strings will go fast, so call now.

1-WOS-HENPECK

You can also follow us on the web at WWW-Nudger-Rebbetzen .com

Call today and begin to live life the way it was meant to be lived!

 

Happy Purim to All

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

The Short Vort- “” A Brief Review of the Laws of Purim” (3/11/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 10th of Adar Beis 5774 and March 12, 2014

 

A Brief Review of the Laws of Purim

 

1.     Thursday March 13th 2014 is Taanis Esther-

·       Fasting- Taanis Esther is a public fast day. However, pregnant and nursing women do not fast. So too, those who do not feel well can be more lenient on Taanis Esther then on other fast days.

·       Especially this year, with Taanis Esther being a ‘mukdam’ (a ‘pushed-up’ fast day) one can be even more lenient as far as fasting goes.

·       Machatzis HaShekel: This Mitzvah is separate from the Matanos L’Evyonim gifts on Purim. The practice is to give for every adult member of the family, (many give for all of their children-regardless of the age).

·       All over the Shul are plates which say on them Machatzis HaShekel. In these canisters are three half-dollar coins.

·       One first places $1.50 (better to give a little or more so as not to use the ‘pushka as a change machine) per person in the canister and then one lifts the three half-dollar coins to acquire them. One then places the coins back in the canister and by putting them back in the canister one fulfills the mitzvah of Machatzis HaShekel.

·       The money placed in the canister for Machatzis HaShekel will be distributed between the poor on Purim day and other needs of the kehilla.

·       One should not rely on the money they give for Machatzis HaShekel for the mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyonim.

 

2.     Shabbos March 15th- Parshas Zachor

·       All men are required to hear Parshas Zachor

·       Women and Parshas Zachor

·       The position of Rabbi Eisenman and Congregation Ahavas Israel:

•           Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlitta quotes his uncle ‘The Chazon Ish’ to the effect that women are not obligated to hear Parshas Zachor; this is the practice we follow at the Ahavas.

•           As such, please note that in the Ahavas Israel:

a.     There are no additional readings of Parshas Zachor other than the two which will be at the two respective Minyanim.

b.     Women who have the Zechus (privilege) to parent Jewish children should do so and not forfeit such a great mitzvah to hear Parshas Zachor since there is no obligation for them to hear it.

c.     Husbands should not be encouraged to cancel their Torah time to allow their wife to hear a reading which she is not obligated to hear.

d.     If a woman does come to any of the two readings, she must make sure (as her husband should as well) that any children brought to shul should not distract any other man or woman and prevent them from hearing the reading.

e.     I am aware that there are many other halachik opinions. The above position reflects mine and no one else’s.

f.      Many poskim are of the opinion that a person can fulfill the obligation of Parshas Zachor through hearing the reading of the Torah on Purim morning or by reading Parshas Zachor from a printed Chumash at home.

g.     We all should be respectful of each other’s minhagim (practices)

 

 

3.     The Mitzvah of hearing and listening to the Megillah. Motzei Shabbos March 15th and Sunday March 16th

·       The Mitzvah is incumbent on men and women and the obligation is to hear the Megillah twice; once in the night and once in the day.

·       Men and women and children who are of the age to listen quietly and attentively to the Megillah are required to hear the Megillah.

·       Every word of the Megillah has to be heard. This means that one should be careful not to miss even one word! Therefore, if one brings a child who needs attention and care and could disturb you and others- then that child should not be brought to Shul.

 

4.     Purim Day- Sunday March 16th 2014

·       There are a number of Mitzvohs to be performed on the ‘day’ of Purim- Sunday March 16th 2014.

·       The Mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyonim. This Mitzvah is fulfilled through the giving of giving two monetary gifts to two different poor people.

·        How much should one give? According to Rav Elyashiv Shlita, one should give approximately $5 per poor person.

·       Therefore, one should give at least-a total of (one can give more of course!) $10 for Matanos L’Evyonim.

·       Please bear in mind that husband and wife cannot give together. Each one is required to give their own independent gift.

·       Also, the money must be distributed on Purim day. Therefore, if you do not know any poor people yourselves, give the money (even before Purim) to a Rav or organization which will distribute the money on Purim day.

·       I am collecting Matanos L’Evyonim and then will be distributed on Purim day.

·       The Mitzvah of Mishloach Manos. This Mitzvah is fulfilled by giving two food items to one person.

·       The food items DO NOT have to be separate brochus; however, they do have to be separate items.

·       Therefore, one can give an orange and an apple.

·       The food items should be immediately edible.

·       Therefore, one should give foods which do not require cooking and preparation.

·       So too, it preferable to give food items which can be used at the Seudas Purim; such as challahs, kugels, wine and the like.

·       With the exception of children who are giving and or receiving, sweets are not the food of preference for Shaloch Manos.

·       As with Matanos L’Evyonim, the mitzvah of Shaloch Manos must be fulfilled on Purim Day.

·       Seudas Purim. The Purim meal. Here as well, the Seuda has to be fulfilled during the day of Purim (Sunday March 16th 2014).

·       One should preferably complete the major portion of the meal and preferably bentch beforesunset –approximately 7:10 PM on March 16th 2014.

·       The meal should consist of bread and preferably meat and wine.

·       If one can have poor people at the Seuda that is very beautiful.

·       Al Nissim.

·        One should recite Al Nissim in all of the Shmoneh Esrei’s beginning with Maariv on Motzei Shabbos March 15th and continuing with Shacharis and Mincha on Sunday March 16th 2014.

·        So too, when one bentches on any time on Purim, one should mention Al Nissim.

 

 

5.     Shushan Purim- Monday March 17th 2014

·       One does not recite Tachanun in davening and in general one should be more festive and happy on this day.

 

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” The Kokesh Cake “ (3/11/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 9th of Adar Beis 5774 and March 11, 2014

 

The Kokesh Cake

Avrohmi, who was in the fourth grade, was having a problem in school.

It began early in the year, however, by Chanukah his parents, the Finkelsteins, were in crisis mode.

Every evening when Avrohmi sat down to do his homework; he would insist that the rebbe only assigned ‘half’ of the questions on the homework sheet. His older brother or sister who had the ‘chore’ of doing homework with him, were only too happy to be finished helping Avrohmi and getting back to their own ‘stuff’.

However, one Shabbos afternoon when Avrohmi’s friend Nachum came over to play, Nachum’s mother took Esther Finkelstein’s up on her offer to stay and chat.

As the mothers were talking they remarked how strange it was that the rebbe always assigned only half of the sheet for homework.

Soon it became clear that although both boys were in agreement that the rebbe only assigned half of the sheet, however, each boy always claimed a different half was the night’s homework!

They hesitated to contact the school as neither mother wanted their son labeled as dishonest; however, they also wanted to stop their son’s chicanery.

And that’s when they came to me.

They asked me to deal with the boys in their ‘double-dealing’ without involving the school.

As the two boys entered my office I asked Hashem for special inspiration for I had no idea what to tell them.

I served them some Kokesh cake with milk as I stalled to come up with something.

As I stared at the Kokesh cake, a memory filled my mind from forty five years ago in Brooklyn.

I am sitting at the home of Shimon Klein, whose mother served the best Kokesh cake in the neighborhood. Suddenly it became clear to me what to say.

“Boys, let me tell you a story about a different Kokesh cake from forty five years ago.

When I was a boy I would often eat my best friend Shimon on Shabbos. At the end of the meal his mother would serve Kokesh cake. Her cake was known all over the neighborhood as the best.

One Friday night there was a large crowd at the Kliens. As Mrs. Klein was clearing the dishes one of the guest declared, “We have all left room for your famous Kokesh cake; I hope you baked today!”

Shimon attempted to speak however, his mother waived him off as she stated, “Of course there is Kokesh cake; what would Shabbos be without it?”

As Mrs. Klein headed to the kitchen, Shimon bolted from his chair, grabbed my hand and charged into the kitchen.

Shimon stammered, “Mom, I tried to tell you… Mrs. Gotlieb called this afternoon to tell you that this week she was unable to bring you over her Kokesh cake as she broke her hip.”

Mrs. Klein’s face turned red and then white as the reality of her years of deception of paying Mrs. Gotlieb to bake cakes for her and serving them as if they were hers’, had been uncovered.”

I looked at the boys who had stopped eating their Kokesh cake and were looking at me with mouths gaping open.

“Boys, I don’t recall what Mrs. Klein said to her guests when she reentered the room, however, I do know that from that day on Shimon and I never ever copied each other’s homework!”

The next week as I met Mrs. Finkelstein in Shul she was ecstatic.

“Rabbi, how can I ever thank you? Avrohmi is a changed boy. He won’t tell me what you told them; he just said something about Kokesh cake. Please tell me what you said?”

“Nothing really; I just told them about the 45 year old Kokesh cake which was never eaten yet its taste remains with me until today.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” The CVS Wallet” (3/4/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 2nd of Adar Beis 5774 and March 4, 2014

 

The CVS Wallet

 

As I pulled into the parking space of the CVS off Route 3 I thought I caught a glimpse of it. 

I was skeptical; after all, these things happened to other people, not to me. However, there was no mistake, there it was, a bulging wallet with cash.

I looked at the face on the license and noticed it was a Latino gentleman with a very non-Jewish name.

For a moment, thoughts of the applicability of the laws of “Hashavas Aveida” (returning a lost object) to a non-Jew coupled with the adage “finders’ keepers and losers’ weepers” danced in my head.

However, the recent memory of the ‘bad press’ we often receive, and the hope of a “Kiddush Hashem” trumped  my initial thoughts and I made a bee line to the counter and announced loud and clear, “Excuse me, I just found this wallet in the parking lot.”

 The woman looked at me somewhat surprised as she too noticed the bills bulging from the inflated wallet.

She looked at the driver’s license, went to the computer, clicked a few clicks and faster than I could say Hashavas Aveida she already had his phone number. She said she was going to call him and thanked me.

I continued into the store to purchase a few items. When I returned to the register, I asked her about the wallet and she told me that the man already retrieved the wallet and left.

I was a little miffed that I did not have my opportunity to show off my nice hat and beard to Mr. Morales; however, if that’s the way Chief Conductor wanted it, who am I to question?

As I checked out, the woman said, “Can I see your price-saver-tag?” I fumbled to find the little plastic thing while wondering why I had to scan this thing just to buy toothpaste. After she scanned it, I felt as if she knew more about me than my wife does as she read off my phone number and address.

I left the store and the wallet was forgotten.

Fast forward two weeks.

The phone rings in my office.

On the line is a Yiddish speaking gentleman.

He says: “Mazel Tov” and I assume these words are a prelude to solicit funds for Hachnosas Kallah.

However, as the conversation continues it is clear that he is thanking me for my participation his son’s Chasunah!

I have no idea who this man or his son is.

I never attended his Chasunah and have no idea what he is referring to.

Sensing my confusion, he asks me if I returned a wallet to a CVS two weeks ago.

I say yes without understanding what my returning a wallet has to do with this man.

He goes on to explain:

 “I was in a Spanish livery cab from Monroe to Newark Airport travelling to my son’s Chasunah in England.

On the way I asked the driver to stop to at the CVS off Route 3 to pick up a few last minute things.

When we all returned to the car we drove about a mile when the driver suddenly said, “I cannot find my wallet.”

He refused to drive without it and he pulled over.

We were stuck!

 I was sure I was going to miss my flight and I would not be at my son’s Chasunah.

Suddenly a woman calls from CVS and tells us that the wallets’ been found.

We retrieved it, headed straight to the airport and I made the flight by five minutes!

Because of you, I danced at the Chasunah of my son! How can I ever thank you?”

Stunned, I finally asked, “How did you ever know who I was? Who told you that I was the one who turned in the wallet?”

He answered,

“That was no problem; once I returned to the States, I went back to the store and reminded the woman about the wallet; I supplied the time and date of the incident and she recalled that there was a man with a long beard and big black hat who turned in a wallet that day. She then began to click away at her computer and in a moment she was able to access all of your information as you had scanned your plastic-key-thing. I explained to her that we were ‘cousins ‘(which we are) and with that she agreed to supply my with your phone number and that is how I am calling to thank you!”

The Chief Conductor has his plan; he was just waiting for me to do my part.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” Baigelling in Boro Park” (3/3/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 1st of Adar Beis 5774 and March 3, 2014

 

Baigelling in Boro Park

 

Recently a friend of mine excitedly called me up to relate how during a day trip to Florida he was happy to report how Frum Jews from all shapes and sizes naturally bonded with each other.

He said, “This feeling of kinship manifested itself in various ways. Perhaps it was a simple nod of recognition while waiting on the security-check line, or just a smile. We felt a real and strong attachment to each other as indicated when one man told me when I asked if I could place my hat on his luggage, “Of course, we are all members of the same ‘tribe’. “

This feeling of connection of and affinity caused my friend to enthusiastically inform me: “Mi K’amcha Yisroel!” (Who (we ask of Hashem) is like Your Jewish people?).

I certainly can relate to this experience and my hunch is that you can as well.

Everyone one of us has rejoiced when we are in unfamiliar surroundings and suddenly we spot a fellow frum Jew.

Recently my daughter Aviva was returning with two friends from Florida as a blizzard raged in New Jersey. Although the plane landed on time at Newark Airport; that was as far as she could get. The buses were not running; the trains had stopped and one cab arrived every hour with almost two hundred people waiting on the taxi line.

However, she and her friends spotted a frum family and with their help and their Chesed a hotel room was secured and everyone stayed overnight safe and sound in Newark for the duration of the storm.

The girls knew that the frum couple would not abandon them and the frum family knew they were picked for the mitzvah of securing the safety of three girl members of the ‘tribe’.

Indeed, our sense of togetherness, tribalism, connection and closeness is one of the major traits which we pride ourselves on.

We are constantly proudly exclaiming the greatness of the unity of the Jewish people and indeed, there are countless examples in our private and public lives of the sense of responsibility and affinity we feel towards each other.

However, (and what would a Short Vort be without something provocative?) is this really kinship, affection and love?

Or is it simple tribalism which only manifests itself when we are feeling like outsiders in a foreign environment in a faraway place?

I have only praise and admiration for the fellow who offered his fellow Jew a place to place his hat and to the people who made sure my daughter and her friends were safe.

But what happens when we go to Boro Park?

Do we feel the same sense of kinship and tribal unity when we are looking for a parking spot on 13th Avenue as we do when we are looking for our luggage in Bangkok?

Does the man who assured my friend of his tribal affinity feel the same love for his fellow tribe-members when he ‘needs’ to drop off his son at Shul and he double parks causing many ‘beloved’ members of ‘the tribe’ to be late for work or school?

Does the preacher of tribal affection in Wisconsin have the same kinship when walking the streets of Williamsburg?

And does the lover of Jews in London feel the same adoration when he is learning in Lakewood?

Does the member of the tribe, who does Chessed in Mississippi, have the same emotion of camaraderie in Monsey?

It is easy to be tribal in La Guardia Airport; it is much harder being brotherly in Boro Park.

The true test of our feeling of unity and affinity is specifically when there is no compelling reason to feel close and tribal.

When you are surrounded by your ‘kind’ and have no feeling of being on the ‘outside’, it is much more difficult to reach out and touch someone as you are already on the ‘inside’.

A friend of mine called me today; he had attended the ‘million man march’ in Yerushalayim.

I asked him, “Can you give me a brief recap of how it was?” He replied, “It was an awesome show of unity and togetherness; I felt a tremendous sense of kinship and empathy for my fellow Jews.”

I then casually asked, “How did you get back to Bnei Brak?”

“Well, once the event ended, life went back to normal. There was a tremendous rush for the bus to Bnei Brak and Thank Hashem I was able to push myself on the bus. I feel bad for those who were too old or weak to push; but what can you do? It was survival of the fittest and I wanted to get home.”

It’s easy to ‘Baigel in Bangor”; see how successful you are when you attempt to “Baigel in Boro Park.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” We Need You!” (3/1/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday Rosh Chodesh (day one) of Adar Beis 5774 and March 1, 2014

 

We Need You!

 

We need you; plain and simple.

The Torah speaks of Adar as being a month when people began to financially support the Mikdash.

We also have a Mikdash Me’at (smaller Beis HaMikdash) right here in Passaic.

I am referring to our Shul- the Ahavas Israel.

With the help of Hashem and with hard work from Howard Penner, our president and many other energetic volunteers we have succeeded in establishing a place where one can ‘daven on demand’, and learn and grow.

The Shul is open 20 hours a day, seven days a week.

There is not even one day of the year when there are not multiple Minyanim going on at the Shul.

We are thrilled and thankful to Hashem for his Bracha!

However, we need you!

We need you to allow us to continue to pay for our PSEG skyrocketing bills.

We need you to help us pay for a new and improved professional cleaning service to keep our Shul clean.

And we need you to keep the air conditioning going as the summer is arriving (hopefully) sooner than later.

We need you.

As I have mentioned before, thankfully I have no ‘leverage’ to attach to my request; the shul door is open to all and my office door and phone line is available to all; member or not.

However, I know as caring and compassionate Jews you will do the right thing and help us continue to build our Shul.

Please help out by contributing ‘a dollar a day’ and encourage others to do the same.

May we always be counted among the givers and never among the takers.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” The Notebook” (2/27/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 28th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 28th 2014

 

The Notebook

 

Sylvia Gottlieb (name changed) was an energetic septuagenarian.

Although some of her ideas were outdated; like when she offered to organize a rummage sale where people could sell their old eight-tracks and cassettes; however, her heart was in the right place.

She never understood why the Shul no longer offered Bingo night and she still advocated for a ladies’ bowling night.

Although she could not read Hebrew; that never stopped her from asking insightful questions and she loved answering all queries with her recently added favorite phrase “Baruch Hashem”.

The week after her 75-plus birthday celebration she came by to see me.

After a few minutes of chit-chat she produced a large journal.

As she placed it on my desk she said,

“Rabbi, you know that I was married for 44 years.

You remember my husband Morris- may he rest in peace.

He is gone now five years.

 I realize that soon my time will also come.

This journal contains my life’s work.

I know I am not the most learned or educated person in the Shul.

However, this journal is my ‘evidence’ which I intend to exhibit at my final judgment.

At my burial, I am asking you to place it near me.

When I am no longer alive until the funeral you can read it.

Maybe it will be of help for you to help others.

If you are ever to tell of this you must alter the details so no one will ever recognize me.”

Sylvia Gottlieb lived for another few years.

She passed away on a Thursday and we rushed to have the funeral.

As we prepared for the funeral I remembered the journal and stayed up late Thursday night reading it.

I was amazed by what I read.

Beginning with when Sylvia and Morris wed in 1960 there were dozens of entries all clearly dated.

·       March 1961- Morris forgot my birthday. Although I was upset, I successfully restrained myself and did not get angry.”

·       June 1963- Morris made me upset when he commented that the soup was too salty in front of the guests. I made my mind up not to mention it until we were alone and I continued the Shabbos meal as if nothing occurred.

·       October 1965- Steven (our oldest son) decided to raid the refrigerator and ate all of my pies which I was saving for the Shul’s Pie Sale. I disciplined him; however, I never raised my voice or displayed any anger.

·       May 1968- Morris and the two boys left Miriam (our youngest child) in Coney Island. Thank G-d a friendly policeman watched her until they fetched her. Although I wanted to scream and yell at them I laughed about it with them when they came home as I saw how embarrassed they were.”

In short, Mrs. Sylvia Gottlieb had kept a 44 year journal detailing all of the times she wanted to get angry but did not.

It was proof in plain language how a simple woman who never learned a day in a Beis Yakov had absorbed the vital Torah life lesson of self-control.

Sylvia Gottlieb- who could not read Hebrew was a real life mussar book!

As I touched the yellowing pages of the over forty year old journal I realized I was touching a masterpiece in self-control.

An hour later as we were burying Mrs. Gottlieb I lovingly placed the journal next to her coffin.

Her son Steven (now Rav Shmuel, an accomplished Talmid Chacham) noticed the journal.

“Rabbi, what’s in that journal? What did my mother write in there? Chiddushei Torah?” He asked somewhat surprised.

I looked at the grief-stricken son and simply said, “Yes, I believe you can call them Chiddushei Torah. In fact I am certain that when they read her ‘kuntris’ (journal) upstairs, it will move heaven and earth. Indeed, it’s her personal ‘Torah’. It is your mother’s passport to the next world. Every single page has the scent of Gan Eden.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” Passive Acceptance” (2/27/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 27th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 27, 2014

 

Passive Acceptance

 

Often in life we are faced with situations and people which and who are not to our liking.

The situations could be work related and/or could be dealing with relationships.

Indeed, many of these people and situations were placed in our path through no fault of our own.

If we work in a cubicle at an office and our ‘cubicle-mate’ is a person who showers too infrequently for comfort and saves money by never purchasing deodorant, it is we who have to endure the strong and offensive olfactory fragrance.

We may shower daily and apply liberal amounts of deodorant; however, if the person who sits two feet from us in the office and does not have the same hygienic tendencies, it is we who are suffering albeit from no fault of our own.

Often there are personal habits of loved ones, be they spouses, offspring or parents which we may find irritating and offensive.

The fellow or woman who is driving very slowly in front of you as you are in a rush to make it to car is causing you to be late. Once again, you are not at fault; however, it is you and you alone who will be late for the car pool lane.

And it is you who loses sleep if you spouse snores and it is you who feels the pain if your cousin is consistently late to family simchos.

There are so many instances in our life where we suffer or at the very least are ‘put out’ through no fault of our own.

In those instances where we can help ourselves we should do so. If we can switch to a different cubicle we should do so and if we can have a frank discussion about personal hygiene with our co-worker than by all means let us do so.

However, we will not change the elderly woman who is driving like a snail or the fellow who happens to sit next to us on the plane and whose girth overlaps to your seat. In these and countless other situations the correct thing to do is acceptance.

Are you at fault? Most certainly not.

If is ‘fair’ (whatever that means) that you are forced to sit cramped for twelve hours because the morbidly obese man next to you failed to contain his rotundity? Of course it is not ‘fair’.

However, even in these clearly ‘no-fault’ situations I advocate most often for passive acceptance.

Why? Why not insist that the portly pal sitting next to you be moved somewhere else?

Besides the fact that it may not be fair to pass you problem on to someone else; there is another reason why more often than not I advocate for passive acceptance.

And the reasoning in simple: most probably for most of us, we are equally guilty of being offensive to others as they are to us.

In hundreds of times during our day we unintentionally impact on the lives of many, many people; often not in a positive way.

Did you come late to Shul today and thereby unintentionally disturb someone’s davening?

Did you forget to signal when you made that left turn thereby causing distress to the driver behind you?

Did you speak a bit too loud on your cell phone on the bus disturbing someone’s much needed rest?

Did you talk on your cell phone as you drove down Van Houten Ave yesterday causing Rabbi Eisenman to swerve away as he was terrified by being hit by a three ton mass of steel barreling down the road with a 110 pound Sheitel wearing mother at the wheel?

There are countless times we impact in a negative way on the lives of others. Therefore, just as we expect others to be somewhat tolerant with us and ‘cut us some slack,’ it is only fair you ‘cut others some slack’ as well.

So the next time you find your body being folded against itself as the burly boy in the next seat extends his presence on to your seat, accept it.

After all, who knows how your presence impacts on others.

Learn to accept others as they are and worry about improving yourself; by following this advice you will live a more peaceful and less confrontational life.

 

“If Not Now-Then When?”-Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort- “” Passive Acceptance” (2/27/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 27th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 27, 2014

 

Passive Acceptance

 

Often in life we are faced with situations and people which and who are not to our liking.

The situations could be work related and/or could be dealing with relationships.

Indeed, many of these people and situations were placed in our path through no fault of our own.

If we work in a cubicle at an office and our ‘cubicle-mate’ is a person who showers too infrequently for comfort and saves money by never purchasing deodorant, it is we who have to endure the strong and offensive olfactory fragrance.

We may shower daily and apply liberal amounts of deodorant; however, if the person who sits two feet from us in the office and does not have the same hygienic tendencies, it is we who are suffering albeit from no fault of our own.

Often there are personal habits of loved ones, be they spouses, offspring or parents which we may find irritating and offensive.

The fellow or woman who is driving very slowly in front of you as you are in a rush to make it to car is causing you to be late. Once again, you are not at fault; however, it is you and you alone who will be late for the car pool lane.

And it is you who loses sleep if you spouse snores and it is you who feels the pain if your cousin is consistently late to family simchos.

There are so many instances in our life where we suffer or at the very least are ‘put out’ through no fault of our own.

In those instances where we can help ourselves we should do so. If we can switch to a different cubicle we should do so and if we can have a frank discussion about personal hygiene with our co-worker than by all means let us do so.

However, we will not change the elderly woman who is driving like a snail or the fellow who happens to sit next to us on the plane and whose girth overlaps to your seat. In these and countless other situations the correct thing to do is acceptance.

Are you at fault? Most certainly not.

If is ‘fair’ (whatever that means) that you are forced to sit cramped for twelve hours because the morbidly obese man next to you failed to contain his rotundity? Of course it is not ‘fair’.

However, even in these clearly ‘no-fault’ situations I advocate most often for passive acceptance.

Why? Why not insist that the portly pal sitting next to you be moved somewhere else?

Besides the fact that it may not be fair to pass you problem on to someone else; there is another reason why more often than not I advocate for passive acceptance.

And the reasoning in simple: most probably for most of us, we are equally guilty of being offensive to others as they are to us.

In hundreds of times during our day we unintentionally impact on the lives of many, many people; often not in a positive way.

Did you come late to Shul today and thereby unintentionally disturb someone’s davening?

Did you forget to signal when you made that left turn thereby causing distress to the driver behind you?

Did you speak a bit too loud on your cell phone on the bus disturbing someone’s much needed rest?

Did you talk on your cell phone as you drove down Van Houten Ave yesterday causing Rabbi Eisenman to swerve away as he was terrified by being hit by a three ton mass of steel barreling down the road with a 110 pound Sheitel wearing mother at the wheel?

There are countless times we impact in a negative way on the lives of others. Therefore, just as we expect others to be somewhat tolerant with us and ‘cut us some slack,’ it is only fair you ‘cut others some slack’ as well.

So the next time you find your body being folded against itself as the burly boy in the next seat extends his presence on to your seat, accept it.

After all, who knows how your presence impacts on others.

Learn to accept others as they are and worry about improving yourself; by following this advice you will live a more peaceful and less confrontational life.

 

“If Not Now-Then When?”-Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort- “” A Women’s Place” (2/25/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 26th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 26, 2014

 

A Women’s Place

 

Today marks a first for The Short Vort.

Our protagonist -as we highlight a great person’s Yahrtzeit -is a woman!

Today is the Yahrtzeit of Sarah Schenirer (July 15, 1883- March 1, 1935); in fact she passed away in Adar Aleph as 1935 was a leap year.

Sarah Schenirer was indeed an amazing individual.

Although she lived only 51 years and never had any children; nevertheless she literally impacted on the lives of thousands of women and men!

By the time of her passing in 1935 there were over 300 Bais Yaakov schools in Europe teaching over 35,000 students!

She won over both the Gerrer Rebbe and the Chofetz Chaim to her project and succeeded in establishing schools for young girls and teacher seminaries to produce home-grown teachers to teach in her schools.

She was initially a seamstress however, when she saw that, -“People are such perfectionists when it comes to clothing their bodies. Are they so particular when they address themselves to the needs of their soul?"- She realized that she had to do something for the soul of the Jewish girl.

Women were very often in those times receiving minimal Jewish education while they were attending secular public schools.

There were families where the father would be studying with his sons in the living room on Shabbos and his daughters would be writing their school assignments in the next room!

She decided to begin a revolution and she succeeded.

This former seamstress from Krakow received support from the greatest Torah giants in both the Chassidic and non-Chassidic camps and set about changing women’s Jewish education.

Although she died young and childless, she left behind a legacy of legions of Torah true girls and women who are religiously stable and knowledgeable of Torah and Halacha.

She proved to all that everyone one of us-even a simple seamstress- can make a difference in the world and she demonstrated to all that even someone not blessed with biological children can leave a legacy in the thousands.

As she suffered with her final illness she wrote to her charges, "My dear girls, you are going out into the great world. Your task is to plant the holy seed in the souls of pure children. In a sense, the destiny of Israel of old is in your hands."

May her memory continue to inspire us.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort- “” Binyamin Zev ben Shlomo Z”l” (2/25/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is the 25th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 25, 2014

 

Binyamin Zev ben Shlomo Z”l

 

Today is the Yahrtzeit of my father in law, Binyamin Zev ben Shlomo Herzka; who was known to all as Willie Herzka.

Born in Vienna in the 1930, he was separated from his parents before he was 10 and sent to England to live with non-Jewish families and in an orphanage for Jewish children whose parents remained under the Nazi boot.

Great Britain allowed some Jewish children to enter the country however, not their parents and therefore he was without the love, support and security of parents as he grew to adulthood.

His Bar Mitzvah was celebrated in an orphanage as he remained alone without knowing if his parents were even alive.

After his parents spent time in Bergen Belsen he was miraculously reunited with them after the war.

Together with his parents, he immigrated to these shores and settled in the Washington Heights neighborhood in Manhattan.

Soon after he was inducted into the American army and served his newly adopted country with pride during the Korean War.

However, despite all his hardships and tribulations, he was never bitter and always upbeat and happy.

After his military service and his marriage to my mother in law, he set up a business which initially repaired televisions and radios and eventually morphed into air conditioning service and repair.

From the moment I met him he treated me with love and friendship; however, he also accorded me (unearned) respect as he naturally admired and revered Torah scholars.

In the almost quarter of a century I spent as his son in-law we never once had any sort of disagreement or argument.

He was easy going and friendly to all and he was well known in Washington Heights (where I lived for my first six years of marriage and that is where his business was located) as an honest and reliable person.

He was a throwback to the times when a Jewish man was a blue collar hard working honest and trustworthy small business owner. Never once, did I ever hear anyone utter even the slightest hint of dishonesty with regard to his business ethics.

He worked hard and was always there when a family was sitting Shiva in the summer and needed an extra unit to cool the Shiva home.

He would arrive home quite late on Friday afternoon as if he could help one more family in making sure their home would be cool and comfortable for Shabbos he would be there.

His “kibud aim” (honor of his mother) was the stuff of legends.  His father was killed tragically after surviving Bergen Belsen in an accident in New York and his mother remained an almanah (widow) for over thirty years.

During those years, my father in-law ‘employed’ his mother as his ‘secretery’ in his store-front headquarters on Amsterdam Ave. in Washington Heights.

Although her message taking skills were not too accurate: “Oh, it was Mr. Greenberg who called? I thought he said Mr. Goldstein. Goldstein, Greenberg what’s the difference?” Nevertheless, he would never consider ‘replacing her’ as it accorded her a feeling of being needed and vital even if it meant losing a few calls.

I could go on and on about his honesty and his friendliness, however, perhaps what stands out in my mind is his final act of Chesed.

When I was visiting him during his final illness, he suddenly asked if everyone could please leave the room as he wanted to speak to me alone.

I was wondering what deathbed confession he wanted to share with me; however, I was totally awestruck by what he said.

“I know my time here is limited.”

He was totally calm and in control as he continued, “When I go I do not want my levaya running more than 45 minutes. Mommy (his wife, my mother in-law) cannot bear more than that.  I know her; I want to spare her the pain of a long drawn-out funeral. Promise me you will keep it to within 45 minutes.”

Here he was suffering from an incurable disease which would very soon take his life; hooked up to machines and tubes and the only thing on his mind was to save his wife the pain of enduring a long and painful funeral service.

The young boy from Vienna who grew up without the love and support of his parents; who sat Shiva for his own father before he was even married and who worked hard his entire life to support his family had only one concern as he lay dying: to spare his wife any unnecessary pain and discomfort.

That is what occupied his mind as his body was slipping away.

He was beloved by many; indeed, even the local mailman came to pay a shiva call; however, I was privileged to call him Dad.

 

“If Not Now-Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” Don’t Bother Me With the Facts” (2/23/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 23rd of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 23, 2014

 

Don’t Bother Me With the Facts

 

The other day I sent out an article from the NY Times about a woman whose Sheitel was whisked from her head by a passerby’s umbrella.

I sent out the article because I felt it was humorous and since the article was written by a frum woman herself, I imagine that the woman who ‘lost’ her Sheitel must have also found it funny.

I was therefore surprised when a number of my female readers responded to the posting with comments such as, “Only a man would find this incident funny”. Indeed, one woman even insinuated that I was guilty of chauvinism by distributing the article.

Obviously if you found it funny or not is your business. However, the comment that “only a man would find this funny” stirred my interest; after all, the article was written by a woman about her very own experience!

Obviously, at least one woman in the world felt the story was funny as indeed that was her entire point in submitting the story to the Metropolitan Diary Column.

Too often in our lives, when we are convinced of something, we find it convenient to ignore the facts of the case.

When we have a preconceived notion of something and we are faced with evidence to the contrary, very often we will interpret that evidence as being non-indicative of the facts and therefore irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

I recall once when I was a rebbe and I was not looking forward to parent-teachers conferences as one mother who I knew was highly defensive of her son would no doubt confront me about her son’s two day suspension from school.

As she arrived at the conference she made no mention of the suspension and she was gracious and non-combative in the least. Finally, I decided to bring it up and said to her, “I am sorry I had to suspend Ari last week for two days.”

She looked at me with a look of confusion.

I continued and said, “Last week, I sent you a letter informing you that Ari was suspended for Tuesday and Wednesday; did you see the letter?”

She looked at incredulously and with complete confidence she said, “Rabbi Eisenman, I don’t know what you are talking about. I never received any letter from you about Ari and indeed he was absent last Tuesday and Wednesday. However, that was not because of a suspension, he had a stomach virus and told me he could not go to school; it had nothing to do with a suspension!”

I looked her and thought to myself, how could she claim I never sent a letter when I know I did? Obviously, her son had intercepted the letter; feigned his illness and fooled his mother.

However, if she was wanted to live by “don’t bother me with the facts”, who am I to burst her bubble?

I smiled and told her I was happy Ari was better.

Who knows? Perhaps ignorance is bliss?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zt”l” (2/19/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 20th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 20th 2014

 

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zt”l

 

Today, the 20th of Adar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zt”l (July 20, 1910 - February 20, 1995), the great Rav and Poesk (halachik authority) of Yerushalayim.

Rav Shlomo Zalman, as he was known by all, was a very special person who I had the privilege of knowing and spending time with.

He was a person who was never rushed and never stressed; or perhaps if he was, he certainly never showed it.

When I would approach him with a question after davening at his son’s yeshiva in Shaarei Chesed, he would make me feel as if I was doing him -an old man- a favor by asking him a question.

When I was with him I felt that I was special and unique to him; when I mentioned this to other people who knew him, they felt the exact same way.

He had the ability to make everyone feel special and precious. I can assume that he was able to do this because he really felt that each and every person was special and unique. He sincerely and truly loved and cherished each person he met.

When I think of someone who had the ability to evaluate each situation according to its particular characteristics, and to respond accordingly, I think of Rav Sholom Zalman Zt”l.

No two situations were identical and each one merited its own distinctive evaluation.

This rare ability to respond in a exceptional way to each situation is illustrated in the following two anecdotes.

He was very meticulous with his time and attempted never to waste it.

He was once asked by a student to officiate at his wedding. He responded that he had already accepted an invitation to officiate at a different wedding that night and could not accommodate the second student.

The second student inquired where the first wedding was and upon hearing it was also in Yerushalayim, he assured Rav Sholom Zalman that his Chupa would start exactly at 8 PM and he would arrange for a taxi to transport Rav Shlomo Zalman to the other wedding which was starting at 8:45 PM.

Rav Shlomo Zalman was hesitant to agree. However, the student was insistent and promised Rav Shlomo Zalman that if his Chupah did not start at 8, the Rebbe could leave without officiating.

Only after the young man assured him that the Chupah would begin at 8 did he consent to come.

At exactly 8 PM Rav Auerbach said to the bochur, “Let us begin, it is 8 PM”.

The student replied that his grandfather was in-transit and he would arrive momentarily.

At 8:10 PM, after waiting an additional 10 minutes, Rav Shlomo Zalman rose to leave. The boy saw that Rav Shlomo Zalman was leaving and he quickly grabbed his father and stated towards the Chupah.

His word was a word and that was it.

However, on another occasion when he was invited to a Sheva Brochus for a student who was fatherless, he arrived at the hall at the designated time and saw that the Chosson and Kallah were nowhere to found.

When he inquired as to their whereabouts he was informed that they were just leaving Bnei Brak now (!) and would arrive in about an hour.

Rav Sholom Zalman was visibly surprised and disappointed and fell silent for a moment. Ostensibly he was assessing the situation. He no doubt realized that this was a Sheva Brochus for an orphan and perhaps the delay was not even his fault. He perhaps considered the impact on the husband and wife and on their Shalom Bayis if he would suddenly leave.

After a minute of thought Rav Sholom Zalman announced in a joyful and cheerful voice, “Baruch Hashem, we have an hour to discuss some important Torah issues as we all wait for the Chosson and Kallah. Let’s make use of this time!”

And with that, everyone crowded around the Rebbe as he engaged them in a Torah discussion.

This was a time when a word did not have to be exactly ‘a word’.

Each person was precious and each situation was unique.

Each situation merited its own approach and no two situations were identical.

That is why he was so precious to so many and so beloved to all

May his memory be an inspiration to all.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” Who is Eliyahu?” (2/18/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 19th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 19, 2014

 

Who is Eliyahu?

 

The Gemara in Massechta Brochus (3a) relates the story of how Rebbi Yossi entered an abandoned “churva” (ruined building) in Yerushalayim to daven.

Eliyahu (ostensibly it is Eliyahu HaNavi) waited for him to finish his prayers and then instructed him in three areas of Halacha.

1.       One should not enter a desolate semi-destroyed building even to daven.

2.       One who has to daven should daven on the road as opposed to entering the “churva”.

3.       One who davens on the road, should daven an abridged davening.

 

The Maharitz Chayes (Rabbi in Poland; November 20, 1805 - October 12, 1855) points out that one should not assume that the reason Rebbi Yossi accepted these halachos was because they were from a Navi (prophet).

 Indeed, with regard to Halacha the Gemara clearly states “Lo BaShamoyim Hee” – the law is no longer in the heavens; rather it is given over to the scholars to decide.

Therefore, the fact that Eliyahu was a prophet had no significance in his opinion being law; rather, it was only by virtue of his own scholarship that he was worthy of being one of the transmitters of the oral traditions (Ba’alei HaMesorah).

Too often we assume that anecdotal evidence of prophetic prowess by a pious person is proof of their expertise in all areas of Torah including Halacha.

However, the truth is that the law can only be ascertained through diligent and intense and constant study. The fact that someone may have a pipeline to heaven does not mean they have a greater stature in the halachik process.

We are not interested in prophetic powers when we decide Halacha; rather, we are interested in individuals who through constant and meticulous study have achieved mastery in Shas and the codes.

If Eliyahu HaNavi would say that prophetically he believes the Halacha should be one way and Rav Elyashiv Zt”l would say that through his study he believes Halacha is another way, we would follow the ruling of Rav Elyashiv Zt”l.

The beauty of our Torah is that anyone can wear its crown; all you have to do is put in the effort.

It may take years and years; however, at the end of the day, we all can claim the crown of Torah.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

    

The Short Vort- “” One More on Single Mindedness” (2/17/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 18th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 18, 2014

 

One More on Single Mindedness

 

In the past (read: yesterday) we discussed the danger in taking a single-minded approach to the problems of life.

 A person who ‘always’ reacts in the same way to all situations is consistent in their reactions but almost certainly inconsistent in their success rate.

No one can always react in the identical way to all situations for the simple reason that no two situations are ever truly identical.

No one can always be singularly minded with regard to the life’s difficulties; life is much too complex and multi-layered to take a single-layered approach to people and their challenges.

And as we mentioned yesterday, we should look for those anecdotes which challenge us to change and at least question our behavior as opposed to always seeking out and quoting those incidents which just continue to validate our too often too firmly entrenched modes of behavior.

Too often we are self-congratulatory in our actions and in our words.

A person who is naturally reserved and prone to reclusive behavior will too often seek out stories about Gedolim who were also reserved and quiet too justify their aloofness.  In truth they could really use a ‘reality check’ from someone for what they assume is an asset may be interpreted by their peers as a liability.

Communally this is true as well.

One example is the main mitzvah of the day: kiruv.

While many leaders of yesteryear preached and practiced segregation and distancing from non-observant Jews, nowadays the opposite is the case.

‘Reach out and connect’ is the buzz word of the 21st century while in the 1930s the approach was to distance and circle the wagons.

The approach of yesteryear is not always the approach to take this year.

Next time you feel the need to quote a story which buttresses your opinion ask yourself if you are quoting this story just to support your private personal inclinations?

Stories of our great people are great; however, they are even ‘greater’ when they challenge us to be even ‘greater’.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” Paralysis or Impulsivity” (2/17/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 17th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 17, 2014

 

Paralysis or Impulsivity

 

Rav Elyashiv Zt”l once complimented and validated  a  Rav for taking the drastic step of stopping Krias HaTorah in the middle of the laining and returning the Sefer Torah to the Aron because of the  constant and incessant talking of the congregation.

Rav Elyashiv Zt”l compared it to Moshe Rabbeinu and the drastic step of breaking the Luchos upon his seeing the golden calf.

Rav Elyashiv commented that sometimes one has to take drastic and immediate action when the circumstances demand it.

On the other hand, once when the Chofetz Chaim arrived at a town and was told by the local Rabbonim that there was a factory in town which was open on Shabbos and that the factory owner also employed Jews in his factory. The local Rabbonim wanted to organize a boycott of the factory in order to pressure the factory owner to close on Shabbos.

The Rabbonim were convinced that the Chofetz Chaim would back them.

However, to their surprise when they presented their plan the Chofetz Chaim asked, “And what will happen if this rich factory owner decides not to give in to the boycott and instead decides to close the factory altogether? Who will feed the fifty men and their families who will lose their livelihood?”

The Rabbonim were shocked; “But, Rebbe, what about the Chillul Shabbos that is going on?”

The Chofetz Chaim looked at them and said, “It is indeed serious. However, if you take the impulsive and immediate and drastic step of boycotting his business you may be trading the problem of Chillul Shabbos for the more serious problem of Pikuach Nefesh (questions of life and death) as who will feed these fifty families?”

Too often in life those of us who are naturally impetuous and impulsive look for stories like the first one to validate our natural feelings and actions.

On the other hand, those of us who are naturally patient -even to the point of paralysis- and we have a tough time making decisions and ceasing to continually procrastinate, utilize the second story to justify our perpetual paralysis and inaction.

In truth neither story is indicative of the ‘always right or always wrong’ approach to life.

Sometimes we must be the Moshe Rabbeinu and act with alacrity and immediately.

However, at other times we must be like the Chofetz Chaim carefully considering the ramifications and long term effect of our present actions.

Those of us who are naturally too patient to the point of paralysis should utilize the first story to jar us out of our stupor towards a greater involvement in life and its problems.

While those of us who are naturally impetuous and impatient, should employ the story of the Chofetz Chaim to temper our impetuousness and balance it with a sense of responsibility for the outcome of our actions.

Unfortunately, too often as opposed to becoming more balanced we only utilize those incidents which continue to validate and support our natural tendencies and we fail to learn that which what we really need to learn which ultimately is a sense of balance and spiritual equilibrium.

You cannot ‘always-react-immediately’ and you cannot ‘always-never-react’; the trick is to know when to do what.

 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “” “The Frum Day”” (2/14/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 14th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 14, 2014

 

“The Frum Day”

 

Tomorrow on the 15th of Adar Aleph (Shushan Purim Kotton) and February 15, 2014 “residents of the island of Tanna celebrate “John Frum Day”. Mr. Frum is a figure associated with cargo cults on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. This residents stage a parade on February 15, the date followers believe John Frum will return and which is observed as "John Frum Day" in Vanuatu. He is often depicted as an American World War II serviceman who will bring wealth and prosperity to the people if they follow him.” (Wikipedia)

 

The ‘John Frum Cult’ which is associated with Cargo Cults which began in 1930s and increased in 1940s is very common in the South Pacific Islands. One theory is that when American servicemen stationed in the islands during World War Two  brought tons and tons of ‘cargo’ to the islands this caused the islanders to believe that “John Frum (America)’ was the savior.

The natives believe that one day John Frum will return and liberate them with even more ‘cargo’ and gifts.

In fact, “After the war and the departure of the Americans, followers of John Frum built symbolic landing strips to encourage American airplanes to land and bring them "cargo".”

 

One day a reporter visited the island and asked one of the followers of the cult why when after over 50 years have gone by since the last American plane brought cargo to the island do you still insist on believing the “John Frum” will return?

The islander asked the reporter if he believed in the Christian savior.

The reporter replied in the affirmative.

“Well if you can still believe that your messiah will come ‘again’ although he hasn’t come back for almost two thousand years, than I can believe that John Frum will return after waiting only 50 years!”

The simple islander has a point; indeed, as Pirkei Avos says:

“Do not scorn any man, and do not discount anything; for there is no man who has not his hour, and no thing that has not its place.” (Pirkei Avos 4:3)

 

Enjoy Purim Kotton!

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

    

The Short Vort- “” My Father z”l” (2/13/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 13th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 13, 2014

 

My Father z”l

 

 Today, fifteen years ago to the day, my father, Yoel Moshe ben Yosef Nosson z”l passed away.

My father was born in Yerushalayim in October of 1925 in the Bikur Cholim Hospital.

His mother was born in Yerushalayim as was her father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Indeed, her great-great-grandfather R’ Zalman Tzoref arrived in Eretz Yisroel in 1811 and the majority of the family still resides there.

Although my father moved to these shores in the early 1950’s his heart remained in the Land of his fathers.

My childhood was full of stories of his visiting his grandfather in Yerushalayim on Succos and on Pesach. He regaled me with stories of how his great-grandfather had founded the settlements of Petach Tikva and the new neighborhood in west Yerushalayim of Nachalat Shiva.

He would relate to me how during the 1948 Israeli War, he was involved in the battle for control of Jerusalem- Tel-Aviv highway which was focused at Latrun.  

He lost hearing in one ear when an enemy shell exploded just yards from where he was standing killing his best friend.

And although he and I both enjoyed telling and listening to his stories of the past, I most enjoyed him as my father.

It is interesting, how now, almost fifty years later the following memory of him remains vividly real in my life.

 When I was in first grade in the mid-1960s my father would drive my brother and I to Yeshiva every morning.

One day I noticed that instead of going straight to the yeshiva, my father detoured into a part of Brooklyn which we knew was termed a ‘changing’ or a ‘bad’ neighborhood. It was a neighborhood which unlike Flatbush had high-rise housing units which we would refer to as ‘the projects’.

Most of the people who were moving into the neighborhood were African-Americans and most who were moving out were Jews.

Every morning we left the house a little early and we made our way to this ‘foreign’ neighborhood to ‘the projects’ to pick up this one little boy who went to yeshiva with us.

Finally one day my brother and I revolted. “Dad, why do we have to leave every morning early and go out of our way to pick up this one boy in this ‘bad’ neighborhood? Let his father take him to school; why do we have to?”

My father looked at us from his rear-view mirror and answered very simply and honestly.

“True, it is a little bit of an inconvenience for us to go out of our way to pick him up. However, his parents cannot take him and he wants to go to yeshiva. There are no other Jewish boys who go to the yeshiva from his neighborhood; so what should we do?  Can we not give him the chance to go to yeshiva as well?  Look, we drive anyway, if we can help him, then why not?”

Those last words,’ if we can help him, then why not’ have remained with me forever.

However, even more than the words were the actions. As I look at my own hectic schedule and realize now who valuable time is, I appreciate more than ever how my father decided on his own -without any payment and to a person he did not even know – to dedicate his time and care to help out another person who needed help.

I recall how on Chanuka the mother attempted to give my father a gift; he brushed it aside by saying, “It’s not needed, and it’s really not a big deal I am driving anyway.”

I get upset if the person in front of me at the red light does not ‘jump’ when the light turns green and my father gave up thirty minutes of his time daily to take a little boy to yeshiva.

Just one more reason for me to lovingly recall the man who made me what I am.

Thanks Dad, I miss you.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “"B&B;* *Beatles and Bitachon “ (2/9/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the Ninth of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 9, 2014

 

B&B*

*Beatles and Bitachon

 

Today in 1964, fifty years ago to the day, my mother and I were sitting in front of a box which displayed black and white and shades of gray images.

She informed me that we would be watching a new group from England. There would be four long-haired young men who would be singing songs which sounded like ‘yea, yea, yea.’

I can still recall the stiff almost neck-less host of the show- Mr. Ed Sullivan announce: “Ladies and gentlemen...the Beatles!"

And then they were on the on the screen singing and playing electric guitars.

What was stranger to me than the performers was when the camera focused on the audience and I saw young women who seemed to be hyperventilating and in some sort of trance-like state as the four young men from Liverpool, England sang and performed.

I am still perplexed by why so many of these young girls were mesmerized by men whom they had never met before nor would any of them in all probability every meet in the future.

However, that night of February 9, 1964 was certainly a turning point in the cultural history of the world.

Even those of my readers who have never listened to their songs (which I would wager is a small minority), must admit that our society has been irrevocably changed in no small measure by the music, the culture and world outlook of these four young Brits.

In some ways the world is better; in some ways it is not; however, one cannot claim that the repercussions from that Sunday night fifty years ago have dissipated.

Four men from not too special or privileged an upbringing impacted on the lives of millions of people; the overwhelming amount of them they never met.

Such is the power of the individual; especially when individuals work in tandem.

Today, on February 9, 2014 I attended the funeral of Rabbi Mordechai Rennert Zt”l.

Rav Mordechai, whose official title was Rosh Yeshiva of Derech Chaim in Borough Park was a unique individual.

Together with his brother in law, Rav Yisroel Plutchok Shlitta (who is from Passaic, NJ) he founded in 1974 Yeshivas Derech Chaim with eight students.

At the beginning, the two of them would arrive at the yeshiva on Friday afternoon to mop the floor and clean the Beis Medrash.

The two of them worked hard and with perseverance and sincerity and with Bitachon that they were doing the right thing.

The yeshiva today numbers over 200 bochurim and a kollel.

And today, after succumbing to an illness on Shabbos, Rav Mordechai Rennert was given his final Kavod.

As his brother in-law, Rav Plutchok cried out, “Mordechai, how could you leave me? I need you! I need you”, wailing broke out in the Beis Medrash.

However, these were not star-struck adolescent females, these were grown mature men.

As Rav Plutchok sobbed and asked, “Mordechai, how can I go on without you? You were everything!”

The room erupted in audible shrieks of pain and tears.

Men in their fifties and sixties and bochurim in their late teens and early twenties bawled uncontrollably as tissues were quickly grabbed up.

And then Rav Plutchok asked that in 1974 who would have thought that two young men just recently returned from Eretz Yisroel, aged 29 and 30 could open up their own yeshiva which today would number in the hundreds?

However, they believed in their cause and with the help of Hashem and by touching one student at a time, they built a yeshiva which has impacted on the entire Jewish world.

Rav Rennert, not too dissimilar than the Beatles, also impacted on the cultural and world outlook of thousands of individuals.

However, there is one huge difference between the Beatles and Rav Rennert.

The Beatles and their fans and admirers were disconnected from each other.

Rav Rennert impacted in exactly the opposite way. By connecting with an every person he ever met in a personal and meaningful way he was able to create a change in the level of Torah learning in this country.

While each and every fan of the Beatles may have (incorrectly) believed that they were the most loyal and faithful fan of the group; in truth the Beatles knew few if any of their fans.

However, as Rav Mordechai’s son pointed out in his hesped, “Everyone who met my father felt that he was my father’s favorite Talmid. And you know what? They were. For my father loved and cared about each and every person he met as if he was the only person he had ever met.”

Some people impact through distance.

Rav Rennert had the merit of impacting through proximity.

I feel privileged to be counted among those whom he touched in a very personal and meaningful way.

I will miss him; in fact, I miss already.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

The Short Vort- “"One on Clothes” (2/7/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 7th of Adar 5774 and February 7, 2014

 

One on Clothes

 

“You shall make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for honor and glory.” (Sh’mos 28:2)

 

 “If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.... It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.”

? Albert Einstein

 

Clothes; we all need them and you cannot go without them.

 As Mark Twain famously said,

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Indeed the average American spends about $1,500 on clothing per year.

This week’s Parsha speaks about clothes.

Indeed, it specifies what the clothes of the Kohanim had to look like.

One thing is clear; the clothes were to be “for honor and glory.” Meaning, the clothes had to be reflective of the inner spiritual level of those who wore them.

The Kohanim had to be special individuals who performed special chores for Hashem’s special people.

Therefore, since they were already special they had to wear special clothes.

However, as Albert Einstein remarked so insightfully, “It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.”

Too often nowadays in our society we are very ‘wrapped up’ in the outer wrappings of the person and less concerned with their inner essence.

We tend to judge people based on the color and style of their head covering and too often by the label or brand of the garment they wear.

This is unfortunate as the Torah clearly intended that that the clothes which Aharon and his sons wore were not the cause of their importance; quite the opposite, the clothes were a natural extension of their inner elevated spiritual status and the clothes reflected that which existed on the inside.

Let us make sure that we are the same with regard to our clothes.

Meaning, we must realize that clothes do not really ‘make the man’ rather, one could say that clothes should ‘reflect’ the true inner status of the man.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

    

The Short Vort- “"Chillul Hashem” (2/4/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 4th of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 4, 2014

 

Chillul Hashem

 

One day Rav Yochanan was ill with a potentially life threatening condition known as Tzapidna.

 He approached a non-Jewish healer and she prepared for him the treatment; he received these treatments on Thursday and Friday.

Rav Yochanan asked her, “What happens if I have a reoccurrence on Shabbos?”

She did not think it would be needed, however, he insisted she tell him the secret formula for the treatment.

She replied that she would, but only if he would swear not to reveal the secret ingredients.

He agreed and she demanded him of to swear that he would not reveal the secret.

Rav Yochanan swore, “I will not reveal the secret to the G-d of Israel!”

She was satisfied with this oath and told him the secret formula.

No sooner did Rav Yochanan find out and he announced publicly the secret formula.

The Gemara asks how he could do that, after all he swore not to reveal.

The Gemara answers that swore he would not reveal to the G-d of Israel; however, he never swore he would not tell the people of Israel!

Asks the Gemara wasn’t this a Chillul Hashem? After all, the healer felt the Rabbi swore not to reveal the secret and did not keep his word?

To this the Gemara answers, that immediately after she revealed to him the secret he revealed to her that his oath was only not to reveal to G-d, however, he planned to tell the Jewish people.

Since he revealed to her that he was planning to tell everyone, this took care of the problem of the Chillul Hashem as once she knew he was going to tell she could not say that he did not keep his word.

Rav Yochanan knew the woman was wrong in keeping a cure from the general public.

He knew her insistence on keeping it private was detrimental to the health of the community and therefore he deemed it permitted to trick her by utilizing verbal vagueness.

Although he felt he was justified in his trickery, however, he still felt that a word is a word and he informed her immediately that he intended to reveal the secret to the people of Israel.

This must have been uncomfortable for Rav Yochanan to disclose to her his intentions.

It would have been easier to leave her and just reveal the secret and say, “Who cares if she thinks I am a liar? She was wrong in keeping the cure from mankind!”

However, he could not do that; a man’s word is his word and as uncomfortable as it was he forced himself to disclose to her his intentions. (Based on the Talmud, Massechta Yoma 84a)

Often in life we are faced with uncomfortable messages which we must convey.

Sometimes we decide to take the easy way out by avoiding the confrontation and allowing the person to find out in whatever they do.

We find it difficult and uncomfortable to tell people how we really feel about them or what our real intentions are about a subject.

We are hesitant to admit to a person that we disagree with them or that we will be opposing them in their stance.

However, ultimately, honesty, no matter how difficult is often still the best policy.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “"Mah Nishtanah HaSunday HaZeh Mikol Sunday?” (2/2/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 2nd of Adar Aleph 5774 and February 2, 2014

 

Mah Nishtanah HaSunday HaZeh Mikol Sunday?

 

According to the NFL, FOX’s broadcast will reach 198 countries and territories in more than 25 languages. Media from 24 countries will provide on-site coverage, and more than 100 stations are broadcasting live from Radio Row at the Super Bowl Media Center in New York’s Times Square. Seattle and Denver could push past the 111.3 million viewers mark set two years ago.

 

This means that 1/3 of the country will be tuning in to watch the big game. One out of every three Americans will be investing their time watching athletes they have never met play; nor do the players ‘represent’ them in any meaningful fashion.

If so, one has to wonder why is this Sunday different from any other Sunday?

 

Personally I am not going to watch the game as it has been years since I have freed myself from any sort of addiction to professional sports (do not worry though, all my other vices are alive and well).

However, that being said, I have no problem with those of you who will be watching.

I will not preach to you how to spend your time and not sermonize to you about what you could be doing during the time.

Indeed, watching the game is pretty innocuous; there will be camaraderie and there will be a good time had by all.

The one fact which is fascinating is the ability of the media to create an illusion in the minds of the masses that there is something critically important about the game. Indeed, this  impression has been so successfully embedded in our minds that (according to the NY Times) “(Super Ball Sunday) has become the kind of forbidden date, along with Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving and Christmas, on which few couples choose to get married.”

I am not challenging the enjoyment people will have from spending quality time together nor am I knocking professional football per se.

However, what is important to realize is how we should be cognizant of the fact that: “All that glitters is not gold”. Meaning, my hunch is that out of the 110 plus million Americans who are tuning in today, many of them (if not even the majority) are just watching because ‘it is the thing one does’.

And while in the case of the Super Bowl it is indeed ‘safe’ and harmless; however, it does give us reason to remember how effectively and quickly the masses can be moved and manipulated through the media and peer pressure to spend their time doing what they think or feel they ‘should’ be doing to be part of the crowd as opposed to what they ‘really want to do’.

Time is precious, use it wisely and enjoy the game.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “"My Heart Hurts” (1/30/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 29th of Shevat 5774 and January 30, 2014

 

My Heart Hurts

 

As I checked my voice mail, I could tell by the tone of the voice without even hearing the details of the message.

As the voice was halting and quiet; I knew that the haltingness was indicative of her hesitancy as she finally decided to disclose to the rabbi that everything is not peachy-keen at home. The quietness of the voice was the hope that by speaking in whispers the problem would somehow disappear.

As soon as I heard the almost inaudible message I called back to set up the appointment.

The wife asked if anyone will see them when they arrive; I assured them that more congregants than she can imagine had made the trek to my office and have emerged unscathed and unseen from the encounter.

Immediately upon arrival, even before a word was uttered I saw the seriousness of the issue.

When the couples take seats far apart and each one specifically directs their gaze to the opposite side of the room I know that this matter has been brewing for a quite a while and has finally reached the boiling point.

When the Feldblums (name changed) arrived I knew that this was going to be a major-tissue-using-meeting and I quickly set out another box.

When the tears began Mrs. Feldblum apologized for the outburst, however, I assured that if someone does not cry in the office, the meeting was probably unnecessary. Indeed, tears are almost de rigueur for any crisis meeting in my office.

After Mrs. Feldblum regained her composure, she began to speak.

She has a health issue which is causing her great stress.

Her son was not on the straight and narrow which was painful to her and her elderly father’s health was in decline.

However, the real issue bothering her (which is what almost always the ‘real’ issue is); comes down to one word: abandonment.

The feeling of being abandoned, by one’s spouse or (as often is the case) by Hashem is the root of so many of our problems.

The feeling that we are alone and that our family, friends and even Hashem has left us to fend for ourselves in the stormy seas of stress is overwhelming and debilitating.

We are all mature enough to realize that we will have ups and downs in this world and that not everything will go our way. However, when the problems are so seemingly random and constant, we often believe that we have been abandoned and left to drift without anyone even caring for us.

I looked at Mrs. Feldblum and attempted to remind her of the blessings in her life which she certainly has. She has a wonderful son-in law who is a budding Torah scholar and two wonderful grandchildren. She does Chesed in the neighborhood which is much appreciated and she is a wonderful receptionist with a sterling reputation at a local office.

However, I realized that notwithstanding her blessings, she was feeling alone and most acutely she felt that her husband, although he was physically present, was emotionally absent. This caused her much pain.

I looked at both Mr. and Mrs. Feldblum and reminded them of that fact too many of us forget too often.

“You are in this together; Hashem has not forgotten about you. However, He wants you to face the crisis together. He wants you Laibel to remember the legendary answer of Rav Aryeh Levin Zt”l who when asked by the doctor who was treating Rav Aryeh’s wife, “What seems to be the problem?” answered, “My wife’s foot hurts us!”

I looked at Laibel Feldblum and hesitantly and quietly said, “My friend Laibel, your wife’s heart hurts, do you feel the pain?”

Slowly they turned to each other.

 They looked at each other and recalled why they decided to build a Jewish together twenty two years ago.

 And then Laibel said the words Mrs. Feldblum so desperately needed to hear, “Rabbi, my wife’s heart hurts us.”

The first step towards healing had begun.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “"Who is Michael G. Grimm?” (1/29/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 28th of Shevat 5774 and January 29, 2014

 

Who is Michael G. Grimm?

 

My hunch tells me that most of you have no idea who he is.

Indeed, before today I also never heard of him.

And I probably would have lived out my life never hearing of him.

However, alas, we owe Mr. Grimm a debt of gratitude; for once again a public figure has been propelled into Short Vort fame by virtue of his actions which provide us with a valuable lesson in life.

Mr. Grimm who is a Congressman representing parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn was until yesterday just one of the mostly unknown 435 members of The House of Representatives.

However, Mr. Grimm was unable to retain his anonymity; he was unable to remain nameless.

No, he could not.

And in one regrettable moment his picture and his words went viral and he was jettisoned into the words of The Short Vort.

Yesterday, after Mr. Obama finished his State of the Union address, a reporter named Mr. Scotto, attempted to ask Mr. Grimm a question about a Federal investigation into his campaign donations.

As the media has reported: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/nyregion/rep-michael-grimm-threat-ny1-reporter.html?hp

Mr. Grimm has faced a continuing federal investigation into accusations that he or his campaign illegally solicited money from foreign donors. A key figure in the investigation, a former aide to a well-known Orthodox rabbi, Yoshiyahu Pinto, pleaded guilty last year to visa fraud. The aide, Ofer Biton, helped steer hundreds of thousands of dollars to Mr. Grimm’s 2009-10 campaign.

Mr. Grimm was very disturbed by this question.

 He was so upset that after he had already stormed away from the reporter for asking the question, he returned and charged the reporter as a live camera and an open microphone were taping and he threatened the stunned reporter:

“Let me be clear to you,” he said in a low voice, before using a profanity and warning that he would hurl Mr. Scotto from the balcony.

 “No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough,” he said. “I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”

Today (of course) Mr. Grimm was humming a different tune:

“I was wrong,” he said in a statement. “I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions to get the better of me and lose my cool.”

However, words can never be retracted and anger can never be erased or wiped away.

In a moment of anger and in a moment of lost self-control Mr. Grimm enters the unhallowed Hall of Shame populated by countless public and private people who allowed a moment of anger to define them for posterity.

Mr. Grimm is no doubt kicking himself as to why he could have not just kept walking away?

If only he had been able to control his rage for thirty more seconds the camera would have gone off and microphone would have shut off.

However, such is the power of ‘ka’as’ -of anger.

Just one regrettable moment of anger and Mr. Grimm has earned an unenviable seat among those who have thrown away a life of achievement in one regrettable but non-retrievable moment of anger.

The only conciliation I can offer Mr. Grimm is that hopefully he and we have learned from his mistakes.

Remember, the way to guarantee Shalom in all areas of your life is always to let the other person get in the last word.

Stay cool and safe and for the most part, remain anonymous.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- ““I love agitation when there is a cause for it-” (1/26/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 25of Shevat 5774 and January 26th 2014

 

“I love agitation when there is a cause for it-“

Edmund Burke

 

Remember Hiroo Onoda?

 The “Imperial Japanese Army officer who remained at his jungle post on an island in the Philippines for 29 years, refusing to believe that World War II was over”? (See Short Vort 1-21-14; “The War is Over”)

Remember when I wrote:

“How often do we hear that this ‘ism’ or that ‘ism’ is the real enemy attempting to lure Jewish children in their evil web when in truth the original issue no longer exists?

Are we are like Hiroo Onoda, continuing to believe that the war is still active when the issue has been decided long ago?”

Many of you asked me what I was referring to and although I was hesitant at first to comment for fear of receiving anonymous nasty emails; however, due to the many inquiries I have decided to break my ‘cone of silence’.

The ‘ism’ which I was referring was of course (as many of you assumed) Zionism.

What I was referring to is that the Chareidi community in Israel is ripe for a change with regard to their attitude to the State and its institutions.

The reality is that the State of Israel is here to stay (Baruch Hashem).

And predictions of its eventual demise have proved (Thank Hashem) false.

However, there are those who live in the State of Israel and who vote in its elections, participate in its democratic processes and nevertheless continue to view Israel as a rogue State.

Mind you I am not discussing at all the question of whether you view the State in any Messianic way at all.

And I am not denying the facts that there were many of the early Zionist leaders who did their best to convince Jews to abandon Torah and Mitzvohs for the new Golden Calf of Zionism.

And I am in no way shape or form questioning the unholy motives of the founding fathers of the State who hoped that compulsory army service was not just a necessity for national security; rather, it would also serve as melting pot where the Jews of old could and would shed their diaspora skins in favor of the new and improved sabra mentality.

I do not doubt for a minute that David Ben Gurion would have preferred for Orthodox Jewry to become a relic relegated to a museum exhibit and that his initial agreement to exempt Yeshiva students from the draft was based on his belief that the few dozen or so exemptions would decline and ultimately disappear.

And I am also not questioning the necessity for the Jewish people to have young men engaged in full time learning without the responsibilities of army service to distract them.

However, notwithstanding my steadfast belief in the above words, I also recognize that ‘the times they are a changing’.

Originally Ben Gurion granted 400 exemptions from Army Service, now the number is perhaps up to 60,000.

And while the issue of army service is a very sensitive issue, however, one thing is clear. Chazal tell us that A Chochom is one who sees how the future is developing and as the Chareidi population (Baruch Hashem) continues to grow and grow there must be a reassessment of past policy.

The war cannot continue to be fought in the same manner it was 65 years ago.

Rav Ahron Leib Shteinman Shlitta who gave his approval of Nachal Chereidi is well aware of this.

I recently sat next to two different well-known Chareidi rabbis at two Chasunahs I attended.  Both were unequivocal in their belief that the system cannot continue as it has for the last 65 years.

It cannot be that all Chareidi men do not serve the country and many never engage in any serious employment.

The social system cannot continue in this fashion.

While Benjamin Netanyahu is not a Chareidi Jew by any stretch of the imagination; he also is not a Ben Gurion.

He has come to grips with the reality that the Chareidi population is here to stay and they will continue to increase and that many will remain in full time learning.

However, there are elements (and I believe they are much more vocal than their actual numbers) who are convincing the majority that the battle lines have not changed in seven decades.

This is just not true.  The reality of 2014 is not 1948.

The army is more than ready to make serious accommodations for Chareidi soldiers and/or national service.

Those vocal few who advocate for a total dismissal of the secular Israeli society as being set in their ways of trying to ‘convert’ the religious to their way of thinking are wrong.

Most secular Israelis realize the Chareidim are here to stay have buried the hatched long ago; they just wish the Chareidi public would take a few small steps to share some of the public burdens.

I cannot tell you how the integration of the Chareidi public into the general Israeli public will take place and I also cannot inform you of a definite plan on who or how many should serve in IDF.

However, one thing I can say, making believe the ‘war’ is still going on as it was 65 years ago runs the risk of being like Hiroo Onoda who after 29 years had nothing to show for his three decades  of fighting a war which was decided years before.

Those of us who are supporters of Rav Ahron Leib Shteinman Shlitta and his efforts to come to some sort of reconciliation must not be silenced by the vocal extremists in the minority camp.

When I was in Israel I met many Chareidim who would love to serve their county and enter the work force; however, too often they have been coward into silence.

The time to raise our voices in support for those moderate opinions who are attempting to arrive at reconciliation and reassessment has arrived.

We dare not remain silent.  

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”

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