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The Short Vort’ - “ Love is in Eyes of the Beholder “ (4/20/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 13th of Nissan 5776 and April 21st 2016

 

Love is in Eyes of the Beholder

 

(This may be the last Vort before Pesach. If so, I wish my entire readership a Chag Sameach and I thank you for your support, feedback and critique. Through discussion with civility we all can grow and become better people.)

 

Last week Elaine Rubinstein (name changed) was doing what so many Jewish women do before the Yom Tov; she was at the mall shopping.

As she maneuvered her way past bargain-hungry shoppers and elderly women moseying their way down the aisles she suddenly heard the announcement.

“Attention all shoppers, we have a missing child alert. Please be on the look-out for a three year old girl with black hair and pink sneakers. Her mother is waiting for her by the security desk.”

Elaine reacted exactly the way all the other shoppers did, she continued to shop.

 Everyone figured that a child had simply wondered off into the great labyrinth known as a department store and she would soon be located and reunited with her mother.

When the second announcement was made, although it was identical to the first, a number of people, including Elaine, paused for a moment in their search for the perfect outfit and looked around as if expecting the child to be sitting by their feet!

Other than that, the day in the mall continued normally.

Suddenly, the public address system was heard once more.

 This time the voice was much more serious and the message was extremely unanticipated. “Attention, we are now issuing an Amber Alert and a lock-down. The store is now sealed; no one is allowed to leave or enter until further notice.”

Abruptly, the entire store went silent.

There was no sound of shoppers chatting cheerfully to each other.

The clatter of hangers being pushed to the side ceased and a total and absolute hush reigned throughout the cavernous store.

There was only one sound that broke the stillness; there was one person who could not maintain the quiet.

One women’s voice could be heard throughout the now eerily soundless store.

The mother of the missing child could be heard wailing as her voice reverberated off the still walls as she cried out, “My baby; my baby is missing; please bring back my baby!”

Everyone was riveted to her crying.

The normal prosaic shopping experience had become a terror filled outing.

Typically calm woman somaticized their emotions as their fears manifested themselves in physical symptoms as people began to cry and weep.

“Please, please bring back my baby!” The distraught and inconsolable woman cried.

And then it happened; the desperate wailing was transformed into a gleeful cry of joy!

“My baby, my baby, you found my baby!”

Elaine along with other women pressed forward to get a glimpse of the elated mother being reunited with her lost daughter.

As mother and daughter cried in each other’s arms, Elaine noticed a woman off to the side who was being spoken to and congratulated.

As she neared she realized that this woman was the heroine; she was the one who retrieved the child.

Elaine heard as the woman related to the store security staff that as she was in the parking lot she noticed a man carrying a child and the child was crying hysterically.

“I approached the man and said, “Excuse me is that your child?” And then I asked the child, “Are you alright, is this man your Daddy?” The man then dropped the child and ran away. I quickly scooped up the child and was soon directed here to the security desk and I returned the child to her mother.”

Elaine stood there amazed and awed by this woman’s courage. 

She herself got up the nerve to ask the question on everyone’s mind.

“What made you suspect that something was wrong? What made you approach the man; something must have tipped you off.”

The woman looked up and quietly said, “I looked at the crying child and I saw no love in her eyes for the man who was holding her. I know that sometimes we have to discipline our children; however, even when we do there is still a sense of love that the child has for the parent. This time I saw no love in the little girl’s eyes. So too, I saw that there was no love in the man’s eyes for the child. When I saw no love in either of their eyes I knew something was wrong.”

As the Pesach preparations come to a close….and the pressures of the days increase and reach a boiling point…and parents become increasingly frustrated with their children and the children feel that their parents are driving them to the breaking point… I ask all of us to remember just one thing: never ever allow the pressures of Pesach to cause the love we have for each other to leave our eyes.

As long as we can still see the love we have for each other in each other’s eyes we are safe.

 

“If Not Now Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Editor’s Note:  “ (4/20/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 12th of Nissan 5776 and April 20, 2016

 

Editor’s Note:

 

Yesterday, I wrote an (obvious) parody about Pesach preparations in the life of a couple who are Baalei Teshuva. The piece was recognizably (or at least was an attempt at being) humorous.

It appears that those who know me realized that there was no intention at all to degrade and/or ridicule the precious and cherished Baal Teshuva community.

These people appreciated the humor and the break from the monotony of Pesach preparations.

However, two individuals (one from Israel and one from England) took offense to my piece and felt I was ridiculing a precious part of the Jewish people.

I extend my sincerest apologies to them and to anyone else who was offended; that certainly was not my intent.

 That being said, I would like to add that a parody contains ‘hidden critiques and messages’ which are sometimes glossed over by the reader. 

The parody affords the writer the ability to convey these messages in a covert (hopefully) humorous manner.

The two lessons which were hopefully conveyed in yesterday’s parody were:

1.       Being Baal Teshuva means you must continue to learn and learn. Too often Frum from birth and BTs become static and stop growing; this leads to stagnation and to people (who could have learned more and known more), relying on the rabbi for everything and anything.

Therefore lesson number one is: Keep on learning and you will know what is a question and what is not a question.

2.       Being a Baal Teshuva and/or being a FFB does not mean that you sacrifice all of your former ‘common sense’.

Asking questions which you do not know the answer to is very, very important.

However, too often people have a hard time balancing their own intellectual feelings with the obligations of the Halacha.

Often the emphasized point of Halachik obligations can cause individuals to lose sight of the forest and only see the individual trees.

Lesson two- perhaps give some thought before you ask. Ask yourself: how does this halachik obligation jive with other aspects of my intellectual abilities?

Perhaps after giving that question some thought, you may realize you have no question.

 

Nevertheless, I certainly never intended to hurt anyone and if I did, I apologize.

May we all be privileged to a true Simchas Yom Tov.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Following the teachings of the Kotzker” (4/19/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 11th of Nissan 5776 and April 19, 2016

 

Baila Tova Sima and Yankel Velvel Nadav

 

The Kotzker Rebbe would wish his flock a big “Chag Sameach” for Pesach. He would change the traditional greeting of “Chag Kasher V”Sameach” (have a Kosher and Happy Passover) to just “Happy Holiday”.

When he was asked why he changed, he explained, “Everyone is so busy with the “Kosher” of Pesach they forget that it’s also and primarily a Yom Tov and you must be happy. There is a much Kashrus in the community; however, is there also plenty of Simcha? That’s why I wish everyone a Chag Sameach! Remember, you have to smile and be happy!”

 

Following the teachings of the Kotzker, I present to you the following:

 

“The Adventures of Baila Tova Sima and Yankel Velvel Nadav Goldenstein”

 

Baila Tova Sima (to be known simply as BTS) and Yankel Velvel Nadav (YVN) have just moved to Passaic. This is the first time they are making Pesach on their own. Although they officially became ‘frum’ a number of years ago, this is their first Pesach in their own home.

We now take you to their home.

“Baila dear, we have to call Rabbi Eisenman, I forgot to kasher my Tzitzis for Pesach.”

“Oy, Yankel, what should we do? If you want I can put them in the self-cleaning oven, would that make them Kosher for Pesach even according to “Chaaareidim”?”

“I don’t know, if the self-cleaning over gets hot enough, after all, I ate “Hometz” with them!” (Editor’s note: Yankel, formerly Jack still cannot properly say the “Ch” sound, therefore he says “Hometz” instead of “Chometz”)

As Yankel is calling Rabbi Eisenman, BTS goes on her way making the house kosher for Pesach.

She notices that the toilet bowl cleaner has no special certification for Pesach and she begins to feel faint. Yankel comes into the room and tell BTS not to worry, “Rabbi Eisenman said the Tzitzis don’t have to be koshered and you don’t need a special OU- P on the toilet bowl cleaner.”

“I am so glad you told me” say BTS; however, that sounds so lenient and normal and Rabbi Eisenman is known to be too lenient; let’s call Rabbi Machmir and get the proper Daas Torah.” (Editor’s note: BTS has no problem with the “CH” sound)

“Good idea”, says Yankel; “We don’t want people to thing we are not Yeshivash,  as our little Miriam Masha Chashi Yentel Perel needs a good Shidduk” (Editor’s note: Yankel really means “Shidduch” (proper match) however, not only can’t he say “Shidduch” he really thinks the word is “Shidduk” as he still cannot read Hebrew fluently).

As Yankel calls Rabbi Machmir, BTS is checking the medicine cabinet for Chometz.

“Yankel, come quick!  I don’t see any certification on the Q-tips do you think we have to run the self-cleaning over again?”

Thankfully, Rabbi Machmir tells them that Q-Tips don’t need a Hechsher and life goes on.

Yankel then comes into the kitchen carrying ten big two pound boxes of Shemurah Matzos.

BTS asks, “Yankel we are only three people, why do we need so much Matzah?”

“Haven’t you heard? Since we are BTs and for most of our life we never ate Matzah, we have to eat this year the total amount of Matzah we should have eaten all of our wasted years. I figured out that each of us has to eat five pounds of Matzah each night of the Seder so that makes twenty pounds!”

“Where did you hear that idea?” BTS asks.

“I was listening to a Shiur on “Flaming Fire BT Dot Com” and the rabbi said that we BTs should especially take the Seder seriously to make up for all those years we didn’t eat Matzah. So I figured that he meant we should eat all of the Matzah we missed!”

“Yankel you are so smart. I am so happy I married you”.

And Yankel and BTS continued to make Pesach together….

Tune in next week as we continue to listen in on the lives of Yankel and Baila Tova Sima as they continue to grow together in Yiddishkeit.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Chometz Alert” (4/14/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 6th of Nissan 5776 and April 14, 2016

 

Chometz Alert

 

This is fresh off the ‘press’, or perhaps better said, fresh out of the oven.

It has been disclosed to me through very reliable contacts in the Beducha Milsa B’datz that a new previously unknown Chometz problem has been discovered.

Thankfully, we have discovered it before Pesach and we are remedying the problem as we write.

The Problem

Rabbeinu Chucha V’Tellula, who is known far and wide for his ignorance in all areas of Halacha, has recently through the assistance of previously unknown Segulos, such as having 20 pound lead weights dropped on his head from a distance of no less than 50 feet, revealed to us the following “Chumrah Yeseira” (extra-stringency in Halacha).

 The “Racheter” as he is known to his singular follower (his name is based on his initials Rabbeinu Chucha V’Tellula) has announced the following halachik absurdity for Pesach 5776.

Based on the “Racheters” non-existent knowledge, he has declared that this year one may not breath in any air for he discovered particles of Chometz which have become air-borne  and which pose a serious halachik problem.

According to The “Racheter” and his Beis Din Beducha Milsa B’datz- it is totally prohibited from breathing in any air beginning on Friday morning April 22nd.

No air at all may be ingested beginning at 10:39 AM on Erev Pesach!

This includes air which comes from an air conditioner or from a humidifier and of course any air which is around you!

This revelation of the “The Racheter” and his Beis Din Beducha Milsa B’datz is a tremendous benefit to the masses that will now be able to successfully avoid the prohibition of breathing in Chometzdik air.

I know what you are thinking, “How will we live without air?”

That is indeed a great question; however, the “The Racheter” has supplied the answer as well.

If one looks into his recently published Sefer, “Divrei Ramai U’Bidichusa” in Siman “Shtus” one finds the following segulah enabling all of us to breath easily and enjoy Pesach:

 “For just $29.99 (plus $15.99 for postage and handling) one can obtain an officially sanctioned and approved Chometz Mask to wear during Pesach thereby avoiding breathing in Chometz. The mask is available exclusively through the “The Racheter” and his Beis Din and will not be sold in any stores or websites. So don’t delay! Order today!!

Remember, even children need a Chometz Mask and we carry all different sizes and colors to match your outfit. The masks have the Hechsher of the “Igud HaShakranim V’Ramoim” or as they are commonly referred to: ISV.

The problem of air-borne Chometz has already been discussed in the writings of the ‘Tachtonim’ and by “HaLeitzim V’hevleihem” many, many years ago”.

Indeed, it is said that when the “The Racheter” presented his findings to the present Gedolei HaDor they all responded in unison, “Ein Eilu Eleh Divrei Hevel V’Shtus!”

I cannot literally translate the above phrase; however, suffice for me to say that such words are used sparingly to say the least!!

I am happy to make this new and important piece of Pesach preparation information available to you and I am sure before the day is out it will be posted all over the World Wide Web as thousands of our brethren will want to avail themselves of this important ‘anti Chometz device’.

So remember, pleaser order your Anti-Chometz Mask immediately and if you order before noon you will receive a free eye mask to cover your eyes to prevent Chometz particles from entering your eyes! (Please do not wear the eye mask while driving.)

Don’t delay, order today!

 

Editor’s note: I hope we have helped your pre-Pesach preparations and have added a much needed distraction to the monotony of cleaning.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Lost Opportunities” (4/7/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 28th of Adar Beis 5776 and April 7, 2016

 

Lost Opportunities

Rayzle Rubin was born in the Bronx in 1927; she was the middle daughter in a family of three daughters.

When the depression of 1929 caused a downturn in her family’s fortunes, Rayzle and her family suffered greatly.

Added to Rayzle’s problems were a not too small dose of “middle-child-syndrome” which caused Rayzle to be cantankerous and often argumentative; she had difficulty maintaining relationships.

She had dreams of becoming a nurse or perhaps a doctor. Her parents, particularly her mother, thought otherwise.

 “How can you get married and raise a family if you are in the hospital? Be a teacher or a switchboard operator; anything but a nurse!” Her mother would say.

The stress and pressure her mother placed on her found their mark and Rayzle’s dreams of becoming a nurse were never fulfilled.

Rayzle said “yes” to the first boy who was interested in marrying her; partially because her mother’s insistence (“Who knows if another boy will come around?”) and partially to get out of the house; she was 20 years old.

Rayzle and her husband Bernard had two children; a boy Steven, who eventually went to Eretz Yisroel and never returned and a younger daughter named Bernice who was born in 1958.

Rayzle was tough on Bernice; there is no other way to say it.

It had to be Rayzle’s way or no way.

When mother and daughter would lock horns, Rayzle would invariably end the discussion by decreeing: “I am not your friend, I am your mother and therefore you will listen to me”.

Bernice must have heard her mother’s mantra: “I am not your friend, I am your mother”, at least ten thousand times.

She heard it when she awoke and she heard it during the day; she heard it before she went to bed and sometimes she even heard it in her dreams!

Fast forward to 2016; to a suburban nursing home in New Jersey where Mrs. Rayzle Berman who is now almost 90 years old lives alone.

On Sunday her daughter Bernice (now Brocha) drives down with her kids to visit and every Wednesday after work Brocha stops by the “home” to pay a solo visit.

There is a marked difference between the two visits.

On Sunday, Brocha sits on the side and allows her children to interact with their grandmother.

She is the facilitator in permitting her mother to bond with and have nachas from her grandchildren.

The visit on Sunday is carefree and no one looks at their watch.

The Wednesday afternoon visit is very different. It is short and to the point.

Brocha asks her mother if she needs anything; she asks her mother the usual questions, “How are they treating you? Do you like the food? How do you feel?”

And then she looks at her watch and announces after 15 minutes, “Sorry Mom, I have to go now; so much to do. Be well; bye”.

And with that Brocha waves to her mother and darts out of the room.

One day Rayzle Berman did what she never had done before with her daughter; she asked Brocha to sit down as she wanted to speak to her heart to heart.

“Bernice, (she never could get used to calling her daughter Brocha) how come when you come on Wednesday you are always in a rush to leave? Why can’t you stay so we can have a nice and friendly chat together?”

Bernice hesitated to respond as she looked at her mother who was so frail and vulnerable. Rayzle Berman was just a shell of her former formidable self.

Bernice wanted so much to connect with her mother, to be “her friend”….However, the words, “I am not your friend, I am your mother” continued to echo in her tormented brain.

The words reverberated incessantly within her and she was paralyzed and unable to speak.

Rayzle Berman looked hopefully towards her daughter for friendship as Bernice agonized over her feelings about the mother who had always insisted she was only a “mother” and never a friend and she struggled to decide how to answer her mother.

She was just about to say something….however, at that moment a nurse entered the room and the conversation stopped.

Bernice stood up and began to leave; as she reached the door she turned to look once more at her mother while mourning hopes and dreams which would never be fulfilled.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Sensitivity Training “ (4/6/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 27th of Adar Beis 5776 and April 6, 2016

 

Sensitivity Training

 

You meet a friend who you have not seen for a long time.

 Perhaps he has put on a few pounds.

Perhaps his beard is whiter than you recall.

Perhaps he looks older and more “mature” than the last time you saw him.

Or consider the following, you see your friend from high school and you know she married in the last four years; however, soon after the wedding she moved to Eretz Yisroel.

 She has just arrived to spend Pesach in America and you are unsure if she has children.

You are sitting at a wedding and you recall that the woman you are sitting next to had (has?) a child who was diagnosed with a serious condition a number of years ago.

 You cannot recall the health status of the child.

What do you?

All of these situations and thousands more require the “S” word.

In the first three cases, the “S” word clearly dictates for you to keep your thoughts to yourself.

Don’t say to your pleasantly plump friend, “Hey, looks like your wife is doing some good cooking these days.” Your friend will not appreciate your culinary compliment of his wife.

So too, no one (not even a man) wants to be reminded that he is looking older.

And certainly you would be lacking the “S” word if you said to your old high school friend, “Do you have any children yet?”

However, the last case is a little bit more complicated; namely the situation of the woman with the sick child.

On one hand if you ignore the health status of her child she may be insulted.

On the other hand, to just come out and ask, “How is your daughter?” may also not be the best response. After all, perhaps the child is no longer among the living? That could cause quite an awkward situation.

What do you do in such a situation?

The best thing to do when unsure is to attempt to ask someone and find out the facts prior to opening your mouth.

How many times could I have avoided putting my ‘foot in my mouth’ if only I had taken the time to ascertain the facts of a given situation before I spoke?

If only I had bothered to ask someone why Mrs. Goldberg  was attending the wedding alone I would have found out that she is now divorced and I could have avoided the embarrassing moment of asking her, “How is your better half doing?”

Obviously, we cannot ask about everyone’s marital status prior to meeting them and we cannot be expected to do a background check on every person we come in contact with!

Even so, there are enough instances where a little prior preparation and consideration can help us avoid awkward moments.

If your high school buddy is coming to town for Pesach, you can probably easily find out from a ‘better friend’ if she had a baby or not.

So too, if someone who had a relative who was sick, with a little inquiry you can probably find out if the person has recovered or not.

The bottom line is that with a little more effort and a little more consideration we can all be a little bit more sensitive to each other.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “ Please Be Quiet” (4/1/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 22nd of Adar Beis 5776 and April 1, 2016

 

Please Be Quiet

 

Every year it happens; and this year was no exception.

Every year as Parshas Shemini is read, the following words fill me with awe and amazement.

·       And Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them.

·       And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

·       Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], ‘I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

And Aaron was silent. (Vayikra 10: 1-3)

Those four words: “and Aaron was silent” must be included amongst the most powerful words of the Torah.

“And Aaron was silent”- no words, no comment, just utter and complete silence.

Aaron had just lost two of his beloved sons.

They died in a way which was both strange and unexpected.

They were the future heirs to Moshe and Aharon and now they were dead.

Never again could Aharon speak and spend time with his two beloved sons; never again would he have the opportunity to be with them; they were gone.

There is no doubt that there are many things Aharon could have said.

Perhaps he felt unfairness in the severe punishment inflicted upon him and his family.

Perhaps he wanted to express anger, disappointment and perhaps he had the need to ‘vent’.

Aharon instead remains silent.

Not a word emanates from his mouth.

Not an utterance is heard on his lips.

He is silent; his acceptance of G-d’s judgment is absolute and unflinching.

Why didn’t he react? Why did not he at least ask Hashem for an explanation of His judgment?

Obviously, Aharon accepted the decree without questioning; however, perhaps another reason for his silence was to teach all of us a lesson.

A lesson which is just as relevant now a sit was in the time of Aharon.

And that lesson is that; don’t complain and don’t grumble about what is already in the past and can never be changed.

Aharon’s two sons are dead.

He will never see them again; that is a fact and nothing will change that.

Aharon therefore was silent.

Too often in our own lives we expend and waste our limited words and energies to cry about the past.

Too often couples complain about what was and more precisely what should have been.

Of course there is as a time and place to review past experiences and to learn from them.

Yet, perhaps the first reaction should be learned from Aharon which is silence.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “ Feeling Old “ (3/29/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 19th of Adar Beis 5776 and March 29, 2016

 

Feeling Old

 

On Sunday I passed another milestone in my life.

For the first time in many years, I was no longer the father of any teenagers.

During the last twenty years I was always the parent of at least one teenage child.

Over the last two decades I struggled with the challenges or raising and parenting that special breed of humans we refer to as teenagers.

This past Sunday, the epoch came to an end.

On Sunday, my youngest child (I still refer to her as my baby) Aviva, turned twenty.

Little, small Aviva, who was born weighing just one pound plus, had exited her teenage years and was now entering her ‘twenties’.

One score and two days ago, Aviva was born in a hospital “arena” surrounded by 19 doctors, nurses and health care professionals.

She was unable to breathe on her own and she was totally dependent on machines, compassionate human care and many concerned people’s prayers to survive each and every day.

Everything small and tiny was associated with Aviva.

Weighing in at way less than two pounds, her length from head to toe would not even fill an old fashioned twelve inch ruler.

For the first three months of her life her home was a secure and insular incubator.

And now Aviva had graduated teenage-hood and was entering the ‘roaring twenties’.

My baby would always be my baby; however, to the world she is now a normal functioning college student; although, I still marvel at the fact that she drives to Monsey on her own.

When we asked Aviva on Sunday how does she feel to be twenty she replied with one word: ‘big’.

I also replied monosyllabically to the question of how I feel now that Aviva has turned twenty; I simply said: ‘old’.

Happy Birthday Aviva!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Bigger and Holy Group “ (3/25/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday, Shushan Purim 5776 and March 25th 2016

 

Bigger and Holy Group

 

A pilgrimage to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital is a prerequisite for anyone considering a career which involves Chessed.

On second thought, it is a prerequisite to being a compassionate human being.

 If you are looking for a model of compassionate care and unconditional acceptance of all, spend an hour at “Sloan”.

On Friday morning February 12th with the temperature struggling to reach double digits, I returned to the place where so many people from all over the globe turn their hopes and their prayers.

On this day it did not look like a world class cancer center that it is; rather, it was akin to a third world field hospital.

There were patients on gurneys lining the halls.

 Many of these patients had spent the night in the hallway.

This was because the hospital never turns anyone away.

 They were functioning at 118% capacity as every single bed in the hospital was occupied!

I saw nurses patiently attempting to communicate and calm patients whose mother tongue was Hindi, or Punjabi; the nurses struggled to make themselves understood and to help the patients.

The fellow who I was visiting informed me that he would be staying over Shabbos.

 When I inquired as to what he would be eating, he said there was nothing to worry about as there are Shabbos rooms stocked with supplies, Chulent and Kugel.

He also mentioned that Satmar Bikur Cholim provides individual Shabbos containers including a silver-like Kiddush Becher, a small table cloth and disposable hospital approved candles.

I marveled at the Chesed the Bikur Cholim societies provide to Jews they don’t even know.

On the way out I noticed the Shabbos rooms and could not resist taking a peak to see for myself.

I was awed.

In the refrigerator were individual portions of Gefillte fish with small individual containers of horseradish, mayonnaise, and many other dips.

I was impressed by the care put into making each serving just right.

There were stacks of newspapers in Hebrew, Yiddish and English; all for the taking.

Suddenly I realized I only had one hour on my meter and as anyone in New York knows: never be late for your meter!

As I reached the vehicle I noticed a policeman removing his large ticket issuing device from his back pocket.

As I approached him he said, “I’m sorry; however, your time is up.”

However, before he actually wrote the summons, he eyed me in a strange sort of way.

 He was looking at my beard and studying my face. Suddenly he asked, “Hey, are you one of those guys who work for the “Bigger and Holy Group?”

I had no idea what he was referring to; so I asked him, “What is the Bigger and Holy Group”?

“You know, the group of people who look like you with the beards and hats who visit the sick and distribute food to those in the hospital and their families; they always tell me they are the ‘bigger holy group’”

I slowly said to myself, ‘bigger and holy….. Bigger and holy…? What could he mean? When suddenly like a light bulb I began to hear myself say, “Bigger n’ Holy…. Biggur n’ holim… Bikur Cholim!!!

“You must mean the Bikur Cholim group!” I said.

The officer looked at me and answered, “Yes, that’s what I said, the Bigger and Holy group!”

“No, sorry, I’m not part of the “Bigger and Holy group; however, I’m familiar with their work.”

“So even if you are not an official part of the group you are still “one of them”, isn’t that correct?”

“Yes officer, I know what you mean, I am one of them

“Well in that case, you can go. No ticket for you today.”

“Officer, I don’t understand. What does the “Bigger and Holy Group” have to do with my not getting a summons?”

The officer explained, “This morning, when it was about 9 degrees, a guy approaches me who looked like you; you know- big guy with a big hat and a big beard? And he says, “Excuse me, it’s very cold today please take this thermos of hot coffee and these Danishes.”

“I said, “You know I’m not Jewish; why are you giving me this food?”

“He says, “All of us, Jew and non-Jew are created in G-d’s image. (See Avos 3:14) It’s freezing outside, you need to stay warm; please take this.”

“If he could do that for me on a cold day like today, I can do a nice thing back to one of his friends; no? After all, we’re all connected.”

I looked at the policeman and thought back to the hospital full of people of all religions and ethnicities and of the equal and compassionate care they all receive, “Yes officer you so right, we are all connected.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Teetotalism? “ (3/23/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 13th of Adar Beis 5776 and March 23, 2016

 

 


Teetotalism?


 

‘MeiChayav Inish Livesumei B’Puraya ad d’lo yada bein Arur Haman L’Boruch Mordechai’ - a person is obligated to drink and get intoxicated on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between ‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai’.(Megillah 7b)

Why would our sages encourage and perhaps even mandate us to become intoxicated?

After all, although we are not teetotalers; nevertheless, the Torah is replete with anecdotal information regarding the destructive and demoralizing effects of alcohol.

And therefore the question is most glaring; “How could our sages encourage and (perhaps) obligate us to become imbibed to such an extent that we can no longer properly distinguish between our arch enemy Haman and our hero and protagonist Mordechai?

Indeed, as the Gemara states: ‘MeiChayav Inish Livesumei B’Puraya ad d’lo yada bein Arur Haman L’Boruch Mordechai’ - a person is obligated to drink and get intoxicated on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between ‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai’.(Megillah 7b)

How can we understand this?

Indeed, the very next line in the Gemara tells us that Rabba and Rabbi Zeira got excessively drunk together on Purim. In his drunken stupor, Rabba proceeded to kill (‘slaughter’) Rabbi Zeira!

This is certainly most troubling.

I do not have an answer to all of these questions.

There are commentaries that understand the above mentioned Gemara(s) non-literally and inform us that Rabba did not really kill Rabbi Zeira.

Be that as it may, we are still left with the Halacha as is stipulated in the Shulchan Aruch which records the Gemara’s words verbatim; namely that a person is “obligated” to become intoxicated on Purim.

How do we deal with this?

Enter the R’Mah  (Rabbi Moses Isserles -February 22, 1520 / Adar I 25, 5290 - May 11, 1572 / Iyar 18, 5332).

The R’Mah writes that since it is Purim it certainly proper to drink a bit more than usual; however, he also suggests something fascinating.

He recommends (based on the Rambam) that after one has indulged a bit more than usual on Purim; one should retire for a nap (always a good idea) and by sleeping he/she no longer knows the difference between Haman the cursed and Mordechai the blessed.

It is fascinating how the entire year so much of our halachik practice is based on the clear instructions of the R’Mah while on Purim we look for other poskim to justify and validate intoxication which both the Rambam and R’Mah do not codify.

Nevertheless, whatever your halachik behavior is on Purim please remember to:

1.       Never drink and drive.

2.       If you have to throw up- throw up in your own house (preferably your bathroom). No one wants to clean your mess!

Enjoy the holiday!

And remember, Chazal say, “When wine comes in, all the secrets come out”; so if you have some secrets which you don’t want to disclose….better safe than sorry!

 

 


“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ When Da’as Torah is Not Da’as Torah “ (3/12/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 3rd of Adar Beis 5776 and March 13th, 2016

 

When Da’as Torah is Not Da’as Torah

 

The concept of Da’as Torah is elusive.

 The Gemara never clearly defines the term and many of the classical commentators to the Talmud never even use the term in any way similar to its contemporary usage.

Therefore, although many modern thinkers and Rabbonim have attempted to give parameters to this abstract and apparently relatively “modern” term; it still remains fertile ground for passionate debate and discussion.

As so many individuals greater than me have already wrestled with the concept, I will not throw my hat into the ring and I will not attempt to define, clarify or articulate the notion of Da’as Torah.

What instead I will do, is attempt to point what it is ‘not’ and hopefully we can all learn something about its misuse.

I will attempt to illustrate its misuse with the help of a story.

A man (who we will name Chaim) calls and informs that he and his sister have been estranged for almost ten years.

In the thirty minutes or so that he spoke to me he revealed to me his personal and subjective feelings on the matter; fair to say that he clearly blames his sister for the divide between them.

He ends off the conversation by asking me, “Rabbi, I need Da’as Torah, what should I do?”

I told him I am not worthy of wearing the mantle of Daas Torah, however, I will tell you what I would do based on the limited and one sided information you have provided me with. I would drop by my sister’s house with some flowers and ask if I could come in and speak for a few minutes to at least break the ice.”

The man said, “Thank you so much Rabbi, I now have Daas Torah”.

I was a little nervous with his last comment.

The next day I receive a phone call in the middle of the day from the man’s sister. “Rabbi, this is Chaim’s sister Florence. Chaim is by the door with flowers and he claims he has Daas Torah from you stating that I must sit down and speak to him. Rabbi, I want you to know that the reason I have not spoken to my brother in ten years is because…..”

After hearing the litany of complaints against her brother, I said to Florence, “If I were you, I would not speak to Chaim until I was emotionally ready.”

The next day Chaim calls me and says, “Rabbi, I don’t get it. On Sunday you tell me Daas Torah is that my sister should speak to me and then on Monday you tell my sister that your Daas Torah is that she doesn’t have to speak to me. How could both be true?”

“Chaim you missed the point.

When you asked me on Sunday about how to repair the relationship with you sister my advice was to you and you alone, I did not speak to or for your sister.

You had (and I still feel you continue to have) the obligation to attempt to reconcile with her.

However, she also has the option of not wanting to speak to you and that is her Daas Torah.

The Daas Torah I gave you (even if you want to call it Daas Torah) was meant for you and you alone.

 It was meant to inform you that I feel that you must make the effort to attempt to reconnect with your sister.

 It was not meant for her and she is not at all bound by anything I told you.

When you went to your sister and she rebuffed you, you told her, “You must speak to me; I have Daas Torah on my side!” You were wrong. I never said a word about her having to speak to you.

 You misappropriated and corrupted my words which were directed to you and applied them to your sister.

My Daas Torah to you remains intact, YOU must do what you can do reestablish contact with your sister.

That’s all I told you.

 Please do not project your obligations onto your sister.

That is not Daas Torah; that is corrupting my words of Torah which targeted you and you alone and shifting the blame to your sister.

Daas Torah is made for you to become better, not to be used to coerce your sister into doing something she doesn’t want to do.”

That is when Daas Torah is not Daas Torah.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “ The Last Kaddish” (3/10/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 30th of Adar Aleph and March 10th 2016

 

The Last Kaddish

 

On Friday February 19th I awoke and for the first time in the last eleven months I was not consumed by the fear.

That fear, or perhaps more accurately, that feeling of anxiety and disquiet, had occupied my mind every morning for the last 330 (or so) days; and on that Friday morning the anxiety and fear disappeared.

The feeling of relief was palpable; as during the eleven preceding months I lived in fear.

The uneasiness never lifted.

It consumed me and my mind throughout the entire day.

If I could not sleep at night it would get worse; and if I was tired during the day it increased.

The fear gripped me on Shabbos and on weekdays, on Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh.

It never left me; not even on days when I was away from the Shul; indeed, on those days when I was away, the fear intensified and became almost unbearable.

I know what the fear, anxiety, concern was from; there is no mysterious cause or catalyst; I know exactly what triggered the fear.

For the last eleven months I have had the privilege, obligation, merit, responsibility, burden, commitment and honor to say Kaddish for my beloved mother who passed away last year.

All of these competing and contradictory emotions have coexisted in peace and in harmony, in discord and in disunity within me for the last eleven months.

For the last eleven months the following questions have haunted me:

·       Would I get the Amud today?

·       Who else was a Chiyuv today?

·       Would I get back in time from my appointment out of the office for Mincha?

·       What would happen if I overslept? (BH I never did)

·       And what would happen if I awoke with laryngitis? (Also, never happened)

My mother was always there for me, the least I could do was to make sure to say Kaddish for her every day at every Tefillah.

I could never be late for davening as there are two Kaddeishim at the beginning of davening.

And I could never leave early or else I would miss the two Kaddeishim at the end of the davening.

Did Chazal place the Kaddeishim specifically at the beginning and the end of davening to cause me to finally appreciate every single part of the davening?

If that was their calculation, they were indeed wise as this year I have focused on each and every word of davening more than any year of my life.

There were other fears as well which ended this morning.

·       Was I always fair in sharing the Amud with other Aveilim?

·       Did I abuse my position as rabbi to unfairly take the Amud more frequently than I deserved?

·       What about my performance as the Shaliach Tzibbur?

·       Was I too fast (probably sometimes) or was I too slow? (Yes, sometimes)

·       Did I adjudicate properly when someone else, be it a guest or someone from another Shul wanted the Amud and I thought I had preference?

·       Was I doing my mother a service or a disservice by attempting to always “chap” the Amud three times a day?

So many questions and so many fears; so many obligations and so many pressures; these were my emotional companions throughout the last eleven months.

And on that Friday in February it all ended.

I cannot lie; as I awoke on that Friday, I was on one hand delighted and relieved to no longer have the pressure of Kaddish on my mind.

On the other hand, I realized that these last eleven months were a responsibility, an opportunity and a privilege.

These eleven months were a chance to do something, albeit small, but, nevertheless I had the ability to do something for my mother for all of what she did for me.

I know that all of the time and effort I put into never missing a Davening and never missing a Kaddish pales in comparison to what she did for me in her lifetime; nevertheless, I did what I could.

As I awoke that Friday morning and realized that I had completed my mission and fulfilled my obligation, my first reaction was to call my mother and tell her, “Mom, I did it! I finished saying Kaddish for you!”

As I reached for the phone, as I have every day for the last eleven months, reality set in….

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth “ (3/8/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 28th of Adar Aleph 5776 and March 8, 2016

 

The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

 

One day The Chazon Ish (Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz, 7 November 1878 – 24 October 1953) arrived in a town for a short visit.

This occurred when he lived in Lithuania and except for a small group of people in the know; he was for the most part an unknown prodigy.

He also dressed extremely modest and simple; he did not have a nice hat or suit and he was by nature a quiet and unassuming man.

He arrived in the town Shul before Mincha as he was to meet the town rabbi after Maariv.

He sat down at the table and seeing that there was another fifteen minutes until Mincha began, he opened up the Massechta Kiddushin which was already on the table.

After about five minutes the Gabbai (sexton) of the Shul entered and began to arrange the benches and clean up before Mincha. He then noticed the Chazon Ish learning from the Gemara.

Without any fanfare, he approached the Chazon Ish and removed the Gemara from his hands. As he did so he explained, “These Gemaras are for the members of a Shiur which meets between Mincha and Maariv and you are not a part of the Shiur.”

He then placed a Sefer Tehillim in front of the Chazon Ish as he remarked somewhat dismissively, “Anyway, a Gemara is not for a person like you; a Tehillim is for a person such as yourself.”

With that, the man left the Chazon Ish with the Tehillim and proceeded to clean up.

After Maariv the town Rav greeted the Chazon Ish warmly and announced to the 15 or so men in the Shul, “Beruchim HaBaim” (welcome) Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz; a great Talmid Chochom who is staying with us for the night. He is a great sage from Vilna.”

All of the men politely shook hands with the Chazon Ish and continued on their way; that is except for the Gabbai.

In a very apologetic and submissive style, the Gabbai approached the learned Rav and stammered, “I am so sorry… I had no idea who you are…. Please forgive me…”

The Chazon Ish looked at the man and with complete sincerity said, “What is there to apologize for? You were correct on all fronts. First you mentioned to me that the Gemaras are for the attendees of the Shiur; I am not part of the Shiur and therefore you were correct in taking it from me.

You then handed me a Tehillim and said, “Tehillim is for a person such as you”. Here too, you were right. I have been negligent in reciting Tehillim and you were on the mark in pointing it out to me. So there is nothing in the world to apologize for.”

The amazing part of the story is not just that it is true; it’s that the Chazon Ish was not being ‘nice’ to the person; he really and truly meant every single word he said to him!

Have a nice day, and be nice to someone today and cut them a little slack.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Thank You” (3/7/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 27th of Adar Aleph 5776 and March 7th, 2016

 

The Thank You

 

Maariv had finished at about 6:35 PM.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye that there was a father and a son who were waiting to speak to me. At the time I was already speaking to another fellow who had approached me first.

After about 10 minutes or so, I turned around and I saw that young man and his father had left.

I figured that whatever they wanted to tell me was not “worth their wait” and they left.

As I exited the Beis Medrash I saw that the father and son team had not left but were waiting patiently in the lobby for me. I figured their question must be important to them if they decided to wait and ask me.

The father prodded the son to speak.

 The boy looked about 15 years old and he quickly overcame any shyness as he said, “I was in Eretz Yisroel last week with my yeshiva and we had your son Meir as our tour guide. I wanted to let you know how much we all enjoyed him and how good he was as our guide.”

I looked at the boy and at the father.

I thought about all of the reasons they might have waited for me; I must admit that I certainly did not think they were waiting to tell me how much the young man and his classmates enjoyed my son.

I bent down so I was not towering over the young man and I looked into his eyes as I told him, “You waited for almost a quarter of an hour just to let me have nachas about my son. You are a young man of 15; one day, you too will have a son of your own and you will know how special it is when someone tells you a nice thing about him. You did a great mitzvah; not only did you tell me something special, you waited and took time out of your day to tell me. That is a very special action.”

Reach out and tell someone how much you appreciate their son or their daughter or their spouse; believe me, you will make their day.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Mick “ (3/2/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 22nd of Adar Aleph 5776 and March 2, 2016

 

The Mick

 

I remember the day well; what Jewish kid in New York does not remember it?

It was March 2nd, 1969 the day before Ta’anis Esther.

It was a Sunday and The Daily News always changed its masthead on Sunday to “The Sunday News”.

 The larger than life headlines screamed: “Yep, Mick Quits!”

Nobody had to tell you who “The Mick” was; it was like asking any kid in New York if the IRT number 4 train stops at the “The Stadium”? Who could even ask such a question?

Joe Trimble –the sport’s writer for the News wrote in that day’s paper: “A Golden Era ended today, one which had lasted almost half a century. The Yankees’ last great player, Mickey Mantle, hung up his spokes with a dramatic but hardly unexpected announcement this afternoon.” (The announcement by Mantle was made on Shabbos March 1st; however, the paper reported on the event the next day on March 2nd as the Daily News was a morning paper and The Mickmade the announcement on Shabbos afternoon.)

Mickey Mantle….

Which boy did not fantasize about being “The Mick”?

He was everyone’s hero and the “All American Idol”.

That was back in 1969; however, as the years went on and I became older and perhaps a little wiser (just a little)…. I stared to learn that The Mickwas not indeed the role model we all thought he was.

“The Mick” was an alcoholic; indeed, so were his wife and three of his four sons.

“The Mick” would bury his son Billy in 1994, who at the age of 36 died from substance abuse.

 “The Mick” drank so much that in 1995 he needed a liver transplant.

“The Mick” would be dead at the age of 63 from liver cancer caused by his excessive drinking.

Nevertheless, “The Mick” was special.

“The Mick” was now special in my eyes not so much for being a super baseball player, which he was….

“The Mick” was special for he attempted -at the end of his life- to warn others about the hazards of drinking and to publicly express remorse about the life he lived.

Mantle spoke with great remorse of his drinking in a 1994 Sports Illustrated cover story.

 He said that he was telling the same old stories, and realizing how many of them involved himself and others being drunk – including at least one drunk-driving accident – he decided they were not funny anymore.

 He admitted he had often been cruel and hurtful to family, friends, and fans because of his alcoholism, and sought to make amends.

Mantle received a liver transplant on June 8, 1995. His liver was severely damaged by alcohol-induced cirrhosis, as well as hepatitis C.

.

In July, he had recovered enough to deliver a press conference, and noted that many fans had looked to him as a role model. "This is a role model: Don’t be like me", a frail Mantle said.

He also established the Mickey Mantle Foundation to raise awareness for organ donations. (Wikipedia)

It’s been many years since that March day in 1969 when I -along with many other kids- were saddened to learn that “The Mick” had really called it quits.

Since then I have learned that “The Mick” was far from perfect and certainly not a role model for young people at the time when so many kids idolized him.

Yet, I also have new found respect for him; a respect which I believe is genuine and real and not based on some media generated frenzy.

Nowadays I respect “The Mick” for having the courage to admit publicly that he made serious and harmful mistakes in his life and he hoped that others could learn from his remorse and not emulate his destructive behaviors.

In a time when it seems that no one is able to take responsibility and stand up and say, “I messed up and messed up badly. I hurt others and therefore please don’t learn from me in this regard”; “The Mick” was able to take responsibility.

And for that “The Mick” is special.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Sandwiched “ (2/26/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 17th of Adar Aleph 5776 and February 26th 2016

 

Sandwiched

 

They call them The Sandwich Generation.

 They are a generation who do their best to take care of their aging parents and observe the Mitzvah of Kibud Av V’Eim (honoring one’s parents) while caring and raising their precious Kinderlach (children).

 One of the most difficult tasks for a member of The Sandwich Generation is when children have come to the realization that their aging parent can no longer care for themselves and has to be moved to (preferably) the home of one of the children or perhaps to an assisted living facility.

As painful it may for the child, it does not come close to the angst and anguish felt by the elderly parent who is being forced to leave the only place they have called home for the last sixty five plus years.

As a rabbi, I have observed first-hand as an elderly parent has been forced to pack up decade’s worth of memories and downsize from the family large home to a one room addition to a child’s home or a one room studio apartment at an assisted living facility.

I have cried along with elderly women (more often) and (less often) men as they left their homes for the last time.

My most painful memory is that of Mrs. Tessi Treitenburg.

Mrs. Treitenburg’s husband passed away thirty years ago and since then she has single handedly married off the last three of their nine children.

She was a woman who after her husband’s death, went back to school and earned a degree in library science. She became a librarian at the age of 56 and supported her family without ever taking one penny from anyone.

And now it was the time for Tessi to leave her home.

Her daughter asked me to be present when the family came to take her from her soon-to-be-former-home in Passaic to her new abode in Lakewood.

I was there for moral support and watched as the events unfolded.

As Tessi slowly walked out of her home, she paused and while gripping her walker, intently and almost defiantly reached up to kiss the Mezuzah on her front door.

 She knew this would be the last time she would kiss the precious object.

As Tessi stood there with her hand seemingly attached to her cherished Mezuzah, her daughter called out, “Mom, please we have to go.”

Tessi said in barely audible voice, “Please, wait for me.”

“Mom, we really have to go now. There is always traffic this time of day on the Parkway. We have been waiting for almost an hour for you to get ready; the kids are getting nudgy! We cannot wait anymore!”

Tessi hesitated as her trembling hand lovingly touched the Mezuzah.

She recalled how she had touched the same Mezuzah the day she left the house for her husband’s levaya (funeral) and how she affectionately kissed it as she departed her home for the Chasanahs (weddings) of all of her children.

This time though was different; this time was the last time.

 There would be no returning home.

From this point forward there would be no more Chanukah parties in her home.

From now on she ceased to be a Baala Booster, the matriarch of the family; beginning today she was a guest in the home of her daughter, relegated to one bedroom and a small refrigerator.

She would not be in charge; rather, it would be Tessi who would be dependent on others; no one would be depending on her any longer.

Her daughter called out again, “Mom. PLEASE!”

I approached the daughter, “Your mother spent many hours waiting for you and your siblings in this house. She waited for you when you came home from school and she waited for you to talk to you about your dates…

She spent many a night by your bed when you were sick as she waited for your fever to break.

She waited for you when you forgot to call home and she waited for everyone before she would begin the family Chanukah party.

Perhaps it’s only right that just this one time, just this once, you can wait for her?”




“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Parking Spot” (2/23/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 14th of Adar Aleph 5776 and February 23, 2016

 

The Parking Spot

 

As I made my way to Manhattan for yet another pilgrimage to the ‘Bastion of (hopefully) Beneficence’ – Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital- I knew that before performing the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, I would first have to deal with the critical and necessary step of finding a parking spot.

A legal parking spot in Manhattan is a rare and cherished and most of all well-guarded commodity.

In the world of supply and demand, a parking spot in Manhattan can be equated to the one lone palm tree in the Sahara desert; everyone wants it, yet, its space is highly limited.

As I made a left turn off York Ave onto East 66th Street heading westbound, I was shocked and amazed to see a large suburban pull out of a roomy and seemingly legal spot approximately one hundred feet from the main entrance to the Mecca of Medicine known simply as “Sloan”.

I quickly pulled into the spot while silently offering prayers of thanks to HE who is the ultimate parking valet.

As I exited my vehicle and chanced a glance at the street cleaning sign, I could not help but notice that it was forbidden to park on this, the south side of the street between 11 AM and 12:30 PM; however, I equally could not help but notice that every single spot on the street was occupied.

On further investigation I also realized that all of the parked cars were occupied by their drivers.

I gently tapped on the window of one car in which a white bearded gentleman of about 60 was peacefully reading “War and Peace” in the driver’s seat of his vehicle.

“Excuse me my friend, is one permitted to park on this street at this time of day on a Tuesday?” I asked.

My new found friend broke from his book and calmly replied, “You can park here, however, just don’t leave your car until 12:30 unless you want a ticket.”

“Do you mean that you are going to sit here for the next one hour and wait until 12:30?”

He looked at me with the same look of amazement that I gave him and promptly replied, “Of course, it’s only another hour or so.”

“Do you do this every Tuesday?” I asked.

“Yes I do; when else can I catch up on my reading?”

I bid him farewell and pulled out of the spot, I headed westward until 2nd Ave where I found a parking garage to park my vehicle.

As I walked from the garage to the hospital I pondered about the man who reads every Tuesday for an hour and a half in his car and I wondered about me and how my original excitement on finding a parking spot was premature and misjudged.

And I came to the Solomonic realization that first impressions are misleading….  you can’t judge a parking spot by those who park there and you can’t judge a man who sits for an hour and a half in his car just reading…. The first case looked ‘good’ when in reality was not helpful; while the second case looked strange however, when one thinks about it with the proper perspective, is probably very relaxing.

 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “ The Good Host “ (2/16/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 7th of Adar Rishon 5776 and February 16, 2016

 

The Good Host

 

In yesterday’s Short Vort we discussed what makes a ‘good guest’.

 This time I would like to discuss what makes a ‘good host’.

As a rabbi, I am often a sounding board for disgruntled guests who come complaining about their hosts.

Therefore, over the years I have compiled the following list of “do’s and (mostly) ‘don’ts” for anyone interested in being a five star host.

I will divide the list in to two parts; the first is ‘conversation points’; it deals with how the ‘good host’ should relate to their guest with regard to conversation.

1.       Remember, you are supposed to be hosting your guest to a hot meal and a pleasant experience. Therefore, never subject your guest to “the third degree” through constant and persistent questioning of his past experiences and/or his present situation. Numerous guests have informed me how humiliated they were as their guests placed them on the ‘witness stand’ and proceeded to ‘cross examine’ them as to their choice of profession, spouse and even who their Chavrusa was!

You can ask and inquire; however, never interrogate your guest; no one wants to be part of an ‘inquisition’.

2.       Even when making small talk, such as, “What do you do for a living?” Or, “Where did you grow up?” If the guest seems to stammer or hesitate while answering, quickly change the subject and don’t press for details. Many guests have told me how embarrassed they were when their host pressed them for specifics as to ‘what they did for a living’ when at the time they were unemployed and were not in the mood of broadcasting this fact while eating potato Kugel! One guest related to me how embarrassed they were when their host quizzed them as to the size of the Orthodox community of Bear Dance, Montana (population 275). The guest was mortified when their host asked, “So which Shteibel did you daven in when you lived there?” How were they supposed to tell the host that they were not even Jewish when they lived there and at the time they had no idea what a Shteibel was!

The Second Subject is ‘food’; after all, you did them over to eat!

1.       Never, ever pressure your guests to ‘just try it’. I know of at least two guests who are still in therapy and are suffering from PTSD after their host compelled them to ‘just try’ P’tcha. When they found out it was "calves foot jelly"; they almost ran to the pharmacy after Shabbos to purchase a large bottle of Ipecac! Bottom line: never make anyone try something they don’t want to.

2.       Never look at the plate of the guest to gauge how little or how much they are eating. Guests have confided in me that their hosts have sometimes- in a not too discreet fashion- remarked, “You know if you keep on stuffing yourself with Chulent soon you’ll have to get yourself a new suit; why not have some salad and leave the Chulent for others?”

One guest admitted that their host kept looking at their plate and saying, “I see you only took a half of a piece of chicken, is there something wrong with it? Look around, everyone else took a full piece?” Remember, you are their host, not their mother!

Your job is to make your guest feel comfortable and satiated. Anything more should be immediately ‘taken off the table’!

By following these simple rules you will find that you guests will become “regulars” at your table and you won’t have to wonder why is it that every time you attempt to ‘re-invite’ someone they are ‘regularly’ already taken by others!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Good Guest “ (2/15/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 6th of Adar One 5776 and February 15, 2016

 

The Good Guest

 

As a rabbi, I am privy to many situations.

Often I am informed of uncomfortable circumstances between guests and their hosts.

For instance, a congregant-who had just hosted couple for Friday night Seudah- asked me,

“How do I deal with the ‘guests who never leave’?

The couple came for Friday evening Seudah and even after they had been served desert, tea and then more tea, they continued chatting away until after midnight!

The couple did not want to leave even after the Shabbos clock had gone off!”

Lesson number one: “Don’t overstay your welcome!”

Sometimes it goes the other way; and it’s the guests who are ‘amazed’ at their hosts.

One ‘guest’ informed me how he and his wife were invited to a family for the Shabbos meal and after Kiddush, HaMotzi and a small fruit cup, the host announced, “We are so tired, we usually just bentch and go to sleep now… so if you don’t mind please pass the bentcher.”

The host even asked the guest, “Who can eat now?”

The guest (who in truth is yours’ truly) was about to reply “Want to watch me?”

Therefore, in the hope of restoring a semblance of serenity to Jewish homes I present an extremely unscientific and totally personal list of things to do and not to do in order to be deemed a ‘good guest’.

1.       It is certainly fitting and usually appreciated to come prepared to the meal with a small and short D’var Torah; however, never speak for more than 120 seconds! Unless you know otherwise, most hosts and their families, have no patience for you to dominate the Shabbos table with a long sermon or an extended pilpul on the Parsha.

2.       Never, ever interfere with how the host/hostess is interacting with his/her children (unless Chas V’Shalom there is a question of Pikuach Nefesh). Your job as a guest is to sit and enjoy the food; it is highly improper and outright wrong to say to your host when his son is asking him for permission to leave the table, “Oh, Yankel, don’t be so strict; let the child go upstairs!” Such critique must never be said to your host.

3.       Similarly, never put in your ‘two cents’ and take sides with regard to any discussion between the host and the hostess (the husband and the wife). I have been informed on more than one occasion of how a guest said at the table for all to hear, “Yankel, your wife is right this time and you should do what she says!” Even if you are correct, you have no right to interfere in the affairs of another husband and wife when you are a guest at their table. The Shalom Bayis ramifications can be very serious.

4.       “If you see something, DON’T say something.” You may notice that the perhaps a glass is not as clean as it should be. Or perhaps the food needs a little more salt. Never announce at the table, “My glass is dirty, can I have a new one?” You have no idea how this seemingly innocuous statement can have Shalom Bayis reverberations later on that same day! The less you say about things which seem out of place, the better.

5.       Eat you food and say ‘thank you’. A woman once told me how she stayed up late preparing an elaborate desert which she took much pride in. The next day at the meal, one guest said, “Oh, I am on a diet, do you mind if I just get an apple?” Although the guest meant no harm, it caused a chain reaction and all the other women opted out of the delicious desert and voted to eat apples. Needless to say, our hostess was extremely hurt by the chain of events.  You don’t have to eat what you don’t want to; however, better not to ask for a substitute.

Remember, if you are unsure if your question, comment or critique is appropriate or not; you can’t go wrong if you practice: “When in doubt, leave it ‘out’!”

And if you do indeed, “leave it out”, you will most probably be invited ‘in’ again.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Taxi Driver” (2/11/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 2nd of Adar One 5776 and February 11th 2016

 

The Taxi Driver

 

It was Friday, early afternoon; I was returning from the Kosel after Mincha.

I was very tired as I looked for a cab to drive me back to “town”.

I approached a taxi and sat down in the back seat of the cab, glad to rest.

I quickly allowed my mind to roam aimlessly as I enjoyed the view of the holiest city in the world.

 I watched in amazement as the taxi circled around the ancient walls of the city and as we flew passed the Jaffa Gate.

I was totally memorized by the sights of Yerushalayim on Erev Shabbos and I was not even aware that the taxi driver had begun to talk to me.

Suddenly, as if awakened from a dream, I realized that the driver was speaking to me in rapid fire Hebrew.

I could not catch every word and I was unsure if it was because of a strong Sephardic accent or perhaps he was an Arab and his Hebrew was more Arabic than Sephardic!

I began to focus on his words and finally I clearly heard what he was saying; “Af Eched Lo Ya’zor Licha Achshav…

Did I hear correctly?

Was he really saying what I heard him say?

He repeated his statement a second time: “No one can help you now!”

A sickening feeling went through my entire body and I began to sweat.

Why didn’t I check who the driver was before I entered the vehicle?

How silly could I be?

Here I was with my big beard, big hat, big black coat and being told by the cab driver: “No one can help you now!”

He again repeated the statement; however, this time he opened the small compartment between the two front seats and rummaged around for something.

I checked the door and contemplated bolting from the fast moving vehicle; however, he seemed to be accelerating at every turn and there was no way I could be sure I would survive the fall.

Suddenly, he found what he was searching for in the compartment.

I could see that it was black and he began to remove it from its cubicle.

I wondered if I should say Shema now or wait until there was no hope.

I had just arrived in Eretz Yisroel the night before and now, less than 24 hours later I had placed myself in a life threatening situation with no way out.

I attempted to review the second chapter on Bitachon from the Chazon Ish’s classic Sefer, Emunah U’Bitachon; however, it was difficult to concentrate.

Finally the drive announced again, “I told you no one can help you now!” And with that I noticed how he unfolded the black cloth and placed it squarely on his head; it was a black Yarmulke!

He then repeated his mantra of, “No one can help you now”; however, this time he added, “Every Rabbi who enters my cab is required to tell me a D’var Torah. Nothing or no one can help you get out of this requirement. I have taken the biggest rabbis from all over and all of them must tell me a D’var Torah when they enter my cab. You look like a rabbi so no excuse will help you. I require you to tell me a Torah idea.”

My heart missed a beat as it went from utter despair and hopelessness to a feeling of relief and of reprieve.

I was trembling as I was completely transformed from dismal gloom to complete joy and Simcha.

The driver looked at me in his rearview mirror as he nudged me by saying, “Nu, what’s the Torah thought you have?”

Through quivering lips and teary eyes all I could manage to say was, “Hodu L’Hashem Ki Tov, Ki L’Olam Chasdo”.

 

“If Not Now Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- The Small Voice (2/1/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 22nd of Shevat 5776 and February 1, 2016

 

The Small Voice

 

There are so many holy people in Yerushalayim and so many special places. 

There are wonderful places to daven and inspirational people to meet. 

As I walk down the streets of this city I cannot get enough of the spirituality. 

Combining the special atmosphere with the opportunity to spend time with my children and grandchildren is indeed a very precious experience.

Yesterday I had the chance to witness an “Only in Jerusalem Experience”.

I went to the Meah Sheraim Shteiblach to daven Shacharis.

As I entered the Shul I noticed that the person who was the Chazzan appeared to be a little boy.

As I neared the front of the Shul I saw that it was indeed a little boy however, he was wearing Tefillin and therefore I realized he was already a Bar Mitzvah Bachur.

His voice was low and barely audible.

As the davening was coming to a close I took note of the fact that he was saying Kaddish.

Right before the final Kaddish, he walked to the back of the small Shul and opened up a bag with some cookies and a bottle of coke.

He placed the cookies and beverage on a small table.

He then recited the final Kaddish and then in his small childish voice announced, “Today is the Yahrzeit of my father; he died when I was two months old. I never knew him, however, my mother told me he was a nice man. Can you please make a brocha in his merit?”

As I looked at this little boy acting as a man, I began to appreciate what I have. 

I too miss my mother and I am also saying Kaddish for her…. However, I KNOW she was special and I KNOW how much I loved her and how much she loved me.

As I left the Shul I shook the little hand of the small thirteen year old boy as I said, “I am sure you are bringing your father Nachas.”

I then quickly left the Shul and walked onto the streets of Meah Shearim; I was almost running as I left the building; I did not want the boy to see me cry.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- Shabbos in Holiness (1/30/16)

 


Good Morning!


 


Today is Motzei Shabbos Parshas Yisro 5776 and January 30th 2016


 


Shabbos in Holiness


 


My three sons and I arrived at the old Beis Medrash of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva on Rechov HaRav Kook for Friday night davening.


There is a group of neighborhood individuals who are attempting to revitalize the building which has been a museum for the last few decades.


As we sit on the original benches from 1930 and the davening begins, one can almost hear the echoes of years past as the sound of tefillah are once again reverberating in the study hall.


The davening is lively and intense and the crowd is as diversified as possible.


There are men in Black hats and men with no hats, men with brown hats and men with white yarmulkes, men with peyos and beards, and men who are clean shaven. All are united in their desire to connect to Hashem and to each other.


The daveninig concludes and my sons with their own sons and I all walk together back to the apartment where we are staying.


The Shabbos meal extends way into the night, there are Zemiros and Divrei Torah, Parsha Sheets and questions for the kids; and most of all there is togetherness.


My mother of blessed memory began the practice years ago of always having her grandchildren together for a Shabbos when she would come to Israel.


This year, my wife and I had the privilege of continuing the tradition as we gathered our family around us for this wonderful and special Shabbos.


And as we sat around and reminisced about when everyone was younger and mischievous, I could not help but think that somehow and in some way my mother was laughing and smiling along with all of us.


Wishing you were here!


 


“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

 

The Short Vort’ - “ The Unlikely Hero “ (1/20/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 10th of Shevat 5776 and January 20, 2016

 

The Unlikely Hero

 

Last night my wife, my daughter and I went to the home of Devorah Stubin to attempt to comfort her parents and three brothers.

As is often the case, I left with more than I came in with.

I never knew Devorah Stubin; why would I?

More than three decades separated us; we had no common friends, nor would anyone expect we would.

Her parents are not members of my Shul and with the exception of an occasional Mincha or Maariv and perhaps a short chat with her father here and there, we travelled in totally different circles.

One would never expect that the paths of a twenty two year old woman whose family is not a part of this rabbi’s Shul would cross.

Most probably if not for the events of last week, our lives would have never intersected.

Indeed, if life was predictable, I would never have known that a person named Devorah Stubin existed.

Life though, is not predictable.

And as I write these words, the entire Passaic community and beyond has heard of Devorah Stubin.

Indeed, all over the Jewish world the name of Devorah Stubin is known.

How is it that a young woman whose own father admitted to me last night that she had few friends and who was not by anybody’s standards a loud or boisterous human being, became the center of attention for thousands of people?

Why was a young woman who seemed to live her life being content in residing in the shadows and quiet areas of this world was privileged to have the largest funeral I can ever recall in my  almost three decades of living in Passaic?

What is the reason that a woman who struggled so much of her life with social, physical and emotional challenges which impeded her social acceptance was so totally embraced by the entire Jewish community in a way which we have not seen before here in Passaic?

Perhaps, (and of course I stress, perhaps) the reason is precisely because she struggled.

Her father, simply and in a heartfelt way drew me a picture of the special person his daughter was.

Life was not easy for Devorah; she suffered from epilepsy, chronic fatigue and many more physical and emotional challenges; however, Devorah never gave up!

In her calm, unassuming way she persevered and persisted.

She went to college, she received her driver’s license and this Monday she was looking forward to starting a new job.

Devorah’s father related to me how even though she was forced to walk with leg braces, she was thankful that she was able to walk irrespective of the fact that others may have chosen cosmetic looks over the ability to walk.

In short, Devorah was everyone’s hero.

She was the person who was not born with a silver spoon in her hand; far from it.

She was like us except with far greater challenges than most of us.

As her father related to me she once commented, “Why do I have to have so much pain?”

Yet, even with all of her pain, she persevered and she endured.

In her brief stay in this world she taught all of us that with a determined outlook and with proper dedication, obstacles and can be overcome and success can be had.

I will never understand the true ways of He would pulls the strings; however, that being said, none of this would have been known if not for the tragic event which cut short her precious life.

No one except her closest family members and friends would have ever been privy to the remarkable and courageous life of this young woman.

Why Hashem chose to make this lesson known in the way He did I cannot answer; however, once HE has opened the secret of Devorah and her greatness, do we dare ignore the lesson?

Think about Devorah and about the hard and painful life she lived the next time you are ready to throw your hands in the air and give up.

Think about Devorah and her struggle to walk while wearing leg braces the next time you are upset because your outfit does not match just right.

And think about Devorah when you feel you just can’t on.

Think about the twenty two year old woman who continued struggling and living in spite of the pain.

Think about her struggles and how she succeeded.

And then, perhaps, just perhaps, her life and tragic death will become just a little more comprehendible.

And then the world will be a slightly better place because Devorah Stubin was here.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “ True Chessed “ (1/16/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Motzei Shabbos the 6th of Shevat 5776 and January 16, 2016

 

True Chessed

 

Shocked, stunned, numbed, and speechless; these are just a few of the words which describe our feelings this Motzei Shabbos.

As Shabbos came to a close all of us were informed that the massive search for the safe return of Devorah bas Shoshanah Rus and the Tefillos which were being said on her behalf have been halted.

As Shabbos ended the news travelled quickly that Devorah Stubin was not coming home.

Our hopes for her safe return were dashed as news of her demise was quickly disseminated in the Jewish world and beyond.

Plans for a celebration when she would be found were now replaced with arraignments for a funeral.

I did not know Devorah bas Shoshanah Rus; many who did tell me she was indeed a special Neshama.

I did not know her; however, I do know many of those who sacrificed Shabbos with their families to spend Shabbos in Maywood, New Jersey in the cold and in the rain.

Jews from Brooklyn, Lakewood, Monsey, Teaneck, Elizabeth, Passaic, Clifton and other places all joined together through their hearts and hands left the comfort of their homes and their families to search and attempt to find a young woman whom they never had met.

They survived on an hour of sleep here and there and on high energy caffeinated beverages throughout the day.

They did not care about hot Chulent or warm beds; they did not think about what Shul they should go to or not go to; their focus was singularly on the finding of Devorah bas Shoshanah Rus.

No one cared if you were Chassidish or Litvish, Modern or Open Orthodox; if you wear a hat or if you wife wears a Shaitel or a Tichel, all they cared about was Devorah bas Shoshanah Rus.

Dozens and dozens and volunteers left their warm beds this Shabbos to help find a young woman whose name most had never heard of before Thursday evening.

The togetherness and the unity allow me to feel consoled and that is good.

The outcome was not what he davened or hoped for; however, the display of unity is what we daven for.

I was privileged to count among the many volunteers who gave up their Shabbos for Devorah’s sake two of my own sons.

Both of them spent hours and hours searching and looking for Devorah bas Shoshanah Rus.

This morning at 7 o’clock my son and I left the house together.

He was on his to search for Devorah and I was on my way to search for Hashem.

Before I headed to Shul I walked him to his car.

I proudly stood by as he entered the car and gave him a brocha for success.

As I watched him pull away from the curb, I thanked Hashem for giving me children who care enough about His children to know that sometimes serving Him means even driving on Shabbos.

As Shaya turned the corner, I turned to Shul.

As I walked I wondered which one of us was the one to emulate: the rabbi on his way to Shul or the rabbi’s son on his way to find a lost Jew.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Mechel’s Tears “ (1/14/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 4th of Shevat 5776 and January 14, 2016

 

Mechel’s Tears

 

Mechel Solomon (name changed) was 63 years old, all of his children were married and he was retired.

Although I never asked about his financial situation, he seemed comfortable.

That being said, whenever he was approached by me or anyone else in the Shul to head a committee or a Shul program his answer was always the same, “Oh, that’s not ‘my thing’; I just don’t have the time.”

After asking him for a number of years and for different projects and always receiving a negative answer, I stopped nagging Mechel and just let him be.

I was looking for someone to act as a ‘big brother/father figure’ for a boy from a single parent home. The father had moved away and the boy lived alone with his mother.

Baruch was only eight years old and I needed someone to “Chazer” with him on Shabbos.

I was discreetly speaking to one Ba’al HaBas; unfortunately, he could not help.

As I began to walk away, Mechel, who was standing nearby approached me; “Rabbi, did I hear you say you are looking for someone to learn with Baruch on Shabbos afternoon?”

“Yes”, you heard correctly; why do you ask?”

“Well, rabbi, look no further! I am your man. I will learn with Baruch every Shabbos before Mincha. My sons’ are long married off and I have the time to “Chazer” with Baruch.”

As I had no other candidates, I accepted Mechel’s offer.

Mechel was a ‘natural stand-in father’. Every Shabbos like clockwork, Mechel would pick up Baruch at his home, walk him to Shul, learn with him and bring him home after Mincha.

 Suddenly the man whom I could not get to spend 15 minutes to chair a committee was now spending an hour every week with a boy who just weeks before he never knew.

 “Mechel, I don’t understand; I have asked you to help out many times and you always claimed that you have no time, yet, suddenly you have one hour a week to ‘Chazer’ with Baruch!

Mechel pulled me over and in a whispered voice said,

“Rabbi, let me tell you something.

 When I was eight years old my parents made a decision to transfer me from Public School to Yeshiva in the Bronx.

My father was a good, hardworking, honest man.

 He went to Shul every Shabbos; he went to the 7 AM Minyan in the big Shul on the Grand Concourse he then came home, made Kiddush, bentched and changed out of his suit, and put on his blue coveralls and took the subway to lower Manhattan where he worked in a scrap metal company.

He worked on Shabbos and when he came home I was already asleep.

Every Sunday morning in yeshiva the same routine repeated itself.

The Rebbe would ask each boy what they learned with their father on Shabbos.

 My father never learned with me on Shabbos.

 When it was my turn to tell the Rebbe what I learned on Shabbos, I would just parrot whatever the boy before me said.

One day the Rebbe decided to ask me first; I stood there dumbfounded; I had no idea what to say…. Tears began to run down my cheeks as all the boys began to laugh at me.

 I ran home as fast as I could and as I burst hysterically into the house I told my mother, “I want to go back to Public School!”

When I overheard you asking around for someone to learn with Baruch, I decided if I can spare one boy from embarrassment…If I can help one boy not endure what I had to go through as a child, then that is one Mitzvah I will not pass up.”

As I looked up at Mechel, I could see tears running down his cheeks; the tears were still as fresh and as searing as they were fifty five years ago.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Powerball” (1/11/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday Rosh Chodesh Shevat 5776 and January 11, 2016

 

Powerball

 

“Lottery officials say the prize has now swelled to an estimated $1.4 billion — the world’s largest. Ever.

“Biggest jackpot in the history of the world. Absolutely confirmed,” Texas Lottery executive director Gary Grief said.”

 

This week millions of Americans are lining up to spend their hard earned dollars for a 1 in 292.2 million chance to win $1.4 billion dollars.

We have seen pictures of thousands of men and women who have stayed up all night for a chance to buy a ticket; and we have seen lines snaking for more than a mile as people wait patiently to try their luck at Powerball.

One question which is constantly asked of the ticket buyers is, “What will you do with the money if you win?”

The answers are as different as the faces of the people who answered the question.

There were those who stated they would help feed the hungry and cloth the poor.

There were those who said they would live a life of hedonistic pleasure and insulate themselves from the rest of society.

The question is indeed intriguing; what would you do if you suddenly won $1.4 billion dollars?

Perhaps though a better question is, “What do you do with the money you already have in your possession?”

How wisely do you spend that money?

Do you help others who are worse off than you?

Do you give a dollar a day to the Shul?

Before we all start fantasizing as to what would we do if we had “X” amount of money, maybe we should first focus on what we have today and how we are using that gift from Hashem?

And if you should happen to win the Powerball, don’t forget Congregation Ahavas Israel is a tax exempt institution!

Good Luck!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ One More on Loneliness “ (1/5/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 24th of Teves 5776 and January 5, 2016

 

One More on Loneliness

 

I have received much feedback from my piece entitled “The Mystery Man” from this past Friday January 1st.

Numerous readers commented correctly that the pain of loneliness is not the exclusive purview of the rabbi; rather, (as so many of you indicated about yourselves) countless people are lonely.

Rabbis, and teachers, husbands and wives, computer programmers and accountants can and do suffer from the pain of loneliness.

Is loneliness the fault of WhatsApp or because the prevalence of texting in our society? I doubt it.

Is loneliness the fault of social media in general? Here too, I just don’t see it.

What then is the cause of so many people feeling lonely and bereft?

Why is it that in our society which is blessed with so many material advantages over previous generations we feel lonely?

The simple and truthful answer is I don’t know.

Articles from so called experts who are sure they know the true reason for all of our social woes never resonate with me.

 I am not an adherent of the one size fits all approach to any problem and my hunch tells me that since the time of Adam HaRishon people were lonely and the reasons for their loneliness are varied and complex and cannot be reduced to a 500 words article complete with pithy sayings.

I admit unabashedly that I know not the one cause for “All the Lonely People” out there.

That being said, there is some succor to be gleaned from loneliness.

Loneliness can be the catalyst for never feeling complacent and for never becoming stagnant.

Loneliness is hard and it is painful; it is not pleasurable and we don’t crave it.

That is all true; however, loneliness also has a positive side to it.

When you are lonely you strive to relieve your loneliness.

You may reach out to someone to connect to; or you may sit down and write a poem, a letter or even a Short Vort.

In short (no pun intended) loneliness, particularly because of its painfulness can be and often is the precise facilitator a person needs to be creative and resourceful.

Specifically and perhaps exclusively when a person finds themselves alone they are able to access their inner (previously unrealized) potential.

Loneliness is depressing and outright frightening; however, when properly harnessed and utilized it can be the key to uncovering heretofore unknown reserves of inner strength and vitality.

When one is forced to realize their total isolation they can react in two opposite ways.

They can retreat further and further into the doldrums of melancholy; or they can meet the struggle head on while tapping into previously un-accessed reserves of potency and originality.

Many of the greatest contributions to society were brought about by people who were perched on the potential precipice of utter desolation. It was precisely then, as they were teetering between despair and deliverance that they reached deep inside themselves and acquired personal salvation to the benefit of themselves and the entire community.

None of us crave or yearn for loneliness; however, if you are smitten by it, embrace it and run with it. For all you know it may become your greatest asset.

A Hasid once traveled for six months to meet with the Kotzer Rebbe and ask him for a Brocha for a child.

When he finally arrived at the Rebbe, he was dismissively rebuffed by the Tzaddik and sent away.

As he exited the Rebbe’s presence he felt his total existential loneliness; he was utterly alone and abandoned. At that point he reached deep inside of himself and accessed spiritual reserves he never knew existed. He screamed out to Hashem, “Hashem, I am utterly and completely alone; please help!”

It was his first complete heartfelt and sincere prayer of his life.

Suddenly the Rebbe’s door opened. He looked at him and simply said, “You came here seeking a man who would bring you to Hashem. However, you are leaving with having found Hashem within you. This find was only made possible when you finally realized how alone you were in the world.”

Sometimes it takes a bit of loneliness to make us realize how connected we really are.

 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Mystery Man “ (1/1/16)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 20th of Teves 5776 and January 1st 2016

 

The Mystery Man

 

He attends Shul daily; however, I never seem to find the opportunity to engage him in conversation.

He always appears as if he never has enough time in the day to do what is incumbent on him to do.

Often, just when I think I can chap a schmooze with him, someone else comes over and he ends up speaking to that person for what seems like an eternity.

He is harried; yet, when I see him speaking to people he certainly attempts to give the person his full attention.

I decide that after Minyan I will corner him; yet, when I approach him he tells me he has an appointment waiting for him in his office.

I figure I will just show up at his house and knock on his door.

His wife tells me he is in the Shul.

Why can’t I figure out who this guy is?

I just can’t figure out what makes him tick.

I must get to know this fellow; after all, he is in my Shul daily; it’s my responsibility to connect with him.

I resolve to walk him home from Shul one morning and pretend as if I am going his way.

To my utter surprise, as I wait for him to exit the Shul I see that there are others who have gathered around him. 

What are they asking him?

He seems somewhat baffled by the attention; however, I see he is making a genuine attempt to speak politely and sincerely to everyone.

I cannot figure this complex man out.

He is simultaneously shy and extroverted; he is reserved, yet, he can be quite loquacious.

Often he seems hesitant and humble while other times he is quite outspoken and outright bold.

Either way, I just cannot connect with him in a meaningful way!

It is my job and my job alone to connect with this mystery man who is seemingly always at the Shul and yet so difficult to just sit down and have a cup of coffee with.

“That’s it!” I tell myself as the epiphany takes hold of me.

 I will invite him for breakfast at the local bagel store; what Jew can refuse a free bagel and cream cheese?

I make sure that I am by him right after Shacharis and before he can even take off his Tefillin I say in a friendly, sociable way, “Hey, how about coming with me to the Bagel Store for breakfast; my treat!”

He looks as if he is about to accept my invitation when abruptly he demurs and without any additional explanation he simply says, “Sorry, I really appreciate the offer; however, I cannot go.” And with an apologetic look he excuses himself and departs.

It appeared as if he really wanted to go with me; why couldn’t he?

One evening he was davening at the 11:45 PM Maariv, which was rare for him.

 He looked especially tired and worn out and I could tell his normal defense system was down so I decided to exploit his vulnerability.

“Reb Yid, Tell me, who are you? I see you around all the time. You seem to be known; however, I really don’t know you and have not found anyone who can honestly say they know who you are! 

Please tell me, who are you?”

He looked up at me and with a voice tinged with sadness and with a reluctant acceptance of his reality simply said, “Rabbi, thank you for inquiring of me. You are correct in realizing that often I am seen speaking to people who seek me out. Indeed, I can honestly say that I have many admirers; however I also have more than a few detractors. And it is also true, that I am rarely alone.

However, although I am never just by myself, in reality I am extremely lonely and although I have many devotees, I have few real friends.

You ask who I am.

Rabbi, you know exactly who I am… Rabbi, I am you”.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Validation “ (12/28/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 16th of Teves 5776 and December 28, 2015

 

Validation

 

Oprah Winfrey, who has been “Dubbed the Queen of All Media; is considered the richest African-American of the 20th century. She is the greatest black philanthropist in American history, and is currently (2015) North America’s only black billionaire. Several assessments regard her as the most influential woman in the world.(Wikipedia)

Ms. Winfrey commented on her final episode of her wildly popular TV show, “I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show,” she said, “and all 30,000 had one thing in common. They all wanted validation.”

Validation, which can be described as the need to be heard or the desire to be correct and right; is something we all crave for.

And there is nothing wrong and there is everything right in giving someone the proper validation; providing of course they are deserving of it.

We should offer validation when appropriate; however, we should make sure our validation is coming from a good place in order to truly help the other person and not for our own selfish needs.

Too often our desire to validate others stems from our own selfish need to receive reciprocal validation and this corrupts our thinking and we end up giving wrong or even harmful validation.

For instance, if you tell your friend Larry, “Hey Larry, you were so right in giving your boss a piece of your mind, he really deserved it!” Chances are that Larry will reply, “Joe, I knew I could count on you for validation. You are a true friend and I so appreciate your wisdom and insightfulness.”

Your desire for reciprocal validation has corrupted your honest assessment of the situation.

Most probably Larry was very silly for giving the boss a piece of his mind and more often than not he will regret his outburst sooner than later.

And although Joe knows deep down that he has given Larry the improper validation for his outburst at his boss; however, his own narcissistic need for reciprocal validation which he knows will receive if he validates Larry causes him to actually hurt his friend by falsely validating him.

This dysfunctional dance between friends plays out much too often.

We all want to be validated and we all want our friends to validate us, however, it should never be on the expense of causing harm to others.

Give your friend the validation they honestly deserve; however, never validate your friend just to receive reciprocal validation as this is not helping your friend at all.

It would be difficult and somewhat uncomfortable for Joe to actually tell Larry, “Larry, let me tell you something, you were really wrong in lashing out at your boss…”

However, a true friend will forgo his need for reciprocal validation for the sake of giving his friend the proper advice he needs and not just offer perfunctory validation.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Vigilante “ (12/23/15)


The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 10th of Teves 5776 and December 22, 2015

 

The Vigilante

 

We had just lit the fifth light of Chanukah.

It was Motzei Shabbos Parshas Miketz 5745 (Saturday, 22 December 1984) and I was with my family in our apartment in Washington Heights.

We turned on the radio after lighting and Havdalah to hear the news.

The impossible and the improbable had occurred.

A man (who was white and we would learn later was ‘at least’ Jewish by birth) had pulled a gun on four youths who had apparently accosted him on the subway and shot all of them.

For most people who were living in the city this was a first; a person had actually shot his attackers!

Back then the city had a reported crime rate over 70% higher than the rest of the United States; and for most people the most hideous and dangerous portal of crime were the underground train tunnels known as the Subway.

The subway was a place where you had your rules which each parent taught their child and each friend informed each other of:

Never remain alone in a car by yourself

Never make eye contact with anyone

Never appear afraid even though you are shaking inside

Make a quick visual appraisal of who is in the car and what they are doing

Never take out your wallet

Never speak to anyone

Daven; and daven again

These were tough times in New York and suddenly one man had taken action.

One man stated loud and clear, “I will not be terrorized anymore!”

When the man whose name was Bernhard Goetz turned himself in and was arrested, he remained defiant and unapologetic.

To many people he became a folk-hero, a vigilante, a man who did what others only dreamed about.

When it was revealed that his mother was Jewish (although she ‘converted’ to her husband’s religion of Lutheran), there were those in the Jewish community who said Goetz was a modern day Maccabee.

As the event occurred on Chanukah and as he was “one against the many”, this was a truly a Chanukah miracle! (Somehow the fact that he was traveling on the subway on Shabbos Chanukah did not bother them.)

Others maintained that Goetz was a racist and over reacted in a violent way to a non-violent encounter. (Contrary to ‘reports’ the four youths were not armed, not even with ‘sharpened’ screwdrivers).

Ultimately, Goetz was acquitted on all murder/assault charges; although he was found guilty of one count of illegal possession of a gun and served eight months of his twelve month sentence.

Since then, three of the four ‘assailants’ have been arrested multiple times for violent crimes. One of those shot was paralyzed for life, and one other has since committed suicide.

Bernhard Goetz continues to live in New York City and has become an advocate for squirrel rescue in the city; he installs squirrel houses, feeds squirrels, and performs first aid on them.

I too at the time was also excited and enthralled by the apparent courage and bravery of Bernhard Goetz.

Thirty one years ago today I too was caught up in the fervor and enthusiasm of the time and I too thought of him as a hero and perhaps even a potential harbinger of salvation.

I still think that way sometimes; however, thirty one years later, I am no longer as sure as I once was.

What looked so simple and obvious to me thirty one years ago now appears to me to be more complex and multilayered than it did back then.

Come to think about it, this really sums up a lot of my thinking these days.

Many, many things which in 1984 were so simple and so obvious, have somehow in the last three decades become complicated and extremely difficult to accept or to even understand.

My former assumptions which were so easily accepted are no longer that simple; and things which I once considered ‘factual’ are now just speculations and often weak ones at that.

I no longer ‘envy’ Bernhard Goetz and certainly have no aspirations to be him; however, I also realize that his complex personality and the various experiences of his life created the person he was and is.

I don’t hate him and I even understand him; however, I no longer crave to emulate him either.

The older I get the more I realize just how complex life is.

Yesterday’s ‘hard facts’ are today’s speculations.

And today’s speculation may be tomorrow’s fables.


What I consider today as fact will probably be what I question tomorrow.

And what I dismissed yesterday as nonsense may be the bedrock of my thinking today.


Who knows how I will feel  about Bernhard Goetz in thirty one years ?


I should live so long!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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



 

 

 



 

 

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “ The Vigilante “ (12/22/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 10th of Teves 5776 and December 22, 2015

 

The Vigilante

 

We had just lit the fifth light of Chanukah.

 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “ “The Sounds of Silence “ (12/18/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 6th of Teves 5776 and December 18th 2015

 

“The Sounds of Silence”*

*"The Sounds of Silence" is a song by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel. The song hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 on December 4, 1965. It spent 12 weeks on the chart. By January 1966, it had sold one million copies. (Wikipedia)

 

I know most rabbis will call people before Chanukah; however, I realized that the call after Chanukah can be even more appreciated.

Ethel Moshkowitz (named changed) taught me this important lesson and since then, every year for the last six years I call her on the day after Chanukah.

It was six years ago on the day after Chanukah when I met Ethel in the local kosher grocery and realized that she had forgotten one bag of groceries at the check-out line. I told the cashier that I would bring her the forgotten bag.

Ethel lives in a one bedroom apartment in a high-rise building in Passaic.

I called and told Ethel I had the groceries; and asked her, “If it was not too much trouble could I drop it by?”

Early that afternoon I drove to Passaic Ave and pressed the elevator button for the sixth floor.

As the elevator made its steady climb upward I thought just how happy Ethel must be.

Her son and daughter-in-law lived less than a mile away in Clifton and she had just spent Shabbos Chanukah by them along with their married children who live in Lakewood.

I could only imagine the nachas Ethel had from being with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

As soon as the doors opened to the sixth floor I could hear the deafening sound of a blaring radio.

As I neared apartment 6B I realized that the blasting radio was emanating from Ethel’s apartment!

I rang her bell, knocked loudly and finally after what seemed like an eternity, Ethel opened the door.

“Hello Rabbi, please come in for a minute.”

I did not want to insult her, however, I did need her to lower the volume so I jokingly said, “That must be a very interesting show on the radio for you to have it on so loud!”

Ethel looked up and with complete sincerity replied, “Oh, the radio is on? I was not even listening; sometimes I forget I had turned it on.”

And then I uttered the words which I regretted saying the minute they left my mouth, “If you are not listening then why have the radio on and why so loud?”

Ethel suddenly became solemn and clarified somewhat apologetically,

“Rabbi, let me explain.

Today is the day after Chanukah.

Today everyone went home and back to their regular busy routine.

My grandchildren were restless to get back to Lakewood and they drove home this morning.

And I am sure that my son and daughter-in- law are appreciating the peace and quiet as they are now able to get back to their regular work routine.

I also came back to my apartment today.

However, for me what does today mean?

Does it mean getting back into my ‘busy or exciting’ routine?

For me it means one thing: loneliness.

For the last few days of Chanukah I heard the voices of Jewish children.

 I heard them when I awoke and when I went to sleep.

 When I arrived back home I was ‘welcomed’ with the same sounds that have greeted me since my husband passed away - thesounds of silence.

The silence is so painful and so haunting that I put on the radio just to hear another human voice.

I am sorry if the radio was disturbing.

For me the day after Chanukah or any Yom Tov when everyone excitedly gets back to their ‘real lives’, is the day I go back to my silent and lonely home.

What for others is a day of joy, for me is a day of sadness”.

As I left her with the red bag of groceries and made my way to the elevator, I turned around and saw Ethel Moshkowitz close her apartment door behind her. A minute later her radio was back on, perhaps a drop lower than before.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Order # 11 “ (12/17/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 5th of Teves 5776 and December 17, 2015

 

Order # 11

 

Today in 1862, Major-General Ulysses S. Grant issued his infamous Order # 11:

·       The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department [of the Tennessee] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.

·       Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters.

Yes, all of the above is true and documented; this is no joke and no illusion.

On December 17, 1862, during the American Civil War, Grant ordered the expulsion of all Jews in his military district, comprising areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

The Jewish community and others were shocked at this open display of anti-Semitism and prejudice against them and brought the issue to the desk of President Lincoln himself.

President Lincoln said he was surprised that Grant had issued such a command and said, "To condemn a class is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad." Lincoln said he drew no distinction between Jew and Gentile and would allow no American to be wronged because of his religious affiliation.

Finally Lincoln wrote to Grant and said: “A paper purporting to be General Orders, No. 11, issued by you December 17, has been presented here. By its terms, it expels all Jews from your department. If such an order has been issued, it will be immediately revoked.”

The order was revoked, however, it has its effect and there were Jewish families who were indeed expelled from Grant’s territory.

This should serve as a lesson and a reminder to all of us.

We must realize that no matter how secure and settled we may feel in any country in the world, including the United States, nevertheless, we are guests and guests can always be asked to leave.

Remember, today ‘they’ are talking about removing one religious group from this country… who knows who they will suggest to leave tomorrow?

Since the year 250 we have been expelled 109 times! (http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/expelled.htm)

Think about that.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Lonely At the Top “ (12/14/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 2nd of Teves 5776 and December 14, 2015

 

Lonely At the Top

 

Part One

As I sat in Shul this past Shabbos the feeling came over me again.

Every year as I hear the story of Yosef and his brothers being read in Shul, I become overcome with sadness and my eyes get teary as two verses are read aloud.

 

“And he washed his face and came out, and he restrained himself and said, "Serve the food." And they set for him separately and for them separately, and for the Egyptians who ate with him separately, because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, because it is an abomination to the Egyptians.”(Bereishis 42:31, 32)

Yosef commands his Egyptian underlings to serve the food.

There are three tables set up; one for Yosef, one for the brothers and one for the Egyptians.

The Torah makes a point of informing us that the reason the Egyptians needed their own table was: “because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, because it is an abomination to the Egyptians.”

The simple understanding of the verse is that it is explaining why the Egyptians could not eat with the brothers.

It is highly unlikely given Yosef’s standing in Egypt that the reason the Egyptians could not sit near Yosef was because of his Hebrew heritage. Rather, it more likely that the reason the Egyptians could not sit near Yosef was because of his superior royal position.

Yosef was the viceroy, a governor and the second highest government official; it is highly unlikely that Yosef’s own underlings would (or even ‘could’) refuse to eat with him because of his being a Hebrew. Therefore the words: the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews is clearly only explaining why the brothers and the Egyptians could not eat together.

 Yosef ate ‘alone’ because he was Yosef, a leader and a superior to the others; that being said, one cannot help but notice that the words because it is an abomination to the Egyptians is also subtly referring to Yosef himself; meaning that even his lackeys avoided eating with him.

 

Part Two

We still though have not explained; why then to these verses cause me to be awash in melancholy?

Why am I moved to tears every time I hear these words read in Shul?

At the time this incident is taking place, Yosef is at the height of his power.

He is the second in command to the most powerful man in the world.

His own brothers, the ones who so cruelly sold him into slavery twenty two years ago and left him alone and abandoned to be abused and enslaved by others, are now cowering before him in fright and fear.

He must have felt great…. He has power and prestige, honor and accolades…

Indeed, there is not a single person in the entire world to whom Pharaoh has decreed: “And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, and besides you, no one may lift his hand or his foot in the entire land of Egypt."

Imagine how Yosef must have felt. The despised and discarded brother who was sold off for ten pairs of shoes; to be a slave to some perverted and demented despot, is now witnessing those same brothers cowering and trembling before him as they beg for mercy and plead for compassion.

Yosef should have been at this point of his life the most content individual on the face of the Earth.

He has a wife and children; he has prestige and stature; he has a secure position and he no doubt has more money and job security than anyone can aspire to.

Yosef is also the undisputed “power-broker” of the family.

The fate of his brothers and their families is totally in his hands; his former dreams of his brothers coming to prostrate themselves before him are about to be fulfilled.

In short, Yosef is the man who has ‘made it’ and ‘made it big time’.

Yet, with all of his success and all of his prestige and power and authority the Torah tells us: “And they set for him separately and for them separately, and for the Egyptians who ate with him separately”.  One cannot ignore the fact that when it is time to sit down and be part of the human race, Yosef is all alone.

He cannot eat with the Egyptians, the men who are at his ‘beck and call’ and must respond to all of his requests; after all, he is the viceroy of Egypt and the viceroy does not socialize with the commoners.

He also cannot eat with his own brothers; the men with whom he grew up with; for they too must be kept at a distance.

In short, the man who all men on –both sides of Sinai Desert- fawn before; the man who with a wink of his eye or with the movement of his finger can change the lives of thousands of men, is completely and totally alone.

He cannot socialize with his Egyptian underlings and he will not fraternize with his own brothers; rather, he is utterly and tragically and most of all, painfully alone.

He has no one in the world to even break bread with.

His brothers sit together and talk; and his Egyptians lackeys can socialize together; yet, Yosef sits alone and apart.

On one hand he is the envy of the world yet, simultaneously he is envious of the simple servant who can sit and schmooze with his friend over a cold glass of water.

He has everything a man could dream for; yet, he longs for the simple feeling of friendship and human companionship which eludes his grasp.

Yosef is everyone’s man; yet, he has no friend; he is feared, yet, he is friendless; he is lauded while remaining agonizingly alone.

He longs for friendship; yet, it is unreachable.

He sits at the head seat of the head table surrounded by dozens of people whose eyes are transfixed on him and who vie for his validation and approval.

Yet, precisely at that moment as he sits and surveys the people seated before him, he is the loneliest person on the face of the Earth.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Ode to Mom “ (12/9/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 27th of Kislev 5776 and December 9, 2015

 

Ode to Mom

 

As the days of Chanukah continue and so do the parties, family get togethers, days off from school and figuring out what to with the kids on those days; it’s time to pay homage to the person who keeps it all together: Mom.

It is the mothers who are constantly preparing the latkes, organizing the family trips and parties and at the same time keep the house running smoothly and peacefully (Hopefully!).

I believe one father in Israel expressed the sentiments perfectly in a note he penned to his daughter’s Morah explaining his daughter’s lateness.

In it he writes (and I am attaching the original Hebrew note in the email): "Good morning Morah! A Dad is not a Mom. And a Dad can’t do in one hour what a Mom can do in half an hour. Therefore, Talia is late. With Blessings, Dad."

Israeli humor writer Hanoch Daum posted the note to his Facebook page and the post went internationally viral.

Perhaps it became so popular because the sentiments expressed by Shalom Misk, (the dad in Israel) are universally recognized and appreciated.

Indeed, almost 100,000 people have ‘liked’ the post since it went up last month and it has been republished in many other on-line venues.

So take a minute this Chanukah to show HaKoras HaTov (gratitude) to those people (moms and dads) who help make our day all the more enjoyable!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ The Miracle of Chanukah “ (12/8/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 26th of Kislev 5776 and December 8, 2015

 

The Miracle of Chanukah

 

What would happen if you would light a candle and the candle would stay lit for eight full days?

Would you call in your friends to view it?

Would you send out a picture on your favorite social media?

What would your hashtag be?

Would it be #miracleinprogress?

 Or perhaps #Hashemshand?

Would you recognize it as a miracle?

Or would you blow it out?

I don’t know what I would do.

However, once thing is for sure; miracles are nice and wonderful; however, without the realization of the people that they had to recommit themselves to an authentic Jewish life, the miracle would be meaningless and most probably would have never happened.

The greatest miracle is that people realized they can change things.

The people realized that life under Antiochus and his evil decrees did not have to be.

We all have the power and choice to change our reality to the best of our abilities.

The miracle of the oil was the icing on the cake when Hashem nodded His agreement to man’s actions.

Before you go looking for candles which are never extinguished; go looking for the fire within yourself and make sure it is still burning bright.

If it is, then just maybe you can expect the unexpected to occur.

Enjoy Chanukah!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Lessons from ISIS “ (12/6/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 24th of Kislev 5776 and December 6, 2015

 

Lessons from ISIS

 

There are many lessons one can learn from the horrific carnage which took place in California last week.

For instance, I am amazed at the difference in how certain people view the concept of “inspiration”.

A quick Google search of the words “Inspire Judaism” brought me to a website of “Project Inspire”. The webpage states its goal is: “To awaken and empower the Torah observant community to reach out to their fellow Jews, in order to stem the tides of assimilation and intermarriage.”

It’s hard to imagine that even the most strident Reform Rabbi would argue with the correctness of such a goal.

In contrast, in the apartment of the husband and wife killing squad of California the NY Times reported:

“Among the components investigators seized from the couple’s house were items common to the manufacture of pipe bombs but also “miniature Christmas tree lamps.” A recent issue of Inspire, an online magazine published by an arm of Al Qaeda, included an article, “Designing a Timed Hand Grenade,”(emphasis added by me) with step-by-step instructions for making a delayed igniter with a Christmas tree lamp.”

Could anyone of us even imagine a Jewish magazine with the word “Inspire” appearing on its masthead featuring an article instructing it’s readership in “Designing a Timed Hand Grenade”???

Somehow I just don’t think such an article would appear in a magazine for Jews who are interested in ‘Inspiration’.

Think about that when you recite your morning Brochus today.

Perhaps though the most important lesson we can learn from ISIS is to appreciate each other and not allow the silly menial and unimportant things of life to distract us from always expressing our love and appreciation for those who are near and dear to us.

On Wednesday morning December 2nd at 11 AM the lives of 14 innocent individuals were cut short as:

 “Mr. Farook and Ms. Malik first appeared outside the door. They announced themselves with the rapid-fire barrage of bullets. People in the room froze, witnesses said, unsure what was going on, some even wondering for a second if this were some sort of surprise holiday celebration.

But as people saw the couple dressed in black — their faces covered by masks and their bodies loaded with weaponry, including two .223-caliber assault rifles and two 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistols — panic swept the room. People scattered as colleagues collapsed with anguished screams”. (NY Times)

I cannot comprehend how these parents (?) left their six month old child at home and embarked on their cold hearted rampage of murder; however, I do think about the victims.

Did all of the 14 people who were killed say to their loved ones that morning as they left for work, “I love you?”

Did they get upset with their wife/husband/mother/father or their roommate that morning and plan to ‘patch things up’ when they arrived home in the evening?

Did the husband leave home that morning on a sour note because his wife forgot to give over a phone message?

Did a wife leave in a huff because she overslept and blamed her husband for not waking her?

And did a husband or wife storm out of the house because there was no milk for their coffee?

I sure hope not; for they will never have another chance to say ‘I am sorry’.

Think about those 14 people today and tomorrow and for everyday for the rest of your life.

Every time you plan to say something nasty or just not nice, think about those 14 people who left their homes that Wednesday morning the same way you left your home this morning; however, they never returned home.

Take the lesson from ISIS.

Appreciate what you have when you have it.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Loyal Cousin “ (12/4/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 22nd of Kislev 5776 and December 4th 2015

 

The Loyal Cousin

 

Laibel Morgenstern (names and identifying details changed) was a spry octogenarian.

At 85 years old he still came to Shul every morning.

When other Mispallelim would query him as to the secret for his longevity, he would reply, “Very simple; I never had a mother-in-law!”

Indeed, Laibel was never married.

Laibel worked at his father’s fat rendering plant in Newark for many years.

In 2007 he retired.

I never even knew Laibel had a brother; until the day he and his brother came to my office.

I was to learn that Laibel and his brother Mordy were more than just two years apart; they were worlds apart.

 Mordy was high strung, goal oriented, happily married, wealthy, successful and very community minded with many grandchildren.

 Laibel was ‘laid-back’, never married, lived off his social security check and was more of a loner than a people-person.

They came to speak about their first cousin Sylvia Rubin.

Like Laibel she never married and at 91 years old she was alone in this world except for Laibel and Mordy.

Sylvia had been living at an assisted care facility for the last five years; however, this week her condition deteriorated and she had been admitted to Hackensack Hospital.

It was up to the brothers to decide her ‘end of life questions’ and that is why they came to me.

I watched the interaction between them.

Mordy was the ‘take-charge’ type.

The main issue was who would be with Sylvia during her final days.

Mordy, who at 87 was still very much involved in his business and family affairs, was adamant that he would hire a full time aid to be with Sylvia; however, he himself had neither the time nor the inclination to personally ever come ‘out to Jersey’ to visit her.

Laibel cleared his throat and stated, “Yes, we should get her full time help; however, I will also stay at her bedside so she will not be alone!”

Mordy was somewhat dismissive of his younger brothers’ offer and remarked, “There is no need for that, as I will cover the cost of the aid.”

It was clear that Mordy was not used to be questioned by anyone, and certainly not by his ‘useless’ younger brother.

“Mordy, I just don’t think it’s right not to have a family member with her”.

“Stop being silly”, Mordy thundered; “Just go back to your apartment in Passaic and I will take care of everything.”

Laibel was not to be deterred, “No, I will not let her be alone when she needs me.”

For the next three weeks Laibel ‘lived’ at his cousin’s bedside.

He was there when she needed a drink of water and he was there when she needed the nurse.

He was there when she began to lose her lucidity and he was there to say Shema Yisroel with her when she breathed her last breath.

The day she died Mordy arrived at the hospital and saw firsthand how devoted Laibel was to Sylvia.

“Laibel, I don’t understand you; why have you sacrificed so much to be here. I don’t think you and Sylvia have spoken more than a few words over the last five years. What gives? Why suddenly did you become so dedicated and devoted?”

Laibel looked at his brother and said calmly yet, firmly. “Mordy, when we were little and Mom and Dad would have Sylvia baby sit for us, you would tease me until I ran into my bed crying. Do you know who would come to my room and sit with me until I calmed down and fell asleep? It was our cousin Sylvia!

She was there for me when I needed her and now 80 years later I knew I had to be there for her when she needed me.”

 

“If Not Now Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “ Profusely “ (12/2/15)

The Short Vort


Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 20th of Kislev 5776 and December 2, 2015

 

Profusely

 

The little girl had called her Morah and asked if she could help her with some questions on the section of Navi (Prophets) they were learning in school.

The Morah was (of course) excited that one of her charges was so motivated as to actually ask for help outside of the classroom and told the girl that since she was going out she would even pick her up on her way home.

The student arrived and together the Morah and the child reviewed the relevant parts of the Navi that she needed help in.

In the course of the learning the student and Morah bonded in ways which are so crucial and precious and often cannot be achieved in a formal classroom setting.

Finally it was the time to leave and the little girl asked if she could call her mother to be picked up.

As she was finalizing the arrangements for pick up with her mother, the Morah overheard the little girl say to her mother, “Of course I am going to say ‘thank you’; and yes, I will even say it ‘profusely’.”

The student put down the phone, looked at her Morah and said with all of the innocence and pristine purity that only a child can offer, “My mother said I have to thank you PROFUSLEY.” And then the girl added, “What did she think? That I wouldn’t thank you? Of course I would!”

What a wonderful example of proper Chinuch (education).

Naturally, most of us are never inclined to be overly ‘profuse’ in our expressions of gratitude.

We’d rather think of ourselves as independent and self-sufficient.

We never want to feel indebted to others and we would much rather be viewed as the ‘one who is needed by others’ than the ‘one who needs others’.

The reality of the world is of course different.

We all need each other; some days I need you more than you need me and some days you need me more.

The mother of this little girl was training and cultivating her child to recognize this fact that she is indeed indebted to her Morah for the extra time her Morah gave her.

On their own, children (most often) do not recognize how indebted they truly are to others.

Indeed, most adults are still childlike with regard to gratitude.

We tend to think of this world as a world of entitlement and privilege for ourselves.

The daughter has successfully absorbed this important lesson as she stated, “Of course I would!”

If only we can imitate the ways of the little girl and her Morah in our daily lives.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ Gobble Gobble “ (11/26/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 14th of Kislev 5776 and November 26, 2015

 

Gobble Gobble

 

There has been much talk about Thanksgiving in Jewish circles.

“To participate or not to participate”; that is (just one of) the (many) questions.

As I have mentioned before, I probably get more questions about ‘Hilchos Thanksgiving’ than about Hilchos Chanukah!

The reason is simple.

Since so many of ‘us’ come from homes where Thanksgiving is ‘celebrated’ and many of our ‘not-yet’ (?) frum relatives can drive on Thanksgiving without any halachik question, it certainly is a convenient time for families to share quality time together.

And that is good.

Families should spend time together.

Yes, I know, that others claim, ‘Well, you can spend Chanukah together and relatives can drive on Chanukah as well’.

That is true; however, both “Chanukah Sundays” this year have candle lighting in the evening (December 6th and 13th) and that obviously limits ‘our’ ability to travel to non-frum relatives.

Therefore, today, the legal holiday of Thanksgiving affords many of us the opportunity to get together with parents, friends and relatives in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.

If you are ‘participating’ in the festivities, I have one piece of unsolicited advice for all of you.

When you go to your ‘not-yet-frum-almost frum-long-shot becoming frum-’ relatives and your realize that they have made a serious attempt to make you and your family feel comfortable; e.g. they bring in kosher food; they don’t mind if you bring your own food; they kosher the kitchen for the day; they allow you to cook for all…. Then please, please respond accordingly.

Show your gratitude!!!!

Meaning, HaKoras HaTov (GRATITUDE) is a most basic Jewish concept; and if your relatives have made an earnest attempt to make you and yours’ feel part of the family; then make sure you earnestly and sincerely express your gratitude to them!

In some ways I feel that Thanksgiving is a much better opportunity for ‘kiruv’ (whatever that means; perhaps we will deal with this in another Short Vort) than Chanukah or any ‘authentic’ Jewish holiday.

Why do I say that?

The reason is simple.

Most of us don’t enjoy being lectured or preached to.

Today is a day when you can show your ‘not yet/coming closer/almost there/far-away from becoming/ frum’ relatives that your becoming frum did not turn you into a Martian.

Today is a perfect day to show your relatives that you are still a caring, loving person who can engage in small talk and good quality regular family conversations with people who are wearing a Shaitel or have multiple earrings.

Today is a day where you can show your relatives that you still remember how Uncle Jerry carved the turkey and how all the kids would laugh and how Aunt Rose would make cranberry sauce and her hands would be red from the preparation.

Today you can show all that being frum is really being normal; and the first and best way to show this is to say ‘thank you’.

Appreciate what your mother is doing for you today to make you feel at home.

And appreciate the fact that your brother drove three hours just to see you.

Bring them ‘close’ to your heart; after all isn’t that what ‘kiruv’ (‘to bring closer’) is really all about?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ A Moment of Talking “ (11/23/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 11th of Kislev 5776 and November 23, 2015

 

A Moment of Talking

 

As I write these words, The New England Patriots football team are about to observe a ‘moment of silence’ in memory of Ezra Schwartz, a native of Sharon, Massachusetts, who was killed in a terror attack on Thursday.

The ‘Moment of Silence’ originates with the Quakers.

Since silence contains no statements or assumptions concerning beliefs and requires no understanding of language to interpret, it is more easily accepted and used than a spoken prayer or observance when persons of different religious and cultural backgrounds participate together.

In the colonial period Pennsylvania Quakers and Lenape Native Americans worshiped silently together on several occasions, yet neither group thought that this implied that they had altered their traditional belief system in doing so.

Over time, the effectiveness of Quaker-style silence for non-sectarian and non-controversial public observances has led to its almost universal use in the English-speaking world as well as other plural societies. (Wikipedia)

We are respectful of the Patriots and admire the respect they are showing Ezra, and we certainly can understand why in such a setting, ‘A Moment of Silence; is appropriate; nevertheless, as they are observing the ‘Moment of Silence’; I will engage in a more authentic Jewish response: A Moment of Verbal Tribute.

I did not know Ezra.

Like most of you, I never heard of him until he was killed on Thursday.

I don’t know his family and I don’t know anyone who lives in Sharon Ma.

That being said, I feel as if I knew him well.

Like Ezra, I also went off to study in Eretz Yisroel when I was finishing high school.

And like Ezra I was searching for growth and for inspiration.

Indeed, I would not be writing these words today if I had not learned in Eretz Yisroel in 1977.

My life changed forever when I was freed from the materialism and the comforts of American consumerism and from the hedonistic American way of life and was exposed to the life of Torah and authentic Judaism.

I would eventually spend many years learning and growing in Eretz Yisroel and it impacted on my life and the lives of my entire family.

Ezra went to Eretz Yisroel with those same dreams which I had almost 40 years ago.

He went to Yeshiva with the same hopes and thoughts which I had at his age four decades ago.

Ezra Schwartz never lived to see the fulfillment of those dreams.

Ezra Schwartz was never privileged to marry, raise a family and establish another link in the traditional Jewish family unit.

Ezra Schwartz came home yesterday to Sharon Ma.

However, he came home not in the way his parents, siblings and friends ever thought he would.

Ezra Schwartz will never dream again.

Ezra Schwartz will never again hope and strive to better his life and the lives of those with whom he made contact.

Ezra Schwartz died for one reason; he was a Jew in the land of Israel.

And for that reason, and that reason alone, he was killed.

Good bye Ezra; I will miss you although I never met you.

Although we never met and although we lived miles apart and although there was almost four decades which separated us; there is much more which united us than doesn’t.

Good bye Ezra, and remember, more meaningful than any Moment of Silence can ever be are all of the Mitzvohs and good deeds which continue to pay tribute to you forever.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ One More on Trust “ (11/20/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 8th of Kislev 5776 and November 20, 2015

 

One More on Trust

 

When I wrote about “trust” last Thursday, I had no idea how Europe’s trust in their life style and safety would be severely challenged by the events of just twenty four hours later.

Since last Friday night, France in particular and Western Europe in general has been reverberating from the shock of the cold blooded murder of 129 innocent human beings by Islamists.

Indeed, the indiscriminate and seemingly random killings led the New York Times to declare: “The style of the attack was in line with the Islamic State’s tactic of indiscriminate killings and goes against Al Qaeda’s guidelines.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/world/europe/isis-claims-responsibility-for-paris-attacks-calling-them-miracles.html)

I must admit, until I saw this line in The Times, I had no idea that Al Qaeda had ‘guidelines for killingwhile the Islamic State has no such ‘guidelines’.

The events of this week in Israel have further eroded our sense of trust and especially yesterday when we heard that an American Yeshiva boy was murdered in Gush Etzion, the sense of fear and anxiety was only heightened.

That being said, there is one silver lining to the seemingly non-stop horrific news; and that is that this morning after thirty years behind bars, Mr. Jonathan Pollard was released from prison and was united with his wife.

Jonathan Pollard will spend the first Shabbos in thirty years as a free man able to attend Shul and observe Shabbos in a real and meaningful way.

Imagine if tonight, for the first time in thirty years, you finally had the opportunity to observe Shabbos with the foods you wanted and in the manner you desired; what would that Shabbos look like?

What would you do if for the first time in thirty you were able to walk to the Shul of your choice and wear the clothes you wanted to wear as opposed to davening in a prison dressed in convict’s clothing; how would you feel?

Think about that and remember: always appreciate what you have and who you have.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Phone Call” (11/19/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 7th of Kislev 5776 and November 19, 2015

 

The Phone Call

 

My cell phone rang this morning.

“Big deal”; after all, your cell rang this morning as well.

The screen indicated a ‘917’ area code which meant the person was from New York.

So what? Don’t we all get calls from ‘917’?

True, but this phone call was different from all others.

I was unable to answer so I allowed the call to go to voice mail.

Later, I listened to the message.

To my shock it was a message from one of the most well-known Rabbis in New York.

 I was filled with awe and pride; “Rabbi Famous” is calling little old me.”

I quickly called back; however, he did not answer and I left a message.

I began to indulge in some self-pride as I wondered ‘how many people does “Rabbi Famous” call’?

Yet, after the initial swelling of my head, I suddenly thought, “Oy, if ““Rabbi Famous” is calling me it must be that some horrendous scandal has occurred and he wants me to be involved!”

I could see the sleepless nights heading my way… the endless phone calls… the attempts at mediations…. The posturing and the threats…. And worst of all, the time and the anxiety and the mental anguish which takes months to recover from….

“Woe is me!” I thought!” Why does “Rabbi Famous” have to call me?”

Suddenly, the phone rang.

It was “Rabbi Famous”!

 My heart was racing and my hands were clammy and cold.

I was sure that “Rabbi Famous” would hear the thumping sound of my heart.

Finally, I answered.

 “Shalom, Is this Yitzchok Eisenman?”

“Yes, it is.”

I braced myself for his next sentence.

I forced down the panic attack which was festering within me and I repressed my anxiety.

 I focused my mind back to a time when a call was a pleasant experience and was never the harbinger of angst.

Finally, “Rabbi Famous” continued.

“Are you the same Ron Yitzchok Eisenman who writes for Mishpacha magazine?”

“Uh, yes, it is”, I said haltingly.

Was he going to berate me for something I wrote?

Perhaps it was the article about the Mets and Gil Hodges.

 I’ll bet he was upset about that one; after all, which rabbi writes about baseball!!

“I just had to call you to tell you how much I enjoyed your article about the Mets and especially how you and your brother were so awed when you saw Gil Hodges and you screamed “Let’s Go Mets!”.

 You really captured the scene and brought me back to an idyllic part of my life.

I can still remember my father taking me to Idlewild Airport (now JFK) to see the Brooklyn Dodgers arrive from out of town; when I saw Gil Hodges I was in seventh heaven!

Whoever did not grow up in Brooklyn cannot possibly appreciate how much baseball meant to us!

I just had to call you to thank you for the moving and meaningful trip down memory lane and for the Simcha and the smile you brought me.”

I hesitated and said, “Thank you”.

 I then paused and waited to hear the ‘real’ reason for the call.

Instead, “Rabbi Famous” says, “Anyway, I just wanted to thank you. Keep up the good work and be well.”

“Wait” I almost shouted. “Are you telling me that the only reason you called me was ‘just’ to say ‘thank you’ for the article?”

“Yes, that’s all I called for. I imagine you are busy and I have to get back to my Shiurim so be well and Kol Tuv.

I was still shaking as I put the phone down; however, now it was no longer from anxiety; rather, it was from the realization of just how much, a simple, sincere and heartfelt ‘thank you’ can change your entire day.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Happy Rosh Chodesh Kislev to all!” (11/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 1st Day of Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5776 and November 13, 2015

 

Rosh Chodesh Humor

 

I was taking a walk to the park recently and I decided not to take my cell phone with me.

What follows (in comic form) is what transpired.

Happy Rosh Chodesh Kislev to all!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “Trust “ (11/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 30th of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 12, 2015

 

Trust

 

There is probably no greater human requirement for the successful functioning of society than trust.

Without a sense of trust, society will dissolve and disappear.

The entire purpose of terrorism is to instill fear and a lack of trust in one’s surroundings which will impede and in some cases totally paralyze society.

The media was filled with stories of how after the horrific and murderous attack in Geulah last month in which 60-year-old Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky HY”D was killed, the normally bustling streets of Geulah were bereft of pedestrians as people no longer had a sense of ‘trust’ to go and walk the streets.

There are theories which maintain that the origin of the handshake was a sign indicating to the other person that he/she could trust you.

When you offered your open and weaponless right hand to the other person and allowed them to ascertain that you were not ‘armed’, this act allowed both parties to interact with a sense of trust.

I have found after over thirty years in the classroom that the one absolute necessity for a successful classroom experience is that both the students and the teacher have a sense of trust in each other and are not wary of any unexpected disturbances or outbursts.

Children at home must feel safe and secure; they need to have a solid feeling of trust in their parents and in their home environment in order for them to flourish and grow.

And of course we need to trust those people with whom we share our feelings and our emotions; our dreams and our conflicts.

We expect and indeed we desperately need to trust those individuals with whom we share our innermost thoughts, be they rabbis or teachers, therapists or friends; for it is precisely with these people that we allow our guard to go down and make ourselves vulnerable.

When the ‘trust’ we had with someone with whom we shared has been proven to be misplaced we rightly feel betrayed and deceived and in turn we are that much less likely to trust another person ever again.

Often, (indeed, one incident occurred this week) I am informed about ‘supposedly’ trusted people who violated that trust and even utilized that trust to harm and hurt the person who trusted in them very much.

To be hurt by anyone is painful; however, to be hurt by someone in whom we trusted and to whom we exposed ourselves is devastating.

I feel a deep sense of hurt and pain when I am told about ‘trusted’ individuals who turned out to be manipulative and highly dangerous people.

These incidents pain me greatly as these people not only deceived and scarred their victims by utilizing the very trust these people had in them to ultimately hurt them; these twisted evildoers erode the ‘trust’ we all previously had in our entire community; and that is unforgivable.

I feel for those who suffered and continue to suffer because they mistakenly placed their trust in someone who was totally untrustworthy and hurt them and I hope that the day will come when such incidents will no longer continue to plague us.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Our Brother Yishmael?” (11/8/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 26th of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 8, 2015

 

“Our Brother Yishmael?”

 

Part One

Yishmael Does Teshuva!

After our father Avrohom dies, the Torah informs us that he was buried in the Tomb of the Patriarchs (M’aaras HaMachpeila).

The Torah also includes a list- just two people long- of the participants in the burial of Avrohom.

And his sons’ Yitzchok and Yishmael buried him into the Cave of Machpeila…” (Bereishis 25:9)

Rashi, our teacher and transmitter of the traditions (Mesorah) of our sages’ comments:  “From here [we may deduce] that Yishmael did Teshuva {repented} and let Yitzchok go before him, and that is the meaning of “a good old age” which is stated regarding Avrohom (above 15:15). - [B.B. 16b]”

This is truly amazing that Yishmael did Teshuva!

After all, consider all the other things the Torah tells us about Yishmael:

·       Yishmael, was the ‘wayward’ son of Avrohom about who it is written: “And he will be a wild donkey {Pereh Adom} of a man; his hand will be upon all,” (Bereishis 16:12)

·       Rashi comments on the words: his hand will be upon all: “[He will be] a bandit.

·       He was a person who our sages stated was involved in the three cardinal transgressions.

·       The Sages stated, based on the Passuk: “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, making merry.” (Ibid 21:9) that the words “M’tzacheik” (making merry) with regard to Yishmael refer to: “An expression of idolatry…. Another explanation: An expression of illicit sexual relations… Another explanation: An expression of murder…- [Rashi from Gen. Rabbah 53:11]

·       And he was a person who was thrown out of his father’s Avrohom’s house with his mother with only a loaf of bread and a water bottle for both of them!

 

Nevertheless, amazingly, it is this same Yishmael who does Teshuva!

The fact that he did do Teshuva is clearly stated by Rashi and our Sages; however, what is not clear is why did he do Teshuva?

Obviously, I know not for sure; however, I do have a rabbinic hunch which I would like to share with you.

 

Part Two

Pirkei D’ Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 30)

In the “Pirkei D ‘Rabbi Eliezer” (a 54 chapter midrashic compilation, attributed to the Tanna R. Eliezer ben Horkenos) the following fascinating incident is recorded:

“Three years after Yishmael was exiled from his father’s home, and he had married, Avrohom went out to visit his long lost son.

 When he arrived at the door, Yishmael’s wife informed Avrohom (who never identified himself to her) that her husband was not home.

 Avrohom asked for some water and bread to refresh himself from the journey.

She claimed, “There is no bread and no water (for you)”.

Avrohom asked her to convey to her husband upon his return that an old man from the Land of Canaan came to visit and is not happy with the way his house is run.”

 She complied and informed her husband of the incident.

The Medrash relates that after Yishmael (who realized the visitor was none other than his father) heard the critique of his home from the ‘visitor’, he promptly divorced his wife and married a new woman by the name of Fatima.

Three years later Avrohom again reached out to his son Yishmael.

He approached the door and once again Yishmael was not at home; Avrohom asked for bread and water.

 Fatima gladly obliged and provided the wayfarer with bread and water.

Avrohom then davened to Hashem and Yishmael’s home was blessed with “all good things”. When Yishmael returned home, his wife informed him of the ‘visitor’ and the subsequent brocha to their home.

At this point Yishmael- (who knew that the ‘visitor’ was his father Avrohom) realized that his father still loved him!

He knew that his father still cared and had compassion and love for him.

As the Passuk says: “As a father has mercy on sons…” (Tehillim 103:13).

 

Part Three

My Hunch

My hunch tells me that this Medrash is the cause of the eventual reconciliation of Yishmael with his father Avrohom and his brother Yitzchok and his eventual doing Teshuva.

I believe that this is the source for Rashi and the Sages when they stated that Yitzchok repented.

Avrohom knew that there was a time when he had to practice ‘tough love’ with Yishmael when he sent him away; after all, Hashem Himself orders him (after Sorah commands her husband to banish Yishmael and his mother Hagar): “Whatever Sorah tells you to do, heed her voice…”  (Bereishis 21:12).

And indeed he himself sends them away.

Nevertheless, our Sages teach us that Avrohom never stopped loving his son and never stopped hoping for his return.

And even after being rebuffed by Yishmael’s first wife, Avrohom returns again and once again seeks out his lost son.

Avrohom never gave up on Yishmael; he delicately balanced his obligation to distance Yishmael from Yitzchok while simultaneously never abandoning his love and concern for his wayward son.

 He also never stopped seeking a way to show his son Yishmael how much he still loved him.

And when he finally had the chance to validate Yishmael and his household, he did so with gusto and enthusiasm.

 Yishmael responded to his father’s expression of love and recognized the fact that his father still loved him.

It was that knowledge that his father still cared for him and still loved him which ultimately prevailed and motivated Yishmael to repent and reconcile with his father and brother.

Indeed, he repented so intensely that when he passes on, the Torah informs us: “And these are the years of the life of Yishmael: one hundred years and thirty years and seven years; and he expired and died and was gathered to his people.” (Ibid. 25:17)

Rashi comments on the word: “and he expired”: “[The term] ‘expired’ (Hebrew ‘Givia’) is mentioned only regarding the righteous. — [B.B. 16b]”.

Meaning, Yishmael at his passing merited the coveted term ‘Givia’ being applied to him; a term reserved exclusively to the righteous!

All of this was achieved by the fact that Avrohom refused to give up on his son Yishmael.

 Whatever he was and wherever he was, Avrohom continued to reach out to Yishmael.

Avrohom was never totally and completely accepting of Yishmael’s lifestyle; indeed, when he saw that even basic civility was not present in his son’s house, he critiqued him for it.

However, when he saw on the next visit that basic human compassion and civility were present he prayed for his son and through those heartfelt prayers, Yishmael’s home was filled with abundant good things.

When Yishmael saw and felt his father’s love and when he recognized his father’s compassion and care, he was moved and motivated to return and reconcile with Avrohom and Yitzchok to the point that he is counted at the time of his death among the Tzaddikim (righteous).

 

Part Four

The Upshot for Us!

All of us have someone in our lives in which our relationship with them is strained and tense.

Sometimes they are even our own children.

Obviously each case is unique and special; however, always remember the ways of Avrohom Avinu! Remember how our father Avrohom, notwithstanding his son’s major spiritual deficiencies, never, gave up on Yishmael.

Avrohom always continued (even years later) to reach out to him and attempted to find even the smallest way to validate him and constantly attempted to find common ground with his son and most importantly to show his love and concern for him.

We may not always end up living ‘happily ever after’; however, progress can be made and small steps can lead to giant leaps if love is shown and felt.

As long as we keep the lines of communication open and as long as we continue to show our love and our concern for all of our loved ones; including and perhaps especially to those whose life choices are disappointing to us- there is always the chance for reconciliation.

Without that show of concern and without the outward of expression of love, hope is lost; and when hope is lost then everything is lost.

Reach out to that someone today; show them you still love them.

You never know, miracles do occur.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Good Old Times “ (11/8/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 26th of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 8, 2015

 

Good Old Times

 

On this past Shabbos, Parshas Chayei Sorah, former Israeli President Yitzchak Navon passed away at the age of 94.

Mr. Navon who was born in Yerushalayim in 1921 was the first Israeli born President of the State and he served in many distinguished positions during his long life of service in the political and public sector of the State of Israel.

For Orthodox Jews, Mr. Navon held a special position.

He was the last surviving person who was present on Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan 5713 (October 20, 1952) at the famous and historically important meeting between the then Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. David Ben Gurion (16 October 1886, – 1 December 1973), and the great Torah luminary ‘The Chazon Ish Zt”l’ (HaRav Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz, 7 November 1878 – 24 October 1953).

There has been much written about the ‘historic’ meeting between the secular leader of the Jewish people in the land of Israel and the Gadol HaDor (Great man of the generation).

I am not going to restate all that has been written on the subject; for those interested, one post which is particularly thorough is Torah Musings by Gil Student: http://www.torahmusings.com/2011/11/traditions-in-passing/

Mr. Navon’s personnel reminiscences of the meeting are certainly informative and indeed there are some surprises in his recollections.

For instance, he claims that notwithstanding the fact that both men were Eastern-European-born Jews and their mother tongue was Yiddish, Mr. Navon claims that the entire conversation took place in Hebrew and only Hebrew.

He further claims that although the focus of the conversation: Orthodox Jews and their involvement in the army, was never resolved; nevertheless, the conversation was friendly, civil and ended with a warm handshake and warm feelings between the two men.

For an English version of the discussion see: http://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2012/08/yitzchak-navon-relates-more-of-famous.html

What interests me the most, and perhaps to be more precise, what now pains me the most, is not the details of the meeting or even who ‘bested’ who.

Rather, what pains me is the fact that I often wonder to myself, “Can such a meeting ever take place today?”

There was a wide gap between Ben Gurion and the Chazon Ish.

 Ben Gurion, besides not being an observant Jew had at times even defined himself as being atheistic.

“By his own admission Ben-Gurion was irreligious, even atheistic as a youth. Even in his later years he demonstrated no great sympathy for the elements of traditional Judaism” http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/biography-david-ben-gurion/5810.aspx)

The Chazon Ish must have obviously been aware of his guest’s religious views; nevertheless, he received him cordially, warmly and respectfully in his house. He treated him as guest without expressing his personal feelings of disapproval over Mr. Ben Gurion’s own life style.

Of course the Chazon Ish did not fawn over the Prime Minister; nevertheless, he was certainly personally cordial and welcoming.

Similarly, Mr. Ben Gurion had to be aware of the fact that the Chazon Ish did not subscribe at all to his own ideology and was certainly not a supporter of Mr. Ben Gurion’s aspirations for the Jewish people. Nevertheless, Mr. Ben Gurion went out of his way to make the appointment to see the Chazon Ish, made the trip to his modest home, donned a fedora and by all accounts showed only respect and admiration for the Chazon Ish.

Were there differences resolved? No.

Did they still both feel passionately about their respective positions? For sure

Yet, notwithstanding their differences, they talked and they communicated with each other face to face.

Then why am I pained?

The reason is simple.

I am pained for there once was a time when a Ben Gurion understood that he must reach out to the Chazon Ish and he cannot responsibly be the representative of the Jewish people without having communication with the recognized Torah leader of the generation; even if that means that he, the Prime Minister goes to him.

And there was a time when a Chazon Ish had an open door and a welcoming smile for a fellow Jew; notwithstanding the fact that the Jew was even atheistic.

It was a time when an atheistic Jew still understood that The Chazon Ish was a person he should go to and it was a time when a Chazon Ish could show respect and warmth for another Jew, even if that Jew was an atheist.

And it is for those days I pine.

I wonder, ‘do the present day secular/atheistic heirs of Ben Gurion still recognize the need to meet the Chazon Ishs’ of their time?’

And even if they would recognize the need, ‘are our doors still open?’

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “The First Prayer” (11/6/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 24th of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 6th 2015

 

The First Prayer

 

Ever wonder who is the first person in the entire Torah to ask for something from Hashem?

The answer is in this week’s Parsha when the servant of Avrohom (the name Eliezer never appears even once in the entire Parsha) beseeches Hashem to help him find a proper wife for Yitzchok.

The nameless servant of Avrohom calls out to Hashem, “And he said, "O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please cause to happen to me today, and perform loving kindness with my master, Abraham.” (24:12)

His prayer is answered as Rivkah is chosen as the soul-mate of Yitzchok.

Why is the first Tefillah in which a person asks of Hashem a personal request uttered by a ‘no-name’ servant?

Shouldn’t the first true personal request of Hashem have come from one of the Patriarchs and not from a lowly servant whose lineage disqualified him from becoming part of Avrohom’s family?

Why is this anonymous, unidentified and nameless minion the one chosen to offer the first inaugural prayer to the King of Kings?

The answer is: ‘that is precisely the point!’

Meaning, too often in life we think that we must go to this Tzaddik or that Holy Person to have our prayers answered.

Too often we are led to believe that if we don’t take part in an international event headed by world class Tzaddikim we have no chance of having our Tefillos answered.

I do not mean in any way to negate the power of a Tzaddik or underestimate the power of prayer of the many; no, that is not my agenda at all.

What I am saying is that one should never underestimate the power of one’s own prayers!

We should never forget that the first prayer offered was the Tefillah of the nameless and anonymous servant of Avrohom who offered a private and sincere prayer from his heart to Hashem.

And we should never forget that it was this Tefillah which was accepted and changed the course of history!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “ A Sad Day for the Jews “ (11/4/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 22nd of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 4, 2015

 

 A Sad Day for the Jews

 

Today in 1928, Arnold Rothstein a notorious New York Jewish mobster was gunned down at the Park Central Hotel at 7th Ave. near 55th in Manhattan.

Arnold was the son of an honest Jewish businessman named Abraham Rothstein who davened at the Orthodox Shul, “The Jewish Center” and was known as “Abe the Just”.

Abraham Rothstein was a prominent member of the Shul and contributed generously to charitable causes.

His other son would become a rabbi; however, his youngest son Arnold became an infamous gangster involved in all of the Torah and secular prohibitions during the era of Prohibition in the United States.

He was not a moral individual and undoubtedly caused much pain and hardship to many people.

When he was gunned down on November 4, 1928, his father asked Rav Leo Jung, the noted Rav of the Jewish Center to officiate at his son’s Levaya.

Rabbi Jung acquiesced to the request and delivered a eulogy.

Years later, Rabbi Jung was taken to task for eulogizing a mobster at the funeral service.

 Rabbi Jung defended his actions by stating that he “spoke briefly about….the father’s abysmal pain; (and) about G-d being the only one who can judge adequately, especially a dead man…”

Rabbi Jung did his best to show proper compassion to the mobster’s parents while simultaneously avoiding condoning the misdeeds of the deceased.

 

There was a time though, years ago, when such carefully choreographed eulogies were not possible.

In the early years of the heated and passionate and often ugly wars between those who were attempting to usurp Judaism with a non-Torah outlook versus those who were holding strong to tradition, a story (which is probably apocryphal) is told.

It relates to our above mentioned topic; namely what a rabbi does when he is forced to eulogize a person who is ‘not-euligizable’ because of his misdeeds.

 

The Story

(Please keep in mind that at the time there was no sense of ‘live and let live’. Both sides believed they were locked in a battle for the future of the Jewish people)

 

The local rabbi was forced to officiate at the service of one of the early ‘Maskilim’.

The deceased was a man who had dedicated his life to leading others away from the path of Jewish observance.

The rabbi was hesitant to eulogize and was at a loss as to what to say.

Finally he looked up at the assembled and announced, “This is really the first funeral I have to officiate for a member of the “Maskilim”, the group who attempt to lead others away from the path to which I have dedicated my life to lead people on.

Everything they stand for I am against; and everything which I advocate for they protest and push for just the opposite.

They have informed on me to the authorities as being a ‘subversive’ and have made my life and others almost intolerable.

They claim everything I stand for is wrong and they do not believe in ‘live and let live’; rather, they proactively promote their agenda with a vengeance and with hatred.

What can I say therefore at this man’s funeral?

With what words can I speak to G-d?

I really have no words to properly eulogize the deceased.

Therefore, I pray to Hashem that there should be many more funerals of people of his ilk and then I will have more practice in being able to properly eulogize these individuals.”

And with that, the rabbi sat down.

 

 “If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Balfour Declaration” (11/2/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday 20th of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 2, 2015

 

Balfour Declaration

 

Today in 1917, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter to Baron Rothschild.

The contents of the letter stated:

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The letter was facilitated by Dr. Chaim Weizmann who pressured Balfour to write the letter.

During the first meeting between Chaim Weizmann and Balfour in 1906, Balfour asked what Weizmann’s objections were to the idea of a Jewish homeland in Uganda rather than in Palestine.

 According to Weizmann’s memoir, the conversation went as follows:

"Mr. Balfour, supposing I was to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?" He sat up, looked at me, and answered: "But Dr. Weizmann, we have London." "That is true," I said, "but we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh." He ... said two things which I remember vividly. The first was: "Are there many Jews who think like you?" I answered: "I believe I speak the mind of millions of Jews whom you will never see and who cannot speak for themselves."

(Wikipedia)

The letter was hailed by many Jews as a milestone in the battle for international recognition of their rights to Eretz Yisroel.

The American Jewish Zionist Newspaper, the Maccabaean termed the Balfour Declaration, ‘The Jewish Magna Carta,’ The American Jewish Chronicle, “A Turning Point in Jewish History,” The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, the “The End of the Galut.” A popular Yiddish daily, Dos Yiddishe Folk, stated, “for the first time in two thousand years we again enter into the arena of world history as a nation which deserves a national home.” The religious Zionist movement, Mizrahi, issued a statement that “It seems that Holy Providence which guided Israel in its long night of exile is about to reward the Jewish people for all their suffering and tribulations.”

http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-balfour-declaration-and-the-reaction-of-rav-kook/2014/10/27/

Rav Kook Zt”l, who was in London at the time of the declaration, remarked

“I have not come here to thank the British nation, but even more, to congratulate it for the privilege of making this declaration. The Jewish nation is the ‘scholar’ among the nations, the ‘people of the book,’ a nation of prophets; and it is a great honor for any nation to aid it. I bless the British nation for having extended such honorable aid to the people of the Torah, so that they may return to their land and renew their homeland.” (ibid)

It is now almost 100 years since the declaration has been issued.

Indeed, as the declaration stated: “Palestine (has become) a national home for the Jewish people”.

However, we are still not considered “the ‘scholar’ among the nations” as Rav Kook hoped for and certainly The Canadian Jewish Chronicle’s headline that the declaration represented, “The End of the Galut” is at best highly questionable.

However, that being said, are things better for the Jewish people as a whole in the Land of Israel than they were in 1917?  

I think most of us would unhesitatingly reply that, ‘most certainly; they are much better now’.

And for that we say, “Thank you Hashem”.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Old Man in the Back “ (10/29/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 16th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 29, 2015

 

The Old Man in the Back

 

I am privileged to have had generations of my family learning in the Ponevez Yeshiva.

My father’s first cousins learned there in the 1950s and my own son learned there about 10 years ago.

Therefore, the yeshiva has always been close to my heart.

In 1977 when I was still a teenager I decided I too would spend some time in the Ponevez Yeshiva.

I arrived in the morning and found myself a seat towards the back of the huge Beis Medrash.

After a few minutes of learning, an elderly gentleman with a white beard sat next to me.

I figured he was a retired man who was making the most of his ‘free time’ by learning Torah.

Suddenly a group of young men surround the octogenarian and begin to scream at him!

I was horrified! I had never seen a group Torah scholars yelling at an old man!

What was even more shocking, the old man proceeded to yell back at them passionately and forcefully. Finally the group left and the old man and I quietly went back to our Gemara.

The peace and quiet did not last long; another group of young men approached and they too surrounded my elderly bench-mate and began to scream and yell at him. Once again, my ‘old friend’ yelled back!

By this time, things were getting too much for me and I was about to stand up and take matters into my own hands.

I was going to give these young men a piece of my mind and a lesson in respect for one’s elders.

Before I could react, the elderly man closed his Gemara and put it back on the shelf.

When he left the Beis Medrash I decided to see if perhaps his name was in the Gemara and perhaps my cousins knew who he was and I would drop by and see if he had ‘recovered’ from the verbal assaults he was forced to endure this morning.

As I opened the Gemara, I noticed it said, “Property of the Rosh Yeshiva, Maran Elazar Menachem Man Shach”.

Today is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Shach Zt”l.

Rav Shach is remembered for many, many things:

Just to name a few: His monumental commentary on the Rambam; his insightful and masterful Shiurim; his communal leadership and uncompromising stand on the primacy of Torah learning; his Chesed and his compassion.

For me however, I will never forget the time 38 years ago, when he was a ‘just another elderly Yid’ attempting to learn a Blatt Gemara in the Ponevez Beis Medrash.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “Who Want’s Redemption? “ (10/26/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 13th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 26, 2015

 

Who Want’s Redemption?

 

In Pirkei Avos (6:6) we learn: “All who say something and quote the author of the statement bring redemption to the world, as it is said: "And Esther said in the name of Mordecai".

So it’s time to bring some redemption to the world!

Last week’s Short Vort from the 9th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 22, 2015, entitled: “Those Were the Days My Friend” mentioned an incident with the New York Mets and the fire at the Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway in 1968-69.

Many of you have been asking me, “How were you able to piece together the story so completely?”

Therefore, allow me to fulfill the Mishnah’s dictum of: “Saying over something in the name of its source, brings redemption to the world!”

Much of the information was gathered from R’ Yeruchim Silber (Rav Meilach’s son) who I personally spoke to about the incident.

 I also greatly benefited from an article in written by Aaron Katz from Tel Aviv.

I want to thank both R’ Yeruchim and Aaron Katz for filling in the details of the story

(http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/190046/did-a-seder-plate-propel-the-mets-to-the-1969-world-series)

 

We need all of the Redemption we can get!!!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““You Have a Home?” “ (10/25/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 12th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 25th 2015

 

“You Have a Home?”

 

Many different occupations have their ‘busy season’.

 I know that from March until April 15th I should not bother the accountants in the Shul as they are ‘over their heads’ in numbers and figures.

Those Mispallelim who are employees of B & H are typically extremely rushed during the secular ‘holiday season’.

And of course the Mechanchim and especially those involved in the Hanhala of our Yeshivasare even more burdened than usual during the first few weeks of the school year.

Men who sell Esrogim are inapproachable from before Tisha Bav until after first days of Succos; and those who sell Hoshanos cannot be bothered until after Hoshanah Rabbah.

The fellow who runs a cleaning service cannot be reached on the phone for anything outside of business from a month before Pesach until Erev Yom Tov and the mispallel who works in one of the local Jewish bands can hardly make it to the last minyan for Shacharis during the entire month of June!

What about the Rabbi?

When exactly is ‘busy season’ for the rabbinate?

From the beginning of Selichos and until the last Kaddish ending Simchas Torah can be defined as ‘busy season’ for the rabbi.

There are so many different demands on his time.

The writing of Droshos is particularly demanding.

The rabbi must attempt to make his Droshos timely; yet, firmly based in the Mesorah.

They should be creative tapestries of original thoughts coupled with time tested Torah ideas.

They must be witty and inspiring; entertaining and informative; serious while sensitive.

Yet, perhaps even more time consuming and certainly more challenging is attempting to be there for people and their struggles.

While many people have the ‘luxury’ to focus on their Tefillos and their Teshuva during the Yomim Noraim season, too many of us are struggling with problems of Parnosah, Shalom Bayis and child rearing

These issues do not take a break ‘for the holidays’, indeed, often the problems are compounded by them.

If I can give a single woman some Chizuk that next year she should be with her husband for Yom Tov and if I can give a couple a little nudge to make some changes for the better in their marriage, I try to do so.

Therefore, with preparing for Droshos and juggling appointments and phone calls, I end up spending more time than usual ‘at the office’ during my ‘busy season’.

When Simchas Torah finally ends I can indulge in a sigh of relief as with the help of Hashem we have merited another ‘busy season’.

This year, as Simchas Torah concluded, everyone began to leave Shul and head home. 

I too left Shul and headed home.

 I am tired and spent.

 I am looking forward to sitting down and taking my shoes off as soon as I get home.

The dancing was beautiful; however, right now the couch in my living room is very enticing.

A small boy spots me and I can see that his mother is nudging him to approach me.

His mother walks over to me with him and says, “Yanky wanted to ask you something. I told him ‘of course he should ask you’ and that the rabbi loves questions no matter where and when.”

Although I could have contested some aspects of her description of my total availability, I slowly nod my consent and wait for Yakov to ask me his question.

The little boy hesitantly comes close and in a halting voice asks me, “Rabbi, where are you going?”

“That’s a relief”, I say to myself; it’s certainly an easy enough question.

“Well Yakov, I am going home just like you are.”

Yakov looks up at me and with his eyes wide-opened asks, “What? You have a home? I thought you lived in the Shul!”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““Those Were the Days My Friend”” (10/22/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 9th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 22, 2015

 

“Those Were the Days My Friend”

 

As I glanced at the news this morning I could not help but notice the headline: “Miracle Mets Are Headed to The World Series!”

The New York Mets would be heading to the World Series for the first time since 2000.

Although it’s been years since I have followed baseball, as I looked at the headline my mind waxed nostalgic as I recalled the ‘original’ Miracle Mets of 1969.

Perhaps even more importantly, I remembered ‘me’ and who I was from that long ago time.

It was a grand time when the Mets won the World Series in 1969.

It was a time of excitement and of hope.

If the Mets could win the World Series could Mashiach be far behind?

The 1969 Mets were everything a Jewish child could want.

They had a Jewish player by the name of Art Shamsky who was the hero of every Jewish kid in Brooklyn!

Gil Hodges, the manager lived on Bedford Ave in Flatbush.

My brother and I would bike to his house and if we saw him on the porch or picking up the paper from his lawn we would shout, “Let’s Go Mets!”

He would smile and wave and life was great.

It was a time of racial turmoil in the city and it was a time when Jewish neighborhoods such as East Flatbush were in flux.

And when the Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway was badly burned in an arson attack and suffered $200,000 worth of damage, it was only natural that the Mets raised $500 for the rebuilding of the yeshiva.

Rav Meilech Silber who was Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva arrived at the Shea Stadium on May 28th to receive the check and presented Gil Hodges and Art Shamsky a Seder Plate as a show of gratitude.

By May 28th 1969, the Mets had played 41 games and they were 18–23.

Beginning with the game which was played immediately after Rav Silber received the $500 check from Gil Hodges, the Mets reeled off a club-record 11 straight wins.

Starting with that 42nd game, the Mets’ win/loss record was 82–39, an impressive .678 winning percentage!

Eventually of course, they would go on to win the World Series against the mighty Orioles of Baltimore.

My Rebbe at yeshiva taught us that Tzedokah can help bring about miracles.

What could be more of an affirmation of his teaching than the fact that hours after the Mets give Tzedokah they win 11 straight games!

Those were special, simpler times.

It was a time when a Jewish baseball player named Shamsky would not play on Rosh Hashanah and a Catholic man named Hodges from Bedford Ave could give $500 to help build a Yeshiva.

And it was a time when a red-headed pudgy little boy went to sleep at night feeling safe and secure.

His parents and brother were in the adjacent rooms and the Mets were winning.

What else could a boy want from life?

As I write these lines I realize that I am now whiter than I am red…

My parents are no longer in this world and life is certainly more complicated.

I wonder, ‘Can I ever recapture the pristine innocence of youth?’

I doubt it.

Those were the days….

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““Labeling” (10/20/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 7th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 20, 2015

 

“Labeling”

 

Did you ever hear of Rami bar Chama?

If you have learned Talmud Bavli you most probably have come across his name as he mentioned 233 times in Talmud Bavli.

Did you ever wonder when he died and why?

Well perhaps it’s time you did.

The Talmud in Massechta Brochus (47b) informs us of the following incident.

The Sages were very careful not to include a person who was deemed to be an Am HaAretz when they made a ‘Zimun’ for bentching.

The phrase Am HaAretz is difficult to translate precisely as it certainly does not mean an ignoramus as many assume it does.

In fact, one opinion in the Gemara (which is apparently accepted as halachically binding) states that even a person who has learned Chumash and Mishnah; however, he has not ‘served’ (V’lo Shimesh) the sages, meaning he has not apprenticed by them and did not receive practical rabbinic training, should be treated as an Am HaAretz!

The Gemara goes on to inform us that Rami bar Chama, based on the above ruling, refused to include the Amora Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa in his Zimun. (Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa only speaks three times in the entire Talmud Bavli and never in the Talmud Yerushalmi)

When Rami bar Chama died, the great Amora Rava (who is mentioned a whopping 5,699 times in Talmud Bavli and 91 times in Talmud Yerushalmi!), commented, that Rami bar Chama died because he refused to include Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa in is Zimun!

How could Rava say that?

After all, didn’t we learn that one who never ‘served’ the sages is deemed an Am HaAretz and is therefore disqualified from being part of a Zimun?

What did Rami bar Chama do wrong which was worthy of his being punished with premature death?

The Gemara answers that the ‘sin’ of Rami bar Chama was that he labeled Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa an Am HaAretz prematurely!

Meaning, Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa had indeed ‘served’ the sages and he was not an Am HaAretz. Unfortunately, Rami bar Chama did not vet Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa properly and ‘labeled’ him an Am HaAretz when he really was a bona fide Talmid Chochom!

Rami bar Chama was guilty of ‘labeling’ Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa without doing his homework and due diligence.

 For this sin of ‘labeling’ someone incorrectly, Rami bar Chama was (according to Rava) punished by Hashem with death.

How often do we also ‘label’ people without properly vetting them?

How often do we hear just one side of a story and feel ‘we know’ the truth of who is who?

How often do we ‘label’ and classify people and place them into convenient compartments without really doing our homework properly?

My guess is that this happens much too often.

Remember if someone as great and as talented as Rami bar Chama could unintentionally falsely judge Rav Menashia bar Tachlifa, how much more careful must we always be not to judge or classify anyone before we know the the‘whole story!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Eternal Rest “ (10/18/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 5th of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 18, 2015

 

Eternal Rest

 

As a rabbi, you get to be invited to many Simchos and you are privileged to see celebrations.

There is though a totally different face to the rabbinate, one that is not necessarily joyful.

It was a Sunday morning and I was reviewing today’s Daf Yomi.

The phone rang and on the line was a woman from a non-Jewish nursing home.

 “Hi, my name is Dolores McClonkin from the West Village Long-Term facility and Mrs. Tillie Blumenstein (names and places changed) has been living with us for over 7 years.

She just turned 97 and this morning I saw she was having trouble breathing.

 “I think I am going to be leaving this world today!” Tillie said.

I assured Tillie that she would get better; however, she was convinced that it was her ‘time’.

That afternoon she called me in and gave me her last instructions.

Rabbi, you may not believe this, however, Tillie wants to be cremated. I am not Jewish; however, I know that Judaism doesn’t allow cremation. Rabbi, can you please come here fast and attempt to ‘knock some sense’ into Tillie!”

I quickly took the address from the woman and headed out into the morning air.

I asked for Dolores McClonkin and soon a Roman Catholic woman was thanking me profusely for coming out to convince Tillie Blumenstein not to be cremated.

 She urged me toward Tillie’s room as time was of the essence.

I arrived at Tillie’s room and was soon face to face with a 101 pound warrior.

As soon as she saw me she stated, “Oy vey ist mir! Ribono Shel Olam that’s who You send me now, a rabbi! Can’t I just go in peace?”

“Hello Tillie, I understand you are preparing for your final journey.”

“Yes, rabbi, that is true.”

“I understand you are considering cremation?”

“Rabbi, I know ‘we’ don’t do such things; however, both of my children live on the West Coast. Neither of them have Jewish children and neither of them will ever visit my grave or say a Kell Moleh for me. So you tell me rabbi, why should I be buried if not a soul will ever visit my kever? I’d rather be cremated and be done with now! Who needs to be alone for eternity?”

I looked at Tillie and thought about her 97 years in this world.

I realized by her questions that she really reaching out to me with a very real and sincere request.

I asked, “If I promise to officiate at your funeral and I promise to say a Kell Moleh for you, and if I agree to go to your kever once a year, will you agree to be buried properly?”

Tillie thought about it for a moment and then said, “Yes, I will. I remember my own grandmother and how as would cry for my Zaide- she made me promise to follow in his footsteps and be a good Yiddish Tochter. I haven’t kept my promise in most things; however, this is one thing I can do. Yes, I agree. I just have one condition; and that is you must bury me on the same day I die. If I am already having a Jewish burial, I want it to be done immediately.”

Of course I quickly agreed.

The next day, Monday at noon, I received a call that Tillie had left this world.

Later that same day, in a small Jewish cemetery Tillie Blumenstein was laid to rest in a proper Jewish fashion.

As per her wish, we rushed the burial to have it the same day.

There were only two people present to escort Tillie to her final rest: myself and Dolores McClonkin.

“And no person knows the place of his burial, unto this day.” (Devarim 34:6)

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - ““A time to weep and a time to laugh…” (Koheles 3:4) (10/16/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 3rd of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 16, 2015

 

“A time to weep and a time to laugh…” (Koheles 3:4)

It’s time for: “A Little Erev Shabbos Humor…”

 

 Many often there are ‘mistakes’ in the Short Vort.

Sometimes they are spelling mistakes…for instance: ‘break’ may be spelled ‘brake’; and ‘buying’ could be confused with ‘being’….

Sometimes the mistake could be a ‘typo… perhaps a word was ‘accidentally’ deleted or a word was printed twice.

Many of you find the mistakes and politely point them out to me.

One reader in particular often gets very ‘bent out of shape’ and chides me, “Why don’t you read it over before you send it out?”

Truth be told, I DO in fact re-read them; indeed, more than once.

Also, there is an independent reader/editor who reads them before they ‘hit the server’; nevertheless, mistakes will be made.

As Dovid says in Tehillim, “Who understands errors?”

 Obviously, only Hashem is perfect and He understands our limitations.

Therefore, please never assume that you can do better or that I am being careless or lazy (which may also be true)…

Please give me the benefit of the doubt that mistakes occur even by the best of us and certainly by me!

Here is a humorous sampling of real life mistakes in printing made by the masters themselves!

Most typos are of little consequence - adding or removing pluralization, causing non-agreement in tenses, or the like.

Other errors are more significant.

 Perhaps the most renowned printing error in history came in the year 1631 when Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the royal printers in London, were tasked with printing a new issue of the King James Bible.

 Their mistake was the simple omission of the word "not" in a single sentence, and it was to be a grave mistake indeed.

 The missing word was smack-dab in the middle of the seventh commandment, causing their edition to read: “Thou shalt commit adultery”.

That edition of the bible was thereafter known as The Wicked Bible, or sometimes Adulterous Bible or Sinners’ Bible. 

 

Another doozy of a gaffe which had long-term consequences (at least for the publisher): in April 2010, it came to light that Penguin Australia, who put out a cookbook called The Pasta Bible had made the decision to pulp 7,000 copies after it went to print with an error in a recipe for tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto - it called for "salt and freshly ground black people".

They meant black pepper.

Oh dear.

http://www.abebooks.com/books/typographical-error-mistake-publish-valuable/typos-literature.shtml?cm_mmc=nl-_-nl-_-CPftb11-h00-MVerorAM-_-viewol&abersp=1

So the next time you are about to get ‘bent out of shape’ because of a spelling or typo in the Short Vort…

 Remember, at least I did not advocate for immorality or encourage racism!

 

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Paranoid Ponderings of Life Under Terror “ (10/14/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday first day of MarCheshvan 5776 and October 14, 2015

 

A Personal Note

 

Early this morning my wife woke me as I was screaming in my sleep.

I was having a horrific nightmare.

 I dreamt I was in a hotel in Yerushalayim and suddenly an Arab worker of the hotel began to stab me.

 I was frightened and terrified and began to scream, “Help, help!”

And then my wife woke me and thankfully I was safe and sound in my bed.

That was my scare for today.

What about those members of our families who live in Israel?

How are they coping with the ‘nightmare’?

Today I present a guest post.

My daughter in law, Nechama Eisenman is a very gifted and powerful writer and she lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with my son Tuvia and their two daughters.

I asked her to contribute a guest post for the Short Vort depicting life in Israel now.

I thank her for her writing and for her devotion to my son Tuvia, and for giving me two of the cutest granddaughters anyone could daven for!

Thank you Nechama and may we share in more Simchos!

 

Paranoid Ponderings of Life Under Terror

 

By Nechama Eisenman

 

As I slice into the butternut squash I am preparing for dinner, and I feel the knife’s serrated edge meet the soft flesh within, my mind goes to a place where, I promise you- it is not all that accustomed to going.

Over the past few days, my life has taken on a surreal dimension, as I find my once cheerful world darkened by the ugly shadow of Islamic terrorism.

This morning, as my daughter left for preschool with her princess knapsack and perfectly placed bow, I knelt down and hugged her so tight I made it hard for breathing.

I felt the curve of her back beneath my arms and traced her pudgy cheek with my fingers. “What if some crazed terrorist decides to shoot up her gan?” Will this be the last time I lay eyes on my precious firstborn”?

My heart silently screams.

I hurriedly get dressed for work. I sling my bag over my shoulder and carefully palm the pepper spray encased in the inner pocket. I carry my baby girl to her daycare down the block, and am met by a locked gate.

After numerous trills of the bell, the teacher turns the key in the wrought iron fence and apologetically explains “Ani mefachedet mai’aravim”. (“I am scared of Arabs”)

 “No explanation needed, Morah Leah. “, I think inwardly.

I have a hard time letting go of the soft weight in my hands and by the time I am done kissing my precious baby and reluctantly hand her to her teacher my eyes are wet.

As I walk down the street to catch my ride to work, I am suddenly aware that I have been mindlessly scrolling through my phone. Remembering the admonition to remain fully alert at all times, I put away my phone and focus, instead, on what my initial reaction might be if I were shot at.

Would I crouch down?

Would I fall to the ground and play dead?

Work.

I try to focus, I really do.

But with the constant news updates that produce nothing but carnage and blood- footage not meant to be watched or experienced and certainly not committed- I am paralyzed with fear.

 Spreadsheets pale in comparison to the horror movie I find myself suddenly transplanted into.

 I feel bile rise up in my throat as I hear the cries of my colleague, whose daughter lives in Geula and is not answering the phone.

A madman rammed his car into pedestrians on Malchei Yisrael St. and then proceeded to stab surrounding passerby. 2 terrorists hijacked a bus with a gun and a knife and no regard for human life.

Hashem! Please, no more.

I realize that I have been staring at a blank email, with only the greeting written, for about ten minutes. I minimize it and glance over at my officemate. He is utilizing his lunch break to search for guns online- which weapon will best protect him in an attack?

He debates between the magazine which holds 14 bullets and the one which holds 10.

Terrible visions flash through my mind.

 I shudder and cry for my People, pleading with my psyche, willing my mind to come back to reality.

 But this is reality. Where do you go when there is nowhere to escape to?

I return to my desk to see a trend of internet posts, urging us not to submit to fear, to not let the terrorists win.

But guess what?

 I feel fear.

I’m scared out of my mind.

 I’m scared OF my mind.

 I feel tremendous guilt every time I snap at my husband because what if I won’t get the chance to say “I’m sorry?”

I’ll happily read my kid Dr. Seuss’s “What Pet Should I Get?” a hundred times because what if “tomorrow” never comes?

I see a lot of articles, some even written by me, exhorting the necessity to keep on celebrating life, despite, or perhaps because of, our devastating reality.

But this is not one of those articles.

This is me, letting it all hang out.

This is letting my thoughts and fears scream from the page.

 Because life isn’t always pretty.

It isn’t always wrapped up neatly and tied with a bow.

 And for the shattered families of the wounded and murdered, there is no happy ending.

Please, G-d, give us our happy ending.

I long for the day when a butternut squash is *just* a butternut squash.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “Feeling their Pain” (10/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 29th of Tishrei 5776 and October 12, 2015

 

Feeling their Pain

 

I cannot imagine there is person reading this Short Vort who is not deeply saddened and pained by the news which emanates daily from Israel.

How can a human heart not be pained to the core when they hear of children being stabbed and parents being killed and soldiers and policemen being wounded?

Where and when is the end to their horror?

Winston Churchill insightfully commented after the British achieved their first major military success in World War Two atThe Second Battle of El Alamein (23 October – 11 November 1942), “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Unfortunately, for our brethren in Eretz Yisroel they cannot even say that they are seeing, “perhaps, the end of the beginning!”

The situation seems to worsen daily as we hear of more and more attacks on children, unarmed civilians and soldiers and police.

Our enemy has no fear and no reservations of killing and maiming whoever they can as long as the victim is a Jew.

We daven to Hashem and…, and…., and what?

What else do we do?

The reality is very little.

What more can we do?

I don’t know the answer to that question; however, one thing I can say and that is, we must at least attempt to feel their pain.

My son who lives in the Maaleh Zeitim neighborhood of Yerushalayim (see the Wikipedia article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma’ale_ha-Zeitim) reported to me some facts you will not see in the news.

Until tomorrow (Rosh Chodesh) evening, Israel, and especially Yerushalayim are in ‘Bein HaZemanim” mode.

For those of you, who are unaware of what that means, allow me to fill you in.

For the week or so after Succos until Rosh Chodesh the Yeshivas and the Kollelim are off and families can take advantage of the time to spend time together.

The Number Two Bus from the Kotel back to town is usually packed at this time of year as hundreds of people are taking advantage of the cooler weather and time off to be in the Old City closer to the Shechina.

As my son was walking home from the Old City to Maaleh Zeitim he was speaking to me on the phone, and as a ‘giant-stretch-accordion-bus’ exited the Old City from the bus-stop by the “Wall” my son announced, “There  are a total of eight people on the bus!”

As the next one pulled out a few minutes later he said, “And there were four people on that one!”

My son Meir informs me that usually on a cool Bein HaZemanim evening, the busses are crammed with frum Yidden all returning from davening to Hashem; and now there is not even a Minyan of passengers.

Meir tells me that the ‘food court’ areas at the top of the stairs which lead down to the Kotel plaza are vacant.

 Many of restaurants have their seats stacked on the tables as the proprietor doesn’t not even bother placing the chairs down on the ground as no one is coming to sit.

 Many of the eateries have closed up totally until the ‘matzav’ (situation) improves.

On a recent walk to the Churva Shul, Meir told me that he saw more policeman and soldiers than civilians!

I don’t know what more we can do than Daven.

I don’t know what the Israeli government can do to improve the situation.

What I do know is that our families in Eretz Yisroel are hurting and that means ‘we’ are hurting as well!

We have to attempt to feel their pain.

Perhaps we should put aside some of our favorite pastimes?

Perhaps learn a little more and watch a little less football?

Perhaps come to davening on time this week?

I don’t know what YOU should or could do; however, I do know that when your heart hurts your entire body hurts and right now the heart of the Jewish people is hurting.

Feel their pain….

Call them…

Reach out to them and tell them you care….

It’s painful to hear the news; it’s even more painful to live it.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “The Cold Chulent” (10/11/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 28th of Tishrei 5776 and October 11, 2015

 

The Cold Chulent

 

Yesterday, Yitzy Wellikoff celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in our Shul.

It was a beautiful Bar Mitzvah.

The Bar Mitzvah boy “lained” like a pro.

He and his little brother looked so grown up in their new suits.

His mother and father were beaming and enjoying every moment.

Both sets of his grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins were all present and cherishing every second of the family celebration.

In short, it was a picture perfect Bar Mitzvah.

Everyone who was supposed to arrive was there.

No one came down with a last minute sickness and the Bar Mitzvah boy himself was loud and clear as he proudly read from the Torah.

Everything that is important and that matters was perfect and memorable; exactly the way every parent hopes it will be.

We arrived at the Kiddush and there were delicious cakes and tasty salads.

There were drinks and cookies, all set up in good taste and elegantly.

One thing was different; one thing was not the way it usually is.

The Chulent was cold.

What?

How can this be?

The Chulent is cold?

Oh my, a tragedy, a calamity…..

Jews are being stabbed in Jerusalem; however, the news of the day is the ‘Chulent is cold’.

Who is culprit?

We must find him!

Is it the Chulent maker?

Or is it the kitchen manager?

Perhaps it is the server of the food or perhaps it is even G-d Himself who is to blame.

One thing is for sure… this crime must not go unpunished!

And then I took a deep breath and put things in their proper perspective.

As I looked around I realized that no one was being stabbed in Passaic for attempting to daven at the Shul of their choosing.

As I watched the crowd eagerly consuming 20 plus pounds of cake and cookies I could not help but notice that not one person seemed to be suffering from malnutrition.

As I observed mouthfuls of cold Chulent being devoured by cheerful congregants no one seemed to be complaining of food deprivation and not one person fainted from hunger.

Amazing!

 A miracle before my eyes…

The Chulent is cold and the world continues to exist….

Families did not break up and children did not go ‘off the Derech’.

The Ahavas Israel and the entire Jewish world somehow survived on cold Chulent.

An open and revealed miracle on Van Houten Ave!

I have a hunch; of course it is just a hunch… and I could be wrong.

Yet, my little hunch tells me that by the time 99.9% of the Bar Mitzvah celebrants were already five steps from the Shul they had totally forgot about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ and the ‘whose fault’ it is that the Chulent was cold.

They realized that in the large scheme of things, the world survives on cold Chulent and no one is any worse off for it.

A Jewish child has become a Bar Mitzvah.

A Jewish boy is now a Jewish man.

That is something the world is better off for having and that is something if we did not have, the Jewish world could not survive!

They realized that a Jewish boy becoming a Bar Mitzvah is what will be remembered for posterity and not the temperature of the Chulent!

Give me a Bar Mitzvah boy like Yitzy Wellikoff and I’ll eat cold Chulent every Shabbos off the year.

Mazel Tov to Yitzy and to his parents Michelle and Josh and thank you for allowing us to remember again just what is truly important in life.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Last Man “ (10/8/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 25th of Tishrei 5776 and October 8, 2015

 

The Last Man

 

It was the Motzei Yom Kippur.

 Hundreds of Mispallelim are outside the Shul reciting Kiddush Levanah.

Afterwards a large circle is formed and we begin to dance.

 Everyone is hungry, thirsty and tired; however, somehow there is strength left for one more dance; one more opportunity to sing our praises to Hashem.

The dance concludes and everyone wishes each other a “Gut Yuhr” and that with Hashem’s help we should be able to dance again next year.

I make my way back into the now empty cavernous Shul.

This is a special time for me.

Everyone else goes home to eat.

I too will go home; however, not just yet.

I head back into the now vacant sanctuary and I stand alone and listen.

The room is now silent; yet, just twenty minutes before there were hundreds of Jews united and unified as they proclaimed in one powerful and dedicated voice: “Hashem is the one and only G-d”.

I see Talleisim which will be folded and put away tomorrow.

 I spot more than one Kittel still moist and wet from the perspiration of a man who poured out his soul to Hashem the entire day.

I notice the Machzorim with bookmarks protruding which the children used.

Their Rebbeim and Moros had the children mark those special places in davening where the child should be able to follow along.

And I see the tissues… the wastebasket is overflowing from the tissues soaked with the tears of Hashem’s children.

The room is now totally silent.

I relish this time in the now empty sanctuary; it is a time when the walls are still reverberating from the day’s davening, yet simultaneously, the room is eerily quiet.

I am alone with my thoughts and with my contemplations.

 I indulge myself for one extra minute to dedicate one more Tefillah of thanks to Hashem for having allowed me to experience one more Yom Kippur.

Suddenly I hear a cry.

I am sure I am dreaming; perhaps a leftover sob from today’s Neilah is still resounding off the walls?

I then hear a whimper; it is real; I am not hallucinating, someone is here.

I am not alone.

I scan the tables and the seats and then I spot him; he is in the far end of the Shul, in the last row in the corner seat.

He is a newcomer; I have never seen him here before today.

He is crying.

“Are you alright? Do you have a place to break the fast?” I ask.

“Yes, thank you rabbi, I have plenty of food and I am fine”; he says through his tears.

“I don’t want to disturb you; however, Yom Kippur has ended; the Shofar has sounded, davening has concluded for today and now is the time to eat and to get some rest”, I tell him.

He looks at me and with a tear-stained face he cries out and says, “That is exactly why I am crying.”

“I don’t understand why is the fact that the Shofar has sounded and davening is completed a reason for you to cry?” I ask.

“Rabbi, I am thirty two years old; and today was the first ‘real’ Yom Kippur in my life. Today I fasted and prayed like a Jew the entire day. It was exhilarating and I felt Hashem as I never have before.”

“That is wonderful; today for the first time in your life you intensely and meaningfully communicated with Hashem. Why then are you crying?”

“I am crying because I had so much more to say… there was so much more I wanted to tell Him and then- suddenly- the Shofar sounded…and the day was over…I needed so much more time…”

And all along I thought I knew what Yom Kippur was all about.




“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “"It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over”” (10/7/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 24th of Tishrei 5776 and October 7, 2015

 

"It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over”

 

This past Yom Kippur, while we were all davening Kol Nidrei, one of the iconic figures of the American Pastime, Yogi Berra died quietly in his sleep at the age of ninety.

Yogi Berra was truly an American hero.

He came from immigrant Italian parents who arrived at Ellis Island in the early part of the twentieth century and eventually became a baseball legend.

He would become one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game.

He played on some of the legendary teams of the glory years of the New York Yankees; playing with all of the Yankee greats from the 40s and the 50s and 60s; Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.  

All told, his Yankees teams won the American League pennant 14 out of 17 years. He still holds Series records for games played, plate appearances, hits and doubles.

No other player has been a champion so often.

He was also a successful as a manager for both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets.

Perhaps even more inspirational is the fact that Yogi Berra was also a ‘mentsch.

He was a family man; at a time when so many celebrities get divorced and remarried as often as ‘regular people’ change clothing, Yogi Berra was married to the same woman for 65 years!

They were privileged to have three sons and they lived in Montclair, New Jersey for decades.

He was also a forgiving individual  as although he was insulted by George Steinbrenner by being fired after just 16 games in 1985 after being promised he would have the managerial job for the entire year, he accepted a ‘somewhat back-handed-semi-apology’ from Steinbrenner and returned to Yankee Stadium on July 18, 1999.

“Yogi Berra was also well known for his impromptu pithy comments, malapropisms, and often unintentional witticisms, known as "Yogi-isms".

Yogi-isms very often took the form of either an apparently obvious tautology or a paradoxical contradiction, but often with an underlying and powerful message that offered not just humor, but wisdom.” (Wikipedia)

Perhaps the most famous "Yogi-ism" was his “clairvoyant claim”: "It ain’t over till it’s over."

Yogi made this claim in July of 1973 when his New York Mets were floundering; however, by the end of the season they clinched the division title.

In short, there is much to learn from Yogi Berra:

·       His ability and his tenacity to become a self-made man; lifting himself from humble beginnings and becoming a successful baseball player

·       His commitment to his wife and family

·       His ability to ‘roll with the punches’ and to be able to smile when sportswriters constantly derided him for their inaccurate portrayal of him as a babbling fool.

·       His ability to forgive those who hurt him and to reconcile and move on in life

Perhaps though, his statement: "It ain’t over till it’s over" is the most important lesson for all of us.

Today, the day after Succos, we all went back to ‘real-life’

We went back to our offices and to our ‘regular’ schedules.

Succos has ‘ended’ and now it’s time to get on with life.

However, has Succos really ‘ended’?

Do we really want the spirituality and the feelings of family connection and of community to come to an end?

Is it really ‘all-over’?

I think with regard to how we view the departed Yom Tov, Yogi Berra was correct; “It ain’t over till it’s over!"

As long we hold on to the feelings of closeness to each other and to Hashem and as long as we keep the memories alive and put into practice all of the ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ we accepted upon ourselves, we can still say resolutely and truthfully, “It REALLY AIN’T OVER, CUZ IT’S STILL NOT OVER!”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “R’ Eitam Henkin Zt”l- HY”D” (10/2/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 19th of Tishrei 5776 and October 2, 2015

 

R’ Eitam Henkin Zt”l- HY”D

 

The headlines informed us of the cold blooded and calculated murder of R’ Eitam and Na’ama Henkin Zt”l who were killed as their four children sat in the back seat of the vehicle.

There are no words of consolation I can offer to the orphans.

We must at least attempt to appreciate what we had and what we lost and where we go from here.

The Henkin family of which Rav Eitam was a proud member (see his erudite Torah blog at: https://eitamhenkin.wordpress.com -thanks to R’ Micah Berger for the source) is well known in the Torah world.

R’ Eitam’s great-grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (1881–1973), was one of prominent ‘poskim’ in America (along with Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt”l), from the time of his arrival in America in 1922 until his death in 1973.

R’ Eitam’s father is Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin (born 1945- ), who is author of the responsa Benei Vanim, and an orthodox posek who lives in Yerushalayim.

The family has been serving Klal Yisroel as Rabbonim and Torah teachers for many, many years and the loss of R’ Eitam who continued the family tradition is certainly a blow to all Torah Jews.

When I was younger, many times I recall the name of Rav Henkin being quoted for halachik opinions, especially with regard to the laws of Eruvin.

I once asked one of my Rebbeim, “How was it that Rav Henkin who came from Klimavichy, Belarus, (then in the Russian Empire), a Shetyl with not more than a few thousand Jews was able to become a world authority on Eruvin especially dealing with New York City, one the biggest cities in the world?”

My Rebbe told me that Rav Henkin was once on his was to study at the Slutzker Yeshiva headed by Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer Zt”l; however, he was delayed in his journey because of lack of funds and he was forced to remain in a tiny Shetyl for almost a year.

During that year he slept in the local Shul and took meals wherever and whenever he could find them. The Shul did not even have a complete Shas, just a few Massechtas which were worn and the pages were ripped and tattered.

Except for Massechta Eruvin; because of the difficulty of the Massechta, Eruvin was almost in pristine form and there was never even any competition for it.

Rav Henkin decided to make the best of his difficult and disappointing sojourn in the tiny Shetyl and in the 12 month period he was there, he studied Massechta Eruvin 16 times until he knew it by heart with all the commentaries.

Only half a century later when he would find himself in what was then the largest Jewish community in the world, would he realize how critical and important it was that he was ‘stranded’ for those 12 months in the little Shul.

 What initially was seen as an ‘unfortunate event’ was eventually an extremely fortunate and positive part of his life.

I cannot tell you that in our lives we will be able to realize the ‘positive’ aspect of the chilling and horrific murder of R’ Eitam Henkin HY”D and his wife HY”D, however, I can tell you that somewhere and someway there is a plan and there is a planner.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Hardest Mitzvah of All. “ (9/27/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Erev Succos the 14th of Tishrei 5776 and September 27, 2015

 

The Hardest Mitzvah of All

 

Tonight begins the happiest time in the Jewish calendar.

 We are commanded to be in a state of Simcha for the next nine days.

Beginning tonight – with sundown – and continuing until the completion of Simchas Torah on Tuesday evening October 6th – we are charged with the challenge of “V’Samchte B’Chagecha” (And you shall be happy during the holiday).

When I was younger and a full time Yeshiva bochur, one of my teachers taught us that when they queried the Vilna Gaon as to what is the hardest mitzvah in the Torah he replied without hesitation: “The Mitzvah to remain in a constant state of Simcha for nine consecutive days and not allow one sad or depressing thought to penetrate ones’ emotional being is the hardest of all Mitzvahs.”

When I first heard this thought from the Vilna Gaon 40 years ago I honestly wondered, “What’s so hard about being happy for nine straight days? What’s not to be happy about?”

At the time, I lived a carefree existence.

 My parents were healthy.

 I had friends, and all of my needs were provided for by others.

I was free to study Torah and no one’s burdens were upon me.

This year I have a slightly different mindset.

As Succos is approaching in a matter of hours and I think about the fact that I have performed the Mitzvah of Nichum Aveilim (‘paid a Shiva call) to three different homes in the last 48 hours…

 In one of the homes there were eleven orphans while in the other two homes neither of the deceased individuals was privileged to have any children…

And I think about the reality that this will be the first Succos of my life when neither of my parents is alive and I realize that (especially) my mother will not be there, who for the last 16 years always came to my home for Succos…

And I think about all the families who have poured out their Tzorras and their pain to me…

Now the answer of the Vilna Gaon to the question of what is the hardest Mitzvah… no longer seems as difficult to comprehend as it once did….

I guess that’s why Koheles said, “And he who increases knowledge, increases pain.” (Koheles; 1:18)

Those years of blissful naiveté were truly blessed.

Wishing everyone a joyous Yom Tov…

 

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

 “If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

    

The Short Vort’ - “Ethereal” (9/25/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 12th of Tishrei 5776 and September 25, 2015

 

Ethereal*

* Adjective: heavenly or celestial

 

It is always difficult to ‘pay a Shiva call’ or more precisely to be ‘Menachem Aveilim’.

We all feel somewhat awkward and too often at a loss for words when we walk into the home of the mourner.

What should I say and what should I avoid saying?

No one wants to be trite and banal; however, it’s also not the time to be philosophical and certainly not emotionally invasive or intrusive.

Questions such as, “How did the deceased die?” or “How old were they?”

These queries are often not appreciated if not outright resented.

The potential for awkwardness is magnified when one enters the home of a woman who left behind her parents, her three sisters, eleven children and her husband.

The thought of entering a home with so many different people ‘sitting Shiva’ is painful.

These thoughts were going through my mind as I entered the Schik home today to attempt to offer my feelings of consolation on the loss of Mrs. Debby Schik A”H.

How would the family be coping with the loss of their dear beloved mother, daughter, sister and wife?

Would they appreciate my visit coming less than 24 hours after the funeral?

The answer was not long in coming.

As soon as I entered, the sons approached me ‘thanking me’ for the few words I penned in yesterday’s in “The Short Vort” after the Levaya.

Was this really happening?

Were they really thanking me?

Was I in the correct home?

I am coming to encourage them and I am attempting to console the family; however, in reality I am the one being encouraged and I am the one uplifted!

And this same scenario repeated itself at the ‘Shiva-chair’ of each and every family member.

Here is a family which has lost its heart and its soul; their beloved mother, who was the sustainer and nurturer for the entire family.

She has been taken from them in the prime of her life; nevertheless, the only concern of the family is to thank me.

In truth, everything I had written was simply an echo of the beautiful expressions of love which I heard from the children themselves; yet, nevertheless, they were the ones thanking me.

There is much more to say about a woman who once wrote a letter to her own daughter apologizing  for disciplining her while simultaneously assuring the daughter of her unconditional love for her.

 And let us never forget how this woman -while she hovered between life and death and the children came to wish her a Good Yom Tov before Rosh Hashanah- used her last reserve of strength to whisper to her husband that he should not forget to buy all the children ices before they leave the hospital.

Yes, there is much more to say… how she refused to share her condition with others so as not to pain them and how she struggled to make sure the house continued to function properly in spite of her own struggles and pain…

However, perhaps the greatest praise I can say about Mrs. Debby Schik is the thought which entered my mind as the children approached me to thank me for my written words…

 At that moment I thought of the words of Rav Chaim Schmulevitz Zt”L the great Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva.  

Rav Chaim once said, that the greatest tribute and fulfillment of Kibud Av V’Em that a child can give their parent occurs when those who interact with the children walk away from the encounter shaking their heads in disbelief as they proclaim, “These children must have had special parents to have turned out so fine and exemplary.”

Mrs. Debby Schik has what to be proud of; as I left the Shiva home I could not stop thinking, “She certainly was one special mother to be able to raise and nurture such singular and remarkable children.”

May the family be consoled among the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Appreciate what you have today; tomorrow may be too late. “ (9/24/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 11th of Tishrei 5776 and September 24, 2015

 

The Day After

 

Today, the day after Yom Kippur, I attended the levaya (funeral) of a young mother of eleven children.

The woman, who by all accounts was an exceptional mother and human being succumbed to her illness on Yom Kippur and was laid to rest today.

As I sat among the throngs who came to pay their last respects to a mother who was taken in the prime of life, there was one theme which the speakers mentioned which really hit home.

Child after child mentioned the fact that although she was the mother of eleven, each and every child felt that they were an only child.

She was careful to prepare food for each child the way they liked it and was careful to understand the needs and desires of each and every one of her children.

Each speaker emphasized the fact that her entire life was for her family and for their wellbeing.

Needless to say, the tears were flowing freely.

As I arrived home I did what most people probably did when they came home: I hugged my children and held them tight.

Appreciate what you have today; tomorrow may be too late.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Getting Closer” (9/21/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 8th of Tishrei 5776 and September 21, 2015

 

 


Getting Closer


 


 

One day Rav was giving Shiur.

Rav Chia arrived late and Rav went back to the beginning of the material.

Bar Kapara arrived late and again Rav went back to the beginning.

Then Rav Shimon the son of Rebbe came in late and again Rav went back to the beginning.

When Rav Chanina arrived late, Rav no longer went back to the beginning and Rav Chanina was insulted.

The Gemara informs us that Rav went 13 times on 13 different Erev Yom Kippurs to attempt to reconcile with Rav Chanina.

The Sefas Emes questions if Rav was obligated to do so.

He offers two possibilities.

According to his first ‘pshat’, Rav was not consistent in his behavior as he went back for the first three ‘latecomers’ and not for Rav Chanina and therefore he was obligated to appease Rav Chanina.

According to his second understanding, Rav was justified in not going back for Rav Chanina; nevertheless, Rav still felt that although he was not ‘obligated’ to ask forgiveness, he still attempted to appease Rav Chanina.

The Sefas Emes learns from this Gemara that if someone is hurt by you, even if you are not ‘obligated’ to ask forgiveness as their ‘hurt’ is not really justified; nevertheless, before Yom Kippur you should still attempt to clean the slate and achieve reconciliation with the hurt person.

Obviously, we cannot always do this, however, we must try.

(TB Yoma 87b and Sefas Emes ad loc.)

 

 


“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““Forgive and Forget?” (9/20/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 7th of Tishrei 5776 and September 20, 2015

 

“Forgive and Forget?”

 

Forgiveness; we all need it, we all want it; however, what are we prepared to do for it?

Many of us arrive early to Shul before Kol Nidrei to recite the moving prayer called Tefillah Zaka.

Tefillah Zaka first appears in print in the Sefer Chayei Adam.

The Sefer Chayei Adam was written by Rav Avrohom Danzig (1748-1820).

He was a posek and codifier who is most famous for his Sefer Chayei Adam which is simplified code of law based on the laws of Orach Chaim.

It was first published in Vilna in 1810 and in the first edition the Tefillah ‘Tefillah Zaka’ does not appear.

If first appears in the second edition of the work published in 1819; in section 144 paragraph 20 Rav Danzig writes:

“And it has already been printed in the Sefer ‘Chemdas HaYamim’ the Tefillah which he compiled.

Truth be told, not everyone can understand this Tefillah, only he who is familiar with the secrets of Hashem and he who does not know these secrets, [the Tefillah] is a like a closed book. Therefore I copied from former and older Seforim a prayer in a more simple language for many poskim are of the opinion that one should recite confession prior to nightfall and it is worthy for every person to say this Tefillah and here is its text.

And praiseworthy is the person who says it also in the morning.”

After that introduction Tefillah Zaka appears.

It is therefore clear that Rav Danzig did not author the Tefillah; however, he also does not clearly indicate who exactly did write the Tefillah or which Seforim were consulted.

Interestingly enough, Rav Danzig also never refers to the Tefillah as Tefillah Zaka; however, all the subsequent sources when referencing the Tefillah call it Tefillah Zaka.

This is apparently based on the Passuk in Iyov: “But not because of any violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure.” (U’Tefillasi Zaka) (Iyov 16:17).

From 1819 until 1833 those who wanted to recite the Tefillah had to bring a copy of the Sefer Chayei Adam with them to Shul.

Beginning in 1833 until 1882, small pamphlets, containing Tefillah Zaka were published and sold separately as companion volumes to the Machzor.

Sometimes these pamphlets contained a Yiddish translation of the Tefillah.

Beginning in 1882 in Vilna, the Tefillah was incorporated into the Machzor itself; first as a ‘special add-on’ and eventually (as is the practice today) as an expected and ‘regular’ part of the Machzor.

Although the Tefillah has enjoyed wide spread popularity in the non-Chassidic world, it must be noted that a number of Chassidic courts do recite the Tefillah.

Among those who don’t are Chabad, Sanz and Vishnitz.

Nevertheless, the Tefillah is widely said in most Ashkenazi communities and certainly is embraced for its beauty and eloquence.

Perhaps the most moving part is when we forgive all those who have sinned against us.

We say:

“I fully and finally forgive everyone; may no one be punished because of me. And just as I forgive everyone, so may You grant me grace in the eyes of others that they too forgive me absolutely."

Indeed, this part of the Tefillah is so moving and critical that the Chofetz Chaim requested of the printers that they move this paragraph closer to the beginning of the Tefillah and not towards the end where it originally appeared.

Many printers have accepted the Chofetz Chaim’s suggestion.

That being said… it is important to remember the words of the Chazon Ish with regard to Tefillah Zaka.

The Chazon Ish stated unequivocally that if a person just ‘davens-up’ the words of Tefillah Zaka and doesn’t take the time to think about who harmed them and then sincerely decide to forgive them, the words are meaningless!

As the Chazon Ish says, “With regard to Mechila, the main thing is the heart. If one says they are forgiving (Mochel) while in their heart they are still ‘mad’ then they have not forgiven anyone!”

It is beautiful to say Tefillah Zaka; however, if you fail to have the proper intent to sincerely forgive those who have hurt you then you have not accomplished anything.

Ask yourself, “I am really able to forgive this person?”

If you are not yet ready to answer, “Yes, I am”; then you are not ready to recite Tefillah Zaka!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Unenviable Club” (9/17/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 4th of Tishrei 5776 and September 17, 2015

 

The Unenviable Club

 

As Rosh Hashanah fades to the background, our hearts and our thoughts turn toward Yom Kippur.

This Motzei Yom Kippur I will not have to rush to the phone to find out how my mother endured the fast.

Instead, this Yom Kippur, for the first time in my life, I will be saying Yizkor for my mother.

A day still does not pass when I don’t automatically reach for the phone to call her.

Countless events and numerous experiences occur daily which cause me to make a mental note to call her or to want to get ‘her take’ on something.

Alas, there is no one to call; there is no one to reach out to.

 Thankfully there are mountains and mountains of memories which I can mine for wonderful sources of solace and comfort.

As I cleaned out her apartment I came across mounds of letters which I wrote to her from my years in Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel in the late 70s.

 I wondered why she saved them.

She saved them for they were from me and that made them precious to her.

The realization of just how much my mundane letters of life in Yeshiva meant to her granted me comfort and consolation; as Shlomo HaMelech said, “As in water, face answers to face, so is the heart of a man to a man”. (Mishlei 27:19)

If my letters gave her comfort, I am comforted as well.

This Motzei Yom Kippur there will be no more phone calls.

Rather, as Dovid HaMelech said: “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me." (Shmuel Beis 12:23)

She will no longer be on the other end of the phone line… “I shall eventually go to her… she is not returning to me…” and that is painful.

As I prepare for this Yom Kippur I wondered why we say one of the most critical parts of the davening, the Vidui, together in unison.

The most important and personal and intimate expression of our feelings to Hashem we sing in a congregational chant?

Would it not be better for each individual to express themselves privately and quietly?

I am sure there are excellent and better answers than the one I will offer; however, this one is personal and this one I feel in my heart.

A wonderful congregant of my Shul by the name of Tzvi Gardenswartz who lost his mother shortly after my mother left this world approached me recently and said to me, “We are buddies in a special and unique club.”

I had no idea what he was talking about.

“Every day three times a day at the end of davening those of us who lost a loved one are privileged to say Kaddish. No one else participates in that part of davening. Only we, the unique members who have a shared pain are able to partake of the Kaddish.

As much as it is painful to stand out and be stared at, it is also a bonding experience.

 We stand together as we are members of our exclusive group who share the Kaddish and by doing so we give each other strength and encouregment to continue.

 If one of us is sad and lacks the energy to say the Kaddish properly, we all pick up the slack for each other and we continue and persevere. That is the special club we are part of.”

I realized now why we sing the Vidui together.

On this one day we are all part of a special club; a club in which we are all equal in our sense of subordination and subservience before Hashem.

We chant and sing together the Vidui and if one person feels they cannot continue the entire Tzibbur comes in and helps that person.

This year I am a part of two clubs.

As I mourn the loss of my mother I feel consoled as I am part of the unique and exclusive Kaddish club.

Yet, I am also a part of the wonderful and special club call Klal Yisroel; whom together and in unison we have the privilege to join together as we carry each other to the finish line of forgiveness.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “WE NEED YOU!” (9/16/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 3rd of Tishrei 5776 September 16, 2015

 

WE NEED YOU!

 

Rosh Hashanah ended yesterday.

For two days we were immersed in Tefillah and hopefully in Teshuva.

Yet, as we learn in the Nesaneh Tokef, there is a third component in the three-front-battle of Teshuva, Tefillah, and Tzedokah.

That third step is called Tzedokah; for Tzedokah, it is not enough to daven or even to change.

In order to do Tzedokah you have to give your money.

For Tefillah, the Shul does its best to provide you with ‘minyan-on-demand’.

For Teshuva, we leave that to each individual to work on.

However, for the third step, Tzedokah, we need you and you alone.

The Shul spends thousands of dollars –happily-each and every month to make sure everyone who enters is cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

The Shul provides hundreds of cups of coffee every week and thousands throughout the year.

Most importantly, the Shul provides you and the entire community with the opportunity to daven to Hashem- whenever you want.

The Shul facilitates late Maariv Minyanim and early Shacharis minyanim- including Vasikin!

The Shul provides a comfortable environment for everyone to feel comfortable and to daven.

The Shul needs you.

At this time of the year, we ask everyone to reach deep and contribute to the Shul’s annual Yomim Noraim Minyan Appeal.

We hope you need us as much as we know we need you!

Please contribute on the Shul’s website (ahavasisrael.org) or at the Shul.

Wishing all a Gmar Chasima Tova

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “A Coincidence?” (9/11/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 27th of Elul 5775 and September 11, 2015

 

“A Coincidence?”

 

Today is 9/11; I know you know what that means.

Front Page of today’s NY Times: “A large construction crane crashed into the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on Friday as it was packed with worshipers during a heavy rainstorm, and the authorities there said at least 87 people had been killed. The crane smashed into the third floor of the Grand Mosque about 5:45 p.m. The mosque was packed with people in advance of the 6:30 p.m. prayer.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/12/world/middleeast/crane-crash-grand-mosque-mecca.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

One more fact: “The hijackers in the September 11 attacks were 20 men affiliated with al-Qaeda. 15 of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia.”

On September 11th a crane (rhymes with ‘plane’) ‘crashes’ into the third floor of the ‘Grand Mosque’ in Mecca as it’s packed with people waiting to pray to Allah.

Was it a coincidence, a happenstance event, a fluke?

 “A person does not ‘stub’ his finger in this world unless it is decreed from ‘above’.”(Chulin 7b)

There are no coincidences in this world.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “The Chofetz Chaim” (9/8/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 24th of Elul 5775 and September 8, 2015

 

The Chofetz Chaim

 

Today is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yisroel Meir HaKohen (Kagan), better known to all of us as the Chofetz Chaim.

I think I would not be exaggerating if I claimed that almost 100% of the people reading this Vort have not only heard of the Chofetz Chaim; they have also studied (be it in the original Hebrew or in translation) some part of the many Seforim that he authored.

I also feel that I would not be guilty of hagiography if I stated that (almost?) everyone has seen a picture of an individual who is purported to be the Chofetz Chaim.

What other Torah giant has had his photograph appear on the back of milk containers?

Indeed, the sheer visibility and popularity of the Chofetz Chaim is amazing!

There are numerous yeshivas which bear his name.

There is a ‘Heritage Foundation’ in his honor and there is even a Kibbutz in Israel named after him.

There is barely a yeshiva elementary school where his picture is not prominently displayed and hardly a yeshiva teacher who does not quote him.

By all accounts the Chofetz Chaim was neither tall physically nor was his wealthy financially.

He was humble and modest; lived on an extremely low-cost budget and dressed in a manner associated with simple craftsman than great Roshei Yeshiva.

Nevertheless, he changed the Jewish world.

One man with one dream; he had not the financial backing and he did not even have legions of loyal followers to do his bidding.

Rather, he wrote and he taught and he was a role-model; and one human being at a time, he changed the Jewish world.

We may not all have the talents of the Chofetz Chaim; and we may not be able to change the world; however, at least we should try to change ourselves for the better.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Art of Listening” (9/3/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 19th of Elul 5775 and September 3, 2015

 

The Art of Listening*

* (Editor’s Note: As is many Short Vorts, the core message and the story line are based on true incidents; however, many of the details and the identifying features of the individuals mentioned have been altered in ways to totally disguise their identity. This is done to preserve people’s privacy.)

Yitzchok Berman called me early in the morning and was quite distressed.

His grandson was about to fly off to Liberia to assist recovering Ebola patients.

He was planning to volunteer for “Doctors Without Borders” and his parents had pleaded with him to speak to his grandfather who then called me and desperately begged me to reach out to his grandson.

It was not that anyone was against helping others; it’s just that at 18 years old, the grandson was making a life decision which was too critical a choice to make at such a young age.

I am not an expert in these matters and I hardly knew the young man as he infrequently came to Passaic to visit. Nevertheless, Yitz Berman was frantic as he pleaded with me to make contact with his grandson.

The next morning I called the young man and asked him to stop by; surprisingly, he agreed and soon 18 year Ephraim was sitting across from me listing all the reasons why he should be on tonight’s midnight flight to Roberts International Airport outside of Monrovia (Capitol of Liberia) to help Ebola patients.

He told me how he felt the need to reach out to others.

He stated how he was akin to Avrohom Avinu in attempting to influence people who never heard of Hashem.

For more than two and a half hours we debated, discussed and argued about the pros and cons of serving as a volunteer in Liberia.

Finally, when both of us were exhausted we agreed to take a break and Ephraim said he would think about our discussion and decide that afternoon.

I reached for my Tehillim and beseeched Hashem to steer Ephraim in the right direction.

As five o’clock I received a phone call from Ephraim’s grandfather, thankfully, the boy had decided not to fly to Liberia. He would instead go to Eretz Yisroel to a yeshiva which combined learning and working with underprivileged youth in Tel Aviv.

Yitzchok Berman was all smiles as he came to my office and brought over some Schnapps to make ‘L’Chaim’. As we drank he kept saying, “I don’t know what you told my grandson, but, whatever it was it worked and you saved his life. I don’t know how I can ever thank you. It must have been ingenious whatever it was you told him!”

Truth be told, I had no idea what I told him which made the difference. We had spoken about so many different things; I wondered what insightful point had convinced him not to fly to Liberia.

That afternoon at Mincha I saw Ephraim. I asked him, “I’m glad to hear you are off to our homeland; I was just wondering which point in all of the things we discussed caused you to reconsider your decision?”

Ephraim hesitated and then said, “Honestly, Rabbi, there was no specific reasoning which you offered which convinced me.”

I was perplexed. “I don’t get it; if nothing I said made a difference then why aren’t you flying to Liberia?”

He looked at me and said with a sincere and heartfelt voice, “It wasn’t anything specific that you said; rather, it was that you were willing to hear me out.

When I called the representative of Doctors Without Borders to speak to him about my hesitations, he just said curtly, “I am a busy man, I have no time to hear your personal problems, either you’re in or you’re out.”

I compared his reaction to yours. You, who barely know me, spoke to me for over two hours and totally heard me out. I then realized that if a rabbi who is receiving nothing in return is willing to listen to me for over two hours while the fellow who represents an organization to which I am willing to donate an entire year of my life won’t hear me out for ten minutes… it is clear to me what I had to do.”

I then realized that more often it’s not about what you say; rather, it’s really about allowing someone else to say and to be heard.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “How Long Did It Take You?” (9/2/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 18th of Elul 5775 and September 2, 2015

 

How Long Did It Take You?

 

I spent one day in my entire life in Reading PA.

A number of years ago, I was traveling back to New Jersey and I stopped off in Reading PA.

I was taking a break from the driving so I parked my car and walked around the town.

I had not walked more than one block when a gentleman came right up to me and said without any hesitation or shame, “Hey buddy, how long did it take you to grow that thing?”

Since I was not holding a plant in my hand I assumed he was talking to someone else; however, as his eyes were focused on me I realized that he was talking to me!

I looked at him and he repeated his question; however, this time he added hand motions and as he spoke he proceeded to stroke his invisible or imaginary beard.  

“So tell me, how long did it take you to get it so long?”

As I was now convinced he was referring to my beard, I decided to answer him honestly.

“First of all my friend, one thing is for sure.

It sure took you a lot more time NOT to grow your beard than it took me to grow mine!

 You see, it actually did not take any time at all.

 I just go about my normal activities such as eating, walking, running, talking and even sleeping; and guess what? I don’t do a thing and G-d does the rest.  

Compare that with all of the time, effort and money you have invested for so many years in order to NOT grow your beard!

You have to buy shaving cream, razors, aftershave… not to mention the time you have spent making sure your whiskers are cut.

I probably could read the entire Babylonian Talmud in the time you have spent making sure you don’t grow a beard!”

The man looked at me, sort of smiled and walked away.

I still think about that incident (obviously I do, if I didn’t think about I would not have written about it!).

Why do I think about it?

I am not sure; however, I have a hunch.

Perhaps the reason I think about it is that it reminds me of the fact that often in life the most natural and untouched and pristine things are still the easiest to come by.

I think I’ll get myself a glass of water.

Enjoy your day.

 

“If Not Now, Then When? - Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““Doing Our Work?” (8/31/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 16th of Elul 5775 and August 31, 2015

 

“Doing Our Work?

 

Today as I ‘opened’ the newspaper I did a double take. Although it was 5:30 AM, I did not think I was still dreaming; however, the headline seemed to be more relevant to a Chumash (Bible) Shiur (class) than an article in the New York Times!

 “ISIS Damages Temple of Baal in Palmyra” screamed the headline.

Can this be true?

Is this a fulfillment of the verse in Devarim (12:3): “And you shall tear down their altars, smash their monuments…cut down the graven images of their gods, and destroy their name from that place”?

The article goes on to describe: “Consecrated in A.D. 32 to the Semitic god Baal, the temple was a source of pride for Syrians and stood not far from where the other building, the Temple of Baalshamin, was destroyed.”

Here we have a physical remnant from the pagan god Baal, a god which was certainly Avodah Zora and which according to the Rambam (Mitzvah Asei 185) in his Sefer HaMitzvohs: “We are commanded to destroy all those places where idols are worshiped: Eretz Yisroel is a holy land. Therefore, special efforts must be made to clear it of idol worship entirely.”

And indeed, since almost all of Syria (including Palmyra) is included in the Biblical borders of Eretz Yisroel; then the destruction of these pagan temples is apparently a fulfillment of the Mitzvah to “destroy all those places where idols are worshiped in Eretz Yisroel”.

Indeed in the words of one eye witness: “A resident of Palmyra, Nasser al-Thaer, told The Associated Press, “It is total destruction,” adding, “It was an explosion the deaf would hear.”

Is the ‘total destruction’ of a biblical place of Avodah Zora a harbinger to the coming of Mashiach?

Are the ‘end of days’ coming closer and soon we will see the Kingdom of Hashem in all its glory?

Obviously I know not the answers to these questions; however, certainly it means something.

Once thing I can say with conviction: as Rosh Hashanah looms closer and closer we should make the best of our time and certainly prepare ourselves with Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedokah.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “I Have a Dream…”* (8/28/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 13th of Elul 5775 and August 28, 2015

 

“I Have a Dream…”*

(*"I Have a Dream" is a public speech delivered by American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963, in which he calls for an end to racism in the United States. Delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, the speech was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. (Wikipedia)

 

It was a warm August day in the nation’s capital when Martin Luther King ascended the podium and delivered the speech which “was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century in a 1999 poll of scholars of public address (Ibid.).

The speech, complete with its Biblical references and its echoing of American values electrified the audience of 250,000 and helped accelerated the pace of change in American race relations.

Few realize that perhaps the primary ‘mover and shaker’ of both the march and the text of the speech was a Jew!

Stanley David Levison (May 2, 1912 - September 12, 1979) was a Jewish businessman from New York, who attained a law degree from St. John’s University. Levison was very active in the Civil Rights movement and became an advisor and close friend of Martin Luther King Jr., for whom he helped write speeches and organize events.

Levison was King’s right hand man in both planning the March of Washington and in drafting versions of the now iconic speech.

One has to wonder if Levison’s ‘Jewish DNA’ which instills in every Jew with a sense of compassion, humility and desire to help others –was the motivating factor in inspiring Levison to partner with Dr. King.

The Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni Parsahs  VaYeria Remez 82) points out the Dovid HaMelech stated there are three identifying personality features of all Jews; they are compassionate, humble and do-gooders.

Levison, as a Jew, still retained his ‘Jewish characteristics’.

We as Jews must also remember to be ‘compassionate, humble and do-gooders’; indeed, Dovid HaMelech declares that only a person who displays these three traits is worthy of joining the Jewish people.

 

In the spirit of today being the 63rd anniversary of Dr. King’s extraordinary speech; perhaps we can say that today ‘we also have a dream’.

Dr. King stated: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Our dream, to paraphrase Dr. King, is:

I have a dream that my seven children and their children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their Yarmulke but by the content of their character.”

Dr. King’s declared:

When we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of G-d’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual Free at last! Free at last!   Thank G-d Almighty, we are free at last!”

Similarly paraphrasing Dr. King we can state:

When we allow the tolerance of others to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of Hashem’s children, Chassidim and Litvaks, Modern Orthodox and Hareidi, Religious Zionist and Neturei Karta, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of Tehillim: “This is the day that the Lord made; we shall exult and rejoice thereon.” (Tehillim 118:24)

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““The Man on the Moon”” (8/25/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 10th of Elul 5775 and August 25, 2015

 

The Man on the Moon

 

Today (August 25) in 1835, the newspaper “The New York Sun” published the first of six articles announcing the discovery of life on the moon.

The byline was Dr. Andrew Grant, who was described as a colleague of Sir John Herschel, a famous astronomer of the day.

Herschel had in fact traveled to Capetown, South Africa, in January 1834 to set up an observatory with a powerful new telescope.

 As Grant described it, Herschel had found evidence of life forms on the moon, including such fantastic animals as unicorns, two-legged beavers and furry, winged humanoids resembling bats. The articles also offered vivid description of the moon’s geography, complete with massive craters, enormous amethyst crystals, rushing rivers and lush vegetation. (History.com)

There was no such person as Dr. Andrew Grant and Herschel never observed life on the moon.

The entire story was a hoax.

According to most available historical evidence, most people believed the story.

 Indeed, the hoax even fooled a committee of Yale University scientists, who traveled to New York to investigate the issue.

Ultimately, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and saw no unicorns and no winged humanoids resembling bats were there to greet him, the last person on the planet who still believed in ‘The Sun’ had to admit they were duped since 1835!

Why did people believe the newspaper?

Why weren’t more people more cynical and suspicious about the veracity of the report?

One reason is that they had no cause ‘not’ to believe the newspaper.

After all, in the 19th century many new discoveries were occurring and perhaps life had indeed been observed on the moon! After all, ‘why shouldn’t it be true’?

Perhaps though, another reason that people did not doubt the authenticity of the story is because they ‘wanted’ it to be true.

Meaning, people were excited about the possibilities of life on the moon, especially when it included enormous amethyst crystals, rushing rivers and lush vegetation!

 Who would want to be the ‘killjoy’ and not believe?

Who wants to be a Cassandra?

Too often our desire for what we ‘want to be true’ overwhelms our G-d given intellectual capacity to be able to judge properly and honestly asses a claim and decide correctly if the claim ‘can really’ be true.

We want to be entertained and amazed and the thought of a luscious life on the moon was so tempting that it just ‘had’ to be true.

When we ‘want’ something to be a certain way or when we feel we ‘need’ to have someone portrayed in a specific way, we will forfeit our divinely granted gift of discernment for the sake of having our dreams fulfilled in the manner we ‘want’ them to be fulfilled.

Hashem granted us “Da’as”; a discerning and discriminating mind.

Don’t let your shrewd and perceptive mind be dulled into inaction by the emotional appeal of having your fantastical dreams ostensibly realized.

Remember, the first Brocha we say in every weekday Shmoneh Esrei is thanking Hashem for the gift of discernment (Da’as); don’t waste Hashem’s gift.

It may be tempting to believe in the man on the moon; however, not if the price is sacrificing your mind on the altar of falsehood.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Treif or Kosher Phone?” (8/23/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 8th of Elul 5775 and August 23, 2015

 

Treif or Kosher Phone?

 

{Disclaimer: Please note the following Short Vort is written in jest and is in no way meant to mock any person or group. That being said, almost every day I see ‘Chashuva people’ speaking on their phones while driving. I myself can always use the Chizuk to make sure I am properly ‘aligned’.

Therefore, if the only person who takes a lesson from this piece is me, I will be more than satisfied.}

 

As the Suburban sped by I was almost bowled over; literally.

 I quickly jumped back eight feet faster than you can say “Asher Yatzar”!

As I regained my composure and dusted off my fallen hat, I wondered who was driving the vehicle.

The woman behind the wheel resembled more of an old fashioned ‘telephone –switchboard-operator’ than a ‘motor-vehicle operator’!

She was gesticulating wildly with her left hand while simultaneously struggling to keep her right hand glued to the phone which was being pressed into her ear.

“If her left hand is painting pictures in the air and her right hand is holding the phone… which of her hands is holding the steering wheel?” I wondered to no one in particular.

Perhaps she has invented a new and “technologically advanced”-albeit entirely dangerous-mode of ‘hands-driving’ driving!

I quickly jumped into my car and followed the fast-moving four-wheeler as it barreled down the street.

As she turned the corner, I realized to my horror that in the back of her three ton Suburban were five little bobbing heads.

I was getting closer and incredulously I was able to read her bumper sticker: I care about our ‘at risk children’!

Finally at the next corner she slowed down in order to allow one of the ‘double seat-belted’ toddlers to alight from the vast vehicle.

I quickly drove in front of her and stopped my car, blocking the path of the heaving behemoth.

With trepidation and fear I hesitantly approached the fearful and terrifying leviathan.

As I came within reach of the driver’s side of the gasping goliath, I could hear the powerful engine revving as the massive monster was chomping at the bit to accelerate and continue his romp at the speed of light through the roadways of north Jersey.

I reached the driver’s door and the beast’s handler lowered her window.

I began to speak in the most composed voice I could muster.

“Excuse me ‘Mrs. Suburban’, however, it seems to me that you were driving your car while speaking on the phone and there are precious little children in the car. Is it possible that your priorities are out of alignment?” I asked.

Without the slightest hint of hesitance, ‘Mrs. Suburban’ replied confidently:

 “Rabbi, I know what you are thinking: that I was wasting precious time while driving; however, you have nothing to worry about. I was listening to a Torah lecture on Bitachon while I was driving.

And if you are concerned that I was talking on a ‘smartphone’ I can allay you fears as I had it totally filtered, sterilized and fixed at the local TAG office.

In fact, you can see the special kosher sticker which has been affixed to the phone.

So, Rabbi, I appreciate your concern with my spiritual safety; however, as you can see, you have no reason in the world to be concerned.

That being said, it is clearly ‘Hashgacha Protis’ that Hashem caused you to see me.

 I was actually calling you rabbi on the phone when you caught up to me!

So, you can ignore my ten minute message, as Hashem put you here obviously for you to answer the question in-person.

Here is my question:

By accident (of course), my cleaning lady spilled a drop of “Goyishe milk from her coffee cup into my ‘exclusively-designated-Cholov Yisroel-Yoshon-only- Chassidishe Schechita- solely-pot’.

As I would never want to endanger the lives of my Kinderlach in any way- no matter how remote- I must ask you wise rabbi, “Should I just throw out the pot or should I kasher my entire kitchen just to be on ‘safe side’?”

Rabbi? Why aren’t you answering?

 Rabbi, are you alright, you look like you are going to faint?

Would you like to borrow my ‘kosher-phone’?”

Would you like some water?

You don’t have to worry it has a very reliable “Heimishe Hashgacha”.

 

Friends, we all have to worry about our Ruchnius; however, if we don’t first make sure that our “Gashmius’ bodies are intact, then we will have nothing left with what to utilize our Ruchnius!

 

Don’t talk on your cell phone and drive and don’t text and drive!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “Do You Know Where Your Children Are?” (8/20/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 5th of Elul 5776 and August 20, 2015

 

Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

 

When I was a boy I can remember that prior to the 10 PM news the question was posed, “Do you know where your children?”

I can recall when I first the question I must have been about 10 years of age and I remember my feelings.

I thought, “Do you know where your children are”? What kind of question is that? How can you not know where your children are?”

I began to wonder, could there be a time that my parents would not where I would be at 10 PM?

Could a time arrive when my parents would not know where I would was and what I was doing at 10 PM; just the thought of my parents not knowing where I was, was a scary thought.

As I became older and more independent I (probably) resented the fact that my parents still wanted to know where I was at 10 PM.

Then I matured and my parents no longer were concerned where I was at 10 PM.

And then I grew older and I began to wonder where my own children were at 10 PM.

Soon, faster than I could imagine, my children resented me inquiring where they are at 10 PM.

And now, for the most part I also no longer worry about their whereabouts at 10 PM.

It wasn’t so bad back then when I would sit next to my parents before the news aired and the question, ‘It’s 10 PM, do you know where your children are?’ was heard. We would smile at each other and I would ask each of them, ‘do you know where I am?’

Life was calm, content and secure.

It was actually kind of nice.

I knew where they were and they knew where I was and therefore, I knew where I was too.

Now I wonder, ‘It’s 10 PM; do I know where I am?’

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “Elul- Getting Closer” (8/19/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 4th of Elul 5775 and August 19, 2015

 

Elul- Getting Closer

 

On Tuesday I had a headache and I was away from my home.

I drove to the nearest pharmacy and purchased some aspirin.

As I approached the counter to pay I noticed that the young woman at the cash register had a large hard-covered book in front of her. She was so engrossed in her book that at first she did not notice me.

I hesitantly brought my prospective purchase to her and I almost did not want to disturb her.

Finally, she looked up and sheepishly closed her book and took my aspirin.

As I gave her the package and she rang up the purchase I remarked to her, “That is very admirable that you are making the most of your time by reading as you wait for customers. You are educating yourself and using your ‘free time’ wisely as opposed to just sitting by idly doing nothing.”

The young woman looked at me somewhat shyly and did not say a word.

As I left I thought to myself, “The Day of Judgment is just three weeks and half weeks away, how am I spending my ‘free time’?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Getting Started on the Right Foot” (8/16/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday Rosh Chodesh Elul 5775 and August 16, 2015

 

Getting Started on the Right Foot

 

We all want to begin Elul properly.

We heard the Shofar this morning in Shul and we have just begun the road to repair.

We all can certainly improve in our relationships with our fellow Jews.

Yesterday we read the Passuk: “If there will be among you a needy person, from one of your brothers …, you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother. Rather, you shall open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking.” (Devarim 15:7, 8)

When you see the ‘needy’ person you might harden your heart and this hardening of the heart will lead you to ‘close you hand’ and not respond to his need and this is wrong.

Rather, the Torah tells us: you shall open your hand to him, and give him what he is lacking.

The Torah is not exclusively discussing here a person who is destitute; rather, it refers to a person who is lacking in any area including emotional and physical and psychological needs.

Why is the physical reaction to a hardened heart a closed hand?

And why is the remedy to a hard heart an open hand?

Rav Yeshua Lalum Zt”l (1901-1950) was an Algerian Rav who received Smicha at 18 and during his short life span served many Algerian Jewish communities with dignity and vigor. He authored only one Sefer: Likutei Aharon.

The Likutei Aharon explains why the Torah describes a person whose heart is hardened as having a closed hand and he who is compassionate is described as having an open hand with following explanation: “And so the Torah commands us, "Do not harden your heart and do not close your hand" to the needy. If your heart hardens, your hand will close and you will see that your fingers are of equal length and then you will say to him (the poor person)-Go out and work like me!

But do the opposite, open your hand and then you will see that your fingers are short and tall and this is how G-d created people, big and small, and this lives from that.”

Rav Lalum explains that a person who hand is clenched has the mistaken assumption that all of his fingers are of the same size and length. As indeed when we look at our fingers when our hand is closed they all look identical in length. It is only when we open our hand do we see and realize that all of the fingers are unique and special and different in length and size!

This is the secret to compassion.

When our hearts are hardened we assume that everyone is like us and if we have a job then they should have a job. If we are able to deal with the vicissitudes of life without becoming clinically depressed then everyone can as well. However, when we open our hands and we realize that all of our fingers are different and unique we have the ability to also realize that not all men were created equal and not all of us are able to deal in the same manner with the challenges of life.

This realization of the uniqueness of man enables a person to be compassionate as he realizes that all of us have our own unique and specialized ‘peckel’ and just because I am capable of working or dealing with this problem, who said my friend is able to deal with this?

Open your hands and realize how unique and special each person is… it is the key to compassion.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “A Joke” (8/14/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 29th of Menachem Av 5775 and August 14, 2015

 

A Joke

 

There are many ‘lawyer’ jokes out there and many ‘doctor’ jokes; however, there are not too many ‘Rabbi’ jokes. The few that I know often convey covert messages and are revealing about Jewish life and are indicative of the practice of Judaism of their time.

For instance, when I was a boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 1960s, most of the Jewish kids in my neighborhood did not attend Yeshiva. My brother and I were among the minority of boys whose parents were insistent of their children being enrolled in yeshiva.

Most of the boys of the neighborhood went to public school and for too many of them their Bar Mitzvah was the last day when they saw the insides of a Shul.

One day the rabbi of the Shul I attended publicly lamented the fact that too many of the neighborhood kids simply disappeared the day after their Bar Mitzvah, never to seen again in Shul.

He ascended the Bimah for to address the Shul and Parshas was this week’s Parsha: R’eah.

He began by quoting the first Passuk of the sedra: “See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse.” (11:26)

He then proceeded to say,

“Friends, in this week’s Parsha we are taught to ‘see’ that you have before you an opportunity to receive a brocha or Chas V’Shalom one can receive a ‘curse’.

Unfortunately, nowadays the trend seems to be to choose the later over the former.

 As the majority of the boys who come into our Shul to celebrate their Bar Mitzvahs ‘disappear’ right after the event, indicative of their choice of the ‘curse’ over the Brocha!”

He then said, “Friends, our current situation reminds me of a cruel joke I heard when I was studying for the rabbinate.

“One day a new rabbi takes over an old and venerable Shul.

To his dismay he soon discovers that the Shul is infested with mice.

After attempting –to no avail- to rid the Shul of the mice through costly exterminators and after setting many mice traps, he decides to call his predecessor to his ask how he dealt with the problem.

The younger rabbi called old Rabbi Schwartz who was now Rabbi Emeritus and asked him how he grappled with the mice infestation.

Rabbi Schwartz said, “Oh I never had to worry about the mice at all. Let me tell you how I dealt with them. Every September I would gather all of the mice around me in my study. I would then place small mice-size Yarmulkes on their little heads, I made them little Talleisim and then I prepared each one for his “Bar Mitzvha”.

Sure enough, the week after their Bar Mitzvah they were never seen in the Shul again. That’s how I rid the Shul of the mice!”

Thankfully, nowadays, we no longer have to worry about our children disappearing from Shul after their Bar Mitzvahs. Indeed, many times sons prefer to daven in their Yeshivas instead of davening in Shuls with their fathers.

Thankfully, we have arrived at a time where we can see’how Hashem has been generous with us and our children no longer ‘disappear’ from Shul after their Bar Mitzvahs!

 

P.S.- Please see enclosed picture of the Bar Mitzvah Mice

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Windows” (8/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 27th of Menachem Av 5775 and August 12, 2015

 

Windows

 

The Gemara in Massechta Brochus (in two places: 31a and 34 b) informs us that a person should always attempt to daven in a room which has windows.

The Gemara quotes a Passuk in Sefer Doniel (6:11) as a source of this preference.

“And Daniel, when he knew that a writ had been inscribed, came to his house, where there were open windows in his upper chamber, opposite Jerusalem, and three times a day he kneeled on his knees and prayed and offered thanks before his God just as he had done prior to this” (6:11)

From the Passuk we see that one should daven with a room that has windows and that those windows should face Yerushalayim.

Indeed, this dictum appears in the Shulchan Aruch (O. Ch. 90:4).

Rashi explains that the windows serve a twofold purpose.

On one hand they facilitate proper intent as when one looks out from the windows and at the heavens one’s heart is filled with humility which is a prerequisite for davening.

Secondly, as the windows should face Jerusalem, they remind us that all of our Tefillos are always channeled via the Holy City to Hashem.

The Rashash (HaRav Samuel ben Yoseph Strashun of Vilna 1794 – March 21, 1872) comments (31A) that he has observed at least two of the Shuls in Vilna which do not strictly adhere to these Talmudic dictates.

The Gemilas Chesed Shul does not have windows which face east or south (direction of Jerusalem) and the large Main Shul has its windows too high to facilitate seeing the heavens.

In order to reconcile the Talmudic requirement for windows with the reality in the Shuls, he suggests that perhaps the Halacha is in accordance with the Rambam who suggests that the obligation for windows is mandatory only when one davens alone in their home.

Meaning, according to the Rambam when one davens without a Minyan (B’Yechidus) and in their home, then is there a necessity to have windows and that those windows face Jerusalem; however, if one davens in a Shul, or with a Minyan (even not in a Shul) the stipulation for windows is suspended.

Although the Shulchan Aruch (O.Ch. 90) quotes the Halacha necessitating windows without the caveat that this is limited to when one is davening at home, and recommends windows for every Shul; nevertheless, the Rashash feels that the existence of the opinion of the Rambam is a reason to be “Melamed Zechus” (finding merit) for the lack of proper windows in two of the Shuls in Vilna.

Why did the Rashash feel the need to justify the lack of windows in the Shuls of Vilna?

What caused him to uncover a heretofore ‘hidden’ ruling of Maimonides to find a ‘merit’ for the Vilna Shuls?

The Rashash was following the ways of the greats of our nation.

When the greats of our nation saw holy Jews do something, they were not quick to condemn and to critique.

Quite the opposite, they felt the need to justify and to validate; to find a reason to vindicate Jewish behavior and not to denounce and criticize Jewish communities or individuals.

Too often we find the opposite by us.

We see individuals and communities who act differently than us and we are quick to criticize and too often to even condemn.

We may see a Shul or a fellow Jew whose practice seems (at first glance) to be not in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch and we are ‘convinced’ that they must transgressing the Halacha while in reality there is proper halachik justification for their practice.

There were Shuls in Vilna without windows; most people would see incorrect observance of Halacha; while The Rashash saw a challenge and an opportunity to validate and justify a holy Jewish community.

Remember, to denounce and delegitimize is easy; to find justification and to find merit for others is greatness.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Charlie Hustle” (8/10/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 25th of Menachem Av 5775 and August 10, 2015

 

Charlie Hustle

 

On this day in 1981, Pete Rose of the Philadelphia Phillies achieved the 3,631st hit of his baseball career, breaking Stan Musial’s record for most hits by a National Leaguer.

Rose would eventually hold the record as the all-time Major League leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), singles (3,215) and is considered by many to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

However, although he was one of the most talented baseball players to participate in our National Pastime, Pete Rose was never inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and he indeed may never have his plaque hang in its ‘hallowed walls’.

Pete Rose was accused of- and after years of denial, he himself confirmed- reports that he gambled and bet on baseball while he was both a player and a manager.

For these allegations he has agreed to voluntarily be placed on baseball’s ineligible list.

In 1991 he would spend five months at the medium security Prison Camp at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois and fined $50,000 for tax evasion and of filing false income tax returns.

In his autobiography “My Prison Without Bars”, published on January 8, 2004, Rose finally admitted publicly to betting on baseball games and other sports while playing for and managing the Reds.

Even after his 2004 admission of gambling, journalist Kostya Kennedy described Rose’s attitude to his defiance of the rules as "a kind of swagger".

The Gemara in Brochus on 34 (A) informs us that although ‘we’ (regular Jews) only bow a set times during Shmoneh Esrei, a Kohen Gadol is required to bow by the end of every Brocha and a King is required to bow at the beginning and at the end of each and every Brocha.

Rashi explains the reason behind the disparity is: “the greater the position a person is the greater amount of self-effacement and humbleness he must observe”.

Meaning the greater you are, the greater level of humility you must keep to.

Too bad Pete Rose never learned this lesson.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Special Gemach” (8/4/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 19th of Menachem Av 5775 and August 4, 2015

 

The Special Gemach

 

When my daughter Aviva was in Eretz Yisroel studying in Seminary last year, she told me how her Am Bayis (house mother) taught them to set up ‘GEMACHs’.

A Gemach (which is free loan society) is usually for lending money or for borrowing expensive items; however, the Am Bayis told them that you can make a Gemach for many, many things.

So one girl set up a Gemach for pony tail holders; and one set one up for hand moisturizer.

Other girls were even more creative; one had a Gemach for a song and another had a Gemach for a compliment.

If you felt the need to be serenaded you went to one girl to sing you a song and if you needed a ‘pick-me-up’ compliment another girl was there for you.

Today is August 4 on the Gregorian calendar, on this date 56 years ago I was born.

Many relatives and friends reached out to me and wished me a very, very appreciated: “Happy Birthday”.

Some called, some texted, some emailed and some ‘face-booked’; almost every manner of electronic communication known to man was utilized to wish me a Happy Birthday.

One method of communication was absent.

Today for the first time in over 50 years, I did not receive a birthday card in the mail.

For the last 50 years, since I was a child and continuing uninterrupted for 50 years, I would receive exactly on August 4th a birthday card from my mother A”H.

It made no difference if she was in Israel or Italy, on a cruise or even not well; she made sure that I would receive a physical birthday card handpicked by her with the appropriate lines underlined and signed ‘all my love, Mom’ exactly on my birthday.

She sometimes brought the card to a neighbor and had the neighbor swear on their life that they would not forget to mail it so it would reach me on August 4th; however, she made sure it was done.

Today there will be no birthday card.

Today there will be no card signed, “All My Love, Mom”.

I forgot to mention that there was one other Gemach that my daughter had in her seminary; it was a Gemach for a ‘hug’.

I could use that Gemach today.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Dan’s the Man” (8/3/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 18th of Menachem-Av 5775 and August 3, 2015

 

Dan’s the Man

 

We can learn from everyone and we should.

One person we can all learn from is our good buddy and friend Dan Trieff.

Why do I mention Dan today?

All of us sometimes find ourselves with ‘free time’ on our hands.

Sunday is a day when many men have some extra time.

Everyone has their ‘things’ to do on Sunday, and often those things are important and necessary.

Let me tell what Dan did on his day off yesterday.

As I entered the Shul in the morning, I looked around and there was Dan Trieff.

What was Dan doing?

Dan was putting away the Siddurim and the Chumashim in all three of the davening places.

Dan was not wasting time just schmoozing or expecting others to clean up after him.

 Dan was hard at work putting away other people’s Siddurim, Chumashim and yes, even throwing out their dirty tissues (ich)!

That’s Dan for you, always reminding me that no matter where you are and how much you time have at your disposal, there is always some Chessed you can do!

In the Ahavas it’s rare to see a Chumash or Siddur just sitting on the table and not on the shelf.

And the credit goes to our friend Dan.

Thanks’ Dan- You is the Man!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “In Memory of Shira Banki A”H” (8/2/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 17th of Menachem-Av 5775 and August 2, 2015

 

In Memory of Shira Banki A”H

 

I never had the privilege of meeting Miss Shira Banki and I never will; in fact no one will ever meet her again.

Shira Banki died today.

She was just 16 years old.

She was participating in a parade on Thursday in the holy city of Yerushalayim when an Orthodox looking man stabbed her; after fighting for her life for three days she died this afternoon (Israel time).

Her family announced they are donating her organs to help other people live.

Shira Banks was killed by a Jew.

She was killed by a Jew who was scrupulous in his outward Jewish appearance.

She was killed by a man who dressed in a way that when I was younger we were taught, “If you see someone who looks like him you can approach him for help. He will be nice to you.”

This man however, is not nice; he is evil.

He hates Jews.

He killed Shira Banki.

He made sure Shira Banki will never walk again in the streets of Yerushalayim and will never have the opportunity to learn about Shabbos or about Judaism.

Shira Banki is dead.

Shira Banki was killed by a Jewish man.

There is certainly no Torah justification to kill Shira Banki.

There are those who claim he was crazy.

Maybe he is; however, if you do think he’s crazy then….

I have some questions for you:

Was he crazy before he stabbed her or did he become crazy only after he stabbed her?

If you would have met him would you have known right away he was crazy?

Was he walking around in rags, screaming like a jackal in the middle of night, eating scraps from the ground while crawling on his hands and feet his entire life?

Why do you call him crazy?

What makes someone crazy?

Are you suggesting we begin to lock up all mentally challenged people?

Why don’t you answer me?

Why do you ignore me?

Yishai Schlisel (the murderer) is happy you call him crazy.

It gives him ‘Chizuk’ (encouregment); he knows you will never speak out against him or his ilk.

He knows you will just call him ‘crazy’ and allow him to be.

He knows you will not condemn the continuing rising volume of malice and hate speech which is being directed towards other Jews which emanates from us.

He hopes you continue to call him crazy.

Shira Banki was a ‘tinuk she’nishba’ - a child who most probably was never invited by you for Shabbos.

She was a precious Jewish Neshama who no Jew had the right to kill.

There is no possible halachik justification in the world to kill her in cold blood.

The Torah tells us that Hashem loves His people.

The Torah tells us that we should love our fellow Jews.

Shira Banki could have been a Jewish mother; she could have raised a Jewish family; she was only 16.

She will never be a Jewish mother.

Please help me.

Why is Shira Banki dead?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “From Happiness to Sadness” (7/31/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 15th of Menachem Av 5775 and July 31, 2015

 

From Happiness to Sadness

 

The last Mishnah in Ta’anis states:

Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says, "There were never happier days for the Jews like the fifteen of Av and Yom Kippur for on those days the daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards…”

 

Today is “Tu B’av” – the fifteenth day of the month of Av; this is a day which after the difficult and painful days of Tisha Bav is supposed to be a day of unity and of joy.

Today should be a day when the Jewish people are unified and at peace; a day when they are able to dance and engage in the ultimate unity: the joining together of a man and wife.

This year however, Tu B’av has been ‘hijacked’.

Today is not a day to celebrate.

Today is not a day when we celebrate Jewish unity; today is a day of sadness.

It is a day of sadness for today the world looks at Orthodox Jews as being intolerant, hating, violent, extremist and crazed.

Today the world thinks of us as cultish zealots who will stop at nothing, including the murder of children and the back stabbing of women to achieve our goals.

Lest you think that only ‘Hareidi Jews’ or only ‘Settler Zionist Jews’ are thought in such pejorative terms, you are wrong; all of us who wear the Yarmulke have been defiled with the stain of hatred.

Over the last 24 hours two events, one by a ‘Hareidi Jew’ and one by ‘Settler Zionist Jews’ were flashed across news outlets across the world.

Jewish Attack on Palestinian Home Kills Toddler” screamed the headline in one U.S. news site.

Six stabbed ‘by ultra-Orthodox Jew”, was the main headline in the BBC.

We are naïve if we believe that these comments are just ‘anti-Semetic’.

We are fooling ourselves if we don’t realize that our reputation has been tarnished and blemished by the acts of these individuals.

And this is very sad; for above all, Hashem’s holy name has been sullied.

Why is it that when one Jew is on trial for this or for that we are sure that the real reason behind the accusation in that ‘all goyim hate Jews’; however, when one Jew does something wrong we ‘know’ that he is ‘just one exception’ and he does not represent all of us?

Why is it when we read about a non-Jew who does something outrageously violent I hear comments like, “that’s how ‘those people’ are; and yet, when a Jew throws a fire bomb into the house of a sleeping family he is no way shape or form indicative of ‘all of us’?

Is this not a double standard?

Am I wrong in asking all of us to be just a bit more introspective?

This is not the Tu B’av we hoped for.

Perhaps it is because our Tisha B’av was not the one Hashem hoped for?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink” (7/27/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 11th of Menachem-Av 5775 and July 27, 2015

 

“Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.”*

* {From the poem: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”,  the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98 and published in 1798 in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads.} (Wikipedia)

 

Beginning at 8:15 PM on Shabbos and concluding at 9:35 PM on Sunday, for a period of over 25 hours no food or drink went through our lips.

The weather was warm and reciting Kinnos for hours did little to alleviate our hunger and our thirst.

As I walked to Shul this morning at 6:30 AM there was only one thought in my mind.

I must be honest, I was not thinking about Mashiach and I was not thinking about the Beis HaMikdash.

I was not even thinking about Yerushalayim.

There was only thought which was on my mind: cool, fresh, unsweetened and unflavored WATER.

I kept thinking: “Today, when I reach my office I will have WATER!”

WATER; that was my wish and that was my dream.

I arrived at my office and poured myself a nice large cup of water and brought the cup close to my lips.

I heard my mouth declare: “Blessed are You Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, who has created everything with His word.”

I then brought the sanctified liquid to my lips and began to partake of my splendid, savory libation.

During the fast you could have offered me a sip of the finest and most expensive wine in the world and I would have traded it for a simple glass of water.

As I absorbed and ingested the water a tremendous feeling of gratitude enveloped me; I was thankful for just one thing: WATER.

The simple joy of being able to swallow water- as much and as often as I wanted-, was worth any other pleasure the world could conjure up for me.

I held on to the cup and lovingly admired its contents as a mother admires her newborn child.

Thank you Hashem; thank you.

“Water, water everywhere and plenty to drink”

 

“If Not Now Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““All You Need Is Love” (7/23/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday 7th of Menchem Av 5775 and July 23, 2015

 

“All You Need Is Love”*

{*"All You Need Is Love" is a song written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Wikipedia}

 

It was a warm day in May when Gertrude Hollander (details changed) left this world.

Gertrude and her then future husband Manfred were born in the German city of Fulda in 1928 and immigrated to these shores after Kristallnacht.

They settled in Washington Heights where eventually they married in 1949.

The couple moved to Cleveland where they raised three daughters in the path of Torah Im Derech Eretz.

In 2005 they moved back to the New York area to be closer to their daughters.

Since one of the daughters is a member of my Shul, I have had the privilege of becoming ‘close’ to Manfred Hollander. I say the word ‘close’ somewhat hesitantly as I am not sure if anyone could be considered ‘close’ to Manfred.

Perhaps it was caused by trauma experienced before the war; perhaps it was his stoic ‘Yekkishe’ upbringing which prided itself on its taciturn and reserved outward presentation; or perhaps it was just ‘him’. Whatever the reason, Manfred Hollander was one of the most dour and restrained individuals you have ever met.

Despite his outwards manifestations of being laconic and almost brusque, I knew he was filled with pride when a grandchild would accompany him to Shul; provided of course the child was properly behaved.

Manfred and Gertrude were married for 66 years.

At the funeral he was the paradigm of dignity and placidity and he remained restrained throughout the Shiva.

When he called me at the conclusion of the Shloshim, I was sure he wanted to discuss the disbursement of his estate; why else would he insist that all three daughters who were in town at the time be present at the meeting?

As everyone filed in to my office, one could feel the awe which the daughters – notwithstanding the fact that all were already grandmothers- felt when they were in their father’s presence.

All looked to Manfred Hollander to speak first and no one dared speak before him.

Manfred straightened his tie, cleared his throat and began to speak.

“The purpose of my requesting all of you to gather here this morning in the presence of our esteemed Rav is for me to state something which I believe is halachically mandated.”

I was wondering which aspect of Hilchos Yerusha he was about to cite.

Manfred looked at each of his daughters and continued.

“During the period of time when your mother and I lived here, one of you came to visit our home daily. If one of you could not make it, you always arranged for a grandchild to visit daily and the visit lasted minimally one hour. I have observed over the past month that the daily visits have decreased to a ‘twice a week’ ritual; and the duration of the visit has been cut in half.  Please allow me to state unequivocally that although I understand that the major focus of the visit was your mother, you should realize that I too treasured them!”

Suddenly, Manfred Hollander, the man who never shed a tear and who maintained his composure under the most difficult circumstances began to cry.

As large tears trickled down his cheek he said in an emotionally chocked-up voice, “I humbly request of you that these visits be reinstated immediately; after all, I enjoyed them immensely and they were the highlight of my day. Remember, even though I am not a schmoozer myself don’t think I don’t enjoy hearing others schmooze and laugh and don’t think I don’t enjoy company!”

And then Manfred Hollander burst into uncontrollable sobbing as he pleaded with his children, “Do not cast me away at the time of old age”. (Tehillim: 71:9)

You can put on a face of aloofness and even appear be distant; however, when all is said and done, we all need love.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““The Source of Bageling”” (7/22/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 6th of Menchem-Av 5775 and July 22, 2015

 

“The Source of Bageling”

 

We have discussed in the past the ‘art of bageling’.

 Bageling occurs when a non-Jew or for that matter a non-observant Jew sees an observant Jew and attempts to ‘connect’ with him/her by mentioning something Jewish.

A classic example of this is when I was boarding a flight in Denver and the TSA man said to me as I gathered up my belt, shoes, pants, pens, hat and jacket, “Shalom, have a nice flight”.

By saying the word Shalom he was connecting with me on my terms and that act of verbal connecting by mentioning something Jewish is referred to as ‘bageling’.

For many years now I have been researching and attempting to find the source of the ‘Bagel’.

Meaning, why was the bagel the food chosen to describe connecting with someone Jewish?

Why not ‘blintzing’?

 For example if a non-observant person says to you, “My grandfather was a rabbi too” (a very common ‘bageling’) we could have called it ‘blintzing’; why was the bagel singled out as being authentically Jewish?

Why not “Chulenting”?

Or how about “Kishking”?

And while we are at it, how about “Knaidlaching” or better yet: “Kugeling”?

Why specifically did the bagel win out?

Why is it the ‘real Jewish bread’?

The Gemara says ‘seek and you will find’; so therefore I never gave up and today Baruch Hashem I found the authoritative source which declares emphatically that the bagel is “Jewish”!

In an article which appeared in the New York Times on May 31, 1946, the Times ‘paskened’ (Halachically declared): “Bagels … are small hard Jewish rolls with holes in the center.”

Here you have it folks! The New York Times -which states on its masthead it only prints “All the news that’s fit to print”-, affirmed and admitted that Bagels … are … Jewish rolls!

{See: http://www.nytimes.com/times-insider/2015/07/21/1946-the-times-explains-the-bagel/}

This information may sound trivial to you (and indeed it may be); however, it also may be very crucial.

As we head into Tisha B’Av many have the practice to break the fast on bagels.

Although this is not a halachik requirement, nevertheless, it is a wide-spread practice.

Could it be that this practice developed in our desire to show that after the day which marks the destructive effect of Jewish disunity we attempt to amend our ways by all of us eating the one food which is authentically Jewish?

Could this have evolved out of a desire to show our new enhanced feelings of unity by all of us, wherever we may be, eating the one universally acknowledged authentic Jewish bread?

Maybe, and maybe not; I leave that for you to decide.

Either way, I like mine with cream cheese and lox.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

 

 

    

The Short Vort- “Walk the Walk” (7/19/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 3rd of Menachem-Av 5775 and July 19, 2015

 

Walk the Walk

 

It’s not often that I feel that my words really made an impression on someone!

 When it does happen, it really feels good!

On Friday I wrote a Short Vort informing all of the birth of my new grandson who was born in Bikur Cholim Hospital in Jerusalem.

The only reason I mentioned the name of the hospital was for my family connection to it.

My great-great-great-grandfather was one of the founders of the hospital and my father was born there 90 years ago.

Little did I realize that the information was being digested and about to be used to do a wonderful Chessed.

Today as I spoke to my son in Jerusalem on the phone, he says to me, “Hey Ta, guess who came to visit Malka (my daughter in law) on Shabbos in the hospital?”

“Who”, I asked.

“Mrs. Plonis (name changed of course) from Passaic. She is visiting her family in Yerushalayim and she walked to the hospital (a walk of about 40 minutes) in order to visit Malka. When Malka asked her how did you know about me? She said, I read the Short Vort!”

Friends, this is a true Chessed. Here is a woman who is staying with her family and she takes time out of her own family time to walk 40 minutes in the Yerushalayim heat to pay a visit to a woman whom she never met who had a baby!

Friends, is this not a touching and wonderful Chessed?

A Jew reads a story about another Jew who has a baby and she decides to walk two miles to visit the person; mind boggling.

I guess that is what is meant when people say, “You can’t just talk the talk; you have to walk the walk!”

Here is a woman who really ‘walked the walk’.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““Kindness” (7/17/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday Rosh Chodesh Menachem-Av 5775 and July 17, 2015

 

Kindness

 

The call arrived at about 1:30 PM yesterday.

 I was sitting in my office preparing a Shiur when my son called.

“Mazel Tov” he said, “You have a new grandson!”

Of course I knew that my daughter-in-law was expecting; however, it is always wonderful surprise.

“He looks just like you; he even has red hair like you!”

Suddenly it dawned on me. “When was he born?” I asked.

“Exactly at the beginning of Rosh Chodesh Av!” My son said.

My eyes began to tear up and an emotional ‘rush’ went through me such as I have not felt in a very long time.

Two thoughts began swirling in my mind.

Exactly 56 years ago almost to the minute, another little red haired boy was born.

That boy was born in Brooklyn Jewish Hospital in Crown Heights.

{Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, in Crown Heights, on Classon Avenue between St. Mark’s Avenue and Prospect Place was incorporated in 1901 and opened it’s building in 1927.

Albert Einstein had surgery performed here in the early 1950s.

In 1979, Brooklyn Jewish filed for bankruptcy and merged with St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in 1982 to form Interfaith Medical Center.

In 2000 Interfaith relocated its entire facility to the former St. John’s facility across the street.

The old building is now Brooklyn Jewish Hospital apartment complex."}

Brooklyn Jewish Hospital no longer exists and with the exception of the Lubavitch community, there are no Jews left in Crown Heights.

{From the ‘40s through the ‘60s, many middle class Jews lived in Crown Heights.

 In 1950, the neighborhood was 89 percent white, with some 50 to 60 percent of the white population, or about 75,000 people, being Jewish, and a small, growing black population.

By 1957, there were about 25,000 blacks in Crown Heights, making up about one-fourth of the population.

There were thirty-four large synagogues in the neighborhood, including the Bobov, Chovevei Torah, and 770 Eastern Parkway, home of the worldwide Lubavitch movement.

There were also three prominent Yeshiva elementary schools in the neighborhood, Crown Heights Yeshiva on Crown Street, the Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway, and the Reines Talmud Torah.

As of 2010, of the approximately 150,000 residents in Crown Heights, 74.7% were Black, 19.1% were White, 4.2% were Hispanic, and 2% were Asian and other ethnic groups.

Crown Heights now has a majority West Indian and African American population.}(Wikipedia)

That little red haired boy grew up in Brooklyn, attended Yeshiva there and is now living in Passaic and indeed, he is non-other than me!

The new little boy who was born on Rosh Chodesh Av (who is my new grandson) was born in Bikur Cholim Hospital in Yerushalayim.

That hospital, similar to Brooklyn Jewish Hospital opened its doors in 1925.

 One of the founders of that hospital was Yoel Moshe Solomon, the great, great, great grandfather of the new born baby.

There are many more Jews in Yerushalayim now than when Yoel Moshe Solomon founded the hospital.

Indeed, Bikur Cholim is still delivering Jewish babies; approximately 6,000 Jewish babies are born their annually!

As the news set in, the first thought which overwhelmed me was how I was emotionally bonded to my yet unseen new grandson who was born in the same hospital where his great-grandfather (my father-Yoel Moshe Eisenman) was born 90 years ago.

From Yerushalayim to Brooklyn, to Passaic and back to Yerushalayim, my family has returned to Yerushalayim; to its roots and its eternal home.

The second thought which went through my mind as my son informed of the birth of my new grandson was to call my mother and share with her the news.

Alas, it was not to be; as she in no longer here for me to call; however, at that moment another thought entered my mind; a thought which granted me ultimate solace, consolation and comfort.

The Gemara (Yerushalmi; Moed Kotton; Perek Gimmel) informs us that for the entire year of mourning, there is a strict judgment which is leveled against the mourner’s entire family.

However says the Gemara, if a male child is born into the family, the entire family has been ‘healed’. This statement of the Gemara is quoted almost verbatim as it is codified in the Shulchan Aruch (SA, YD, 394:4).

I now understood the ‘rush’ of emotion which I felt.

It was of course the realization that the best birthday present in the world has been handed to me by Hashem and his two partners, my son Meir and his wife Malka.

It also included the realization that the baby was born in Yerushalayim in the same hospital founded by my great, great, grandfather and where the baby’s great-grandfather was born.

Yet, even more so, it was fueled by the halachik reality that a new and critical great level of comfort was achieved for my entire family and me as the ‘Din’ (judgment) which accompanies the passing of a loved one has now been lifted from us.

For that and for so many other things, as I sang the Hallel this morning, my heart was bursting with thanks and love for HE who constantly consoles and watches over all of us.

The Simcha was further heightened as tonight in Yerushalayim, there will be two Shalom Zachors in my family.

My nephew (from my wife’s side) also had a baby boy this week in Yerushalayim and that means that my beloved mother-in-law, the lone surviving grandparent for all of my children will have the privilege of celebrating the birth of two great-grandsons, both born to grandsons who live in Yerushalayim!

As I compose these words while feeling composed and comforted, I lift my eyes to He who comforts all with a sense of gratitude and thankfulness.

Thank you Hashem for allowing me to reach this part of my life and thank you for allowing me to realize just how blessed I really am.

Wishing all a special Rosh Chodesh and wonderful Shabbos,

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “Hashem, is that you?”” (7/15/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 28th of Tammuz 5775 and July 15, 2015

 

“Hashem, is that you?”

 

(Warning, this Vort contains possible trigger points for some people.

Reader discretion is advised.

This Vort raises issues which some of you may find uncomfortable to discuss.

Please note: this Vort is only to be considered ‘food for thought’ and nothing else.

It is intended to make you think.

(We are still allowed to think and question; correct?)

 

Recently in one of the seemingly endless email-blasts-requests we all receive for all sorts of things; one arrived with a request to daven for an anonymous (at least for me and for most of the recipients of the email) couple.

As I read the email I saw something which really bothered me.

(I cannot recall which list it was on. If you know, please don’t tell me as my point is to raise a question… not to be told, “This is what he/she meant”).

Here is the phrase which appeared which irked me:

“A rabbi pointed out that when praying for a refuah from Hashem there are no titles.

 It is just **** ben/bas *****.

 In a critical situation, a hairs breath or drop can make the difference.”

Before I continue, please allow me to reiterate: I have no personal agenda against any person and I have no idea who the anonymous author of this statement is, nor do I want to know. I also realize that this quote may have been taken out of context or written quickly….

That being said, my points (I believe) are relevant even if this case is not a perfect example of what I am about to question.

With that disclaimer, let’s proceed to question what I believe is a fundamental issue with somethings “frum people do and say”.

The first issue I have is who is the ‘rabbi’ that the author of this statement is quoting?

Is it Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt”l or is Rav Moshe Foonsternberg?

Meaning, is this a ‘rabbi’ whose comments are generally accepted as authoritative by the general Orthodox population, or is it a just a rabbi like Rabbi Eisenman?

That is important information to know.

Secondly, while I am not an expert of these issues (or on any issue for that matter); however, that being said, I believe that “Mr. Anonymous Rabbi’s” words may have been misunderstood.

The issue of ‘titles’ which are to be omitted when pleading for mercy before G-d ostensibly only refers to those titles which may indicate a sense of hubris on the part of the title holder; such as HaRav, HaGaon…

In the case of this sick person, the ‘title’ which ‘the rabbi’ wanted to omit was the sick person’s affiliation with one particular part of the tribe of Levi. It connotes neither hubris nor pretension. Perhaps, the ‘listener’ misunderstood the real intent of the ‘rabbi’?

This in of itself is bothersome as too often ‘all-of-us’ ‘quote’ from ‘rabbis’ things we (think we) heard and understood when in reality we are actually corrupting a halachik concept which we never understood from the get-go.

Guess what? That’s still not my main point. That’s still not what’s really bothering me.

What really ‘bent me out of shape’ was the line: “In a critical situation, a hairs breath or drop can make the difference”.

Run that by me again please.

What did you say? “A hairs breath or drop can make the difference”???

My assumption is that the writer meant to say that if you did include the ‘title’ “HaKohen” in your heartfelt prayers for a sick person (whom you only know about from an email/blast) you will be guilty of being ‘off’ by a “hairs breath or drop” and that by innocently adding the ‘title’ “HaKohen” you “can make the difference”,  meaning you will have caused the sick person to DIE because you were “a hairs breath or drop” off in the name!!!

????

Does the author of this ‘important statement’ really expect us to believe that Hashem, who knows all, who cares about all… in His infinite wisdom and compassion will act like a lowly pencil pusher at the DMV who sends your application for a new license to the garbage bin because you checked off “Mrs.” on your application as opposed to “Ms.”???

Is Hashem so petty that -if a thousand Jews take the time to plead for mercy for someone they don’t even know and they ‘innocently’ add in the title “HaKohen”- He will take this application for mercy and throw it in the garbage with a red line through it saying: “REJECTED for being a hairs breath or drop of the mark???

Is that how we think of Hashem; as a petty, critical, nitpicking stickler??

Who is Hashem anyway?

Did you ever take the time to think of that?

Are we really supposed to believe that an innocent, mention to Hashem that a person who really is a Kohen, is indeed a Kohen will be the cause for Hashem to allow for the sick person’s demise?

Friends, do we think that davening to Hashem is really talking to G-d?

Or (as too often it appears) we think of Hashem as some sort of computer which when you press the right buttons in the right order you get the right result; however, if you press them (even unintentionally and with good meanings) in the wrong order (even being a hairs breath or drop off), the computer will not understand your ‘commands’ and your request will be rejected?

Is that really how we want our children to think of Hashem?

Is this perception even correct?

I tend to think not!

Perhaps it’s time to talk to Hashem as you talk to your friend.

Perhaps it’s time to think of Hashem…

So there you have it folks: do we ever really think of Hashem as someone who listens and cares or as some petty pencil pusher or worse as some sort of (Chas V’Shalom) mindless computer?

Thanks for listening.

And thank you for allowing me to get this off my chest.

I hope this causes at least someone to think about Hashem and what He is.

And please Hashem, have mercy on me if I was (unintentionally) out of line here; please, I know that YOU know my heart (at least I hope) was in the right place.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort—“Stuff” (7/14/15)

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The Short Vort


Good Afternoon!


 Today is Tuesday the 27th of Tammuz 5775 and July 14th 2015


 “Stuff”


 (The following Vort is once again about no one and about you and everyone.


It is the product of my imagination and the observance of real life people in real life circumstances.)


 


“Stuff”; that’s the best and most precise word I can come with for describing the tension which too often exists between family members and their unresolved relationship issues.


These issues can be between parents and children; they can be unresolved sibling rivalry disputes and they can unarticulated feelings of resentment based on perceived or real feelings of neglect.


One common theme which threads its way through all of this ‘stuff’ is the lack of communication between the disputants.


As a rabbi, I am often asked to mediate between family factions and attempt to achieve Shalom by encouraging family members to talk about their ‘stuff’.


Such was the case of Esther Steinman (name changed) and her father.


 Esther was one of five children. She was born in the number three slot, making her the proverbial ‘middle child’.


Her oldest brother, Naftoli, the B’chor of the family was the ‘perfect son’. He was bright and well behaved.


Her immediate older sibling was her sister Rena.


Rena’s footsteps were near impossible for Esther to follow in.


As Esther related to me, “How would you feel in school when every teacher from kindergarten until 12th grade would invariably at one point during the year ask, “Esther, why can’t you be like your sister Rena?”


Her two younger siblings, Chani and the baby of the family, Avramel, could do no wrong; at least that was how Esther saw things.


Esther began to look for outlets to find approval and validation and the first place she went was her father’s study.


Esther’s mother was busy with all of the children and anyway, Esther always felt her mother favored Rena and Chani.


Her father was therefore her hoped for source of consolation and encouragement; however, here too she was stymied in her search for recognition.


R’ Shlomo Steinberg was a caring and devoted husband and father. He worked hard as a CPA and made sure to learn at least two to three hours daily.


Perhaps he was brought up in a stoic household; however, whatever the reason, Shlomo Steinman was just not emotionally there for his daughter Esther.


When she would come to his study desperately seeking emotional strength and support, he was vacant and an emotional ‘no-show’.


Try as hard as she could, Esther found no solace or comfort in the company of her father.


Eventually she began to resent her father and ultimately this resentment led to anger which bordered on disdain and morphed into deep rooted feelings of bitterness.


When Esther married she specifically married an ‘out-of town’ boy in order to move away from the family (read: father) who she felt was never there for her.


One day R’ Shlomo came to my study and asked me to call Esther for him; he wanted to make amends.


I was once again asked to be the mediator as family members attempted to clean up their ‘stuff’.


I called Esther and informed her of her father’s wish.


She asked me what she should do if her father reaches out to her and perhaps even apologizes.


I told her forgiveness is certainly a Jewish trait and when her father speaks to her she should speak from her heart as ‘words which come from the heart, enter the heart’.


The anticipated meeting finally took place a few days before Shiva Asar B’Tammuz.


The morning afterward I saw R’ Shlomo at Shacharis; he asked to speak to me privately.


I listened attentively as he related to me the contents of last night’s meeting.


“I told Esther how now, looking back years later, that I owe her an apology. I was not there for her and I realize that I must ask Mechila.” (forgiveness)


“And what did Esther respond?”


He was quiet and then he said, “Esther looked at me and said, “Abba, of course I forgive you.” I began to smile when she suddenly said, “Abba?” “Yes”… Abba I must tell you something. I am Mochel (forgive) you; however, it’s just not that simple. Forgiveness allows me to erase all of the bitter and painful memories of running to you for support and finding you emotionally unavailable. It allows me to clean the slate from all of the times I hoped in vain you would come to my room to comfort me after a difficult day in school and forgiveness lets me remove from my memory the times I just needed you to be there for me and you were absent. All of that forgiveness can do; however, it does not fill the now vacated space in my heart with good and comforting memories. It does not replace the painful ones with uplifting thoughts; it just allows the slate to be clean and empty. I forgive you; however, there is nothing which fills the newly created void. And that void hurts very much.”

Shlomo Steinberg burst into uncontrollable sobbing.


“Rabbi, what can I do now? How can I make it better?” He asked through his tears.


I looked at him and said the words which came from my own heart. “Shlomo, you have to begin today to fill that void. It won’t be easy; however, the time to create the new memories is now. Just start today, one memory a day and with that one shared experience is added to the blank pad.


The pages are now clean; it’s up to you to begin to fill the book.”


 


“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel


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

 

 

The Short Vort’ - ““Stuff”” (7/14/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 27th of Tammuz 5775 and July 14th 2015

 

“Stuff”

 

(The following Vort is once again about no one and about you and everyone.

It is the product of my imagination and the observance of real life people in real life circumstances.)

 

“Stuff”; that’s the best and most precise word I can come with for describing the tension which too often exists between family members and their unresolved relationship issues.

These issues can be between parents and children; they can be unresolved sibling rivalry disputes and they can unarticulated feelings of resentment based on perceived or real feelings of neglect.

One common theme which threads its way through all of this ‘stuff’ is the lack of communication between the disputants.

As a rabbi, I am often asked to mediate between family factions and attempt to achieve Shalom by encouraging family members to talk about their ‘stuff’.

Such was the case of Esther Steinman (name changed) and her father.

 Esther was one of five children. She was born in the number three slot, making her the proverbial ‘middle child’.

Her oldest brother, Naftoli, the B’chor of the family was the ‘perfect son’. He was bright and well behaved.

Her immediate older sibling was her sister Rena.

Rena’s footsteps were near impossible for Esther to follow in.

As Esther related to me, “How would you feel in school when every teacher from kindergarten until 12th grade would invariably at one point during the year ask, “Esther, why can’t you be like your sister Rena?”

Her two younger siblings, Chani and the baby of the family, Avramel, could do no wrong; at least that was how Esther saw things.

Esther began to look for outlets to find approval and validation and the first place she went was her father’s study.

Esther’s mother was busy with all of the children and anyway, Esther always felt her mother favored Rena and Chani.

Her father was therefore her hoped for source of consolation and encouragement; however, here too she was stymied in her search for recognition.

R’ Shlomo Steinberg was a caring and devoted husband and father. He worked hard as a CPA and made sure to learn at least two to three hours daily.

Perhaps he was brought up in a stoic household; however, whatever the reason, Shlomo Steinman was just not emotionally there for his daughter Esther.

When she would come to his study desperately seeking emotional strength and support, he was vacant and an emotional ‘no-show’.

Try as hard as she could, Esther found no solace or comfort in the company of her father.

Eventually she began to resent her father and ultimately this resentment led to anger which bordered on disdain and morphed into deep rooted feelings of bitterness.

When Esther married she specifically married an ‘out-of town’ boy in order to move away from the family (read: father) who she felt was never there for her.

One day R’ Shlomo came to my study and asked me to call Esther for him; he wanted to make amends.

I was once again asked to be the mediator as family members attempted to clean up their ‘stuff’.

I called Esther and informed her of her father’s wish.

She asked me what she should do if her father reaches out to her and perhaps even apologizes.

I told her forgiveness is certainly a Jewish trait and when her father speaks to her she should speak from her heart as ‘words which come from the heart, enter the heart’.

The anticipated meeting finally took place a few days before Shiva Asar B’Tammuz.

The morning afterward I saw R’ Shlomo at Shacharis; he asked to speak to me privately.

I listened attentively as he related to me the contents of last night’s meeting.

“I told Esther how now, looking back years later, that I owe her an apology. I was not there for her and I realize that I must ask Mechila.” (forgiveness)

“And what did Esther respond?”

 

The Short Vort’ - “Leadership* (7/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 25th of Tammuz 5775 and July 12, 2015

 

Leadership

 

We are all too familiar with Hashem Yisborach initiating a conversation with Moshe Rabbeinu; however, it is much less common for Moshe Rabbeinu to initiate a conversation with Hashem Yisborach!

Yet, that is exactly what occurs in yesterday’s parsha.

In Parshas Pinchas after Hashem says to Moshe:

"Go up to this mount Abarim and look at the land that I have given to the children of Israel.

And when you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, just as Aharon your brother was gathered.”  (Bamidbar, 27: 11, 12)

At this point Moshe realizes that ‘the writing is on the wall’ and he will not live forever.

 He also now knows that he will not be the one to bring his beloved flock to the Promised Land. Therefore, Moshe reaches out to Hashem to appoint an appropriate leader to the ‘fill his shoes’.

Moshe emotionally appeals to Hashem:

"Let the Lord, the God of spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go forth before them and come before them, who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd." (Ibid, 16, 17)

This is somewhat surprising.

Did Moshe actually think Hashem was about to leave His flock leaderless so that Moshe has to ‘remind’ Hashem to appoint a new leader?

What was Moshe Rabbeinu thinking?

We now turn to one of my ‘heroes’; one of the great Hassidic masters of all time: The Kotzker Rebbe (1787–1859).

The Kotzker, in his trademark brevity and with his classic ability for incisiveness and insightfulness informs us that the reason Moshe felt the need to be proactive in ‘reminding’ Hashem that He must appoint a new leader was: “Moshe thought that Hashem was about to appoint Pinchas as the new leader over the Jewish people.

Moshe did not want this to occur since Pinchas was a ‘Kapdan’ (literally, ‘strict’ or ‘rigid’).

Therefore, Moshe took the initiative to say "Let the Lord, the God of spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go forth before them and come before them…”.

(Sefer Ohel Moshe, Parshas Pinchas, Page 55)

This is most amazing.

 Moshe, based on his concerns over the possible appointment of Pinchas as the leader, takes the unusual and somewhat audacious step to proactively inform Hashem of his concerns!

What was behind the concerns of Moshe?

Why was there such a need for Moshe to attempt to preclude Pinchas from becoming the leader of the people?

The Kotzker explains that if one looks in the language which Moshe chooses to address Hashem one can understand his concerns.

Moshe says: “Let the Lord, the God of spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation”.

 The phrase “the God of spirits of all flesh” is quite an illuminating phrase; what does it refer to?

Moshe, in essence was saying:

 “Hashem, You who understand the ‘spirit of all flesh’….

 You who understand the challenges and vicissitudes of life which ‘all men’ struggle with… Please do not appoint a leader who is somewhat lacking in this most critical character trait of tolerance and acceptance.

You Hashem, who understands better than all the difficult tests and struggles that man deals with on a daily basis… please… please appoint a leader over your flock who understands and has compassion for people.

 A ‘Kapdan’, a person who is rigid and strict, notwithstanding the necessity of this trait in certain limited circumstances, is not fit to be the leader of our people.

Only a person who has the empathy and concern for all people; a person who understands and appreciates the difficulties of life and the trials and tribulations of the common man is qualified to be the leader of Your people.

 The Kapdan has his place, albeit not as the supreme leader!”

Moshe felt so passionately about this issue that in order to preclude and ultimately disqualify Pinchas for serious consideration for the position of leadership he took the unusual and unprecedented step of proactively preventing Pinchas from being appointed his successor.

A leader must be a person who understands each and every person and each and every one of their problems.

We cannot afford to have leaders who broad-brush the Jewish people into rigid and unyielding compartments.

A minister of religion from an ‘Ultra-Orthodox Jewish party’ must never and most incorrectly categorize the great majority of American Jews as ‘not Jewish’ simply because of their lack of affiliation with Orthodox Judaism.

Such ideological inelasticity is exactly the danger Moshe Rabbeinu perceived would occur when unbending and inflexible philosophical heirs of Pinchas assume the mantle of leadership.

A leader according to the Holy Kotzker’s insightful understanding of Moshe’s concerns must be first and foremost the opposite of a Kapdan; he must be the antithesis of rigidity and inflexibility.

He must be understanding and compassionate and whenever possible flexible and yielding.

He must do his best to be understanding and forbearing, gentle and affable, amiable and approachable and receptive and sympathetic to the needs of his flock.

A leader who is rigid and austere, hard-line and intransigent, unyielding and exacting is not fit to be the shepherd for the flock of Hashem.

We are all leaders.

We are all not Moshe Rabbeinu and most of us are not even leaders of a congregation or of a group; nevertheless, we are all leaders.

All of us have someone somewhere who takes their cues from us.

If we are parents, it is our children who look to us for leadership.

If we employed, our co-workers are influenced by how we respond to them.

In short, all of us, whatever our station in life, is influencing someone somewhere.

Never forget the lesson of the Holy Kotzker Zt”l.

Rigidity is the key to failure.

Compassion and caring, understanding and acceptance are the secrets for success.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “A Penny For Your Thoughts” (7/9/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 22nd of Tammuz 5775 and July 9, 2015

 

A Penny For Your Thoughts

Being a pudgy red haired boy, I was the perfect target for bullies and other ‘insensitive’ children.

 I remember with not too fond memories how I went to school every day in first grade.

My mother would prepare my favorite sandwich and then she carefully placed a chocolate bar and a bag of pretzels next to my thermos which fit exactly into my red lunch box.

When I arrived at yeshiva, the following scenario repeated itself daily.

 How it began I can no longer recall; however, soon enough it became a firmly established ‘ritual’.

I would take the ‘school bus’ to yeshiva and generally our bus arrived a good twenty minutes before school began.

I have no recollection of any teacher being on ‘yard duty’ or of any official supervision which was in place from the time the bus arrived until line up began.

I would alight from the bus, head off to the school yard and even before I could place my ‘stuff’ down, Larry was there.

Larry Drickstein (name changed) was the strongest and meanest kid in the class.

Every morning he would approach me and I would reluctantly hand over to Larry both the chocolate bar and the bag of pretzels.

At first, he would demand to see the contents of my lunch box and take what he wanted.

Soon enough, he became familiar with my lunch menu and I would simply hand over the goods automatically without any need for Larry to officially ‘shake me down’; I simply did what I knew I had to do in order to avoid a punch in the stomach.

I never told a soul about our ‘arrangement’.

I certainly would never tell a teacher as Larry had made it very clear that any tattling would lead me to me being ‘beat up’.

Every day for the majority of the year, I supplied Larry Dickstein with a chocolate bar and pretzels and in return I had the peace of mind that of knowing that today I would not be beat up.

One day the yeshiva announced we would be going to the New York Aquarium in Coney Island on a trip.

The night before I asked my mother if I could have some spending money for the outing; she gave me one quarter. I carefully wrapped my quarter in my napkin and off I went to school.

When I arrived at school Larry was there and I promptly handed over the ‘goods’; however, Larry noticed the strangely folded napkin. “Hey Carrot Top (Larry always had a way with words) what’s in the napkin?”

“Nottin”

Larry grabbed the napkin and I attempted to resist; however, before either of us could say a word the quarter fell out and dropped through the grates which were on the floor of the yard and descended to the depths of Brooklyn where it remains to this day.

I had no chocolate, I had no pretzels and now I had no quarter.

First grade finished, Larry and I went our different ways and the last I heard Larry became a doctor and I a rabbi.

Last month I was visiting someone in a hospital in Manhattan.

 As I am sitting near the bed of the congregant, I hear from the behind the curtain the other patient saying, “Dr. Drickstein, how can I thank you enough?”

After the Doctor had left I stopped by the bed of the ‘roommate’.

“I’m sorry to bother you; however, was that Dr. Larry Drickstein who was here?”

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“I have the perfect present for you to give him to express your thanks.”

Later that day, a box with one chocolate bar and one bag of pretzels arrived at the office of Dr. Larry Drickstein with the following note: “As per the suggestion of your old friend Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, please accept these as a token of gratitude.”

Two days later I received 100 bars of the finest Swiss chocolate with a check for $360.

The note attached read, “A dollar a day for the year -fifty years ago -when I made your life miserable.”

This was followed by an email, a phone call and finally a lunch date.

Over half a century from when we first met, Larry and I had lunch and laughed about old times.

At the end of the lunch he handed me a small box.

“What this?”

 “Open it and you’ll see… there is one thing still missing.”

As I opened the box I noticed it contained only one coin; a shiny mint condition quarter from the year 1965.

It may take five years and it may take fifty; however, somehow and in some way everything comes full circle.    

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

The Short Vort’ - “"Entitlement*” (7/8/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 21st of Tammuz 5775 and July 8, 2015

 

Entitlement

 

There has been much discussion over the years regarding the issue of entitlement.

I openly admit that I speak without scientific results and without the benefit of any extensive or exhaustive research study. Nevertheless, I feel strongly that we live in a time of when the feelings of entitlement continue to grow and grow.

Many people feel they ‘have the right’ to express themselves and their lifestyles in whatever way they want.

Children often tell their parents that they ‘need’ a cell phone. They no longer ‘want’ a cell phone; rather, they feel entitled to a cell phone.

Adults feel they have the ‘right’ to all types of benefits and perks.

Spouses feel they have the ‘right’ to act in ways which in previous generations would have been considered unacceptable.

Grown men announce they have the ‘right’ to be recognized and appreciated and even applauded for insisting on their ‘right’ to alter the way Hashem made them.

Animals now have ‘rights’ and are entitled to similar protections which are afforded humans.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of our age of entitlement is the feeling that we have the ‘right’ to have our complaints and grievances adjudicated in a favorable and beneficial way to us- immediately.

We have a ‘right’ to get our way and we have a right to get it ‘now’!

People want to get their way and they want to get it when they want it.

Unfortunately, life of course is much more complicated and growing up in a world where the sense of entitlement constantly increases, does not bode for the future of the human race.

Recently, I came across a story which highlights this pervasive sense of entitlement which has become endemic to our society.

ALLIANCE, Ohio — A 44-year-old Ohio woman was arrested Monday after calling 911 to report Chinese food that was "not up to par for her liking," according to police.

A woman in Ohio ordered Chinese food, paid with a credit card, ate from the food and after deciding it was ‘not up to par’, she demanded a refund in case. When the proprietor explained that since she paid with a credit card, he would refund the money to the card, (however, he could not give her cash); she proceeded to call 911 to report her ‘emergency’!!

After police determined the woman had no real emergency, she was arrested and charged with misuse of 911, a misdemeanor.

What causes people to have the audacity to call 911 to complain about the quality of their Chinese food?

I imagine it has something to do with the fact that if you are a famous and well known former sports star who is unhappy about the quality of the portion he received from Hashem; you are rewarded with accolades for having the courage to insist of what you are ‘entitled’ to.

No one should be a Shmatta in this world; however, no one is entitled to the entire world either.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort— R’ Chaim Zt”L (7/6/15)

 


The Short Vort


Good Evening!


 


Today is Monday the 19th of Tammuz 5775 and July 6, 2015


 


R’ Chaim Zt”L


 


On Wednesday the 14th of Tammuz 5775 (July 1, 2015), a great and righteous Jew passed away.


His name was R’ Chaim Wertheimer Zt”l, and when he was niftar (passed away) last week he was 106 years old!


Coupled with his Arichus Yamim (longevity), he left this world with thousands of Yiddishe (Jewish) descendants who all owe their life to this holy Jew.


You are probably asking, “Who is R’ Chaim Wertheimer?


How come there were no blaring headlines in all of the Jewish publications announcing his petira (death)?


Who was maspid (eulogize) him?


Was his levaya (funeral) in Yerushalayim? 


Was kevurah (burial) on Har HaZeisim (Mount of Olives)?”


The answer to all of these questions is a resounding ‘no’!


There were no screeching headlines and no great hespedim (eulogies) for R’ Chaim.


Why not?


The reason is simple.


R’ Chaim Wertheimer Zt”l was a Tzaddik Nistar (hidden righteous person).


He wanted to remain anonymous and he wanted no fanfare.


Indeed, he was such a Nistar (hidden righteous person) and he was so well hidden that his parents converted to Christianity, he himself was baptized as a child, in his adult life he professed no affiliation with any religion, he married a non-Jewish woman, and he never publically associated himself with any Jewish organization or cause; no doubt all of this was done to insure that he would retain his anonymity and never be in the limelight.


In fact, during his entire adult life he adopted the name Nicholas George Winton; without a doubt to further conceal his true identity and thus allowing him to avoid the publicity and the fame which he was so deserving of.


Nevertheless, R’ Chaim was a Tzaddik; believe me he was a real Tzaddik.


Rav Chaim fulfilled the literal meaning of the Mishna in Sanhedrin (4:5) “Whoever saves one Jewish life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world”.


In fact R’ Chaim fulfilled this Mishna thousands of times and even now, after his death, he still continues to fulfill it!


R’ Chaim organized the rescue of 669 Jewish children out of Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport (German for children transport). He found homes for the children and arranged for their safe passage to Britain.


He put his life in danger, he contributed his own time and money, he also raised large sums of currency to save the Jewish children and he did not rest until he had succeeded in redeeming 669 Yiddishe Kinderlach (Jewish children) out of the jaws of the German killing machine.


R’ Chaim never told anyone about his Mitzvohs; he chose to remain anonymous and wanted no public recognition of his great Mitzvah.


His wife, in 1988, while cleaning the attic of their home, chanced upon a scrapbook in which was detailed the children he saved and the families who ‘adopted’ them.


R’ Chaim had never even told his own wife about his Mitzvohs!


All of the parents of the rescued children were sent to the gas chambers.


The 669 children survived; many live now in United States, the United Kingdom and Israel.


They owe their lives and their children and grandchildren’s lives to R’ Chaim.


In davening we say: “"L’olam Yihei Adam Yirei Shamayim B’Seser U’BaGalui", (a person must fear Heaven, both when he is alone and (of course) also when all eyes are focused on him).


The commentators point out the main emphasis of this statement is for a person to fear heaven when he is B’Seser- in private; indeed, it is more difficult to fear Heaven when you are in private than when you in the public arena.


As a rabbi, I can tell you that there are many people who when they are in public arena certainly act with ‘lots of fear of heaven’!


When you are receiving accolades for your actions and you are publicly recognized for your accomplishments, it’s easy to be one who ‘fears heaven’.


However, to fear heaven when you are totally out of the eye of the public and you have no expectation of receiving tributes or honors; that is the real test of a righteous person.


R’ Chaim Wertheimer Zt”l passed the test with flying colors!


To the world he made sure he was seen as Nicholas George Winton, a man who professed no religious affiliation; however, to Hashem Yisborach there is no doubt that he was known as R’ Chaim the Tzaddik! He was a man who established 669 new Jewish ‘worlds’; and in his merits the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these new Jewish ‘worlds’ continue to serve Hashem all over the globe.


May his memory be an inspiration to all us of just how much one person can accomplish if they only try.


 


If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel


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