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The Short Vort’ - “The Loneliest, Yet, Most Meaningful Purim” (3/2/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday Erev Shabbos Zachor 5775 and February 27, 2015

 

The Loneliest, Yet, Most Meaningful Purim

 

It was a time when the brown paper bag which your mother packed you lunch in on Monday was expected to be returned from school folded and cleaned to be reused the remainder of the week.

The Parker fountain pen you received at your Bar Mitzvah was projected to last you through all of high school.

The one and only house phone was situated on a small desk-like chair in the hallway of your apartment in East Flatbush.

When the phone rang, all went quiet.

No one could talk in their bedroom or kitchen on the phone; that was one of those things which was just not done.

And if by chance your cousin Bob called from ‘The Island’ which was considered ‘ long distance’, the entire household held their breath as the father of the household counted his words as he spoke, for each precious minute which ticked away on a ‘long distance phone’ cost expensive pennies which were guarded dearly.

Every Shabbos Marvin Dubinsky and his best friend Ikey would make their way to the Young Israel of East Flatbush on East 89th.

 For Mincha and Shlosh Shiddush they went to the “Ave ‘A’ Shul” because there they served herring in cream sauce.

On Sunday morning, they davened at Rabbi Hecht’s Shul because they just loved the egg kichel given out after morning Minyan.

It was a happy time and yet, it was a tough time.

Most of the fathers were blue-collar workers and many if not most of the mothers tendered the home or worked in the New York City Public School system.

Everyone was special and everyone was cherished.

There was Hymie the plumber, who no matter how many tools he brought to your house, he always forgot the special wrench needed for the job. “I’ll be back after lunch with the right tool”, he would say. For the next three hours we had to ‘dance’ around all of the tools Hymie left scattered on the kitchen floor.

And there was Moishe the photographer. Moishe would schlep forty pounds of equipment to different homes to take pictures of new born children with the hope that the families would purchase his photographs.

It was a time when parents went to work with fever and never took a day off.

 Those families, who were staunchly Shomer Shabbos, could hardly afford to take off additional days such as Chol HaMoed or even Purim, for no work meant no pay. Money was tight and not working could mean not having chicken for Shabbos or even being fired.

It was March 18th 1965, a Thursday and it was Purim.

Ikey’s father was a butcher and there was no way he could take off work on a Thursday. He arose early, listened to the Megillah and sufficed with a salami sandwich at work for the Purim Seuda.

His mother was a secretery at a local business. They were behind in their tuition payments and she could not afford to leave work early. She would also eat ‘the Seuda’ at work; and that left Ikey at home alone for Purim.

After Mincha at Rabbi Zimmerman’s Shul, Ikey walked home slowly and alone. When he arrived at his empty house, he took out a cold piece of chicken from the fridge and ate it with a roll he had purchased for 7 cents at the bakery on Ave A.

As Ikey sat in his kitchen alone and lonely, a tear rolled down his cheek and onto the drumstick. He tasted the tear’s saltiness as he bit into the chicken.

Every year I think back to my tear-covered-drumstick as I now sit at my own Purim Seuda surrounded by family and friends.

I remember my loneliness from 50 years ago as I ate my cold drumstick; however, I now realize that my lonely Purim Seuda was a small price to pay in comparison to my parent’s commitment to my attending Yeshiva.

As I sing Shir Hamaalos prior to bentching after the Purim Seuda an unseen tear forms in my eye as I recite the words: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” as I recall my hard working parents who literally ‘sowed’ with tears-(both mine and theirs) - so that today my family and I could reap the benefits of their hard work in joy.

Those were hard times; not at all like our times of entitlement and overabundance.

Loneliness is hard; however, when you are privileged to see the joyous ending, the pain becomes easier and in some ways even pleasant to bear.

It’s wonderful to live at a time where almost everyone is home on Purim and the neighborhood is crowded with cars and mini-vans delivering Mishloach Manos throughout the neighborhood.

I am no longer alone; however, I often long for those times back in Brooklyn when somehow, even with my lonely Purim Seuda, life was simpler and in many ways more meaningful.

Often, “less is more”.

 

Wishing All a Wonderful Purim,

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Purim is Pluralistic “ (3/1/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 10th of Adar 5775 and March 1, 2015

 

Purim is Pluralistic

PIP Revisited

 

A number of years back I began a campaign entitled PIP.

For those unfamiliar with PIP a quick history is in order.

I began to notice, (and of course this is from a Rabbi’s view), that many people were confiding in me that Purim was less than their most favorite holiday.

Women complained that they felt entangled in a web of competition with other women as to who could come up with the cutest, brightest and most creative ‘theme Mishloach Manos’.

Men vented to me their frustrations as the costs of feeding their family’s insatiable ‘need’ to add just ‘one more name’ to an already inestimable list of people whom ‘we must send Mishloach Manos to’ were depleting their already meager savings.

Families went scrambling to put something together-when someone who was not on their list appeared at the door with unexpected Mishloach Manos- in a frantic effort to avoid the sin of all sins; namely: ‘not having a Mishloach Manos to reciprocate with!’

After hearing the anguished cries of mothers and fathers and after witnessing expanding waist lines-

 I finally proclaimed: PIP!!!

Purim is Pashut!

Just give one or two (or a few more) Mishloach Manos to the people you think might really benefit from them, and when people come unexpectedly to the door, no need to scramble and no need to pull it together- just say we are PIPers and then there is no need to reciprocate.

This plan seemed logical, practical and healthy; after all does anyone really need 790 Hamantashen?

Alas, this year we have decided to revisit PIP.

No, I am not planning to be crafting adorable theme baskets covered with tinsel and bows and topped with a lyrical poem about Mordechai and me.

And I am not playing partisan politics and aligning myself with the ‘right to give back Mishloach Manos Movement’- or as they are commonly referred to: M & Ms.

What I am doing though is ‘listening’.

Many of you have written to me that despite the heartfelt pleas of those women who feel burdened by creative/thematic Mishloach Manos, many other women actually look forward and cherish the activity.

Others have informed me that while perhaps the rabbi is given a ‘rabbinic dispensation’ and is not expected to reciprocate for every Mishloach Manos his family receives, other feel just plain awkward when they take and do not give back.

I have listened and I have heard.

This year I am promoting PIP again; however, this year it stands for something else.

This year PIP means: Purim is Pluralistic.

How dare I deprive those artistically inclined women and men from finding spiritual expression to their creativity on one of the holiest days of the calendar?

And how can I be so pompous and pretentious as to proclaim that ‘one may receive; yet, one may not give’?

Therefore, this year I advocate and support a revisited and revised version of PIP.

Please note, this version is new and improved and you must discard and disregard all older versions of PIP if you want Purim is Pluralistic to work in your home.

As the passuk says:  “Israel has no king; everyone shall do as they see fit”; (Shoftim 17:6); so too, there is no king in Passaic and all shall do as they see fit!

This year I proclaim:

·       The ‘creationists’ should embrace their creativity and make Mishloach Manos to their hearts content.

·       The ‘reciprocators’ should and will be allowed to reciprocate and create their ad-hoc Mishloach Manos when the unexpected knock at the door.

·       The list shall be endless and no man, woman or even rabbi shall have the right to limit the amount of people who shall receive Mishloach Manos.

·       Concurrently, those that would like to maintain a ‘don’t give- don’t take’ attitude should be allowed to so with a sense of dignity and pride.

·       No one should be shamed into giving more than they want and no one should feel awkward if they choose to be non-reciprocating.

·       Purim shall be truly Pluralistic as dueling understandings of the day shall co-exist in peace and harmony.

 

Therefore, this year we say Purim is Pluralistic and in the merit of our being tolerant and accepting of others and their needs and their wants, Hashem should hear our Tefillos and should bring us the true meaning of PIP- Peace in Passaic and Peace on the entire Planet!

 

Wishing all a joyous Purim,

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

The Short Vort’ - “Whatever You Want To Call It!” (2/27/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday Erev Shabbos Zachor 5775 and February 27, 2015

 

Whatever You Want To Call It!

 

The other day I asked about what is a ‘nes’ (miracle) and what is not.

I do not know the answer.

Yet, there is one thing I do know; appreciate all aspects of your health when you have them.

Being in bed for the last 48 hours and having an aching feeling over your entire body is no fun.

Not being able to concentrate on anything for more than 45 seconds is no delight.

And waking up and not being sure if its 4 AM or 4 PM as you have no idea how long you slept is no walk in the park.

So whatever you want to call it; appreciate your health when you have it!

I hope for now on I will!

Good Shabbos to all

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

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel  

The Short Vort’ - “Miracle on Ice” (2/22/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 3rd of Adar 5775 and February 22, 2015

 

Miracle on Ice

 

In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of college players, defeated the four-time defending gold-medal winning Soviet team at the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York on Feb 22, 1980, exactly 35 years ago today.

Team USA went on to win the gold medal by winning its last match over Finland. In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the "Miracle on Ice" the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century. As part of its 100th anniversary celebrations in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) chose the "Miracle on Ice" as the century’s number-one international ice hockey story. (Wikipedia)

 

Since the game took place on Friday night, it is doubtful that any of us can recall the actual ‘live’ excitement of the event. The stunning climax of the game was immortalized by the sportscaster Al Michaels, who was calling the game on ABC as he delivered his famous call:

              “11 seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now!                   Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?! YES!!!

 

Do you believe in miracles?

Are miracles really manifested when an underdog hockey team defeats a superior opponent?

What exactly was the upshot of this ‘miracle’?

Did the miracle usher in world peace?

Was the Soviet Union defeated in the “Cold War” by virtue of the Miracle on Ice?

What defines a miracle anyway?

Does a sport’s team surprising victory over its archrival really constitute a miracle?

Does this event deserve to be classified as G-dly intervention and altering the ‘normal’ course of ‘nature’?

Obviously, the victory, notwithstanding the joy and excitement which the win inspired in many people, would not be classified by us as an example of the miraculous manifestation of Hashem’s providence in the world.

It is difficult to believe that Hashem was exercising His rarely used miracle mode to cause a hockey team to win a game; however, that is life, when people want to find G-d and to claim He is on ‘their team’ then they will easily and casually call their victories miracles; when in truth they are just part of the normal ups and downs of life.

Think about the Miracle on Ice the next time you are quick to claim that the parking spot you found in front of the Chasunah Hall must be nothing short of a ‘miracle’.

Think about me who am in the car directly behind you; why were you privileged to be the recipient of the ‘miracle’ more than me?

Are we to quick to applaud ourselves and pat ourselves on the back and call our ‘unexpected wins’ miracles?

Just wondering

 

“If Not Now, Then When?” – Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Following Up” (2/18/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 29th of Shevat 5775 and February 18, 2015

 

 


Following Up


 


 

 


 


Many of you were touched with the Short Vort regarding Ora Cohen, the terror victim, which appeared in the February 12th 2015 edition of SV and was entitled “The Greatness of Never Forgetting”.


You asked me how you can help and if I knew of a way to contact Mrs. Cohen and facilitate reaching out to other victims of terror as well.

I am pleased to inform you that after speaking with Mrs. Cohen she has told me that she would be thrilled to receive a phone call and even a visit from anyone who is interested.

Her phone number (if calling from the US) is 011-972-54-845-1179.

If you are calling from Israel it is: 054 845 1179.

She is alone and without family and would appreciate people reaching out to her.

I am also enclosing a letter I received from an organization which assists victims of terror which I am sure many of you will also find helpful.

Once again, I thank all of you for your kindness and support and may we never forget those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

 

Beginning Forwarding Letter:

 

"Kol HaKavod" to you for a beautifully written and moving narrative. 

I am writing to you from Ohr Meir & Bracha - The Terror Victims Support Center in Yerushalayim.  Our organization is very familiar with the story of Ora Cohen.

Without revealing too much information, Ora has been a recipient of financial and emotional assistance from Ohr Meir & Bracha since the beginning of her journey as a Victim of Terror.

Each week we package and deliver 400 baskets of food to families such as Ora Cohen’s.  We subsist solely on private donations.  As such, I was hoping you might agree to pass along your letter to your congregants and other interested parties.  With Purim and Pesach on the horizon we are reaching out and asking that "Matanot Laevoynim" and "Maot Chitim" be donated to Ohr Meir & Bracha.  Donors can donate on line or through our office in NY to receive a tax deductible receipt.

I am happy to supply you with whatever information you might need.

Secondly, please pass along an invitation to Aviva to join us on a Thursday morning to pack our baskets.  Please let Aviva know that we would be happy to host her entire class.

I have attached 2 P.R. pieces which I hope will tell the rest of the story.  Please visit us virtually at www.terrorvictims.org.il .  When in Israel, please visit us at Yakim Street 3/1 in the Arzei HaBira neighborhood of Yerushalayim. 

Thank you so much for "listening".                                                                           

 

Shoshana

Administrative Assistant

3/1 Yakim Street

P. O. Box 41055

Jerusalem 91410   Israel

02-582-4630/718-705-7444

We’re On Social Media!

 

“If Not Now, Then When”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Do You Think I Would Forget About You?” (2/17/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 28th of Shevat 5775 and February 17, 2015

 

 


Do You Think I Would Forget About You?


 


 


There are no coincidences in this world.

I live across the street from a public school.

There are two paths I can take to Shul.

One way which passes the ‘back’ of the school, is the usual way I go; as it is closer to my office and I like to keep my cell phone in my office during davening.

The second less frequented way is the one which passes the front of the public school.

Today, for ‘some reason’ I chose the second less traveled path.

At about 3:30 PM I noticed a parent coming out of the school with their child in tow.

It was about thirty minutes after dismissal so I imagined the parent was delayed in picking up the child.

 


My hunch was confirmed as I heard the child say to her mother, “Mommy, where were you? I was so scared you had forgotten about me?”


 


The mother, with her voice raised, answered emphatically, “Do you really think I would ever abandon you and just forget about you and leave you in this place forever? Have I ever forgotten about you before?”


Suddenly it was all clear to me.

I knew why I passed the school precisely now and why I had ‘chosen’ this path.

I am the little girl in the scene and her mother is Hashem.

 


Often, when I am scared and lonely and feel abandoned I call out to Hashem and say, “Where are you? I am so scared that you have forgotten about me?”


 


And He, just as the little girl’s mother did, answers, “Do you really think I would ever abandon you and just forget about you and leave you in this place forever? Have I ever forgotten about you before?”


I just wish that I could hear HIS voice as clearly as the little girl heard her mother’s voice.

Is He whispering or am I not listening?

I wish I knew.

 

 


“If Not Now, Then When?” –Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Why I Hate Cell Phones (sometimes) “ (2/16/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 28th of Shevat 5775 and February 17, 2015

 

Why I Hate Cell Phones (sometimes)

 

I can still recall the day back in the late 1990s.

 A friend of mine had purchased for me a new cell phone.

I had made it! I had arrived!

No longer would I feel envious when people’s pockets vibrated in front of my face and I just had to stand there and drool with jealousy.

No longer did I have to sit in my car just listening to Shiurim on my ‘modern cassette player’; I could now talk up a storm like all the ‘rich’ people do by using my cell phone!

It did not take me long to realize, “Oy, was I ever fooled!”

Besides the fact that they obviously do serve a purpose and they are convenient in certain circumstances; however, the jury is still out if the good outweighs the bad.

So since Rosh Chodesh Adar is just around the corner, I present my favorite reasons for hating the cell phone.

1.       You are never safe from having it ring; as the famous Nigun goes: “It rings when you are sleeping. It rings when you are awake. It doesn’t matter if you are bad or good the ringing goes on and on… So you better watch out and you better not cry. You better not pout and I’m telling you why. Your cell phone might be ringing right now!”

2.       When someone calls you on it you can hear everything they are doing even if they hope you cannot hear. We all know what the sound of a toilet flushing sounds like; however, do I have to hear it on the cell phone?  Do people have to go shopping for shoes (“Can I see a size 9 in brown?”) as they talk to me on their phone? 

3.       I hate when people call me when they are outdoors in a windy area and they keep talking to me as if I hear every word. All I can hear is the wind blowing as they ask me an important question and I answer. However, I always wonder if my answer is as Shabsi Zisel ben Avraham says in his famous Nigun, “The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind.”

4.       Ever have someone leave you a message from their cell phone? I have and I am still trying to figure out the first one I received in 1997. Usually it sounds like this, “Rabbi Eisenman, this is Boorlelooken Koodelsl I have a question. If booolleees and toolleesss and gooogooles bloook mad mookelss… please call me back at nine, bluesy haaaa two nine. It’s very urgent. Click!

5.       I can just see the caller’s face as I don’t call back as I have no idea who even called. He is muttering to himself, “I called Rabbi Eisenman two hours ago, why hasn’t he called back!”

6.       No matter how hard I listen and no matter how loud you talk, I just don’t hear as well on the cell phone as I do on an old fashioned landline. Call me ancient and call me prehistoric; but, just don’t call me late for dinner; however, I never hear you well on the cell phone.

These are just some of our random reasons for despising the cell phone… I have much more to say, however, my cell phone is ringing!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Greatness of Never Forgetting” (2/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 23rd of Shevat 5775 and February 12th 2015

 

The Greatness of Never Forgetting

 

Ora Cohen was born in Iran and lives in Yerushalayim.

I assume that the mere mention of her name does not jar anyone’s memory; truth be told, that is exactly the issue- it should ‘shake’ you up.

I would never have crossed paths with Mrs. Cohen if not for my daughter Aviva.

Aviva is studying at Lahav Bais Yakov Extension Program in Yerushalayim; a Seminary run by my good friends, Rabbi and Mrs. David Goldstein located in Har Nof.

As with many seminaries, special speakers often come to speak to the girls.

Last week Ora Cohen came; I present to you a condensed version of her story.

August 19, 2003 was an oppressively hot day in Jerusalem.

Ora’s family decided to make a trip to the Kosel to give the children a place to go and to get some fresh air.

After davening at the Wall, the family boarded the number two bus.

As the bus turned onto Shmuel HaNavi Street, Ora noticed an obese Chareidi-looking man attempting to board the bus from the back door. He jammed his chubby fingers into the door as it was closing and forced it open.

Ora’s two oldest children had given up their seat on the crowded bus to let a pregnant woman sit down.

Ora watched as the large man took one step up unto the bus and then her world went black; almost, but not quite, forever.

Over twenty were killed and over 130 wounded. Many of the victims were children.

At the hospital she was asked, “How many children do you have?”

“An hour ago I had five children! Am I still a mother?”

Miraculously, all of Ora’s children survived.

Her youngest, one month old Elchanan was found buried alive under the terrorist; he was miraculously protected by the sheer bulk of the bomber!

The pregnant woman did not survive.

The girls were mesmerized by Ora’s story.

 They were touched to the core by her belief that only through the caring and love of her fellow Jews was she able to survive.

Yet, there was another message which was clear to the girls.

Ora pleaded with the girls not to forget about her and other terror victims especially once they vanish from the headlines.

“Please do not forget about us now, even a dozen years later. Don’t forget about my family and other terror victims especially when we are no longer ‘in the spotlight’!”

The girls took her message to heart.

Shira Cohen’s 13th birthday was approaching.

They arranged to have Shira out of the house and then the girls showed up with balloons and with lots and lots of love; they danced and sang and showed the family that they had not forgotten about them.

I called Ora Cohen to wish her daughter a Happy Birthday and to ask her permission to write this story.

She thanked me and said, “I can’t tell you how much that visit meant to us. I speak all over; however, this was the first time in years that anyone followed up to visit with us. Tell everyone never to forget about the terror victims. People remember us at the time of tragedy; however, don’t forget about us a year later and don’t forget about us ten years later!”

Ora Cohen begged me. “Tell your readership never to forget about us, the victims of terror. I have no family in this county, my sole support and comfort comes from the love of the Jewish people; please never forget about us. Even many years later always remember us. We still need you!”

I related to Aviva what Ora said.

 Aviva answered, “Ta, I know we made her happy; but we really feel that we are even happier -to have made her happy -than she is. We realized that to reach out to those whose suffering is ‘headline news’ is something everyone wants to do; however, to be able to connect with someone twelve years later and to tell them we have not forgotten about you, that is a true act of Chesed.”

Once again I realized that much more than I think I am teaching Aviva, in truth I am continually learning from her.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Brian Williams” (2/9/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 20th of Shevat 5775 and February 9, 2015

 

Brian Williams

 

I never heard of Mr. Williams until I started noticing his name on the front page of the newspapers these last few days.

For those who are in the dark as to what I am referring to, Mr. Williams has been for a number of years the Emmy-winning, anchorman on the “NBC Nightly News”.

The problems for Mr. Williams began “a week ago when he broadcast a segment in which he was shown at a Rangers game in a tribute to a retiring command sergeant major, who, Mr. Williams suggested, had evacuated him from a dangerous situation in Iraq.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/09/business/media/brian-williams-and-memories-retread-from-a-perch-too-public.html?ref=us

Mr. Williams claimed:

              “The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an R.P.G.,” Mr. Williams said, introducing the segment, referring to a rocket-propelled grenade. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.” (Ibid)

The problem however, was that Mr. Williams was in fact never in any helicopter which came under fire.

He arrived in a safe and sound helicopter about an hour after the first helicopter took fire.

Later, when Mr. Williams was confronted with the facts:

“Mr. Williams acknowledged his mistake on his newscast last Wednesday, and offered up a muddled apology, saying he had conflated events in his memory.” (Ibid)

However, it appears that his ‘muddled apology’ was very insufficient.

The public outcry has not subsided and finally, Mr. Williams stated: “As managing editor of ‘NBC Nightly News,’ I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days.” (Ibid)

The furor and controversy continues for the time being unabated.

What options are there for the besieged Mr. Williams?

Should he just step down from his post and call it quits?

Should he continue to lay low in the hope that the storm passes and he will be able to resume his position without further ramifications?

What would you do?

Interestingly, (as the article points out):

“Joe Summerlin, who was actually on the Chinook (helicopter) that came under fire, well ahead of Mr. Williams’s helicopter, said he was not out for blood, but he finds Mr. Williams’s response so far to be insufficient.

“Everyone tells lies,” he wrote. “Every single one of us. The issue isn’t whether or not you lie. It is how you deal with it once you are caught. I thank you for stepping down for a few nights, Mr. Williams. Now can you admit that you didn’t ‘misremember’ and perform a real apology? I might even buy you a beer.”

{The author of the article writes :}

Mr. Summerlin is right.

 I wrote a book some years back about the nature of memory and the stories we tell ourselves and others. Stories tend to grow over time and, if they are told often enough, they harden into a kind of new truth for the teller.” (Ibid)

Meaning, according to the author of the article, Mr. Summerlin –who was on the real helicopter which came under fire- is correct in stating that he is not so upset that Mr. Williams lied. After all as he wrote, “Everyone tells lies,”- “Every single one of us. The issue isn’t whether or not you lie. It is how you deal with it once you are caught.” (Ibid)

Is this true?

Is it true that “Everyone tells lies; every single one of us.”?

Do you tell lies?

Do I?

Is it true that the ‘real’ “issue isn’t whether or not you lie. It is how you deal with it once you are caught.”?

Would your wife (or husband) be happy with the statement, “Everyone tells lies; every single one of us.”?

Obviously, all of us tell stories  of our exploits and perhaps over the years the stories we tell our children about our childhood pranks become somewhat ‘exaggerated’ and ‘inflated’; does that make us liars?

Is it true that the “issue isn’t whether or not you lie. It is how you deal with it once you are caught.”?

Speaking about truth…

Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld states (quoted in the Sefer “HaIsh Al HaChoma” (Part 2; page 154), based on the verse in Tehillim (87:5), “And to Zion it will be said, "Man after man was born in her," and He will establish it on high”; and on the Talmud’s understanding (T.B. Kesuvos 75a) that the verse refers to those who were physically born in Jerusalem and to those who ‘anticipate’ arriving and seeing Jerusalem. Based on this, he maintains that one may take a ‘false’ oath stating that so and so was indeed born in Jerusalem even though they weren’t. For as long as a person ‘anticipates’ seeing the city they are considered to have been ‘born’ there, and therefore you can even take an oath stating that someone who was not physically born in Jerusalem was indeed ‘born’ in Yerushalayim.

How do we relate to such a statement?

What exactly is a lie anyway?

Just more food for thought; have a truthful day.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - ““A story and two questions” (2/5/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 16th of Shevat 5775 and February 5, 2015

 

PLEASE READ THE STORY BELOW AND ANSWER TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE THE TWO QUESTIONS AT THE END OF THE STORY; YOU HAVE TEN MINUTES TO COMPLETE THE ASSIGNMENT.

 

Just Helping Out

“A story and two questions”

I was struggling to get my car out of a parking spot.

The car was locked in a wall of snow.

I took out my mighty shovel and began to dig my car out of the white grave it was buried in.

As I shoveled, I realized that this was too much of a job for me and it would take me quite a while.

Suddenly, a car stopped next to me and a Latino man got out of the car and before I could say Roberto Clemente, he had removed a shovel from his trunk and began to shovel with me.

As we were working together, one thought kept revolving around my brain, “How much should I pay him?”

Was $20 enough? After all, he was working hard; a lot harder than me!

Finally we finished the job and he waited until I pulled the car out of the spot and watched until I had rescued my car from its snowy prison; only then was he prepared to leave.

I exited the car and had prepared twenty dollars in my gloveless hand which I was about to give to my anonymous helper.

As I handed him the money, he recoiled as if I was handing him a snake!

“Here, please this is for you; I wanted to thank you for helping me!”

He looked at me and with an incredulous expression he said, “What, take money for helping another human being? I could never do that; especially that you look like a rabbi; how could I take money from a rabbi? Please, it was my pleasure!”

And with that he jumped in his car and drove off.

THE END

I have two questions for my readership:

1.       What would you do if you would see a man who looked like a priest trying to shovel out his car?

2.       If you did stop and help and he offered you money would you take it?

Just wondering

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Day the Music Died” (2/3/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 14th of Shevat 5775 and February 3, 2015

 

The Day the Music Died

 

On this day in 1959, rising American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson were killed when their chartered plane crashed in Iowa a few minutes after takeoff.

 

I must admit, if I had not noticed on one of the news sites which list ‘This Day in History’ I never would have known that today is: “The Day the Music Died”.

I never heard of any the three aforementioned musicians as I was not even born prior to their death.

What then is significance of their death?

Singer Don McLean memorialized Holly, Valens and Richardson in the 1972 No. 1 hit "American Pie," which refers to February 3, 1959 as "the day the music died."

When Mr. McLean released his song “American Pie” I was already an American teenager and recall the song well.

The single was a number-one US hit for four weeks in 1972.

About the song:

 Over eight minutes long, the lyrics for "American Pie" have earned much attention over the years, with fans and critics offering many attempts at interpretation.

 McLean has generally declined to comment on these interpretations, only admitting that the repeated references to "The Day the Music Died" describe the death of rock & roll icon Buddy Holly.

The song spans six verses, ranging over a course of ten years; the various verses contain lyrics widely believed to refer to popular artists, songs and incidents of the 1960s, with varying degrees of obfuscation. (Wikipedia)

 

Notwithstanding the mystification which surrounds the song, the phrase "the day the music died” indeed, refers to February 3, 1959.

Many music enthusiasts continue to this day to analyze the song with the intensity usually reserved for a difficult passage in the Gemara with many commentators suggesting interpretations akin to a Rashi or a Tosfos!

Interestingly enough, when Mr. McLean himself was asked as to the true ‘meaning’ of the song he replied with what is no doubt the most truthful of answers:

When asked what "American Pie" meant, McLean jokingly replied, "It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to." (Ibid)

Mr. McLean remained a poplar folk singer, however, there is no doubt that his signature song and claim to fame is his song “American Pie”; as he himself admitted.

Perhaps this is what Chazal meant when they said in Pirkei Avos (4:3) “Do not scorn any man, and do not discount anything; for there is no man who has not his hour, and no thing that has not its place.”

Never give up; you never know, what you produce today might help you for the rest of your life!

February 3, 1959 may have been the ‘day the music died’ for the three deceased musicians, Holly, Valens and Richardson; however, for Mr. McLean it became the ‘day the music was born and lived forever’.

You never know.

 

If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Super Sunday” (2/1/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 12th of Shevat 5775 and February 1, 2015

 

Super Sunday

 

Today is Super Sunday; the day of the Super Bowl.

Last year’s Super Bowl set a record with an average of 111.5 million viewers, and the recent trend suggests that the number will be even higher today.

Since there are so many viewers, you can imagine it costs advertisers a pretty penny to put their products out there.

Indeed, this year, a 30-second spot is an eye-popping $4 million while a 60-second spot goes for a jaw-dropping $8 million.

So imagine if you had 8 million dollars to spare, what message would you want to convey to over 100 million people?

If you had the opportunity to communicate one 60 second message to over 110 million people, what message would you choose?

In truth, the Talmud (Shabbos 31a) informs us of just such a case.

The Gemara relates how a potential convert said to Hillel, (I am of course para-phrasing) “I am interested in your way of life; however, I have very little time. “On one foot” can you tell me the essence of your entire Torah?”

Without hesitation Hillel said to the man, “"What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; all the rest is explanation!"

That would be my message to the entire world.

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; all the rest is explanation!"

The good news is you don’t have to wait for Super Sunday and you don’t have to spend a dime.

The message of Hillel is worth more than any product some advertisement agency is attempting to convince you of the necessity in your acquiring it.

The message of Hillel is timely as well as timeless and is of greater benefit to you than Coca Cola or any sneaker that some corporation is spending 8 million dollars to entice you to buy.

If you don’t believe me, try Hillel’s advice tomorrow and realize how better your day is.

Wishing you all the best and for those of you who are watching the game: please don’t overeat.

And just remember: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; all the rest is explanation!"

 

If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Rose Shapiro” (1/30/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 10th of Shevat 5775 and January 30, 2015

 

Rose Shapiro

 

Rose Shapiro (name changed) has lived a life of accomplishment and apparent fulfillment.

Born to immigrant parents in the early 1920’s, she was the first of her siblings to graduate from high school and when she announced her intention to attend nursing school, the entire family was shocked.

Back then, women did not receive higher education and Rose Shapiro was a trailblazer in her own right.

She eventually secured a position at Passaic Beth Israel Hospital on Parker Avenue in the downtown area of the city.

By 1958 she had risen to a nursing supervisor and in 1970 before her 50th birthday she was the head of nursing in the labor and delivery section of the hospital.

She continued to work as a nurse until her retirement in 2000 at the age of 77.

Since then she has been volunteering on a weekly basis at St. Mary’s hospital in Passaic after Beth Israel closed.

Recently though, even the once a week volunteer work became too difficult and Rose came to my office seeking advice on what to do to keep herself occupied.

I had known Rose for almost twenty years; she was always upbeat and positive. This time she appeared forlorn and sad.

“Mrs. Shapiro, you look a little down; what’s bothering you?”

“Rabbi, I was a nurse for over fifty years.

 I hardly ever missed a day of work and thank G-d I am financially secure as I have pension and full medical benefits.

My own health is good, considering my age, and in general life is good.

 The one thing which pains me and leaves me no rest is the fact that I now that I reached the end of my days; I have no family to be with.

As you know, I never married.

I know many people assume that I did not marry because I chose a career over marriage; however, nothing can be further from the truth.

Even in my time, 70 years ago, there was a “Shidduch crisis” and I never found by ‘bashert’.

 Believe me rabbi, I also wanted to get married and now that I am alone and no longer working, I have no companionship.

 Rabbi, what can I do to help alleviate my pain?”

I looked up at Rose Shapiro and I realized that behind the professional and somewhat businesslike exterior there was a human heart in pain.

I thought for a moment and then asked her, “I know you would have loved to be married; however, do you regret your life’s choice?” Without hesitation Rose replied,

 “Of course I would have loved to have found ‘Mr. Right’.

That being said, I found fulfillment in my work as a nurse and have realized that my essence is not defined by having or not having a husband.

 I know I have contributed to this world in a meaningful way and although like everyone else I have my ‘peckel’ I do not consider my life unfulfilled or a failure.

Given the ‘cards’ which Hashem ‘dealt me’ I made the best of my life and know that I have touched many people in their time of need.

 I just wish that I could somehow continue even now.”

I listened and I thought.

Suddenly the epiphany became clear.

“Mrs. Shapiro, I know exactly what you can do.

 There are many single woman in our neighborhood who let’s just say are in the ‘over thirty’ crowd.

 Often they come to pour out their hearts over their single status.

I try to help and to be encouraging; however, there is only so much I can do.

I would like to send these women to you Mrs. Shapiro.

I know you cannot help them find a Shidduch; however, you can tell from firsthand experience that life is not meaningless without a spouse. You can tell from your own life that no one’s true essence is defined solely by their marital status or by the amount of children they have.

You can be the one to give them succor and support. Mrs. Shapiro, will you do it?”

The next week an older single was in my office. “Rabbi, I must thank you, I just spent an hour with Mrs. Shapiro and she gave me more Chizuk than anyone I ever met; thank you for making the “Shidduch” between us.

Other women followed as well.

Perhaps the best phone call was from Mrs. Shapiro herself.

About two weeks later she called to tell me, “I have never felt so fulfilled in years; these young women who come to see me they give me purpose to my life and I feel young again. And by the way, I think my great-nephew might be perfect for Sima Yackoson….”

Two months later Sima and Rose’s nephew were standing under the Chupah at the Rose Castle.

After the glass was broken and after Sima kissed her mother, the first person she grabbed and hugged was Rose Shapiro.

Hashem has many ways to make Shidduchim...and Rose Shapiro realized once again  how vitally essential and important her life really is.  

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Smile- You’re Alive” (1/28/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 9th of Shevat 5775 and January 29, 2015

 

Smile- You’re Alive

 

The Talmud (Taanis 22a) relates to us that Rav Bruka Chuzah once met up with Eliyahu HaNavi in the marketplace. He asked the prophet if he could give him some inside information as to who here in the marketplace is destined for the world to come.

Surprisingly, Eliyahu pointed out neither scholars nor obvious saints. Rather, he pointed out the local Jewish prison warden (maybe there will be another Short Vort at a different time about him) and two ‘jokers’ who stated, “We are happy people and we try to make others happy.”

In keeping with this line of thought that one who makes others happy is a ‘shoe-in for the next world’, we present another edition of The Short Satirical Vort (SSV).

 

Disclaimer:

Read this at your own risk and realize what you are reading is satirical.

 

Many are still wondering and scratching their heads over the meteorological blunder at the blizzard which wasn’t.

There are those who have claimed it was the Tefillos of Klal Yisroel which averted the storm; this is not true as since all the “tinokos shel beis Raban” (the pristine Jewish children) fervently prayed for the snow, their pure tefillos would have outweighed the adult prayers.

There are others who claim that this was a political plot to focus everyone’s attention away from the news story of the decade happening in Jacksonville, Florida where a man who broke into a restaurant after hours and stole $4,000 worth of chicken wings.

“Last Wednesday, a robber broke into Jerome Brown BBQ and stole $4,000 worth of ribs, chicken, wings and fries from the restaurant, News4Jax.com reports.”

Although it is true that the FBI is looking at the connection of the robber to ISIS and it has been confirmed that Eric Holder is having the justice department checkout all hospitals for cases of overeating caused by consumption of too many chicken wings; this too has been proved false as the reason for the Blizzard which wasn’t.

Yes, I know that President Obama feels the crime may be racially motivated as people always stereotype certain ethnic and racial groups with certain ethnic foods; nevertheless, this has nothing to do with the blunder of the blizzard.

And there are those who claim the reason for the weather bust was that the weather channels were hacked by North Korean agents who attempted to wreak havoc on our economy, this too has no basis in reality.

What then is the reason behind the Blizzard Blunder?

The real reason is: old fashioned green jealousy!

Yes, I said jealousy!

After researching the topic extensively and interviewing numerous weathermen, one of them ‘spilled the beans’ to me and fessed up to the crime.

What happened was that at the last meeting of the International Association of Meteorologists, one disgruntled weatherman complained during lunch to his colleagues of the following:  

“It’s not fair! We meteorologists never get front page coverage in the papers! There has never been one authentic, real-juicy scandal involving weatherman!

Politicians get arrested every other day for elaborate schemes and corruption.

Business people are involved in Ponzi schemes and are seen being led away in handcuffs.

Even Rabbis and Priests and Ministers get good juicy criminal coverage; however, when was the last time you ever saw a Meteorologist being led away in handcuffs for falsifying the weather report?

Never!!! Well that’s not fair!

We want our share of negative attention like anyone else in this country!”

And therefore a plot was hatched to create a “Storm of the Century” and they watched in amazement as their falsified weather maps and charts were swallowed up hook line and sinker by Governors Cuomo and Christie and Mayor De Blasio.

They thought for certain that someone would realize how they painted their own white lines all over the maps and covered their charts with talcum powder to simulate snow; alas, no one noticed and everyone could never believe that a meteorologist would ever lie!

They continued with their charade until the subways were cancelled for the first time in 110 years and they did not stop although the busiest bridge in the world, the George Washington Bridge was closed!

They thought they had fooled all and that their plot was successful; however, alas it was not to be.

An Orthodox meteorologist by the name of Geshem V’Sheker came to my office and spilled the beans!

He could not live with himself and during a painful Viduy (confession) he admitted to me the details of the entire scheme and supplied me with the altered maps and charts.

I –being a mandated reporter- immediately contacted the CIA, FBI, Mossad and ‘Info@kehilla’ and informed all of the ‘crime of the century’.

Arrests will be unsealed within the week.

This just goes to show you, you cannot trust anyone nowadays.

Who would have thought a meteorologist could stoop to such a low level?

Friends, remember what David HaMelech taught us: ”Do not trust in princes, in the son of men, who has no salvation.” (Tehillim 146:3)

The weathermen have finally been stopped!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “The Busted Blizzard “ (1/27/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 7th of Shevat 5775 and January 27, 2015

 

The Busted Blizzard

 

"This could be a storm the likes of which we have never seen before," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Sunday.

De Blasio held up a piece of paper showing the city’s top 10 snowstorms and said this one could land at the top of a list that goes back to 1872, including the 26.9 inches that fell in 2006. "Don’t underestimate this storm. Prepare for the worst,"

http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/story/27933751/nyc-mayor-storm-could-be-biggest-ever-to-hit-city

 

This morning the question everyone was asking was, “Hey, where’s the snow?”

After receiving hundreds of doomsday emails over the past few days, when I awoke this morning I did not know if I should reach for Xanax before my boots.

As I hesitantly peeked out of the window, I wondered if I would see the roads scattered with frozen bodies that were fossilized in the “storm the likes of which we have never seen before”.

With great trepidation I opened my front door to head out to Shul.

Would I be able to still see the sky?

Would my feet touch solid ground again?

As I firmly stepped out on to the street I quickly realized that the Big Blizzard of 2015 was more accurately the Big Bluff of the 2015!

A mere 6 or 7 inches had fallen.

No one was dead (Thank Hashem).

No one starved to death; {which by the way, I never quite understood the ‘food advisory’ to ‘stock up’ on ‘essential items’ which is always issued before a snow storm. Did you ever go to any Jewish home at any time of the year where there wasn’t enough food on the shelves to feed a small army?}

Bottom line, this storm in the vernacular of our young people, ‘was not a biggie’.

What happened?

What went wrong?

In truth, noting went ‘wrong’; rather, everything went ‘right’.

Thankfully we are safe; thankfully life will go on.

In fact, I had the privilege today because of the ‘false prophecy’ of the Blizzard; to fulfill a Mitzvah I normally cannot.

Once the doomsday predictions were in place, we moved the Daf Yomi to a 9 AM start; the delayed start allowed me to daven at sunrise (Vasikin) which was certainly savored by me today as more often than not I cannot attend that Minyan.

At the end of the day, there was no Blizzard, plain and simple.

Yet, do not despair; do not be disappointed; for remember: “better to be prepared for the worst and receive the best than not prepare and ‘assuming’ the ‘best’ will always continue only to be hit with the ‘worst’.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “SATIRE*"(or automatic delete?) (1/26/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning

 

Today is Tuesday the 7th of Shevat 5775 and January 27th, 2015

 

SATIRE*

*the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding folly

 

DISCLAIMER- please read this before continuing to the Vort

Please note: the following Vort contains satirical elements to it.

 That means parts of it are meant to be taken not too seriously; rather, they are an attempt at humor.

Last week I quoted an article from the New York Times about doctors and how much (or how little) time they spend with their patients.

I love doctors; it is a very honorable profession. Some of my best friends are doctors!

I received a number of emails accusing me of dishonoring the medical profession; nothing could be further from the truth.

Thankfully, no one broke into my office and attempted to assassinate me for ‘ridiculing doctors’.

Therefore, please be forewarned that the following Vort contains satirical elements.

If you don’t like humor, or just don’t find my humor to be humorous, then stop reading now and delete the Vort.

I don’t need emails accusing me of not taking the storm seriously and I certainly don’t need angry meteorologists accusing me of blasphemy and shooting up my office.

 This Vort was inspired by the plethora of emails I have been receiving warning me of the upcoming storm.

Some of them seemed so dire and dismal in their predictions that I expected this storm to make World War Two seem like a walk in the park!

I cut and pasted one these ominous messages and altered and added to and from the original text.

Remember! What you are about to read is meant to be funny; like “Ha, Ha”.

If you don’t think it is funny- don’t shoot (literally) the writer, please just delete it.

Thank you!

 

 

This is your Rabbi speaking: Ron Yitzchok Eisenman.

·       The National Weather Service is warning of the potential for a dangerous storm with high winds and significant snowfall. 

·       There is a Blizzard Warning in affect throughout North Jersey communities. 

Officials with the Office Emergency Management (OEM) in the City of Passaic are communicating with the County Office of Emergency Management and other local community OEM coordinators, tracking the storm and preparing equipment for deployment. 

   

The Ahavas Israel will be prepared in the event that any SHULS need to be closed due to potential dangerous conditions.   

All Our Minyanim will take place as scheduled!

All of our Batei Medrash are fully stocked with Sefarim!

All of our hot water urns are full with hot water!

 

We are prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.  

 Here are some helpful tips as you prepare for Blizzard Conditions.


  • 1st:  Don’t speak Loshon Hora for the entire Blizzard; this will prevent the flow of ‘hot air’ which can have a deleterious effect on all of our lives.

 


  • 2nd:  Clear snow and ice from sidewalks and footpaths around your property and clear fire hydrants as soon as possible; REMEMBER it’s not the FRUM THING to make a Chillul Hashem by not shoveling. If you don’t shovel I might publicize your name in the Short Vort!

 


  • 3rd:  DO NOT shovel snow into the street. If you have a driveway, use it. If not, try to use your bathtub or your neighbor’s bathtub. If you really have nothing to do with your snow, try throwing back to heaven after you have shoveled it away.

 


  • 4th:  If you have a true medical emergency, DAVEN VERY HARD! 


  • 5th:  Be prepared for power outages. Keep your cell phone charged and have flashlights, batteries and other supplies. If you lose power PLEASE JUST SIT TIGHT IN THE DARK! PLEASE DON’T MAKE A FIRE IN YOUR LIVING ROOM AS THAT WILL JUST CAUSE MORE PROBLEMS. IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE TO BUY BATTEREIS, YOU ARE NOT ALONE, EITHER DO I!

 


  • 6th:  Stock up on water, food and necessary medications for up to 7 days; START MAKING CHULENT TODAY, WHO KNOWS WHAT TOMORROW MAY BRING . 

 


  • 7th:  HERE ARE SOME THINGS TO DO WITH THE EXTRA TIME ON YOUR HANDS:

1.       Bake challah and eat it right away; see if it tastes better really fresh.

2.       Try eating Chulent on Tuesday and compare it with the taste of chulent on Shabbos

3.       Review all Short Vorts from the last ten years; see if you can organize them

4.       Come to Shul and tell everyone who enters the Shul to wipe their boots.

5.       Try memorizing your favorite Short Vort and then recite it to Rabbi Eisenman

6.       Call an old friend

7.       Call a new friend

8.       Call your mother

9.       Wash your socks

10.   Tell your kids you love them

11.   Listen to Rabbi Eisenman’s Gemara Shiur at 9 AM

 

Finally, we ask you in advance for your consideration for our neighbors and please don’t park in their driveways. 

My pet turtle Larry and I wish you a happy and healthy blizzard and may we continue to celebrate Simchos together.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “It is better for a man to use a fine cup for one day, even if it breaks the

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 2nd of Shevat 5775 and January 22, 2015

 

“It is better for a man to use a fine cup for one day, even if it breaks the next day”

 

One day a dispute broke in the Sanhedrin (T.B. Brochus 27b) and the initial consensus was to depose of Rabban Gamliel the head of the Yeshiva.

The sages offered the newly opened positon to Rav Eleazar ben Azariah.

Being a wise man, Rav Eleazar told them that he first had to consult with his wife.

She was not enthusiastic about the offer as she claimed that just as Rabban Gamliel was deposed, perhaps you too will soon be deposed.

Rav Eleazar answered his wife: “It is better for a man to use a fine cup for one day, even if it breaks the next day”.

What did he mean by this seemingly cryptic answer?

Did he want to be “King for the day?”

Why take a position which may soon be non-existent?

Perhaps the answer is something we all can learn from.

Rav Eleazar agreed with his wife that his tenure as head of the Sanhedrin may be short lived (as indeed it was); however, nevertheless he was adamant in his decision to accept the appointment.

Why was he so adamant in accepting the positon for even a day?

The reason is simple, life is short and who knows what tomorrow may bring.

The parable of the fine crystal glass is quite appropriate.

There are people who have fine china and glassware in their cabinets who are waiting for that ‘special occasion’ to use them.

Too often the dishes will remain stored, unused in their china closet only to be disposed of in the local dumpster by their children after they themselves have left this world.

I recall once attending the Shiva of a 62 year old father who had suddenly passed away.

At the home his son mentioned something which sent chills down my spine.

“My father had bought a boat which he planned to go sailing in on Sundays; however, he could not drag himself away from his work, notwithstanding he no longer needed the income.

Unexpectedly, he developed cancer and died soon after with the never-used-boat still sitting in its pristine state in his driveway.”

Obviously, no one is advocating we abandon our livelihoods and spend our days sailing along while work has to be done; however, when an opportunity to accomplish something arises and there is no ‘down-side’ in taking the position, grab it!

Rav Eleazar ben Azariah was teaching us that when you are given a chance to make a change in the world, as he was by being the head of the yeshiva for the day- embrace that opportunity.

Too many of us leave this world with our best china still sitting in our china closet never having been touched.

Years ago many people covered their couches in plastic slip covers.

Ostensibly the rationale for this behavior was to save the couch for when the ‘kids’ grew up and no longer had sticky grimy hands which could stain the precious furniture.

In the summer it was not a pleasurable feeling to settle into the plastic encased couch; your exposed skin stuck to the plastic and you had to peel yourself from the couch.

The plush couch became a plastic nightmare; however, too often and for too many of us, even when the kids have grown and moved on, the plastic remains in place as if the kids are still coming back.

Friends, Rav Eleazar was teaching us to: “seize the moment”.

Every single day of our lives we are given the opportunity to use a fine crystal glass; however, too often we refuse to “enjoy it” for fear of its breaking.

Tomorrow the glass may still break; therefore, utilize and accomplish what you can today, for tomorrow may be too late.

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

 

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

The Short Vort’ -” New Beginnings” (1/21/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 1st of Shevat 5775 and January 21, 2015

 

New Beginnings

 

We are privileged. Every month we have a “new month”; a new beginning.

I recall about thirty years when I was still in the infancy of my teaching career; I was assigned to teach a group of second grade boys.

 Except for the fact that my respect for lower-school teachers went sky high, I was not enjoying the experience.

 I had always taught upper-school, high school and adults and this was the first and as it would turn out, my last and my only experience with a lower-school class.

After that semester I returned to eighth grade and above and have never gone back.

The reason is simple; the children were running amok and I found it difficult to keep them in line.

My natural inclination to reason with my students and to appeal to their sense of maturity was totally ineffective in a lower-elementary-school environment.

The Talmud (Yevamos 109b –today’s Daf Yomi) informs us that when you are not sure of what to do, and you have access to someone older and wiser, you must seek counsel with them. And therefore I went to take counsel with a seasoned third grade rebbe.

He gave me some very helpful suggestions as to how to manage the classroom more effectively and I was quite impressed with his guidance.

There was still though one unresolved issue which I did not know how to deal with.

“Rebbe, I understand and appreciate your advice; however, after a month of unruly children have I lost the battle? How do I turn everything around?”

I will never forget his advice; “Rabbi Eisenman, tomorrow is a new day. Just come in tomorrow as if it is the first day of school. Of course at first, the children will be resistant, however, if you are firm and consistent you can make a new beginning and it will eventually take hold.”

He was one hundred percent correct. I came in the next day and just as he said, I began anew.

And guess what? It worked; indeed, the rest of semester continued successfully.

 I still went back to older grades as I realized I was more suited to that age; however, the lesson of the ‘new beginning’ was not lost on me.

Too often we convince ourselves that all is lost; we believe that our bad behaviors are ingrained within us and that they are part and parcel of our personality.

This is not true!

 Today is Rosh Chodesh; today Hashem informs us that it is a new day and a new month and most importantly, a new beginning.

It is hard and it is difficult, however, today is a new day and no matter how challenging yesterday may have been, today is a new start.

Don’t take giant leaps and don’t expect to change everything in one day; however, realize that what you change today is real and meaningful.

So why wait?

Today begin anew and one day at a time you too can change the world; or at least, change yourself and remember: you are the world to many more people than you can imagine.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ - “The Weekend” (1/19/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 28th of Teves 5775 and January 19, 2015

 

The Weekend

  

This weekend (as many of my Passaic readers know) I went away with my family and my brother’s family to celebrate my mother’s birthday.

I will never reveal a women’s age, however, suffice for me to tell you that my mother is over 21 and she is eligible for a senior discount at many theaters (Most senior discounts for movie theaters begin at around age 60 or 62, but there are many that have extended the discount to customers aged 50 or 55).

At the weekend there was of course as with any Jewish event, food and lots of it.

There were eight children present and nine different boxes of cereal.

There was Chulent Friday night after the meal and Chulent at the meal and Chulent Shabbos day after davening at the Kiddush.

And indeed there were speeches: Divrei Torah which attempted to create parallels between events in the Parsha and the life of my mother; and Torah thoughts which accentuated the fine qualities of a Torah person with the life of my mother.

As I listened to the speeches and ate the delicious food (too much of it), I began to ponder, “What is the point of celebrating one’s life?

 Is it the fact that the person has been granted longevity?

That would hardly in itself be a reason to celebrate as indicated by the case of “John Bunz, who brutally beat his wife of nearly 68 years to death with a hammer, and who died of natural causes on Dec. 17, state jail officials said. He was 94”; certainly there was nothing to celebrate about his longevity!

What then is there to celebrate about a person’s birthday who has reached longevity?

The answer of course is not an excuse to eat food nor is it a reason to show one’s creative ability in speech making.

The answer is ‘Hakoras HaTov’- gratitude.

None of us will live forever and none of us will be able to last eternally.

The recognition of that mortality when dealing with a person whom many love dearly necessitates and generates an almost obligatory desire - albeit how incomplete it may be- to express to the person what they have meant to you and how they have and continue to influence our life in a positive way.

As the speeches continued, one theme became clear and obvious to me and to all who were present:

My mother had instilled in all of us the importance of grabbing the moment and of appreciating those people in your life whom you love.

Fancy foods and parties may come and go; however, the ability to consistently treat those people in your life with love, compassion and most of all to be able to always make them feel that they are the most important people in your life is worth more than anything in the world.

All anyone wanted during the weekend was that my mother should be happy and it was obvious why; for so many years the entire focus of her life was to keep everyone happy.

Her entire focus was to avoid confrontation and to allow those ‘small’ things which so many of us magnify into huge obstacles, to remain what they really are: insignificant nothings.

I cannot recall once in her life where she ‘stood her ground’ in defense of her perceived ‘honor’; rather, her focus was to allow the small trivial and unimportant menial things to remain as such: unimportant.

How often do so many of us destroy our reputations and our entire lives by becoming entangled in silly inconsequential events which ultimately leave us lonely and bereft of friends and family.

The ability to maintain one’s equilibrium despite those things which go ‘bump in the night’ is the true test of sincerity and love.

All of us mouth often meaningless sayings of caring and compassion; however, when push comes to shove and we are forced to sacrifice our comfort for the sake of maintaining the peace in the family our verbal pronouncements of commitment and caring are worthless and hypocritical if instead of compromising we remain adamant, stubborn and obstinate.

The true test of a person is when they are under the stress of the situation in which things have not gone the way they hoped; however, nevertheless, they maintain their calmness and compromise.

That is where we can judge if their declarations of caring and love are real or just meaningless empty claims designed to delude the person into believing their own meaningless pronouncements of love and caring.

My mother taught us that the maintenance of peace in the family was critical to the functionality of the family.

Everyone claims to want peace and want togetherness, the only difference is that most of us do not achieve it; thankfully my mother did.

I have a long way to go to replicate her ability to ‘go with the punches’ and ignore the bumps of life.

As a rabbi and a human being I observe many people and one thing I have learned.

Those of us who have learned to navigate the up and downs of life and not get angry, frustrated and enraged are people who are happy with themselves and others are happy with them.

Those who cannot control themselves and constantly allow their anger and rage to rule over them, despite their protestations that their anger is proper or their claim that ‘overall’ they are good people; nevertheless, as they grow older their family and friends slowly but surely –even if they do appreciate their good qualities- distance themselves from them.

 In the end the angry, unstable and impulsive men and women of this world live lives of loneliness and isolation and most sad of all, they continue to delude themselves into believing that they are beloved and appreciated by those same people who distance themselves from them.

Perhaps this is what our sages meant when they said that those who live in anger; “anger is their only true companion” as the rest of the world has long ago disconnected from them.

How sad.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ -"Yahrtzeit” (1/15/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 24th of Teves 5775 and January 15, 2015

 

Yahrzeit

 

I am used to being approached by people in the pharmacy and in the bank to ask me questions; however, I was totally unprepared for my recent experience at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) in New York City.

For those readers who have no idea what the PABT is, allow me to educate both of you.

The terminal is the largest in the United States and the busiest in the world, serving 225,000 people on an average weekday and more than 65 million people a year.

With human traffic so intense, the one thing people are not doing is idling or dawdling.

It is the last place on Earth I would have imagined that anyone would to want to ‘chap a schmooze’ with me.

Yet, that is exactly what occurred as I was minding my business waiting to return home after a rare excursion to ‘The City’.

“Excuse me; you are a rabbi, no?”

“Yes, I am a rabbi. Why do you ask?”

“My name is Arthur; however, my mother- may she rest in peace- named me Velvel. I was born in Crown Heights and my wife and I lived there until the neighborhood began to change and then we moved to Jersey. About a year ago, my wife passed away. I know this is not ‘right’; however, I have yet to get to Shul to say a Kaddish for her.”

I was looking at Velvel and was unsure where this conversation was going.

“Anyway Rabbi, I was wondering if you when you get back to Shul tonight could say a Kaddish for my beloved wife?”

I readily agreed to this request, as often I am asked to say Kaddish for those who have no one to say Kaddish for them.  After agreeing I ‘innocently’ suggested to Velvel, “It would certainly be more fitting if you would come to shul to say the Kaddish yourself.” I was content that with my lukewarm offer I had fulfilled my ‘kiruv’ obligation. I was not expecting Velvel’s answer.

“I would love to; however, I don’t drive anymore and I cannot get to a Shul; unless of course a Shul came to me!”

I looked at Velvel and wondered aloud to him, “How could a Shul come to you?”

 “Rabbi, I see you guys sometimes praying near the corners of the building, couldn’t you organize a prayer quorum for me right here?”

I looked at Velvel and saw he was totally serious.

“You mean, if we get a Minyan together, you will recite Kaddish for your wife?”

“Rabbi, you get the quorum and I’ll say the Kaddish!”

I was suddenly thrust into the not so comfortable position of asking men, “Are you Jewish?”

The answers I received were simply not to be believed:

“Um, I am not sure; are you?”

“What’s it to you, man?”

“No, however, I always wanted to be; can you help me?”

“Yes I am, you wanna make something of it?”

By far the most common was, “Why do you ask?”

Soon though, through the counting of Yarmulkes and by convincing some ‘not-yet’-frum-Jews’ to join us, a Minyan materialized.

And suddenly in the heavily traversed corridors of the PABT the words of “Yisgadeil V’Yiskadeish” were echoing through the cavernous terminal.

When the emotional service ended, Velvel approached me teary eyes and chocked up. “The last time I said the Kaddish was in 1953 when my father died.”

“When did he die?” I innocently asked.

“Come to think of it, it was this time of year, December 9, 1953.”

When I arrived back at Shul that evening, I glanced at the calendar.

Today was the 3rd of Teves; I don’t know why, but something in me pushed me to look up the Hebrew date for December 9, 1953.

I’ll bet you can figure out the rest; it was the 3rd of Teves 1953.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Security” (1/12/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 22nd of Teves 5775 and January 13th  2015

 

Security

 

This past Friday Jews all over the world from Teaneck to Tel Aviv and from Passaic to Paris did what Jews do every Erev Shabbos: they went shopping for Shabbos food.

Whether you go to Kosher Konnection or Rami Levi or KRM or Hypercacher (also spelled Hyper Cacher or HyperCacher; translated as "Super Kosher" it is a chain of kosher supermarkets in France and Italy) (Wikipedia); the routine is the same all over the world.

You see men on their cell phones listening attentively to their wives who are patiently explaining to them what are chicken cutlets and which type of potatoes are tasty in the Chulent.

You see little children kvetching and begging their mothers to buy more and more candy for ‘Shabbos Party’.

You see elderly gentlemen purchasing two Challah rolls for a lonely Shalosh Shiddush and twelve year old girls who have borrowed their mother’s cell phones as they finally have the opportunity to be ‘mommy-like’ and do the shopping for the family.

And you have the last minute shoppers who are ‘just chapping’ one or two quick items such as potato salad or Hummus.

The common denominator among all of these shoppers, irrespective if they were in Parsippany or in Portland or even in Paris was that they felt safe.

They could not imagine that shopping for Shabbos food could be life threatening.

Everything changed this past Friday.

Four shoppers never returned home this past Erev Shabbos.

They never returned to their families to share a much deserved Shabbos respite.

They would never return to their families.

Tomorrow in the holy city of Yerushalayim they will arrive at their final resting place.

Four holy Jews who were killed for no other reason than they were identifiably Jewish by being careful to observe Kashrus by openly shopping in a kosher supermarket will never return home.

“In a conversation with French news station BFM TV, [the killer] Amedy Coulibaly said that he had selected the Hypercacher supermarket for his attack "because it was Jewish" (ibid.).

Four Jews went shopping last Erev Shabbos and were murdered in cold blood for being Jewish.

They never drew cartoons which were offensive to Islamists.

They were not citizens of Israel and they were not soldiers in any army.

They were ‘just’ Jews and they were killed because they were Jews.

This Friday when you go shopping think about the four Kedoshim who never arrived home last week because they were Jewish.

Think about them and appreciate what you have today; who knows what tomorrow will bring?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ -"Stop Talking and Start Listening.” (1/11/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 20th of Teves 5775 and January 11, 2015

 

Stop Talking and Start Listening.

 

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling “under the weather” and I decided to see “The Doctor”.

 When I arrived at the office it struck me that I no longer was going to “The Doctor’s Office” (singular possessive) I was going to “A Doctors’ Office” (plural possessive).

There was no longer ‘my’ doctor who knew me and had a small office with Highlights Magazine for the kids and old issues of Life on the table near an old lamp whose bulb had not been changed since President Kennedy’s inauguration.

Now I entered the “Intercontinental-Country-Wide-Summit-Hill-Passaic-Clifton-Nutley-Garfield- Wallington- Secaucus Medical Group” or ICWSHPCNGWSMG for short.

This new term ‘Medical Group’ meant that I was no longer going to my local doctor; I was now entering the Home Depot of Medicine; or the Costco of Clinics.

After being asked which doctor out of 409 I was scheduled to see, I was handed a ‘buzzer’ to hold on to.

I was unsure if when it ‘buzzed’ that meant my pastrami on rye was ready or that there was a chemical attack on Passaic and I should evacuate to the nearest Haz-Mat shelter.

After waiting about 15 minutes and being forced to watch a full screen television showing channel 91 which was giving me the local news in Hasbrouck Heights (Mr. O’Conner had successful cataracts surgery on his right eye); my buzzer started to buzz and flash red lights.

I rushed to the counter and after being disappointed because there was no pastrami on rye waiting for me, I was ushered in to……you guessed it… another room to wait and wait.

The nurse said to me, “Sit down, the doctor will be in to see you right away.”

 I replied, “I was in the middle of reading of a stimulating article about laxatives and their effect on cloned cows; however, now I have nothing to do in here but stare at a diagram of my thoracic diaphragm which does not look too appetizing. Can I go back and get my copy of Doctor’s Dialogue from the waiting room?”

She robotically repeated, “The doctor will be in shortly.”

“Shortly” is quite a relative term. It can mean in the next three months as in: “Purim is coming shortly”; or it can mean 60 seconds as in: “The light will change from red to green shortly”.

As I had no idea what she meant and I no longer had my article about laxatives and cows and I could no longer watch the ‘big screen’ to inform me of Sam O’Conner’s cataracts surgery and I felt that I would throw up if I looked again at the multi-colored diagram of my thoracic diaphragm, I did what any other sane person would do, I took out my phone and began checking my email.

Oy, was that a mistake.

After about six emails and four automatic deletes, his holiness and his highness the all-powerful and all-knowing individual to whom we all page homage (and lots of money) entered the room in a rush to leave.

Without telling me his name and without even saying hello, he rebuked me by saying, “How about getting off your phone… I don’t have all day”.

I began to tell him my symptoms while he read my ‘chart’ on his Ipad and after about 19 seconds he interrupted my soliloquy to scribble a prescription and before I could say “Doctor Spock” he was out of the room and onto to more patients and more money.

As I exited and went to back to the front desk to ‘sign out’ the receptionist asked me, “Which doctor did you see?” I looked at her and realized that I had no idea of his name. I mumbled, “I don’t know, he never introduced himself; if it helps, he was wearing a white coat”

At first I thought that I was singled out for this special treatment; however, I soon realized that my case was quite the ‘norm’ as opposed to the exception.

See this from last week’s New York Times:

 

HARRISBURG, Pa. — BETSY came to Dr. Martin for a second — or rather, a sixth — opinion. Over a year, she had seen five other physicians for a “rapid heartbeat” and “feeling stressed.” After extensive testing, she had finally been referred for psychological counseling for an anxiety disorder.

The careful history Dr. Martin took revealed that Betsy was taking an over-the-counter weight loss product that contained ephedrine. (I have changed their names for privacy’s sake.) When she stopped taking the remedy, her symptoms also stopped. Asked why she hadn’t mentioned this information before, she said she’d “never been asked.” Until then, her providers would sooner order tests than take the time to talk with her about the problem.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/05/opinion/doctor-shut-up-and-listen.html?emc=edit_ty_20150105&nl=opinion&nlid=28248060

Recent research has revealed that:

 “A doctor’s ability to explain, listen and empathize has a profound impact on a patient’s care. Yet, as one survey found, two out of every three patients are discharged from the hospital without even knowing their diagnosis. Another study discovered that in over 60 percent of cases, patients misunderstood directions after a visit to their doctor’s office. And on average, physicians wait just 18 seconds before interrupting patients’ narratives of their symptoms. Observation soon revealed that physicians introduced themselves on only about one in four occasions. And without an introduction, it’s no surprise that patients could correctly identify their physician only about a quarter of the time.” 

(Ibid)

This is not good and this must be addressed; however, this Vort is not really about doctors although they can read it as well; it is really about us.

When someone needs you, give them the time to speak without interruption.

I personally cannot stand it when I am attempting to speak to someone, (not only doctors; anyone!) and before I can complete my thought they interrupt and say, “Oh, I know all about that…”, and then they proceed to talk about ‘themselves!’

We all need to improve our bedside manners.

Physicians and lawyers and especially husbands and wives need to learn to listen and to hear the message their loved one is attempting to communicate.

Too often when our children, friends, spouses and coworkers come to us for help and support, we are in a hurry to move on to something else and never give them the chance to unburden themselves.

“Harvard health policy researchers reported that higher patient satisfaction was associated with improved outcomes for several diseases, including heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia.”

This fact is true in human relations as well… Higher “friend satisfaction” will be associated with improved outcomes for several problems, including ‘broken hearts, hurt feelings and spiritual depression.”

Listen to your friend, your spouse and your child; hear them out and give them what he or she needs the most; namely your time and your undivided attention.

 It can and will make all the difference in the world.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Double Standard” (1/8/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 17th of Teves 5775 and January 8, 2015

 

Double Standard

 

The headline from Paris says it all: “… the attackers had screamed “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great!” during the attack, which the police characterized as a “slaughter.” “They {were} shouting: “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!”

The entire world has heard about the cold blooded murder of innocent unarmed civilians who were brutally killed in the name of the ‘”Great God” who needs people to ‘avenge’ insults to ‘his’ prophet.

We are horrified and we are terrorized; who knows where the hand of evil may strike next?

From the shores of lower Manhattan to the hills of Har Nof; from the hectic holy city of Chevron to the quiet verdant field of Fort Hood, Texas the cry of “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great!” has terrorizingly echoed across the world.

Is Islam a violent religion?

Is it a set of beliefs where killing and murder of innocent men, women and children is glorified if not often mandated, encouraged and even applauded?

From today’s paper the pundits have begun to weigh in on the matter.

The New York Times was quick and almost immediate in their usual unequivocal statement: “This is also no time for peddlers of xenophobia to try to smear all Muslims with a terrorist brush.”

Nicholas Kristof writing this morning on the Op- Ed page of the NY Times notes:  “Terror incidents lead many Westerners to perceive Islam as inherently extremist, but I think that is too glib and simple-minded. Small numbers of terrorists make headlines, but they aren’t representative of a complex and diverse religion of 1.6 billion adherents. The vast majority of Muslims of course have nothing to do with the insanity of such attacks”

Interestingly, one of the many reader’s comments on the article stated: (submitted by Frank Viviano Barga, from Italy):

“{It is true that} Only a small minority of Muslims engage actively in mindless, barbaric violence. But millions are complicit in their passivity and silence over these unambiguously shameful acts—just as millions of Germans were silently complicit in the Holocaust.”

This comment is extremely important.

While Mr. Kristof is certainly correct that, “The vast majority of Muslims of course have nothing to do with the insanity of such attacks”; however, more importantly is the statement that “millions are complicit in their passivity and silence over these unambiguously shameful acts—just as millions of Germans were silently complicit in the Holocaust.”

The purpose of this Vort though, is not to comment on or about Islam or about xenophobia; rather, the point of this Vort is us.

As Mr. Barga from Italy compellingly points out, even if ‘only a small minority’ of a group is implicated in a crime, it behooves the rest of the group, irrespective of their lack of direct culpability in the action, to speak and to protest and distance themselves from the actual perpetrators.

Indeed, often distancing themselves is not sufficient; rather, they must be in the front lines of protest and of creating an atmosphere which is totally intolerant of violence and terror.

The Talmud in Yevamos (96b) informs us that Rabbi Eliezer ben Shamua and Rabbi Yossi were once involved in a fierce debate in a Shul about a question of Muktza on Shabbos.

In the heat of the argument, each one grabbed hold of the Torah scroll and shockingly it was ripped in two!

Rabbi Yossi ben Kisma who was present at the time, commented, “I would be surprised if this Shul does not eventually become a house of pagan worship and indeed, so it was.”

This Gemara is certainly intriguing. Why would the fact that two scholars who were ostensibly involved in a private dispute about a halachik matter which led to the unfortunate, albeit, unintentional  result of the Torah being ripped, be the cause of a Shul being transformed into a pagan temple!

What is the connection here?

Perhaps the real burden of responsibility rests not with the two combatants (Rabbi Eliezer ben Shamua and Rabbi Yossi) perhaps true culpability lies with those who other members of the Synagogue who although not actively involved in the heated discussion, nevertheless, helped foster (or at least did not protest) an environment which at worst cultivated, or at least tolerated a state of affairs which could lead to the level of passion which caused the destruction a Torah albeit unintentionally.

Friends, let us not be clones of Nicholas Kristof and of his ilk who are all too quick to excuse Islamic violence as not being endemic to their current interpretation of their religion; rather let us see things for what they are; namely: “millions (of Moslems) are complicit in their passivity and silence over these unambiguously shameful acts—just as millions of Germans were silently complicit in the Holocaust.”

This is exactly what Rabbi Yossi ben Kisma would say about many of us today!

Only two Rabbis were involved in the Torah desecration; however, many other onlookers in that Synagogue were “complicit in their passivity and silence over these unambiguously shameful acts!”

Why is it that when we hear about Moslem violence we as Jews are quick to join the bandwagon of collective culpability while when he hear stories about Jews who spit on little girls or ‘respectable’ Jewish figures who are hauled into court and convicted of heinous crimes we are just as quick if not quicker to ‘excuse’ these acts as the work of a ‘few fanatics’ who in no way shape or form are representative of Orthodox Jewry as a whole?

The reality is as Rabbi Yossi ben Kisma stated, “If we stand by and watch the Torah being ripped we are culpable for we have contributed to an environment where such horrific accidents can occur; therefore, we can no longer be surprised when Synagogues become pagan temples!

Let us work together to create Shuls and communities where fringe groups are not tolerated.

We must create houses of worship where we could never even imagine ‘ripping the Torah’, even in the heat of the moment.

We are all responsible and culpable for each other.

Only by creating and cultivating Shuls and families and communities where civility and dignity are the only methods utilized in settling disputes can we hope to ensure the safety and spiritual and physical vitality of our people.

 

“If Not Now, Then When? - Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Why Me?” (1/7/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 16th of Teves 5775 and January 7, 2015

 

Why Me?

 

One of the most common questions asked of me is “Why Me?”

When problems abound in our lives and when the challenges of life seem overwhelming, we suddenly remember G-d and we point the accusatory finger right at Him as we ask “Why Me?”

Usually as the Rabbi and as the unofficial spokesman of the Almighty, the question comes to my desk and the proverbial “Why Me?” is directed at me.

Funny, I can hardly ever recall anyone coming into my office and say to me, “Why me? My children all came home safely from school today; why was I privileged to this kindness?”

I remind all of you that only two weeks ago today I participated in the funeral of a two year girl who never came home alive from playgroup.

On Monday, once again for the second time in less than two weeks I participated in a funeral where the father said Kaddish over the body of his child.

The way of the world is that children should bury their parents; however, the last two funerals I have participated in (which were less than two weeks apart) were funerals where the parents buried their children. Both of these young people were never married; both died way below the average life expectancy of our country.

Perhaps the next day my office should have been filled with couples waiting in line to ask me, “Why me?” “Why was my family spared the sorrow of burying a child?”

Alas, there were no lines and no one came to ask me “Why was I privileged to have my child come home safely today?”

That is not the way of the world.

When good happens we chalk it up to ‘entitlement’; while when ‘not-good’ occurs, we are quick to point the finger at Him and shout “Why ME”?

When we go to work every day do we ask Hashem “Why ME?” “Why am I employed?”

 Do we ever stop to realize that there are highly intelligent and capable men and women out there who for one reason or another are unemployed? They are often ashamed to be seen in Shul at the early Mincha for fear of people realizing that they are among the non-workers.

Do we ask G-d every day “Why do I have a job?”

If you are blessed with children, did you ever stop and ask Hashem today, “G-d, why did you pick me to be blessed with children? The Chazon Ish never had any children. The Lubavitcher Rebbe never did; the Satmar Rebbe buried all three of his daughters in his lifetime and left this world childless. And yet, I have children.”

Did you ever ask Hashem, “Why Me? Why do I have children?”

Are you married? Do you have a significant ‘other’ in your life?

Did you ever stop in the morning and say to Hashem, “Why was I privileged to get married?”

 Yet, when there are bumps in the marriage, you are there to ask Hashem, “Why do I have such a spouse?”

Are you alive today?

Are you breathing?

Can you see?

 Can you walk?

Do you have clothes on your back?

 Do you have food in your stomach?

And do you have heat in your home?

If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, then how about asking Hashem today, “Why Me? Why was I privileged to see, hear, have food, be able to breath and live?”

Be thankful for what you have; and never forget, there are millions of people in the world who would change places with you in a second.

Enjoy what you have and perhaps ask yourself, “Why ME?”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

 

    

The Short Vort’ -"Who Knows?” (1/6/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 15th of Teves 5775 and January 6, 2015

 

Who Knows?

 

Moshe was taking a walk minding his own business.

Suddenly he noticed a sight which unfortunately repeats itself too often in our history.

He sees a non-Jew beating up a poor Jew.

At first he wonders to himself, “Who am I to get involved?”

He ultimately overcomes his hesitation and kills the anti-Semite.

Interestingly though before he decides to act, this Moshe who is imbued with prophetic powers far beyond the capabilities of the rest of us, takes a trip in the future. In a second he is able to ascertain that none of the descendants of this Jew baiter and hater will ever join our ranks or even change their anti- Semitic prejudices.

Only after his ‘foreground’ check is completed and found to be ‘clear’ of any potential positive people does our friend Moshe act and successfully eliminate the enemy.

Unfortunately, we no longer possess the individuals or the ‘foresight’ to be able to accurately predict the eventual ramifications of our actions.

We never know what future impact today’s actions will have on tomorrow’s children.

Who knows if by disciplining our student or child today this will impact on his outlook on life tomorrow?

Moshe possessed the unique and now non-existent gift of prophecy.

The lesson is clear, think before you ‘hit’ someone; be it a physical ‘hit’ or an emotional ‘hit’.

You never know how that hit may come back to haunt you.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"A Place to Hang My Tallis “ (1/4/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 13th of Teves 5775 and January 4, 2015

 

A Place to Hang My Tallis

 

It was Sunday morning and I was leaving the Shul after Shacharis to go home. The fellow approached me and said, “Rabbi, I am leaving now back to Brooklyn and I wanted to thank you for your hospitality over Shabbos.”

“Thank you for telling me; we always appreciate positive feedback”, I replied.

“You know Rabbi; my Shabbos here in Passaic was really special. This was my first time here and I really enjoyed the Shul; this place is really unique.”

At this point, after he said my Shul was ‘unique’ my interest was piqued as I wondered in what way was my Shul so special.

“Rabbi, I must really, really thank you, there is something here which I never experienced at any Shul before”.

Before he could tell what was so special about the Shul, my mind began to fill with joy as thoughts of complements danced around.

I could just hear his words…”Rabbi, your Drosha was exceptional, brilliant, outstanding, superb, and insightful and delivered in an exemplary and erudite fashion.”

I would of course feign modesty while inside I would hope that the wave of accolades would never end.

I could hear myself responding, “Oh, you are just too kind and I am overwhelmed by your generosity”, while once again in my mind I would be thinking, “Hey, you left out: terrific, marvelous and outright amazing!”

Finally, the guest looked up at me and said, “Rabbi, there is something here in your Shul so special that I will remember it every Shabbos of my life…”

I could hear the compliments beginning as I humbly responded, “And what would that be my son?”

“Rabbi, your Shul is the only Shul I have ever been in where you have hooks outside of the bathroom to hang your Tallis so you don’t have to bring it in with you. In my Shul in Brooklyn, I never know what to do with my Tallis when I go to the bathroom. However, here in your Shul I just hang it right on the hook outside the bathroom. Thank you so much for that hook!”

“Is that it?” I asked. “Nothing more was special here?”

“Oh yes, I liked the fact that you have paper towels to dry your hands after the bathroom. In Brooklyn we just have one old wet towel. So these two things, the hooks and paper towels really impressed me about your Shul. Thanks so much!”

I thanked the fellow for his compliments and went to hang my head in shame on the hook outside the bathroom.

I guess it was better than a complaint.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Flops” (1/2/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 11th of Teves 5755 and January 2, 2015

 

Flops

 

Baruch and Shira Greenbaum (names changed) were marrying off their oldest son Motty.

As parents of the boy they were asking me about “FLOP(S)”.

For the uniformed, FLOP(S) is an acronym which refers to the four (or five) wedding costs which ‘traditionally’ the Chosson’s side pays for.

“FLOP” stands for Flowers, Liquor, the Orchestra, and the Photographer. Less common, but nevertheless not unusual, is the “FLOPS” option, where the Chosson’s side also takes care of the Sheitel for the kallah, hence the additional “S” which spells FLOPS.

They were inquiring if FLOP(S) was halachically binding or if there was leeway for compromise.

Mrs. Greenbaum also asked if there was a time when she could present her new daughter in-law with a special gift.

I was assuming she was referring to the various gifts which have become customary for the Chosson’s family to give to the Kallah such as a bracelet, Machzorim …

Before I could finish my ‘gift list’, Shira Greenbaum interrupted and said, “I am not asking what to give, I know what I am giving; I want to know when to give it?”

 “What exactly is this special gift anyway? Is it a special piece of jewelry?”

 “It is not jewelry and not Sefarim. I don’t have the money for those; what I want to give the kallah is a special present I have kept for many years for her to have.”

 “What is this gift which is so precious?”

Mrs. Greenbaum slowly removed from her bag a worn and tattered hard-covered composition book. I could tell that is was well read and had multiple extra sheets of paper which were pasted and taped onto the pages.

On the front of the book in beautifully written letters was the title: “Mitzvohs of your life”.

Lovingly and with care Mrs. Greenbaum opened the book; and began to read.

“Friday, Erev Shabbos Parshas Noach 1996, Motty helped Mommy set table without being asked.”

“Shabbos afternoon Parshas Nitzvaim 1998, Motty watched his little sister and brother to allow Mommy and Tatty to nap on Shabbos. Wednesday Parshas Terumah 1998, Motty calls his Bubby to find out how she is feeling.”

 “I’m sorry however, what exactly are you reading from?”

 “Rabbi, my husband and I were never financially wealthy. I have always been a stay-at-home-mom and therefore even on Shabbos we never could afford lavish Shabbos treats that other families have. Instead of food, I established a different type of Shabbos ‘treat’. From the time Motty was a little boy, every time during the week when he did an extra Mitzvah, I would write it all down and on Friday night at the Seuda I would read aloud from this list. Motty would beam with joy as I read it. It was the highlight of the week for all of us as each and every child would hear their mitzvohs being read aloud at the table. Motty once asked me, “Mommy, what are you going to with these Mitzvah notes?”

I thought for a moment and replied, “Motty dear, I am saving them to present them to your Kallah on your wedding day. I want her to know what a special Chosson she is getting.” Motty’s face glowed with pride and now it is time to give this special book to my new daughter-in law.”

I reached across my desk and gently picked up the tattered and worn composition notebook; the price tag indicating “Amazing Savings $.89” was still visible in the corner.

In our times when too many of us are more concerned with how many carats the engagement ring has and if the Tennis Bracelet is set in pure sterling silver, I knew I was holding in my hand the most precious and exquisite gift a Kallah could have.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"To Help or Not to Help” (1/1/15)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday Asara B’Teves 5775 and January 1, 2015

 

To Help or Not to Help

 

Today as I walked to Shul I noticed a non-Jewish person carrying a very heavy load of flyers which he was to distribute for free and place at each home he passed.

The burden was quite large and I could see that he was struggling to carry his cargo.

I wondered, “Was as I required according to the Torah to delay my arrival at Shul to assist the man with unloading the load (“prika”-unloading) and/or helping him re-load the burden in a more effective manner of carrying it (“t’eena”- loading)?”

I quickly attempted to digest the relevant halachik information on the subject.

On one hand the Gemara in discussing the reason for the Mitzvah of loading and unloading an animal’s load (Prika and T’eena) the Gemara seemingly says clearly that if the animal is owned by a non-Jew and the cargo is also owned by a non-Jew, then in this case there is no Mitzvah to help the animal; unless there is a question of ‘eivah’, namely that by not assisting the animal and it’s owner this could cause anti-Semitism. Excluding the possibility of eivah, there is no Mitzvah to help the animal when both the animal and owner (and the one leading the animal) are not Jewish.

Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch in quoting the Rambam clearly states that the reason for helping the animal and its owner is not because of ‘Tzar B’aalei Chayim’ [TBC] (the prohibition of causing pain to animals) for according to the Rambam TBC is rabbinic (D’rabanan) and not a Torah Mitzvah (M’Doraisa).

(See Sh Ar; CM; 272:9, 10)  

Therefore, according to the Shulchan Aruch, the Halacha of not causing animals to suffer is rabbinic and not ‘biblical’; however, the Rema (ad loc.) disagrees and is of the opinion that TBC is indeed M’Doraisa and as such he concludes that one must always assist an animal who is pained irrespective of the fact if by not assisting it will cause ‘eivah’ or not. There is biblical commandment to assist the animal irrespective of who owns it or who is watching.

We now have ascertained that at least according to the Rema who is the harbinger of the Ashkenazic tradition, we have an obligation to proactively assist an animal who is suffering.

We now turn our attention to an interesting related question.

Does the prohibition of assisting animals who are suffering extend to humans who are suffering or not?

This question, interestingly enough is a debate between the Chavos Yair (Rabbi Yair Chaim ben Moses Samson Bacharach was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1638 and studied in various yeshivos in Germany. He had a hard life in the rabbinate, and served in various rabbinic positions in Germany. His famous responsa, Chavos Yair, evidence his outstanding rabbinic scholarship and general knowledge, as well as his proficiency in Kabbalah. He died in 1702), and the Rashba (R. Shlomo ben Aderes was born in Barcelona in 1235, and died there in 1310. He studied under Rabbeinu Yonah and Nahmanides (Ramban), and was a contemporary of R. Aharon Ha-Levi -Ra’ah).

The Chavos Yair is of the opinion that the Halacha of TBC is limited to animals  since they have no free choice in what to carry or what not to carry; therefore we are obligated to protect them.

However, a human being who has the ‘seichel’ and the free choice to decide what or what not to carry is not ‘covered’ by the ‘protection plan’ of TBC.

The Rashba disagrees and is of the opinion that the prohibition of TBC and is applicable to people and animals alike.

If one assumes that TBC does apply to humans in addition to animals, we now ask: are non-Jews also covered by TBC; namely do we have the Torah obligation to assist even in a case where there is no ‘chashash of eivah’ (no probability of our actions causing friction among our neighbors)?

In other words, does the prohibition of allowing the person to feel pain and not assist him apply to non-Jews as well?

Since the Mitzvah of TBC is associated with the Talmudic Sugya (topic) of T’eena and Prika which is connected to the topic of Hashavas Aveida, (returning lost objects) it would seem at first glance that this does not apply to non-Jews. After all, the Gemara is clear that the Mitzvah of Hashavas Aveida does not apply to non-Jews who lose their objects.

It would seem then there is no obligation to help the non-Jew who is burdened with the flyers; however, all is not so simple.

The Meiri (R. Menachem ben Shlomo Meiri was born in 1249 and died in 1315, and was one the leading rabbis in southern France. He authored many works, the most well-known being the Beis HaBechirah, a broad commentary on the Mishnah and Talmud) astonishingly states unequivocally that the Talmudic prohibition of returning lost objects to non-Jews is limited to those non-Jews who are ‘uncivilized’ and not ‘guided by normative civil laws’; however, those non-Jew among whom we reside (emphasis my own) they are certainly not excluded from these laws and we have an obligation to return to them their lost objects!”

Therefore, if we combine the following facts:

1.       TBC is indeed a Torah commandment; as the Rema adjudicates.

2.       The Mitzvah of TBC is not limited to animals; rather, it also includes our requirement to prevent human suffering as well.

3.       The parameters of the Mitzvah of T’eena and Prika, which is the basis of assisting the animal, are based on the same parameters of Hashavas Aveida.

4.        The opinion of the Meiri that nowadays we have to return lost objects to our non-Jewish neighbors.

5.       Therefore, it would follow that I would have a Torah obligation to assist the non-Jewish gentleman with his burden irrespective of the fact if he knows I am Jewish or not.

 

After I finally figured this out in my mind, I looked up and was eager and ready to assist my fellow human being armed with the knowledge that I could be fulfilling a Torah obligation!

Alas, as I looked up, the man had already disappeared from sight and had completed his delivery run.

Oy, I missed my Mitzvah!

Well at least I will know now what to do next time.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ -"Frail and Fearful” (12/30/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 8th of Teves 5775 and December 30, 2014

 

Frail and Fearful

 

Yakov is weak; he realizes the end is near: (Chapter 47)

 

29. And the time drew nearer that Israel must die; and he called his son Joseph, and said to him, “If now I have found grace in your sight, put, I beg you, your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I beg you, in Egypt;

30. But I will lie with my fathers, and you shall carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying place.” And he said, I will do as you have said.

31. And he said, “Swear to me”. And he swore to him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.

 

Yakov is pleading with Yosef; indeed, he is begging him to fulfill his last and final request.

Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch Zt”l is bothered by Yakov’s pleading.

 Is this the way a father (and remember, the father we are referring to is Yakov Avinu!) speaks to a son? Does a Jewish father have to plead and beg his son to have that son fulfill his last and final request?

 “Is this the way of a Jewish father to speak in such pleading tones to his son?” (See Rav Hirsch for his answer)

Perhaps the answer to this quandary is an eternal and timeless, albeit sad, reality.

Yakov realizes he is about to go the way of all flesh.

He is now coming face to face with his own mortality.

This realization, the fact that soon he will no longer be in control or even be able to contribute to the decision making process of his own life (and death) consumes our father Yakov with a sense of dread and indeed, of helplessness.

Yakov is now the elderly and ailing parent who in his prime was able to lead and support the beloved ‘holy twelve tribes of Israel’; he was formerly the man who was able to fight the ‘guardian angel of Eisav’ and prevail against him; however, he now finds himself weak and helpless, dependent on the benevolence of his son Yosef.

Therefore, Yakov pleads with his son to carry out his final request.

If we listen carefully we can hear the fear and the helplessness in the voice of Yakov as he realizes that although he was able raise and guide the entire congregation of Israel, he is now unable to even guarantee where he will be buried.

The chilling tone of dependence in the voice of the former fighter sends chills down my spine.

Yakov’s own mortality is evident to all, especially to Yakov himself.

The Lesson

The recognition of one’s mortality and the realization by a parent of their sudden and utter dependency on their children, (the same children who they nurtured and raised), is traumatizing for parent and child alike.

He or she who for years was the caregiver and the pillar of support for the family has now become the care-receiver and the one in need of support from those they formerly supported.

The role-reversal is frightening, scary and deflating, even for a Yakov Avinu.

Alas, he has no choice and he begs and pleads with his son Yosef to fulfill his final wish.

 His sense of dependency on his son is sad and painful to witness.

When we deal with our elderly parents and the realization sets in that our mother or father who we went to for support and sustenance is now in need of our support, we are pained and both parties feel uncomfortable and awkward.

We must realize at these times that with compassion and patience the role-reversal can be accomplished with dignity and with finesse.

Ultimately, Yosef performs his task flawlessly and he is able to comfort and reassure his father.

Yosef is able to restore his father’s sense of dignity and self-worth.

Remember this the next time you have to involve yourself with your aging parent or any formerly independent individual who is now dependent on you.

 Have compassion and patience; and never forget, such is the way of the world.

What happened in the family of Yakov and Yosef repeats itself again and again; we just have to remember to be patient and kind.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Little Things” (12/29/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 7th of Teves 5775 and December 29, 2014

 

Little Things

 

On Shabbos the conversation at the table turned to a topic which many of us struggle with; namely the materialism of today’s generation.

As many of us are only too familiar with, our children have the ‘challenge’ of dealing with many materialistic temptations which ‘we’ never had to deal with.

One quick example, my daughter Aviva is currently studying in Israel.

She related to me that one of the Morahs in attempting to convey a lesson asked the girls how many of them called home daily.

All hands went up.

 She then asked how many spoke to the parents twice a day.

Again, most hands went up.

 This continued until no hands went up.

 My daughter informed me that even when the girls were asked if they speak three, four and even five times a day, some hands were still going up!

I am not at all against speaking to our children daily, indeed I myself fall into the twice a day category, (sometimes three and on rare occasions four); yet, we all realize that’s not how it used to be.

When I was in the Yeshiva in Israel in the 1970s (“Yes, Virginia, there were phones back then”; if you don’t get the reference, just skip this part and keep on reading) I used to write (yes, we had pens and paper) a physical (non-virtual) letter to my parents!

We would make up a day two weeks in advance where I would wait by a pay phone for them to call.

 This special event took place at most ONCE a month!!

We were considered very ‘high-tech’ when we began sending cassettes to each other which contained “audible letters”!

Therefore, when our guest related to me the following incident I knew I had to share it with you.

Last week our guest (who we shall call Sorah) went to visit an old friend whom she has not seen for years.

She always recalled her friend being the ‘real-deal’; a woman who was steadfast and ‘real’ in her convictions and never falling into the bottomless pit of materialism.

When she arrived at her friend’s house the children were excited to see her. On the spur of the moment Sorah decided to offer to take the kids out for pizza as she figured her friend could use the break.

The children were ecstatic and overjoyed; in fact, Sorah was surprised at how excited they were.

When she returned the children back home, Sorah informed her friend how well behaved the children were.  Sorah’s friend thanked her for taking the kids out and Sorah left for home.

The next day Sorah’s friend called to thank her again for the outing.

She then said, “It was so special. My little Baila (age 9) told her entire class that yesterday she went to a pizza store and was able to order her own pizza!

 Sorah seemed puzzled and asked, “I appreciate her appreciation; however, it was not that big a deal to take the kids for pizza. I am sure they have eaten pizza many times before this.”

There was a pause on the line as Sorah’s friend remarked; “It actually was a very big deal; this was the first time in her life she ever went to the pizza store. I usually just spread ketchup on bread and top it with a piece of American cheese and that’s what we call pizza. This is the first time she ever ordered her own ‘real’ pizza.”

Wow, I thought, there is actually one American Jewish family whose has never gone out for pizza in this country?

I wish I could continue to tell you how amazed I am… however, the cell phone is ringing, and the microwave is beeping, the text messenger is clanking and my Gmail storage is almost full so I have to run…..

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"The Levaya” (12/25/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 3rd of Teves 5775 and December 25, 2014

 

The Levaya

 

There are few words which can be uttered at a funeral which are appropriate.

What can one ever say to console and to comfort another human being at their loss?

How can you feel their pain and their anguish?

Who knows and who can feel the inner feelings of any other human being?

How especially true this is when the loved one who left this world was a child.

Yesterday, under a darkened and damp sky on the outskirts of Lakewood, New Jersey I participated in the levaya of a two year girl.

The little girl was alive and well and carefree just six hours before I stood before her open grave.

I thought to myself how just this same morning her mother gave her breakfast as any other day and prepared lunch for her as she did every day.

The little girl was healthy and full of life just six hours earlier on this same day; and now, I watched as her lifeless body was gently lowered into the newly prepared grave.

It was before 8 PM; just hours before she was playing with her siblings and doing everything two year olds do; and now she was buried.

The crowd which had gathered was silent.

Her father recited Kaddish and then it was over.

Everyone went back to their cars and to their lives.

Everyone returned to the mundane and trivial, albeit necessary aspects of their lives: lunches for the next day, and cleaning and returning the Menorahs back to their places not to be used until next Chanukah.

Everyone went back to car pools and wet raincoats, work appointments and getting the kids and themselves to sleep.

Everyone except the parents of the little girl; they returned home to sit Shiva.

I stopped by the shiva house, marveling at the calm and steadfast belief of the parents in the face of the tragedy.

As I entered my car and began the 70 mile trek back to Passaic, my thoughts were racing.

I knewthe little girl was is in a ‘better place.’

I personally saw how bravely and with complete faith in Hashem the parents had accepted their loss.

I knew that Hashem has His plan and we can never understand it.

Yet, as I sat in my car alone and with my thoughts, there was only emotion in my heart and that was sadness.

The rain began to pick up and I adjusted the windshield wipers to high.

Soon fog set in and I had to focus on the road and the driving conditions; my mind was now absorbed on the driving…it was raining hard and my car was pelted by the strong raindrops as they crashed on the windshield.

I was intently concentrating on the road; however, all I could see was the little girl being lowered to her final rest.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ -” The Single Menorah” (12/23/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 1st of Teves 5775 and December 23, 2014

 

The Single Menorah

 

Last night something occurred at my home which (to the best of my memory) has not happened in more than thirty years.

Only one Menorah was lit at the ‘family lighting’.

As I previously mentioned, only one of my children is living at home and she was not home at ‘family lighting time’. My wife and I gathered together and I recited the brochus and we sang the Chanukah songs together and viewed the lights.

I was not sad and I was not disappointed.

Life is never about what ‘cards’ you are dealt; rather, life is always about dealing with whatever cards you have in front of you and appreciating what you do have and making the best of the situation .

Besides the fact that I knew that my other family members are lighting their own Menorahs wherever they are; there is the knowledge that I and my wife are also a unit and that is good.

Even if you are lighting alone, you are still a precious unit and that is to be celebrated.

Every situation in which a person finds himself (wherever they are in the world) they must realize that the situation affords them the opportunity to accomplish something which no one else can achieve.

If ten Menorahs are being lit and you are surrounded by ten children and many grandchildren you have the mission of insuring that the Menorah is lit properly and that everyone is happy and satisfied.

And if you are lighting just one Menorah you have the obligation of making sure your one lone Menorah is the shining light for your entire Mini-Sanctuary.

No one is judged by how many children they have or if they are married or not.

No one is judged by how many Menorahs adorn their home; rather, we are judged by what we do and how we react and respond to the circumstances which surround us.

Tonight is the final light.

No matter where you are and who (if anyone) is with you, make tonight’s lighting special and unique. Remember you will not have another chance to light until next year and who knows where you will be then?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -” The Light of the Menorah” (12/21/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the fifth day of Chanukah 5775 and December 21, 2014

 

The Light of the Menorah

 

As so many of us gather with our families and friends on the nights of Chanukah, we enjoy each other’s company as the candles are lit.

In the majority of homes (hopefully) there is joy and simcha; however, as a Rabbi, I am often privy to information which I wish I did not have to hear.

There are those homes where the lighting of the Menorah is not at all a joyful or enjoyable experience. There are homes where the strife and tensions of the daily existence carries on and extends to Chanukah as well.

There are homes (not too many we hope) where the mother or father are domineering and insist their children light the Menorah exactly as they demand and even the slightest deviation from the instructions of the parents can result in having the children’s candles extinguished or their oil spilled out of the Menorah.

There are homes where the tension between the parents penetrates what should be the beautiful time of Chanukah lighting.

  One child related to me how he despises Chanukah as it gives just one more excuse for his parents to engage in their constant and hurtful bickering over how the Menorah should be lit and how long the candles must stay lit and the entire event of ‘Pirsumei Nisa’ (publicizing the miracle) is really ‘Pirsumei Machlokes’ – publicizing the strife in the home.

Some of you can relate to what I write while others are shocked and in disbelief. Maybe even some of you assume I concocted these stories or at least magnified for them dramatic effect.

I wish I could say you are correct.

The bottom line is that if you live in a home where you lit your candles and the family sang the traditional songs and all were happy and smiles, consider yourself blessed.

 And remember, there are those of your neighbors who are very happy that we light nowadays inside, this way they at least can keep their ‘dirty laundry’ inside their homes.

Have compassion on your neighbor and just know: no one knows what another person’s Menorah lighting looks like.

Enjoy the rest of Chanukah.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"You Never Really Know” (12/19/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday Erev Shabbos Chanukah 5775 and December 19, 2014

 

You Never Really Know

 

Bertha and Sidney Millenberg (names changed) were members of my Shul ‘forever’. When I arrived here almost twenty years ago they were members and when I checked the old membership rosters from the 1960s their names always appear.

Sidney was the proverbial ‘kibitzer’. When I would ask him how long he has been with the Shul he replies proudly, “Long enough to know how to change the bulbs in the Main Shul!”

The ceiling of the Main Shul is over forty feet high and the bulbs are partially recessed into the ceiling. It is always a mystery to all as to how the bulbs are changed.

Sidney and Bertha were married for over 62 years. When anyone would ask Sidney how old he was he would reply proudly, “Old enough to have voted for Harry S. Truman in 1948!”

Bertha was much more secretive about her age; when one young man innocently asked her age she replied, “I am old enough to know that you never ask a woman her age! Let’s just say I am old enough to remember when Thomas Edison’s son Charles was the Governor of New Jersey!” (Charles Thomas was governor from January 21, 1941 – January 18, 1944)

Sidney would come to Shul every Shabbos at 7:30 AM and head straight to the coffee urn. He would make himself a cup of java and then sit at the big table in the lobby talking to everyone and anyone who passed by until Shul started at 8:30. He could talk about any topic you were interested in; politics, Israel, price of gas and of course sports. Sidney knew every baseball player and their statistics no matter how irrelevant they were. He was always amazed how so many of the ‘younger generation’ did not share his passion for the American pastime. He would often tell me, “Rabbi, these youngsters all they know is Bava Kama and Bava Basra; they should also know about Babe Ruth and Hank Greenberg!”

As much as I adored Sidney; it seemed to me that he never really appreciated the Torah revolution which was happening in Passaic under his nose.

Sidney and Bertha were never blessed with children.

Sidney had worked for many years as a manufacturer and it was widely known that when he retired he sold the business for a hansom sum of money. They lived modestly in a small home and they did not even own a car anymore. They paid their dues and made donations to the various needs of the Shul; however, it did not add up, everyone figured they must have a huge savings account.

Therefore, when they came to speak to me about how they will manage in the twilight of their lives I was perplexed.

They came to ask my advice if they should move to a Medicare elder-living home.

I was surprised by this; didn’t they have plenty of savings?

When they revealed how much they actually had I was shocked how meek their savings really was.

“That’s all you have?” I blurted out.

“Well this year we married off our fifth child and that almost cleaned us out”.

I began to wonder if the Millenbergs were becoming confused in their advanced age.

“What do you mean you fifth child?”

Bertha explained, “Rabbi, when we reached our 60s, we noticed that all our friends were marrying off their children. We realized that just because Hashem did not bless us with our own children, why should we feel exempted from the mitzvah and miss out on the joy of marrying off a Jewish child?

So over 25 years ago we began to locate needy Jewish girls and we discreetly paid for their weddings. In this way, we also brought ‘our five children’ to the Chuppah.”

Here was Sidney; a simple Jew who I always imagined was more interested in the score of the Yankee game than understanding a Tosfos. And next to him was his wife Bertha who went from Mah-Jong games to Bridge without any apparent interest in Jewish causes.

This ‘simple’ couple is now informing me that their savings has been depleted as they have contributed over $100,000 in the last twenty five years to marry off ‘their five children’.

I was in the presence of greatness.

Sidney and Bertha were no simple Jews; they were precious, holy, unique individuals who in their quiet and modest fashion had guaranteed the continuity of the Jewish people.

“Rabbi, how will look if we move into a Medicare assisted-living?”

I quietly said, “Don’t worry about what others will say. When the time comes and you are called ‘upstairs’, just show them your cancelled checks from the five weddings and you will be granted ‘special’ status. Your seats will be right next to Avrohom and Sora; where you live now is not important.”

I always looked at Sidney as a simple manufacturer, in reality he was the keenest and most ingenious investor I had ever met.

 

“If Not Now, Then When”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ -” Nuts about Nuts” (12/18/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is the 26th of Kislev 5755 and December 18, 2014

 

Nuts about Nuts

 

The article said it all:

 

Cho Hyun-ah, 40, a daughter of the Korean Air’s chairman, became enraged when a flight attendant in first class served her nuts in a bag instead of on a plate on Dec. 5.

She forced Korean Air Flight 86, already taxiing at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and bound for Incheon, South Korea, to return to the gate to kick the senior steward, Park Chang-jin, off the plane.

In an interview on Friday with KBS, he said that Ms. Cho had made him and a junior steward who had served the nuts apologize on their knees, and that she had also hit his hand with a plastic folder of in-flight service manuals.

Last week, under snowballing public pressure, Ms. Cho’s father and Korean Air’s chairman, Cho Yang-ho, apologized for her “foolish” behavior and stripped her of all jobs in his family-run conglomerate.

Prosecutors questioned Ms. Cho for 12 hours on Wednesday about allegations that she broke aviation laws by using verbal and physical violence against the crew and by forcing the plane to return to the gate.

[See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/19/world/asia/steward-kicked-off-korean-air-flight-accuses-airline-and-south-korea-of-attempting-cover-up.html?ref=world]

 

Just two weeks ago Cho Hyun-ah was at the top of her world.

 She was the daughter of the chairman of a major international airline; and she herself was a vice-president of the company.  

“Travel retail magazine The Moodie Report stated that the airline is expected to generate inflight retail sales of around US$190 million (S$247.4 million) in 2014, placing it as the world’s leading onboard duty free retailer. In a 2006 interview, it attributed this consistent success to Ms Cho’s drive and passion.”

 http://www.straitstimes.com/news/asia/more-asia-stories/story/korean-air-nut-rage-scandal-5-things-know-about-heather-cho-201412

 

Just two weeks ago she was a rich heiress, a mother of twin boys who were born in Hawaii thus giving them U.S. citizenship which exempts them from the two year mandatory military service that all other Koreans must do, and in general she was a feared and respected executive.

 

Today is she a reviled and loathed capitalist bully who used her power and wealth to intimidate and humiliate hard working ‘simple’ workers who are giving their sweat and blood to make a dollar to support their families.

She is despised as representing the thuggish mentality of the rich who force the common worker to figuratively and literally bow to her.

Over the last two weeks she who humiliated others is now the humiliated one.

She who was dismissive of others is now the one dismissed by millions of her countrymen as being a harsh and abusive taskmaster.

 

Oh, what Cho Hyun-ah would not do to turn back the clock to December 5th?

If only she could do it all over.

She would gladly kiss the feet of the steward if only she could replay the scene and graciously accept the macadamia nuts even if they were thrown in her face.

 Alas, Cho Hyun-ah cannot go back in time and all of her wealth and all of her power can do nothing now to reverse the events of two weeks ago.

She will go down in Korean aviation history as the wicked woman of the Far East who used her position to trample on the poor workers who have no one to stand up for them.

She will be preserved in posterity as the “Korean Queen of Mean”, an infamous symbol of cruelty and the paradigm of a bully.

 

Friends, there are those of you who are reading this and saying, “Those silly people out there… they ruin their lives over such silliness as macadamia nuts… they fail to know what really matters in this world. Not like us; we would never act that way!”

 

As for me, I am not thinking that at all.

Friends, I am Cho Hyun-ah!!!

How many times in my life did I open my mouth when I should have kept it closed?

How many times did I go ‘nuts’ over things even sillier than ‘nuts’?

I cannot lie; the answer is: much too many times than I care to remember.

 

I thank you Cho Hyun-ah; indeed, from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

You once again reminded me how careful I have to be and how on guard on I must be.

You reminded me that macadamia nuts can sometimes change my world.

If only I could remember Cho Hyun-ah every day of my life; imagine what a better person I would be?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

     

The Short Vort’ -” Am I Dreaming?” (12/16/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 25th of Kislev 5775 and December 17th, 2014

 

Am I Dreaming?

 

My daughter Aviva is currently learning in Eretz Yisroel in Seminary. It has been a very hard adjustment….for me!

When your youngest child is already learning in Israel, you know you are old.

When the ‘baby of the family’ is on her own navigating the streets of Yerushalayim while I still am caught in the time warp of her needing assistance to cross Waverly Place (the one-way small street where we live)- that is a wake-up call that my baby is growing up.

Today she spoke to me from the Old City of Yerushalayim as she went there to daven at the Kosel.

As we are speaking she suddenly said, “Wow, this is beautiful, all over the Jewish quarter there are Menorahs in the window and by the doorways. Every house has at least one Menorah, this is so beautiful.”

After ascertaining that she indeed knew her way around the Old City, I asked her if there was a Menorah at the Kosel; she told me there was a great big one which could be seen from far away.

As I listened to her description of the Menorahs illuminating the streets of the city where the Beis HaMikdash stood and will stand, I felt tears welling up in me.

On a personal level, my daughter Aviva is now an adult and she is no longer a little child for me to shelter and guard; and for that I cried.

On a national level, my daughter is walking freely in a totally Jewish neighborhood just yards away from where we will soon gather all together to greet Mashiach and she is moved as she describes the hundreds of Jewish families who are publicizing the miracle of Chanukah in a free and secure Jewish state.

My eyes began tearing as I think of my youngest child walking securely and safely surrounded by frum Jews in Yerushalayim and absorbing the holiness and the powerful impact of the miracle of Chanukah as it is celebrated publicly and without shame or hesitation in Yerushalayim.

My entire being is moved to realize the greatness of the moment.

My daughter is walking in Yerushalayim and hundreds of thousands of Jews, more than any time perhaps in history, are lighting Menorah all over the city in the most public and ‘mehudar’ way possible and I should not be moved?

How can I not be moved?

Jews walk freely in Yerushalayim and people are able to light the Menorah freely and without fear.

Let us appreciate what we have and what Hashem has given us.

As for me, I miss my daughter.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -” The First Light ” (12/16/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 24th of Kislev 5775 and December 16, 2014

 

The First Light

 

Tonight in homes all over the world, we will light the singular flame which signifies the beginning of “The Festival of Lights” which we refer to as Chanukah.

Everyone loves Chanukah.

It is the only time of the year when we have eight days of rejoicing and with the exception of Shabbos; all of the days are permitted in travel enabling families to be together for an evening or two.

Chanukah is so special; family togetherness and the privilege to recite Hallel for eight days, what could be better?

Who doesn’t love Chanukah?

Children all over the world look forward for the holiday and so do adults and kids of all ages!

Yesterday, I removed my Menorah from the cabinet. I have the privilege of using my wife’s grandmother’s Menorah which was somehow smuggled out of Vienna after the war. It has dents and bumps and is no longer perfectly straight; however, that is why I love it so much.

It is real! It is me! I also have my dents and bumps and I am still a work in progress to become ‘straight’.

As I placed my Menorah near the window I could not help but notice that this year there is only one other Menorah next to mine. With only one child still living at home, the table which used to be crowded with Menorahs, now has sits someone lonely as only two Menorahs are placed on it.

As I looked at the two Menorahs on the table, I thought to myself of all the different phases of my life.

I recall my brother and I and my father lighting the Menorah in Brooklyn 50 years ago and I recall lighting with my own children when they were just able to participate in the lighting. Now, they are assisting their own children in lighting their own Menorah.

That is life; sometimes the table is crowded with many Menorahs, and sometimes there sits a singular Menorah on the table. Whatever stage of life you are in, rejoice; for as you light your Menorah remember you are not alone. Even if you are lighting you own lone Menorah you are joined by millions of Jews all over the world who will be celebrating Chanukah tonight.

As the first singular light is kindled tonight remember that no matter where you are and no matter how many people are with you, you are not alone. You are connected by virtue of your lighting to the inclusive family called the Jewish people who are united tonight in the light of celebration.

We all have our ‘peckel’ (personal package of problems); however, remember as you light the Menorah tonight that the light of redemption is closer than we imagine.

Enjoy Chanukah!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -” Recognize Me for Who I Am” (12/8/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 16th of Kislev 5775 and December 8, 2014

 

Recognize Me for Who I Am

 

It was a time of great joy in the Schwartz (name changed) home.

Rabbi Schwartz had been involved in teaching Torah for over fifty years. Beginning at age 26 until this year, Rav Schwartz had a long and illustrious career of disseminating Torah in many different Yeshivos all over the country.

 He had begun his teaching back in 1957 as a second grade Rebbe and now as was approaching retirement he was the seventh grade Rebbe of a well-known yeshiva.

He had thousands of Talmidim and was beloved by generations of students and parents alike.

Therefore, when Rav Schwartz finally agreed after all of these years of refusal to be the dinner honoree for the yeshiva, it was a time of excitement and happiness in the community and in the immediate family. At least that is what I thought until the phone call.

Yiddel Schwartz was calling.  “Can I come speak to you? It’s important.”

Yiddel was the youngest of the six sons of Rav Schwartz. He was a wonderful Baal Chesed. I recall how as soon as he married he joined ‘all’ of the volunteer organizations which was an excellent outlet for him.

He was a good man and had a wonderful wife as he worked in the food service industry.

Yiddel came right to the point. “I know my father is a great man and I love him with all my heart. I know that he loves his family with every fiber of his being. It’s just that…well, it’s just that I always felt he was never really proud of me because out of his six sons I was the only one who did not follow his path and enter the field of Chinuch. I know he loves me, yet, there is a part of me that feels that he is disappointed in me for not being a Rebbe. I sometimes still feel that he never fully accepted me for who I am and that he always wanted me to be the person who I could never be.”

I was sure that this was not the case, however, how could I tell this to Rav Schwartz so he could deal with Yiddel’s feelings?

How was I to communicate to Rav Schwartz Yiddel’s feelings without hurting him?

As the day of the dinner approached I was still clueless as to what I could do.

At Shacharis that morning, I davened to Hashem to figure out how to tell Rav Schwartz how meaningful it would be to Yiddel if at tonight’s dinner, he would publicly acknowledge him.

I decided to approach Rav Schwartz after davening. As soon davening ended I made a beeline to him, however, as if often the case, I was ‘intercepted’ in the middle of the aisle by Sam.

“Oh no, not now Sam”, I thought to myself. “Can’t the latest edition of ‘Sam’s tall-tales’ be delayed today? I must get to Rav Schwartz and he is already folding his Tallis!”

Sam was not to be deterred and he began his morning saga. Sam was not helping the situation; or so I thought.

 Sam suddenly announced in a loud and clear voice and most importantly in ear-shot of Rav Schwartz, “My wife fell yesterday in the kitchen -and you should only know-if Yiddel Schwartz would not have responded with his Hatzolah crew as quickly as he did, she would not be here today! Rabbi, Yiddel Schwartz should be the one publicly honored!”

I could not have davened for a better pitch!

Rav Schwartz was all ears as he heard the ‘message’ clearly.

The dinner that night was perfect. When Rav Schwartz got up to speak the first person he mentioned was Yiddel. “Friends, I am so proud of all my sons; especially of Yiddel as he became not what I thought he should be; rather, he is what Hashem wanted him to be and that is the greatest Nachas a father can have.”

As I looked up at Yiddel, his face was shining as only a son who knows how proud he is making his father can shine.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -” Torah! Torah! Torah!* ” (12/7/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 15th of Kislev 5775 and December 7, 2014

 

Torah! Torah! Torah!*

* The title is the Japanese code-word used to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved in their surprise attack against Pearl Harbor. Torah literally means "tiger", but in this case it was an acronym for totsugeki raigeki(lightning attack"). (Wikipedia)

 

“December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan”  declared President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his address to Congress on December 8th 1941 in asking for a declaration of war.

Congress responded with an almost unanimous consent as war was officially declared on Japan.

 

When I was growing up in the 1960’s, December 7th 1941 was to anyone over thirty as 9-11 is to anyone over twenty today.

I could ask any of my parents friends (who were American born or had arrived before 1941), “Where were you on December 7th 1941?” and they could tell you exactly where they were, much the same as we all know exactly where we were on the morning of 9-11.

Most people recall December 7th 1941 much the same as 9-11; a date which represents an unprovoked attack against the United States.

Indeed, it was a tragic and horrific and deadly attack; however, out of the destruction of Pearl Harbor was born perhaps the singularly most important and meaningful event of World War Two with regard to saving the doomed Jews of Europe.

What event could I possibly be referring to? How was the attack on Pearl Harbor ‘responsible’ for the saving of the remnant of European Jewry?

The bombing of Pearl Harbor surprised even Germany.

Hitler had made an oral agreement with his Axis partner Japan that Germany would join a war against the United States, provided that the United States attacked Japan first!

As mentioned on December 8th 1941, after the Pearl Harbor attack, America declared war on Japan. Japanese Ambassador Oshima went to German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop to nail the Germans down on a formal declaration of war against America.

Von Ribbentrop stalled for time; he knew that Germany was under no obligation to do this under the terms of the Tripartite Pact, which promised help if Japan was attacked, but not if Japan was the aggressor. Von Ribbentrop feared that the addition of another antagonist, the United States, would overwhelm the German war effort.

But Hitler thought otherwise. He believed that Japan was much stronger than it was and that once it had defeated the United States, it would turn and help Germany defeat Russia. So at 3:30 p.m. (Berlin time) on December 11, the German charge d’affaires in Washington handed American Secretary of State Cordell Hull a copy of the declaration of war.

On December 11, 1941, the United States Congress declared war upon Germany; only hours after Germany declared war on the United States.

There were many pacifists and isolationists still in America at the time. If Germany had not taken the silly and unnecessary step of declaring war on the US, it is highly probable that America would have remained neutral in the European War theatre and limited its combat forces to the Pacific in fighting only Japan. Only when Germany had taken the initiative and declared war on the U.S. did America feel threatened and therefore it was Germany itself which ‘dragged’ America ‘kicking and screaming’ into the European War which ultimately as Van Ribbentrop knew too well led with the help of Hashem to the defeat of Hitler and to the saving of the remnants of European Jewry.

We are not gladdened by Pearl Harbor and we mourn the almost 2,500 Americans who lost their lives on that tragic day. Simultaneously though, we recognize that even in the midst of inexplicable tragedy and destruction, this one act led to the most crucial and decisive event in finally ending the Nazi genocide of our people, namely, the entry of the United States into the war against Germany.

Of course we would have preferred if Hitler would have been eliminated early on and we would have preferred never to have Pearl Harbor. That being said, as we learn Torah today and as we lovingly look at the many Yeshivos and Torah learning institutions which dot our country and in Israel, let us never fail to remember that most of those Yeshivos were started by those remnants of European Jewry who were mercifully saved from the jaws of the Nazis by Hashem through the entry of America into the war.

We mourn our losses; yet, we never ignore the compassion of Hashem, even if we would have wanted it differently or earlier. Let us never forget that without the “Sheris HaPlaita” (the remnants of Torah Jewry) we would not have the Torah institutions we now benefit from.

So in essence, the night of December 7, 1941 was a declaration of Torah! Torah! Torah!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

    

The Short Vort’ -"Jewish Pride” (12/4/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 12th of Kislev 5775 and December 4, 2014

 

Jewish Pride

 

I was nearing the end of almost two weeks visiting with my family in Eretz Yisroel.

It is a delight to be able to enjoy quality time with my children and grandchildren.

As a Rav it’s not often I have the ‘privilege’ of having my beard pulled by anyone!

The opportunity to be just ‘Zaidy’ and not Rabbi Eisenman is worth every expense and discomfort that the long and expensive trip entails.

All good things must eventually end and soon it was time to return to the ‘real world’ of the rabbinate. Zaidy would have to go back into the suitcase and Rav Eisenman would emerge on the other side of the Atlantic.

Before I could complete the transformation from Zaidy to Rabbi, I had to endure a stopover in Dusseldorf, Germany.

As I arrived in the airport, I looked at the different stores selling perfumes, spirits and electronic appliances.

It was while gazing at a store which featured a dazzling and dizzying display of digital devices, I sensed the man staring at me.

I turned toward him.

“Are you Jewish?” he asked.

I nodded.

“I have been watching you here in the airport. How does it feel to be part of a nation which is hated by so much of the world?”

My jaw dropped at his audacity as I realized that for once in my life I was actually at a loss as to what to say!

“I don’t mean to be insulting; however, you are standing in Germany, a country which certainly does not have good memories for your people; in a continent which constantly condemns your homeland the State of Israel; you are wearing your black hat and beard for all to see. How can you publicly display that you are a member of a people whom so much of the world despises?”

I had no idea what to answer this man and I had no clue as to his purpose in approaching me.

Finally, I decided, that honesty is the best policy and I quietly said, “Maybe there are many who hate us and maybe many in the world despise us. I cannot answer for all Jews as I am not their spokesman; however, since you asked me I will answer for myself. I don’t feel hated and I don’t feel despised. I am proud to be a Jew and therefore even if what you claim is true, it would not change for one moment my pride in being who I am.”

I was somewhat shocked by my own boldness and I began to wonder if perhaps I was being too daring in my response.

I waited to see his reaction.

He moved very close to me and whispered to me in a near inaudible voice in the middle of Dusseldorf Airport, “I did not expect you to say that. You see my mother was Jewish. She went through the camps and settled here in Germany after the war. She insisted on one thing at home. No one should ever know we are Jewish. When I married a Protestant German woman she was thrilled. I have never told anyone, not even my wife that I am Jewish. When I saw you walking in the airport with your beard and hat, something in me made me approach you. Something in me made me confront you. I have to admit, I was not prepared for the answer you gave me and therefore, I have to thank you, because today, for the first time in my life I also feel proud to be a Jew. You showed me that one can be proud to be Jewish”

“What is your name? Can I have your email address?” I pleaded.

“You have done for me more than you can imagine; I must go now, thank you and Shalom.”

He turned and disappeared among the scores of people.

In an instant he was gone; he had evaporated into the mass of Germans in front of me. I could no longer distinguish him from any other German.

Perhaps that is exactly what he wanted; however … perhaps not.

The sad thing is that I will never know for sure.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"The Lighter Side of The Rabbanus” (12/1/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 9th of Kislev 5775 and December 1, 2014

 

The Lighter Side of The Rabbanus

 

Being the Rav of a Shul where many congregants came to Torah Judaism at a later period in their life has its lighter moments.

I can recall the time Sam Fishman (now Shmulik) was regaling me with his tale of his first Shabbos in America.

He had just returned from a stint at Aish HaTorah and was excited about spending Shabbos in Boro Park by his only frum relative, his grandmother who lived right off 13th Avenue.

His grandmother informed him that he would have to do some shopping as it was a long time since she had guests for Shabbos. She gave him a list of things to buy and informed him that he could acquire everything on ‘the Avenue’.

Sam set off on Friday morning to the famous 13th Ave to shop like so many other thousands of Jews for his Shabbos needs. As he looked at this list, his challenges began. The first item on the list was a ‘blech’. Sam had never encountered the term ‘blech’ and was unsure what it was. Was it a food? Or was it an item in which you stored food? It actually sounded like something a person does when he wants to relieve himself of indigestion; however, he had learned many things in ‘Aish’ which at first glance were strange so he decided not to ask too many questions and get the ‘Blech’. He was hoping at least it tasted good.

Assuming it was a Jewish food; he walked into Landau’s Supermarket and asked one of the workers, where would the blechs be? He was still struggling with the ‘ch’ sound (the Hebrew Ches) so when he asked the man his question it sounded like ‘Where are the blacks?”  The man looked at his in a shocked and surprised way, however, by some miracle he realized that Sam needed a ‘blech’ and directed him to Gottlieb’s Hardware store about a block down.

Sam entered the store and thought he had entered a hoarder’s paradise. There were pots and pans hanging from every corner of the store and every electrical gadget you could imagine lined the six inch wide passageways of the store. There were women with double strollers jamming the counter-space and everyone was talking and yelling at once.

Somehow, in the midst of this cacophony of Yiddish, English and mostly Yinglish, Sam was able to ask the proprietor, “Excuse me; I need a blech, where do you have them?”

The man pointed to a corner in the back of the second aisle and Sam fought his way down the walkway ignoring the gummy bears which the four year boy was attaching to his cashmere winter coat and attempting to dodge the ‘gooey looeys’ which the little boy’s three year sister was throwing at him. When Sam arrived at the back of the aisle he realized his problems had only begun. Sam had no idea what a ‘blech’ was. Was it the extra burners which were piled high to the ceiling? Was it the precipitously stacked oven racks which looked to Sam would collapse if he exhaled? Or was it the extra stove-top nobs which were strewn all over the place? The only item he could not figure out what they were was the flat sheets of metal in different sizes which were in the corner. Finally, he returned to the proprietor, “I’m sorry, I cannot find them?”

The elderly Yinglish speaking owner of the store shouted, “Vat do you mean? You were standen on dem! All right, I vill get it faw you. Vat size do you vant? Big or small?”

Sam did not know what to answer, however, he had learnt in yeshiva that nowadays we have ‘’big Shiurim” and that ‘big’ Tzitzis are better than small ones so he told the man, “Big, please”.

Needless to say his grandmother was not pleased when he brought home a blech made to cover eight burners when her small stove only had four!

The next item on Sam’s list was equally perplexing. His grandmother had written, “luction kugel”. Once again his six months in yeshiva did nothing to prepare Sam for decoding his grandmothers cryptic request and he had no idea what “luction kugel” was;  so he went back to the hardware store and asked in a loud voice, “Excuse me, but where can I find a suction cooker?”

I am not sure what Shmulik and his grandmother ate that Shabbos; however, one thing is for sure, there was more laughter in his grandmother’s house that Shabbos than had been heard for years.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -” “Nu, So You Messed Up; Now What?”” (11/26/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 5th of Kislev 5775 and November 27th, 2014

 

“Nu, So You Messed Up; Now What?”

 

Today (the 5th of Kislev), is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz Zt”l (1864 – November 17, 1939 - Kislev 5, 5700).

Rav Baruch Ber was a student (Talmid) of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik Zt”l; his magnum opus, Birkas Shmuel is a standard text found on the shtenders of the finest Roshei Yeshiva in the world.

When a Yeshiva Bochur is able to master a piece in the Birkas Shmuel he is the envy of his peers in the yeshiva.

Rav Baruch Ber’s depth of understanding and his mastery of the most nuanced points of the Gemara have guaranteed his Sefer as a classic among Talmudic commentaries of the twentieth century.

Rav Baruch Ber’s genius is never doubted by anyone; however, we must also never forget that besides excelling in learning, he excelled perhaps even more in his exemplary character traits (Midos Tovos) and particularly in his extreme exactness with which he performed the mitzvah of Kibud Av (honoring one’s father).

During the first World War Rav Baruch Ber was forced to flee to the city of Kremenchug and finally to Vilna. During this time Rav Baruch Ber took care of his father and provided him with all of his needs.

After the war, Rav Baruch Ber’s father took ill and Rav Baruch Ber would not leave his father’s sick bed even for a brief respite. Eventually his students were concerned that the pressures of caring for his father were impacting in a negative fashion on Rav Baruch Ber’s own health.

After much pleading and cajoling, Rav Baruch Ber agreed to take a brief break to rest and his students assured him that they would maintain the watch by his father’s bedside.

As Hashem would have it, during this brief break Rav Baruch Ber’s father returned his soul to his maker.

Rav Baruch Ber fell into a deep state of self-guilt as he felt he had failed his father precisely in his greatest moment of need. His depression increased as his feelings of culpability in the death of his father heightened to such an extent that his students feared for his well-being.

The Chofetz Chaim went to meet with Rav Baruch Ber.

The Chofetz Chaim did not attempt to alter Rav Baruch Ber’s own self-perception, nor did he attempt to assure him that there was nothing more he could have done for his father.

Quite the opposite; the Chofetz Chaim said, “Perhaps you are correct. Perhaps you should not have left your father’s bedside precisely at such a precarious time; perhaps indeed you erred in your judgment. Where does that leave us now? Does not the Torah speak about Teshuva? Does not the Torah recognize that people err and when they do they always have the option of turning over a new leaf and beginning a new page in their life through Teshuva? Even if you were culpable, does life stop? Is there no tomorrow to improve upon the mistakes of today?”

Rav Baruch Ber was shaken to the core and the words of the Chofetz Chaim elevated him from the doldrums of depression to the burning desire to improve and re-embrace life.

Rav Baruch Ber would often say of that encounter, “The Chofetz Chaim brought me back to life!”

(From “Chofetz Chaim HaChadash Al HaTorah”- arranged by Rabbi Shalom Meir HaKohen Vallach; Bnei Brak, 5767, pages 205-206)

How often in life do we need the reality ‘wake-up call’ from the Chofetz Chaim?

How often do we allow ourselves to wallow away our lives while drowning ourselves in a sea of self-pity?

We all make mistakes; some big and some little; however, a mistake should never be coopted and utilized as an excuse for a failure to engage life and meet tomorrow’s challenges head on.

Everyone falls and everyone stumbles, the greatness of the Chofetz Chaim and his advice to Rav Baruch Ber was stressing the necessity to recognize that once you have fallen and once you have stumbled, get right back up and take on tomorrow. Using yesterday’s mistakes as excuses for failing to act today is never acceptable or valid.

So let’s say yesterday you messed up, you should have called your Aunt Sylvia for her birthday and you didn’t; however, that doesn’t mean that today you stay in bed paralyzed by guilt and remorse.

Get up, wipe yourself and become another Rav Baruch Ber!

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ - “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"” (11/25/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 3rd of Kislev 5775 and November 25th, 2014

 

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

 

Many of us recall with horror the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School which occurred almost two years ago.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff members (Wikipedia)

What ever happened to Sandy Hook Elementary School?

 Is there a memorial somewhere in the school?

Are children still learning the ‘three R’s’ there?

No, there are no children learning at Sandy Hook; indeed, the building no longer exists.

 

 Construction crews completely demolish former Sandy Hook Elementary School

01/02/14 02:30 PM-By Michele Richinick

The Town of Newtown, Conn., spent almost $1.4 million on the abatement and demolition of the former Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Construction crews recently finished demolition, which cost $850,000, according to a press release issued Thursday by the town. Additionally, abatement cost $1.3 million.

Residents voted last October to raze the structure … Nothing will stand where a gunman killed 26 individuals in December 2012.{http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/sandy-hook-demolished-winterized}

 

Compare this fact with what happened at the Shul in Har Nof where a week ago today we awoke to the news of the horrific massacre.

 

Mispallelim Return to Har Nof Shul to Daven Shacharis 24 Hours After Massacre

Wednesday November 19, 2014 6:40 AM -

About 30 mispallelim arrived this morning to the Bnei Torah shul in Har Nof, Yerushalayim, for Shacharis the day after two Arab terrorists horrifically massacred four Yidden and one police officer at the Shul.

One of the attendees, Yitzchok Heshig, a doctor at Shaare Tzedek Hospital, who was injured in Tuesday’s attack, made it a point to return to the shul for the davening, Arutz Sheva reported.

Yossi Brazzeni, who was also present during the attack, wept upon his return: “I went to daven at the exact same spot I stood in yesterday and said a prayer thanking G-d for the miracle that took place, because I see exactly where I was standing and where the terrorists was. Thank G-d.”

 

Why the difference?

Why the need to return to the Shul the next day while in Sandy Hook there was a need to “completely demolish” the building?

Perhaps the reason is simple.

Often when terrible things occur, the ‘normative’ human reaction is to repress and even erase the incident from the collective consciousness of the public.

Who wants to face and deal with horrific and evil acts?

 We would much rather occupy our time with happy thoughts and pleasant events.

Therefore, too often people would rather ‘not be bothered by the facts’ and ‘completely demolish’ any vestige of anything which reminds them of that which they no longer want to be reminded of.

We are different.

The Jewish people are no strangers to tragedy.

Our mesorah teaches us not only to never forget the past, no matter how unpleasant it is; indeed, quite the opposite, we are implored to embrace the memory of the tragedy.

Only by dealing with the tragedy head-on can we attempt to learn some of the lessons from the horror and attempt to rectify ourselves and the situation for the future.

We do not erase buildings as if they never existed.

We do not raze the sights of mayhem and murder; we embrace them as vehicles and as reminders for constant improvement and for our own spiritual betterment.

We also state unequivocally that evil and its pumps can and never will deter us from doing what we know is correct.

The Har Nof Shul is not only a place not to be avoided, it is a place to be embraced; a place of where holiness resides even more so now than before and it is a privilege to be able to daven and learn there.

The Rambam instructs us to learn from all and Chazal have taught us “Chochma (wisdom) B’Goyim Taamin” (You should believe that there is wisdom among the nations of the world).

There is no doubt that one can apply this instruction of our sages to the wisdom of the Spanish Philosopher George Santayana (December 16, 1863 – September 26, 1952) who so insightfully stated: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ -"The Fifth Victim” (11/23/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5775- November 23, 2014

 

The Fifth Victim

 

There has been much pain and anguish for all of us over the brutal cold blooded murder of the four unarmed, Tzadikim killed last week adorned in their Tallis and Tefillin while in the middle of davening.

Our hearts are aching and our eyes are still tearful; however, let us not allow our sincere and worthy tears to dim our vision and the pain must not muddle our clarity of thought and cause us to forget the fact that there is a fifth victim as well.

Although this fifth victim was armed and was a member of the Israeli Police Force and indeed, he was not even Jewish, nevertheless, this fifth victim is in many ways the true hero of the story.

Who is this fifth victim? His name is Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif, 30, of Yanuh-Jat in the Galilee. He is a member of The Druze (The Druze are a monotheistic religious and social community. The Druze call themselves Ahl al-Tawhid "the People of Monotheism". The Druze are Arabic-speaking citizens of Israel, who are drafted into mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces, in which the same process goes for the majority of citizens in Israel. Members of the community have attained top positions in Israeli politics and public service. Wikipedia)

 

According to media reports of the incident:

Druze police officer Zidan Seif joined the Israel Police in April 2011 and served as a traffic control inspector at the Jerusalem Police Department. He was one of the first two policemen to arrive at the scene and was shot in the head during a gunfight with the two Palestinian assailants who entered the synagogue and attacked worshippers. He was posthumously promoted to First Sergeant. Despite the doctors’ efforts to save him, the critically wounded police officer succumbed to his wounds.

Druze community leaders and residents of Seif’s village of Yanuh-Jat in the Galilee praised him as a hero. "We are proud of our sons who act fearlessly on the front against terrorist attacks," said Muefek Tarif, a spiritual leader of the Druze community.

Master Sergeant will be buried in his home village of Yanuh-Jat. He is survived by his wife and infant daughter, parents and five siblings.

(http://www.all4israel.org/newsdetail.cfm?article=76B4D2C7FACDCBA9&rnd=p4781&articlename=Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif, 30)

 

National Police Commissioner Inspector General Yochanan Danino eulogized Saif at his funeral on Wednesday, saying that the officer “ran into the heart of the murderous inferno, without fear, without concern” and that he “endangered himself for the security of the citizens of Israel.”

Danino credited Saif for stopping the rampage and for saving the lives of other potential victims.

“The people of Israel owe Zidan a great debt – a great debt to this man and this great officer - to remember his greatness, his character, his heroism and his courage.”

President Reuven Rivlin also attended the funeral, as did Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and leaders from the Druse community of Israel. 

(http://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Thousands-attend-funeral-of-Druse-police-officer-Zidan-Saif-382259)

Participation in his funeral by Jews not limited to State officials, as was also reported in the media:

 “The funeral was also attended by members of the Haredi community in Jerusalem and beyond who organized buses to take them to the Galilee village to pay their respects to the officer who risked his life and ultimately died to stop the attack Tuesday.” (Ibid)

 

 “A haredi woman from Beitar Illit -Ariela Sternbach- took upon herself to organize bus rides from Jerusalem to the Druse town of Kfar Yanouch in the Galilee for the funeral of Zidan Saif…for dozens of haredi residents of the neighborhood and beyond.” (Ibid)

 As she properly stated: “This policeman had so much courage. He lives in this country and he was not of the Jewish people but he put his life on the line for us and sacrificed himself for us,” Sternbach told The Jerusalem Post. “He leaves behind a widow and an orphaned child and I think his deeds must be recognized,” she said.” (Ibid)

 

Ariela Sternbach said is very well, when she stated: “I think his deeds must be recognized.”

Hakoras HaTov- Recognizing the ‘good’ which others have done for us is a fundamental and paramount principle of our faith.

It has been stated by the greats of our people that without Hakoras HaTov one’s entire service to Hashem is lacking and deficient.

There is no limit to Hakoras HaTov and we as Jews must never forget the goodness and kindness which others, especially non-Jews do for us.

In many ways Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif is the true hero of the entire tragic incident.

He was not part of an elite anti-terrorist unit who are trained in hand to hand combat and he possessed neither the know-how nor the proper weaponry to neutralize the evil perpetrators who defiled the holy and pristine confines of the Shul.

He was a traffic cop.

 He would have been totally within the proper parameters of his job description if upon arriving at the Shul and realizing that there were armed gunmen inside, he would have radioed for the elite SWAT team and remained outside the synagogue maintaining and securing the parameter of the building; however, Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif did not do that.

He entered the lion’s den and literally ‘took the bullet’ for others as he was shot in the head while simultaneously alerting the elite SWAT anti-terrorists units who were able to respond precisely and effectively.

 Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif prevented more Jews from suffering the fate of the four holy Kedoshim.

He did not opt out of helping his fellow citizens by claiming he is just a ‘traffic-cop’ and what can he do?

He did not hesitate to enter the building even though he was not Jewish and ethnically and religiously the Druze are Arabs and a ‘break-off’ from Shia Islam and the overwhelming majority of them live in Arab lands. Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif did not make such calculations. He entered the death zone and paid for this heroism with his own life.

We all owe him a debt of gratitude.

If anyone reading this knows of his address or how to contact his family and/or the leaders of his community please forward me this information as I feel all of us should communicate our feelings of appreciation to him.

I also ask if anyone knows of any fund which has been set up to support his family- as he left behind an orphaned baby- please inform me as I want to personally contribute to this fund.

As we mourn the great Tzadikim and holy Jews who were butchered for no other reason than being Jews in the land of Israel, let us make sure never to forget the heroic efforts of the non-Jewish Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif.

He was not the prime target of the murderers and he alone among the victims placed himself in the line of fire out of free choice and out of a commitment to his adopted homeland.

Remember Master Sergeant Zidan Nahad Seif and perhaps ask yourself, would you have done the same if you were in his place?

May his memory be an inspiration to all of us of the potential of the fulfillment of the prophecy “For then I will convert the peoples to a pure language that all of them call in the name of the Lord, to worship Him of one accord.” (Tzephania 3:9)

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ -"A Dose of Happiness for a Difficult Week “ (11/21/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 28th of Marcheshvan 5775 and November 21st 2014

 

A Dose of Happiness for a Difficult Week

 

Isaac Stein is a very special young man.

I can personally attest to the fact that Isaac has never spoken even one word of Loshon Hora in his life. Indeed, he has never spoken any words.

He has never lifted his hands in anger against another human being; for he has never lifted his hands in his entire life.

Isaac is a special beautiful young man with an infectious smile. If you ever have met him, even once, you will immediately be taken in by his pristine Neshama and his warmth and love.

For many years, one of the highlight of Isaac’s challenged life has been coming to Shul with his father for Hakofos on Simchas Torah.

However, this year was not like every year.

This year, Isaac’s father was having his own personal health struggles and as Yom Kippur arrived; his father was in the hospital involved in his own delicate battle.

And even though Isaac’s father was able to fight off the decree, he was still hospitalized the first days of Succos and who knew if he would be well enough to be home for Succos.

Finally, with the help of He who helps all, Isaac’s Dad arrived home for Chol HaMoed.

Would he be healthy and strong enough to make it to Shul for Simchas Torah?

Simchas Torah arrived and I waited with a hopeful heart for Isaac and Dad to arrive.

The first and second Hakofos were finished and still no sign of Isaac and Dad.

Finally, as the third Hakofa began in walks the father. He was weak; however, he was in Shul.

“Would Isaac be coming?” I hesitantly asked.

He nodded hopefully.

The fourth and fifth Hakafa are completed and still no sign of Isaac.

The Sixth Hakofa is winding down, Isaac is not here and the seventh and final Hakofa is soon to begin.

As the sixth Hakofa is quickly evaporating into a few die-hard dancers desperately attempting to keep a dissipating nigun alive, suddenly, the door to the Shul opens.

Isaac Stein has arrived.

 Sitting in his two hundred pound special wheelchair, complete with computerized pumps and other high-tech apparatus, Isaac is wheeled into the Shul.

As soon as I see him I make a bee line to greet him; however, how will the rest of the Shul react?

Are they simply drained from a long morning of dancing?

Have they been ‘danced out’?

How will they react to the physically challenged boy with the ill father?

Will they keep a safe distance?

Without one word of instruction from me and without any formal announcement, and as if on cue, the entire Shul erupted with a newly found, formally unknown burst of energy.

Everyone, from the sixty year old plus plump and paunchy “never-have-I-danced-more-than-five-minutes-“ Yid, to the eighteen year old Yeshiva Bochur, spontaneously encircle the wheelchair bound Isaac and his father.

To paraphrase Chazal in the Mishna in Succah (5:1): “Whoever has not seen the Simchadik dancing of when the entire Shul danced with Isaac Stein and his father, has never seen Simcha in his life.”

The entire Shul was unified in their joy and gratitude to Hashem for granting us this privilege.

We danced and danced; suddenly no one was tired.

There were only two places to look: at the cherubic smile of Isaac Stein as circles of men revolved around him and on the face of his father who just a week before was not sure he would reach this day.

I looked at Isaac and realized that the sparkle of his eyes, combined with the smile on his face had inspired dozens of men to reach spiritual heights never known before.

As the dancing continued and Isaac and his father looked on, Hashem’s presence was felt by all. 

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -” The Day After” (11/20/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 27th of Marcheshvan 5775 and November 20, 2014

 

The Day After

 

It’s already been two days since the news of the Har Nof massacre reached our ears.

Two days of crying and pain; two days of numbness and of living in a fog of disbelief.

The world has changed since Tuesday.

When I went to sleep on Monday night, Har Nof was a neighborhood where no one had to worry about terror attacks.

It was not near “Ben Yehuda” and was not even near ‘town’.

It was a quiet, frum, residential neighborhood where if you wanted to ‘go out’ you were satisfied to frequent the simple and modest food-stop: “Holy Bagel” to enjoy a bagel with an Israeli imitation of American cheese cream.

It was a place where so many of our daughters attend seminary (including my own) and we as parents were always consoled by the fact that it was ‘out of the way’ and safe and secure.

It was a place where Sefardim and Ashkenazim live in peace and harmony.

It is a place where men are serious about their learning and women are serious about their Mitzvohs.

It is a place where children play freely and where English is commonly heard as many serious American immigrants to Israel decide to settle there as they view Har Nof as a place where they can grow and be inspired to higher levels of Torah and Mitzvohs.

That was until Tuesday morning.

The world changed on Tuesday.

On Tuesday Har Nof joined the unenviable list of places such as Maalot and Chevron, Mercaz HaRav and Ben Yehuda; places which have been seared into the collective memory of Klal Yisroel as locations of tragedy and calamities.

No longer will anyone enter a Shul in Har Nof and feel the sense of security and calmness which permeated the neighborhood prior to Tuesday.

For now on, every Mispallel must look over their shoulder and wonder if the Middle Eastern man standing in the doorway is a friend or potential murderer.

Children will no longer frolic as they did before Tuesday and mothers will no longer sit in a care-free mode on the benches.

The world of Har Nof will never be the idyllic, tranquil and serene world it was up to 7:01 AM on Tuesday the 25th of Marcheshvan 5775.

And although life goes on and the Shul is once again functioning and learning will continue and Simchos will be held there and Minyanim have already resumed…

Still, something has changed; something has been altered and defiled and that is sad.

Perhaps then, this allows us to comprehend the real meaning of the words of our prayer, “Chadesh Yameinu K’kedem”; ‘renew our days to the pristine, carefree and unspoiled ways of old.’

May that prayer be fulfilled speedily and in our days.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -” What is there to say?” (11/18/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 25th of Marcheshvan 5775 and November 18, 2014

 

What is there to say?

 

“O God! Nations have come into Your heritage; they have defiled Your Holy Temple;

 They have given the … the flesh of Your pious ones to the beasts of the earth

They have spilled their blood like water around Jerusalem…” (Tehillim 79)

 

It was 5:30 AM and my bedroom was still pitch black.

I gently picked up my phone to look at the time and I am surprised to see so much ‘activity’ on the phone. There are ‘alerts’ and many messages from my family members.

“Har Nof…terror attack…. Many casualties… in middle of davening…axes…savage attacks….Rav Moshe Twersky Hy”D…”

Was I dreaming?

Har Nof….terror attack??? It was the safest place in the world…

I was not dreaming.

The vicious murder of innocent men who innocently went –as they did every other day of their lives- to daven was true.

Rav Moshe Twersky Zt”l, brother of my friend and former Chavrusa Rav Meir Twersky Shlita (who has spoken in our Shul) was no longer among the living along with three other Kedoshim.

I staggered back to the bedroom and out of fear and of the need for my own comfort; I wake my wife to inform her of the tragedy.

 “Men going to daven have been killed and hacked to death while being adorned in their Tallis and Tefillin. Men standing Shmoneh Esrei shot to death, their blood soaking their Tallesim”, I stammer.

I retreat into myself.

My daughter is in Seminary in Har Nof, I was just there two weeks ago.

I have friends all over Har Nof.

Did I ever imagine as I went to Shul in the morning that this would be my last davening?

How does one react?

What does one do or say?

I am suddenly shaken from my stupor as I look up and see my wife preparing to leave.

“I’ll see you later.”

 “Where are you going this early?” I ask.

My wife looks at me and says, “Where else is there to go at a time like this? I need to go to Shul; I need to daven in Shul, it’s just about time for Vasikin.”

I watch my wife leave and realize she has given me my answer, she has once again showed me the way.

Jews are killed in Shul while davening to Hashem.

Our response is clear; our reaction is the same as it will always be.

“Where else is there to go at a time like this? I need to go to Shul; I need to daven…”

I follow my wife to Shul.

Where else is there to be?

What else is there to do?

Only Hashem has the answers and only through Him is there hope.

I slowly walk down the cold still dark street to Shul; will this be my last davening? Will I merit leaving Shul alive today?

I don’t know; nevertheless, “Where else is there to go at a time like this? I need to go to Shul; I need to daven…”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort - Feeling Their Pain (11/17/14)

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The Short Vort


Good Morning!


 


Today is Monday the 24rd of Cheshvan 5775 and November 17, 2014


 


Feeling Their Pain


 


Over the last few weeks we all have suffered.


Almost one month ago a three month old baby was killed together will a recent convert to Judaism while standing by the Jerusalem Light Rail in the heart of the city.


A week or so later, a woman was stabbed to death in Gush Etzion.


A short time after that, a soldier was stabbed to death in the heart of Tel Aviv.


Yesterday, a man was stabbed not far from the Old City of Yerushalayim.


And there have been other cases of violence and attempted murder; however, I am too pained to list them all.


There are many responses to these tragedies.


There are those (group A) who claim that they (and only them) know the spiritual causes of these tragedies.


And there are those (group B) who claim that ‘they’ know the ‘real’ reasons for these tragedies.


Indeed, too often, group A will claim that the reason for the calamities is the actions of group B; while group B will counter claim that the opposite is true. Namely, it is precisely the fact that group A does not follow the path of group B that Hashem is upset with His people.


Both groups are convinced that they and they alone know the secrets of why and when Hashem reacts in a punitive fashion.


Both groups marshal the words of previous ‘Gedolim” to buttress and ‘prove’ the correctness of their opinion.


Often the exact same “Gadol” of yesteryear is quoted by both sides as prove-positive as to the correctness of their opinion.


Both groups assemble appropriate quotes and passages from Chazal to bolster their view of how and why G-d reacts.


Personally, I have no idea of why and when Hashem chooses to react.


I leave those questions to those with more insight that me.


I have no quotes from Chazal to inform you who is right and who is wrong.


I will not quote anecdotal evidence from this great person or that great person as to why Hashem reacts the way He does.


I will just quote one story which I heard many years ago which made a deep impression on me and still impacts on my life.


When I was younger I was informed that a man came to the Satmar Rebbe Zt”l (Rav Yoel Teitelbaum-13 January 1887 – 19 August 1979) and weaved before the Rebbe a web of woe and pain. The man’s tale involved multiple members of his family being stricken with massive maladies and extreme poverty overtaking the unfortunate family.


The Rebbe was so moved by his plight that he contributed generously to the man.


A while later, the Rebbe was informed by his confidants that upon investigation it was discovered that the man’s misfortunes were fabricated and untrue.


He was not impoverished and all were well and healthy in his abode.


The Rebbe responded with an enthusiastic “Baruch Hashem!”


The Chassidim fearing the Rebbe had misunderstood them, questioned him as to his reaction.


“Rebbe, why did you respond with Baruch Hashem? The man swindled you out of a great deal of money?”


The Rebbe smiled and said, “Money comes and money goes; however, Baruch Hashem there is not a Yid in this world who is subject to such suffering!”


The Rebbe cared about the loss of his Tzedoka funds; however, more than his Tzedoka funds, he loved all Jews unconditionally and therefore he never lost sight of the fact that when a Jew is suffering, first and foremost, that must cause pain to all of us.


 Therefore, when he realizedthat a Jew was indeed not suffering, his first reaction was relief and joy.


I choose to react to the current crisis as the Satmar Rebbe Zt”l did.


I do not know the ‘thoughts’ of Hashem for as the Navi Yeshaya says "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," says the Lord.” (55:8)


Ido know though that Hashem is pained when a Jew is pained as it says, “Imo Anochi B’Tzara” (I am with him in distress; (91:15).


And therefore, irrespective of the unknown reason to me, I am in pain.


We must feel the pain of those who have been injured and the pain of the family members of those killed.


We must feel the pain of all Jews, especially those in Eretz Yisroel where each passing car could contain (G-d forbid) a crazed Jew-hating motorist.


Feeling their pain and empathizing with their fears and their anguish is for sure a G-dly reaction.


Pointing figures is nothing more than speculative.


The Talmud teaches: “Ain Safek Motzi M’dei Vadai”- ‘When you have one path which is certainly correct and one which is speculative at best, go with the certainty.’


It is for certain that Hashem is in pain; so too, certainly we must first and foremost feel their pain.


The pointing of fingers is at best a ‘safek’.


Why speculate when you can do what for sure is correct; feel their pain, sense their fears.


Our brethren now need the clear and for certain compassion of the Satmar Rebbe, not the pointed fingers of speculation


 


“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel


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


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The Short Vort’ -"Feeling Their Pain” (11/17/14)
 


The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 24rd of Cheshvan 5775 and November 17, 2014

 

Feeling Their Pain

 

 

There are many responses to these tragedies.

There are those (group A) who claim that they (and only them) know the spiritual causes of these tragedies.

And there are those (group B) who claim that ‘they’ know the ‘real’ reasons for these tragedies.

Indeed, too often, group A will claim that the reason for the calamities is the actions of group B; while group B will counter claim that the opposite is true. Namely, it is precisely the fact that group A does not follow the path of group B that Hashem is upset with His people.

Both groups are convinced that they and they alone know the secrets of why and when Hashem reacts in a punitive fashion.

Both groups marshal the words of previous ‘Gedolim” to buttress and ‘prove’ the correctness of their opinion.

Often the exact same “Gadol” of yesteryear is quoted by both sides as prove-positive as to the correctness of their opinion.

Both groups assemble appropriate quotes and passages from Chazal to bolster their view of how and why G-d reacts.

Personally, I have no idea of why and when Hashem chooses to react.

 

The Rebbe was so moved by his plight that he contributed generously to the man.

A while later, the Rebbe was informed by his confidants that upon investigation it was discovered that the man’s misfortunes were fabricated and untrue.

He was not impoverished and all were well and healthy in his abode.

The Rebbe responded with an enthusiastic “Baruch Hashem!”

The Chassidim fearing the Rebbe had misunderstood them, questioned him as to his reaction.

“Rebbe, why did you respond with Baruch Hashem? The man swindled you out of a great deal of money?”

The Rebbe smiled and said, “Money comes and money goes; however, Baruch Hashem there is not a Yid in this world who is subject to such suffering!”

The Rebbe cared about the loss of his Tzedoka funds; however, more than his Tzedoka funds, he loved all Jews unconditionally and therefore he never lost sight of the fact that when a Jew is suffering, first and foremost, that must cause pain to all of us.

 Therefore, when he realized that a Jew was indeed not suffering, his first reaction was relief and joy.

I choose to react to the current crisis as the Satmar Rebbe Zt”l did.

I do not know the ‘thoughts’ of Hashem for as the Navi Yeshaya says "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," says the Lord.” (55:8)

I do know though that Hashem is pained when a Jew is pained as it says, “Imo Anochi B’Tzara” (I am with him in distress; (91:15).

And therefore, irrespective of the unknown reason to me, I am in pain.

We must feel the pain of those who have been injured and the pain of the family members of those killed.

We must feel the pain of all Jews, especially those in Eretz Yisroel where each passing car could contain (G-d forbid) a crazed Jew-hating motorist.

Feeling their pain and empathizing with their fears and their anguish is for sure a G-dly reaction.

Pointing figures is nothing more than speculative.

The Talmud teaches: “Ain Safek Motzi M’dei Vadai”- ‘When you have one path which is certainly correct and one which is speculative at best, go with the certainty.’

It is for certain that Hashem is in pain; so too, certainly we must first and foremost feel their pain.

The pointing of fingers is at best a ‘safek’.

Why speculate when you can do what for sure is correct; feel their pain, sense their fears.

Our brethren now need the clear and for certain compassion of the Satmar Rebbe, not the pointed fingers of speculation

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

The Short Vort’ -"The Drosha Was Meant For Me” (11/10/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 18th of Marcheshvan 5775 and November 11, 2014

 

The Drosha Was Meant For Me

 

When Baruch Weiss approached me after Shabbos Shuva to thank me for my Drosha as it really ‘hit home’, I had no idea what he was referring to.

I had spoken about the need when approaching Yom Kippur of not just asking for forgiveness from those we have harmed; I had also stressed the need to inform others who may not even realize it, how they have hurt us.

Baruch is the quintessential LMC (“Low Maintenance Congregant”). Rarely did he ask me for anything, and for the most part, he came to Shul, he davened, he smiled and he left.

Therefore when we said to me, “Rabbi, your Shabbos Shuva Drosha was exactly what I needed to hear;” I was dumbfounded as to what he meant.

 “Rabbi, when you spoke about “the need to inform others who may not even realize it, how they have hurt us”, your words touched me deeply.”

I was sure at this point that Baruch was about to relate how because of my words he had been able to open up to his wife about a pain which he has kept concealed for many years and I would be lauded as the catalyst for causing greater Shalom Bayis. My not so subtle feelings of superiority began to burgeon within me as I eagerly awaited another well-earned dosage of accolades to come cascading on my already over-inflated ego. After all, how many people have the opportunity to have 300 people come to listen to them for over an hour on a Shabbos afternoon?

I leaned back in my chair waiting for the praises and expressions of gratitude to begin.

“Rabbi, this is difficult for me to say.  However, I have been containing my pain and negative feelings for quite a while now.”

I already had painted a clear picture in my mind of what was about to follow, Baruch would tell me how he had held back on telling his wife or mother or some friend how they had hurt him and because of my insightful words of wisdom on Shabbos Shuva he had found the strength and resolve to confront them and this had brought about a reconciliation and renewed understanding between them.

That is what I thought and hoped for; however, the painful truth was: “Der mentsh tracht un G-t lacht” (Man plans and Hashem laughs).

Baruch looked me straight in the eye and said, “Rabbi, about six months ago I informed you that my son was going through a tough emotional time. I opened my heart to you and confided with you. Since then, I cannot recall even once when you have inquired as to his well-being. I am hurt and I must confess I am pained.”

There were many things I could have said to Baruch then.

I could have told him that since his son was suffering from an emotional issue, I did not want to bring it up and since he didn’t I figured his son had recovered.

I could have told him that I was planning to inquire; however, since he always leaves Shul in such a discreet and unobtrusive way, I never had the chance to.

I could have said that and I could have claimed other ‘valid’ excuses.

I did not.

I paused, allowed his words to sink in and with a humbled and chastened soul I said the only words which were the absolute truth.

“Baruch, I am sorry, you are right. I cannot change the past; please forgive me and I will try better in the future.”

Baruch accepted my apology and left the office; and as I put on my hat to leave, I finally, albeit very belatedly, realized just how big my hat really was for my ever shrinking head.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

    

The Short Vort’ -” Back in the US of A ” (11/7/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 14th of Mar-Cheshvan 5775 and November 7, 2014

 

"Back in the US of A"

The Upsherin

 

I am somewhat comfortable in navigating differences between a husband and wife.

I never thought though, that I would be asked to mediate a dispute over the guest list for an Upsherin!

The Upsherin which in times past was optional by some and low key at most by others, has now become de rigueur by all with even elaborate celebrations by some.

When Devorah Richburg (name changed) approached me about her insistence that her sister not attend the upsherin of her son, this was a new one for someone who had imagined he had seen and heard everything!

Devorah is a perfect Bas Yisroel. I have never seen anything even close to anger emanating from her usual calm self. Her current fury was totally out of character.

As she sits she relates the following:

“When I was 18 I had a sleep over with three friends in honor of my high school graduation. Sima, my 14 year old sister had one friend over in order to avoid unnecessary rivalry between us.

Everything was going fine when at 6 AM; there was a piercing cry from Sima’s room. As we ran to her room, we see Sima holding her long and much-beloved pony-tail in her hand.

“What happened?” Through a sea of tears, Sima blurts out, “Mommy, last night when I was sleeping, Devorah and her friends snuck into my room and cut off my pony-tail!”

 Mom was beside herself; how could I, her ‘angelic’ daughter do that to Sima?

The proof however, was in Sima’s hand!

Mom sent my friends home and grounded me from the graduation trip.

Despite my protestations and outright denials Mom was obstinate and the punishment remained in force.

The incident passed, and in the fall I went off to seminary and after two years in Eretz Yisroel I returned, married and am now I am the proud mother of a three year son.

However, somehow the relationship between Mom and I and Sima was never quite the same.

Sima went to sem and ended up marrying a boy in Eretz Yisroel.

I have not seen Sima since her Chasuna and now she is coming in and of course my Mom expects me to invite her to the upsherin.

 I can’t.

Every time I think of cutting my son’s hair I think back to that night when she accused me of cutting her hair!

I cannot have her at the upsherin!”

“Who do you think cut Sima’s hair?” I asked.

“Maybe her friend did as a joke and they blamed me, I don’t know.”

I decided to play detective. I called Sima and asked her to come to speak to me.

When she arrived at my office I mischievously arranged for Devorah and her mother to be there as well.

They were all startled to find each other together; however, out of respect for me they remained civil.

Finally, after a minute of chit-chat I asked, “Sima, tell me the truth, who cut your hair that night seven years ago?”

Sima began to cry; however, through the tears she said, “I cut my off my own hair; I did it. Devorah was getting all the attention for graduating. I was jealous. To spite her, I cut off my own hair and blamed Devorah; I know it was wrong. I am sorry”; and with that that her voice dissolved into a sea of tears.

Devorah too began to cry as seven years of being accused of something she never did was finally lifted from her heart.

Their mother also began to cry as for seven years she had been certain about Devorah’s guilt. 

And I too cried as I realized how jealously had caused a family to miss out on each other’s love for seven long years.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

  

The Short Vort- The Internet Connection (11/5/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Wednesday the 5th of November 2014

The Internet Connection

It is always a privilege to be in Eretz Yisroel, however, for me, considering that my father’s family arrived there over two hundred years ago, I have literally thousands of relatives there.

At a recent Chasunah, one of my Israeli relatives came over to me and asked me if he could tell me a story about himself.

Why Pinchas chose me I cannot say, perhaps it was Hashem’s way of getting the story out there.

Pinchas is a wonderful person with sterling middos and a heart of gold, and it took a great deal of courage for him to unburden himself.

Our protagonist used to live in Yerushalayim and while there, more for convenience than out of commitment, he decided to send his daughter to a Yiddish speaking primarily Chassidic gan.

The Gan was close to home, the Morah was excellent and the price was affordable and so his daughter attended.

Pinchas is a real doer and is always looking for ways to improve.

After serving his three years in the IDF in an elite fighting unit, he began a successful business with his major clients in the States as he resides in Israel.

Pinchas ‘begins’ work at 3 PM Israeli time as that is 8 AM New York time.

Pinchas therefore would bring his daughter to Gan every morning and pick her up at 1:30 when Gan ended.

He began to notice a Chassidic man who also was ‘Mr. Mom’. He also always brought his daughter to Gan and picked her up when it ended. In fact, Pinchas noted that this Chassidic man was always around. Even when Gan had to end early for a special reason, this Chassidishe man was always ‘around’ to pick up his daughter. 

Pinchas thought to himself, "I served for three years in the IDF and now I work from 3 PM to 11 PM to support my family and this fellow who probably never served in the army and is supposed to be learning is always available to pick up his daughter.

Despite the not so suppressed feelings of resentment, Pinchas began to slowly see a different side of Mr. Chosid. For just as Pinchas always gave his daughter a kiss before leaving her at gan, so did Mr. Chosid. When it was cold and rainy, Pinchas could not help but notice how both of them were so careful that their daughters were properly protected and after a while they began to exchange a few words of hello and good bye.

Pinchas begrudgingly liked the Chosid, however, he still held him in contempt for his perceived shirking of his responsibility.

And then came the big snow after Chanukah last year.

Mr. Chosid came to daven in the Shul where Pinchas davened as it was closer to his home.

After davening Mr. Chosid came over and asked Pinchas, "Does you internet work? Mine at home is very weak and I was wondering if I could come over to use yours."

Pinchas was now dumbstruck, not only does this fellow not work, he also has internet? And that’s what is on his mind today?"

Pinchas could no longer contain himself; he looked at his Chaddishe companion and blurted out, "You have internet? For what reason in the world do you need internet?"

Without missing a beat, our Chossidshe friend answered, "What to you mean why do I need it? I am a free lance computer consultant and I work from home and I need the internet to support my family, why else would I need it?"

Suddenly a mountain of misunderstanding was conquered and a hardened heart was melted as Pinchas embraced his new found friend while saying, "Of course, why else would you need it? Please come to my home, ‘our’ connection is unbreakable."

You never know, one’s man internet connection can sometimes be the connection to the heart of another Jew.

"If Not Now, Then When?"- Hillel

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

 

The Short Vort- What’s Wrong With This Picture? (11/4/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Tuesday the 4th of November 2014

Learning from All

Dear Friends,

As I am about to head back to the States I have many dual feelings at this time.

On one hand, I miss those members of my family who are in America and I miss so many of you who are in Passaic and make up the greatest Kehilla a Rav could ever want.

It is true that at times my job is stressful and tense and therefore I do appreciate these times when I am ‘off duty’. Nevertheless, I miss my job as I am privileged to have wonderful and caring congregants who I care about them and they care about me; what more could a person want?

I will relate one final story about my time in Yerushalayim.

Some of you will be touched by this story, others will be upset that I sent it out, all that is good. F

For more important than what I did or should or should not have done is your feelings and your reaction to a true story.

As usual I will relate it as I saw and leave the commentary to you.

My daughter and I were walking near the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall and we noticed a homeless man lying in the street.

There are many beggars in Jerusalem, however, he was somewhat different in that we noticed that he had a blanket with him and as we passed him he lied down and covered himself and ‘went to sleep’ in the middle of the pedestrian mall.

Everyone, including the esteemed rabbi, just walked passed him. I did not see anyone even notice him.

About one hour later after my daughter had gone back to her seminary, I retraced my steps and there he was still covered by his blanket and still being ignored by all.

And then it happened.

As I was about 15 feet from him I noticed a woman emerge from a bakery with a pastry in her hand.

She walked over to the man, gently nudged him and placed the new and fresh pastry in his hand.

I was amazed at this random act of kindness and compassion especially when everyone else was ignoring him.

I followed the woman who went back into the bakery and noticed her in the back of the store talking to some people.

I went over to her to commend and tell her what an important lesson she taught all of us.

I wanted to tell her how I will write this up in the Short Vort and I wanted to hear what seminary she studies at and what Chesed organization does she belong to.

As I neared where she standing I hesitated to hear what language I should address her.

Perhaps Hebrew or English or maybe another language.

When I was standing just a few feet away, I noticed that she was with a group of four people; two men and two women.

They were speaking a language I did not recognize, perhaps a Slavic language.

However, just as I was about to break the ice and ask her who was her Rebbe where she learned such middos tovos I suddenly pulled back.

One of the men who was clearly the leader of the group as all eyes were on him was wearing a Catholic Clerical Collar!

As I drew away I noticed her bag, the logo read: Holy Catholic’s Holy Land Mission 2014.

I slowly stepped back onto the Ben Yehuda Street looking at the homeless man and the pastry provided by the Gentile woman in the middle of Yerushalayim surrounded by many Jews and ignored by all except for one Gentile woman.

Something is wrong with this picture.

"If Not Now- Then When?"-Hillel

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

 

The Short Vort - Getting Closer (11/2/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Sunday, November 1, 2014

Oy, Getting Closer....

First off, I apologize for the confusion resulting in the multiple Short Vorts which were sent. The system in a little different here and hence the duplication.

Shabbos is Israel is Shabbos.

From the Jewish music which plays on Friday afternoon, to the siren which announces the arrival of Shabbos, to the lack of vehicular traffic all of Shabbos, to the hearing of Zemiros which cascade throughout the city, Shabbos is Shabbos.

Rav Soloveitchik once commented that he had heard while still in Lita that there is no Shabbos in America. However, when he arrived in America in the early 40’s he saw that there was some Shimiras Shabbos, however, there was no observance of Erev Shabbos.

In Eretz Yisroel one senses again the feeling of preparation for Shabbos.

I hope all of you are well and I must go now as Eretz Yisroel beckons and the time is short so I will keep this Vort Short.

Stay well.....

R. Y. Eisenman

 

The Short Vort- Jewish Pride (10/29/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 29th of October 2014

 

Jewish Pride

 

This morning I once again had the privilege of showing honor and respect to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita.

 As many of my readers are aware, I have had this zechus many times over the last decade; this was the first time I was able to bring my two oldest grandsons and have them appreciate the visit as well.

After Mincha in the Lederman Shul, we made our way to his home and were escorted into his dining room. 

I approached first and asked for a brocha for Refuah Shleima for a number of specific individuals and of course for my family; and then (as I always do) I asked him for a brocha for the entire Kehilla.

I then reached for my grandchildren and pulled them close to  Rav Chaim for him to give them a brocha.

He smiled broadly as the children were brought into his line of sight. He asked each of them their name 

He was enjoying their company as if they were his own grandchildren when suddenly as he continued to smile and laugh he looked up at Eliyahu, my oldest grandson and said, "Why are you hiding your peos? You should not be ashamed of them!"

My grandsons who keep their peos behind their ears were smitten with Rav Chaim’s smile and with the loving kindness of his ‘rebuke’ and they quickly removed their peos from behind their ears to in front of their ears!

Rav Chaim explained, "In Chutz L’ Aretz" (outside of the land of Israel) Jews sometimes had to conceal their outward signs of being Jewish. Here in the Land of Israel there is nothing to be ashamed of and we can Thank Hashem wear our Jewishness out in the open!"

Here I was standing with my Yerushalmi (Jerusalem born) grandchildren, who are conversing with a Torah giant of our generation in the biblical tongue of Hebrew and he is giving them a lesson in Jewish pride.

Wherever you go in this country you cannot escape it.

There is a sense of being ‘’home"; and when you are ‘home’ you can "let your peos down"!

Rav Chaim was telling my grandchildren with a smile and with love, "Jewish children, remember where you are! You are home; and as such you can proudly and boastfully display your Jewish identity. Here there is no one to be ashamed from; here you are home.

As my grandchildren Eliyahu (age 8) and Benyamin (age 7) kept pulling their peos from behind their ears the entire way home, I kept thinking of the fact, "I am home, I am home,"

 

"If Not Now, Then When?"- Hillel

y is Wednesday the 29th of October 2014

Jewish Pride

This morning I once again had the privilege of showing honor and respect to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita.

As many of my readers are aware, I have had this zechus many times over the last decade; this was the first time I was able to bring my two oldest grandsons and have them appreciate the visit as well.

After Mincha in the Lederman Shul, we made our way to his home and were escorted into his dining room.

I approached first and asked for a brocha for Refuah Shleima for a number of specific individuals and of course for my family; and then (as I always do) I asked him for a brocha for the entire Kehilla.

I then reached for my grandchildren and pulled them close to Rav Chaim for him to give them a brocha.

He smiled broadly as the children were brought into his line of sight. He asked each of them their name

He was enjoying their company as if they were his own grandchildren when suddenly as he continued to smile and laugh he looked up at Eliyahu, my oldest grandson and said, "Why are you hiding your peos? You should not be ashamed of them!"

My grandsons who keep their peos behind their ears were smitten with Rav Chaim’s smile and with the loving kindness of his ‘rebuke’ and they quickly removed their peos from behind their ears to in front of their ears!

Rav Chaim explained, "In Chutz L’ Aretz" (outside of the land of Israel) Jews sometimes had to conceal their outward signs of being Jewish. Here in the Land of Israel there is nothing to be ashamed of and we can Thank Hashem wear our Jewishness out in the open!"

Here I was standing with my Yerushalmi (Jerusalem born) grandchildren, who are conversing with a Torah giant of our generation in the biblical tongue of Hebrew and he is giving them a lesson in Jewish pride.

Wherever you go in this country you cannot escape it.

There is a sense of being ‘’home"; and when you are ‘home’ you can "let your peos down"!

Rav Chaim was telling my grandchildren with a smile and with love, "Jewish children, remember where you are! You are home; and as such you can proudly and boastfully display your Jewish identity. Here there is no one to be ashamed from; here you are home.

As my grandchildren Eliyahu (age 8) and Benyamin (age 7) kept pulling their peos from behind their ears the entire way home, I kept thinking of the fact, "I am home, I am home,"

"If Not Now, Then When?"- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"You Never Know” (10/29/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Wednesday the 29th of October 5775

 

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 29th of October 5775

 

"You Never Know"

 

The last few days have been a phrenetic swirl of travel, spending time with family and re-connecting (most importantly) with myself.

A few highlights before I leave for Bnei Brak,

 On Shabbos I davened at the Kotel on  Shabbos morning and after davening I attended a kiddush in Silwan, a predominately Arab neighborhood east of the city. A new house was purchased by Jewish investors and more Jewish families will now be able to make their home in Yerushalayim. Their self-sacrifice for settling the land of Israel is admirable and remarkable.

If there would not have been some people to start the process, we never would have reached the success we have attained.

On Sunday I took an in depth tour of the Old City of Yerushalayim guided by my son Meir.

Because of his expertise, he was able to point out to me stones which date back to the time of Shlomo HaMelech! To realize that I am walking on the same stones where Dovid and his son Shlomo walked gave me goosebumps; however, when I realized that even Moshe Rabbeinu was not privileged to walk here filled me with a sense of awe and gratitude as I and my son are able to walk here!

There are so many tourists (Baruch HaShem) in Yerushalayim. One hears every language known to man and the fulfillment of the verse, "For my house will be a house of prayer for all nations" is tangibly recognized.

One particular lesson stands out.

I was with my sons and another Israeli at a work site (one of the many going on all over the city area). I was particularly interested in one aspect of the building and approached a worker (I am never shy) to ask him some questions.

He was very friendly and nice and I told my friend and sons how informative he was,

They told me to be cautious because he is an Arab and ‘you never know with them’.

In fact, my Israeli friend told me that I should give him a few shekels because he is not a ‘tour guide’ and you should give him a money, after all, ‘he might help a Jew at some point’,

I returned to the man who was speaking Arabic with the other workers and placed some bills in his hand as I thanked him.

He looked at me and refused the money as he said, "Hashem has given me all I need. Baruch HaShem I am fine, Give the money to Tzedoka!"

I looked at him and very awkwardly said, "You are a Jew?"

He smiled and said, "Of course I am, I was born in Persia and came here as a little boy, I still remember going to Cheder in Teheran and after serving proudly in the IDF I have been working as a builder for thirty years, Hashem has given me all I need, Thank you for the money, however, if I can help another person I don’t expect to be paid, Baruch HaShem I am fine!"

I walked back to my Israeli friend as I shook my head and once again realized, Never judge a person  by his work-worn hands or his Arabic speech, This hard working Persian Jew was a lot holier than many other people I know, After all, how many people do you know who would refuse free money?"

There are so many hidden Tzaddikim among us; you just have to open your eyes to find the.

 

"If Not Now-  Then When?"- Hillel

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

 

 

"You Never Know"

The last few days have been a phrenetic swirl of travel, spending time with family and re-connecting (most importantly) with myself.

A few highlights before I leave for Bnei Brak,

On Shabbos I davened at the Kotel on Shabbos morning and after davening I attended a kiddush in Silwan, a predominately Arab neighborhood east of the city. A new house was purchased by Jewish investors and more Jewish families will now be able to make their home in Yerushalayim. Their self-sacrifice for settling the land of Israel is admirable and remarkable.

If there would not have been some people to start the process, we never would have reached the success we have attained.

On Sunday I took an in depth tour of the Old City of Yerushalayim guided by my son Meir.

Because of his expertise, he was able to point out to me stones which date back to the time of Shlomo HaMelech! To realize that I am walking on the same stones where Dovid and his son Shlomo walked gave me goosebumps; however, when I realized that even Moshe Rabbeinu was not privileged to walk here filled me with a sense of awe and gratitude as I and my son are able to walk here!

There are so many tourists (Baruch HaShem) in Yerushalayim. One hears every language known to man and the fulfillment of the verse, "For my house will be a house of prayer for all nations" is tangibly recognized.

One particular lesson stands out.

I was with my sons and another Israeli at a work site (one of the many going on all over the city area). I was particularly interested in one aspect of the building and approached a worker (I am never shy) to ask him some questions.

He was very friendly and nice and I told my friend and sons how informative he was,

They told me to be cautious because he is an Arab and ‘you never know with them’.

In fact, my Israeli friend told me that I should give him a few shekels because he is not a ‘tour guide’ and you should give him a money, after all, ‘he might help a Jew at some point’,

I returned to the man who was speaking Arabic with the other workers and placed some bills in his hand as I thanked him.

He looked at me and refused the money as he said, "Hashem has given me all I need. Baruch HaShem I am fine, Give the money to Tzedoka!"

I looked at him and very awkwardly said, "You are a Jew?"

He smiled and said, "Of course I am, I was born in Persia and came here as a little boy, I still remember going to Cheder in Teheran and after serving proudly in the IDF I have been working as a builder for thirty years, Hashem has given me all I need, Thank you for the money, however, if I can help another person I don’t expect to be paid, Baruch HaShem I am fine!"

I walked back to my Israeli friend as I shook my head and once again realized, Never judge a person by his work-worn hands or his Arabic speech, This hard working Persian Jew was a lot holier than many other people I know, After all, how many people do you know who would refuse free money?"

There are so many hidden Tzaddikim among us; you just have to open your eyes to find the.

"If Not Now- Then When?"- Hillel

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

 

The Short Vort- You Never Know (10/29/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Wednesday the 29th of October 5775

"You Never Know"

The last few days have been a phrenetic swirl of travel, spending time with family and re-connecting (most importantly) with myself.

A few highlights before I leave for Bnei Brak,

On Shabbos I davened at the Kotel on Shabbos morning and after davening I attended a kiddush in Silwan, a predominately Arab neighborhood east of the city. A new house was purchased by Jewish investors and more Jewish families will now be able to make their home in Yerushalayim. Their self-sacrifice for settling the land of Israel is admirable and remarkable.

If there would not have been some people to start the process, we never would have reached the success we have attained.

On Sunday I took an in depth tour of the Old City of Yerushalayim guided by my son Meir.

Because of his expertise, he was able to point out to me stones which date back to the time of Shlomo HaMelech! To realize that I am walking on the same stones where Dovid and his son Shlomo walked gave me goosebumps; however, when I realized that even Moshe Rabbeinu was not privileged to walk here filled me with a sense of awe and gratitude as I and my son are able to walk here!

There are so many tourists (Baruch HaShem) in Yerushalayim. One hears every language known to man and the fulfillment of the verse, "For my house will be a house of prayer for all nations" is tangibly recognized.

One particular lesson stands out.

I was with my sons and another Israeli at a work site (one of the many going on all over the city area). I was particularly interested in one aspect of the building and approached a worker (I am never shy) to ask him some questions.

He was very friendly and nice and I told my friend and sons how informative he was,

They told me to be cautious because he is an Arab and ‘you never know with them’.

In fact, my Israeli friend told me that I should give him a few shekels because he is not a ‘tour guide’ and you should give him a money, after all, ‘he might help a Jew at some point’,

I returned to the man who was speaking Arabic with the other workers and placed some bills in his hand as I thanked him.

He looked at me and refused the money as he said, "Hashem has given me all I need. Baruch HaShem I am fine, Give the money to Tzedoka!"

I looked at him and very awkwardly said, "You are a Jew?"

He smiled and said, "Of course I am, I was born in Persia and came here as a little boy, I still remember going to Cheder in Teheran and after serving proudly in the IDF I have been working as a builder for thirty years, Hashem has given me all I need, Thank you for the money, however, if I can help another person I don’t expect to be paid, Baruch HaShem I am fine!"

I walked back to my Israeli friend as I shook my head and once again realized, Never judge a person by his work-worn hands or his Arabic speech, This hard working Persian Jew was a lot holier than many other people I know, After all, how many people do you know who would refuse free money?"

There are so many hidden Tzaddikim among us; you just have to open your eyes to find the.

"If Not Now- Then When?"- Hillel

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

 

The Short Vort - All in the Family (10/24/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Friday Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5755

All In the Family

As I arrived at the Kosel for Vasikin today on Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan I had no idea of what an experience it would be.

i don’t mean just the size of the crowd, there had to have been thousands!

And besides the intensity of the davening; some minyanim felt more like Neila than Rosh Chodesh while others looked more like Simchas Torah than Rosh Chodesh!

More than all that, was the diversity of the crowd.

There were Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Chassidim and Litvaks, non-Frum and not yet Frum and probably even a few not-yet-non-frum. However, all that didn’t matter.

In fact, even the one hundred or so ‘Women of the Wall’ did not impact on one point which struck me so powerfully as I stood at the parameter of the plaza observing the goings on at the Wall.

What was this one wonderful epiphany which struck me as I stood by the ancient stone of our Beis HaMikdash?

What impacted on me was the fact that although there is much security in place to make sure no one brings weapons etc into the Kotel area, however, once we are all inside, there in no danger at all.

Notwithstanding the fact that there were many different expressions of spirituality, even some which no doubt offended others; no one, and I mean no one, seemed scared or in fear.

Even those whose halachik practice was certainly questionable, nevertheless, there was no fear of physical danger to anyone.

Where else in the world can you observe so many different groups expressing their religious identity in their own way without fear of being hurt or attacked?

Although there were definitely passionate expressions of spirituality, there was also the feeling that we are all one family and although there are strong and passionate differences of opinion, however, there was a sense of family and on does not hurt their own family.

As I walked amongst the different groups spending a few minutes with each one, I could honestly feel that everyone there without exception was my brother and my sister.

Those who were not meant to be there were not there, while whoever was allowed in was our family,

Family members can disagree; they can argue; they can debate; however, they feel safe.

And that is beautiful.

"If Not Now- Then When?"- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, currently 200 yards from the Holy of Holies!

Good Shabbos to all! The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Friday Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5755

All In the Family

As I arrived at the Kosel for Vasikin today on Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan I had no idea of what an experience it would be.

i don’t mean just the size of the crowd, there had to have been thousands!

And besides the intensity of the davening; some minyanim felt more like Neila than Rosh Chodesh while others looked more like Simchas Torah than Rosh Chodesh!

More than all that, was the diversity of the crowd.

There were Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Chassidim and Litvaks, non-Frum and not yet Frum and probably even a few not-yet-non-frum. However, all that didn’t matter.

In fact, even the one hundred or so ‘Women of the Wall’ did not impact on one point which struck me so powerfully as I stood at the parameter of the plaza observing the goings on at the Wall.

What was this one wonderful epiphany which struck me as I stood by the ancient stone of our Beis HaMikdash?

What impacted on me was the fact that although there is much security in place to make sure no one brings weapons etc into the Kotel area, however, once we are all inside, there in no danger at all.

Notwithstanding the fact that there were many different expressions of spirituality, even some which no doubt offended others; no one, and I mean no one, seemed scared or in fear.

Even those whose halachik practice was certainly questionable, nevertheless, there was no fear of physical danger to anyone.

Where else in the world can you observe so many different groups expressing their religious identity in their own way without fear of being hurt or attacked?

Although there were definitely passionate expressions of spirituality, there was also the feeling that we are all one family and although there are strong and passionate differences of opinion, however, there was a sense of family and on does not hurt their own family.

As I walked amongst the different groups spending a few minutes with each one, I could honestly feel that everyone there without exception was my brother and my sister.

Those who were not meant to be there were not there, while whoever was allowed in was our family,

Family members can disagree; they can argue; they can debate; however, they feel safe.

And that is beautiful.

"If Not Now- Then When?"- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, currently 200 yards from the Holy of Holies!

Good Shabbos to all!   

the short vort- dreaming (10/23/14)


The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Erev Shabbos- Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5775

Dear Friends,

5 AM - I about 200 yards from the Holy of Holies, was could be better!

Sleeping in the city of where Moshe just dreamt about and here I am living his dream.

I dreamt that I was went to sleep in Yerushalayim and behold I am awake and "I was not dreaming!"

I am here in the flesh and the now.

There were some Jews in Dusseldorf: however, that there are hundreds of thousands of Jews in Yerushalayim today is nothing short of a dream.

I must excuse myself now, my heart needs to say Hallel, thankfully today is Rosh Chodesh so my halachik mind says the same.

Gotta go i am on my to the Beis HaMikdash.

I miss you all and wish we were here together

All my love to all.....

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Presently near the Holy of Hokies"

"In Not Now-Then When"? 

The Short Vort- To the Right or to the Left (10/22/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

Today is Wednesday the 22nd of October 5775

Either to the Right or To the Left

As I am about to begin my trip to Eretz Yisroel I am flying Air Berlin with a stopover in Germany before heading off to Israel.

As I walked through the security check, I asked the woman, "Which way should I go now?"

The woman looks at me and she says, "You can go either to the left or to the right, the choice is in your hands."

As I looked up I noticed the sign "Air Berlin" was looming over my head as the woman said, "You can go to the right or the left".

As I heard the words ‘to the right or to the left’ with the name Berlin so visible in the background, a chill went down my spine.

I am able to go to Berlin and from there to Israel and I can go either to the left or to the right.

Was it so long ago that Jews near Berlin were told to go either to the right or to the left?

What is so long ago that Jews trembled as they heard the verdict that you must ‘go to the right’ or you ‘must go to the left?’

Just another reason to be thankful that I am going home.

"If Not Now- Then When?"- Hillel

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

 

The Short Vort’ -"Good Bye Joey” (10/19/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 26th of Tishrei 5775 and October 20th, 2014

 

Good Bye Joey

 

I received the phone call at about 11 AM.

Joey Diangello was no longer among the living and was going to be buried today in the Monsey cemetery.

The details of the burial seemed to be shrouded in mystery and it was unclear what time the burial would take place.

On account of the lack of clarity and to avoid any sort of discomfort for anyone, I did not attend.

I have not seen Joey Diangello since 2010.

I was told that he was born ‘Yoel Deutsch’ into a Hasidic family in Williamsburg.

He apparently attended a Chassidic educational institution in his youth and I can imagine that he must have arrived home on Friday afternoon with a parsha sheet with questions and Torah thoughts eagerly waiting to share them with his parents.

I can imagine he sang songs in Cheder with the Rebbe and the other Jewish children and was no doubt taught that Hashem and His people are kind and beloved.

Perhaps he watched his mother light the Shabbos candles on Friday evening and anticipated a warm and love-filled kiss from her as she turned and wished him a Gutten Shabbos.

And I am sure his father blessed him on Erev Yom Kippur that he should grow to become a Torah scholar and a model Orthodox Jew.

When I met Joey, his arms were covered with tattoos depicting scenes I did not want to stare at.

His fingernails were painted with black nail polish and he was drinking large glasses of non-Kosher wine at a rate which made me wonder how a human being could ingest so much alcohol.

He no longer studied the parsha and no longer received a kiss from his mother on Friday evenings.

Who was Joey Diangello?

Was he a successful businessman?

Was he married and did he settle down and have his own child to raise as he thought proper?

He was not a successful businessman and he never did marry and his friends were not to be counted in the hundreds.

However, he did his best to help others.

Most of all, Joey Diangello was in pain.

When I visited him twice in the hospital over the years, he was in pain.

When I spoke to him in Shul in 2009 he was in pain.

And he was in pain when he left this world.

I had not had any contact with Joey from 2010 until this past summer.

Out of the blue I received the following email from him:

“Good morning. There’s a TV show called CSI that I never watch but I do remember on scene maybe 6 years ago. Where a male sees his female colleague is not having a gr8 day.

Whn he asks her about it she goes on. About this and that. at the end of him listening "and not interrupting eveb once". She huggs him says, you always have the perfect thing to say, of which I wanna thank u for saying all the prct things when I nEed it. You just listened and thank u.  

Best, Joey”

He went on to say that he read the Short Vort and was touched by what I wrote.

Needless to say, I was touched by his email and encouraged him to visit.

I was disappointed that when he actually took me up on my offer and on Thursday before Yom Kippur, I missed his visit and he later that day he wrote the following:

I just wanted to pass along my hello from earlier today when I (stopped by outside the Shul)  in Passiac to get my hair done.  Have a gr8 rest of yomtov and easy fast

Best, Joey

I was happy though we had reconnected and he called me soon after to tell me had taken up marathon running and seemed to be finally getting into a ‘good place’.

He even sent me a Rosh Hashanah greeting that when I went back to read today sent shivers up my spine:

I just wanna say "Leshana tovah" to you and your family. May this upcoming year b a suicide death free year is all I ask.  Luv, me.

Best, Joey

Joey Diangello came into this world like me and like you.

He had dreams and he had hopes; he had happiness and joy.

No one ever dreamt that at 34 years old his funeral would be held in a flurry of secrecy and misinformation.

No one imagined that ‘Yoeli Deutsch’ would end up as Joey Diangello being quickly and almost clandestinely buried alone in so many ways so far from the Williamsburg of his youth.

I cannot and will not judge Joey Diangello.

I will not iconize him as much as I would never demonize him.

He was a human being with all of the foibles and strengths which come with the human experience.

There is though one thing I will say about Joey Diangello.

Joey Diangello lived a life a pain.

He suffered through his life and he could never escape the pain which constantly hounded him.

And for that pain and for that agony which defined his life I am sad.

I am sad for the man who will no longer write: “May this upcoming year b a suicide death free year is all I ask.  Luv, me.”

And I am sad for Yoeli Deutsch who ceased to exist years ago.

Most of all though; I am sad for us.

For whatever the bloggers will write and whatever the ‘experts’ will say, Joey Diangello did not have to have his life tragically ended at 34.

And for all of us whom he touched and for those of us who attempted to touch him, I cry.

I cry for Yoeli Deutsch who never was and for Joey Diangello who never will be.

And I cry as I wonder what more could have been done and what should be done.

Good bye Joey, I am sorry I missed your visit.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Two Pictures” (10/6/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 12th of Tishrei 5775 and October 6, 2014

 

Two Pictures

 

Yesterday’s Short Vort was (a record?) 3,582 words!

Today’s Vort will be very few words, however, if a picture is worth a thousand words, (“The adage "A picture is worth a thousand words" refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image”. Wikipedia), then today’s Vort can be considered 2000 words.

 

Picture number one is George Shuba shaking hands with Jackie Robinson (see yesterday’s Vort)

And picture number two is an example of how “All of us, despite our differences, can still work together in sharing our common burden.”

 

Enjoy!

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -” I Give You My Hand ” (10/5/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 11th of Tishrei 5775 and October 5, 2014

 

I Give You My Hand

 

(This Short Vort is based on the words which I spoke yesterday evening before Neilah 5775)

 

This past Monday, September 29th- the 5th of Tishrei, George Shuba of Youngstown,

Ohio died at his home at the age of 89.

For the majority of his life he was a postal worker in Youngstown, the city in which he was born in 1924 and where he was an altar boy in his youth at the local Roman Catholic Church.

From 1948-1955 he also had a short, unexceptional, mediocre career as a second string outfielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His lifetime stats are nothing to get excited about; in the seven seasons he played for the Dodgers, his batting average was an unremarkable .259 with 24 homeruns.

What then distinguishes this Roman Catholic former Altar Boy, former mediocre Major League Baseball player from anyone else which caused his demise to be worthy of an obituary in the NY Times?

What is so admirable about George Shuba that on the holiest day of the year, at the holiest time of the holiest day I choose to eulogize him?

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos teaches us:

 “Do not scorn any man, and do not discount anything. For there is no man who has not his hour and no thing that has not its place”

This Roman Catholic former Altar Boy, former Postal employee and former second string baseball player epitomizes for us this teaching of our sages!

For “that man” was George Shuba and “that hour” was the afternoon of April 18th 1946 and “that place” was just a few miles from Passaic, NJ in Jersey City at the now non-existent Roosevelt Stadium.

What occurred to that former postal worker at Roosevelt Stadium on the afternoon of April 18th 1946?

We pick up with the New York Times obituary from this past Tuesday- September 30th (and another article in the Times which was published in 2006 commemorating the 60th anniversary of the event. Note: I have cut and pasted different parts of the two articles in order to have thought flow):

“On the afternoon of April 18, 1946, Jackie Robinson became the first black player in modern organized baseball when he made his debut with the Dodgers’ Montreal Royals farm team in their International League opener against the Jersey City Giants”.

 “In the third inning, Robinson hit a three-run homer over the left-field fence. As Robinson approached home plate, teammate George Shuba, in that era long before high-fives and power-fists, extended his right hand and Robinson shook it—a simple, silent, seminal moment in baseball history.

The act of Shuba extending his hand to a smiling Robinson was captured by an Associated Press photographer “has endured as a portrait of racial tolerance.”

Shuba would say years later, “I had no problem going to the plate to shake his hand instead of waiting for him to come by me in the on-deck circle.”

A simple extension of the hand, made by a simple, self-effacing unassuming man became a symbol of America’s successful struggle and ultimate success in eradicating one of the ills of our society: racial hatred, a form of national Sinas Chinam (baseless hatred) from our midst!

The road to the White House by Barak Obama was paved by the actions of people like George Shuba.

One’s man extending of his hand to another human being has endured as a representation of the ability of one man, in one hour and in one place to make a huge difference in this world.

In just a few minutes –when we say Neilah- we are going to read about another extending of the hand.

In Neilah we say:

“You give Your hand to the sinners and Your right hand is extended to receive those who want to return (to you).”

(Ata Nossen Yad L’Posheim V’Yiminicha Peshuta L’kabel Shavim)

Hashem is about to extend His hand to us.

Hashem is about to stretch out His hand- are we going to accept it?

Are we going to grasp it?

Are we going to embrace Hashem as Hs stretches out His hand?

I have no doubt that all of you will grasp His hand…

I have no doubt that you will accept His embrace…

However, we need more …

We in Judaism have a concept of Imitatio Dei (imitating Hashem) which is derived, in part, from the concept of imago Dei – which states that we are all made in the image of G-d.

 Jewish people must aspire to take on G-dly virtues and act like G-d acts!

The concept is arguably best expressed in the following passuk from Vayikra:

“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your G-d, am holy.”

Jews are exhorted to perform acts of kindness similar to the ones ascribed to G-d.

 Examples are burying the dead (as Hashem buried Moses), visiting the sick (as Hashem visited Avraham) and some very similar mitzvoth.

The Talmud states: "As He is merciful, so should you be merciful".

Therefore, we also have to be G-dly and we also have to begin to ‘give our hands to all- including sinners’.

We need to imitate Hashem as George Shuba did… we must give our hand to all irrespective of who they are and what color their skin is and irrespective if they are wearing a Yarmulke or not or even if they are not Jewish.

The true test is tomorrow at the store and the next day at work.

Are we extending our hands to all people, Jew and non-Jew, Hareidi and not-religious?

It is interesting first it states You give Your hand to the sinners”

And only then does it add: “and Your right hand is extended to receive those who want to return (to You).”

Meaning, the first step is the GIVING of the hand, without any reservations and without any ‘kiruv moments’- just give your hand.

I have had my fill of people calling me and asking me how to act towards co-workers where they feel the only reason they have to be nice is because it is a ‘kiruv moment’ or “There is a kiruv opportunity”.

 Sometimes I feel we have lost the major Jewish concept which is applicable to Jew and non-Jew of Tzelem Elokim- that all men and women are created in the image of Hashem!

And therefore we should be nice because they are a human being.

The Mishna in Avos 3:14 states:

“Rabbi Akiva would say… “Beloved is man, for he was created in the image [of G-d]; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to him that he was created in the image, as it is says, "For in the image of G-d, He made man" (Genesis 9:6).”

According to the commentators, this statement of “Beloved is man, for he was created in the image [of G-d];” applies to Jews and non-Jews alike!

We have to be G-dly in GIVING our hand to all because the person is just that, a person- a human being created in the image of Hashem!

This should be done with or without the buzz word of “Kiruv”.

Only after Hashem ‘gives’ His ‘hand’ unconditionally to the sinner does it add “And His hand is extended to those who ‘want’ to return.”

First it states His hand his given, in the same manner as George Shuba gave his hand to Jackie Robinson, without any hope of ‘kiruv’ or something in return; rather as a sign of humanity.

Then, once the hand is GIVEN, Hashem says (and we must do the same) “I extend (NOT- GIVE) just ‘extend’ my hand; you want to get closer, fine; however, first I give you my hand unconditionally and then (and only then) you should know my hand is extended for those that want to return.”

Do we have to remind people that non-Jews are people too?

Do we have to remind people that non-religious Jews are also Tzelem Elokim!

Let us learn a lesson from George Shuba who really was learning a lesson from Hashem himself.

Let us begin to GIVE our hand to all without reservation and without hesitation.

Too often we distance ourselves from common courtesies and simple humanity by forgetting to GIVE our hands to all.

We are not talking about becoming buddies with all; however, common civility dictates a sense of friendliness and civility to all.

One woman recently commented the following observation about us; she works in one of malls in our area:

“I work at a very high-end mall in New Jersey and yes Hasidic Jews ARE THE RUDEST GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT SHOP THERE. The whole mall agrees.

I’m black, i work at a high end store, and i have close friends and associates all over the mall that work and we all agree that their way of speaking, asking questions, walking through people, are just vile. It’s just disgusting.

I try not to place generalizations on any group of people because I’m just not that person. However, i am reminded EVERYDAY by them, except on their holy days, that they are rude and kind of barbaric.”

I am not saying that this woman is the “begin all and end all” and ‘ultimate judge’ of the issue, however, this does not seem to be a casual uncommon remark which we can write off as ‘anti-Semitism’.

Just last week- right before Rosh Hashanah- the following story was picked up by the Washington Post, the NY Post, The Guardian in the UK, the Chicago Tribune, The South African Mail and Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail (UK), The Daily News, The Independent (UK) and the Economist among many other news outlets which I am too tired to list.

El Al passengers heading to Israel to celebrate the Jewish new year were delayed leaving New York on the eve of Rosh Hashanah when ultra-Orthodox passengers refused to sit near women.

Because their beliefs require men and women to be segregated, the ultra-Orthodox men, recognizable by their black hats and curly tendrils over the ears, attempted to trade their pre-assigned seats with other passengers, offering money in some cases.

“I ended up sitting next to a … man who jumped out of his seat the moment we had finished taking off and proceeded to stand in the aisle,” a woman passenger identified only as Galit said.

“I went to the bathroom and it was a mission impossible, the noise was endless,” Galit said of the men crowding the aisle and praying loudly.

Lest you think this was an isolated incident, it wasn’t.

Just a day before the above mentioned incident, Elana Sztokman author of the book: The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom reported in Tablet Magazine a similar story which divine Providence decreed had ironically happened to her!

“The plane took off 20 minutes late because an ultra-Orthodox man was negotiating with passengers so as not to have to sit next to a woman—me—on the 11-hour flight.

I asked myself if this was karma or poetic justice. After all, I had just spoken to hundreds of people about exactly these issues and the way women are made to feel like second-class citizens as a result. Part of me wanted to smile and hand out copies of my book.

 But I sat there silently for a long time, watching all this happen, witnessing all these men around me talking about me, mostly in Yiddish, but also in Hebrew and English, without looking directly at me.

So, finally I spoke out. Right before the man found a replacement to sit next to me, I said, “Can I say something?” and without looking at me, he said yes.

 I said, “Imagine if instead of men and women, we were talking about Jews and non-Jews. Imagine how you would feel if a bunch of non-Jews were standing around saying that they can’t sit next to you because you’re a Jew, that they are willing to sit anywhere but next to you, because their religion won’t allow it, because you are impure or different, or whatever. How would you feel? How would you ever get over that insult?”

The original man, the one who refused to sit next to me, muttered to another man as he was walking away, “She doesn’t understand.”

 I said, “I understand everything, and don’t talk to me as if I’m not here.” He ignored me, and all the other men turned their backs and did not respond or even look at me.

I sat down, put on my seatbelt, looked out the window, and suddenly started to cry.”(Emphasis added by me)

Friends, I have no problem if someone is stricter than me in their understanding of the laws of modesty and of their perceived halachik imperatives with regard to the laws of gender separation.

I have no issue with any person or with any  group within their self-contained community requiring a more stringent interpretation of the law than I would give; indeed, if I were in their insular community I would respect and abide by it, making sure to dot my “I”s and cross my “T”s.

I do have a problem when someone purchases a ticket at someone else’s company and begins to dictate policy for the company.

Even if one believes that EL-AL has a financial imperative to change seats; and even if you believe your perceived knowledge of Jewish law preludes you from sitting next to the opposite gender; however, what about the fact that the ‘thing’ you are refusing to sit next to (a ‘female’) is a human being with a Tzelem Elokim?

What happened to her feelings and her pain?

What did she do to deserve your treatment of her?

The one line which tugged at my heart and brought me to passion and tears was the line “I sat down, put on my seatbelt, looked out the window, and suddenly started to cry.”

How can you as G-d fearing Jew bring another Jewish human being to tears????

You are about to return to the holy land for the Day of Judgment and on the way there you make sure to make another human being cry?

Even if you cannot sit next to a person, female or not, what right do you have make the person feel like “as if I’m not here”?

What ever happened to being G-dly and to You give Your hand to the sinners”?

Is this what anyone would call acting G-dly?

What right did that man have to make a Jewish woman who did absolutely nothing wrong except that Hashem decided to create her ‘KIRSONO’ (According to His will)-cry???

Why do we hear more and more stories of Orthodox Jewish people who seem to lack basic civility and politeness?

This is not the way of our Sages (Chazal) and certainly not the way of our great Rabbinic leaders.

Why don’t we hear stories such as these anymore?

(Written by Dr. Isaac Steven Herschkopf, an attending psychiatrist at the NYU Medical Center)

One summer I was spending a week with my aunt and uncle in upstate Ellenville. Uncle David and Aunt Saba, survivors themselves, as the doctor and nurse in charge of the concentration camp infirmary, had managed to save the lives of innumerable inmates, including my mother and sister. After “the War” they had set up a medical practice in this small Catskill village, where, I discovered, to my amazement, they had one celebrity patient — Rav Moshe.

My aunt mentioned casually that Rav Moshe had an appointment the next day. Would I like to meet him? Would I? It was like asking me, would I like to meet God.

I was seated in the waiting room, in the best clothing I had with me, an hour before his appointment. It seemed like an eternity, but eventually he arrived, accompanied by an assistant at each side. He didn’t notice me.

My aunt had heard the chime when he entered and came out of the office to greet him: “Rabbi Feinstein, did you meet my nephew Ikey? Can you believe a shaygitz [unobservant] like me has a yeshiva bochur [student] in the family?”

Rav Moshe finally looked at me. I was mortified. My aunt was addressing him irreverently. She was joking with him. She had called me Ikey, not Yitzchok, or even Isaac.

Then it got even worse. She walked over to him. Surely she knew not to shake his hand. She didn’t. She kissed him affectionately on the cheek as she did many of her favorite patients. She then told him my uncle would see him in a minute and returned to the office.

Rav Moshe and his attendants turned and looked at me, I thought accusingly. I wanted to die. In a panic, I walked over to him and started to apologize profusely: “Rabbi Feinstein, I apologize. My aunt, she isn’t frum [religious]. She doesn’t understand…”

He immediately placed his fingers on my lips to stop me from talking. He then softly spoke two sentences in Yiddish that I will remember to my dying day: “She has numbers on her arms. She is holier than me.”

There are those who point to this story to impress upon us the lesson of how Rav Moshe sympathized with Holocaust survivors.

I am sure he did; yet, this sympathy would never allow him to transgress Halacha!

He never would have eaten non-kosher with a holocaust survivor because: “She is holier than me”!

He would never have desecrated the Shabbos with a holocaust survivor because “She is holier than me.”

It is obvious to anyone with an even limited knowledge of Halacha that sympathy for holocaust survivors never suspends one’s obligation to properly observe Halacha!

It is obvious to all that the real reason he allowed himself to be kissed was that he did not want to embarrass this woman and since the kiss was totally one of friendship and chaste and in no way carnal, he knew that although he never would have solicited or even encouraged such a kiss, he knew that the woman in front of him was a human being and he was doing his best not to hurt, embarrass, or cause even the slightest pain to another human being; even if meant he had to endure himself some level of embarrassment and rely on a lenient opinion in Halacha!

Or why don’t we hear more stories like this one:

A story is told about a great rabbi (one of the greatest in his generation) named Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky (an ultra-Orthodox rabbi) who lived in New York and died around 20 years ago. After his funeral, when his family was sitting shiva (the Jewish week of mourning); a prominent nun from the community came to the house of mourning to pay her respects. She said that this rabbi would pass her by on the street every day with a big smile and a friendly “hello” and it really meant so much to her.

Rav Yakov knew what religion the nun represented and what the cross meant to a Jew from Eastern Europe.

Rav Yakov also knew that there is something in the Torah world called civility and proper respect for all human beings.

Does not the Gemara say about no one less than Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai that no one ever said “shalom” to him first?

He was always the first one to greet all; and lest you think this behavior was relegated to exclusively Jews, the Gemara adds that this practice included even the non-Jewish person in the market! (Brochus 17a)

Imagine this?  Raban Yochanan Ben Zakai would walk around the market-place constantly saying, “Hello, how are you?” to everyone he ran into, even to women!

Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, the Gadol HaDor who succeeded Rav Elyashiv, when asked how come if we have so many people learning full time (more than any other time in history) and there are so many fine kehillos, why are there so many Tzaros which are constantly causing us so much pain and anguish?

Rav Shteinman answered with a clear cut answer: “We have to work on correcting the sins between man and man!” (HaRotzeh B’Teshuva, Brooklyn, NY 5775 page 236).

The Chazon Ish was asked, “What is the highest level a person can aspire to in this world?” after thinking it over for a few minutes, the Chazon Ish answered, “Never to hurt another human being in one’s life!” (Ibid. page 233)

Friends, have we forgotten that women are people too and non-Jews are people too?

Let us learn a lesson from George Shuba who really was learning a lesson from Hashem himself.

Let us begin to GIVE our hand to all without reservation and without hesitation.

Too often we distance ourselves from common courtesies and simple humanity by forgetting to GIVE our hands to all.

As we conclude Yom Kippur let’s improve in this one area where improvement is so sorely needed.

Let us accept upon ourselves to observe basic human civility and common compassion to all.

Hashem’s hand is given to us, dare we not imitate Him?

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Mussar for the Rabbi ” (10/3/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Erev Yom Kippur 5775 and October 3, 2014

 

Mussar for the Rabbi

 

The pressure of having to prepare numerous yet distinctive droshos can be overwhelming.

Combined with teaching Daf Yomi; rising early for Selichos and explaining to people that adding even one more seat constitutes a fire hazard despite their pleas: “Are you telling me  you have no seat for a fellow Jew on Rosh Hashanah?” does not leave me with much ‘down time’ during ‘holiday season’.

However, as Rosh Hashanah passed, one item gnawed at me.

I had unintentionally insulted Sam Goldstein last winter and I knew that time was running out.

I drove to their house.

The Goldsteins welcomed me cautiously.

“What can we do for you Rabbi?”

Over the last winter their son Yanky was asked to leave his Mesivta and the Menahel asked me to speak to him. At the meeting I asked:

“Whats up, Yanky?”

“I like to hang out with the janitor and help him mop.”

I thought I had the perfect reply.

“When I was in 8th grade we had a non-Jewish janitor and one day I carelessly spilled milk on the floor. The principal made me borrow a mop and clean it.

While I was fumbling with the mop the janitor took the mop out of my hands and said, “Go back to your studies, being a janitor is no job for a Jewish boy!”

So too I tell you, Yanky, go learn for being a janitor is no job for a Jewish man.”

Yanky said nothing, however, his face reddened with humiliation.

The next day Yanky’s father arrived at my office.

Sam Goldstein quietly said, “You told my son that being a janitor is no job for a Jewish man?

I have been the janitor in a local yeshiva for thirty years.”

I was stunned; I mumbled an apology; however, Sam just turned and left.

Now on Erev Yom Kippur I stood before Sam Goldstein.

 “Sam, I am sorry. I hurt you and there is nothing in the world I can do to take back the hurtful and inconsiderate and insulting words I leveled against you in front of your son.

I am so, so sorry that I hurt you and your son. Please forgive me; I will be more careful in the future.”

 “Rabbi, I can forgive you; however, how can I forgive the impression you left with my son?”

Sam was correct; his son was still hurt.

I davened Mincha that Erev Yom Kippur with the Kavanah of Neilah, beseeching Hashem to allow me to find a way to rectify my mistake.

Finally it came to me, Sam davened in a different Shul at night. I called the Gabbai of the other Shul and asked him how much would it cost for me to purchase for Sam the privilege of opening the Aron at Kol Nidrei. I made one stipulation; when you call Sam up make sure you announce, “R Shmuel is honored with opening the Aron by an anonymous donor who wants to show his gratitude and pride for the man who is the pillar of the Yeshiva as he keeps the Yeshiva clean and comfortable.”

In the morning, I saw Sam but of course we could not speak.

I was on pins and needles not knowing if Sam had forgiven me.

Finally, during Krias HaTorah I was called to the Torah; I was not expecting an Aliyah and asked the Gabbai who bought it for me. He said, “Sam and his son Yanky bought it for you.”

 I looked over at Sam and noticed that Yanky was looking admiringly at his father and both were smiling broadly as they nodded approvingly.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I realized how a simple Jew had taught me a lesson in Teshuva more valuable than any other.

 

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

“IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?” 

The Short Vort’ -"“Bull-work” versus “Bulwark”” (10/1/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 8th of Tishrei 5775 and October 2nd , 2014

 

“Bull-work” versus “Bulwark”

 

If only life was so easy.

Yesterday, in the Short Vort I wrote the following: “The Minyan Appeal is the bull-work of our budget”.

A number of you pointed out to me correctly that the word is bulwark not bull-work!

A couple of people even apologized for correcting me.

Of course, not only was I thankful that they corrected me; I would hope people would correct me. After all, why would I want to continue with my life constantly thinking that the word is ‘bull-work’ when it’s really ‘bulwark’?

That ‘correction’ is the easy part of life.

What happens when someone points out to me that I am incorrect in my approach to their problem?

What happens when someone tells me that I have offended them?

Am I as quick to respond in such a magnanimous fashion? Obviously the answer is a resolute: ‘no’.

Why not?

Why is it that when someone tells me ‘bull-work’ should be ‘bulwark’ I am able and willing to accept the critique; however, when they tell me that my opinion on this subject or that topic is wrong I become defensive and offended?

The answer of course is that in the former, it is clear to all that I was just careless and slothful with ‘spell-check’ and it does not reflect anything negative about my actual essence.

 Not so in the latter, when  I am taken to task over an opinion or an action; in this situation I am more prone to becoming defensive and probably offended as well.

For in the latter, you are attacking my mind, my essence, the ‘me’ of who I am, and that is much more difficult and uncomfortable for me to accept.

Isn’t this what Yom Kippur is all about?

Is not Yom Kippur the one time a year when we finally attempt to confront our true self and honestly attempt to revisit and perhaps even adjust, correct and reframe aspects of ‘me’?

That is the real work of Yom Kippur.

It is easy to change ‘bull-work’ to ‘bulwark’; however, it is much more difficult to change ‘me’.

 

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

  

The Short Vort’ -"Part of the Group” (10/1/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Wednesday the 7th of Tishrei 5775 and October 1, 2014

 

Part of the Group

 

When our great and revered Navi (prophet) Elisha asks the Shunamite woman who had aided the Navi in multi-faceted ways what he can do for her; for example, can he intervene on her behalf before The King (’Behold you have busied yourself on our account with all this trouble. What is there to do for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or to the general of the army?”- -Hashem), she replies, "I dwell in the midst of my people." (Kings 2: 4:13)

 

What does her reply "I dwell in the midst of my people" mean?

The commentators explain that the Shunamite woman was teaching us an important factor in being judged favorably by ‘The King’; and that is ‘being a part of the community’.

 

There is no greater Zechus (merit) a person can have on Yom Kippur than to be counted among the people; as a person who is a necessary and an indispensable part of the ‘klal’.

 

One way to guarantee that on Yom Kippur you will be counted and judged in this way is to support the klal.

What better way to support and be part of the klal is to be a part of our annual Minyan Appeal?

The Minyan Appeal is the bull-work of our budget which facilitates the proper running of the Shul and of all the services supplied by the Shul to you and your community.

 

If I can ask each and every one of you to please (if you have not yet done so) to take the time and go to the Shul website (Ahavasisrael.org) or to call the office with your contribution today, that would be (as the kids say) amazing!

 

Be part of the Klal, be judged favorably, and contribute to our Minyan appeal today!

 

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

The Short Vort’ -"SOS” (9/22/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is the 27th of Elul 5774 and September 22, 2014

 

SOS

 

In response to all of you who have inquired, I am happy to announce that this year I will have official hours for the Selling OfSins.

Many of you have been clamoring for this for years, and I have finally consented.

The selling of sins (SOS) will commence on Sunday morning September 28th at 10 AM and will continue every evening until Yom Kippur from 8-10 PM.

I am proud to announce that I have personally also arranged for all the sins of the local establishments to also be included in this year’s sale.

All sins will be sold on Friday morning October 3rd to a handpicked atheist.

This atheist is a former FFB so he truly understands the reality of sins.

Please fill out the form below and come to my office any day next week.

The sins will be sold at 11 AM on Friday and therefore no indulgences are permitted after 11 AM on Friday.

 If everything goes as planned, the sins will be ‘bought back’ for your enjoyment not before 9 PM on Saturday night October 4th.

What sins can be sold?

All types of sins can be gotten rid of in this manner.

Obviously, the larger donation you leave for the Shul, the better the chances you have of making sure your sins are sold on the day of the sale.

So if you are looking for a quick fix, why bother with all that Teshuva stuff which involves so much self-introspection and change?

 With the old fashioned Teshuva method, you have to cleanse your entire soul; that’s hard work!

Who needs it?

Fill out the form below; have all your sins sold to a local atheist and the next thing you know-you are ‘sin-free’; and the best part it involves changing absolutely nothing in your mode of behavior!

I am sure this will catch on very quickly and soon everyone will be doing SOS.

Don’t delay, I am sure the lines will be long; so get on line today with your filled out form.

Form

I hereby authorize Rabbi Eisenman to sell my sins to the atheist of his choosing.

I recognize that the buyer has full access to my sins during the period of the sale.

Included in this sale are all of my sins, those that I know about and even those that I do not know about.

Signed by me_______________________________________________

 

Oy, if only it was so easy……

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"The Yarmulke” (9/19/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday 24th of Elul 5775 and September 19th 2014

 

The Yarmulke

 

The Bris was right after Tisha B’av.

Dovid and Dina Michelowitz (names changed) had waited ten years for their first son.

I was honored with naming the baby. Dovid whispered in my ear the name: “Mordechai”.

At the seuda Dovid made a point of telling all that the baby would be called Moti.

And then he explained why.

“I was born in Cherry Hill, NJ.  With the exception of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, my family never saw the inside of a Shul.

When I was in my freshman year of college, I noticed a sign inviting all the Jewish students to a Seder at the local Hillel house.

My roommate was Angelo Normano and I thought it would be hilarious if Angelo came as my guest to the Seder. Who would have thought to bring a Roman Catholic to a Seder except a silly jokester like me?

I originally thought the Seder was a big joke, however, I was intrigued by the entire experience and it left a deep impression on me.

That summer I decided to volunteer at a kibbutz.

I chose ‘Saar’, a secular kibbutz in the north of the country.

For some reason which I now attribute to divine intervention, I decided to remain for the High Holy Days in Israel.

The year was 1973 and on Yom Kippur, Arab armies invaded and the next thing I knew, I was ‘recruited’ to deliver mail around the city of Nehariya.

Finally, the war ended and I went back to the kibbutz before heading back to the States.

When I arrived I found out that my friend, Yishai, who worked with me in the chicken coop, had been taken prisoner by the Syrians.

I made a firm commitment to myself: as long as Yishai was a POW, I would remain at the kibbutz.

Finally, in November a prisoner exchange took place and Yishai returned.

Yishai looked different.

He head was adorned with a Kippah.

He explained he would be leaving the kibbutz and going to yeshiva; he announced that he had been ‘chozer B’Teshuva’ a man who returned back to Jewish observance.

That night, I asked Yishai, “What’s with the Kippah?”

Yishai said,

 “When I was a POW, I cannot describe the torture we had to endure.

One day we prisoners decided we would make a run for it; it was madness and suicidal.

 We knew they would kill us but we did not care; we just wanted the pain to end.

 As we were about to run, one soldier pleaded, “”Chevra, do not despair, Hashem has not abandoned us! Stay put and have faith! He decried we should not die in the battle and He will free us. If we give up now, what will we answer to the children we should have had and didn’t?”

We were all moved by his plea.

 I asked this soldier, “Where did you get the courage to say such things?”

He pointed to his yarmulke which he always wore and he said, “From here!”

That day I decided that when I get out I would return to the ways of my grandfather and I too would become religious.

I then asked the Yarmulke wearing soldier, “What is your name?”

He said, “My name is Moti.”

We were freed the next week and I have decided to become a “chozer B’Teshuva”.

As I sat there that night in Kibbutz Saar listening to Yishai’s story I realized that I too was ‘going no-where’ with my life.

The next day I left Saar forever, went to Yerushalayim and enrolled in the newly founded Yeshivas Ohr Somaich and remained there for four years.

I kept up with Yishai as he too moved forward in his studies and together we became fully observant Jews.

After my marriage I moved back to the States, and eventually moved here to Passaic and became part of the Shul.

We had been married for a number of years and we were still not blessed with a child.

One day, Yishai called me. Moti, our ‘mentor’ had been killed in a car accident.

I told Hashem that if He would bless me with a child I would name him after Moti.

And now Hashem has answered my prayers and we have a son.

I am naming my son after the POW Moti; a man I never met, yet, who altered the course of my life.

It was his wearing of his yarmulke and his Bitachon which changed my life and the life of my friend Yishai.

I never met Moti; however, it is because of him I am here today.

And that’s why we will call my son Moti; the man I never met yet, whose bravery and Bitachon allowed me to be here today and bring my son into the Bris of Avrohom Avinu.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When? - Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Falling on My Face(book)” (9/18/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 23rd of Elul 5774 and September 18, 2014

 

Falling on My Face(book)

 

Recently a colleague of mine in the rabbinate was extolling the amazing benefits of Facebook. “You can reach so many people with it”, he declared.

“You will see, it will give you a venue to impact on the lives of so many more people and reach people who are closeted at home and you will now have an avenue to connect with them.”

Maybe he is ‘right’ for his ‘people’, however, either I do not know how to utilize this elixir of modern communication (this is most likely as I just recently learned how to ‘cut and paste’), or I have ‘lost the moment’.

Meaning, I somehow sense that by the time I joined the ‘Facebook crowd’ it has already become passé, as there seems to be lot’s more new APPs out there which have captured the imagination and time of the ‘in-crowd’.

Whatever, the reason, I have fallen ‘totally on my face’ with regard to Facebook.

Most of the people who are my ‘friends’ and ‘post’, seem to post the most “interesting” things which I can imagine.

Some of my ‘friends’ use Facebook as a resource to find all types of workers, products and services they need which has zero interest for me. (How do I know where to buy a ‘smart phone’? I am still trying to find a ‘smart person’ to help me use my rotary phone!)

Others are constantly posting things about what they do during the day.

For instance, a bunch of people posted videos of themselves in their bathing suits or underwear pouring ice water on their heads or who how they took their kid to the park. (Hey, guess what? I took my kid to the park in Washington Heights 30 years ago and still haven’t told a soul about it and you know what? He got married anyway! Imagine that!)

Hey, if you get your ‘kicks’ from pouring ice water on your head, well, as they say: ‘go for it’; however, why do you want me to know how you look in your underwear with ice water running down your face?

Other times people who I have had nothing to do with for 30 years suddenly started to want to re-connect.

 Nothing wrong with that of course; however, for some (read: most) of them, there was a reason we were not in touch for so many years!

Therefore, for me Facebook has been Face-Flop!

So in the hopes of attempting to find one redeeming usage of this halcyon of social media I will attempt one last time to do something meaningful with it.

I am posting the following question.

How many of you who are reading this- {and assuming most (many? some?) of you are believing and practicing Jews and will be in Shul on Rosh Hashanah which is according to Jewish tradition A Day of Judgment}- are:

1.       Actually in fear or at least worried about the judgment?

2.       Have done some sort of contemplation on how they will persuade the judge to pass a favorable judgment on them?

3.       Looking forward to “their day in court?”

4.       Really not looking forward to the ‘three day Yom Tov’ but are afraid to admit this to anyone lest they think you are not a good frum person?

You do not have to write me your answers (in fact, don’t- unless you really feel the need to) - however, perhaps ask and request an answer to the questions from the most important person you know, namely, yourself.

 

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

The Short Vort’ -"The Principal” (9/15/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 20th of Elul 5774 and September 15, 2014

 

The Principal

 

There are many decisions in a person’s life which are often life altering.

However, one issue which impacts on our children’s lives is the education which we provide for them.

When I met Naftoli Landau (name changed) at a Chasuna last week I was very intrigued by his last name. Although I was the rabbi from the ‘Chosson’s side’, it is always interesting to meet people from all walks of life at Jewish weddings.  And although I realize that quite often they are coming to me because they have no one else who will listen to them; that is my gain and other’s loss.

I immediately asked Naftoli about the name Landau, as that was the name of the Noda B’Yehuda (Rav Yechezkel Landau 1713 –1793). He proudly informs me that he is a ben acher ben (a direct male descendent) of the Noda B’Yehuda.

He then pulls out pictures of his children and I cannot help but notice how his children are all adorned with peyos and large velvet yarmulkes. I look at Naftoli who is clean shaven and wearing a blue shirt and red tie and wonder how his children became Chassidish.

He tells me how he grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 1960s. He was one of those Jews who were sent to public school and had their Jewish education relegated to after school Talmud Torah. He married and soon after his marriage he and wife abandoned Jewish practice and moved to a suburban New Jersey community.

When the couple had their first child, Naftoli and his wife decided that although neither of them was no longer observant at the time, nevertheless, they wanted to give their children some sort of Jewish education.

They attended an open house at a local non-denominational ‘community school’ where the tuition was almost double of the local yeshiva and the clientele was not even exclusively Jewish.

However, the Landau’s felt that since they were not personally observant, this non-denominational school seemed their best choice for the Jewish education of their children.

They were almost ready to enroll their children when as they were leaving the building after being duly impressed by the curriculum, they met the secular studies principal in the hall. Almost without thinking Naftoli Landau said to the principal (who was not Jewish), “This is some impressive school you run here! You have Jewish studies and secular studies of the highest caliber.” The principal looked at the Landaus and remarked, “You are correct; we provide our students with the best education in both Jewish and secular studies. However, do not worry about their future, all of our students, almost without exception attend the best private collegiate prep schools and all of our graduates go on to the finest private colleges and universities this nation has to offer.

Naftoli looked at his wife and immediately said, “We are going to be spending $10,000 a year on Jewish education only to have our kids attend the best college prep schools and lose their entire Jewish identity?”

Naftoli and his wife decided to send their sons to the local Orthodox day school and soon they too returned to full observance. They eventually moved to Brooklyn where their children attended “Heimish” schools. One step led to another and soon his children were firmly entrenched in the Chassidic world of Brooklyn donning peyos and large black velvet yarmulkes.

I looked at Naftoli and asked him if he is proud of his children?

“How could I not be?” he replied. He then added, “And to think this all came about from the off the cuff remark of the non-Jewish secular principal? You never knew through whom Hashem is sending His message. You just have to open your ears to be able to hear it.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Revisiting Dave Gordon Z"L” (9/14/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 19th of Elul 5774 and September 14, 2014

 

Revisiting Dave Gordon Z"L

 

As the final judgment is lurking just ten days away, it is a proper time to reflect and revisit; it is a time to attempt to reevaluate events and actions of the previous year.

As a writer of a spontaneous and at times highly emotional column, namely The Short Vort, there is no doubt that at times words were written too quickly, off the cuff and honestly, just plain wrong.

I could enumerate a number of Short Vorts where the ‘send’ button should never have been pressed; however, such is the nature of the human being and such is the nature of the written word.

There are readers who have felt I was too critical of this group or that Gadol; there are those who felt I was too strong on some issues and those who felt I was not strong enough.

There were readers who were in agreement and readers who were outraged.

There were those who were honored by what I wrote and those who were horrified; however, one point I can say.

I never intentionally set out to hurt or insult any group, individual and certainly never a Talmid Chochom. If I ever inadvertently did, I humbly offer my apologies.

However, there is one particular issue which I do want to revisit.

The reason this subject it being revisited is because of its closeness to my heart in many respects.

This Friday the 24th of Elul, the Yahrtzeit of the Chofetz Chaim is certainly a fitting time to attempt to rectify those transgressions of the spoken and written word which need rectification.

This Friday the 24th of Elul is also the Shloshim of Corporal David Gordon whom I wrote about on Wednesday the 24th of Menachem Av 5774 and August 20, 2014.

Dave Gordon’s death touched me in a deep and personal spot. The story of his abuse at the hands of co-religionists and his inability to achieve justice resonated with me deeply.

Why did his issue resonate so deeply with me?

As an analogy, I know that when I write about the challenges of mental health; those that are sufferers are invariably understanding of the issue.

However, if you (thankfully) have never suffered clinical depression you can never really understand the challenge of those who do suffer from anxiety/depression.

It is the difference between empathy and sympathy.

While sympathy is always possible as it is “acknowledging another person’s emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance”; empathy is much greater. Empathy is: “understanding what others are feeling because you have experienced it yourself or can put yourself in their shoes”.

When I read David’s article about his own personal suffering I became not just touched, I became empathic, and I felt his pain in a very visceral fashion.

However, as I reflect on my visceral reaction to his death, I realize that my empathy caused me to simultaneously cause unintentional pain to those I love, and to them I must apologize and I must do so in the exact same public format where in the pain was caused.

As my beloved son Aryeh Ho has so eloquently stated in his article (See: http://www.aish.com/jw/s/Defending-David-Gordon.html), we do not know how Dave Gordon left this world.

And although every word of the pain which Dave experienced in his life was real, as he himself stated (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-m-gordon/secrets-dont-get-better-with-age-why-im-choosing-leadership-over-secrecy_b_3424110.html)-; however, if that pain was the cause of his death or not is still an undecided issue.

There is no doubt that in my empathic mind which related too intimately than I care to articulate, I made the undetermined conclusion that indeed it was the demons of the past which ultimately took the life of Dave Gordon.

However, the facts are that the cause of his death are still not known in a definitive way and my own visceral pain and my own empathic mind do not justify concluding that which has not been proven or implying that which need not be implied.

In my haste to express my own exasperation and frustration at the lack of movement in our camp at dealing with the pain of victims of pedophilia, I caused pain to those I love; namely to Aryeh and Nomi Ho, Dave’s brother-in law and sister and to his siblings and parents.

The Halacha is very clear that without clear and indisputable proof, no one should ever be assumed to be a victim of their own hand and when I implied otherwise, I was wrong and for that I apologize and I do so unabashedly and publicly; in the exact same venue in which the incorrect and hurtful implication was first published.

Now, mind you, this is no way impacts on the facts of David’s life as sufferer and as a spokesperson for the defenseless victims.

It no way impacts on the lessons we must take in our recognition of the unimaginable pain which victims such as Dave suffer at the hands of molesters. Indeed, this pain is so great, that it immediately led me -because of my intimate awareness of the pain- to perhaps prematurely jump to the conclusion that this was the cause of his death; as indeed, often it is the cause of death.

However, that never gave me the right to make a conclusion which is not to be made or to imply that which is not necessarily true.

And therefore I apologize if in my haste to scream from the roof-tops about the pain and destruction abuse can cause- I myself have caused pain and unneeded agony to the family of Dave Gordon.

When Dave Gordon died the Halacha mandated Shiva and that is all we need to know at present.

Everything else is speculation.

Dave Gordon suffered and his family is suffering and if I added even one iota of pain to their suffering notwithstanding any noble intentions I had in writing the original article, I humbly apologize to them and ask all, most importantly myself to be even more careful and vigilant to write factually and accurately.

To the Gordon’s I offer my apologies and my condolences.

And to everyone else, I encourage all of us to continue Dave’s legacy by keeping our world safe for our children by always being vigilant and on guard.

May Hashem heal all wounds and protect us from being pained and causing pain.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Dating or Duping? (Shidduchim or Shtusim?)” (9/11/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 16th of Elul 5774 and September 11, 2014

 

Dating or Duping? (Shidduchim or Shtusim?)

 

Often I receive phone calls and emails requesting information on a possible Shidduch for someone’s daughter or son or friend.

Eventually the question will be posed, “Are there any health issues in the family?”

Besides the fact that ‘who doesn’t’ have some health issues in their family; there are some strongly held ‘bubba maises’ (urban legends) which although they may have been relevant 50-60 years ago, today with the help of Hashem are totally controllable.

And therefore, I am never comfortable with the question of “Are there any health issues in the family?” Just because I know of an issue with is totally controllable and a ‘no-big-deal’, however, the inquisitor is convinced that it is indeed a ‘real’ issue, am I obligated to inform them?

However, even more frustrating is the amount of effort and the energy expanded to hide or cover up a ‘perceived health issue’, even if the issue only pertains to a relative of the perspective suitor.

Recently I was told of the following incident from a friend who witnessed this dubious deception.

My friend was staying by his Aunt Baila for Shabbos.

Aunt Baila has an adolescent son who has diabetes. Therefore, he must check his blood numerous times during the day including Shabbos.

The device he uses is a compact rectangular unit similar in dimensions to a mobile phone.

One Shabbos, about an hour after he checked his blood, there was a knock on the door. A neighbor came to pay what was ostensibly a friendly Shabbos visit to my friend’s aunt.

In the middle of the visit the neighbor gave out a ‘kvetch’ and solemnly said, “Oy, Baila, I see that no family is immune. Even a Chashuva family such as yours is no longer untainted by the ‘mageipha’ (plague) that has hit so many of our young people.”

Aunt Baila had no idea of what she was talking about and innocently asked, “What are you talking about?” The neighbor looked up and said, “Baila, you don’t have to hide from me; I am your good friend, Fruma Yenta; you can be straight with me. About an hour ago I looked out my window, minding my own business and oy, Hashem Yisborach Shemo wanted me to see something, no doubt to be able to help you.”

The aunt still had no idea what was going on and said, “Fruma Yenta, what are you talking about?”

“Baila, I looked out the window and who do I see?  I see your son Yanky and I see that Rachmana Litzlan, he too has been smitten by the Yetzer Hora. I looked out and saw him, what do the young people call it? Oh yes, I saw him texting on Shabbos! Oy, that I had to see this gefairliche zach (horrible thing)! However, Baila, don’t worry I only told Miriam Esther, Shani, Chanala and Tzippy, and also Shaindel; of course we all agreed that we will support you and will all be there for you in this time of trouble. Oy, Baila, how did it happen? How did it happen?”

Suddenly Baila understood. Her son’s diabetes checking was confused for texting on a cell phone.

Baila had to think fast.

On one hand, her son, who is a good, sweet and frum young man was being accused of being a Mechalel Shabbos (Shabbos desecrator).

On the other hand, if she told Fruma Yenta the truth that her son has diabetes she runs the risk of her two daughters who are ‘in the parsha’ being tainted forever.

(Editor’s note: According to modern medicine: If you have diabetes, there’s no reason that you can’t have a healthy and successful pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. What it does mean is that you will probably have to work closely with your doctor and other healthcare professionals to ensure you manage your diabetes well during your pregnancy.)

Without hesitation, Baila knew what she had to do.

She knew what the correct and proper decision was.

Baila looked at Fruma Yenta and with a serious and mournful face quietly said, “Oy, yes, it is indeed terrible. It hurts my heart that my son texts on Shabbos. Come let’s say a kapitel Tehillim for him and for all those who have lost their way.”

Baila is correct; we desperately need Tehillim for ‘all those who have lost their way’.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"The Picture Worth A Thousand Words” (9/8/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Monday the 13th of Elul 5774 and September 8, 2014

 

The Picture Worth A Thousand Words

 

Lately there has been much fan-fare about ‘Achdus’-unity, which many have claiming has prevailed amongst us over the summer and during the tragedies which befell us.

There are those who have been very self-congratulatory in their assessment of their perceived manifestations of communal unity over the past two months.

However, before the back slapping gets out of hand and before heads swell to messianic proportions, perhaps a proper a more careful and accurate analyses of the situation is needed.

We should first focus on what exactly is unity?

The dictionary defines unity as:

1. The state of being one; oneness.

2. A whole or totality as combining all its parts into one.

3. The state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole; unification.

4. Absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character.

5. Oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement.

Based on these five definitions one cannot deny that the abduction and murder of the three boys in July and the subsequent tragedy of Ahron Sofer in August certainly brought about a sense of ‘harmony or agreement’ in that we were all united in our hope and prayer that each one of these precious Jewish souls would be returned to us unharmed and safe.

Based on that definition there certainly was an “oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons” and assuredly there was a sense of “absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character”, as Shuls and institutions throughout the Jewish world were in ‘uniform character’ as they davened for the three boys and for Aharon Sofer.

However, that only covers the last two of the five definitions.

What about the first three?

1. The state of being one; oneness.

2. A whole or totality as combining all its parts into one.

 3. The state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole; unification.

Did we become ‘one’ in any way other than davening for the safe return of the boys?

Is that enough to be considered as being one?

Were all of our parts ‘combined into one’?

 Did we really all consider ourselves as ‘parts of a whole’?

I presented this question to three individuals whom I respect.

One is a “Brisker” who learnt many years by Rav Avrohom Yehoshua HaLevi Soloveitchik Shlita and is now a prominent Maggid Shiur in America.

The second is a “Mirrer” who besides being a Talmid Chochom who learns most of the day, he is also a successful business man.

The third is an Orthodox psychologist and Talmid Chochom whose children are proud Chareidi yeshiva alumni; some are still ‘learning’ while some are now ‘working’.

All three were in agreement that none felt that the demonstration of tefillah was indicative of any meaningful metamorphosis with regard to the status of unity or disunity Vis a Vis Klal Yisroel.

And despite many well-meaning media pundits who do their best to offer their readership ‘warm and fuzzy’ and ‘all is good’ stories; there was absolutely no change with regard to the divisions within our community.

 Nor did they feel that the communal praying signified anything more than a temporary response to the tragedy of the moment and certainly not an indication of any movement toward reconciliation or greater unity amongst the community.

Sorry to burst bubbles, however, we are in Elul and if was not going to be honest with ourselves now, well, “If Not Now, Then When?”

Mind you, I am not against ‘feel good’ stories; we all need them and they serve a purpose.

However, when the dream fades and the crisis passes and we are still in the same state of unity/disunity as we were before the summer then the eventual communal disappointment will outweigh the perceived ‘Achdus’ promulgated for the sake of ‘feel good’ Judaism.

My insightful friend who is both a Talmid Chochom and a professional psychologist remarked in explaining why he did not perceive the reactions over the summer as indicative of ‘real’ Achdus with the following analogy: Imagine you attend a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. In the final inning the Yankees hit a homerun and surprisingly, the game which seemed lost has now been won by the Yankees.

There are 60,000 people who are on their feet cheering and clapping.

Everyone is dancing and hugging; strangers are embracing.

The bleachers are full of African-Americans, Latin-Americans, Asian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Irish-Americans and all are cheering, clapping giving each ‘high-fives’ and are in joyous celebration.

The next day you open the New York Times, and there in big black font headlines it reads: “New Yorkers Are in Achdus!”

Is that Achdus?

Is the fact that 60,000 are moved by the moment considered Achdus?

No, it is not.

What then is it?

It is many people reacting in the same way to a momentary emotional experience; however, no sane individual would claim that because they celebrated together for a few moments, this varied and diverse group is now considered ‘b’Achdus!

The moment the game ended, everyone boarded the subway and went home; never to see or to interact with the person they hugged and danced with just one hour before!

So too, in the realm of the tragic; we were moved (as we should have been) by the horrific abduction of the three boys.

We were moved to daven for them as we were when he heard that Ahron Sofer went missing.

We responded the way caring Jews responded, we davened and we gave Tzedoka.

However, once the fate of the boys was known and once Ahron Sofer’s body was discovered, everyone boarded their own ‘spiritual subway’ and went back to their lives.

No one is changing their hat or their dress; Chassidim did not join Dati-Leumi yeshivas and Kippa Sruga wearers did not run to purchase Shtreimlach.

Was there caring and compassion? Yes for sure!

Was there communal concern and prayer? Indeed!

Is all that positive? Of course!

However, is that indicative per se of ‘Achdus’?

That I highly question.

Please don’t get me wrong; I am not minimizing the caring and the communal tefillos.

 However, I am attempting to provide a ‘reality check’ and not to let something relatively ‘minor’ and ‘expected’ to be elevated to the holy and ethereal to the point of where we may be suffering from communal hubris!

What then is Achdus?

Why is the fact that Jews davened for Jews not considered ‘real’ Achdus?

Here I must give credit where credit is due and I publicly thank Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz for a most inspirational article he wrote in Elul of 5770 (Friday, August 13, 2010).

In the article Rav Lipschutz prepares us for Rosh Hashanah by brilliantly stating:

 We need to live for others. We need to become involved with the klal, doing things that we do not necessarily enjoy, even performing acts that we may think are beneath our dignity. The more people need us, the more sunshine and happiness we bring into the world and spread around, the more reason there is for Hashem to keep us here.

Meaning, being a part of the klal ‘the whole’ is the main focus of Elul.

And then Rav Lipschutz defines the true meaning of Achdus:

The challenge of achdus is to subordinate your selfish inclinations and conquer your hubris so that you can work with others for the common good.

What we really need to achieve Achdus is for us as individuals and as communities to “subordinate our selfish inclinations and conquer our hubris so that we can work with others for the common good”.

We talk about Achdus while in reality everyone one of us is sure we have the correct path and the other person and/or community is either just plain wrong (at best) or heretical (at worst)!

As Rav Lipschutz goes on to state:

 “The Botei Mikdosh were destroyed because we lacked achdus and judged others with a jaundiced eye. To merit the redemption, we have to overcome the temptation to judge people cynically and belittle others who are different, based on superficial, false notions.”

Achdus is not achieved by responding properly to common tragedies (although it is a start).

Real Achdus requires ‘subordination of our inclinations’ and by ceasing to judge people “based on superficial, false notions!”

Yes, we did merit seeing a small step toward Achdus over the summer; however as Rav Moshe Wolfson Shlita pointed out:

“Achdus, achdus,” the Mashgiach repeated. “The entire Klal Yisrael, no matter who they are, participated in tefillah, had a deep interest. This achdus should persist. We shouldn’t let go of it.”

If we really want to take the small window of Achdus which was opened just a crack this summer and capitalize on it, we must force the window wide open with real and concrete steps of meaningful togetherness and unity between Jewish groups.

What steps should this Achdus take?

How should it manifest itself?

That is a difficult question.

However, here is one example of the ‘real’ Achdus which I believe Hashem expects and wants of us:

Yoeli and Steven were an unlikely pair.

Yoeli lived in Williamsburg and worked as a plant manager for a factory near Passaic.

Steven was a stock broker who lived in Passaic.

Yoeli began to daven at my Shul when he realized that if he left before 6 AM he could avoid traffic.

One day he was looking for a place to sit, Steven informed him that the seat next to him was free.

After a month of davening near each other Yoeli asked Steve if they could learn together.

Steven readily agreed and soon the sounds of Torah were being heard from the corner of the Beis Medrash.

They were “The Odd Couple”. Steven grew up in Queens, attended Yeshiva University and had earned a MBA from Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania and was a proud Religious Zionist. Yoeli, on the other hand, grew up in Williamsburg, did not have a high school diploma; yet, ran a multi-million dollar company dealing with everything from production through delivery.

He was schooled in Satmar Hashkafa and had minimal involvement in the outside world. However, Torah is Torah and after a while I was invited to a Siyum which was held at Steven’s house attended by Yoeli and his family.

As the months went by, through the sweetness of Torah, the two were fast becoming good friends; and that is when they approached me.

They had both heard and felt the ‘achdus’ which was generated with the abduction and murder of the three boys.

 “Rabbi, this feeling of achdus; we cannot let it slip away. “What can we do to continue and build on this wonderful feeling of unity which was generated? How can we continue and enhance the Achdus?”

I looked at the Yoeli with his Yiddish accented English; and I looked at Steven with his Ivy League command of the language and I thought about their wonderful friendship.

 “You both want to really to take a giant leap ahead with Achdus, correct?” They both nodded vigorously.

“Are you really prepared to be avant-garde?” (I had to explain to Yoeli what avant-garde was).

They both readily agreed.

“How about you spend a few minutes of each day learning the following in addition to your Gemara learning? Each day spend ten minutes learning the Torah thoughts (Chiddushim) of the Satmar Rebbe Zt”l on the sugya (topic) you are discussing and the next day learn the novella of Rav Soloveitchik Zt”l on the same Sugya.”

They were both a little shocked as neither had ever been exposed to the other’s Rebbe. However, they wanted Achdus, so somewhat cautiously they agreed.

Fast forward to just before Yom Kippur.

They are both excited. Yoeli never realized the depth of thought of Rav Soloveitchik and Steven never knew how great a Talmid Chochom the Satmar Rebbe was!

They invited me to their next siyum which would take place at Yoeli’s house in Williamsburg.

I arrived and was treated to a wonderful meal filled with achdus and kinship.

However, I was never prepared for what happened at the end of the Siyum.

Yoeli announced that he had purchased a special gift for Steven.

Simultaneously, Steven announced he too had a present for Yoeli.

As Steven opened his gift he saw that Yoeli had given him a framed portrait of the Satmar Rebbe.

And as Yoeli opened his, he received a framed picture of Rav Soloveitchik.

Each one of them beamed as they lovingly held up their newly discovered Gadol picture.

Suddenly Yoeli took his portrait of Rav Soloveitchik and affectionately placed on a shelf right next to the Satmar Rebbe.

And as we all watched in silence as Yoeli set the picture in its place, the footsteps of Mashiach could be heard coming just a little bit closer.

 

Did this story really happen?

Could it really happen?

Or is it a fantastical fairy tale?

My friends, the answer to this question is ready and waiting for you in your heart; you just have to want to find it.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Why Are You Here?” (9/5/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Friday the 10th of Elul 5774 and September 5, 2014

 

Why Are You Here?

 

Often when people come to my office I am mystified as to why they want to see me.

When couples come asking me for marital advice, I remind them that I have no accreditation, or qualifications which indicate I possess any expertise in human relations; and there is no reason to assume my advice is better than anyone else’s.

When parents come asking for my opinion related to educational matters regarding their children, I assure them that I am not expert in the field of Jewish education.

When singles come to my office asking me if I approve of their potential Shidduch prospect, I shudder in fear and trepidation. I am not cognizant of any prophetic powers which would indicate me being a reliable predictor as to the success of the marriage.

And when congregants ask me to explain the reasons and rationale for their troubles and tribulations, I am often more at a loss to explain life’s challenges than they are.

In short, I am sincerely and totally baffled as to why people seek my advice; as I am unaware of any divinely designated distinction which grants me license to dispense sagacious advice.

And therefore, when I can be a ‘clearing house’ for referrals to trained marital therapists, and for educational experts and for veteran matchmakers; I am satisfied that I have done my job well.

It is only when my head begins to swell and my hat feels tight on my head that I become concerned that I will misinterpret the congregant’s need not for what it really is, namely, a request for a professional reference; but, as a false sign of validation of me that I am equipped to deal with that which I am unqualified and dispense advice and suggest solutions to problems which are way beyond my purview.

However, there are exceptions.

Shimon Graber (name changed) was married for over 40 years. At first glance he had a perfectly happy marriage. However, I learned very early on in the rabbinate that: “any resemblance between one’s outward appearance and their internal reality is purely coincidental”.

To put it mildly, Shimon was not happily married.

From the beginning there was tension.

However, back then marriages continued if nothing else for the children.

When he came to see me, Shimon had just retired at the age of 70; there was no question of divorce; after all, they were married for 40 years.

And there was no question of going for therapy.

His wife would never hear of it and Shimon himself was too tired and worn out for therapy anyway.

So every Tuesday after Shacharis Shimon would drop my office for a schmooze.

He would begin with a question but invariably the conversation would gravitate to his dysfunctional marriage.

They were together for so many years; yet, they had shared so many tears.

He felt trapped and was in pain; however, he was also resigned to his lot in life.

There was no therapist whom I could refer Shimon to; this was his life and so it would be.

One Tuesday morning I asked Shimon, “Why do you keep coming every Tuesday? I have not offered you one bit of sound advice to alleviate your suffering; why do you keep coming?”

Shimon looked at me somewhat surprised and simply answered, “Rabbi, you know very well why I come; because you are the only one who listens to me. Just to have someone non-judgmental listen to me is the greatest help you can do for me. I don’t need a therapist; however, I do need a friend who listens and cares and for that I come.”

I sat there in silence and continued to do what I do best, I listened; and inside I cried.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"“I Just Need To Be Listened To”” (9/2/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Tuesday the 7th of Elul 5774 and September 2, 2014

 

“I Just Need To Be Listened To”

 

Often when you are on the phone with someone nowadays, you are unsure if the person on the other end of the line is really listening to you or not.

Sometimes you can hear the little pitter patter of their fingers typing away at the keyboard as you are talking to them.

Other times, it seems as if the person is talking to another person who is with them simultaneously as you are attempting to talk to them.

One of the most challenging conversations is when you are talking to a man or a woman and they are watching their children.

Too often as I endeavor to talk to a father (or mother) who is attempting to tend to his flock while asking me for advice or a halachik question, I am frustrated by the lack of attention he is giving to both the children and to me.

As I say, “Well the meat has to be discarded…” he says in the background, “Yanky, stop jumping on your brother or I will have to ‘time you out’.”

At that point I will say, “Reuvain, maybe we should talk later when you are not preoccupied with the children?”

Unfortunately, Reuvain will too often answer, “Oh no, Rabbi, this is fine; let’s continue… Leahla, put down that knife right now, you can hurt someone! Rabbi, like I said I am with you all the way… Leahla, I am not going to ask you again.”

I begin to plead with the father, “Look, call me whenever you are free. I will clear my phone lines and my calendar for you…however, now seems to be neither fair to your children or to me.”

“Rabbi, no please you have my undivided attention, I am totally with you. Now you said the meat from the Chulent which the baby’s bottle fell in can be eaten for Shabbos?”

“No, I did not.  In fact what said was…”

“Rabbi, just one second… Yechiel, I told you many times not to pour your juice on your sister’s head, now she is full of apple juice! Yechiel, go to your room and say tehillim for 10 minutes.”

I am getting pretty exasperated, however, he insists…

“So about your meat, you cannot eat it as the baby’s bottle was milchig and there was not 60 times the amount…”

“One more second Rabbi, sorry; Leahla, thank you for putting down the knife, however, take it out of the garbage and put it back in the drawer. I know that you think putting your hand in the garbage pail is icky and yucky; however, you put the knife in there in the first place! Ok, Rabbi, so the meat needs to be washed with the bottle, correct? That’s what you are saying, right?”

I am desperate now; the father is not listening to me or paying attention to his kids.

The kitchen is becoming treif; the children are beating each other up and if I hang up the father will post on his Facebook account that Rabbi Eisenman is a mean and inattentive Rabbi.

I am my wits end.

Finally in total desperation in order to change the subject and in the hope of having Reuvain realize that this conversation is totally unproductive I ask, “By the way, how are your parents? I have not seen them for a while. Last time they were here I was in LA; how are they?”

“Leahla, I am counting to three and you must put your hand in the icky garbage to get back the knife… Oh, yes, Rabbi, my parents, yes, they like you so much.”

At this point I am reaching the breaking point. I am spent and at the end of my rope.

I know it is wrong and I know it borders on “gallows humor”, and I know it is un-rabbinic…however, to finally prove to myself that this entire conversation is a waste of time for all parties involved and because my level of frustration is off the charts…I finally blurt out, “I have not seen your parents for so long they must think I have died? Correct?

Without missing a beat the overwhelmed and overworked father who already has ‘far too many balls in the air’, answers me without missing a beat, “Of course they do rabbi, and they are so excited about it!”

What did he think I said?  

I can only conjecture; however, I knew at that point, our conversation was counter-productive at best and outright insane at worst and finally I excused myself and said good bye.

Moral of the story: “Don’t talk on the phone and take care of your kids (or drive, type, answer emails…) as you are not giving either party the attention they deserve.”

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"Righting the Wrong” (8/31/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Sunday the 5th of Elul 5774 and August 31, 2014

 

Righting the Wrong

 

Today in 1935 Rav Avraham Yitzchok HaKohen Kook Zt”l passed away.

His actual Yahrtzeit was on the third of Elul (which was Friday), however, the secular date that year was August 31, 1935.

Rav Kook who lived from 1865-1935 was the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine in the twentieth century.

He was a great Talmudic scholar, halachik adjudicator, teacher, thinker and a compassionate and kind and beloved Rav.

Many of his followers study his works and attempt to emulate his personality as seen through his teachings and his students.

However, the tragedy of Rav Kook Zt”l is that through a ‘revisionism’ of the past and because of those who resort to Orwellian techniques to rewrite history, many average Frum Jew when they hears the name of Rav Kook the image which pops up in their mind is a sandal wearing, perhaps guitar strutting ‘semi-observant’ ‘rabbi’ who might be sporting Bermuda shorts and whose Talmudic learning is limited to reading translated portions of Gemara in English while trimming his fashionable goatee and wearing a bottle-cap size yarmulke covering his right ear as it tips precipitously off his head.

He is too often portrayed as a Rav who interested in finding all types of questionable halachik leniencies which have minimal if any halachik substance.

He is thought of as a cavalier and careless rabbi who vacillated between true Orthodoxy and those other denominations whose halachik acceptability is shaky at best.

However, worst of all, is the fact that outright untruths and vicious lies have been promulgated about him that during his life time, the ‘true’ and authentic Torah leaders of his time distanced themselves from him and dismissed him as second rate rabbi of no consequence.

One gets the impression after listening to these revisionists that if we would be transported back to Yerushalayim of the 1920s we would find Rav Kook surrounded by a cadre of secular followers with maybe a handful of lukewarm Orthodox ignoramuses sitting and half listening to his farfetched and perhaps semi-heretical ideas about Torah and Judaism.

People have disseminated the ‘fact’ that the real ‘Gedolim’ of Eretz Yisroel had no contact with this ‘radical’ and they will even claim that his books were banned because of their heretical content.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

And this is a ‘wrong’ which must be ‘righted’!

Let me be clear, I do not study too often his works because of their difficult and what I find almost cryptic language.

Let me also disclose from the outset, that my Rabbeim rarely used his Seforim as his scholarly approach to Talmud and Jewish thought was clearly not your standard Lithuanian bent.

His approach certainly bordered more on the Chassidic and on the Kabbalistic and neither of these important disciplines were part and parcel of your typical Lithuanian styled yeshiva curriculum in which all of my Rabbeim were educated in (and are still not).

So therefore, I am not advocating the study of his works per se, as I am no equipped to make that determination.

However, what I am advocating is the following.

Irrespective of his unique and semi-Chassidic/Kabbalistic approach to Torah and Judaism one wrong must be righted.

And that is the clear and unchallenged fact that he was considered in his lifetime as a true and authentic Gadol.

Indeed, ‘the righting of this wrong’ is one of greatest testimonials to truth that a person can contribute to today’s misunderstanding of this great and beloved and respected Gadol HaDor.

Please do not take my word on the issue.

Please allow his ‘peers’ to do the talking for me and then you can decide on your own.

Here is a list of ten ‘authentic’ Gedolim and what they said or wrote about Rav Kook Zt”l.

1.       The Imrei Emes

(HaRav Avraham Mordechai Alter (25 December 1866 – 3 June 1948), also known as the Imrei Emes, was the third Rebbe of the Hasidic dynasty of Ger, a position he held from 1905 until his death in 1948. He was one of the founders of the Agudas Israel in Poland and was influential in establishing a network of Jewish schools there. It is claimed that at one stage he led over 200,000 Hasidim. Wikipedia)

He refers to Rav Kook as an “Ish HaEshkolos” which is a title reserved for someone who contains ‘everything’ (Torah, Mishna, Talmud, and Aggadah). (See Shir HaShirim Raba 1:60).

It is title given to some who has Torah, Middos and Chesed (see T.B Temurah 15a and T.B. Sota 47b). It is a title reserved for Moshe Rabbeinu and Rabbi Akiva!

 And it is the title which the Gerrer Rebbe referred to Rav Kook with in an open letter to his Chassidim in 1924 (page 78 “Osef Mechtavim of Admor M’Ger”)

2.       Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski : "Our friend, the Gaon, our master and teacher, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, shlita" and "The Glory of Honor, My Dear Friend, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon, Ha-Gadol, the Famous One… The Prince of Torah, Our Teacher, Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Kohen Kook Shlit”a..."

3.       Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz: "The true Gaon, the beauty and glory of the generation, the tzaddik, his holiness, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak, may his light shine, may he live for length of good days and years amen, the righteous Kohen, head of the beis din [court] in Jerusalem, the holy city, may it soon be built and established"

4.       Rav Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn of Lubavitch: "The Gaon who is renowned with splendor among the Geonim of Ya’akov, Amud HaYemini, Patish HaChazak..."

5.       Rav Chatzkel Abramsky: "The honored man, beloved of Hashem and his nation, the rabbi, the Gaon, great and well-known, with breadth of knowledge, the glory of the generation, etc., etc., our master Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, shlita, Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel and the head of the Beis Din in the holy city of Jerusalem"

6.       Rav Yitzchok Hutner: "The glorious honor of our master, our teacher and rabbi, the great Gaon, the crown and sanctity of Israel, Maran [our master] Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, shlita!"

7.       Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer and Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein: "Our honored friend, the great Gaon and glory of the generation, our master and teacher, Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen, shlita"

8.       The Brisker Rov- Rav Yitzchok Zev HaLevi Soloveitchik: “To his honor the Rav, the great and famous Gaon, and the honor of the generation…Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim…”

9.       The Satmar Rebbe- Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum- When asked why he refused to meet with Rav Kook- the Rebbe answered: “I certainly won’t be able to influence him, and on the contrary, I am afraid that he might influence me.”  (The Rebbe; Rabbi Dovid Meisels; page 43).

From this honest admission from the Satmar Rebbe we see how even he realized how great and persuasive and what erudition Rav Kook possessed as the Satmar Rebbe was not known as a man to back away from his position.

(One has to question how honestly the Satmar believed in his own worldview if he refused to meet with someone who would and ostensibly could change his entire worldview; however, that is for another discussion.)

10.   Rav Zvi Pesach Frank – Rav of Yerushalayim. As is well known Rav Frank was active in establishing the office of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and was instrumental in appointing Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook as the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi.

I believe these  ten Gedolim speak for all of us (or certainly should) in establishing the fact that even if many of the aforementioned Gedolim did not necessarily embrace the views of Rav Kook, nevertheless, they respected him and accepted him as their peer and their fellow Gadol.

If there is one aspect of Teshuva we can all engage in during this month of Elul as we prepare for the Day of Judgment and we all desire to be judged fairly, let’s begin by ‘judging’ someone who deserves the reverence and admiration that our teachers and great Torah leaders accorded him during his life time.

It is high time that all of us when we mention the name of Rav Kook we should do it with the same love and respect we show to all the Gedolim of the last generation.

In the merit of ‘righting this wrong’ and judging he who truly deserves respect and love and reverence ‘fairly’, may Hashem judge all of us with compassion and mercy.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort’ -"The Brocha” (8/27/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Today is Thursday the 2nd of Elul 5774 and August 28, 2014

 

The Brocha

 

For those who felt that Tuesday’s Vort was a little on the long side (1,802 words!)- Today I will keep it a “Short Vort”. (Less than 370 words!)

I was at a Vort tonight -a real Vort- you know like when a couple gets engaged?

Anyway, as I am walking up the pathway to the house I hear Bochur A say to Bochur B, “Wow, you got a brocha from Rav Ploni?” Bochur B proudly answers, “Yes, and it was difficult, however, it was well worth it.”

At that point, I could not just walk by and mind my own business.

I looked at the two of them and asked, “Whose Brochos are you talking about?”

 Bochur A looks at me and says we are talking about Rabbi Ploni- his brochus are so gevaldig they are for sure going to come true. I would run to Eretz Yisroel right now just to get a brocha from him.”

I looked at Bochur A- in one hand he held a bottle of beer and in the other hand he had clinched between his fingers a proven carcinogenic which he kept inhaling into his young and impressionable lungs.

I said, “Would you like a real brocha for long life? One that is sure to work better than the Brocha of anyone else?”

“Of course I would” He said as he leaned closer to me to hear the brocha.

As I backed off so not to inhale the carcinogenic, I looked at him and said, here is the brocha, “You will have a definitive better chance of living a longer life if you stop smoking! Stop smoking and Hashem will most probably ‘bless’ you with a longer life.”

I turned and went into the house while wondering why would someone rely on a Brocha which maybe works and maybe doesn’t work while something which is proven to be detrimental to one’s health this Bochur would embrace out of his own free will??

Strange world out there.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

  

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

"Yes, Virginia, the Rabbi does take a nap

 

Part One-

The Sleepy Rabbi

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The child nodded.

“Is anyone sick?” the rabbi prodded.

“No” came the reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Part Two- Two Endings

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Part Three- The Ending According to Me

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this true?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rabbi should be respected not revered.

He should be admired without adoration.

He should be valued without being venerated.

He should be honored without needing to pay him homage.

And he should be esteemed, however, never exalted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lionizing and idolizing of rabbis has its drawbacks.

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

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

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

You see, I do not live on a pedestal.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Epilogue

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

  

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

The Kaddish

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph returned to Passaic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That person needs friendship and companionship.

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

  

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

Yesterday

 

Yesterday I cried; a lot.

But I also smiled.

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

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

As they constrict the pain becomes unbearable and I write.

Writing is my escape route and simultaneously my entry point.

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

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

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

And yet I write.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Mom says Splenda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

 

 

 

  

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

In Memory of Corporal David Menachem Gordon Z”l

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave was no longer among the missing.

He was not a casualty of Hamas.

There was no freak or unexplained vehicular accident.

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

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

Dave was somewhat of a celebrity among ‘Survivors’.

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

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

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

His wounds are my wounds and his struggles are mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The letter was from Passaic!

He knew Passaic, his sister lived there.

And as he read on, more connections followed.

The writer (Mrs. Shaina Worthman) wrote:

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

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

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

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

 

Dave knew me.

He had eaten in my home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I certainly want and need to think so.

I will never see Dave again.

I will never dance with him again.

We will never hug again.

Ultimately he wrote his own final and fitting epitaph.

On June 12, 2013 Dave wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave, I will miss you.

I loved you and I will miss you.

I will miss your courage and your courageousness.

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

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

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

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

We saw it Dave and we ignored it.

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

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

Dave, you could not change the world alone.

However, together we will make a difference.

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

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

I know you need no longer worry about escaping.

Rest my dear friend, rest.

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

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

It is now up to us to continue.

I love you Dave.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

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

 

An Ode to His Majesty and His Holiness

 

It is a long overdue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Who is “He”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

The Great Equalizer

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened to respect and tolerance at that point?

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

Do you still maintain your familial love?

That my friend is the real question.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”-Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

Rabbi Yosef Raksin Hy”D.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did he even say “Good Shabbos” to them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did he chide his children for being tardy?

What tone of voice did he employ?

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

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

 

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

“I’ll Let You Go Now”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I looked at him and wanted to say:

 “Are you for real?

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

Look, why can’t you tell the truth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll tell you why!

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

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

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

How will the person react then?

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

You Never Know

 

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

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

The Chuppahs are an hour apart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

 

 

  

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

Ahuva’s Blanket

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I innocently asked, “What is a blankie?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

She needed her Zaidy to commiserate with her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

Inverted Compassion

 

I received a phone call today.

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

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

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

The caller then clarified the reason for the call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

This is obviously what the Gadol HaDor meant.

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

And you should go touring and lots of it!

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

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

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

Support the economy and the restaurants.

Go to a hospital to visit wounded soldiers.

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

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

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

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

You will never regret it.

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

 


The Short Vort


 


Good Morning!


 

 


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


 

 


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


 

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

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

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

 


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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you feel?

How would you cope?

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

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

Feel their pain when you drink your coffee today.

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

 

 


“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel


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

 

  

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

To Live and to Die

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever seen a funeral of an Israeli soldier?

The coffin is draped in an Israeli flag.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

The Peaceful Man

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

How Long Do I Have to Wait?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is that Mosihele?”

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

I looked at Moishele as tears rolled down my cheeks.

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

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”-Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

Special Edition

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

 

The Battle of the Bulge

 

Dear Shorty Vorty,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indeed, I had succeeded in losing over 100 pounds.

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

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

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

It bothers me and causes me much pain and humiliation.

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

However, can I ask of you just one favor?

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

Do you really think I don’t know?

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I have a problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your consideration and stay well and healthy.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

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

*(Yalkut Shimoni Shir HaShirim: 993)

 

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

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

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

However, yesterday’s comments demand dissemination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their families would manage that evening on tuna.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Tonight we are one people.

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

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

 

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

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

The Most Powerful Shabbos Teshuva Drosha ever given.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was an honest and sincere and esteemed Talmid Chochom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

The Sadness of Life

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

Why is This July 15th different from all others?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

What is that difference and how do these incidents differ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, we fast today.

Yes, we are sad today.

And of course we daven for our brethren in Israel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

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

The Short Vort- “ FYSH* (7/13/14)

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

FYSH

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what was Mordy coming to see me about?

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

“Rabbi, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure, ask whatever you want!”

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

I pressed him for details.

“Here is what I instituted in my house.

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

And then all is forgotten and all is calm.

 So Rabbi, I wanted to know is that alright?

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

Is it permissible to add on this additional minhag?”

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

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

“Rabbi, don’t you get it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Morris and Ida had two children.

Their oldest, Sarah was born in 1940.

Their son, Shmuel, was born in 1942.

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

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

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

However, it was not to be.

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

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

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

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

 Eventually, they were blessed with a child.

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

They never made it financially in America.

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

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

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

Sam and Hindi invited me to attend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They had few material possessions and no savings.

Morris suddenly asked to speak.

“Ida, I have to apologize to you.

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

I promised you diamonds.

 Unfortunately, I never bought you even one small diamond.

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

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

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

Ida rose to respond.

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

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

You gave me precious memories which are worth much more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

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

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

The Short Vort

Good Morning!

 

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

 

True Fanaticism

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May Hashem bring true Shalom to Eretz Yisroel speedily and in our times.

 

“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ