Posted on | May 21, 2013 | By Rabbi Yakov Horowitz | Add Your Comments
For over a decade, our staff members at Project YES have been counseling the immediate family members of teenagers and/or adults who are no longer observant (commonly referred to as OTD “Off the Derech” [Derech is the Hebrew word for path]).
In nearly all instances, we very strongly advise parents and siblings to maintain close relationships with their OTD family member and we have found that to be the best course of action on many levels. (See our December 2007 Essay in Mishpacha Magazine Should We Keep Our At-Risk Child At Home? for more on this.)
Of all the challenges to the family unit that are generated when an adult member goes OTD, perhaps the most stressful and potentially damaging scenario is when a father or mother of children who are school-age or younger becomes non-observant. If it takes the wisdom of King Solomon to resolve custody and visitation issues of children whose parents are on the same page religiously, just imagine how complex the situation becomes when the two parents have very differing views.
Over the past few weeks, Project YES has been exploring the possibility of conducting invitation-only meetings/workshops with family members faced with situations similar to those described above. We reached out to both frum and OTD parents who are engaged in these types of custody battles, a family court judge and two attorneys and feel that real progress can be made moving forward if all parties remain flexible and keep the children’s needs in mind above all else.
If you are interested in attending a meeting/workshop of this nature and live in the metro New York area, kindly drop us an email at email@example.com. Someone from our office will get back to you and all correspondence will be treated in the strictest confidence.
We hope this initiative will help more children and adults lead happy and productive lives. Please pass this on to anyone who might benefit from this.
Director, Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES
P.S. For more background………………..
In February 2009 we posted the article Shlomo Hamelech For A Day asking our readers for their thoughts on the matter of custody when one spouse is no longer observant. If we needed proof that this was an important issue that needed to be addressed, we got it very quickly from the 12,000+ views that piece generated and the 131 comments posted by our readers.
Comment #25 on the thread was written by “Tortured Dad” – the non-observant father who originally contacted me. Read his post and many of the others to better understand the complexity of this matter.
In response, I posted Comment #30 on the thread “Introducing You to Tortured Dad” and #77 & #79 on “Arranged Marriages.” Noted therapist Dr. Benzion Twerski wrote a number of posts that are worthy of review (#71, 80, 86, 105 & 114.)
The matter of Adults at Risk is one that has been on the radar of Project YES for many years now. The first of the 40+ essays we ran in Mishpacha Magazine The Chinuch Challenges of Our Generation alluded to it, and it was addressed in subsequent columns we published in Mishpacha and The Jewish Press over the past few years: Exit Interviews, All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go, Running Out Of Time (see the many links there). We also wrote Risk Factors for At-Risk Teens to inform parents of the leading risk factors for kids/adults abandoning religion from our vantage point.
We hope you find this content educational and helpful.
Posted on | May 20, 2013 | By Guest Contributor | 15 Comments
Jonathan Rosenblum has a great column this week called the The Feminist Story the Media Missed at the Kotel. He chronicles the planned peaceful prayer gathering of women and girls across the national religious-haredi spectrum that occurred on Rosh Chodesh Sivan.
Neither Peskin nor Aharoni are mainstream haredi. Peskin, 25, home schools her three young children, teaches women how to forage for edible food growing wild, and runs a website called Penniless Parenting, on how to keep down the family food budget, which receives 60-70,000 hits worldwide a month.
In response to the boast of WoW founder Susan Aranoff that WoW seeks to liberate haredi women so that they can “function religiously . . . without the ‘help’ of men,” Peskin describes her religious journey from her modern Orthodox upbringing in Cleveland to “quasi-chareidi” — i.e., strict in halachic observance, a cross between “Litvak” and Chassidic,” accepting of people from different backgrounds, and open to the outside world — including a rebellious teenage period of no observance in between. Her religious search forced her to become financially independent at 17.
Of her current life, she writes, “It was a path I chose, and fought lots of obstacles to get there. I don’t live this way because I haven’t witnessed alternatives. I’ve witnessed them and rejected them, and made the choice to live as I do because I find it the most meaningful type of life for me. Implying that I’m doing what I do merely because I’m subjugated by men is insulting to me, insulting my intelligence, insulting to the men I love, and insulting to the entire population of Chareidi women. . . . I don’t need you to rescue me. . . .”
Aharoni is firmly in the national religious camp, and makes her living as a business consultant helping “female business owners create more income doing work they love.” She too traveled a long religious path from her native Soviet Union – a path that started in a Reform Temple and included a period of time in the congregation of Rabbi Avi Weiss, a leading figure in Orthodox feminism.
She finds “the epitome of misogyny,” in WoW’s “rejection of the feminine Jewish experience.” “There is nothing more demeaning to women than positioning the male experience as the only one worth living and setting up women for an ongoing game of catch-up. . . . I have liberated myself from the need to predicate my identity on becoming ‘one of the boys.”
Read R’ Rosemblum’s whole article to get more inspiration and a deeper appreciation of these two amazing women.
Posted on | May 14, 2013 | By Administrator | Add Your Comments
Posted on | May 13, 2013 | By Administrator | 4 Comments
 The Highest Wisdom also decreed to give Israel additional sanctity by granting them holy days other than Shabbos, when the Jew receives various levels of holiness. None of these holy days, however, have as much Influence and sanctity as Shabbos.
The degree to which a person must abstain from worldly occupations on these days depends on the level of their Influence. Various types of work are therefore forbidden on many of these days.
Yom Kippur is the highest of these holy days, and therefore the prohibition against work is the most severe.
Below this are the other festivals, and on a still lower level, their intermediate days (Choi ha-Mo’ed).
Lower yet is the New Moon (Rosh Chodesh), when only women abstain from work.
Finally, there are Chanukah and Purim, when work is not curtailed at all. On Chanukah thanks are offered, and in addition to this, Purim is a time of joy. All these levels depend on the particular sustenance granted, which is the spiritual Light that shines on that particular day.
 Besides the sanctification that exists to various degrees depending on the holiness of each particular day, there is another concept that is specific to each one.
On each of these special days, something happened whereby at this time a great rectification was accomplished and a great Light shone. The Highest Wisdom decreed that on every anniversary of this period, a counterpart of its original Light should shine forth, and the results of its rectification renewed to those who accept it.
We are therefore commanded to observe Pesach with all its rituals to recall the Exodus. At the time of the Exodus, we experienced an extremely great rectification, and therefore, on the anniversary of this event, there shines forth a Light that parallels the one that illuminated us then. Since the results of that rectification are renewed in us, we are obliged to keep all these rituals.
Shavuos likewise involves a great rectification, since it is the time when the Torah was given.
Sukkos involves the Clouds of Glory, as it is written (Vayikra 23:43), “That future generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in sukkos Even though this is not celebrated on the anniversary of the Exodus, the Torah set a time that is appropriate for its commemoration.
Chanukah and Purim also involve this same concept. The is true of the days mentioned in the Scroll of Fasts (Me. Ta’anis). These were annulled, however, because the could not abide by them, and were therefore exempted commemorating them to stimulate their original light.
Translation from the Way of G-d – Feldheim
Here are the dates and approximate year of the Yomim Tovim
3924 BCE – Creation of the physical universe
3924 BCE – Creation of man: – Rosh Hoshana (1st of Tishrei)
3924 BCE – Rest from Creation – Shabbos
1476 BCE – Exodus from Egypt – Passover – 1st day (15th of Nissan)
1476 BCE – Splitting of Red Sea – Passover – last day (22th of Nissan)
1476 BCE – Receiving Torah at Mount Sinai – Shavuos (6th of Sivan)
1476 BCE – Golden Calf & Breaking of 1st Tablets- (17th of Tammuz)
1476 BCE – Second Set of Tablets – Yom Kippur (10th of Tishrei)
1476 BCE – Return of Clouds of Protection – Succos (15th of Tishrei)
Posted on | May 9, 2013 | By Administrator | Add Your Comments
The Black-Hat Underground – a Community of Creative Charedi Baalei Teshuva
Posted on | May 8, 2013 | By Administrator | 4 Comments
In common parlance, a BT is someone who became observant later in life. By that measurement, once a BT, always a BT. This usually means that we have to handle delicate situations with non-frum relatives, have lived a more secular life at some point, and we made a clear choice to become Torah Observant.
Another factor that makes you a BT, is that a some point you were deficient in Torah knowledge. This deficiency can be overcome, and it’s always a marvel to look at Rabbi Akiva and the 24 years he spent learning intensely, on his road to becoming perhaps the great Halachic Authority in the past 2,000 years. Of course we don’t need to learn exclusively for 24 years, but if we want to learn at high levels of Torah understanding, we have to make great efforts and put in a lot of time.
The third BT factor that comes to mind is integration into the community. To some, the ability to make people think you’re not a BT, as long as you don’t talk in learning, is a great worthwhile accomplishment. Others feel that as long as you’re a well functioning member of your community, it doesn’t matter if people know you’re a BT. Whereas others are proud to be a BT with all the accomplishment and positive growth orientation it brings. They’re not looking over their shoulders worrying about what others think.
So, are you still a BT?
Will you be comfortable if you’re known to be a BT your entire life?
Are you working on diminishing any aspects of your BT-ness?
Posted on | May 7, 2013 | By David Linn | 4 Comments
Years back, as I was beginning to become more observant, I had the opportunity to learn for a few months at a Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. I was fortunate to have found a chavrusah who was a great guy and at a similar stage in life; becoming more observant, thirsting for growth while struggling to maintain balance. We would learn Hilchos Brochos together, play soccer and trade our inchoate philosophical insights late into the night.
We both returned home to the States shortly before Succos that year. Not long after, he called to ask me to join him for the last days of yom tov at a family friend in Monsey. I gladly agreed.
As newly minted Baalei Teshuvah, we were quite concerned that our lulavim be well protected during the long bus ride from Port Authority in Manhattan to Monsey. We gingerly wrapped our respective lulavim in a manner that we hoped would provide proper cushioning. We cringed at each jostling of the crowd and we silently prayed that our carefully selected specimen would not be damaged or, worse, rendered unusable. Upon reaching Monsey, we carefully disembarked with our precious cargo and when we finally reached our host’s home we were both proud and relieved that we had protected our lulavim throughout the journey.
Posted on | May 6, 2013 | By Mark Frankel | 6 Comments
In line with my work at my School Management Software company, InfoGrasp, I had the privilege of attending the Torah Umesorah convention at the Split Rock Resort in the Poconos this past Shabbos. It was a wonderful experience of learning, shmoozing, sharing meals, davening and spending Shabbos with 1,800 Torah-first Jews.
I had the pleasure of spending some time with Rabbi Horowitz, one of Beyond BT’s Rabbinic Advisors, who mentioned that the second volume of the Bright Beginnings series was just released. Among the many hats that Rabbi Horowitz wears, is his dedication to help Jews learn Torah, by giving them tools for skills based learning. He related an anecdote of a BT who had tried to learn Hebrew for many years and was helped tremendously by the first Bright Beginnings sefer. Although the BB series is geared for children in the younger grades in Yeshivos, there was a special sparkle in his eye in the fact that these efforts were also helping BTs thirsting for Torah.
The whole convention is focused on helping Jews learn, understand, embrace and live a life of Torah. The majority of participants are Rebbeim and Morahs who are constantly looking to improve their learning, avodah and chinuch. Many of the the leading Roshei Yeshiva of America, including Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rabbi Malkiel Kotler, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, Rabbi Mattisyahu Salomon, Rabbi Aharon Feldman, Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Levin and Rabbi Dovid Harris addressed the critical issues of the day including teaching reponsibility, individualizing chinuch, showing love, being careful when rebuking, and just about every other chinuch issue you can imagine.
To highlight the fact that today’s students have to be treated much more carefully then in the past, a well-respected Rabbi and Teacher related a story about his high school graduation. The valedictorian was the student with the best grades who gave a serious dvar Torah. The salutatorian was chosen by his peers and gave a humorous portion followed by a dvar Torah. The speaker, who was the salutatorian, related that in the middle of his humorous section the Rosh Yeshiva shouted out, “Smith, I had higher expectations for you”. Can you imagine the effects of such a comment today? He finished his salutatorian speech with a strong Dvar Torah to which the Rosh Yeshiva gave a hardy Yasher Koach.
This year the guests from Eretz Yisroel included Mrs. Rena Tarshish, a former American, who is now the head of the Mesores Rochel Seminary in Yerushaliyim. My wife said she mesmerized the women with her explanations of how to approach Medrashim and how to properly channel your emotions, among other topics.
Another guest from Eretz Yisroel was Rabbi Yaakov Hillel, one of the leading Kabbalists of our generation. Rabbi Hillel has written Faith and Folly: The Occult in Torah Perspective, a clear and concise guide explaining Kabbalistic practices and what is sanctioned and what is forbidden today. He also has a sefer, Ascending Jacob’s Ladder, which has essays on Shabbos, Yom Tov, Prayer, Teshuvah, Torah Study, the Jewish home and the Wisdom of the Kabbalah. It’s a personal favorite, so it was a special treat to hear him speak.
He included a thought, that he had related at the Siyum HaShas, from Rabbi Chaim Voloshin. It says in the Chumash that at the giving of the Torah the Jewish people heard what was seen and saw what was heard. Seeing refers to what we can experience through our senses, while hearing refers to what we can’t sense, but can only understand by way of a moshol. Normal we can physically sense and see the physical world, but we can only understand the spiritual world through mosholim. At the giving of the Torah, there was a reversal and the Jewish People could sense the spiritual world as if it was physical, and could only understand the physical world through mosholim. He stressed that one of the things we need today, is to try to view the world through a spiritual lens, and we need truly learned people to guide us on that path. We must be careful to not fall prey to the Pop Spirituality that is prominent in our time.
As BTs we gave up many secular pursuits to live a Torah-first life. It’s encouraging to know that there are thousands of students, teachers, Rebbeim and Roshei Yeshiva who are focused on a Torah-first life of growth, learning, teaching and serving Hashem, like we are. And they’re available here to help us and our children live a life of Torah and Mesorah.
Posted on | May 2, 2013 | By Administrator | 1 Comment
Posted on | May 1, 2013 | By Administrator | 7 Comments
Rabbi Yitzchak Kirzner zt”l recommended this book for a first exposure to Judaism and after giving it to a friend, he exclaimed that this was the first book you gave me that I could actually get through.
Have you ever read the book?
Have you ever recommended it?
What did you like or not like about it?
Posted on | April 30, 2013 | By Mark Frankel | 5 Comments
Many observant Jews believe in the primacy of Torah and the necessity to never stop learning and growing. However, it’s often hard to find the right class at the right time by the right teacher. If you’re looking to learn the Parsha, your problem is solved. You can find yourself an Internet Parsha Rebbe.
I’ve been listening to Rabbi Ari Kahn for over a year. I love his breadth of sources, his choice of topics, his development of the shiur and the fact that his New York sense of humor is still intact many years after leaving the American shores for Eretz Yisroel. I also really appreciate that he makes his shiurim easily accessible for free on his web site.
Even though I don’t commute to work, I get to listen to 2-3 of Rabbi Kahn’s shiurim a week on the way to and from Shul and while stretching and getting dressed in the morning and evening. I’ve also added Rabbi Daniel Feldman and Rabbi Herschel Schacter who have many free shiurim available on that treasure house, known as YUTorah.org. There are 10s of speakers there, each with their own style, delivery and approach to teaching parsha.
If you like a fast paced, Chassidish sourced shiur, you might want to try Rabbi Sitorsky. Another good free source with a variety of speakers is Torah Anytime. Google will direct you to many other free Torah mp3 sites, as well as sites that still charge.
Hearing a parsha shiur from a teacher is a fantastic way to learn and with the great availability and affordability of audio on phones and other portable devices, why not sample a few shiurim to find your personal Parsha Rebbe.
Posted on | April 29, 2013 | By Guest Contributor | 3 Comments
As we cross over the midway point of Sefiras Ha’omer we approach the milestone of Lag Ba’omer – the 33rd day of the Omer. What significance lies within this special day and what connection does it have to the days of Sefiras Ha’omer? When we look into this question the first thing that comes to mind is that Lag Ba’omer marks the day when the students of Rebbe Akivah stopped dying and it also marks the yartzeit (the day of passing) of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai.
Rebbe Akivah was of course the great master and leader of the generation who saved the Torah from being forgotten through his sacrifice. One of his main cornerstones of teaching was “Ve’ahavtah L’reacha Kamochah – love your neighbor as yourself. Rebbe Akivah understood and emphasized in all of his teaching and in all areas of life, the importance of interpersonal relationships and the high level of sensitivity that the Torah demands us to have towards one another. To Rebbe Akivah this was not only a central precept of Judaism but also one that by mastering it would lead to growth and increasing levels of completion in all other areas of Torah.
With this in mind we must certainly be perplexed by the following teaching from the Talmud
“They said that Rebbe Akivah had 12,000 pairs of students between the cities of Geves and Antifrus, and all of them died during one period of time because they didn’t conduct themselves with the proper respect for one another. And then the world was desolate and the Torah was in danger of being forgotten until Rebbe Akivah came down to our Rabbis in the south – Rebbe Meir, Rebbe Yehudah, Rebbe Yosi, Rebbe Shimon, and Rebbe Elazar ben Shamuah and they reestablished the standing of Torah at that time. The Tannah teaches us that the period of time when Rebbe Akivah’s first students passed away was between Pesach and Shavuos. Rav Chamah bar Abbah and some say Rav Chiyah bar Avin said they all died a very bitter death, what is that referring to “Askarah”(according to our tradition this is the most painful form of death in the world). Yevamos 62b
The Beis Yosef in his comments on the Tur in Siman 493:2 says that there is an alternative version of this story found in a Midrash. The Midrash says that all of the first students of Rebbe Akivah died between Pesach and “pros ha’atzeres” which means fifteen days before Shavuos. He goes on to explain that this means that the students died between Pesach and the 33rd day of the Sefiras Ha’omer period.
These two alternative texts are the foundation for the different customs of mourning that we observe today during the Omer period. These practices of mourning include not getting married, not getting haircuts, and not dancing during this period of time. Some keep this custom for the entire 49 days of the Omer period based on the text of the Gemara above. However, the prevailing custom amongst Ashkenazic Jews today is to keep these customs of mourning for the first 33 days of the Omer (or what is otherwise known as “Lag Ba’omer – the word “Lag” – ‘lamed’ ‘gimmel’ has a numerical value of 33).
But putting the legalities of this time period aside there is a very difficult problem in this historical accounting. How is it possible that the 24,000 students of Rebbe Akivah were guilty of not conducting themselves with the proper respect for one another? Rebbe Akivah was the one who lived and taught to the greatest degree the foundation of “V’ahavtah L’reachah Kamochah”. How is it possible that his message wasn’t clearly established and practiced amongst his students? We can find the answer to this dilemma from our tradition. We know that there is a general rule in how Hashem deals with people in this world called “Hakadosh Baruchu Medakdek al Hatzadikim K’chut Hasa’arah” which means that G-d is actually more exacting in judgment (even to a hairsbreadth) with the righteous than he is with normal people. We know the famous Gemara in Bava Kamma 50a
“There was once a story that happened to the daughter of Reb Nechunia Chofer Shichin where she fell into one of the water wells that he had dug for the Jews coming up to Jerusalem for the 3 festivals. People went to tell this news to Rebbe Chaninah ben Dosa who was a very pious individual so that he would pray for her. The first hour passed and Rebbe Chaninah said she is still alive, the second hour passed and he said the same. The third hour passed and he said she has come out of the pit. When she came back from being saved she related a miraculous story of how a sheep had wandered and fallen into the opening of the well. There was an old man following it and he saw me and saved me. (Rashi comments that the old man was actually the spirit of Avraham Avinu who had come to save her) They asked Rebbe Chaninah if he had prophecy in order to know she was saved and he said I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet but I knew that the mitzvah that her father sacrificed so much for could not possibly be the cause of death for his offspring. Nevertheless Rebbe Acha said that Rebbe Nechunia’s son died of thirst as it says “and for those in G-d’s close surroundings it is extremely tenuous”. This verse is teaching you that G-d is exacting with the righteous ones even to a hairsbreadth.
The question once again is that we understand why Rebbe Nechunia’s daughter was saved from this form of death. What we don’t understand is how it could have been that she should have fallen into that well to begin with. Would Hashem not protect the offspring and descendants of Rebbe Nechunia from any form of danger with regards to these wells which their father dug with such self sacrifice? The answer lies in a deeper understanding of why Hashem is exacting with the tzadikim even to a hairsbreadth. This seems so unfair. Shouldn’t it be that someone who is so dedicated to reaching the highest level of service of Hashem, and who sacrifices to such a great degree to do so, should receive some sort of immunity?
The answer is of course – NO! This is a warped view of the ways of the Almighty. He doesn’t offer diplomatic immunity to his righteous ones. On the other hand, if this is true then why would anyone want to make this sacrifice and try to be so great when all that is waiting for him on the other side is being treated with such exacting judgment? The answer is that the advantage and the benefit of living life on a higher plane of completion and to such a degree of sacrifice far outweighs the comfort of being treated with greater mercy but remaining less connected to Hashem. You can’t have it both ways. The tzaddik realizes that even though he will be judged more strictly as he reaches greater levels in the service of Hashem, it is worth it because in return a deeper level of closeness and a stronger bond with the Almighty becomes available. The normal person who doesn’t make that push may be treated with more mercy and allowed a more lenient form of judgment. However, in return for that he looses out on a greater level of closeness that can only be gained by the path of the tzadik. This is the insight of this teaching about Hashem’s way with the tzadikim.
Therefore, not only is the righteous person treated with greater exactingness in judgment, but he is judged more strictly specifically in the areas where he is great. It is no coincidence at all that Rebbe Nechunia’s daughter fell into one of his wells, nor is it a coincidence that Rebbe Akivah’s students passed away specifically because they weren’t complete in the area of “Been Adam Lachaveiro” – interpersonal relationships. Specifically because Rebbe Akivah was so great in this area, he was tested and judged so strictly with regards to it. Perhaps more than anything else we focus our attention on the centrality of “Bein Adam Lachaveiro” during the Omer. This is the time that the Torah wants us to make the transition between the barley offering on the second day of Pesach to the two wheat breads of Shavuos. We discussed in another article about the significance of the counting of the Omer that the whole point that the Torah wants is for us to realize that our productivity both physically and spiritually needs to be refined from more selfish to more selfless. The more selfless a person becomes the easier it is to fulfill the precepts of “Bein Adam Lachaveiro”.
We saw above that Rebbe Akivah wasted no time after his 24,000 students passed away. He immediately picked up the pieces and started to rebuild. He knew what needed to be done and he knew where he had fallen short in the past. It is therefore by no coincidence that one of the students that developed from his second try was Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai, the father of the Kabbalistic teachings and the author of the Zohar. The Tosefta in Chagigah 2:2 teaches us the following:
“Four men entered into paradise Ben Azai, Ben Zoma, Acher, and Rebbe Akivah. Ben Azai gazed at what was there and died, Ben Zoma gazed at what was there and went insane, Acher gazed at what was there and became a heretic, and Rebbe Akivah went up there in peace and came back down in peace”
Our tradition says that this idea of going up to paradise has to do with learning the mystical secrets of Kabbalah. To enter paradise means to gain access to the mystical secrets of the universe and thus be able to incorporate them into the way and manner in which we perform our Divine Service. Of the greatest scholars of his time only Rebbe Akivah was able to go into this realm of thought and absorb the depths of understanding available there. Only Rebbe Akivah was prepared and worked out enough to manage to gain access to the deepest ideas in the Torah and bring them back down to the physical realm, to the mundane day to day life we live.
What gave Rebbe Akivah this ability? It was his mastery of Bein Adam Lachaveiro. Because Rebbe Akivah had mastered the art of being selfless, therefore he was able to absorb the deepest secrets of the unity of G-d. He had no sense of self to distort the ideas and twist them to fit his “personal interest”. Clearly, one of his greatest students – Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai, was the benefactor of the greatness of his master and followed in his footsteps to the greatest degree. This is specifically what gave Rebbe Shimon access to the secrets of the Kabbalah like his master. Interestingly enough, we find throughout the Zohar that Rebbe Shimon constantly referred to his students as “a group of friends”. He saw the crucial element of Bein Adam Lachaveiro as being central to reaching the levels of depth and insight that can only be found in the Kabbalah.
Of course it is by no coincidence that Rebbe Shimon passed away on the 33rd day of the Omer. This is the same day that marks the ultimate breakdown of Rebbe Akivah’s first attempt at healing the rift in the world between the Almighty and His children. Rebbe Akivah’s message was clear even then. It’s all about Bein Adam Lachaveiro. This is the only way to bring the ultimate level of completion to the world through Torah. Anything short of striving for this ideal will leave a warping and a distortion in our full understanding of the Torah. The source of this distortion will be rooted in the aspect of selfishness. Rebbe Shimon passed away on the same day but in a totally different context. He left behind the “close group of friends” with whom he had shared such a close and deep relationship, that together they were able to bring down the revelation of the deepest secrets of the mystical teachings of the Torah. He left behind the Zohar with all that this gives us as Jews and with all that adds to the world. One of the most common and basic teachings in the Zohar is that someone who has truly mastered the stages of preparing himself to attain an understanding of the secrets of the Kabbalah, is capable of making the most profound and deepest form of transformation on the world. He can fix the world more powerfully and more intensely than others. Certainly if we understand that the Torah is “the precious tool that G-d used to create the world” (Avos 3:18), than all the more so we understand that someone who has refined themselves from all selfishness and thus attained the clearest and deepest understanding of Torah can wield the greatest change and the greatest impact on our universe through his Divine Service.
Perhaps we can now understand what David Hamelech was saying in Psalms 119:18 “[Hashem] – Open my eyes and I will see the wonders of your Torah”. The word for open in this verse is “gal” – the letters are ‘gimmel’ ‘lamed’ the same numerical value as 33. David says “Hashem open my eyes, meaning – allow me to see you and the others in the world that you have Created in the true form in which they exist without the distortion of selfishness. Then as a result of this “I will see the wonders of your Torah. This is a reference to the deeper teachings of the Torah. Furthermore, in the selichos we say in one of the stanzas “purify our impurities and to the light of Your Torah open our eyes”. Again here the word for opening the eyes is ‘gimmel’ ‘lamed’. In other words we say “Hashem purify our impurities – meaning our point of selfishness which constantly drives us away from you, and as a result “open our eyes to the light of your Torah”. Again here the reference is to the deeper element of the light of the Torah. This is the aspect that can only be perceived and revealed to a person when they are ready to absorb it.
Based on this it is clear that the 33rd day of the Omer is a very special day. It marks the bridge and the transition of our preparation during the Omer from selfishness to selflessness. We have 17 more days to go until Shavuos but we have crossed the bridge. The seventeen remaining days have the same numerical value as the Hebrew word “good” – TOV. This is when we can cross the threshold into a new level of understanding the world. We can see the good in everything. We can understand the secrets of our universe and learn to use them to bring the ultimate good into the world. This is the legacy of our great master Rebbe Akivah and his giant of a student Rebbe Shimon. Let us take this special day and use it to give us inspiration that we too can reach selflessness. And through this we will merit to stand again on Shavuos as a nation at the base of Mount Sinai like one man with one heart!
Rabbi Tzadok Cable:
My name is Tzadok Cable. I am originally from Miami Beach, Florida, but I have been living in Israel since 1992. Over the years I have had the opportunity to learn Torah from some of the leading Rabbis of our time including: Rabbi Noach Weinberg zt””l, Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz, Rabbi Yirmiyahu Kaganoff, Rabbi Yonason Berger, Rabbi Nosson Weisz, and Rabbi Yochanan Bechoffer. Over the last 8 years I have been running the Rabbinical Ordination Program at Yeshivas Aish Hatorah.
I have realized during my years of learning and teaching that there is a tremendous thirst and interest in the world today for deep, explorative, and impacting Torah content. I strive to address this interest in my teaching style. In recent years I have seen the trend in the world towards the usage of the World Wide Web and social media on the internet. My vision is to use this trend to provide an opportunity for people to find what they are looking for.
I have developed a vast range of resources and made them available to you on binyanhaolam.com.
Posted on | April 25, 2013 | By Administrator | Add Your Comments
Running a Successful Shul Dinner: Between getting an honoree, a caterer, a journal, and short speeches, it’s not easy, but it’s a great event for fundraising and achdus.
Orthodox Schooling: What Do We Know?: YU’s Azrieli School of Jewish Education begins studying how the experiences of observant life play out in the context of families, schools, Israel programs, and campuses.
Samsung Korea VP Visits Yeshiva to Help Koreans Learn Talmud: The South Koreans believe that high academic Jewish achievement is linked to Talmud study, and are increasingly adding it to their education curriculum.
Posted on | April 24, 2013 | By Guest Contributor | 45 Comments
For a few months now I been having doubts, and I don’t know why, I think one of the main things that has really been bothering me is seeing so many orthodox sects, not get along with each other, like Satmar, Chabad, non-Chassidus. And so on.
I always thought we were one family, but when i see so much negativity from one group to another, it really bothers me and makes me upset that sometimes I doubt am I really doing the right thing?
So what do you do as a baal teshuva when for 2 years you were going in right direction and then things happen that creep up and you sort of start to go backwards not intentionally?
Originally Published 11/27/2007
Posted on | April 23, 2013 | By Steve Brizel | 113 Comments
When our children were young, we would buy their Shabbos clothes in Willamsburg. As we entered the neighborhood, I was amazed at the number of chesed activities that were being conducted by the children and the posters for shiurim, drashos and commuity events of interest. For many years, we have also attended simchos in Williamsburg. Once, we left around 10:00 P.M. We started driving home and I noticed a tremendous number of Chassidishe Yidden on their way to shul for Maariv. Likewise, the renaissance of the observance of Shatnez began in Williamsburg after WW2. In a similar vein, anyone who has had a relative hospitalized in a hospital in New York City will always see a Satmar Bikur Cholim bus parked nearby. Likewise, Hatzalah’s members are always at any hospital’s emergency room. There is no doubt that all of these wonderful acts of chesed began in the heartland of the Charedi world and have spread to other Orthodox communities.
Now, let’s look at some other Charedi/yeshivishe communities. My favorite is an “out of town” community-the Park Heights section of Baltimore. One finds a community devoted to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim on a 24/7 basis. It is also a community that interacts with the secular Jewish establishment in a very positive manner. Yet, as in any major frum community, the issues of chinuch, kids at risk, shidduchim and the next generation’s economic wherewithal are present.
Posted on | April 22, 2013 | By Guest Contributor | 4 Comments
By Rabbi Meir Goldberg
Reprinted with permission of Mishpacha Magazine
It was with great enthusiasm that I eagerly read the recent edition of Klal Perspectives, kiruv edition. After reading many of the articles and especially the responses by R’ Adlerstein and R’ Ilan Feldman, I was hoping to respond with the some thoughts of a typical mekarev in the field.
The older generation of mekarvim often wax poetic of the kiruv glory days which started sometime after the six day war and ended in the early 90′s. Rav Noach Weinberg’s dream of changing the world was, to a large extent, successful in that tens of thousands became frum and so many more were reconnected in some meaningful way, to their heritage. However, the dream of the first generation of mekarvim, that they would somehow make the whole world frum, was never realistic.
The simple fact is that becoming frum is an extremely hard thing for most people to do. The very same reason why Jews are a tiny minority among the nations is the very reason why the teshuva movement was never destined to become a mass movement. Changing ones habits, surroundings, dress, friends, personal image, the way one relates to ones family, culture, etc, is not for the faint of heart. To be a baal teshuva by definition, means that you are sailing into the wind and that is not something that the masses can do. As an FFB I often ask myself and others if we would realistically ever consider becoming a Satmar Chassid even if we thought that it was what Hashem wanted? To go from secular to frum is much harder.
Posted on | April 18, 2013 | By Administrator | Add Your Comments
Emotional Bank Accounts and Letting it Slide – We let friend’s actions slide, because emotional bank account deposits have been made. With a nice postscript.
Brooklyn Is the Second Most Expensive Place to Live in the U.S. Manhattan, Brooklyn, San Francisco, San Jose, Honolulu, Queens and Stamford are the top 7 most expensive.
Effective Strategies for Educating and Engaging (non religious) Jewish Teens – 64 pages find location, relationships, flexible involvement, young staff, acceptance, focus, funding are keys.
Posted on | April 17, 2013 | By Avrahom-Moishe Erlenwein | 97 Comments
After reading “Financial Realities in the Frum World”, “Introducing Your Children to the Financial Realities of Frum Life” and “Changing the Language of the Tuition Debate” – there were many questions, some answers and nothing really conclusive other than there needs to be a change in “the system”.
The whole tuition debate brings to my mind a larger question – how are people making it through the major milestones of frum life and what are people earning that they can exist on a year to year basis?! The numbers boggle the mind & do not seem to add up. If it’s a challenge to pay basic bills and tuition is “killing people” – now add in summer camp?! Then there comes the major frum milestones of bar-mitzva, Yeshiva|Seminary, chassonas and post-chassona set-up – how are people accomplishing this? Credits cards, tzedukah, home equity or ?????
Being in IT, I earn a decent income, B”H – yet we are just barely scraping by with no real money to put away in savings. It doesn’t seem to me that the majority of the frum world is earning 100K – some are certainly earning much more and I believe that they are in the 10% minority. $200K seems to be a very real guestimate as the needed income based on being able to live a middle class lifestyle, afford tuition, summer camp and be able to put away a few thousand per year to save for the major frum milestones.
Posted on | April 16, 2013 | By Mark Frankel | 4 Comments
Professor Jack Wertheimer recently penned a good article in Commentary Magazine called The Outreach Revolution. Although he clearly read the Klal Perspective’s issue on the subject, he adds much worthy information to the discussion and his extremely positive assessment of the Kiruv enterprise was a refreshing change from KPs gloomier editorial assessment.
By fully including Chabad in the Outreach Revolution, Wertheimer states that 5,000-7,000 Kiruv workers in the US, lead an estimated 2,000 Jews to Orthodoxy each year, which comes to about 1 Orthodox person for every 3 kiruv workers. He also makes the point that Chabad and many other Kiruv professionals don’t consider Orthodoxy the goal of Kiruv, and by assuming that each Kiruv worker reaches about 100 people a year, outreach touches 500,000-700,000 Jews a year, an impressive figure.
Posted on | April 15, 2013 | By Administrator | 10 Comments
Yom Ha’atzmaut (Hebrew: יום העצמאות yōm hā-‘aṣmā’ūṯ) is the national independence day of Israel, commemorating its declaration of independence in 1948.
Celebrated annually on or around the 5th of the Jewish month of Iyar, it centers around the declaration of the state of Israel by David Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948 (5 Iyar, 5708), and the end of the British Mandate of Palestine.
It is always preceded by Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day on the 4th of Iyar.
An official ceremony is held every year on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem on the evening of Yom Ha’atzmaut. The ceremony includes a speech by the speaker of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), a dramatic presentation, a ritual march of soldiers carrying the Flag of Israel, forming elaborate structures (such as a Menorah, Magen David and a number which represents the age of Israel) and the lighting of twelve torches (one for each of the Tribes of Israel). Every year a dozen Israeli citizens, who made a significant social contribution in a selected area, are invited to light the torches.keep looking »