Blood and Platelet Donations Needed

Mannes Friedman is currently a patient at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. His treatment requires regular blood and platelet transfusions. Mannes and his family would deeply appreciate your donation of blood or platelets and requests you ask others you know to donate.

Donations not used by Mannes will be released for use by other patients many of whom will be children. Please visit for complete information about donor eligibility and the donation process. For answers to questions and to schedule an appointment that is convenient for you please CALL:
Mary Thomas @ 212-639-3335 Coordinator, Blood Donor Program Email:

Designated donations for Mannes must be made in the Blood Donor Room of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Appointments are necessary. All blood types are acceptable.

The Blood Donor Room Is Open Every Day
1250 1st Avenue NYC, NY (between 67th/68th St)
Schwartz Building Lobby
Fri Sat Sun Mon 8:30am – 3:00pm
Tues Wed Th 8:30am – 7:00pm

FREE parking is available for donors at garage on 66th Street at the corner of York Avenue.
The process for donating whole blood takes approximately 1 hour. The process for donating platelets takes about 2 1/2 hours.

Shabbos Nachamu Shabbaton Update

Here is the latest update on our Shabbos Nachamu Shabbaton. Most importantly we have managed to slash prices:

$25 – Adults
$18 – 18 and Under
$12 – 12 and Under
$5 – 5 and Under

Friday night meals will be at the host houses and we will be having Shabbos Lunch, Shalosh Seudos and Melave Malka together.

This is a tremendous opportunity to deepen the connections we have made reading, writing and growing together at Beyond BT. We really hope that everybody in the metropolitan area who does not already have plans for that Shabbos will join us.

If you are planning on attending or considering it, please comment below or email us at so we can start planning properly.

Beach Blanket Bingo and Us Crazy Charedim

David and I were entering my Shul to learn last Sunday and, hurray for us, we actually avoided Bitul Zman with Beyond BT stuff. In the front window there was a sign from a kid’s event that morning titled “Beach Blanket Bingo”. David gave me a quizzical look and I replied, “You know us crazy Charedim”.

That’s a rap we sometimes get at Beyond BT – we’re too Charedi. Does that mean that we take our Judaism seriously? Does that mean that we’re not happy that our concentration in davening is not always so great? Does that mean that we feel that we should be learning more? Does that mean that we’re constanly examining our performance of mitzvos? Does that mean that we’re trying to become more chesed-oriented? Does that mean that we’re working hard on judging people favorably? If that’s what is meant by Charedi, please count us in.

But if you’ll look into the matter more deeply you might find: if you’re reading this site, then you also take your Judaism seriously; that you’re also interested in becoming a better Jew; that you also want to develop a better relationship with the Master of the Universe; that you also want to make this world a better place. So maybe you’re Charedi too.
Read more Beach Blanket Bingo and Us Crazy Charedim

The Most Popular Shmuz – Understanding Life Settings

I exchanged emails with Rabbi Shafier of the Shmuz after his return from a Tiferes Bnei Torah Shabbaton, where Rabbi Horowitz joined Rabbi Shafier in inspiring the participants.

I suggested that perhaps we could provide a Shmuz here at Beyond BT, so people can more easily sample it. Rabbi Shafier suggested Shmuz #24, Understanding Life Situations which you can download here.

Here is the description:
It almost seems as if some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, while others are destined to suffer. Why is it is that some people are born with amazing capacity, and others are created so simple? Why is there autism in the world? Why Down Syndrome? If in fact God is just, why not mete out talents and abilities in an equal manner to all people?

Using the backdrop of a famous event brought in the Talmud; this Shmuz focuses us on some of the big picture issues of life, helping us understand “life settings”, as they apply to each person.

1. • Why are some people blessed with success and others not?
2. • Is there a reason for suffering in the world?
3. • What about pain?
4. • What about death?

You Did Decide to Become a Baal Teshuvah, Didn’t You?

The sun-bathing, snorkeling and scuba diving of Teshuvah

The lifelong process and stages of Teshuvah can be compared to sun-bathing, snorkeling and scuba diving:

Sunbathing is a relaxing way to spoil oneself under the warm embrace of the sun. Tension melts away, you can get a good tan and show off your good looks….

However, as anyone who’s “laid out” before knows – sun-bathing isn’t all that it’s cracked-up to be:

It gets hot after a while and if you aren’t careful – instead of a “golden tone” – you’ll be “peeling” away after a nice, red and stinging sunburn! So, what’s the solution? Cool off by the water of course!
Read more You Did Decide to Become a Baal Teshuvah, Didn’t You?

Pray for our Boys

As most of us are probably aware, an Israeli soldier was kidnapped by arab terrorists yesterday.

Please have Gilad ben Aviva (Shalit) in mind in your prayers and good deeds.

The following Israeli soldiers remain Missing in Action:

Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah (Katz)

Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam (Baumel)

Zvi ben Penina (Feldman)

Ron ben Batya (Arad)

Guy ben Rina (Hever)

May Hashem redeem them and bring them home safely to their loved ones.

The Shmuz: Great Free Torah Audio on The Web

My wife and I listen to a lot of Torah Tapes and mp3s. This past year we’ve been introduced to one of the best, practical hashkafa speakers around, Rabbi Barry Shafier at And it’s not just us, many people have told us how much they enjoy and learn by listening to Rabbi Shafier.

Here are some reasons why the Shmuz is a terrific listen:

1) Every shiur starts with one or more questions based on a saying of Chazal or a quote from a Rishon
2) There is lots of well researched supporting material from the disciplines of science, history, sociology, etc..
3) Practical advice on how to apply the lessons learned are always provided
4) Rabbi Shafier uses humor and emotion to captivate his audience
5) The shiur is a good length (45 minutes) and never drags
6) All of the Shmuzim are available for free for download as mp3s or podcasts

Here is a sample write-up of one of the more popular Shmuzim

#10 Questioning G-d: Finding and keeping your Bashert.
Since the time we were little children we were schooled in the idea that, “You’re not allowed to ask questions on G-d”. But is that true? Is it true that a person isn’t allowed to have questions about the way Hashem runs the world?

In this Shmuz we are introduced to the fact that no less than Avrohom Avinu, himself had questions on HASHEM, yet he wasn’t considered a heretic. Understanding what our role is, and what HASHEM’s role is, helps us to understand what is and what isn’t a legitimate question about the way that HASHEM does things.

So check out The Shmuz and let us know what you think.

A list of available Shmuzim follows
Read more The Shmuz: Great Free Torah Audio on The Web

Was Yehoshua In Danger of Going Off the Derech

Rabbi Yaacov Haber, who resides in Eretz Yisroel has a great piece in which he gives us some insights into children who might walk away from their heritage:

Over the years I have worked with hundreds of these young men and women. It has been my experience that many of them are the sweetest, gentlest, most sensitive, and sometimes the brightest children around. Because of their non-aggressive nature they don’t easily say no. They don’t aggressively argue their point and sometimes don’t have the koach to stick to their guns and resist peer pressure.

Read more Was Yehoshua In Danger of Going Off the Derech

Putting Things in Perspective

I recently heard of non-religious Jews in the New York area publicly complaining about observant Jews blocking the street on Shabbos, taking money away from public school funding, and not letting their kids play with the non-religious girls who wear pants.

Well frum Jews are certainly not without fault. We’re not perfect. If we were, moshiach would be here already. But let’s put things in perspective.

The secular world is plagued with unwed pregnancies, sex on the school busses, drug problems, theft, vandalism, and even an occasional child murderer. Our problems pale in comparison. We have some of the same problems as they do (their problems seep into our society) but always on a much smaller scale.
Read more Putting Things in Perspective

Accepting People “More Religious” Than Us

One evening this week my wife related a conversation she had with her father. Her father told her that her non-observant brother thinks that she is “brain washed” because she now goes to an Orthodox shul and keeps kosher.

While not Orthodox himself, my father-in-law has a great appreciation for it and did not accept this criticism from his son. My father-in-law replied by telling his son that he needed to be more open-minded and accepting of people “more religious” than him.

A Simple Jew

More Lessons from Psychology

I am currently taking a class in which the professor has been introducing several different cultural identity models. While each model was developed specific to a particular culture, they can be used more globally as well. Interestingly, while studying William E. Cross’ African-American Identity Model, I found a lot of similarities with the journey that a baal teshuvah goes through when becoming religious.

The first stage in Cross’ Model is one of accepting the prevailing attitudes of those around oneself. Not too much thought is given to the exact heritage of one’s birth, or what makes one different from everyone else.

The second stage is one of specific events or circumstances where one is pushed to reconsider their identity. This event causes an individual to look at who he or she is within the greater world and focus on how they identify and fit in culturally. I know that, for me, my first trip to Israel certainly caused me to look at my Jewish identity, which to that point had been something that I knew made me different from others, but not that different. It was something that I had accepted, but not something that made me connect to others who were similar to me in that respect. But after being exposed to the bond that ties Jews together, I had to really think about that aspect of my life and how prevalent it was in defining who I am.
Read more More Lessons from Psychology

Contact Your NY Congressmen to Support The Nonpublic School Employee Background Check Bill

Frequent commentor, Sefardi Lady sent this letter from Mr. Elliot B. Pasik, Esq. urging us to email or NY State representatives regarding a bill that will allow New York yeshivas and other nonpublic schools to fingerprint their employees, and obtain their criminal histories.

I spoke to Rabbi Welcher last night and he strongly supports such legislation as does the Rabbinical Council of America, the Orthodox Union, and Agudath Israel. Please take 5 minutes to help make our schools safer for our children. Here is the letter from Mr. Pasik:

Dear Friends:

A bill that, if passed, will allow New York yeshivas and other nonpublic schools to fingerprint their employees, and obtain their criminal histories, if any, is extraordinarily close to either passage in both houses of the New York State Legislature, or, being delayed for at least another year.

The New York State Senate will vote on the bill Wednesday, June 21, 2006, and the bill is fully expected to pass, since it is supported by the leadership there.
Read more Contact Your NY Congressmen to Support The Nonpublic School Employee Background Check Bill

Is Tolerance a Dirty Word?

The subject of tolerance is a tricky one. What does it mean? The standard dictionary definition is as follows: “The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others”.

We need to ask ourselves if we are “tolerant” enough of other types of Orthodoxy. I am not going to deal with other types of Judaism in this essay. That is a topic by itself. The problem with the standard definition of tolerance is how can I respect something that is against Halacha. There are 70 faces to Torah. Not everyone needs to wear a black hat, knitted kippa, etc… As long as they are keeping halacha, then they have a legitimate orthodox expression of Judaism.

With that said, what happens when a group keeps halacha in their eyes, but not in the eyes of others? That opens up a can of worms. I think the standard has to be that as long as someone is following an accepted halachic opinion then that is valid. That doesn’t mean I have to accept their view, but I must consider them “dati”. What is considered an accepted halachic opinion is a whole discussion by itself.
Read more Is Tolerance a Dirty Word?

Watering Down Torah – Glossing Over Issues

By Chana

I was reading the section of last week’s Hamodia on Rav Steinman and the Gerrer Rebbe’s trip to the US, Canada, & South America. One of the many interesting responses R. Steinman made to shailas was concerning whether it is OK to distort or water down Torah for the benefit of non-religious Jews (kiruv). His response was firmly NO. He said we should not change Torah in any way when we represent it to non-religious Jews, and if that means they become disinterested, so be it; maybe they will become interested later.

I understand this as I think it is morally correct to represent Torah honestly, it is not Kavodik to do otherwise. Also, it is misleading and many baalei teshuva have complained about this. I know of a few schools that tried this approach, (stressing mainly the fun that a frum person can have) and later abandoned it.
Read more Watering Down Torah – Glossing Over Issues

My Take on Father’s Day

Most of my kid’s know this song:

Today is Father’s/Mother’s Day but it’s no special day ’cause I love you Daddy/Mommy all the time.

You are so dear to me, the best you’ll always be, I thank Hashem he made you mine.

Cute. But I’m a bit torn by the lyrics. On the one hand, it’s true that we don’t need an invented holiday to show our appreciation to our parents. On the other hand, how many of us take the time out to call our parents and say thanks? If you do, then you don’t need Father’s/Mother’s Day. If you don’t, pick up the phone and say thanks!

Personal Note: A little more than six years ago, I lost my Father. A friend of mine who had lost his father fairly young told me that Father’s Day would be tough. When Father’s Day rolled around, my wife went into labor and gave me the best Father’s Day present, my daughter Atara. This year, her Birthday falls out on Father’s Day again, Happy B-Day Attie!

Ask The Shadchan – Baalei Teshuva Parents

Gil Student points to this article by Rebbetzin Nomi Travis about Ba’alei Teshuvoh Parents in the Ask the Shadchun column from the Yated. Here is the question from the letter writer:

Dear Shadchanit,

I follow your columns and enjoy the fact that you raise issues that others ignore. I hope you will be able to handle another sensitive matter — call it a challenge . . .

My husband and I have been fully observant Torah Jews for over twenty years and we are now on the threshold of marrying off our children who are truly FFBs. The question of yichus comes up and we find ourselves at times very challenged (and hurt). We know that everyone has a right to their own priorities, yet I feel at times like echoing the words of my good friend, “Now, after all these years… l know what you really think of me…” I do not want to condemn others. I would like to be non-judgmental, I think that our community has come a long way, yet not far enough in opening itself up to “newcomers.”
Read more Ask The Shadchan – Baalei Teshuva Parents

Slashing Shabbaton Prices and Torah Links

Due to the wonders of our web based community, we’re already getting some good feedback on the Shabbaton. We’re working on ways to slash the prices and to create a structure that is focused on meeting people and facilitating great discussions. If you’re even thinking of coming, please comment or email so we can start to plan appropriately.

Rabbi Dovid Schwartz has a great Dvar Torah on Remembering Miriam.

This week’s Internet Parsha Sheet was produced by Efraim Goldstein.

We’re reposting the links to R’ Yaakov Astor and R’ Yonason Goldson over on Aish, since they have a lot of great stuff on the second perek of Pirkei Avos. (And because we think the world of the both of them.)

How About a Shabbaton on Shabbos Nachamu

We are extremely grateful to Hashem for the success of this project. Together we have created a virtual community of thousands of Jews worldwide sharing our thoughts, ideas and chizuk.

We would like to move to the next stage and create more offline activies to meet, share and strengthen one another. Frequent commentor Chana recently suggested a Shabbaton on Shabbos Nachamu, August 5th, which sounds like a great idea. We would probably hold it in Kew Gardens Hills, since we know a lot of people here who could provide sleeping accomodations. The event is open to BTs, FFBs and OnTheWays, but the program will be primarly geared toward BT issues.

We would have communal meals and hopefully a rocking Melave Malka if we can get some of the musicians in the group here. We figure the cost for the meals would be between $75 – $90 per person and about $50 – $70 for children under 16.

We would have Friday meals at the host houses, with a communal Shabbos lunch and we’re working on low cost ideas for Shalosh Seudos and possibly a Melave Malka. We’re trying to get the cost for the meals to between $20 – $30 per person and about $16 – $24 for children under 16.

Please leave a comment or send us an email at, if you would be interested and let us know how many people would be in your party.

No Atheist in a Foxhole?

By Yaakov Grant

Come on, how often do we hear this well known maxim? Sounds good, but it struck me recently that this may be a dangerous idea for a BT to toy with. I mean that well known mindset that often takes over a BT usually soon after he first rediscovers his precious roots, which is something like “now I’m convinced let’s start on my pals/ family”.

However this is not the minefield I wish to go down as I’m sure any experienced BT has learnt this lesson to some extent. What seems to me to be a subtler issue which can land us in a similar mess is where someone close to us, but not yet observant, needs a yeshua. In such circumstances, the yetzer may try to convince us to use the “No atheist” idea and even come up with a suggestion that if our friend takes on to do something or refrain from doing something this may help give him the yeshua he needs. And if we’ve seen or heard Rav Amnon Yitzchak in action giving brachas out to the incredible sound of the thousands in the crowd shout “amen”, the Yetzer may have a field day trying to get us to copy him.
Read more No Atheist in a Foxhole?