Morning Machsom L’Fi – No Loshon Hora from 9:00 Am – to 10:00 Am Each Day

In the Tisha B’Av videos yesterday, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation (CCHF) announced the start of a World Wide Machsom L’Fi program where people would accept upon themselves not to speak Loshon Hara from 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM each day.

As the CCHF site explains over here:

One of the prime benefits of participating in a Machsom L’Fi is the opportunity to conquer loshon hora in manageable steps.

Once a person sees that he or she can refrain for an hour or two, it becomes easier to maintain self-control and awareness throughout the day.

“The yetzer hara’s most effective argument against working on Shmiras Haloshon is to convince us that it’s impossible to succeed,” says the program’s coordinator. “Machsom L’Fi defeats that argument, showing people that they can do it. This gives them confidence to continue building upon the success they experience.”

“Just as the sunrise seems to travel across the world, now there will be another special light—the light that comes from achdus and shalom— moving across the globe every day, reaching one time zone after another, one Jewish community after another,” says one of the program’s organizers.

“The image is amazing.
The reality can be even more amazing.”

To join you can just accept not to speak Lashon Hora from 9:00 am to 10:00 am each day or you can sign up for a daily email or phone call reminder over here.

Do We Have the Courage to Accept Some of the Blame?

It seems like we have a lot of work to do to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash. Most of us are fairly good Jews, so it’s easy to blame the other guys for the problems and perhaps to some extent it’s true that it is their problem.

But could it be that we are collectively to blame for the faults of the Jewish world?

Is it possible that we need to care more about our fellow Jew and develop the love needed to effectively help each other improve?

Contempt is an easy emotion, but could it be that the contempt we hold is a big part of the problem?

Of course this does not mean that all wrongs are equivalent, but should we not point the finger of blame and shame out ourselves every once an a while and look at our own faults?

Do we have the courage to accept some of the blame?

Upper West Side Story: My True Jewish Story

By Mr. Cohen

It was approximately 1985, and in the summertime, on a Saturday night, that I saw her. We were in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood. She looked very lost. People of various races and ages passed her by, indifferent to her plight. I, as a native of New York City, wanted to help her.

Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, had just finished, and I had not yet returned to the apartment of my host. She looked so lost, that I just had to offer my assistance. She told me her story. She was a black woman from South Africa, visiting New York City, and the only clue that she possessed as to her required destination was on a piece of paper that she showed me. She was never in New York City before and probably was never outside South Africa before either.

I did my best to figure out what her paper meant, and listened to her problem at length. Finally, I figured out where she had to go and helped her find a car service. But I did not want to leave a young lady alone on the dark streets of post-Shabbat Manhattan, so I waited with her on the street until her car arrived.

When her car was already in sight, she said to me: You must be a Jew.

Perplexed, I took note of the facts that I did not have a beard, had not used Hebrew or Yiddish words in my conversation, was not wearing Jewish clothes, and certainly had not made any mention of my Jewishness.

Curiously, I asked her: How did you know that I am a Jew?

Her response to my question has never stopped echoing in my ears: Because you were so kind to me.

Lakewood vs. Lakewood

By CJ Srullowitz

I recently had the distinct American pleasure of attending a minor league baseball game. Though New York City boasts two major league teams, the greater New York metropolitan area has several minor league ball clubs, teams filled with kids still in their teens, dreaming of one day playing in “The Show.” Often watching these developing players is more exciting than watching their more able, higher-paid counterparts. Not to mention, beer that night cost a dollar.

In the third inning, I turned to one of my friends and marveled at the determination of everyone involved with this game: not only the players, but the coaches, umpires, even the announcers—were all chasing the same, highly unreasonable dream: that someday they would make it to the major leagues.

My friend wasn’t so sure. He postulated that perhaps they were simply there to have fun. So we put the question to one of the trainers, whom we met during a seventh-inning stretch tour of the locker room. “How many of these players still believe they will make it to the majors and how many are just playing for the fun of it?” my friend asked asked.

“All of them,” he replied.

“All of them play for fun?” my friend repeated.

“No. All of them think they can get to the big leagues,” he said. “To a man.”

This genuinely surprised my friend, but not me. To date, fewer than 17,000 people have played in the bigs. That’s 17,000 players in the history of the American and National Leagues, going back well over a century. To put this in perspective, I heard a Yankees announcer say once, if you took every Major Leaguer, alive or dead, and put him in Yankee Stadium, the place would still be two-thirds empty.

Yet, despite those astounding odds, so many continue to push forward, holding on to the belief that somehow they will be among the chosen few. For their efforts, they are paid as little as $750 a month; they earn in one full season what Alex Rodriguez earns in the time it takes him to tie one shoe.

A few miles down the road from the legendary Lakewood yeshiva, resides a single-A ballclub, the lowest rung on the minor league ladder. The Lakewood Blue Claws are one of 246 minor league teams comprising in the neighborhood of five thousand players. Every one of these players was drafted by a major league team and signed to a professional baseball contract. These kids were stars of their college, high school and little league teams. They know how to play ball.

But there are still too many of them. The fact remains that only a few of these minor league players will ever get called up to the big club—even for a day. And of those that eventually do get called up, few will become regulars. And of those who become regulars, few will play for more than a handful of seasons. And of those who do play for several seasons, few will become All-Stars.

Yet,” to a man,” every player, since he was a young boy, aspires to be that one All-Star. Every one holds on to that dream.

What should we say about such dreamers? Should we mock them? Should we sit in the stands and cheer them on, all the while laughing at them in the backs of our heads? How should we respond to this ridiculous scene of an entire ballgame, whose foundation rests on cloud upon cloud of false hope?

To Torah Jews, their behavior should be inspirational. For their dream is a mechayev. Our Sages teach that Rebbi was mechayev—he obligated—the rich, because he was one of the richest men of his generation, and still, despite all of his financial obligations and business commitments, he found the time to become a great Torah scholar.

Likewise, Hillel was mechayev the poor. Despite his impoverishment and constant need to earn a living wage, he still managed to spend his days occupied in Torah.

Minor league ball players are mechayev all of us. If they can live in this “field of dreams” so can we. If they can hold upend their lives in the single-minded pursuit of an unlikely result, we can certainly adjust our lives to pursue a result that is guaranteed.

This guarantee is what differentiates us from them. In the words of the Sages,
““Anu ameilim veheim ameilim—we toil and they toil.” We all work hard at what we do. But unlike baseball players, we are guaranteed results. Just for trying. Torah study does not require us to become great scholars. We succeed with every word we learn. Torah study is not a means to an end but an end in itself.

Torah study is not for the select few (even if only a select few will excel at it). Too often, we push off learning as the realm of the rabbis. Too often we push off studying until we are prepared to sit for an hour or longer. Too often we push off studying on a basic level because we are too tired, too busy, too unmotivated to study in-depth.

Too many of us remain faithful to a practical approach. Our reach does not even approach our grasp. When it comes to Judaism, we become very modest about our abilities. This is tragic because it leaves so much on the table. We ought to take a page from the book of these dreamers, they of the impractical and the unlikely. We ought to imagine that we can become great talmidei chachamim, that we can become great tzadikim, that we can learn more than we currently learn and do more than we currently do. In doing so, unlike the ballplayers, we all become All-Stars.

Searching For Brilliance

By Michael Gros

Growing up in Atlanta, GA, Asher Siegelman was surrounded by the values and culture of America. But he felt that the society was empty and he was disappointed by the ideals around him. He was especially frustrated by the lack of genuine role models he could follow.

“In my senior year of high school, I had realized that I had never really found people I could look up to in a really serious way,” Asher said. “I had always been looking for people who were not only brilliant, but good people. Good men who treated their wives well and had good families. It’s not a model that’s very prevalent in Western civilization.”

The role models that America swoons over – the sports stars, actors and politicians – left Asher wanting. With the rags filled with the daily scandals of these seemingly perfect people, Asher groped in the darkness for someone to rely in, someone to aspire to be like.

“I had seen many people when I was secular whom people looked up to as mentors, who cheated on their wives, were dishonest in business and were crooked individuals. People need someone to look up to, need someone to follow, someone to help them out in life,” Asher said.

Like many Jews searching for answers, Asher traveled to Israel and spent a year studying at Hebrew University. He felt that Judaism could answer some of his questions, and so he immersed himself in his religion. He spent the year learning Hebrew and experiencing Jewish culture, practices and holidays. He also deliberately searched for Jews he could learn from.

He began finding role models throughout Jerusalem, from simple Jews eking out an existence in the Old City to leaders of communities and yeshivas in other neighborhoods. These were all people steeped in their religion and whose moral beliefs pervaded their daily lives. He was impressed by their sensitivity and intelligence and the deep respect they showed to others. These were the role models he had always craved.

The more that Asher got to know such people, the more he realized that their values and convictions came from their religion. Judaism is centered on moral and ethical standards and extols us to be “a light amongst the nations.” As the Talmud writes, “Any Torah sage whose interior is not like his exterior is not a Torah sage” (Yoma 72b). It’s not enough to look pure and upright, but one must have these values at the core of his being.

Asher was introduced to Yeshivat Machon Shlomo in Jerusalem, and spent two years studying there. In the yeshiva and community he met many more brilliant, upstanding Jews.

One of the rabbis at Machon Shlomo left a particularly deep impression on him. Rabbi Meir Triebitz attended the prestigious Juilliard School of Music before receiving a PhD in mathematical physics from Princeton University at age 22. He eventually found his way to Israel where he became a rabbi and Torah scholar.

Meeting brilliant, intellectually honest and observant people such as Rabbi Triebitz helped Asher appreciate the beauty and eternal relevance of Judaism.

“A person like that, with that kind of brain, wouldn’t be falling for something stupid,” Asher said. “I met amazing people. People who had come from the secular world and were at the top in terms of brain power and were religious people, who became religious via free choice. I recognized that this was the best way to live.”

With these experiences, Asher in time became observant. His family had separately become religious, and his brother even moved to Israel and joined him to study at Machon Shlomo.

Asher’s role models also helped him with another challenge for some ba’alei teshuva: for someone not raised learning Torah, it can be intimidating to dive into it.

“Often times people think of the Torah as basically impossible, a closed book. They get frustrated,” Asher said. But seeing others immersed in Torah study can help them relate to it. “It makes you think maybe I can do this. He’s doing it, so maybe I can get to the point where I can have the same kind of energy.”

Throughout Asher’s journey, his role models have had a dramatic impact in helping to shape his direction and life. The relationships he has built and the lessons he has learned from them have left an indelible mark on him. And if there’s one lesson he can impart to other Jews, it’s to take advantage of the amazing Jewish leaders around them.

“I’m very fortunate to be Jewish and been able to access these individuals I have reached. It’s a terrible thing to not be able to,” Asher said. “Many Jews never have the chance to meet these kinds of people.”

Michael Gros is the Chief Operating Officer of the outreach organization The Atlanta Scholars Kollel. The Teshuva Journey column chronicles uplifting teshuva journeys and inspiring kiruv tales. Send comments to To receive the column via email or see back issues, visit

How Are You Dealing With The Distractions of Life?

We all have a lot of stuff on our plate, families, making a living, Torah learning, community service and more. In addition, people seem to have shorter attention spans these days.

How have the Beyond BT readers deal with these challenges?

Do you use time management systems to organize your life?

Do you make time to just sit and think and focus on your most important goals?

What Torah based solutions have you found to help face these challenges?

Have you found any useful techniques to help with keeping the distractions at bay during davening?

A Tale of Two Michaels

As music icon Michael Jackson was planning his return to the stage, basketball icon Michael Jordan was appearing in a less familiar arena. At the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge, Mr. Jordan shot an 86 — not bad, but a little off his game.

His foursome included Justin Timberlake, Ben Roethlisberger, and Larry Giebelhausen, a Phoenix police lieutenant who had won the privilege of playing in such celebrated company with a six-word contest entry: “I’m a Cop; I’ll Shoot Low.”

It’s hard to imagine Michael Jackson having participated in a similar venue. Whatever common touch the pop star might have once had, it disappeared decades ago, along with his original nose, cheekbones, and coloring, under the searing lights of fame and fortune. It’s to Michael Jordan’s credit that he has retained a bit of humility, to allow “one of the folks” to hobnob with him over 18 holes (not to mention remaining gracious while performing below his usual standard).

No one really doubts whether Mr. Jackson’s meteoric success from such a young age contributed to his tragic decline into scandal, freakishness, and premature death. The kind of humility displayed by Mr. Jordan could never have survived the early adulation accorded Mr. Jackson, no matter how humble his beginnings.

Perhaps the difference can be summed up by what Michael Jordan once said about himself: “I’ve failed over and over and over in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

The sages teach that a tzaddik falls seven times. By grappling with obstacles, by failing and learning from their mistakes, those with the potential to achieve spiritual greatness succeed in achieving it. So too in almost every form of endeavor.

Michael Jordan may not be what we think of as a tzaddik, a truly righteous man. But it is reassuring to see someone who occupies the highest strata of celebrity status showing us that wealth and notoriety do not have to produce the kind of self-absorption, self-indulgence, or ghoulishness that we have come to expect. It is equally reassuring to contemplate how there may be no more reliable strategy for climbing the ladder of success than by persisting in the upward ascent from one rung of failure to another.

Rabbi Goldson writes regularly at Torah Ideals

Jewish Media Coverage of the Torah Observant World

The Jewish Week ( “JW”) caters to LW MO and gives some token space to Chabad. It has long had no use for the RW MO world and only negatives for the Charedi world and now seems as if its role on Middle East affairs is ala ultra left. Like it or not, one learns precious little about Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim from the JW despite the fact that the MO and Charedi world are Federation beneficiaries. Instead, JW readers are treated to a “pluralistic” version of a Dvar Torah, and a veritable bombardment of coverage re scandals in the Charedi world, etc, as if that was the only news about that those communities and the RW MO world that are worth the reader’s attention and that by omission of such coverage, such scandals do not exist in the heterodox world.

Even on issues affecting Israel, the JW is aping the NY Times to tell us that we should avoid criticizing a new far left group called J Street, and that we should side with an administration that is forfeiting American sovereignty so that we can fit into the “league of nations” and imposing a dictated settlement on Israel

Jewish Action and Tradition have long held the potential to serve the MO public but suffer from a few flaws of their own. JA is published seasonally and by the time a new issue is rolled out, a current issue is old news. The articles and letters in JA are always worth reading and do not avoid hashkafic or halachic controversies and JA’s archives are almost all available to the extent that the same are posted on line. JA has some excellent columnists and one sees a wide range of content of a high quality on a great range of subjects and much news about the OU and NCSY, etc. It is a far better read than the NCYI Viewpoint which IMO is a house organ with an occasional article of interest.

Tradition focuses on wnat it deems to be the intellectual issues facing MO at the expense of what is happening in the MO street. At times, Tradition strikes me as the ultimate example of the ivory tower like existence of some prominent MO thinkers. IMO, its web presence is better than it was, but the content is uneven except for the columns of R JD Bleich and R D SZ Leiman.

The RJJ Journal always has articles on important halachic issues by promiment and up and coming Talmidie Chachamim. Chaikirah strikes me as a very important and recent addition with a very committed and intellectually honest approach to issues of Halacha, Hashkafa and Jewish History as well as a great letters section.

Like it or not, while the Yated offers coverage of the Charedi yeshiva world and even respectful coverage of RIETS RY, which one never finds in the JW, one never sees or views women as spiritual personae who are known teachers of Tanach, etc or even spouses of honorees in the Yated, Hamodia ( which AFAIK is edited by a woman) or Mishpacha. Given the fact that Chinuch HaBanos involves very different issues than Chinuch HaBanim, I wonder why there is no Roundtable consisting of some of the wonderful educators and administrators of girls schools.

The Jewish Press and such papers as the Five Towns Jewish News offer a far more wide ranging view of the MO and Charedi world than Yated,which is obviously and almost totally Lakewood/Litvishe in orientation, Hamodia, which is Chasidishe or Mishpacha, which is Charedi lite and which tries to cover the Litvishe and Chasidishe worlds. In all of the Charedi publications, there are some excellent columnists and writers who are powerful advocates for their POV, who I respect as unapologetic proud Torah observant Jews and Talmidie Chachamim, even when I differ with their POV on a hashkafic or halachic issue. One can sense an attempt within the Charedi media to attract RW MO readers by offering editorials and columns that would at times attract RW MO and RZ readers such as their coverage of the massacre at Mercaz HaRav.

FWIW, many of the columnists, and the letters columns in the Charedi media, especially the Yated, offer a fairly good window into some of the halachic, hashkafic and sociological issues facing their communities. The Chinuch Roundtable and R Yakov Horowitz are two excellent examples. The Yated, in contrast to all of the other papers, also features a weekly interview with Malcolm Hoenlein. However, none of the Charedi media really make an effort to understand and distinguish between LW MO and what I would call a committed MO that looks to the RIETS RY for its halachic and hashkafic guidance.

On Arevim, there was a recent thread about the purported suspension of publication by the JO. IMO, whether the same is permanent or temporary is irrelevant because the JO”s role has been supplanted by Yated, Hamodia and Mishpacha and even the Charedi papers in Lashon HaKodesh, which publish on a weekly basis, thus filling and possibly replacing the need for the JO, especially when such JO columnists as R Jonathan Rosenblum and R A Shafran are available via email . FWIW, I find the Yated and Mishpacha far easier to digest than the JO, especially since I let my JO subscription expire after its infamous coverage of the Petirah of RYBS.

None of the Jewish media that purport to cover the Torah world offer the reader a review of recently published sefarim, articles in halachic journals or English Judaica on a regular basis. In view of the absolute flood of new sefarim, journals and English Judaica, IMO, such a column which R S Y Zevin ZTL wrote on a regular basis and which was compiled and is out of print, is long overdue for anyone who considers themselves a discriminating purchaser of sefarim and Emglish Judaica. Such a column, which could only be written by a Talmid Chacham with the broadest of shoulders, would go a long way in evaluating the merits of new sefarim and whether they add to the study and understanding of Torah. What passes for the same are essentially a few critical reviews in JA ,Tradition or the TuM Journal, but IMO, we need such a review on a far more wide ranging and steady basis.

JW – Jewish Week
MO – Modern Orthodox
LW – Left Wing
RW – Right Wing
JA – Jewish Action
OU – Orthodox Union
NCSY – National Conference of Synagogue Youth
NCYI – National Council of Young Israel
RIETS – Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary
AFAIK – As Far As I Know
RZ – Religious Zionists
RY – Rosh Yeshiva
FWIW – For What It’s Worth
RYBS – Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik
JO – Jewish Observer
IMO – In My Opinion
ZTL – Zecher Tzaddik L’Vrocha

The Shy Student: An Adventure in Shidduchim

by Ross Kryger

Every character trait has its benefits and detriments. On my very first day in Israel, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, I decided to visit a popular tourist site called “The Wailing Wall” (whatever that was). Glancing around, I was intrigued by so many people praying outdoors, and although I wondered could be on the other side of this impressive structure, my eye was on the ramp. What could be up there? I thought, totally unaware that my “invisible impurities” presented any type of barrier from my finding out. I slowly ascended the ramp, and when I almost reached the top, I was suddenly halted by an exceedingly tall man holding a large brown robe. “In order to come up here,” he whispered in a rather demanding tone, “you must put this on.” I was confused, but I was also a bit shy by nature. I did not ask the reason, and I did not want to put on his robe, which anyway was about three sizes too large. I looked downward and subtly shook my head, then turned away and quickly returned to ground level. I remember that months later in yeshiva, upon hearing an Eliahu HaNavi story, I thought about this strange man.

My best friend landed in a BT yeshiva two years before I arrived in Israel, and although I now accepted his invitation after graduating college to visit him, I had no desire to meet his other orthodox comrades. Being a shy stranger in a strange land, I stuck closely with him, and eventually started paying attention to some of the ideas I was learning. I extended my stay (from two months to just over four years) and for the first eight months, we spent every Shabbos together. I was friendly to everyone in the yeshiva and made a few acquaintances, but after my best friend transferred to another yeshiva in a different town, I felt lost. While it didn’t affect my learning all that much, I wasn’t able, on my own, to gain the emotional support I sorely needed. My family at home was understandably hostile over my absence at my brother’s church wedding, and my decision to remain in Israel during the Gulf War sent matters spiraling downward.

I was never one to make conversation easily. I was the Haggadah son who didn’t know what to ask, so I rarely had any occasion to approach a rabbi about anything. The rabbaim were always friendly and polite, but I was missing that necessary deeper connection. Many times I would notice another student sitting at a table and talking with a rabbi for an hour or more, wondering what they could possibly be talking about, and feeling a twinge of jealousy over not having the same attention. Even learning with a chavrusa was somewhat difficult. Although much of the time I understood the basic meaning in the Gemorrah, I never offered an argument or a different perspective, but rather found myself nodding my head to any type of logic presented (perhaps to some guys, I would be a dream chavrusa!) Hillel says in Pirchei Avos that a student who is too shy will never learn, and I certainly have no doubt that I missed out on countless opportunities.

By far, the parsha of shidduchim was the most difficult. After noticing for a while that guys who have been in the yeshiva as long as me were either getting engaged or actively dating, I approached a rebbe who knew somewhat of my family circumstances, and sheepishly asked him when I should consider starting. He stared at me incredulously and said, “You’re not dating yet?!” The words, “I was waiting for you to tell me when and how to begin” luckily didn’t escape from my mouth, as the last thing I needed was a rebbe who thought I was full of chutzpah. He then gave me the name of a few shadchanim and their addresses, and told me I could later give him a name to check out. I was a little curious that he didn’t discuss with me about the process in general, or even if I was ready.

Most shadchanim smiled when I informed them that in my “former” life, I never had a girlfriend (it seems my shyness turned out to be an asset after all.). Although they offered me names of girls from all types of families, I was most excited to hear the names of BT girls. I really wanted someone who could understand me, and where I was coming from in life. She would have a spiritual side, and we could grow together. (I’ll give away the ending—I married a wonderful FFB, but the contrast in our married life is for a different article, perhaps.) The first name I received was of a BT girl, and I passed it on to my rebbe, who told me to go out for now, and he would check her out. The shadchan set up the date, and I just needed to take a bus and meet the girl at a hotel. What a great system for a guy like me! On the designated night, I was a little nervous, and arrived at the hotel. There were four girls standing outside. They all looked at me, waiting for me to do something. Since I couldn’t pick out the girl myself from the lineup, I was at a loss for the proper protocol. Luckily, one of them finally decided with a grimace that I just couldn’t be her date, and walked away (well, excuse me!) With great embarrassment, I chose one of the remaining three at random, and stammered, “Are-are-y-you Sh-sh-shoshana?” “No, I’m not,” she replied firmly. I was somewhat relieved, as she was about five inches taller than me. The real Shoshana slightly smiled and introduced herself. She seemed to be knowledgeable in this system, as she explained that this happens quite often. We left the final contestant outside (presumably brokenhearted) and found a quiet table in the lobby.

I sat down, and she sat down. I nodded, and she nodded. I smiled, and so did she. How long was this date supposed to be? I really don’t know what I had expected a date to be like, but pathetically, guys like me need a manual. Was there one under the table? Little did I know that I was expected to…talk. And talk. Certainly not my area of expertise. The date was on the short side (I know it was, because when we left the hotel, contestant number three was still waiting for her date). The next morning, I was more than a little surprised when my rebbe quietly remarked, “The date was how long?” But I must have done something right, because she agreed to go out again. Then the floor completely fell through. My rebbe informed me of certain information which might effect this shidduch, and advised me not to continue. I had no problem with that, but then I stupidly (!) passed this on to the shadchan, and somehow it got back to the girl who traced the information to its original source. I still remember the dreadful conversation with that rebbe, who was understandably livid, to say the least, and hinted that I should find someone else to consult with. I was devastated. (Not to mention disgusted over the pain I must have caused the girl.) And now I was totally alone. This was my introduction to the world of shidduchim.

After a break, I did start dating again, but every date was so exhausting, and keeping the conversation going was worse than heavy manual labor. Things would inevitable fizzle out. I also had nobody to talk to in the yeshiva. In addition, it was very hard for me to say the word “No” to a shadchan. It was all quite confusing. Soon after, I made a decision to return to America, and entered a yeshiva in Brooklyn, far from my hometown. My issues with shidduchim followed me there, and to make matters worse, I actually had to call the girl before we went out! There were guys who told me that they spent four or five hours on the phone with a girl, and I couldn’t imagine how this was possible. (I once spent two hours on the phone, but that was when my insurance company put me on hold.) And then, after an actual date, I had to make the decision, of course, by myself.

Another problem which came up is that I began to develop stereotypes. Even though looking back, I feel that every girl that I dated, without exception, was a special person, I really did not feel that a Brooklyn FFB girl would be able to understand me at all. For whatever unfortunate reason this came about, I really did not want to pursue such a shidduch, but again, I found it too hard to say “No”. (It would be a great punch line to say that my wife is from Brooklyn. She’s not. Sorry.) Overall, my career in shiddichum lasted for six long years. Luckily, I never became depressed or despaired, although I couldn’t figure out how guys became engaged. It was like a huge mountain. When I did finally become engaged, I saw that the whole process entailed enormous siyata d’shmaya, and I guessed that up in Heaven, they were tired of watching me go through this.) The first few dates were quite a lot of work for me, but I just kept plowing through. On my last date, we were driving through my hometown, and she casually remarked, “If you’re waiting for me, I’m ready.” I grasped the steering wheel. It was the closest I ever came in my driving career to hitting a tree. We’re now married with six children.

Everyone knows that the biggest rule in shidduchim (besides serious davening) is that one must have someone with whom to consult. In BT yeshivas, a guy is fortunate if he makes that vital connection with a rebbe with whom he feels comfortable. If the guy feels the rebbe understands him, then he’ll take the leap of trust in the rebbe’s judgment, even if it seems that he personally would do the opposite of what the rebbe says. People do make mistakes, but a guy must trust someone, and as my Rosh HaYeshiva once said, one has siyata d’shmaya when he listens to his rebbe. But not everyone is so lucky, especially guys like me. Sometimes it’s not easy for us too search out the help we need. We find the same occurs in school age kids. Many times, a rebbe might not concern himself with a student because it seems like he’s doing just fine…he never complains, he does everything right, and he sits so quietly in class. How many students have fallen through the cracks because in reality, they were not doing just fine, and could’ve have really used some attention? Many are just ashamed to ask. Guys in a BT yeshiva are like school age kids. They’re in a somewhat new environment, and are learning just like the school age kids. And they all need attention, especially when it comes to shidduchim.

The yeshiva must make sure every guy has appointed to him a mentor or a rebbe when he begins to date. Every guy must be accounted for, everyday of his yeshiva years. (There must also be a service provided through an organization for single guys who are not in yeshiva, or living on their own). Sometimes you have one rebbe whose job is too deal with shidduchim, and guys need to make appointments to speak with him. But that’s very hard, because after a date, a guy needs someone to speak with NOW. Having hanging indecision for a lengthy period can also be detrimental.

The fact is that practically, there aren’t too many solutions to this problem. But I think that everyone who is employed a BT yeshiva should, before he goes to work, sit on the floor with his legs crossed and eyes closed (like the Jews in India before they discover Jerusalem and yiddishkeit) and repeat over and over, “He has no family, he has no support, he is alone.” Or can they can just repeat this mantra in their heads while surveying the beis midrash and finding at random a guy to shmooze with about his life. Even if the guy seems he’s doing just fine. BT yeshivas are filled with rabbeim who understand human nature and can guide others according to the Torah, and everyone should have strong connection with one.

As we watch our families grow, may we always merit the proper guidance and may we only share simchas together.

Darchei Noam’s Internet and Technology Initiative


Dear Readers:

About five years ago, I formulated an Internet policy for Yeshiva Darchei Noam where I serve as Dean. It was designed to be “real” — something that parents would be able to respect and adhere to, rather than one that would be so restrictive that it would be ignored.

Recently, our Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Bezalel Rudinsky, shlit”a and I decided to raise awareness among our school parents about the need to follow our technology policy and at the same time, add several components to it to reflect the evolving nature of technology.

It is always a risky proposition to publicly share information about events that are still a work in progress with the outcome yet unknown, but since Yeshivos/Bais Yaakovs and parents worldwide are grappling with these very same issues, I will be sharing the progress of our initiative in “real time” with the hope that our readers may find it helpful. So, here goes:

This past Tuesday, Rabbi Rudinsky and I conducted a special Asifa with the parents of Darchei Noam to discuss these matters with them. This is a link to my presentation in MP3 format: Rabbi Horowitz on the Dangers of Technology and the Internet mp3. Rabbi Rudinsky’s shlit”a address to the parents can be found here: (click on “This year’s new shiurim” and then click on “Special”).

I am gratified to report that we have had overwhelming support and positive energy from our parent body for our efforts, and many Darchei Noam parents have accepted my offer of assistance and reached out to me in the past 48 hours, asking me to help them in “selling” this to their children.

After speaking to a number of parents, I decided that I ought to take a more active role in explaining these takanos directly to my talmidim.

Below, please find the text of the letter that I sent to the parents in our yeshiva, which is pretty self-explanatory. I hope you find this unfolding saga to be of interest and perhaps helpful as well.

As always I look forward to your input, and if you can share stories of mosdos that have had success in dealing with these issues, please share them with us.

The meeting with my talmidim is taking place soon. Wish me luck!

Best wishes for a Gutten Shabbos,



Dear YDN Parents:

Rabbi Rudinsky and I would like to thank you for the overwhelming messages of support for our Internet Asifa that was held this past Tuesday night (You can listen to it here click on “This year’s new shiurim” and then “Special”).

I was pleased to see that throughout the day yesterday, many YDN parents took me up on my offer of assistance in “selling” our technology policy to your children. In fact, one YDN couple actually came to my home last night to discuss ironing out some glitches that arose when they discussed this matter with their son.

After processing all this feedback, and in order to partner with you and help frame your discussions with your children, I decided to write the following letter to our talmidim and invite the older ones to a special meeting, where I will discuss this with them directly – and address their questions. I think this will be an important component in the hatzlacha of our joint efforts to raise our children b’tahara.

Please print this letter and give to your son, and be prepared to discuss it with him. (Be sure to give it to him when things are relatively quiet so he can read, think, and respond.) As with all other parenting matters, listening is usually far more important than speaking. Always remember that an unasked question is inevitably an unanswered one.

Don’t get on the soapbox if the children express their disappointment or even displeasure with my words (or even with me personally). Remember that this is a very, very big deal for them – if they have gotten used to a level of technology use and we are now taking it away from them. Just discuss the issues they raise, softly remind them to speak with derech eretz, and encourage them to raise their concerns and/or questions with me tomorrow at the meeting. Also, please take advantage of my offer to have the kids call me directly in the days and weeks ahead should you hit a rough patch or even if they are listening to your directions but are deeply resentful.

Finally, there was a lively and productive Q&A session after the Asifa which, due to the late hour, many parents could not participate in. I would like to offer to have a follow-up meeting where I will take Q&A on this subject and discuss overall technology and pre-teen/teenage matters. Please drop me an email at if you would like me to arrange such a meeting in the next week or two – or if you would appreciate a YDN workshop with a technology expert, who can help you select and teach you how to install blocking software. (Here are two programs that come highly recommended – eblaster ( which records all activity on your house computers and cyberpatrol ( ).

I intended the gathering to be for incoming 6th-8th graders, but incoming 5th graders may attend as well. Our graduating 8th graders are welcome as well. This is a “closed-door” session, so I respectfully ask you to drop the kids off and not enter the building. It will end promptly at 10:15 so you can plan the pick-up. (Or you can have the kids text you when we are … just kidding!)

I hope you find this to be helpful and, once again, feel free to contact me should you need “tech-support.”

Best and warmest regards



Dear YDN Talmidim:

The Internet and all of today’s technology is very, very exciting. It helps you be in touch with friends, allows you to play all sorts of interactive, fun games online, and lots of other things.

Your parents and I use the Internet – some more and some less – to help us in our work, pay our bills, to listen to shiurim and read divrei Torah, and in our personal lives. And as time moves forward, more and more things will be done over the Internet. We understand that you, your brothers and sisters, and all your friends will be using the Internet more and more as you get older.

But, along with all the good things the Internet has to offer, we are also very worried about the many ‘bad things’ the Internet presents. There are an awful lot of pictures and videos on the Internet that are not very tzniyus, and would never otherwise be brought into your homes. Also, the Internet is a dangerous place as well. Your parents carefully watch who comes into your house and who you are allowed to play with, and they would never let you go to someone’s home if they did not know them well. For example, imagine that your parents took you to the Palisades Mall tonight and told you that you could go home and play with anyone you see there. Wouldn’t you think that would be rather strange? Of course they would never let you do that. No parent would. But that’s what it is like when you go on the Internet. You could be talking and playing with very good people – or very bad ones.

So; some of your parents do not let you use the Internet at all, and some do let you use it – but with rules of which sites you can go to, and the emails you are sending and receiving, while watching you to see that you are listening to those rules, and seeing to it that you don’t accidently go to inappropriate sites. It is very important that they do that, because they love you and don’t want your neshama to be hurt by visiting bad sites and contacting dangerous people.

In Darchei Noam, we made rules for our talmidim whose parents let them use the Internet. They are all in our Handbook. 1) No computers with Internet in your rooms – only in family rooms. 2) Filters on house computers. 3) You can only use the Internet with a parent sitting next to you. I made these rules for your safety.

Until now, these Internet rules weren’t always followed – sort of like the rule we have in school to tuck in your shirt. You know you are supposed to do it, and when you see me you (sometimes) tuck it in. But most of the times, many of you simply do not.

But now we are changing that. Rabbi Rudinsky and I had a meeting with your parents this week and told them that this is going to be the most important rule in the school from now on. In fact, from now on, we will not let families who don’t keep these rules send their children to Darchei Noam.

We are also adding a few new parts to the school’s Internet rules – 1) No more private email addresses for kids – only family email addresses – so that you can still get emails, but with your parent’s supervision. You can tell whoever sends you email to put your name in the subject line, and then your brothers and sisters will not open it. But your parents can, to see that the people sending you emails are people they are comfortable with. 2) No YDN talmidim are allowed to have Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter accounts (or any others like it). 3) No YDN talmidim will have their own personal cell phones. Instead, should your parents wish to provide you with a cell phone when you leave your home, it will be a “family” cell phone – and will not have Internet connectivity or texting capacity. And, as in the past, no cell phones can be brought to school or any yeshiva function, like Bar Mitzvos or trips.

Why did we suddenly change things? Well; there are basically two reasons we decided to make sure the Internet rules are really, really followed:

1) The Internet keeps getting more and more powerful and is much stronger than it was when I wrote the rules five years ago. Think of it this way. When you rode a tricycle, your parents watched you to make sure you were safe. But when you rode a bicycle, they were much more nervous. They put on training wheels and didn’t take them off until you were really good at riding. And even when they took them off, they ran alongside you until they were sure you could ride without falling. Do you know why they were more worried about your riding a bicycle? Because it is so much bigger and more powerful than a tricycle. It can do more good things – take you farther and faster – but you can also get hurt much more if you fall. And much more protection is in place when you will drive a car one day. Well; the Internet got much stronger in the past few years and now that so many homes have wifi; video games like Wii, PSPs and devices like iPods can all be connected to the Internet. At your age, no matter how mature and trustworthy you are, you still need training wheels to ride this exciting and dangerous Internet – and you need a parent standing next to you to make sure you don’t fall and really hurt yourself. The time will come when you will be able to do this alone, but that is a long time off. For now, you need your parents to watch you.

2) Another reason Rabbi Rudinsky and I are going to watch carefully to see that these rules are kept, is because we keep seeing how badly the neshamos of kids get hurt when they fall off their bicycles (get hurt by the Internet when they use it without their parents watching them). Kids who do that, fall behind in school, don’t get into High Schools, and some even go off the derech. As you know, I care deeply about each and every one of you, and don’t want this to happen to any of my talmidim.

This is a very important topic and I would like to discuss it with you personally and give you the chance to ask me any questions you may have. So; tomorrow, Friday, I will be meeting with all incoming 6th, 7th, and 8th graders (those who just finished 5th, 6th, and 7th grades) YDN talmidim in Rabbi Rudinsky’s shul from 9:30 to 10:15 and I am asking your parents to carpool you there and back because I think it is so important that we discuss this personally. I will be serving doughnuts and milk to all of you, so don’t fill yourself too much at breakfast! (Incoming 5th graders may also come.)

Also; even after our meeting, if there are any questions you have about this policy, you can call me on my cell phone throughout the summer between 9-11 am Sunday through Friday. (You may feel free to call with or without your parents).

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

Rabbi Horowitz

Reposted from Rabbi Horowitz’ site.

Telling My Story

Mazal Tov to early Beyond BT contributor Shoshana on her recent wedding to Mordechai Goldberg. In honor of this wonderful simcha we’re reposting this piece from December 5, 2006.

When people meet me, and find out a bit of my background – being from Alabama, not growing up in an Orthodox home – they often ask me to tell “my story.” I used to have no problem with this, but lately, the request for my story has started to bother me.

I don’t hide my background; I don’t pretend to be “FFB” (though I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I could “pass” easily). I’m very upfront with my background and the fact that my family is not observant. So why does it bother me to be asked about my story?

I think it’s because I’ve moved beyond my story. I’ve been shomer shabbos for almost nine years now, the majority of my independent life. My “story” occurred a long time ago. I just don’t feel like those events define who I am anymore, nor even my frumkeit.

Many people who become observant go off to a certain seminary or yeshiva and come to define themselves within the hashkafa of that particular place. I didn’t do that – I worked it out for myself, through many permutations until I made it my own. I imagine that it will still change somewhat throughout my life, but I don’t define myself by the organization that mikareved me, so I’m always a little uncomfortable telling people how I got “into” Orthodoxy.

But beyond having people try to define me by the specific organization that I don’t align myself with (which I don’t blame anyone for, it’s human nature to want to put people in boxes in order to understand them better), I guess I want to move on with my life, to just be a normal Jew who observes or doesn’t observe particular facets of Judaism. It’s not about blending – believe me, it’s difficult to blend when you are from Alabama, living in the NY area – but it’s about wanting people to look at me for WHO I am NOW, rather than where I came from.

Yes, our current lives are certainly affected by our upbringing and our experiences throughout life, but because the events that sparked my interest in becoming more observant happened so long ago, I’m not that person anymore. I’ve moved beyond it, just like I’ve moved beyond the person I was in junior high school.

So now when people ask me my story, I kinda cringe and give them as few details as possible. Not because I’m embarrassed about it or my past, because I’m not. But because I just have trouble remembering who that person was.