Lifecycle Events – Tips on Making a Wedding, a Bar Mitzvah or a Bris

I’m 53, I’ve been a Baalas-Teshuvah since June 1974, when I was 17-1/2. Since then, I’ve gotten married and had seven children (four girls, three boys, in that order) and ten gorgeous grandchildren (so far). The first generation has had six weddings (the youngest boy not yet, he’s only 19), three Bar Mitzvahs, and three Brisim (or Britot – pardon my bad Ivrit). The next generation has had six Brisim and one Pidyon ha-Ben; no Bar-Mitzvahs yet.

Believe me, I’m not setting myself up as the Letitia Baldridge Etiquette Expert for the BT crowd. This is more like that Chasidic story about somebody lost in the forest who encounters someone else who’s also lost, but who can at least share which pathways have been tried and don’t work. Let me share my mistakes. Of course, what didn’t work for me might work for you. At least, we can all have a good laugh!

The first thing is to remember the advice of Pirkei Avos: “Make yourself a Rav, acquire yourself a friend.” Get yourself a wise halachic/hashkafic authority who also has a lot of practical good sense and people smarts. Bother this Rabbi (politely and respectfully, of course) with your halachic/hashkafic problems (and there will be many) during the planning of this lifecycle event. Acquiring a friend isn’t bad advice either: you need somebody with lots of patience to bounce ideas off, discuss things with, and complain to.

The second thing to remember is that you’ll never please everyone, so don’t even try. Do the kind of wedding, Bar Mitzvah or Bris that YOU want to do (within halachic boundaries, of course) and forget about keeping up with the Hobgelters. You especially won’t please all of your non-religious and non-Jewish family members, so don’t let anyone pile on the guilt.

The third thing to remember is to try to be in general agreement with your spouse (or spouse-to-be, if this is your own wedding) in planning this lifecycle event. Two heads (and two bank accounts) are better than one. If you are divorced, however, skip this paragraph.

The fourth thing to remember is that the kids’ yeshivos still want their tuition paid even after you pay the catering bills. So think really cheap, as in how low can I go and still make a decent event? Yes, I’m super cheap and that’s horrible. But do a little thinking out of the box (come on, that’s why we’re frum today, we weren’t afraid to think differently!) and there might be more affordable alternatives to the $30,000 Bar Mitzvah or the $75,000 wedding.

I’ll start with Brisim first. After the groggy announcement of “It’s a boy!” comes the planning of the Bris Milah. (Yes, I know that the Sholom Zachor is first. Get six cases of cold beer and soda, open up a dozen cans of cooked chickpeas, and run through the nearest Kosher bakery buying all kinds of assorted cookies and cakes. Lay all this stuff out on the table after you clear off Friday night’s seuda. Next). First, your pediatrician should tell you if the little guy has any health issues that might require postponing the Bris. Second, consult your Rabbi to help determine when the Bris Milah should take place. If the baby was born by C-section or during “Bain Hashmoshos” (the interim period between sunset and nightfall), then it is not held on Shabbos or Yom Tov. Third, hire a Mohel. (That’s why you figure out the date first). Last, deal with the food and locale part. That can be very much connected to the Hebrew calendar. My husband and I had to make a Chol Hamoed Pesach Bris for our oldest son. It ended up as a table in our shul spread with boxes of (relatively) cheap Israeli hand matzohs, open cans of tuna with the label showing, jars of Pesach mayonnaise, cooked eggs, Pesachdik soda, and that was about it. A Seudas Bris on Motzaei Tisha B’av will be very different from a Seudas Bris on Shabbos Sukkos.

Next, Bar Mitzvahs. Talk to your son at least a year ahead of time. Does he intend to read his entire Torah portion or is he content to just say the brochos and let the official reader take over? Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld zatzal was unhappy at the pressure on young boys to “perform,” and so instituted a rule in his own kehillah that nobody “lains” except the Baal Koreh. A boy who plans to “lain” his whole portion has to start learning the “trup” months in advance. And find out exactly what that portion is going to be. Don’t waste time learning the Haftarah for that Shabbos when it’s actually “Machar Chodesh.”

Then talk to your son about the kind of Bar Mitzvah he wants to have. You probably can’t afford a lavish catered affair with five-piece band and professional photos, unless you have only one son and exceedingly generous grandparents. For our youngest son, my husband and I got away very cheaply by renting a local shul basement and ordering in glatt Chinese food on paper plates. For our oldest son, the pre-Pesach baby, we waited to celebrate until the summer and then held a barbeque out on our lawn. Some people are “machpid” (strict) that the Bar Mitzvah seudah must held on the exact night that the boy turns Bar Mitzvah. You can still save money by leaving out the professional band and photographer (that’s what CD players and camcorders are for) and opting for a limited guest list at a local glatt restaurant’s party room. Another option: Your son might enjoy much more getting a trip to Israel for his Bar Mitzvah. Send father and son only, leave the rest of the family at home to save money, and it could cost less than 7K. Don’t skimp on the Tefillin, though: a good pair will set you back about a grand.

Don’t forget to make the necessary arrangements way in advance with your shul or synagogue for the main event. How many aliyos to the Torah will your family need? Just two (the boy and his father) or will there be grandfathers, uncles and big brothers who expect aliyos also? Are there going to be two or more boys in your shul or synagogue who are Bar Mitzvah on the same Shabbos? If so, what’s the official policy (hopefully not big donor gets precedence). In all fairness, a longtime active Shul member will naturally be accommodated ahead of a stranger. How will you include, or exclude, nonreligious relatives who don’t keep Shabbos? I once went to a very nice Bar Mitzvah held on Thanksgiving Day, a Thursday when the Torah is read. Davening and the seudas mitzvah were set up at a local Glatt Kosher catering hall (and yes, we had turkey). There was no problem with driving to the event. Ditto for a Bar Mitzvah that can be held on a Sunday Rosh Chodesh or on a Sunday of Chanukah or Chol haMoed.

Last of all, I’ll mention the very special Bar Mitzvah, for a boy with special needs or special circumstances. There have been Down syndrome boys who have had beautiful Bar Mitzvah celebrations with family and friends. You definitely need the full cooperation of the Rabbi, Gabbai and shul president to make a special bar mitzvah happen. Other boys with physical or mental challenges have had Bar Mitzvahs. Say it again: ADVANCE PLANNING!!

Weddings – I’ve already gone on at length on Bar Mitzvahs and Brisim, and I think I could easily run on another ten thousand words or so about weddings. Instead, I’ll just briefly mention six very helpful hints. One, network network network with other people in your community who have just made weddings to get some of their good ideas on how to save money but still make a lovely simcha. Two, keep a notebook and write down important addresses and phone numbers. This can be a useful resource for the next wedding in the family. Three, rent instead of buy whenever you can: gowns for the ladies, centerpieces for the tables, etc. etc. etc. Four, leave out wasteful extras like the Viennese table. Fifth, keep the guest list way down as much as possible on both sides (casual acquaintances and distant cousins will understand if they’re not invited). Sixth, knowing in advance that lots of people will be screaming about your choices will help you to get through it all with your sanity and sense of humor intact. Of course Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Max will complain loudly about separate seating. Smile and concentrate on getting the happy couple halachically hitched. I’ll just mention here that my husband didn’t invite any of his many co-workers to our oldest daughter’s wedding. Instead, he got permission from his manager to bring in the wedding video and show it during lunch hour in one of the conference rooms. His co-workers were quite nice about it, and they enjoyed the video very much. Sending a copy of the wedding video with a lovely note attached could be a welcome alternative to inviting those obnoxious relations who ruin every party they attend.

I’m no maven or macher, and I’m certainly not a Posaik. These hints, tips, suggestions and stories are simply to start the conversation. Your lifecycle event is going to be as individual and unique as you are. If you were brave enough to become frum, you’re brave enough to make your own kind of celebration!

Identity Theft of the Biggest Kind

Just about all of us have had our identities stolen from us. I think I lost mine about 53 years ago, but I only realized it last night. Thanks to my husband. Over dinner last night, he pointed out to me that we’d had our identities stolen.

Truth is, it was probably a lot longer than just the 53 years of my life. It could have happened centuries ago, for all I know. But who’s going to notice these things? When our spiritual identities are stolen from us, we don’t panic at all. Because we don’t even know they are missing. And we don’t even know what we’re missing.

Did it begin when crammed boats of us came over from Europe around the turn of the 20th Century?How many thousands of pairs of tefillin were gleefully tossed overboard on the way to the land of new opportunities? That can’t be when our spiritual identities got lost, though. Most of the Jewish people on board were carrying with them an extremely heavy tradition that they, generally, did not understand. They honestly did not know why they should continue holding onto it. Why did so many Jews toss their legacy overboard into the Atlantic Ocean – before even going ashore? They were convinced that their heritage would weigh them down in a land of – freedom.

Today we are mostly free of the Jewish identities that were taken from us. “Why be Jewish?” isn’t even a question anymore for the vast majority of young assimilated Jews who feel that all religions are equivalent and “falling in love” with non-Jews should be embraced. Judaism, if thought about at all, is viewed as a cultural relic, with restrictive archaic traditions. And if we aren’t spiritual beings with a noble mission here on earth, who needs spiritual directives anyway?

In kindergarten, they did teach us to share. Beyond that, it was exceedingly rare for us to be provided with any useful knowledge about our development as spiritual entities – anywhere around us. Not on TV, not in movies, not on billboards, not in Seventeen Magazine – and not even iback n Hebrew school!

Just as with financial identity theft, which basically disconnects us from our financial abilities, spiritual identity theft essentially disconnects us from our spiritual abilities. Here’s one important difference between them, though. With financial identity theft, our identities are used by others. With spiritual identity theft, nobody bothers. Once stolen, it’s tossed in the garbage, like an old worn-out wallet.

Spiritual Identity Theft has an acronym that fits. Spiritual Identity Theft usually causes its victims to sit and do nothing about it. Since we don’t even know what we’re missing, it is so easy to”successfully” cover up the underlying emptiness by going after other pursuits. And if the painful awareness ever does surface, it gets shoved down as quickly as possible with a vast array of distractions from which to choose. Some are harmful, and most are numbing, but even the benign material pleasures just don’t last long enough.

It appears as if financial identity theft is much more important than spiritual identity theft, but before you know it, we’ll have to throw all the Monopoly money back into the box anyway. Even Boardwalk and Park Place too. Soon they’ll all disappear.

And we just cannot accept that nothing will remain from our entire lifetimes. There has to be something permanent in this throwaway society. We know it. Within each of us, there is a still small voice that won’t give up insisting something lasts.

The voice comes from within each empty soul that has had its spiritual identity stolen.

What finally fills my soul, nurtures what has always lined the inner walls of my being. Each morsel of pure nourishment enlivens something that was already present, but dormant. I found morsels of spiritual nourishment in other religions and practices as well, while out searching. But it is only Jewish spiritual wisdom that could fit, like the missing puzzle piece, in my neshama.

I am still peeling off the layers that “successfully”covered up my essence. Through understanding more and more about why being Jewish is vital, I identify more closely with my neshama. Just as with financial identity theft, it can be a long and difficult process to reclaim one’s identity. But as I come to recognize my true self, the pleasures I am experiencing aren’t fleeting and they aren’t shallow. They go deeper than even the Atlantic ocean.

It can take years of work and determination, but every struggle is so worth it. Those credit cards with our Jewish names – they can still be found.

This is what Alan found in the garbage one day:
movie ticket stubs,
crumpled candy wrappers,
a partially eaten ham and cheese sandwich,
yesterday’s newspaper,
empty soda cans,
crushed cigarette butts,
and an old pair of tefillin.

Then Alan suddenly understood why
he had been desperately searching
through garbage
for years and years.
He must have known,
deep down,
that along with the trash,
what still had value, the most value,
was also being thrown away.

Alan stuck his hand into the garbage
and pulled out the tefillin.
for years and years,
in turn,
the tefillin searched desperately,
found its way
through the garbage piled high in Alan,
and pulled out Aharon.

Bracha Goetz is the Harvard-educated author of eleven children’s books, including Aliza in MitzvahLand, What Do You See at Home? and The Invisible Book. To enjoy Bracha’s presentations, you’re welcome to email

The Book of the People – The ArtScroll Siddur at 25

Assuming I must have missed something — something that would be hard to miss, but stranger things have happened — I did a Google search before I wrote this article:



For all practical purposes, at least as far as I can tell, the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of the Artscroll Siddur has gone unremarked.

In a way, this is of a piece with the fundamentally restrained, dignified style of Mesorah Publications. It is also consistent with the central theme of their incredible endeavor, a perspective from which 25 years is, in the scheme of things, pretty small potatoes, and in which the publishers and authors of the Artscroll “series” (really an undertaking far greater than a “series”) see themselves as conduits of something far greater than themselves.

But we can do it for them, and not only because 25 years is, in our individual lives, a very significant amount of time, but because the publication of the Artscroll Siddur in 1984 literally turned a page in the history of the Jewish people.

In a time when more Jews were more ignorant of their heritage than ever before, and more in danger of disappearing from the nation of Israel as identifying Jews in no small part because of the inaccessibility, mystery and intimidation of the tradition, Artscroll fulfilled the dictum in Pirkei Avos, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” A man was needed; more than one, in fact; but fundamentally two — Rabbis Meir Zolotowitz and Nosson Scherman — stepped forward and took the responsibility to do the work.

For all the sweat, heart and brain that was poured into the Artscroll Siddur by these men and those who worked with them, I cannot believe that they could have had an inkling of just how phenomenal this work would be, and how much it would mean to people such as you and me.
Of course they must have realized that never before had the traditional Jewish liturgy — including the full range of responsibilities of a Jew besides “merely” understanding the words of prayer found in any bilingual siddur — become so completely accessible to so many seeking access. They knew that, even if it was not perfect, no more comprehensive, approachable siddur had ever been published in the vernacular for non-scholarly use in the home and synagogue. And they cannot have been unaware of at least the possible “political” impact this assertive broadside from the once-quiescent English-speaking community of strictly orthodox or “yeshiva” Jews would have on the course of Jewish communal and religious life for a generation.

But they could not have realized what it would mean to us to find out that, yes, there is one — there is a book — a siddur — there is one work you can buy that will tell you how to do it: How to go about being really Jewish in prayer and, in no small measure, throughout the day. When to stand in shul; when to sit; what to answer; when to bow, and in which direction — all those mysteries that, observed in our peripheral vision, kept so many of us, too self-conscious or proud to look like complete dorks in an orthodox shul or to require the embarrassing personal tutelage of an insider to even consider stepping through that door.

Now we could learn how to do it, and to some degree why we were doing it, and how much more we had to do, at our own pace; in private; and on an adult level.

This was a gift of freedom that I can hardly imagine Rabbis Zlotowitz and Scherman could have understood they were giving so many of us.

The Artscroll Siddur turned 25 last August, quietly. But the voices it enabled, empowered and amplified — hundreds, no, thousands of Jewish spirits — have not only filled the Heavens with a magnificent raash gadol [great noise] for 25 years, but have unleashed an eternity of song for which so many of us and our descendants will always be grateful.

Thank you, Artscroll.

How Much To Know About History, How Much About Biology…?

Dear Beyond BT

I’m a BT for many years with a Masters Degree so I certainly see the value of a good education. The problem I’m facing is that while helping some memorization challenged children with their tests, I have become increasingly aware that there is a tremendous amount of trivial information that has to be memorized. I know personally that much of the history and science I had to memorize has proved to be useless from an information perspective.

So when my children ask why they have to know this, I’m often stumped and at a loss to provide motivational inputs.

What is the value of so much memorization?

Wouldn’t focusing on teaching our children analytical skills be time better spent?

If I really do think much of the memorization is not valuable, what should I tell my kids when asked, why they have to know this?

Thanks in Advance

Rebbetzin Heller on Complacency and Happiness

Rebbetzin Heller gave a shiur last night in Kew Gardens Hills on Breaking out of Our Complacency.

Here is post from her website on happiness:

There are two kinds of simchah. One is the vivid, transient, engaging joy that the animal soul is addicted to. It propels us to almost constant movement towards whatever the next moment offers (note, not this moment; its enemy is the present and its friend is the future).

One of my friends was telling me about what people sometimes refer to as “their former lives”, meaning the way they were before real growth was even a possibility. “I was always looking for something new, better, improved and most of all different than what I already had.

There was something so dreadfully frightening about the present moment that just thinking about life never being something “more” was more than I could handle. I tried almost everything that seemed to hold promise.

When I finally found something real, a path that can actually be followed, a lifestyle that works, my friends response threw more for a loop. You know what they said? They asked what my next step would be. It was just inconceivable to them that I don’t have a next step, that I finally found a way of living in which the present is where I want to be. They just don’t know what that kind of happiness is. They aren’t stupid or boorish or shallow. They just grew up knowing only one way to joy.

The other kind of happiness is the kind that is there within you all of the time. It just has to be uncovered. The past holidays brought us into contact with this side of ourselves. We use every moment to let Hashem rule. This can take place in your home, when you let go of ego issues, or at work when you move beyond status or gain.

You can take Yom Kippur with you when you reconnect to the part of you that you knew when you asked forgiveness for doing things that your realized (at least at the moment) aren’t your essential self.

Have a great after-the-holidays life

BTs in Passaic Lead The Fight Against Sexual Predators

The Jewish Week had an article this week titled A Haredi Town Confronts Abuse From The Inside. That town is Passaic and resident Mitch Morrison points out:

Passaic “is unlike many Orthodox communities in New York and New Jersey. It is neither Modern Orthodox nor Chassidish.” It has, Morrison wrote, a demographic distinction that may explain why its Orthodox community is responding to the sexual abuse issue more aggressively than others. “It is, per capita, home to one of the largest populations of baalei teshuva and is among the fastest growing religious Jewish communities in the country.”

After a recent program at Ahavas Yisroel in Passaic, Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman moderated a panel discussion among five Orthodox Jews who said they had been the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of other Orthodox Jews. The rabbi regularly uses his pulpit to preach against the evils of sexual molestation. It was noted that:

“The people who came out” to the Ahavas Israel program “were largely from the [baal teshuvah] community,” says Lesley Schofield, a member of the congregation who attended the panel discussion. Baalei teshuvah, people from non-religious backgrounds who turned as adults to lives of traditional Judaism, have “a lesser fear of dealing with controversial things” than many “frum from birth” (the so-called FFBs) Orthodox Jews do, Schofield says. Because their family members are outside the community, they are less fearful of harming relatives’ marriage prospects, a motivation that keeps many Orthodox people from drawing attention to themselves or speaking out on controversial matters.

So are children in Passaic’s Orthodox community safer because of the activists’ work?

“Yes, 100 percent,” Lipner says. In Passaic, he says, a child making an accusation of abuse will be believed, and the perpetrator will be confronted. Because of attention focused on the subject, parents there say they are more protective of their children.

“If you’re a child abuser,” says Marc Stern “you don’t want to live in Passaic. There’s no refuge here.”

As a therapist, Lipner says he frequently deals with Orthodox Jews who were sexually abused and state they do not feel understood or accepted in Orthodox communities. “Now I can say, ‘Move to Passaic.’”

Ameilus B’Torah vs Email-Us the Torah

It is quite clear that Torah is the foundation on which our service of Hashem is built. To the degree to which we know and understand Torah is to the degree to which we can properly serve Hashem. To attain the proper knowledge we need to be Ameil B’Torah – toil in Torah, which means to work hard.

A friend pointed out that in our comfort zone age, Ameilus B’Torah is being replaced with Email-us the Torah. Of course there is tremendous value in the Parsha vorts, but they can not replace the hard work necessary to further our spiritual growth. If you want an online Parsha source which often provides a degree of depth, check out Rabbi Nosson Weisz. In this week’s parsha Rabbi Weisz brings down a Gemora:

“For this let every devout one pray to You at a time when ‘it’ happens.” (Psalms 32:6)

Rabbi Chanina said that ‘it’ refers to a woman; that is to say, even the devout should pray to God to be sure to merit a good wife. Rabbi Yochanan said that ‘it’ refers to burial; the devout should pray to God to merit a proper burial. (Talmud, Berochot 8a)

He then goes on to examine the linkage between burial and marriage as exemplified in this week’s parsha. Check it out.

So here’s a potential weekly Parsha toilage plan:
1) Start with Rabbi Rietti’s outline to get the whole picture of the Parsha
2) Then read the Parsha twice in Hebrew and once with an explanation as prescribed by the halacha. Many people use Rashi to fulfill this requirement, but poskim have stated that you can use the Artscroll Stone Chumash for the explanation.
3) Pick a commentator who goes a little deeper and causes some degree of brain pain.

You can’t email your ameilus but after your ameilus, the emails are even sweeter.

Here is Rabbi Rietti’s outline of Chayei Sarah. You can purchase the entire outline of the Chumash for the low price of $14.

Chayei Sarah
#23 Sarah’s Buriel
#24 Eliezer Finds Wife for Yitschak
#25 Generations of Yishmael

#23 Sarah Dies 127
* Sarah died 127 years old
* Avraham buys buriel site from Efron HaHitee for 400 Silver shekel
* Sarah’s buriel

#24 Eliezer Finds Wife for Yitschak
* Avraham reaches old age
* Eliezer swears to Avraham
* Eliezer’s deal with G-d
* Rivkah comes to the well
* Rivkah enters Sarah’s tent

#25 Generations of Yishmael
* Avraham remarries Hagar (Ketura)
* Six more sons born to Avraham from Hagar
* Avraham gives all his wealth to Yitschak
* Avraham dies 175
* Avraham is buried in Cave of Machpeila
* Generations of Yishmael
* Yishmael dies 137

In Defense of Reform Sunday School Education

I read Beyond BT’s recent article by Azriela Jaffe, Vaccinating Our Children Against Prayer, with great interest. Based on my own reform sunday school and temple experiences, I also felt that those experiences not only vaccinate Jewish children against prayer, but also against any interest in Judaism in general. My theory was that having no Jewish background, rather than a negative background, gives people more of a blank slate when it comes to approaching Judaism for the first time. I theorized that when these “blank slate Jews” do come into contact with frumkeit for the first time, it will be with a more open mind because they had no preconceived notions based on negative Jewish experiences.

But based on later experiences working with a number of Jewish, not-yet-religious college students, I have come to a different, though not mutually exclusive, conclusion.

I worked for three years in a community kollel in the United States. In the “kiruv” portion of my job, I worked primarily with Jewish college students at four different campuses running programs, giving classes, organizing Shabbatonim, organizing trips to New York, and trying to refer students to programs in Israel.

The students I was able to come into contact with were a minority of the Jewish student population at the campuses to begin with. They were a self-selected group of people who were interested in identifying with and participating in something Jewish, but I was never able to meet the majority of the Jewish students.

But within that already self-selected minority, it is interesting to note the Jewish “denominational” background of those minority of the Jewishly identified students. 90% of the these students were identified with either the conservative or reform movements. The remaining 10% or so came from an “unaffiliated” background.

Had I been a greater teacher, I would have been able to communicate with each person on their level and in a language that they understood. However, I was not such a great teacher. I found the conservative students the easiest to speak to about Jewish things. The next easiest group of students to speak to were the reform ones, but they were still harder to connect to, in general, than the conservative ones. And the most difficult to connect to were the ones from an unaffiliated background.

My impression was that the main thing that separated these groups was the extent to which there was any “common language” or “frame of reference” that they shared with Judaism and/or myself. To the extent that these students had any Jewish background at all, whether it be an awareness of the practice of certain mitzvos, certain famous stories in the Torah, or knowing a few common Hebrew words, I had some frame of reference, some common language with which to have some kind of jewish conversation with them.

The other problem with having no common language or frame of reference is that there were few values or morals that could be used as a frame of reference. Even without any specifically Jewish knowledge, someone with some of the values that are, on some level, shared by Judaism, is better equipped to relate to a Jewish message based on values, even if not based on more ostensibly “religious” aspects of Judaism.

So I think that having some Jewish background, even if it involves bad reform or conservative sunday school memories, gives those kids a leg up in two respects.

One, it gives them a somewhat greatly likelihood of having the propensity to expose themselves to occasional Jewish experiences during their lives to begin with. Without at least some jewish involvement, contact with frum people becomes less likely. You have to be in it to win it.

And two, those kids that had some Jewish background were, I think, more likely to have some common language or frame of reference, so that if and when they do come into contact with frumkeit, it enables at least some greater level of communication and connection. with Jewish people and Jewish ideas.

My main point is that even some level of affiliation by non-observant Jews is somewhat better than being unaffiliated. It’s at least a point to ponder!

-Dixie Yid

Rabbi Lazer Brody on Shalom Bayis – Mp3

Rabbi Lazer Brody inspired approximately 200 people on Sunday with a shiur sponsored by Chazaq at the Beth Gavriel Community Center on Shalom Bayis. As you might know, Rabbi Brody has translated Rabbi Shalom Arush’s book on Shalom Bayis called The Garden of Peace, a marital guide for men only. If is highly acclaimed and highly recommended.

Rabbi Brody’s first key to Shalom Bayis is that we should thank our spouse for all they do for us. Expressing thanks is the first key to Shalom Bayis.

The second major point is that a wife needs to know that she holds a central place in her husband’s list of priorities. This should be easy since the wife is the strength of a Jewish home, but we all need to make the effort to show our wife she is in first place in our eyes.

The third key is avoid criticizing your wife. Criticism and comments are very painful for a women and we should avoid them at all costs.

For women, Rabbi Brody noted that a shalom bayis book for women is on the way, and he suggested that women should encourage their husband and build their confidence..

Rabbi Yosef Nechama of was kind enough to allow us to share Rabbi Brody’s shiur. So please avail yourself of this opportunity to improve a most important aspect of our lives, our shalom bayis.

Rabbi Brody’s shiur on Shalom Bayis can be downloaded here.

Rabbi Lazer Brody in Queens and NJ – Plus Audio File From 5 Towns

The remainder of Rabbi Lazer Brody’s schedule is posted below.

# Shabbat Yayera, November 6-7, 2009
Emuna Shabbaton, Monmouth Torah Links, Marlboro, NJ – contact Scott at 732-547-1808 for details

# Saturday Night, November 7, 2009 – 8:30 PM
Iselin, NJ: Melava Malka, “Answer to all your questions,” Woodbridge Hilton, 120 Wood Ave South,

# Sunday, November 8, 2009 – 3 PM
Forest Hills, NY: Chazaq, Bet Gavriel, 66-35 108 St.,

# Sunday, November 8, 2009 – 8 PM
Brooklyn/Flatbush, 8 PM – contact Eli Steinburg, 917-2976782 for details

# Monday Morning, November 9th, 2009 (Just Added) Admission Free!
Shacharis 6:30 AM, Breakfast 7:30 AM, Lecture for Men Only 8:00 AM
Private Meeting with R’ Brody are Available (Contact for Info)
Beth Gavriel Community Center 66 – 35 108th St. Forest Hills NY 11375
For more info call or text 917-617-3636 or Email

# Tuesday, November 10, 2009 – 8:30 PM
Teaneck/Bergenfeld, NJ: Hillel House, this event is especially for and limited to university students. For more information, contact Rabbi Ely Allen for details, 201-9663040

Dixie Yid has the audio from Rabbi Brody’s shiur in the 5 Towns.

Any Advice on Spending Shabbos at Non-Frum Family?

My wife and two sons and I are going to visit my wife’s parent’s for Thanksgiving.
Athough my wife’s parents are not frum, they keep kosher to standard that we will eat there, even if they don’t do things exactly the way we do.

However, this trip proves to be stressful. Unless something changes in the future this could very well be our last Thanksgiving visiting them. Starting next year my son’s school has half days on Thanksgiving and the day after.

My in-laws do not live within walking distance to an Orthodox and over time we came to the conclusion that we will not spend Shabbos at their house. This was aggravated by the fact that they moved to be closer to us but still chose a home that was outside the eruv and too far to walk to the nearest shul.

I wanted to spend Shabbos in the town where my in-laws live and then come back motzai Shabbos and spend Sunday with them. My wife wants to go back home Friday morning even though making Shabbos will be hectic due to the early candle-lighting time. In the future, we might spend Shabbos with strangers in the town my in-laws live in (since my son has a half day on Friday) and then spend Saturday night and Sunday with them.

Beyond BT has in the past had several posting about the appropriateness of Thanksgiving, but I never saw anything about anyone’s thoughts on the difficulty of it being so near Shabbos and the problems of Shabbos with non-frum family.

Have you spend Shabbos at non-frum family?

What have you done to minimize and difficulties?

What have you done to maximize the experience?


Connect to the Yankees By Watching the Game, Connect to Hashem By Learning Torah

My son sometimes asks me why we have to learn so much Gemora. Yesterday I told him that if you wanted to be a Yankee fan, you would at least have to follow the game. Nobody can claim to be a Yankee fan if they don’t watch the game or at least follow what’s going on.

Aligning ourselves with Hashem, the creator of the universe is a much greater accomplishment than being a Yankee fan. But to connect to Hashem, you must learn His Torah (and doing his Mitzvos). Just like the more you know about the Yankees, the bigger a fan you are, so too, the more we know Hashem’s Torah, the more we are connected to Him. My son heard the moshul and we had a solid learning session.

Vayera is an amazing parsha and the commentaries deal with issues like:
– What exactly caused Hashem to appear to Avraham?
– Was the appearance of the angels a prophetic vision (Rambam) or did the angels actually take human form (Ramban)
– What was the actual sin of S’dom?
– How is the S’dom attitude of “What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours” considered an evil trait?
– Can there be human morals without fear of Hashem?
– If a person erroneously thinks something is permitted – is he guiltless or guilty?
– Why does Hashem have to test us, doesn’t He know the outcome?
– Was the Akeidah test for the sake of Avraham, the nations of the world or the Jewish People?
(Questions culled from Studies in the Weekly Parashah by Yehuda Nachshoni)

Here is Rabbi Rietti’s outline and you can purchase the entire outline of the Chumash for the low price of $14.

#18 Three Arabs Visit Avraham
#19 Sdom Destroyed – Lot Saved
#20 Avimelech Takes Sarah
#21 Yitschak is Born
#22 The Akeida

#18 Three Arabs Visit Avraham
* Burning hot day
* Three Arabs
* Sarah laughs
* Avraham bargains to save Sdom & Amora. 50-45-30-20-10

#19 Destruction of Sdom – Lot Saved
* 2 angels go to Sdom
* Sdom destroyed
* Lot escapes with two daughters to cave in Tsoar
* Eldest daughter named her child Moav
* Younger daughter names her son Ben Ami, father of the nation of Amon

#20 Avimelech Takes Sarah
* Avraham went down south; ‘She’s my sister’
* Avimelech, king of Gerar takes Sarah
* G-d warns him in a dream to return Sarah to Avraham
* Avimelech rebukes Avraham – loads him and Sarah with Gifts
* Avraham prays for Avimelech to be cured
* Avimelech, his wife and all his maidservants are cured and gave birth

#21 Yitschak is Born
* Yitschak is born: Celebration of Yitschak’s circumcision
* Sarah persuades Avraham of negative influence of Hagar & Yishmael
* Hagar and Yishmael expelled
* Hagar and son dying of thirst, miracle of water
* Avraham makes peace treaty with Avimelech and general Phichol
* Avraham planted Eshel tree in Be’ar Sheva & named it “Eternal Power”

#22 The Akeida
* The Binding of Yitschak
* Rivkah is born to Betuel, son of Nachor, brother to Avraham

How a Planned Cremation was Changed to a Proper Jewish Burial

By Miriam Sidell
This post is a follow up to a Question of the week from Dec 2, 2008 titled How Can I Prevent a Cremation?

This is the story of how a planned cremation was changed to a proper Jewish burial, chasdei Hashem. Two years ago when my grandmother passed away at the age of 100 and had a proper, preplanned Jewish burial, my parents informed me that they had prepaid for cremations for when their time would come. Both my sister and I were shocked and totally distraught over this. We tried to change our parents’ view about this, but were not successful. We brought it up several times over the next two years but couldn’t seem to change their minds. My sister finally told our Dad several more ideas about the issue ,and asked him not to answer, but to just think about it. (Which he did: for several months.) This was shortly after Pesach when I last visited our Mom. Fast forward to Shavous, when a dear friend of our family, an older Russian man who davened at Rabbi Taub’s shul was nifter.

I attended his levaya the Sunday right after Shavuous. As there were only a few women there, I was asked to help the almonah tear kriah, which I did. The kevurah was at a bais olam where Rebbetzin Taub (who was nifteress in 1964) was buried. I had heard that she was a big tzadekes (righteous woman) . After the kevurah, I decided to go to her kever. There I davened fervently to Hashem that my mother (who had been quite ill for the past 3 years; the doctor saying she could pass at any time) would merit a kevura according to halacha when the time would come.

That Friday, my mom was moved to a hospice in Florida, where she lived. I spoke to her erev Shabbos and told her I loved her. She sounded very weak but was able to speak to me. Shortly before Shabbos, my father called my sister and said that he thought about what she told him, and decided that he was willing for our mom to have a Jewish burial in Baltimore when the time would come. My sister then called me, and as soon as I heard the news, a tremendous burden was lifted off of me. Motzi Shabbos, when I called the hospice at 10:30pm, they reported that that her death was imminent. I then gave them the name and phone number of Sol Levinsons and Bros, the Jewish Funeral Home in Baltimore. At 11:30pm, my mother was nifteres. The hospice called my father and called Levinsons. I wasn’t called until the next morning. Because the hospice knew to call Levinsons, things moved very quickly and the nifteress was brought to Baltimore late Sunday night. Two burial plots were purchased and all arrangements were made on Sunday. Our mother had a kosher tahara and kevurah that Monday morning. Afterwards our father thanked us profusely for taking care of all the arrangements.

Our father’s change of heart was erev Shabbos. Our mother was nifteres motzi Shabbos. One of my dear friends suggested that maybe the neshuma could not leave the guf until proper kevurah was assured. Boruch Hashem, through the zechus (merit) of our tefillos and those of Rebbetzin Taub, of blessed memory, our mother merited a tahara and kevurah al pi halacha (according to Jewish law). We are eternally grateful. Out tefillos were answered.