Rabbi Moshe Gordon on Pesach

The Haggadah relates that:

In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had come out of Mitzrayim, as it is says: “You shall tell your child on that day, it is because of this that Hashem did for me when I left Mitzrayim.”

In this mp3, Rabbi Moshe Gordon explores some of the classical approaches to understanding and fulfilling this Mitzvah. You can download it here.

And here is an amazing series of Shiurim by Rabbi Gordon on the Seder and the Haggadah which covers the major Rishonim, Achronim and Poskim on the mitzvos of Pesach night and the Hagaddah.

Kadesh and Arba Kosos
Urchatz Karpas Yachatz
Hallel Rachtza Matza Heseiba
Maror Korech Shulchan Orech
Afikomen Barech End of Hallel Nirtza after Seder

Intro to Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim
HaLachma Anya Akiras HaShulchan Intro to Ma Nishtana
Ma Nishtana
Avadim Hayeinu Arami Oved Avi
Arami Oved Avi 2
Makos End of Magid

Free Teleconference: Halacha & Harmony: Improving the Relationships within your Home

Halacha & Harmony: Improving the Relationships within your Home

Rav Doniel Neustadt, Rosh Av Beis Din, Vaad HaRabbonim of Greater Detroit

Date: Wednesday, March 28th

Time: 9:30 to 10:00 pm.

Call Number: 712-432-1001

Access Code: 474 399 673#

In this Teleconference you will learn about the following topics:

1. Children in shul

2. Pesach Chumros and Shalom Bayis

3. Taking on Chumros without Hadracha

4. Social Practices without Roots in Halacha

5. Realistic Expectations for Chinuch

6. Birth Control and Shalom Bayis

A Letter to My Brother – Explaining Some Lifestyle Choices

This is the email I sent to my secular brother because he keeps asking me questions about my 21 year old son’s future. We live in Australia and he lives in America where I am from originally. It can be very challenging for BT’s to explain their lifestyle choices to the secular relatives. Even after 27 years of my being frum my relatives find my choices hard to understand. The Beyond BT readers may find this email of interest:

Dear ( ),

I have been thinking about your email in which you asked me some questions about Shmuli’s future, will he marry an American, if so will he live there, and so on and so forth.

I am sure you would agree that in life one can never anticipate all the myriad of possibilities of what could happen. Almost any given situation has an almost incalculable number of outcomes that could occur. It is logical then to assume that it would be futile to think that one is in total control or can avoid an outcome that one cannot anticipate. Simply put, we mortal finite beings cannot predict the future.

When one lives a life of Torah and mitzvos one gets used to living with a certain outlook. Basic to this outlook is the idea of having full trust in Hashem who runs the world. We have to do our part in this material world. We cannot sit around waiting for money to pour in from heaven like manna and everyone would agree that would be ridiculous. On the other hand, we also show a lack of trust in Hashem if we panic over the future, If we get worried and lose sleep over an unpaid bill or start to worry about what could happen in 2, 3, or 5 years from now. A Jew with trust and faith in Gd knows that at the end of the day we are not in control. If we did what we had to do, we worked at a job or a business for instance, we did the physical things necessary for something to happen, then we step back and let G-d do His job. Nothing can be granted us without Hashem’s bruchas. Our Torah learning and mitzvos make a vessel for Hashem’s bruchas.

So I cannot tell you the answer to your questions except for the following:
Shmuli is a young Lubavitcher scholar who is going to follow the Rebbe’s directives in all things in his llfe. The Rebbe wanted the young scholars to sit and learn Torah full time (after they receive their Rabbinic ordination) and look for a match at the same time. So that is what Shmuli is going to do in NY at 770 where he will learn Torah full time and G-d wiling prepare himself and work to finding his match. Then after marriage, as the Rebbe instructed, he will spend the first year learning Torah full time in Colel (yeshiva for married young men). After that he will start worrying about making a living. At that point all options are open to him: business, Rabbinics, shlichas (outreach), getting professional training, he wil decide after completing Colel.

We pray that with G-d’s help he will be successful, and if G-d forbid Moshiach should tarry, that he will find his match easily and quickly.

Shoshana was one of our original Beyond BT contributors and we want to thank her for thinking about the Beyond BT readership and sending us this email to post.

Vayikra, Shnayim Mikra, Learning Chumash

The Gemara says in Brachos(8a – 8b) says:

“A person should always complete his [study of the parsha] with the congregation – [by studying] shnayim mikra v’echad targum. Anyone who does this will have long days and years.”

This obligation is codified in the halacha (Rambam Hilchos Tefilla 13,25; Shulchan Aruch O.C. 285,1).

The Ramchal in Derech Hashem writes that just reading the Chumash has tremendous spiritual ramifications. In addition, the more we understand it, the higher the spiritual influence.

As we know, Vayikra is probably the hardest book of the Chumash to relate to in the absence of sacrifices in our day.

Take a look at Rabbi Ari Kahn on The Mystery of Sacrifices or Rabbi Noson Weisz on Right to Life vs. Right Life for some deeper understandings.

Then pull out a Chumash, a Metsudah or an Artscroll and go through the parsha with Onkeleles, Rashi or the Art Scroll commentary. We need to make Torah a central component of our lives and learning the parsha regularly is an essential step.

As a final resource here is Rabbi Rietti’s outline of Vayikra. (You can purchase the entire outline of the Chumash here).

# 1 Korban Olah
# 2 Korban Mincha
# 3 Korban Shelamim
# 4 Korban Chatat
# 5 Korban Asham & Me’ila

# 1 Korban Olah
* Olat Nedava, individual free-will offering
* Ox / Sheep or Goat / Birds: Mature Doves or Young Doves
* Male
* Without blemish
* Completely burned on Mizbayach

# 2 Korban Mincha
5 Types:
1 Solet: Fine Flour Offering
2 Me’Afar Tanur: Challa & Rekikim
3 Machvat: Shallow Pan Offering
4 Marcheshet: Deep-Fry Offering
5 Shtey HaLechem: Double-Loaf Offering
* First four above are all Matza, the fifth is bread

1 Minchat Solet:
* Matza from Olive Oil, Flour & water, oil, mix, oil, Incense (levona), Kemitza, baked, oil, Salt.
* Kometz & Incense burned together on Altar
* Remainder of Mincha eaten entirely by Kohanim (Kemitza removed from raw dough, all other Mincha offerings, Kemitza removed after baking)

2 Minchat Me’Afar Tanur:2 types: Challa & Rekikim (wafers)
* Challa: Matza, baked on oven floor, no pan.
* Rekikim: Thin Matza wafers with oil smeared on in X shape. Made of Oil, flour & water, mixed, more oil, baked, Petita (folded several times till breaks into pieces) Incense added, Kemitza taken, salted and Kemitza burned on Altar, then remaining Matzot eaten entirely by Kohanim.

3 Minchat Mahvat: Shallow Pan Offering
* Preparation same as deep fry offering, but no oil was poured after baking.
* Matza baked on oven floor without a pan, was thus more brittle.

4 Minchat Marcheshet: Deep-Fry Offering.
* Oil mixed with flour and water, again mixed with oil and baked in a deep mould, so dough was soft. After frying, they were folded till they were broken into pieces the size of one kezayit each. One Kemitza-full was burned on Altar, remaining Matzot were entirely eaten by the Kohanim.
* Don’t allow any Mincha to become Chametz
* Don’t add yeast or honey to any Mincha.
* Every Mincha must have salt added to it.
* No Mincha can be offered without salt.

5 Shtey-HaLechem: The Double-Loaf Offering
* Also known as ‘Korban Reishit.’
* Made with yeast and thus rose as Chametz and not Matzah.
* No Kemitza
* Not burned on Altar
* Each of the two doughs were prepared individually
* Accompanied the two lambs of the Korban Shelamim on Shavuot
* Each loaf measured 7 X 4 Tefachim. Corners projected vertically to height of 4 finger breadths.
* Every offering must be sprinkled with salt, no offering was permitted without being salted prior to being burned on the altar.

Minchat Bikkurim
* Also known as ‘The Omer.’
* It was the first offering of the new barley grain crop just grown.
* A communal offering, not individual, no new produce was allowed to be eaten till the Omer was cut on second night of Pesach
* The Omer was burned on the Altar
* Same preparation as other Mincha offerings except it was made from barley and not wheat.
* Its kernels of barley were roasted and then ground
* The Kohen waved the Omer N-S-E-W, then up & down.

# 3 Korban Shelamim
* Ox – Sheep – Goat
* Male or Female
* Without blemish
* Selected fats were burned on Altar
* Don’t eat any blood or fat. (acc. to Chinuch, these 2 are in Lev. 7:26)

# 4 Korban Chatat
Four Types of Sin Offerings: Kohen Gadol-Bet Din-Nassi-Yachid
1) Kohen Gadol:
* Semicha done by Kohen Gadol who sinned inadvertently
* Bull, blood sprinkled 7 times toward inner curtain & 7 times on corners of Inside altar, remaining blood spilled on curb of outside altar.
* Selected fats, the skin, innards, burned on outside alter, remainder burned outside Yerushalayim.
2) Bet Din:
* Brought if Sanhedrin of 71 erred in a ruling that carries Karet.
* One bull was brought for each tribe.
* Semicha done by three members of Sanhedrin.
* Bull brought by entire community that sinned based on incorrect legal decision of The Sanhedrin.
* Blood of bull sprinkled 7 times toward inner curtain & 7 times on corners of inner altar, remaining blood spilled on curb of outside altar.
* Selected fats, the skin, innards, burned on outside alter, remainder burned outside Yerushalayim.
3) The President – King
* Brought if the King or Nasi (head of Sanhedrin) violated a Mitzva that carries Karet.
* Male Goat
4) Individual
* She goat or lamb.
* Brought for sins committed unknowingly and punishable by Karet (43 types of violations, mostly forbidden relations).
* Offered in same location as Korban Olah.
* Blood sprinkled on outer Altar 4 times.

# 5 Korban Asham & Me’ila
The Korban Asham is brought for 3 reasons:
1. Lied in court under oath denying knowledge of a monetary case, then admitted he did bear witness to the case.
2. He forgot his status as Tameh or Tameh Met or Tameh from contact
with a zav, zava, nidda or Maga and ate Kodshim or he entered the Temple in any of the above states.
3. He made a Shavuah, oath to do or avoid something and then forgot his oath and violated his oath.
* The type of animal he brought as an Asham depended on his financial status. Thus, it was also termed an ‘adjustable offering.’
* A wealthy person brings a female lamb or goat on outer Altar.
* A poor person brings 2 mature doves or 2 young doves. One dove for an Olah, the other for a Chatat. The Olah is completely burned on the Altar. The Chatat bird was spread out, not allowed to split it. & completely eaten by the Kohanim of that shift. Only its blood is smeared on the Altar.
* A destitute pauper who cannot even afford 2 doves, brings a grain
offering called the Mincha Chata. No oil or levona is added The Kometz was burned on the altar, all the remaining Mincha is eaten by the officiating Kohanim of that shift.
Korban Me’ila (Also known as an Asham)
* Brought for the unintentional misuse of Kodshim, (property, food or utensils belonging to Bedek Habayit).
* Misuse to the amount of a Pruta worth is liable for a Korban Me’ila.
* An additional 20% tax called a is also paid.
* Then he brings a male ram worth at least 2 Sela.
Asham Taluy
* Brought if one is uncertain whether he committed a crime liable for Karet.
If certain that he committed a violation, he must bring a fixed Chatos.
* Male ram worth at least 2 Sela.
Asham Vadai
* Adds 20% tax.
Asham Gezelot
* One who knowingly denies under oath that he has an outstanding debt or property in his possession and later confesses, must pay back the money owed plus a 20% tax as a fine as well as bring a Korban Asham- Gezelot, a ram worth at least 2 Sela.

The Blinking Light of Bitachon

The blinking message light on the telephone tortured me all of Shabbos day. My overly active writer’s imagination sent me over the edge into an emotional abyss that is entirely incompatible with a peaceful Shabbos.

Never, never, never, look at caller ID when the phone rings on Shabbos and you can’t answer the phone.

I learned that lesson once, and ten years later, I learned it again.

Ten years ago, I had gone for an annual check-up with my gynecologist who said, “I’ll only call you if there’s a problem to discuss.” And so, on Shabbos morning, when the phone rang, and I saw the caller ID from his office, I went into a complete panic. My mind raced all day long and by the end of that Shabbos I was terminally ill, and it was time to start getting my affairs in order. Except that when I listened to the message, it turned out to be the billing office calling with a question about my insurance. So ever since then, I told myself – if the phone rings on Shabbos, don’t look at caller ID because you can’t answer the phone, and you’ll only torture yourself.
Ever since then, I have been completely machmid with this rule…. Until today.

And I sure paid the price.

Tomorrow morning my brother is getting married. The entire family has been gathered in his location to celebrate, starting Friday night. Since my extended family is not observant, we chose not to attend any of these festivities over Shabbos, promising instead to show up early enough Sunday morning for the family photos before the chuppah.

Like any good story about a divorced man and a remarriage to a divorced woman, his shidduch is a miracle, this wedding is a miracle, and there has been plenty of drama associated with this union. I am on pins and needles as the chuppah draws near.

And so, when the phone rang on Shabbos day, like a magnet drawn to a piece of metal, my eyes could not resist glancing at the caller ID as my yetzer hara took my brain hostage: “I hope it’s not my mother, and that nothing is wrong.”

And it was. My mother’s cell phone. My stomach lurched. My imagination went into overdrive, where it stayed for the rest of Shabbos, which didn’t end until late in the evening.

My mother, although not observant herself, knows that she can’t call me on Shabbos. So my logical mind told me that therefore, there must be some terrible reason for her call. She wouldn’t call me on Shabbos to talk, or to tell me something that could wait till after Shabbos because she knows I can’t answer the phone. So, my mind rattled on, she is alerting me that there is an emergency. G-d forbid, the wedding is off, there has been a tragic accident, the chosson is in the hospital, the kallah has…. Okay, you fill in the blank…. I did, all afternoon long, writing story after story in my head.

I took long walks and tried imagining all the positive reasons she could have called, and then, when I couldn’t figure any of them out, I dug up inane reasons… like, can you please bring an extra pair of stockings when you come to the wedding? And when that didn’t work, I pleaded with Hashem, and I tried to sooth myself with gam zu letovah talk, and when none of that worked, I debated finding a non-Jew to call my mother, but my husband reminded me that this wasn’t pekuash nefesh, this was just me going out of my mind with worry. And so ultimately, I watched the clock, and paced, and apologized to Hashem for not being in Shabbos, even though Shabbos was in my home.

At the precise second I was allowed to call, I picked up the phone and dialed into voice mail, literally shaking and perspiring as I braced myself for….

My mother’s “butt call.” That’s what we call it when a cell phone calls the last number dialed without the cell-phone owner’s knowledge. (So-named from the days when we used to walk around with cell phones in our back pocket). All I heard on the answering machine was the sound of clinking glasses, laughing people, and joy.

Later confirmed…. I missed one heck of a party. Everyone is simchadig. It should be a beautiful chuppah. They missed me at the party. My mother had no clue that her phone had dialed mine by accident. Sorry.

Whew. Breathe. Lesson learned. Never, never, never, look at caller ID when the phone rings on Shabbos! I’m sorry, Hashem.

Retreats for BT Families

There is a newly formed division of Ohr Somayach in Monsey led by Rabbi and Mrs Naftali Reich that is conducting year round weekend retreats for BT families at their gorgeous five star Beit Shvidler retreat center

There will be an inspiring Pre Pesach weekend family retreat on March 24th at the Center and we just heard that there are still a couple of vacant slots.

The retreat will have a cadre of world class presenters..our own Rabbi Label Lam, Rabbi David Refson, Mrs Chani Juravel, Rabbi Jonathen Rietti and others. The main theme is ‘How we can make Pesach alive for ourselves and our families’.

It starts on Friday sundown and concludes on Motzei Shabbat and a concurrent professional child care program will be available on the premises . There is an option available (at no extra charge!) to stay over on Saturday eve and benefit from some ‘hands on’ family guidance from Rabbi Avraham Braun and Mrs Rivky Reich on Sunday morning.

The all inclusive cost is $499 per couple and $120 per child and subsidies are available for those that wish to benefit from a highly discounted rate (no questions asked). We encourage you to benefit from this amazing experience! Registration is limited to twenty families in total to ensure a warm, intimate and inspiring environment.

For more info and a program itinerary please call the program directors Rabbi and Mrs Naftali Reich at 914-261-4580 or email to rabbilegacy@gmail.com

Of Slugs, Racquetball and Shabbat

When people become observant, they often face certain delicate situations in the workplace, from struggling to find kosher food at meetings to having to leave early on Friday afternoons in the winter to be home for Shabbat. But for a division president of a $1.5 billion retailer, becoming frum led to its own set of challenges, both harrowing and humorous.

Yehoshua (Harry) Looks grew up attending a synagogue affiliated with the Reconstructionist Judaism movement. He was always attracted to the intellectual side of Judaism. After he married his wife Debbie, the couple moved around; from Ohio to New York, then a stop in Boston for business school, to St. Louis, to Baltimore, and back to St. Louis. After shopping around, they eventually joined a Conservative synagogue.

Yehoshua’s spiritual journey started after his rise in the ranks of Edison Brothers Stores. At age forty, after ten years with the company, Yehoshua was promoted to president of the company’s international division. At this juncture, seemingly fulfilled in life, Yehoshua began asking questions about the authenticity of the Torah. These questions ultimately became a spiritual crisis. Based on numerous conversations with the rabbi of the Conservative synagogue, the two men began learning one-on-one together, studying the Talmud and other Jewish sources. .

With his appetite for Jewish learning whetted, Yehoshua began to ravenously search for all Jewish sources he could find and began dedicating every spare minute to learning. He traded in his daily 5:30 am racquetball match for a Daf Yomi shiur.

A common challenge for people when they become observant is figuring out what to eat at business meetings and other events, and especially how to get kosher food in places far removed from Jewish communities. However keeping kosher was generally not a challenge for Yeshoshua, and it even helped him out of several sticky situations.

Yehoshua’s position took him on frequent business trips to China to check on factories and to open new offices. Before becoming religious, Yehoshua had been an adventurous eater and eagerly partook of the food at the lavish banquets during the trips. The feasts featured a varied assortment of Chinese delicacies, including meat of questionable origin and even insects.

However one food that Yehoshua could never develop a taste for was slugs, a common item at the dinners. “The fact that I could no longer partake of the meals for dietary reasons was a nice side benefit,” Yehoshua said, smiling.

As he become increasingly religious Yehoshua began bringing canned food with him wherever he went. Noticing this, his colleagues became concerned that he did not have enough to eat. One night in a restaurant in China a coworker, assuming that he could eat all vegetables, ordered for him a plate of string beans. A few minutes later the waiter brought a plate with a beautiful bed of string beans, crowned by lobster sauce filled with fresh pieces of seafood.

Yehoshua’s craving for learning went with him on his trips. Everywhere he went, he brought a Gemarah and his Daf Yomi cassette tapes. At the end of one trip to China, his long-haul flight back to America was delayed by fog in Shanghai.. So with extra time in the airport, Yehoshua sat in the business class lounge listening to his tapes to learn the day’s daf.

Within twenty minutes he was joined by two other frum Jews who were also stranded.. Yehoshua shared his tapes with them so they could learn as well.

“Here we were waiting in the airport in Shangai, fogged in, and three yidden were learning the daf!”

Yehoshua’s religious growth came with some challenges at work. One of his superiors in the company was particularly unsettled with Yehoshua’s need to leave early on Friday afternoons in the winter. The boss began keeping track to the minute the time that Yehoshua left each Friday, and became increasingly cold to him.

One Friday the executive called Yehoshua into his office. He angrily berated Yehoshua, accusing him of slacking on the job by leaving early.. After several minutes of harsh attacks he roared at Yehoshua: “What am I going to do if your business falls apart on Shabbat and you’re not there to take care of it?!”

Yehoshua responded with composure and delivered a prefect response:

“You’re going to fire me. If my business falls apart on one day, I’m obviously not doing my job.”

Yehoshua’s boss had no rebuttal. Yehoshua calmly turned and walked out of the office and his boss never said another word to him about Shabbat.

In 1994 the Looks family took a 10-day trip to Israel to tour and study. The trip solidified the religious direction that they were heading in.

As the trip came to a close, Yehoshua, Debbie and their three children all agreed that one day they wanted to come back.

That day came much faster than they expected. In November 1995 Edison Brothers declared bankruptcy. In April 1996, the company bought out Yehoshua’s contract and he left with a severance package commensurate with his 15 years experience at the company.

With their future now wide open, Debbie suggested the family take a one-year sabbatical in Israel. They sold their house and cars and moved to Yerushalayim. The one year became two and then became a commitment to make Israel their home.. Yehoshua eventually became a rabbi. Since then he has worked in outreach and Jewish education in Israel and America, using his years of business experience to help manage Jewish organizations..

Since leaving Edison Brothers, Yehoshua’s life has taken a far different course. Now instead of overseeing the production of clothing based on ephemeral fashion trends, he is living and disseminating a product that’s eternal. And he’s working for a Boss who doesn’t mind if he leaves early on Fridays.

Michael Gros writes from Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. The Teshuva Journey column chronicles uplifting teshuva journeys and inspiring kiruv tales. Send comments to michaelgros@gmail.com
Published in The Jewish Press in July 2011

Teaching Tznius

By Chaya Houpt
Originally posted on Chaya’s blog – All Victories

Last week, I dropped off three little Queen Esthers at gan. The holiday of Purim fell on Friday in Jerusalem this year, but this was the day the kids wore their costumes to school. Y.B. and A.N. and their friend Y entered their classroom and skipped off into a sea of princess-queens. The little boys were dressed as kings, and also alligators and policeman and all other kinds of disguises expressing a range of pint-size machismo. And my daughters and almost all the other girls were dressed as queens or princesses. There might have been a bride or two.

I thought about this post that I wrote last year about the contrast between pretty-pretty-princess culture and the Jewish concept of a princess. While the American cult of the princess ties her self-worth to her appearance, the Jewish model of female royalty is inner dignity and substance. I hoped that my attempts to reframe princesses in those terms would inoculate them against messages of the broader society. I wondered what would happen when they started preschool.

And here we are.

* * *

In past years, my girls have dressed up for Purim as a ladybug and a butterfly. And then a butterfly and a ladybug. And then two bees. This year, there was no discussion. They came home from gan with their plans fully formed: they would both dress as Queen Esther, just like Y and all their other friends.

We headed to the costume aisle of the local discount store. A.N. picked out a fabulous Disney-esque moon-and-star gown like this one. Y.B. spotted a costume labeled “Jasmine,” that I might have described more like “harem dancer.”

“Ooh, that one looks super-Persian, just like Queen Esther,” I observed. It really was pretty awesome-looking, all scarves and brocade and purple velvet.

Y.B. eyed the picture on the front of the package. A child model gazed out at us with all the provocative allure that an eight-year-old can muster. Y.B. noted the midriff-baring top. “That’s not tzanua,” she commented. Not modest. She’s only four, but she knows that.

“It’s okay,” I told her. “We’ll put a shirt underneath and make it tzanua.” She agreed and we tried it on and we picked out tiaras and a lion costume for B.A. (This doesn’t get said often, but toddlers are kind of easy. Especially boys). We were on our way.

* * *

Costume day arrived. The kids dressed with great excitement. Y.B. admired herself in the mirror. I felt swept along in the dress-up glee.

But something seemed off. Y.B.’s skirt was more like bunch of panels of tulle over transparent tulle pants. She was definitely looking more harem dancer than Persian queen. Not so appropriate for a preschooler.

“Y.B., I think you should wear this skirt under your costume. Look, it’s the same purple velvet as the shirt”

“No,” she said. “I like it the way it is.”

I tried again.

“Listen, I can see your legs. And it’s sort of hard to say whether that’s okay. For a little girl, it’s fine. And for a woman or a big girl, it’s not. And you are four-and-a-half, so you’re sort of a little girl and sort of a big girl. I’m telling you what I think. I think you should wear an extra skirt underneath. But I’m letting you decide.”

She chose not to add another layer. I appealed to my husband for help.

“You’re the one who told her it’s her decision,” he said. Rrrmmph.

I told Y.B. about when I was seven and I went as Sleeping Beauty for Halloween. It was an unseasonably cold October for Arizona, and my dad totally ruined my princess costume by making me wear long underwear.

“And you know, I was really mad at Poppy. But I was also warm,” I told Y.B. “Because Poppy loves me and he was taking care of me.”

Y.B. listened with interest. She did not put on the extra skirt.

* * *

I thought, how important is this? Yes, she was a little skimpily clad for a kid. But was I worried about her dignity being compromised? This is a person who still throws tantrums in public and thinks nothing of it. She’s four.

And you know, with parenting, I’m playing the long game. I want my daughters and my son to grow into people who intrinsically understand modesty and want to embody it. That’s not going to happen by me pulling rank and making Y.B. change her clothes. It’s only going to happen, with God’s help, if my husband and I continually model tzniut, modesty, and encourage it in our children.

It’s not like my dad and the long underwear—he just needed to keep his kid warm during a chilly night of trick-or-treating. He didn’t need to worry that I would rebel and become warm-clothing averse for the rest of my life. He was meeting a short-term parenting goal that evening.

It doesn’t really matter what little Y.B. wears on any given day. What counts is how she feels about herself and her own worth, and how she learns gradually to manifest self-respect in the way she dresses.

This is tricky for me because I came to the Torah’s approach to modesty as an adult. Well, I thought I was an adult. Let’s say an older teenager. Which is to say, I recognized my options. I was old enough by then to understand what it meant to be a woman in the world and the implications of how I presented myself physically.

My children, however, have heard about tzniut since before they could talk. They are learning the laws and social norms of dress before they know anything about their context, before they can appreciate the alternative.

And so I tread lightly, careful not to misrepresent the Torah as shaming or oppressive. I try to give my children background and rationales that they can appreciate on their level, so that they don’t think modesty is just one more thing parents say. You know, like “chew with your mouth closed” or “put your clothes in the hamper. Those directives are important, certainly, but not on the same level as the eternal will of God, right?

* * *

Returning to the clothing struggle. I gave up. By which I mean that I looked pleadingly at my husband.

He sat down on the couch with Y.B. and told her about Queen Esther. Told her how all the other girls called to the palace asked for extra adornments to enhance their appeal, but Esther relied on her own inner strength to carry her through. Esther was tzanua. Esther was a gibora, a heroine.

Y.B. went into the bedroom and put on the extra skirt. She looked beautiful.

We made a big deal about Y.B.’s strength and bravery. But that’s not really what counts.

Fisking Uncle Moishy

Fisking is blogosphere slang describing a point-by-point criticism that highlights perceived errors, or disputes the analysis in a statement, article, or essay…A Fisking is characteristically an incisive and fierce point-by-point rebuttal, and the aim is generally to weaken the target’s credibility rather than seek common ground.
This article was partially inspired by Fisking Aunt Mary.

Dear Uncle Moishy,

Everyone’s faaaaaavrite Uncle. Well, you’re not mine. In fact, I’ve spoken to the oldest living members of both sides of my family and they have confirmed that we’re not even related. Moving forward, I’ve received your latest email regarding Shabbos and I will not take it sitting down.

You write:

“Shabbos is coming…”
as if to say that if you didn’t tell me that, I wouldn’t know it. Who died and made you the calendar?

You continue “…We’re so happy.”
Oh, YOU’re so happy. So, your saying that I’M not happy that Shabbos is coming?. Oh you’re soooooo frum.

“We’re gonna sing …”
Once again with the exclusionary language. I know I’m not a world renowned singing superstar like you but there’s no reason to get uppity about it.

“…and shout aloud.”
Oh that makes sense, shout at your family when shabbos preparations are lagging and candle lighting is approaching. Sounds like someone needs a heavy dose of some Marvelous Middos Machine.

Then, you simply repeat yourself with some more shouting, some whispering (I have no clue what that’s about) and telling things to the world (as if people in Bangladesh are actually buying your CDs).

Well, it felt good to get that off of my chest but if you think I’m finished, just you wait until you see my response to your “Hey Dum Diddly Dum” missive. Strap yourself in and hold on to your Mem hat, buddy.

All my love,

David (not your nephew)

The 60 Second Guide to Purim

The Essence of Purim
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato writes in “The Way of G-d”:
“The significance of Chanukah and Purim is to bring forth the particular Light that shone at the time of their original miracles as a result of the rectification that they accomplished.

…Purim involved Israel being saved from destruction during the Babylonian exile. As a result of this they reconfirmed their acceptance of the Torah, this time taking it upon themselves forever. Our Sages teach us that “they accepted the Torah once again in the days of Achashverosh”.

The Particular Light That Shone at That Time
The physical world functions through spiritual input from G-d. This spiritual input has a constant component known as “nature” as well as an infrequent component which occurs as needed in the course of history. The infrequent input, which we call “miracle”, illuminates the understanding that even when G-d’s presence is not obvious, He’s still running the show.

During the Babylonian Exile
Megillas Esther, the story of Purim, which we read at night and during the day, takes place about 70 years after the Babylonians destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and exiled the Jews from Israel. It records the roots of modern anti-Semitism as Haman, the prime Minister of Persia, convinces King Achashverosh to decree a holocaust, the destruction of the entire Jewish People.

A Hidden Miracle Saves Us From Destruction
The Megillah records how the Jewish leaders, Mordechai and his cousin Esther, work to prevent the holocaust and the Jewish People turn towards G-d in communal prayer and fasting. A series of seeming coincidences facilitates the victory of Mordechai and Esther over Haman and the Jews avoid destruction. G-d’s name is not recorded in the entire Megillah, teaching us that He’s always the guiding force, even when His presence is not apparent.

Reconfirming The Acceptance of The Torah
Although the Jewish People accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai after the Exodus from Egypt, the obvious presence of G-d at that time indicates that the acceptance was based on fear and awe. The re-acceptance of the Torah during the time of Purim, when G-d’s presence was hidden, remedied the original fear-based acceptance. This re-acceptance, accompanied by a commitment of intense study and observance of Torah, gives the Jewish People the spiritual fortitude to stay connected to G-d during the exile that we continue to face until this very day.

Celebrating Through Jewish Unity
In addition to hearing the Megillah, there are three other mitzvos of Purim: having a joyous meal, giving charity to at least two poor people and giving a gift of food to at least one person. These mitzvos focus us on helping others and uniting with our fellow Jews. Unity is a necessity as we continue our mission of leading the world to a spiritually focused existence through a constant awareness and connection to G-d in our thought, speech and actions.

Social Kosher Cookery

One of the best kosher cooking sites we’ve seen is Culinary Kosher. It’s a social recipe site with lots of sharing.

A recent post aggregated 19 Purim Seudah Appetizers Choices.

Here’s the blurb:

With Purim (See our Purim Recipes & More page) right around the corner everybody has Purim Seudah on their mind. A great appetizer makes a big impression, especially on the men who often don’t even know what they are eating by time main dish rolls around. The good news is that below you will find a list of Purim Seudah appetizers that you will surely meet your criteria. The problem is to choose only one. Good Luck and Happy Purim!

Take a look before you choose your Purim menu.